During the Weimar years Leo Strauss was intellectually and spiritually close to streams of thought that were averse to liberalism, enlightenment, and democracy. Specifically, he was mostly influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Carl Schmitt. The political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza's critique of religion were two modern targets of Strauss's criticism. Hobbes was identified as the father of modern civilization who broke violently with the tradition of philosophy and established the foundations of liberalism. As Nazism took hold and Germany faded from his mind, however, Strauss, a refugee in England and then in America, began to retreat from the ideas that had influenced him during the 1920s and from his own previous attitude toward certain elements of modern civilization. This retreat was not clear, absolute, or complete but complicated, vague, tortuous, and, most important, partial. The incompleteness of this retreat was a consequence of an ambivalence in his thought during the 1930s and 1940s. In the tumult of the 1930s, his critique of liberalism changed shape; Strauss continued to regard modern civilization as unwelcome and inferior but also conceived of it as protecting life and bestowing security.

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