In his work On Tyranny, Leo Strauss close reads (between the lines) of Xenophon’s Hiero to suggest a divide between the philosophical and the political. Hiero, the tyrant, is provoked by Simonides, the wise man in this conversation on tyranny. At the same time, however, Hiero fears Simonides as the political ruler fears the philosopher. The philosopher, though having no interest in ruling himself, gets his interest crossed through his advisory role in offering a type of improbable utopia to the ruler. Towards the end of Hiero, Simonides, after invoking Hiero to self-denounce all possible pleasures of being a tyrant, offers an alternative of benevolent autocracy that makes everyone the tyrant’s ally, effectively creating a politics of friendship. Strauss uses reads this as a distinction between pleasure and virtue: Simonides, who is no Socrates, is merely a sophist who offers help in getting Hiero what he wants: pleasure.
"In attempting to educate a man of this kind, Simonides has no choice but to appeal to his desire for pleasure. In order to advise Hiero to rule as a virtuous tyrant, he has to show him that the tyrant cannot obtain pleasure, and in particular that kind of pleasure with which Hiero is chiefly concerned, viz., the pleasure deriving from being loved, but by being as virtuous as possible. What he shows Hiero is a way not so much to virtue as to pleasure. Strictly speaking, he does not advise him to become virtuous. He advises him to do the gratifying things himself while entrusting to others the things for which men incur hatred; to encourage certain virtues and pursuits among his subjects by offering prizes; to keep his bodyguard, yet to use it for the benefit of his subjects; and, generally speaking, to be as beneficent to his fellow citizens as possible. Now, the benefactor of his fellow citizen is not necessarily a man of excellence or a virtuous man. Simonides does not advise Hiero to practise any of the things which distinguish the virtuous man from the mere benefactor (93)."
Strauss, staying consistent with his claims elsewhere, insists that the work instead points to another, hidden direction not meant for the general public. The esoteric knowledge of the Good is to be read in what is not here.
Kojeve, on the other hand, rejects Strauss’ philosophy-politics divide. Pleasure is to have nothing to do with knowledge or virtue and hence “there is… no knowing whether , in fact, the ‘primary motive’ of conduct is the ‘pure’ joy that comes from Wisdom (knowledge + virtue), or whether it is the sometimes condemned ‘pleasure’ that comes from the wise man’s self-admiration” (160). In this sense, then, a clear distinction between the political and the philosophical is an ancient prejudice that the cloistered men of knowledge self-imposes in an aristocratic spirit. The reality of this matter lies within the Hegelian problem of recognition:
"If one accepts (with Goethe and Hegel) that man is loved solely because he is, and independently of what he does, while “admiration” or “recognition” are a function of the actions of the person one ”admires” or “recognizes,” it is clear that the tyrant, and the statesman in general, seeks recognition and not love… Simonides rather would have to be said to seek love, if he truly wanted to have a positive value attributed, not to his actions, but to his (perfect) being. But, in act, it is simply not the case that he does. Simonides wants to be admired for his perfection and not for his being pure and simple… he would like to be recognized for his perfection and therefore desires his perfection. Now, desire is actualized by action. hence it is by virtue of his actions that Simonides in fact is and wants to be recognized, just as Hiero is and wants to be recognized by virtue of his actions (156)".
The philosophy-politics divide is thus unified into the singular problem for recognition. But the problem for recognition has no easy answer. Kojeve sees Hiero (and by association Simonides) as a master seeking recognition from others. But another master cannot give him recognition as the recognition requires submission of others through struggle to death. As soon as another submits to this recognition, the other is reduced to a mere slave that is not even human. In this light then, the logic of Xenophon’s work is presented as this: Hiero, in order to seek his recognition as a master/tyrant, seeks help from Simonides who advises him to show benevolence for the sake of this recognition. But he will never acquire this recognition because the subjects of his benevolence are treated as means who submits and hence, inhuman slaves. Simonides, on the other hand, advises Hiero because he too desires recognition as the wise man known for his perfection. But as soon as Hiero falls for his semantic trap and listens to Simonides’ advice, he submits and too becomes a slave. For Kojeve, there can be no recognition, and no friendship.
Yet how do we explain the relationship between Strauss and Kojeve themselves? From the correspondences it is hard to see that Kojeve is attempting to reduce Strauss into a slave; instead, he challenges Strauss in search of a recognition not granted. By not granting this recognition, however, Strauss stays a master, and recognizes the being of Kojeve through friendship. Indeed, perhaps at the end of the master-slave failure for recognition there is true recognition through friendship. Simonides fail to achieve this with Hiero because Hiero submits to his will, and Hiero fails too, even if he follows Simonides’ advice for benevolence because the motivation of his act is selfish search for pleasure. There is no true politics of friendship when inequality is present.
For the sake of friendships, then, it is perhaps important to keep things unresolved, keep things controversial, while at the same time maintain the civility and good conscience for genuine attempts improbable recognition. http://decennis.com/icarusfallen/2008/06/02/strauss-kojeve-debate-on-xenophons-hiero-a-matter-of-friendship/