Page 88 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
its creation. Every student of the philosophy of history knows
of the inextricable interdependence of the historian and his
chosen subject which, with the progress of study, increasingly
gains momentum. The historian himself may or may not be
aware of the “evolution” in the identification of his thought
with its object, but the final result of his research will implicitly
bear witness to the “law” which compels him to gravitate towards
his material. This is exactly what happened to Simon Dubnow’s
thought. A parallel phenomenon can be found in the natural
interplay between creation and creator in the domain of artistic
activity, and we should not overlook the fact that the architect
of the monumental Jewish “World History” was not only a
historian and thinker but also an artist.
True, the terminology Dubnow adopted in his “pre-historical”
phase was not discarded even in the final formulation of his
“General Conception of Jewish History” dating from 1925 (see
the mentioned volume edited by Prof. Pinson, pp. 336-353). A
careful analysis, however, of the true meaning of the terms
“sociological” and “biological” in the historian’s own usage will
disclose that Dubnow superimposed on them an entirely new
connotation. In his autobiography he emphasizes that the term
“World History,” in its application to the history of the Jewish
people, is in fact a “neologism” (see the Russian original, vol.
I l l , pp. 41-42). In the same way the scientific reputation of so­
ciology and biology served his purpose of presenting for the
benefit of a secularized world the spiritual content of the story
of Israel in modern guise.
Indeed, Dubnow describes his “general conception” as “socio­
logical” not, as one should have expected, because his over-all
purpose was to discover the general sociological laws governing
the flow of events in the Jewish people’s past. It was solely for
the reason that, according to the “idea” he “derived from the
totality of our history, the Jewish people has at all times and
in all countries, always and everywhere, been the subject, the
creator of his own history, not only in the intellectual sphere but
also in the general sphere of social life” (English version in Pin­
son, I.e. p. 338 and particularly p. 351). Thus we find once more
that in Dubnow’s usage “sociology” and “sociological” are “neo­
logisms” and that above all the new connotation is based on an
“idea” inspired by the material of Jewish history.
A similar transformation took place in Dubnow’s attitude to
the natural sciences and in particular to biology, the basis of
his constant affirmation of the principle of evolution. Though
in the Introduction to his “World History” includes
the article demanding that Jewish historiography should be
placed “upon a firm bio-sociological foundation” (I.e., p. 342),
in his actual exposition the historian never tries to explain the
content and continuity of the Jewish past by deducing it from