Page 153 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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HYMAN / HARRY AUSTRYN WOLFSON
143
sophic system is a complex of thoughts and associations in a
philosopher’s mind, only part of which appears in the statements
found in his writings. The hypothetico-deductive method, writes
Wolfson in his
Grescas,
“is in some respects like the latest kind
of historical and literary criticism which applies the method of
psychoanalysis to the study of texts.”
PH1LONIC PH ILOSOPHY
Perhaps the most novel aspect of Wolfson’s thought is his divi­
sion of the history of philosophy and the resultant notion of
Philonic philosophy. According to the commonly accepted ac­
count, states Wolfson in the last chapter of his
Philo,
the history
of philosophy is divided into three periods—ancient, medieval,
and modern. Some historians describe the period between ancient
and modern philosophy as “Christian.” If a historian describes
the intermediate period as “medieval,” he usually begins with
the Church Fathers of the second century; if as “Christian,” his
usual starting point is Augustine in the fifth century or Boethius
in the sixth. To this account there are usually added two foot­
notes. The first of these is the philosophy of Philo which is con­
sidered a postscript to Greek philosophy; the second is Islamic
and Jewish philosophy which is introduced as a kind of preface
to the scholastic philosophy of the thirteenth century.
Wolfson criticizes this understanding of the history of philoso­
phy by describing it as theological rather than as scientific. It
goes back to Eusebius’ and Augustine’s conception of history
according to which “everything that came before Christianity is
considered as preparatory to it and everything that happened
outside of Christianity is to be considered only as a tributary
to it.” Hegel, whose
Philosophy of H istory
Wolfson cites, can
be considered the modern exponent of this view.
Wolfson set out to correct this account of the history of phi­
losophy in two respects. Philo, according to Wolfson’s first
correction, is not merely a footnote in the history of philosophy,
but the founder and originator of what is usually considered
medieval philosophy. Medieval philosophy, according to Wolf­
son’s second correction, should not be characterized as “Chris­
tian,” but as “Philonic,” and “Philonic” philosophy is one phi­
losophy which appeared in three forms—Jewish, Christian, and