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Harry A. Wolfson's utilization of the Hypothetico-Deductive Method of Text Study.

In Memoriam Dr. Jur. Arthur P. Morgan

Harry Austryn Wolfson (1887-1974) was one of the greatest twentieth-century Jewish scholars. Throughout his productive life, Wolfson utilized what he termed the Hypothetico-Deductive Method of Text Study in his analysis of various philosophical texts. This article suggests that there was a flaw in the Method, namely that it assumed as axiomatic that there can never be genuine contradictions in a philosophic work, only "apparent" contradictions which must be explained away. Nevertheless, the Method was highly successful in the study of Crescas because he was a rabbi and shared the viewpoint of Rabbinic Judaism. The significance of the flaw in the Method became obvious, however, when Wolfson utilized the Method in his studies of thinkers who were unaware of, or did not accept, the disputed assumptions of Rabbinic Judaism. A principal effect of Wolfsons flawed Method was that it ignored the contradiction between Spinoza's absolute determinism and his (Spinoza's) doctrine of salvation.


Harry Austryn Wolfson (1887-1974), (1) one of the greatest twentieth-century Jewish scholars--some consider him the greatest(2)--, taught at Harvard University from 1915 to 1958 and from 1926 occupied the Nathan Littauer Professorship of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy. The mature Wolfson presided over the "Wolfson Table" in the Harvard Faculty Club, which included many outstanding university professors. Numerous honors were showered upon him, but no more than were his due. Throughout his life, Wolfson found security in his Hypothetico-Deductive Method of Text Study developed by him in his twenties, when he wrote his doctoral dissertation at Harvard.

It is the Hypothetico-Deductive Method of Text Study and its viability which will be examined in this paper. Wolfson discussed this method in every book published during his lifetime: Crescas Critique of Aristotle (1929), pp. 24-29; The Philosophy of Spinoza (1934), I, pp. 20-31; Philo (1947), I, pp. 102-107; Philosophy of the Church Fathers (1956), p. vii; and The Philosophy of the Kalam (1976), pp. viii, 72-74. These books were published by Harvard University Press and remain in print. (3)

Wolfson compares this method of text interpretation to a scientific experiment utilizing a control. Just as a scientist starts an experiment, for example, with a certain number of rabbits, only one or several of which he or she inoculates, so the ideal student of a philosopher commences a study with a certain number of representative texts bearing on a topic* After analyzing these texts in depth, the student forms an educated conjecture or a working hypothesis. The student then checks or verifies the result of the hypothesis on other related passages that require explanation. The chief feature of this method, according to Wolfson, is its scientific character. While this procedure supposedly conforms to the scientific method, it is avowedly based upon the Talmudic method of study.

An understanding of the Hypothetico-Deductive Method requires that we permit Wolfson to explain it to us in detail.

Wolfson's Description of the Talmudic Hypothetico Deductive Method

In the Talmudic method of text study, the starting point is the principle that any text that is deemed worthy of serious study must be assumed to have been written with such care and precision that every term, expression, generalization or exception is significant not so much for what it states as for what it implies. The contents of ideas as well as the diction and phraseology in which they are clothed are to enter into the reasoning. This method is characteristic of the Tannaitic interpretation of the Bible from the earliest times; the belief in the divine origin of the Bible was sufficient justification for attaching importance to its external forms of expression. The same method was followed later by the Amoraim in their interpretation of the Mishnah and by their successors in the interpretation of the Talmud, and it continued to be applied to the later forms of rabbinic literature. Serious students themselves, accustomed to a rigid form of logical reasoning and to the usage of precise forms of expression, the Talmudic trained scholars attributed the same quality of precision and exactness to any authoritative work, he it of divine origin or the product of the human mind. Their attitude toward the written word of any kind is like that of the jurist toward the external phrasing of statutes and laws, and that of the latest kind of historical and literary criticism which applies the merhod of psycho-analysis to the srudy of texts.

This attitude toward texts had its necessary concomitant in what may again be called the Talmudic hypothetico-deductive method of text interpretation. Confronted with a statement on any subject, the Talmudic student will proceed to raise a series of questions before he satisfies himself of having understood its full meaning. If the statement is not clear enough, he will ask, * What does the author intend to say here?' If it is too obvious, he will again ask, 'It is too plain, why then expressly say it?' If it is a statement of fact or of a concrete instance, he will then ask, 'What underlying principle does it involve?' If it is a broad generalization, he will want to know exactly how much it is to include; and if it is an exception to a general rule, he will want to know how much it is to exclude. He will furthermore want to know all the circumstances under which a certain statement is true, and what qualifications are permissible.

Statements apparently contradictory to each other will be reconciled by the discovery of some subtle distinction, and statements apparently irrelevant to each other will be study analyzed into their ultimate elements and shown to contain some common underlying principle. The harmonization of apparent contradictions and the interlinking of apparent irrelevancies are two characteristic features of the Talmudic method of txt study. And similarly every other phenomenon about the text becomes a matter of investigation. Why does the author use one word rather than another? What need was there for the mentioning of a specific instance as an illustration? Do certain authorities differ or not? If they do, why do they differ?

All these are legitimate questions for the Talmudic student of texts. And any attempt to answer these questions calls for ingenuity and skill, the power of analysis and association, and the ability to set up hypotheses--and all these must be bolstered up by a wealth of accurate information and the use of good judgment. No limitation is set upon any subject; problems run into one another; they become intricate and interwoven, one throwing light upon the other. And there is a logic underlying this method of reasoning. It is the very same kind of logic which underlies any sort of scientific research, and by which one is enabled to form hypotheses, to test them and to formulate general laws. The Talmudic student approaches the study of texts in the same manner as the scientist approaches the study of nature, just as the scientist proceeds on the assumption that there is a uniformity and continuity in nature so the Talmudic student proceeds on the assumption that there is a uniformity and continuity in human reasoning. Now this method of text interpretation is sometimes derogatorily referred to as Talmudic quibbling or pilpul. In truth, it is nothing but the application of the scientific method to the study of texts.(4)

Wolfson goes on to assert that a similar attitude toward texts and a similar method of interpretation was introduced by Jewish thinkers, especially the commentators, into the study of philosophy. "We must constantly ask ourselves, concerning every statement they [the medieval Jewish philosophers] make, what is the reason? What does it intend to let us hear? What is the authority for this statement? Does it reproduce its authority correctly or not? If not, why does it depart from its authority? What is the difference between certain statements, and can such differences be reduced to other differences, so as to discover in them a common underlying principle?" The French school of Tosafists, which began to flourish in the twelfth century, marked the high point of this development in the Middle Ages, and led to the introduction into philosophic literature of the form of novellae upon standard texts, "resembling the Talmudic novellae in their external literary form even to the extent of using the same conventional phrases by which questions and answers are introduced. Crescas' work belongs to that type of novellae literature, conforming to the Talmudic novellae literature in all its main characteristics, its attitude toward texts, its method of text interpretation, its abbreviated form of argumentation" (5)

Here we will examine the origin, nature, and scientific merit of Wolfson's Hypothetico-Deductive Method of text interpretation. We shall consider its utilization by Wolfson in three of his works: Crescas' Critique of Aristotle* The Philosophy of Spinoza, and Philo.

Application to Crescas

The critics considered outstanding Wolfson's Crescas' Critique of Aristotle. Georges Vajda seated that it is the very best work on medieval Jewish philosophy ever written. (6) Professor Isaac Husik of the University of Pennsylvania wrote four reviews of the work and echoes the judgment of Vajda. "The work before us represents the most thorough piece of historical and critical scholarship in the field of medieval Jewish philosophy that has come under the present writer's notice." (7) Wolfson's work has retained its pride of place to the present day. This is acknowledged by later scholars such as Shlomo Pines and Warren Zev Harvey; moreover, a recent scholar, James T. Robinson, avowedly follows Wolfson's work in his analysis of Crescas. (8) Pines describes Wolfson's "great work on Crescas" as "fundamentally a penetrating, detailed study of Crests' theory of physics, of his criticism of Aristotelian physics, and the sources which nurtured both his positive views and his criticism," in Studies in the History of Jewish Thought, edited by Warren Zev Harvey and Moshe Idel. (9)

Only two reviewers of Crescas Critique of Aristotle raised questions regarding the Talmudic Hypothetico-Deductive Method. Dr. George Sarton, the historian of science, questioned Wolfson assertion that pilputis the application of the scientific method to the study of texts. Sarton states that Wolf-son confuses "the truth in the worst manner." Sarton continues, "the essence of the scientific method is precisely not to stop at words but to investigate as directly as possible the realities which these words are meant to represent. ... From that point of view, pilpul is as antagonistic to scientific thinking as anything can be." (10) As to this criticism, Wolfson says that it is based on a misunderstanding. Dr. Sarton, he argues, has committed the fallacy which in the language of the logic of pilpul may be nicknamed the fallacy of "wheat" and "barley" Wolfson explains that what he tried to establish in his description of pilpul may be reduced to the following formula:
  Pilpul is to the study of text as the scientific method is to the
  study of nature.

What Sarton argues against is a formula which runs as follows:
  Pilpui is to the study of nature as the scientific method is to the
  study of nature. (11)

Isaak Heinemann (1876-1957), in the course of a positive and highly laudatory review of Wolfson's book, objects to the simple blanket identification of the Talmudic Hypothetico-Deductive Method with the scientific method. He calls attention to the fact that for the long period of transition of approximately four hundred years, from ancient Greek philosophy to the medieval philosophy of Islam and scholasticism, philosophy was often written in the form of commentaries on the works of Aristotle. In the introductions (praefationes) to the various works in the Aristotelian canon, the commentators raise a set of questions, such as the following taken from Simplicius: (12)

(1) "In how many and what sorts of ways did the philosophical schools get their names? (Kata posous kai poious tropous tas onomasias eskhon hat kata philosophian haireseis)",

(2) "What is the division of the Aristotelian treatises (so that it becomes clear

where in the sequence we should place the present book)? (tis he diairesis ton Aristotelikon sungrammaton [hina kai to prokeimenon hopou khorou taxomen genttai delon])";

(3) "Where should one begin Aristode's treatises? (pothen arkteon ton Aristotelous sungrammaton)";

(4) "What is the end of Aristotle's philosophy? (ti to telos estin tes Aristotelous philosophias)";

(5) "What leads us to this end? (tina ta agonta hemas pros to telos)";

(6) "What is the style of the Aristotelian treatises? (ti to eidos ton Aristotelikon sungrammaton)";

(7)" Why did the Philosopher choose unclear diction? (dia ti ten asapheian epetedeusen ho philosophos)";

(8) "What sort of interpreter is required for such arguments? (poion dei tonexegeten einai ton toiouton logon)";

(9) "What sort of audience should be admitted? (poion dei ton akroaten paralambanestbai)";

(10) "How many chapters should one expect for each Aristotelian treatise, of what sort, and on what ground? (Post dei prolambanein hekastes Aristote likes pragmateias kepbalaia kaipoia kai dia poian aitian)"

Wolfson correctly dismisses Heinemann's critique, arguing that even if Heinemann is correct, it only strengthens his case that the method of pilpul is truly scientific. The questions raised by the Aristotelian commentators are not very different, mutatis mutandis, from those raised in various medieval introductions to the Talmud, but by no stretch of the imagination can they be utilized as a guide to understanding and analyzing philosophical classics. Wolfson is surely correct in pointing out that Crescas, who had no knowledge of Greek, followed the method of rabbinic scholars and, in particular, the To-safists in studying philosophical texts. It is probable that Wolfson himself was influenced in his own work by the form of the novellae method upon standard texts. Husik, in his review of Wolfsons work, called attention to the fact that the almost four hundred pages of notes are really a commentary on the text of 'Or Ha-Shetn (The Light of the Lord). In his description of the Hypothetico-Deductive Method, Wolfson, who is an exquisite stylist, meticulous in his use of words and syntax, employs a solecism which is a literal translation of the Aramaic mat kamashmo lam "What does it [the text] let us hear?" = What does it teach us? What is it trying to tell us? (13)

In Crescas' Critique of Aristotle, Wolfson promised to continue his translation and edition of 'Or Ha-Sbem with a second volume--to "be published shortly"--entitled Crescas on the Existence and Attributes of God. (14) Such a volume was never published. It bears careful examination to determine whether Wolfson's method would have been equally successful in analyzing other parts, such as the question of free will and determinism. (15) After Crescas' Critique of Aristotle, Wolfson did not write any other articles on Crescas except one paper, a reply and rejoinder to critiques of the first volume.

Armed with his Hypothetico-Deductive Method, Wolfson began a series of in-depth studies of a number of diverse thinkers. The thinkers were different, but the method remained the same. Only the adjective "Talmudic" was dropped from the name of the method, as it was to be utilized in the investigation of thinkers who, unlike Crescas, may have had no knowledge of the Talmud.

Wolfson took it for granted that the Hypothetico-Deductive Method could be universalized and utilized in examining "any authoritative work, be it of divine origin or the product of the human mind" (p. 105 above). But can it! Perhaps the transition from the sacred to the secular requires more extensive changes than the mere dropping of an adjective. Unlike ancient and modern philosophers, medieval Jewish thinkers did not feel bound by the Socratic commitment to "follow the argument wherever it leads." Philosophy for them is not an activity without presuppositions, but "the recognition of the authority of the Revelation is the presupposition of philosophizing as such." (16)

Wolfson justifies his procedure in a letter addressed to Isidore Singer, the projector and editor of the Jewish Encyclopedia. Shortly after his appointment as a Professor at Harvard, Wolfson was asked for his approbation of the Encyclopedia on the twenty-fifth anniversary of its publication. Wolfson praised the work highly, exclaiming it was a watershed for Jewish scholarship in America. When the Encyclopedia first appeared, Wolfson observed that some audaciously acclaimed it as an achievement like the Talmud. At the time this was dismissed as mere pulpit-rhetoric; but with the benefit of hindsight, we may in sober reality compare it to the Torah itself! "If comparisons are at all in order, I should like to compare it to the original Law, for like the Law, the Jewish Encyclopedia was revealed [sic] to us in a desert..*. Scholarship by its nature is a priestly craft. It is only right for its guardians to be zealous for its purity and fearful of its being contaminated by the gaze and touch of the uninitiated. Left to themselves, they would rather practice it behind a cloud of burning incense on a smoke-enveloped altar in their cloistered studies." (17)

At first blush this testimonial sounds like a spoof, but Wolfson himself and his expositors took it very seriously. (18) The equating of a revealed document and an authoritative treatise may appear subtle, and the identification of the scholar with the priest seem cavalier, but these underlying assumptions were the keystone of the Hypothetico-Deductive Method. The Psalmist exclaimed, "The Torah of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul" (Psalm 19:7; H. 8). If it is perfect, it cannot have any flaws or blemishes, and a contradiction is certainly a flaw or blemish in a perfect work. It is, therefore, the duty of the faithful custodians of the Law, the priests, to conserve and keep this teaching in its pristine purity. "For the lips of the priest should safeguard knowledge" (Malachi 2:7).

We can now understand why potential contradictions play such an important role in Wolfson's methodology and why he insisted that there cannot be any genuine contradictions in an authoritative work, only "apparent" contradictions. Conversely, however, if a genuine contradiction can be shown to exist in an authoritative work it would undermine the Hypothetico-Deductive Method and call into question any conclusion based on its use. To be sure, Wolfson could have maintained that it is highly unlikely that many contradictions could be found in the works of a great philosopher, for in that case he would not be a great philosopher. But this is not Wolfson's position. He states there are no contradictions. Period. It bears careful scrutiny whether such a position may be sustained.

Application to Spinoza

In 1934 Wolfson's next work appeared, The Philosophy of Spinoza. The first chapter, "Behind the Geometrical Method" restates and defends his Hypothetico-Deductive Method of Text Study. Wolfson was of the opinion that by the use of the Hypothetico-Deductive Method he was more successful in unveiling Spinoza's thought than other scholars were. Sir Stuart Hampshire (1914-2004), the Oxford University philosopher and Warden, or head, of Wadham College, recalled not long before his death that when his first published work, Spinoza, appeared in 1951, Wolfson remarked to his class at Harvard that the book "was a sound 'traditional' interpretation of Spinoza." Hampshire goes on to say that this comment was widely reported at the time, and that "the implied criticism rankled my mind for fifty years" (19) We shall now examine whether Wolfson was justified in his opinion.

(Spinoza is an ideal subject upon whom to test the Hypothetico-Deductive Method. A commonly accepted opinion, in Wolfsons time, was that the logical structure of the Ethics is flawless, once its few initial definitions and axioms are conceded. Wolfsons Hypothetico-Deductive Method seemed to work well in reconstructing the thought of Spinoza. Wolfsons emphasis on merely "apparent misuse of terms" on the part of Spinoza, or "apparent contradictions" in his own statements, or "apparent misrepresentation" of the views of other thinkers, is supportive of the belief in the rigorous and systematic consistency of his thought.

Wolfsons study of Spinoza had a curious and unexpected reception. Wolfson was universally praised for his enormous erudition, his unrivaled and magisterial knowledge of the entire Jewish philosophical tradition, but his influence on subsequent commentators has been negligible, and his conclusions and interpretations are not today accepted by most scholars. A leading contemporary authority on Spinoza states:
  I am sure to make mistakes because of my inattention to Spinoza's
  philosophical ancestry; but I will pay that price for the benefits
  which accrue from putting most of one's energies into philosophically
  interrogating Spinoza's own text. I am encouraged in this by the
  massive work in which Wolfson places Spinoza in a densely described
  medieval setting; the labour and learning are awesome, but the
  philosophical profit is almost nil. Such philosophically interesting
  readings of Spinoza as are contained in Wolfsons two volumes could
  all have been arrived at without delving into the medieval
  background. (20)

In 1940, a young philosophy instructor in Yeshiva College (now Yeshiva University), David Bidney, dropped a bombshell which enraged Wolfson because he questioned Wolfsons methodology. In that year Yale University Press published The Psychology and Ethics of Spinoza, which is the sequel to the doctoral dissertation Bidney submitted to Yale in 1932. The dust-jacket of the book claimed that it was a challenge to Wolfson's interpretation of Spinoza based on the Hypothetico-Deductive Method, The contention is that Wolf-sons "assumption of the essential unity of Spinoza's thought is in itself an a priori prejudice which undermines all claim to objectivity, as may be seen from his attempts to explain away all contradictions and difficulties as seeming or apparent"'(21) This criticism, in my opinion, is valid, though sometimes perhaps too invidiously expressed. The flawed method diminishes the usefulness of the Hypothetico-Deductive Method as applied to Spinoza. (22)

Bidney, in the introduction to his book, calls attention to two articles published in the British philosophy journal Mind shortly after the appearance of Wolfson's study of Spinoza. These articles by Professor A. E. Taylor were entitled "Some Incoherences of Spinozism," (23) The main idea of the first of the two articles was that the metaphysical framework of Ethics I requires the admission that finite modes are mere illusions, while the doctrines elaborated in Ethics II--V demand that they not be treated as such. In the second article, he argues that the geometrical treatment of human passions and the acts to which they lead excludes the possibility of a genuine ethical doctrine in Spinoza's mechanistic philosophy. For example, we call Nero a bad man, but the truth is that Nero is not a bad man, but a perfect Nero. The crimes of Nero, like all other events of history, are a way in which the nature of substance expresses itself; they have the necessary place in the present order of events and system of things as much as the virtues of Socrates. Spinoza's proposal (in the famous preface to Pt. Ill of the Ethics) to treat moral actions "rationally," exactly as if they were geometrical figures, leads him to ignore their specific character as moral As Taylor further observes: "To construct a morality from which distinctions of the objectively good and evil, right and wrong, are absent, is like proposing to construct a geometry superior to the Vulgar prejudice' that there is a distinction between straight and curved."

Taylor was a careful scholar and spoke of "incoherences" and not "contradictions." The concept of incoherence has a respected place in the history of philosophy. The Arabic philosopher-theologian Ghazall (c. 1059-1111) wrote a book entitled The Incoherence of the Philosophers (Tahafut al-Falasifa) in which he tried to show the inconsistency of the position of the "philosophers." He in turn was answered by Averroes (1126-1198) in The Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahafut al-Tahafut). Taylors critique of Spinoza, therefore, comes within the parameters of Wolfson's "apparent contradictions" or "seeming contradictions."

To the best of my knowledge, nowhere does Wolfson in his two-volume study of Spinoza discuss any real contradictions in Spinoza's thought as contrasted to apparent contradictions. Modern scholarly consensus is that there are contradictions in Spinoza's metaphysical system. Even during Spinoza's lifetime, Tschirnhaus, a young nobleman of outstanding intellectual ability, demonstrated that there were contradictions in the doctrine of divine causation of modes. He pointed this out to Spinoza, and the latter's reply was weak and evasive. (24)

Spinoza spent over a dozen years composing the Ethics. It is possible that during that time he changed his mind on a number of topics and that contradictions infiltrated into the work. Contemporary authorities on Spinoza are generally agreed that everything in the Ethics pertaining to the scientia intuitu va, or the third (and highest) "kind of knowledge," is inconsistent with the rest of his system. The basic elements of Spinozistic spirituality (in the second half of Pt. V of the Ethics), namely, the doctrines of the Intellectual Love of God, of Human Blessedness, and of the Deathlessness of the Mind, so beloved still today by Spinoza "worshippers," are based on the contradiction that Man both is and is not Necessary and Eternal. (25)

The Italian philosopher Augusto Guzzo (1894-1986), whose study of Spinoza appeared ten years before Wblfsons, notes the contradiction between Spinoza's rigidly deterministic metaphysics and his doctrine of salvation. Professor Guzzo does not limit himself to generalities, but points out the exact place in the Ethics where the breach occurs. Guzzo discovers the incautious introduction of a link that breaks, once and for all, the continuity of the concatenated series." The mechanistic doctrine of emotion requires that if A is hated, or loved, by B, A must hate, or Jove, B in return (Ethics III: 40). But having admitted the inexorable causal link between a hatred initiated and a hatred returned, Spinoza "incautiously" adds a little later that "hatred is increased by reciprocated hatred, but on the other hand can (potest) be destroyed by love" (Ethics III: 43). The first of these clauses follows strictly from the hard determinism of a universe ruled only by the cause and effect of natural laws, without purpose or design. "In the universe there is nothing contingent," Spinoza asserts, "but all things have been determined from the necessity of the divine nature to exist, and act in a definite way" (Ethics I, P29). Consequently, A, being hated by B, hates B in return, and B's hatred is strengthened as a consequence of the reciprocation. But how are we to understand the second clause? "It is hardly necessary to note," Guzzo comments, "that the insertion of one single potest in the sphere of pure necessity suffices to break the inexorable consequence of the new from the old, and to show that necessity is not the only category into which reality may be fitted." (26) Spinoza has unwittingly, by help of a seeming innocent word, severed the deterministic chain and by introducing a contracausal free will, rendered feasible the initiation of the saving process of liberation. To reply, as some commentators do, that it is a change of viewpoint which is involved rather than a change of conduct, is true but unavailing. The difficulty is only thrown back a stage. As Frederick Copleston cogently observes in his History of Philosophy:
  Change in conduct depends for Spinoza on a change in point of view;
  and how could one change ones point of view unless one were free? It
  may be said that some people are determined to change their point of
  view. But in this case why point out the road to them and try to
  convince them? It is difficult to avoid the impression that Spinoza
  tried to have it both ways; to maintain a thorough determinism, based
  on a metaphysical theory, and at the same time to propound an ethic
  which makes sense only if determinism is not absolute. (27)

Wolfson never rested on his laurels. Soon after completing his study of Spinoza, Wolfson hoped to publish a multi-volume history of philosophy under the general title The Structure and Growth of Philosophical Systems from Plato to Spinoza. The purpose of this history was to highlight the importance of Jewish thinkers not merely as transmitters of the thought of Arab philosophers, but as original philosophers in their own right. This theme determined what his next subject would be. The standard histories of Jewish philosophy traditionally begin with Saadia Gaon, who flourished in the tenth century. By that time, however, the agenda of Christian and Arab philosophy had been set and well established by the Church Fathers and Muslim thinkers.

What Wolfson needed to make his theory viable was a Jewish thinker who lived and wrote at the beginning of the Common Era. Such a thinker Wolfson found in Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher, who was generally regarded as a figure of minor importance in the history of philosophy.

Application to Philo

In his work on Philo, Wolfson was less sanguine than he had been with Spinoza in portraying him as a systematic philosopher. Wolfson was aware that many scholars would not agree with his reconstructions. "It is not impossible," says Wolfson, "that they are right who say that Philo did not possess such powers of intellect as to be able to reject the theories of other philosophers, and to strike out a new and hitherto untrodden path for himself or that he was not capable of building up, either in religion or philosophy, a scientific system which is consistent and free of contradictions,' or that he was only an 'eclectic'; but at least we must make an effort to find out whether he was really nothing more than all that has been said about him" (28)

The task Wolfson set for himself was formidable. Dean Inge, in his review of Wolfson's work, mentions no less than eight interpretations of Philos thought, some of which are contradictory and mutually exclusive, and the number could readily be doubled. (29)

Despite these difficulties, Wolfson opted for what we might call a maximalist interpretation of Philo. In Wolfson's portrait, Philo is closely identified with "orthodox" Palestinian Judaism ("native Judaism"). (30) Although Philo may have used the terminology of pagan religions in some of his writings, it does not necessarily follow that he recognized the truth of pagan ideas.

Philos method in expounding the Law was to combine traditional Palestinian exegesis (Midrash) with philosophic-allegorical exegesis. He subordination of philosophy to Scripture means the subordination of reason to faith. Philo modifies Plato's theory of creation by declaring that God created the world out of matter which he had himself first created; i.e., Philo espouses a theory of creatio ex nihilo*1 In distinction from his Greek philosophical predecessors, Philo taught that God, the author of the laws of nature, reserves to himself the right to upset them by performing miracles. Philo identifies the kind of knowledge with prophecy, and substitutes the term "prophecy" for the Platonic term "recollection." He converted the biblical concept of God's unlikeness to any created being into the philosophical principle of the incorporeality and simplicity of God. Philo was the first philosopher to demonstrate the unnameability and unknow ability of God. (32) He develops a three-stage Logos doctrine (transcendent within God, transcendent outside of God, and immanent in the world), but, loyal to the tenets of monotheistic Judaism, Philo had neither a logical nor an historical reason to look for intermediaries between God and the world. If Philo sometimes represents God as employing the Logos, or his powers, as intermediaries, it is because Philo, like the Rabbis, believed that God sometimes acted like a human being in order to set an example for mankind and not because He was in need of agents or instruments. (33)

Philo was the founder of the common philosophy of the three religions with cognate Scriptures--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, This triple religious philosophy was based on the following four principles first formulated by Philo: (1) Scripture is the one infallible source of truth; (2) human reason also is a source of truth; (3) since God is Author of both revelation and reason, there can be no conflict between them: Scripture must be interpreted in the light of reason, and reason must be guided by Scripture; (4) Scripture teaches us to believe in the existence and unity (i.e., uniqueness and simplicity) of God, in creation of the world, in divine providence, and in the divine origin of

the rules of conduct.

Reason has led philosophers to discover some of the above-mentioned truths, but it has failed to prove (i) the unity of God, (ii) the unknown ability and indescribability of his essence, (iii) his power to change the laws of nature by performing miracles, and (iv) individual providence and the freedom of the human will. Philo, the Alexandrian Jew, ushered in a new period in the history of philosophy which dominated European thought for nearly seventeen centuries until it was demolished by another Jew, Spinoza.

It is remarkable that several critics of Wolfsons Philo stated that studying the volumes only confirmed their previous view of the philosopher. Isaak Heinemann, who was both a classical and rabbinical scholar (and had written extensively on Philo a generation before Wolfson), took issue with Wolfson on a number of points. Here we will mention only two.

Heinemann maintained that Philo had a limited knowledge of Judaism, which was acquired by attending services in the synagogue and from his single visit to the Temple in Jerusalem. Philo was not conversant in Hebrew and gained his knowledge of the Bible, largely the Pentateuch, which was read weekly in the synagogue, from the Septuagint Greek translation. (Philo appears to have had no first-hand knowledge of the Psalms, and never cites them directly). Heinemann supports the view that Philo apparently did not understand Hebrew by his etymologies and citations which are from the Greek version. Recent scholars have strongly supported Heinemann in his contention that Philo did not know Hebrew. One authority aptly describes Wolfsons arguments to the contrary as being motivated by an "esprit veritablemmt so - phistique. (34)

Another major issue between Wolfson and Heinemann has to do with Philo's rejection of animal sacrifices brought in the wrong spirit and without proper conduct on the part of a votary. Is Philo's basing himself on the prophets and psalmists, as Wolfson claims, or, on the Greek philosopher Theo-phrastus, as Heinemann contends? (35) Heinemann sums up his contention in tabular form:
  (apud Porphyry, De abst. 2.24.1)
  Three reasons for sacrificing:
  1. to honour the gods;
  2. to give thanks;
  3. from the need of good things.
  (Spec Leg. 1.195)
  Motives which led men to sacrifice:
  1. rendering honor to God with no other motive;
  2. benefits received in,
  a) material blessings,
  b)release from evils.

It is helpful if a scholar has a sense of humor. We are told that George Bernard Shaw was once poring over a second-hand bookstall of volumes much marked down, when he came across a volume containing his own plays. The book was inscribed, moreover, to a friend, beneath whose name on the fly leaf, G.B.S. saw, written in his own hand, "With the compliments of George Bernard Shaw." Buying the book, Shaw wrote under the inscription: "With renewed compliments. G.B.S.," and sent it back to the early recipient. Some-thing similar happened here. When Wolfson claimed that Philo based himself on the Hebrew Scriptures, Heinemann, in words or substance, retorted, "No, No, Mr. Wolfson, a thousand times No, not the Scriptures but Theophrastus." Heinemann then (similar in fashion to G.B.S.s unchanged response of many years earlier) repeated verbatim his unforgettable simile of some forty years earlier: "The condemnation of a mechanical sacrificial service he takes from Theophrastus, and not from the prophets; he speaks of simplicity of heart without quoting the Psalms, and arbitrarily injects the idea of the love of mankind into ritual laws without reminding us that the Pentateuch expressly prescribes the love of our neighbor. Thus Philo reminds us often enough of an alchemist who tries to make gold out of diverse elements without suspecting that he stands beside a gold mine." (36)

All too often in his work on Philo, Wolfson calls attention to an "apparent" contradiction or a "seeming" inconsistency and typically proceeds in the following manner, "This would seem to be contradictory to some of his other statements which we have quoted above; and, unless we assume that Philo did not know his own mind, or that he changed his mind, a way must be found to reconcile this statement with his other statements. A way of reconciling this apparent contradiction is to be found, we believe, in the distinction drawn by Philo. ..." (37) Respectfully, the cited material does not support Wolfson s conclusions. I should like to call attention to several cases in which Wolfson takes great liberty with the facts, or contrives the evidence. Wolfson wavers regarding Jewish attendance and participation in gymnasiums, i.e., state schools. First, he asserts that Alexandrian Jews did not attend gymnasiums. Then, he qualifies his assertion by introducing a "distinction" between participating in the activities of the pagan Greek gymnasiums and attending gymnasiums under Jewish auspices, despite the absence of any evidence of such separate educational institutions. Next, when considering statements of Philo in the first person (i.e., that he witnessed some of the excesses at the Greek gymnasiums), Wolfson introduces the " subdisrinction" that Philo was not an active participant, but a detached spectator. Finally, when confronted with the letter of the Emperor Claudius prohibiting Jews from participating in athletic contests, clearly implying that up to that time they did participate, Wolfson explains that the Emperor was referring to apostate Jews who had managed to intrude themselves where they were not wanted. (38)

Further examples could be readily provided to demonstrate that Wolfson imposes his own systematic views on Philo. But this is not necessary There is a principle in Talmudic civil law that the admission of a party "is equal to the testimony of a hundred witnesses" and no further proof is required. An acquaintance of Wolfson once asked him whether he was never tempted to formulate his own philosophy. Wolfson took out one of his volumes on Philo, pointed to a passage, and asked his young friend to read it. As the young man read the passage, Wolfson whispered: "You think Philo said that? Philo didn't say that. I said that." (39) Erwin Good enough rightly concludes his review of Wolfson's Philo with these words. "The book should be called A Philonic System, for this it is. The mistake is to call it simply Philo, for I found little of Philo himself or is spirit in it. (40)


I have already quoted Wolfson's statement that the Hypothetico-Deductive Method perhaps applies the techniques of psychoanalysis to the study of texts (p. 3). Elsewhere he says: "The uttered words of philosophers at their best and fullest are nothing but floating buoys which signal the presence of submerged unuttered thoughts. The purpose of historical research in philosophy, therefore, is to uncover those unuttered thoughts, to reconstruct the latent process of reasoning that always lies behind uttered words, and to try to determine the true meaning of what is said by tracing back the story of how it came to be said, and why it is said in the manner in which it is said." (41) It would take us too far afield to discuss the merits and validity of such a procedure. But this much is certain: any account of a philosopher that is entitled to our credence must be based on adequate independent evidence of what the philosopher in question actually did say and what arguments he did use to support his position. An account should not be based upon "what he [a philosopher] wanted to say" or "what he means to say," or "what was in the back of his mind," or what was "floating in his mind" or what "may perhaps be inferred," (42) if Wolfson's reconstructions (which are often based on speculation) are to be accepted.

It is commonplace that people, very much including philosophers, (i) change their views, and, (ii) engage in contradictions. However, in Philo's case the likelihood of contradiction is significantly increased if the weight of scholarly opinion is correct that Philo is an eclectic philosopher. (43)

Indeed, it is worthy to note that Wolfson himself changed his views over time. For many years Wolfson refused to give permission for republication of his first printed article44 because he had come to modify his "way of dealing with" the subject and some of his interpretations of quoted passages. (45)

Notwithstanding Woifson's overly dogmatic adherence to his position concerning contradictions, the student should not hastily form an opinion or judgment without carefully examining the evidence. The mere fact that there are two passages in a philosophers works that disagree superficially does not mean that there is a genuine contradiction that could not logically be reconciled. Woifson's criterion that a philosopher is "consistent, coherent and free from contradictions" is a sound methodological starting point; however, he elevated it into a rigid dogma. Rather Woifson's criterion should be viewed as a rebuttable presumption, that is, an assumption of fact that is accepted as true but which may be defeated (rebutted) by persuasive evidence to the contrary. In general, the textual interpretations of the Tosafists were more nuanced and open-minded than those of Wolfson. Although the Tosafists were devout and meticulous in religious observance, they realized with their depth of penetration and analysis, as Wolfson did not, that even a sacred text may contain contradictions and irrational qualities.

The Tosafists recognized the existence of contradictory passages (sugiot ha-juhot) in the Talmud. In one of their glosses (Menahot 58b, s.v. veika) they listed no fewer than fourteen instances of contradictions and noted that there were many more. Some items on the list are limited to the inversion of the names of scholars in a debate, but others are of a substantive nature and may have legal ramifications--for example, the question of whether a mortgage obligation is grounded in biblical or rabbinical law (Tosafot Baba Bathra 176a s.v.goveh) (46)

In his description of the methodology of the Tosafists, Wolfson oversimplifies and sometimes misrepresents their true viewpoint. The Tosafists principally raised three types of questions which, in ascending order of difficulty, are introduced as follows: (1) "And if you were to ask (literally/say"). ..."; (2) "It is difficult.."; and, (3) "Astounding!" (temah). Wolfson telescopes and conflates these types of objections. The last type of objection is generally left unanswered, implying that the objection is a valid one. This is expressly stated by the redoubtable R. Isaiah Horowitz (c. 1565-1630), popularly known as the "Holy SHeLaH" from the acronym of his magnum opus Shenei Luhot ha-Berit (Two Tablets of the Covenant), edn. 1, Amsterdam, 1649, and confirmed by Urbach in his study of the Tosafists.47 In discussing the question of whether the Tosafists recognized contradictions in the text of the Talmud, Professor Halivni divides the question into its theological and textual aspects. The Tosafists distinguished between contradictions that are tolerable and those that are not. Tolerable contradictions are those recognized by the editor-redactors of the Talmud itself. They are frequently introduced by such phrases as "some say" ('ika de 'amri) or "another formulation" (lishna ahrina), i.e., another version of what was stated above which differs substantially from the previous version. Since the Tosafists believed that the editors of the Talmud were divinely inspired, they generally avoided the finding of contradictions not explicitly mentioned in the Talmud. They were forced to admit, however, that such contradictions existed in a limited number of cases* Professor Halivni concurs with the contention that Wolfsons conception of the methodology of the Tosafists is flawed.48 In the writer s opinion, Wolfsons flawed approach impairs much of his work subsequent to his magisterial doctoral dissertation, Crescas' Critique of Aristotle.

Wolfson's description of the Talmudic Hypothetico-Deductive Method of Text Interpretation has been justly praised and used to elucidate Talmudic reasoning and methodology by Ohr Somayach, a strictly orthodox Jewish educational institute. (49) However, it must be recognized that real contradictions in a religious text or philosophical system may exist. If contradictions exist, they bear careful examination as to how they arose, and should not be explained away or resolved by means of implausible ad hoc hypotheses or preconceived notions, as Wolfson attempted to do Specifically, Wolfson deals with contradictions as follows (above p. 105):
  "Statements apparently contradictory to each other will be reconciled
  by the discovery of some subtle distinction, and statements apparently
  irrelevant to each other will be subtly analyzed into their ultimate
  elements and shown to contain some common underlying principle."

Perhaps we may retain the beneficial aspects of Wolfson's approach and eliminate its shortcomings by rewriting his thesis to provide:
  "Statements apparently contradictory to each other will be examined
  to ascertain whether this seeming contradiction may not be removed
  by a more careful analysis. Statements apparently irrelevant to
  each other will be carefully separated into their ultimate elements
  and may possibly be shown to contain some common cohesive principle
 . Similarly, statements apparently in agreement on a superficial
  contemplation of them are analyzed in depth to determine whether the
  agreement continues to be manifest when all possible consequences
  and deductions are drawn from each of them; for if contradictory
  deductions follow from the two apparently agreeing sentences, then
  the apparent agreement is not an agreement in fact" (50)

Wolfson characterized scholars as either carpenters or architects. The carpenters were technicians who devoted themselves to the minutiae of scholarship, such as Robert Brownings hero in "A Grammarians Funeral," who formulated the syntactical "doctrine of the enclitic De," i.e., the rule for distinguishing the Greek "de" (delta epsilon) meaning "toward" from the Greek "de" meaning "but." The architects, on the other hand, were the grand designers of magnificent scholarly edifices such as Wolfson's projected multi-volume Judaeo-centric History of Philosophy. As he lay on his sickbed in a nursing home, Wolfson's greatest anxiety was that history would evaluate him not as an architect, but as a technician," a maker of footnotes" (51)

Wolfson's life ambition was to completely overturn Hegel. (52) According to Hegel, the history of philosophy is divided into three periods: (1) the Greek, originating in the heathen world; (2) the medieval, originating in the Christian world; and (3) the Teutonic modern, which is itself basically Christian. As an afterthought, Hegel added that Jewish and Muslim philosophy need not be considered except "in an external and historic way." In Wolfson's Judaeo-centric scheme of the history of philosophy, the three most important figures are all Jews: (1) Philo the Jew, who interpreted Greek (Platonic) philosophy in the light of Hebrew Scriptures; (2) Maimonides, the prince of medieval philosopher-theologians, and (3) Spinoza, who denied revelation and tore down the Philonic structure which had prevailed for nearly seventeen centuries. It is remarkable that Wolfson did not realize that his Pan-Jewish imperialistic view of philosophy is as one-sided as that of Hegel.

Wolfsons Judaeo-centric hypothesis was rejected by the first Chairman of the Jewish Philosophy Department in the Hebrew University and by his successor, Julius Guttmann (1880-1950), the first Professor of Jewish Philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, begins his classic work on the history of Jewish philosophical thought with this paragraph: "The Jewish people did not begin to philosophize because of an irresistible urge to do so. They received philosophy from outside sources, and the history of Jewish philosophy is a history of the successive absorptions of foreign ideas which were then transformed and adapted according to specific Jewish points of view" (53)

Without Philo, Wolfsons entire theory lacks even the shadow of a foundation. That is why Wolfson had to manipulate the evidence and grossly over state the ability, originality, and influence of Philo. Wolfson was aware of this, as is evidenced by his admission to his young friend, Jay Mirsky, that in Philo it was not the Alexandrian speaking, but Wolfson the "ventriloquist."

Isadore Twersky, Wolfsons successor at Harvard, regarded the fact that Wolfsons "conceptual scheme" was not accepted by other scholars as a major disappointment to Wolfson. But how could it be otherwise? Surely, there was a cross-fertilization of different elements at work in the history of philosophy. More than a generation before Wolfson, Israel Abrahams, Reader in Jewish Studies in Cambridge University, spoke of the mutual interaction between Jewish and non-Jewish cultures and took as his paradigm the three "heroes" of Wolfson: Philo, Maimonides, and Spinoza. In what might be called a refutation in anticipation of Wolfson, Abrahams said: "The Jewish nature does not produce its rarest fruits in a Jewish environment. ... it was ancient Alexandria that produced Philo, medieval Spain Maimonides, modern Amsterdam Spinoza." (54) Most contemporary scholars would agree here with Abrahams, not Wolfson.

To sum up: Wolfson's description of the Talmudic Hypothetico-Deductive Method of Text Study and Interpretation had a serious and fundamental defect, that it assumed as axiomatic that there never can be genuine contradictions in a philosophic work. This flaw affected his studies of various philosophers very differently. In the case of Crescas, it had no negative impact; with Spinoza it was problematic, but with Philo, in the judgment of a leading authority, it was "fatal." (55) What the Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach (1838-1916) said about Johann Fredric Herbart (1776-1841), who succeeded Kant at Konigsberg, is equally true of Harry Wolfson: "This eminent scholar has not been exclusively a perpetrator of errors."

(1.) The authorized biography by Leo W. Schwarz, Wolfson of Harvard: Portrait of a Scholar (Philadelphia; Jewish Publication Society of America, 1978), is well written but contains superficial analysis. It may be usefully supplemented by the excellent doctoral dissertation of Martin Ritter, Aufdem Weg zum System: Harry A. Wolfsons judeozentrische Philosophieg-eschichte im Horizont seine Vorlaufer und Anfdnge (Free University of Berlin, 2005), to which I am indebted. See, also, bibliographic essay of Wolfson by Jacob Haberman in Readers Guide to Judaism, ed. Michael Terry (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000), pp. 622-623.1 am most grateful to Professor Calum M. Carmichael, of Cornell University, for his encouragement, insightful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of the paper; I warmly acknowledge his generous help. I also extend thanks to Judge Arthur Birnbaum, Thomas R. Newman, Esq., Professors Leonard S. Kravitz and Norbert M. Samuelson, and Joann Abrams RosofF for reviewing this paper and offering valuable and perceptive criticisms.

(2.) So wrote an editor in The Menorah Journal, Vol. 49 (1962): 162:'the greatest living Jewish scholar"

(3.) Dr. Martin Ritter discovered an unpublished lecture of Wolfson, entided'The Application of the Hypothetico-Deductive Method to the Study of Medieval Jewish Philosophy," in the Harvard University Archives, Pusey Library (HUA HUG [FP] 58.45 Box 7), which he transcribed in his doctoral dissertation (n. 1 above), pp. 273-279. Ritter could ascertain neither the date of the lecture nor the forum where it was delivered. He surmised, however, that the late 1920s and the early 1930s are the terminus a quo and the terminus ad quern for the paper. In fact, the lecture was delivered at a public meeting of the American Academy for Jewish Research on December 27, 1928, in New York City. See Proceedings, AAJR, 1 (1928/30), p. l.This lecture will not be considered here as it was never edited and approved for publication by Wolfson. A lucid exposition of the Hypothetico-Deductive Method written during Wolfsons active period will be found in R. B. Braithwaite, Scientific Explanation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953).

(4.) WoIfson, Crescas' Critique, pp. 25-27 (emphasis added).

(5.) Wolfson, Crescas Critique* pp. 27-28* The Hypothetico-Deductive Method was first devised by Wolfson as part of his 1915 Harvard doctoral dissertation on Hasdai Crescas (c. 1340-1410); this dissertation was revised in 1918, but only published in 1929.

(6.) Georges Vajda, Introduction a la pensee juive du Moyen-Age (Paris: J. Vrin, 1947), p. 235,

(7.) (1) JQR 21 (1930-1931): 193; (2) The Philosophical Review, Vol. 41 (1932): 415-416; (3) Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 50 (1930): 166-168; (4) Jewish Expo-nent, Philadelphia, March 28,1930, p. 7.

(8.) See James T. Robinson, "Hasdai Crescas and anti-Aristotelians," in 77;e Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 391-413.

(9.) See S. Pines, Scholasticism after Thomas Aquinas and the Teachings of Hasdai Crescas and his Predecessors, trans. Alfred L. Ivri, in The Collected Works of Shlomo Pines: Studies in the History of Jewish Thought (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1997), Vol. V p. 502.

(l0.) Georgc Sarton, review o (Crescas' Critique of Aristotle in Isis, Vol. XIV, No. 1 (1930): 242-243.

(11.) See Wolfson, "Studies in Crescas," in Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research, Vol. 5 (1934-1935): 155-166, reprinted in Harry A. Wolfson, Studies in the History of Philosophy and Religion, Vol. II, ed. Isadore Twersky and George H. Williams (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977), pp. 458-478.

(12.) Quoted by Karl Praechter, "Review of the Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca," in Aristotle Transformed, edited Richard Sorabji (London: Duckworth, 1990), pp. 42f.

(13.) Crescas' Critique, p. 27; repeated verbatim in Spinoza, I, p. 24. Wolfson once laid down the principle that there is no reason for rejecting a statement which (a) is not inherent^ impossible, nor (b) contradicted by a more reliable source (cited in Hugo Mantel, Studies in the History ojthe Sanhedrin [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961], p. 19). Applying the principle here, I agree with Wolfson.

(14.) Crescas' Critique, p. x.

(l5.) Cf. Charles Touati/'Hasday Crescas et ses paradoxes sur la liberte," in Melanges des religions offerts a Henri-Charles Puecb (Paris: Presse Universitaires de France, 1974), pp. 573-78.

(16.) Leo Strauss, Philosophy and Law, trans. Eve Adler (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), p, 59.

(17.) Wolfson, Letter, in Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Jewish Encyclopedia (New York; London: 1926), p. 9. In his studies Wolfson tends to blur the distinction between creative philosophy, religious revelation, and academic scholarship.

(l8.) See Nathan Rotenstreich, "Scholarship as a Priestly Craft: On Harry Austryn Wolf son," Judaism, Vol. 26 (1977): 430-435. Rotenstreich, the former rector of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, makes this theme the leitmotif of his study of Wolfson, and suggests that this characterization is probably autobiographical, expressing Wolfsons belief that he is the High Priest, or living repository, of this learning. See also Martin Ritter, "Scholarship as a Priestly Craft: Harry A. Wolfson on Tradition in a Secular Age," in Klaus Hermann et al., eds., Jewish Studies Between the Disciplines (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2003), pp. 435-455 (Wolfsons actual letter appears on p. 444); Schwarz (note 1), p. 84.zs

(19.) Stuart Hampshire, Spinoza and Spinozism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), p. vii.

(20.) Jonathan Bennet, A Study of Spinoza's Ethics (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1984), p. 16. A French critic is even more severe: "Obsession with the 'Jewish literature has hindered the commentator [Wolfson] from perceiving the words of the text, and has made him read others in it, put there by his prejudice" (Martial Guerouk, Spinoza, Vol. 1, Dieu [Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1968], appendix III, p. 445).

(21.) David Bidney, The Psychology and Ethics of Spinoza (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940), p. 8,

(22.) Wolfson vigorously, if not viciously, attacked Bidney in "A Case Study in Philosophic Research and Spinoza," in The New Scholasticism, Vol. 14 (1940): 268-294. After World War II, Wolfson took on the public persona of a genial mentor who never spoke in unkind terms of other people, but privately he wrote poisonous letters to younger critics such as Emil F. Fackenheim and Samuel Sandmel to browbeat them into silence. Fackenheim published a lengthy review of Wolfson's Philo in the Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 1 (1947): 89-106, that in his words attempted to the best of his ability "along with emphasizing its merits, to expose the weakness" of this work. Wolfson wrote a caustic reply, that he never published but sent to Fackenheim, in which he called the young academician a "pseudo-scholar" who "mimics expertness" (see HUA HUG [FP] 58.10 Box 1. a case study in Philo-folder). In a testy letter to Sandmel, Wolfson accused him of being a mere stooge for Wolfson's archrival Goodenough (HUA HUG [FPJ 58.7 Box 274, S-folder), The writer was afforded gentler treatment, although expressing disagreement with the accuracy of Wolfson's translation of a passage. Paradoxically, although immediately rejecting the writer's criticism, Wolfson, in his posthumous work Repercussions of Kalam in Jewish Philosophy (1979), p. 57, accepted the criticism by utilizing the translation proffered ro replace Wolfson's original translation. See H. A. Wolfson, "Joseph Ibn Saddik on Divine Attributes,'7[pounds sterling]R N*s- 55 (1964-65): 277-298; J, Haberman,"A Critical Note Anent Ibn Saddik on Divine Attributes," JQR N.S. 61 (1970-1971): 308-311, followed (p. 311-313) by Wolfson,"Comments on Dr. Habermans Note." Cf. Vajda, HUCA 43 (1992), p. 144.

(23.) The articles are accessible in S. Paul Kashap, ed., Studies in Spinoza: Critical and Interpretative Essays (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), pp. 189-211, 289-309.

(24.) Cf. Epistles, 63,64,65,66,82, and 83.

(25.) See Bennett, A Study of Spinoza's Ethics, pp. 372-375. Bennett dismisses the last section of the Ethics as gibberish and an "unmitigated disaster," "nonsense," and "[intellectual] rubbish which causes others to write rubbish."

(26.) Augusto Guzzo, 2 pensiero di B. Spinoza (Firenze: Vallecchi, 1924), p. 291. Guzzo repeats the criticism verbatim in the second and third editions (Turin: Edizione di filosofia, 1964), pp. 154f; (Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1980), pp. 154f. Significantly, Wblfson does not comment on these successive contradictory propositions in his Spinoza. I was introduced to Guzzo's work by Alfred DiLascio's article "Augusto Guzzo: A Study In A Philosophical Anthropology," Cross Currents, Vol. 8 (Fall 1957): 357-382, to which I am much indebted.

(27.) Fredrick Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy, Vol. 4 (New York: Image Books of Doubleday & Company, 1963), p. 257. See further, Ethics Book II, Proposition 22: "The human Mind perceives not only the affections of the Body, but also the ideas of these affections"; and Epistles 56 and 78.

(28.) Harry A. Wolfson, Philo; Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Vol. 1 (Cambridge; Harvard University Press, 1948), pp. 102-103.

(29.) W. R. Inge, review of Philo, Hibbert Journal, Vol. 46 (1948): 371-372.

(30.) In my summary I have availed myself of the lucid and perceptive analysis of Wolf-sous work by Ralph Marcus in" Wolfson s Revaluation of Philo: A Review Article," Review of Religion, Vol. 13 (1949): 368-381.

(31.) Controverted in David T. Runia, Philo of Alexandria and the Timaeus of Plato (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1986), pp. 287-291. See also Gerhard May, Creatio Ex Nihilo: The Doctrine of "Creation Out of Nothing" in Early Christian Thought (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1994), pp. 8-9 and note 32, and the literature there cited.

(32.) Disproved in Raoul Mortley, Connaissance religieuse et hermeneutique chez Clement d'Akxandrie (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973), pp. 5-9.

(33.) "Refuted in Karl Bormann, Die Ideen-und Logoslehre Philons von Alexandrien: eine Auscinandersetzung mit H.A. Wolfson (Koln: Inaug. Diss., 1955), passim.

(34.) Valentin Nikiprowetzky, Le Commentaire de I'Ecriture chez Phiton d'Alcxandrie (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1977), p. 75.

(35.) Wolfson, Philo II, pp. 241-248; Heinemann, Philons Griechiscbe und Judische BiU dung (Breslau: M. & H. Marcus, 1932), pp. 64ff.

(36.) Leopold Cohn, ed., Schriften der Judisch-hellenistischen Literatur (Die Werke Philos von Alexandria in deutscher Vbersetzung), Vol. 2 (Breslau: M. 8c H. Marcus, 1909), p. 8. Heinemann, "Philo als Vater dcr Mitcelalterlichen Philosophic?", Theologische Zeitschrijt, Vol. 6 (1950): 99-116, which is an expanded version of his Hebrew critique published in Kirjath Sepher, Vol. 24 (1948): 208-212. Cf. Canon Wilfred L. Knox, who says: "I fear that after reading Wolfson I am more than ever of the opinion that Philo is negligible as a philosopher" (Journal of Theological Studies, Vol. 49 (1948): 214. Elsewhere Knox refers to the slovenly manner in which Philo inappositely incorporates Plato's polytheistic description (Titnaeus 40D) of the heavenly bodies as "visible gods" (De Mund. Opif., 7) ("Pharisaism and Hellenism " in H. Loewe, ed., Judaism and Christianity [London: 1937], II, p. 97.

(37.) "Philo I, p. 275.

(38.) Pbilo I, pp. 79-83. Contra Wolfson, see Alan Mendelson, Secular Education in Philo of Alexandria (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1982), p. 29ff and the literature there cited. See also Louis H. Feldman, Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 58-61; Harold A. Harris, Greek Athletics and the Jews (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1976), pp. 76f, and passim; Paul R. Trebillo, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 117-118, 176-177.

(39.) Mark Jay Mirsky, My Search for the Messiah: Studies and Wanderings in Israel and America (New York: Macmillan, 1977), p. 57.

(40.) E. R. Goodenough/'Woifsons Philo" Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 67 (1948); 109. See also Georges Vajda, who agreed with the doyen of Hellenistic studies, REJ, Vol. 9 (1949): 120.

(41.) AXPhilo I, p. 107.

(42.) A11 quotations are taken from Wolfson's two-volume Spinoza.

(43.) Louis H. Feldman, Scholarship on Philo and josephus, 1937-1962 (New York: Yeshiva University, 1963), p. 7. See also W. L. Knox (n. 36, end), who goes much further, calling Philo a mere clumsy "scissors-and-paste" compiler.

(44.) "Maimondes and Hallevi: A Study in Typical Jewish Attitudes towards Greek Philosophy in the Middle Ages"Jewish Quarterly Review, n.s. Vol. 2, No. 3 (1912): 297-337.

(45.) Judah Goldin, ed. The Jewish Expression (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), p. xxiii. Lewis Feuer confirms that in later years. Wolfson "regarded this essay whimsically for its youthful exuberance and mistakes." See Lewis S. Feuer/'Recollections of Harry Austayn Wolfson," American Jewish Archives, Vol. 28 (1976), p. 29. Cf. p. 39 where Wolfson says that the essay is "strewn with mistakes." Note in particular the contradictory evaluation of Philo: in the earlier essay he is regarded as a mere Hellenizing Jewish philosopher; in the later study he is viewed as the inaugurator of a world-shaking revolution in Western philosophy.

(46.) See Ephraim E. Urbach, The Tosapbists: Their History, Writings and Methods (Hebrew), 5th enlarged edition (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1986), p. 728, and the literature there cited. See also Tosafot Sanhedrin 25b, s.v."7 nami," which indicates that a certain statement is true only according to one opinion while the text implicitly assumes that it holds true for all positions.

(47.) See Meyer Katz, ed., Shenei Luhot ha-Berit ha-Shalem, Vol. 4, Helek Torah shebe-'al Peh, Kelal ha-Tosafot 25, no. 511 (Haifa: Makhon Yad Ramah, 2007), p. 94. Cf, Urbach, Tfce Tosaphists, p. 677. In a number of cases even questions of the first two types receive no reply. See the marginal note of R. Isaiah (Pick) Berlin (1725-1799) on B.M. 61a which is printed in all larger editions of the Talmud beginning with that of Dyhernfurth, 1800-1804, The Tosafists exemplified the true attitude of an inquiring mind. They said in effect: "We have encountered a serious problem which we have been unable to resolve. If we knew the answer, we would state it; but we don't. Perhaps you, the student, can come up with an answer to resolve the difficulty." Contrast this with Wolfsons attempt to sweep difficulties under the rug by "reconciling" every contradiction in a text.

(48.) PersonaI communication. David Weiss-Halivni is a well respected rabbinical scholar. In 2005, Halivni retired from Columbia University, where he served as Littauer Professor of Talmud and Classical Rabbinics. He now lives in Israel and teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University. In 2008, Halivni was awarded the Israel Prize in Talmud for his multi-volume commentary on the Talmud, Mekorot u' Mesorot (Sources and Traditions).

(49.) See

(50.) The last sentence is adapted from Jacob Z. Lauterbach's article "Pilpul" in the Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, p. 32.

(51.) See Feuer, "Recollections of Harry Austryn Wolfson," p. 30, n 45.

(52.) On Wolfsons anti-Hegelian theory of the history of philosophy, see Warren Zev Harvey, "Hebraism and Western Philosophy Harry Austryn Wolfsons Theory of History" (in Hebrew), Daat, Vol. 4 (1980): 103-109; English translation in Itnmanuel, Vol. 14 (1982): 77-85; and his "Historiographies of Jewish Philosophy," in Raphael Jospe, ed., Paradigms in Jewish Philosophy (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1997), pp. 27-36 (esp. pp. 29-30).

(53.) Julius Guttmann, Philosophies of Judaism; the History of Jewish Philosophy from Biblical Times to Franz Rosenzweig, translated by David W. Silverman (New York: Holt, Rein-hard and Winston, 1964), p. 3. Shlomo Pines, Guttmanns successor at the Hebrew University, maintained that Jewish philosophy up to the time of Maimonides was an offshoot of Arabic philosophy, and that the debates of Jewish philosophers can only be understood if one refers to the doctrinal differences obtaining among Arabic philosophers. "Rare and only of secondary significance is their relationship to the teachings of their predecessors." In the post-Maimonidean period, the same is true, mutatis mutandis, of the relation of Jewish thinkers to scholasticism. See Pines, Scholasticism, pp. 489f.

(54.) Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (London: Macmillan & Co., 1896), p. xxii. Contrast Wolfson, who as early as 1937 told a reporter of the New York Times that religious philosophy--by far the most important subdivision of the subject, according to him--was dominated by a Jewish monopoly. "It was one Jew, Philo, who started it; it was another Jew, Maimonides, who raised it to its highest logical point; it was a third Jew, Spinoza, who dissolved it" (cited in Schwarz, Wolfson of Harvard, p. 138).

(55.) "David T. Runia, Exegesis and Philosophy: Studies in Philo of Alexandria (Brookfield, VT:Gower,1990)p.l23.

Jacob Haberman Independent Scholar
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