The Hebrew Philosophical Genius: A Vindication

The Hebrew Philosophical Genius: A Vindication

The Hebrew Philosophical Genius: A Vindication

The Hebrew Philosophical Genius: A Vindication

Excerpt

This book, considered on one side, is a supplement to my The Hebrew Literary Genius, expanding the two chapters there on Philosophy and on Ecclesiastes. It is, therefore, to be taken with my former book and presupposes that book; of necessity it repeats certain elements but it does so from a different angle. For it is, also, on another side, an attack on a widely prevalent dogma that the Hebrews had no philosophy, being by their very nature incapable of philosophy. That prejudice I have already attacked in my former book, but here I endeavor to expand the attack and, still more, to express it in such philosophical terms as will appeal to those trained in philosophical method. This book, in consequence, cannot be as simple as I tried, at least, to make my first. There are technical terms in it and abstract ideas and even, of necessity, Greek quotations. These I have translated, for I am fully aware that the Graecum est; non legitur of the medieval world has returned.

In basis and method my attack is twofold. First, I endeavor to show that the Hebrews had fundamental philosophical ideas and attitudes; that these were theirs from their beginnings; and that the more formal expression of these, reached in such later books as Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiasticus, came by an orderly development from such beginnings. This is directed against the very common view that the writers of these later books had come under Greek influence and had been affected by Greek philosophy. That view is largely based upon a feeling that from the conquests of Alexander onwards the Hebrews must have come under that influence and been so affected. We may admit that it is quite possible that some Hebrews may have been so affected, but, on such an a priori argument, no more than that can be said. And my endeavor is to show that those Palestinian Hebrews, whose writings we have, were not so affected. But, secondly, I endeavor to show what actually did happen to Hebrew thinkers when they did come into contact with Greek thought. The Alexandrine Jewish writings are plainly soaked in such thought, both as to vocabulary and ideas.

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