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Philo and the Physiognomic Tradition

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image of Journal for the Study of Judaism

Abstract In the context of recent interest in physiognomy among students of ancient Judaism and Christianity, attention to Philo of Alexandria has been strangely lacking. But Philo does evince some knowledge of the practice of physiognomy. After brief orientating remarks, evidence of Philo’s acquaintance with physiognomic topoi is supplied, together with consideration of the weighty objections Philo has to the theoretical underpinnings of strict physiognomics. In the end, Philo may be said to operate with a certain “physiognomic consciousness” even if he does not have the psychological theory and trust in sense-perception necessary to sustain a more far-reaching commitment to the practice.

Affiliations: 1: Mansfield College, University of Oxford 1 Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TF, UK


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