The chair of scholastic philosophy, which has been brilliantly filled in the past by Maurice de Wulf and by Etienne Gilson, is now in its third year of interregnum. The intellectual history of the middle ages, Professor Taylor's History 6, and their political theory, Professor McIlwain's Government 6, form parts of the mediaeval picture which are of necessity incomplete without a systematic study of the mediaeval view of man and the universe. With the growing interest in mediaeval studies at Harvard and elsewhere, it is particularly unfortunate that this chair has been allowed to lapse.
The explanation that economy and the choice of a suitable man have caused the present interregnum is a good explanation, but time has a way of shaping explanations into policies. It is true that the number of laymen who are worthy exponents of the scholastic philosophy is small, and it is true that a time of budgetary contraction does not stimulate new appointments. The Philosophy Department has made a temporary adjustment to the situation; Philosophy A, its introductory course, compensates for its omission of scholasticism in the lectures and reading by making Professor De Wulf's book on mediaeval philosophy a possible choice for the reading period, and a graduate seminar is being planned for next year. But when courses are devoted to Kant, Leibniz, and Spinoza, the mediaeval student has a right to protest the lack of a course on a philosophy which was not, as these were, splendid digressions, but a common intellectual achievement unrivalled in its vitality and magnificence.
A university which has already incurred scholarly suspicion by the closing of its library cannot afford to permit a temporary situation, easily misinterpreted, to become permanent. Both economy and the difficulties of choice have a limit, and as a vital scholarly need must limit the first, so should three years have limited the second. Under Professors de Wulf and Gilson scholastic philosophy filled a prominent place in the course list; that place should not be vacant much longer.