Can philology be regarded as an intellectual paradigm that, beginning with its emergence in the Hellenistic period, has presented a genuine alternative to both philosophy and rhetoric, rather than an aspect of one (or both) of these two kinds of knowledge, or perhaps a mediating term between them? An answer to this question will demand a critique of recent theories of philology, a close reading of some underappreciated ancient sources (Seneca, Aulus Gellius, Plutarch), as well as several methodological discriminating moves. First, philology is to be distinguished from history and science, which issued from the archeological/antiquarian paradigm (as reconstructed by Carlo Ginzburg). Inasmuch as its principal object is literature, the specificity of philological knowledge can only be grasped through an engagement with theories of the literary (particularly, Roman Jakobson’s notion of the poetic function). Second, the kind of contact with the past that philology achieves – through the construction of situational transhistorical communities – must be contrasted with the rhetorical procedures of making present (sub oculos subiectio), on the one hand, and with philosophical hermeneutics (most importantly, Hans-Georg Gadamer’s concept of tradition), on the other.