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16.11.18

“If it suffices to accuse, what will become of the innocent?

Ammianus Marcellinus relates an anecdote of the Emperor Julian which illustrates the enforcement of this principle in the Roman law. Numerius, the Governor of Narbonensis, was on trial before the emperor, and, contrary to the usage in criminal cases, the trial was public. Numerius contented himself with denying his guilt, and there was not sufficient proof against him. His adversary, Delphidius, “a passionate man,” seeing that the failure of the accusation was inevitable, could not restrain himself, and exclaimed, “Oh, illustrious Caesar, if it is sufficient to deny, what hereafter will become of the guilty?” to which Julian replied, “If it suffices to accuse, what will become of the innocent?2


I saw recently a story about the Gra that two witnesses came to him about a certain case. I forget the case but it was about something sexual. And it must have been significant enough for the Gra to agree to listen. He told one witness to stand outside while he listened to the other. Then they brought in the other witness. He said the exact same testimony. As soon as he finished speaking the Gra said "They are liars."
The people that had brought them did not understand how he was so sure. Afterwards he explained.
 The Mishna says when two witness come you examine them and if their testimony is found to correspond then they are believed. The Gra asked why does the mishna add that about being found to correspond?Why not just say the testimony corresponded? He said because it has to be "found." It can not be the same exact thing. No two people seeing the same event or hearing the same person talk will report the same details.

15.11.18

Foundationalists like Michael Huemer.

Non Intuitive Immediate Knowledge-- has a lot of support from people not in the world of the Kant Fries School at all. Rather what are known as foundationalists like Michael Huemer.  In the world of foundationalism there are considered foundational ideas. It is not all that different from Leonard Nelson.

The thing about Michael Huemer and that general school is that they are not really addressing the problems that began with Berkeley and Hume.

So to address the actual issues you really need Leonard Nelson. But it still ends up that a lot of the arguments from the foundationalists work well to support L. Nelson.

For a simple example. Let's take Hegel's argument against immediate knowledge. He goes into the true fact that you have to know something about what you are believing in the first place, and thus it is not really immediate. Well Dr. Huemer says a good answer to that. He says that Reason recognizes universals, but that perception comes only after you understand the concepts that are involved. So to apply that to Immediate Knowledge is simple. It is is immediate even though one has to understand what is being discussed before one can know it to be true.

Leonard Nelson for some reason is a minor footnote in the world of philosophy;- but that says more about the lack of substance in the world of philosophy than it does about Nelson. Judging by the general stupidity of philosophy in the 20th century, it is a compliment to Nelson that he was never accepted.


[Personally I found the importance of Leonard Nelson to be that it helped me with faith--non intuitive immediate knowledge. But later I found a lot of other reasons go with that school of thought.]

Suppose you are sitting in class...Defense of Faith.

What makes the school of thought of Leonard Nelson based on Kant and Fries interesting is this. Suppose you are sitting in class and the teacher asks a hard question in a subject you know fairly well. You are about to raise your hand to give your answer, but a second before you do the two smartest kids in the class raise their hands and the teacher calls on them. They both give the same answer and it is in completely different from your answer. So my question to you is this. Are you now going to raise your hand and give your different answer?

That is the situation with the Kant Friesian school of thought. I am sitting in class and looking at Hegel and he looks pretty good to me, or some other philosopher. But then Gauss raises his hand and says Jacob Fries has got the right idea. Then I am getting nervous. So I hesitant to raise my hand. The David Hilbert raises his hand and says Leonard Nelson who founded the Kant Friesian School got it right. Essentially the same answer as Gauss. Now I am for sure--not going to raise my hand. No force on earth could get me to raise my hand at that point.

The point is  actually close to the actual events. My interest to to find a coherent self consistent [not self contradictions] world view that makes sense and has external consistency with the actual world we live in. It is not to be learning philosophy. So once I settle on a point of view that works for me, I am satisfied and think that I can now go to the beach or to the local study hall to learn Rav Shach's Avi Ezri. I do not have to be doing philosophy all the time.[I am also contemplating starting a session in the Shach in the book of Rav Joseph Karo. That is the commentary of the Shach on Hoshen Mishpath and Yore Deah.]

A major point I gained from the Kant Fries School is the faith is a kind of perception unlike reason and unlike the senses, and it is valid. This  more or less coincides with what Rav Nahman was saying about faith--that it is a kind of perception unlike other faculties.

This makes sense also from the standpoint of Thomas Reid that we have faculties of mind more than just pure logical reasoning and sensation.  This point was raised by Michael Huemer also that Hume assumed all that reason can do is perceive contradictions. Hume learned a little Euclid and  got convinced that all the type of reasoning he found there is all the mind can do. He never shoed this to be true. He simply asserts it as a given fact--over and over and over again. I don't know. Maybe reason does more than that? maybe it perceives universals?

You can ask why not simply go back to the scholastics like Ed Fesser suggests. The reason is that there do seems to be issues in the Middle Ages. The main issue is that the beginning axioms do not seem accurate. But after the Enlightenment when beginning principles seem better, but then the logic falls apart.





14.11.18

"Immediate non intuitive knowledge."

Rav Nahman praises faith a lot in his magnum opus. [His main work]. But at some point I had a crisis in faith realizing a great deal of problems in Torah. There were some problems that I could answer by reference to the Ari/ Isaac Luria. But the need to answer too many questions was troubling. I discovered on the Internet a letter called a letter of an Apikoros which raised some of the issues.
Then a few days later I was looking for information on Spinoza, and discovered on the web site of Kelley Ross the idea of "Immediate non intuitive knowledge." [What one knows not by the senses and not through thinking or through anything.] This is the Kant school of thought that was specific to Leonard Nelson.
That helped solve a lot of my difficulties. But it was more than the fact of my own faith that I wanted to defend or at least justify to myself. There was also my own experience of attachment with God that I had had in Safed that I knew was not by sense perception nor by reason

What makes it interesting in particular is the fact that David Hilbert was very supportive of Nelson. The fact is the the beginning of that approach was Fries,- and in an similar way we find that Gauss was very positive about Fries. However the Fries approach was just the beginning. Nelson is a lot more rigorous.
Just because it helped answer a lot of my questions does not make it right; however it does look right to me except my quibble that reason does not know immediate non intuitive stuff; rather it recognizes it.
The basic reason this school of thought of Leonard Nelson makes the most sense to me is hard to explain. I think the reason is that it answers most difficulties in the best way that I can see.
[The problems raised by earlier philosophers that do not seem well answered by them or by any others, seem best answered either by Nelson himself, or Kelley Ross. If I would be thinking more about this issues nowadays maybe I would go into this in detail. But now I am just not worrying that much about world view issues. If I would be I would go through Kant and Nelson in German. But once I got their basic idea, I do not concern myself with it much more.]
Most philosophers have some really great important point but then it gets obscured by the tremendous amount of nonsense they write after   that.

Mainly my reasoning is this: the Middle Ages were best at logical thinking, but the axioms were not very strong. Later on people were more creative but fell into circular reasoning. Hume and all the others. Steven Dutch made a whole long study on Hume showing this. Locke also has circle reasoning, besides the fact that pure empirical has strong counter examples.  Spinoza has a one problem of an\ prime axiom that seems untrue. But as Reid noted they all made some progress. Kant was pretty good but probably Reid was better. But Thomas Reid still does not answer the questions. That seems to have been left to Leonard Nelson based by the insight of Fries.  Much of 20th century philosophy is beyond despair. So after Nelson, I just can not see any further improvements.
[So the best people to learn (in terms of philosophy) I would say would be Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Reid, Kant and Leonard Nelson.]




Some of the most obvious questions that people have on the Torah have not seemed to me to be any problem. The reason is that I started learning the writings of  Rav Isaac Luria in my 20's and that gave me a different kind of orientation. I mean to saw if you look at Rav Luria you will see the literal explanation of the verses is nothing like what most people mean by literal explanation.







The Gaon of Villna

The Gaon of Villna [the Gra] said the ten  sections (פרשיות) of the book of Deuteronomy are parallel to the 1000 year period starting from 1240 until 2240. That is called the אלף הששי the sixth thousand year year. That puts the 100 year period of כי תבוא in 1940. So it comes out that the Holocaust would have started in 1939 corresponding to the last section of  that section of the Torah--the section of curses.

It also come out that the thousand years before that were parallel to the book of Numbers. And the thousand years before that parallel to the book of Leviticus. So Leviticus would have ended around 240. Then two sections before that would have been in 40 AD. That would correspond to the curses in Leviticus and that comes out to be the exact time of the destruction of the second Temple.
  [There are only two sections of curses in the Torah and it is remarkable that both come out on the exact dates of tragedies. The Holocaust in particular.]
  You can learn a few more things from that insight of the Gra. For example the verse in כי תצא where he said his name is hinted at: אבן שלמה יהיה לך Eliyahu ben Shelomo. What you can learn from that is the full verse "Perfect weights and  a perfect measure should be to you so that you will have length of days." Meaning if you stick with the teachings of the Gra, you will have length of days.
The basic teachings of the Gra are actually simple. Learn Torah and trust in God.
Sihon who was conquered by Moses was the king of the Emorites. That means his area was part of the region promised to Israel--the region of seven Canaanite nations. So why was it considered חוץ לארץ? [Outside of the promised land?]
Now on one hand it is true that the borders of Israel are defined and the Jordan river is one of them. So from that aspect that region is outside of Israel. Still it seems odd. This is not a "kashe" a question. It is more like a comment about an odd fact.

My own feeling about philosophy is that I gained the most by learning Musar [Medieval Ethics]. If I would have to recommend a philosophy book it would not be a book of philosophy at all but rather the basic canon of Musar books from the Middle Ages.

To me it looks like the world is divided into secularism and religious-ism. [That is not religion, but religious-ism-- the idea that salvation lays within religion.  Secularism is similar in thinking salvation lays in socialism and stealing money from the rich  in order to make the poor rich and the rich poor. ]

I do not like either alternative very much. Growing up in a more or less secular world, it seemed to me less and less that any kind of secular approach had "the answers" for the big questions. At the time there were lots of alternatives. Existentialism, Socialism, "shrink"-ism. All claiming the Truth.And able to convince millions of their claims. To me it all seemed ridiculous--and still does.

BUT the solutions of the religious world seem ridiculous from other directions. But at the time I thought I had found absolute truth in religion.  I needed a few knocks to burst that bubble.

Now I think my parents had it right from the start--balance, menschlichkeit--being a decent human being before anything else. The Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule.

In terms of a world view that includes more than that however, I would have to say that the medieval scholastics did what I think is the best job--that is to combine Reason and Faith. This started mainly with Saadia Gaon but it was a general approach of the middle ages, (e.g. Rambam, Aquinas, Anslem,...)
But then Reason itself came under attack by the school of idealism. That started with Descartes that divides Mind from Body. No one had an answer to this and Hume just pushed the knife in deeper. Because of this problem, Kant is important. 

My own feeling about philosophy is that I gained the most by learning Musar--especially the book of Navardok the Madragat HaAdam which talks about trust in God.
It is hard to get over the feeling that there is little or nothing in philosophy that is very insightful. The best of them all clearly is still Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus.
I found a lot of common sense and benefit from three modern day thinkers: Kelley Ross, Steven Dutch, Michael Huemer.