Here is my question about the Rambam in an expanded version and the answer of Dr Kelly Ross to my short version of the question.

Jean Paul Sartre, famously asserted that, "Without God, all is permitted." This was supposed to be a quote from Dostoyevsky (1821-1881). This is a misquote. Besides that it is not true. The manifest ignorance and absurdity of Sartre's pronouncement is evident when we reflect that he ignores one of the oldest and best known theories in Western philosophy: Plato's Theory of Forms. For Plato, meaning, value, and morality exist independently of any god or Deity, and this is quite characteristic of Greek philosophy in general.
And the general approach of all Jewish thinkers from Saadia Geon and the Duties of the Heart until the Rambam was firmly on the side of Plato.
With the Rambam things get confusing. He wants to retain Natural law which comes from Saadia Geon and is pretty much stated openly in the Talmud. But he wants to move towards Aristotle away from Plato's form of the Good. I still do not know if anyone has addressed this serious issue in the Rambam.

Dear Dr Ross. Could Aristotle have natural law theory? You write he hold from heteronomous authority. But does that have to be so?

Dr Ross: "Traditionally, Natural Law jurisprudence tends to come from Aristotelians, or at least Thomists. From that, we might suppose that Aristotle could have a natural law theory. But the Thomists don't think of ethics in empirical terms, as did Aristotle. Instead, natural law comes from the Mind of God in what is overall a theistic system. But Aristotle's God doesn't worry about human phronesis (prudence), and his conception of even human "wisdom" (sophia) precludes practical issues or applications. As Aristotle says, ethics is not for the young, because they literally have not learned enough from experience. Yet the old themselves are liable to notice that the young are often the most passionate about justice. And if this passion is often expressed in foolish, destructive, or vicious ways, where is the fault? The old are just as likely to become cynical as wise, or pessimistic rather than dedicated. Aristotle certainly had no political ideals to promote; and he may not have appreciated himself how the institution of "mixed" forms of government he described, as praised by Polybius or James Madison, represented in ideal in its own right, as an accommodation with the ignorance or self-interest of human nature. Even now, a substantial body of political opinion is impatient with checks and balances and divided authority.

Best wishes,
Kelley Ross

Concerning Conversion to Judaism

The first thing to notice in the Rambam/Maimonides is that there are two operative levels of Gerut/conversion. The first is simply to become Jewish. For this one needs a lower level of conditions [an easier set of conditions].  The next and highest level is to be acceptable for marriage in the Jewish world.

Now the main and simple condition for the first level is something so simple it is amazing that few have ever noticed it. This simple condition is not on their radar because they do not agree that it is something that even exists. This condition is "ratzon" (desire) to be Jewish. The Rambam says:  The Torah was given to the Jewish people and to anyone who wants to accept it"

To give you an example of how simple this is take the case of a slave that a Jew buys from a gentile. The Halacha is that as they are getting ready to put him in the mikvah for the sake of being a Jewish slave, he jumps into the mikvah on his own in front of the people standing around and says he is going into the mikvah for the sake of being Jewish. He becomes automatically Jewish and he is obligated in all the mitzvot and he can no longer be owned as a slave. (That is the buyer loses his money because he can no longer own the labor of the fellow). We see here that the desire of the Beit din is not necessary to make someone Jewish. He becomes Jewish even against their desire. It depends only on his own desire.

However when we look into the Rambam about laws of marriage we find a whole more stringent set of conditions. There he needs  (accepting the mitzvot) in front of three judges.

On a side issue in terms of Conversion of Women. The Tosphot in Yevamot does allow the a case in which the woman goes to the mikvah on her own and the acceptance of the Mitzvot alone is in front of three judges. The Rambam however requires that the Mikvah also be in front of three judges. The way to do this is to get a lot of Styrofoam slices and put them over the mikvah, then the woman gets into the mikvah that is covered in Styrofoam and then the three judges come into the room. Then she dips herself totally under the water in front of them and they see the acceptable dipping but nothing else.

A further point here is that become Jewish is not dependent of the will of the judges or anyone at all except the actually person involved. Judges can’t make someone Jewish and they can’t unmake some from being Jewish.

One last point. There was an old tradition to accept converts and not make things hard for them as is customary today. I agree with this approach for several reasons. One is that it is the Halacha. The other is that apparently some people are afraid the convert is not "all that well put together." But so what? People  anyway have no problem throwing anyone they don't like out of their communities the instant that the person rubs them the wrong way.--Jew or Gentile. It is just that when it is a Jew that rubs them the wrong way they find lots of clever ways of disavowing that person's Jewishness. A good example is Sephardic communities. To Sephardim all Ashkenazim are not Jewish;--- period. They just go along with the act as long as it benefits them but when it comes to a crunch and the poor ashkenazic Jew is down and out on his luck the Sefardi simply says to himself, "Well, he is not really Jewish anyway, so why bother to help him?" [And for Sephardim, American Ashkenazim are in the general category of Amalek. 



The Musar movement

I am looking a bit at Israel Salanter and Isaac Blazer. The Musar movement seems to have an idea of heteronomous authority. But that shouldn't be a surprise to me. This I think was the tendency of Torah thought for a long time, and I think that it was solidified by the Rambam who was going with Aristotle.
Once anyone is going with Aristotle they will have to end up with authority coming from outside of ones self. There is no absolute Form of the Good in Aristotle, so where else would authority comes from but divine command?

On the other hand Dr Kelley Ross mentioned tome in a letter that Divine command Theory has something going for it. I did not ask him to explain but I can at this later date guess what he meant. The self itself is to Kant one example of a thing in itself and we know that Schopenhauer considers the Will the be the absolute Ding an Sich.[Anyway I admit it might be a good idea to ask this question directly.]
What I mean to say is that the otherwise great book from Brooklyn College on Philosophy dismisses Divine Command Theory completely and I thought that after that one would have to go with Natural Law alone. Then one day I mentioned this in an email to Dr Ross and he answered to me as I just said up above.]

You can ask why I do not ask him how he would defend Divine Command Theory but I assume it would be like Schopenhauer. That is that Divine command comes from the Ding An Sich and stretches to the dinge an sich

The Musar Movement. It looks to me they had some amazing insights.--especially about what they call negiot- rationalizations and excuses. This is a important insight. This is where the evil inclination is not buried like the Id. It is known and a person is doing what he knows to be wrong but he excuses it with negiot.  and rationalizations.

Is there a mitzvah to learn Torah to get a salary?

Is there a mitzvah to learn Torah to get a salary?

How would you go about thinking about this question logically?

At first sight it seems like the same question as "Is there a mitzvah to put on tefilin purely for the sake of money?" This seems simple. You simply divide the action from the intension. The intension is bad. You are not supposed to use the Holy Torah for money. But the action looks good.

But as we think deeper into this we can see that learning Torah is different. It is like the types of work on Sabbath that the intension is linked to the act. For example once who erases not in order to write has not done any work at all. It is not even a work done for a different intension. It simply is not work.

For it to be work it has to have the "on condition to write."

Same with Torah Learning. The Rambam says one who learns on condition to receive money has no mitzvah and loses his portion in the next world. That means the act itself has lost the category of a mitzvah and entered into the category of a sin of the most grievous type possible.

To see the opinion of Maimonides on this subject look into Pirkei Avot Chapter 4 Mishna 5 and in the laws of Talmud Torah. He could not have been clearer.

This helps us to understand the difference between people in authentic Lithuanian yeshivas that learn Torah for its own sake  as opposed to people that see in Torah an easy way to make money and scam people. 

Chaim Soloveichik and Shabat

Chaim Soloveichik and Shabat 
I can already begin to see the light with him. I am still in the middle of figuring him out concerning Sabbath but I think I can see where he is going. He looks at the second "Some say" in pesachim with the argument between Abyee and Rava about pleasure that comes to a person against their will.
The second "some say" holds straight down the board that to R. Shimon we consider intention alone. To R. Yehuda the basic idea is that he does not care about intention.

But however it works out in pesachim, we can see already that this might be a help to Reb Chaim. He would want Pesik Raisha to be forbidden to R. Yehuda even if it is against his will and permitted to R. Shimon.
The only thing left to Reb Chaim is to bridge the gap between Shabbat and other types of prohibitions. Stay tuned

[In plain English this all means that Reb Chaim has a ready made answer to answer the contradiction in the Rabam about piecing a boil on shabat. Once you consider it a work not intended that is pesik reish you answer the Rambam poskins like Shmuel in work not intended. But Reb Chaim still has to prove that R. Yehuda will disagree so that we will still have an an argument between him and R. Shimon in Keritut.]


Is there a mitzvah to learn Torah to get a salary?(Or, on the other hand is there a mitzvah to learn Torah not for money, and in fact to receive no money from doing so?)

Is there a mitzvah to learn Torah to get a salary?
How would you go about thinking about this question logically?
At first sight it seems like the same question as "Is there a mitzvah to put on tefilin purely for the sake of money?" This seems simple. You simply divide the action from the intention. The intension is bad. You are not supposed to use the Holy Torah for money. But the action looks good.

But as we think deeper into this we can see that learning Torah is different. It is like the types of work on Sabbath that the intension is linked to the act. For example once who erases not in order to write has not done any work at all. It is not even a work done for a different intension. It simply is not work.
For it to be work it has to have the "on condition to write."
Same with Torah Learning The Rambam says one who learns on condition to receive money has no mitzvah and loses his portion in the next world. That means the act itself has lost the category of a mitzvah and entered into the category of a sin of the most grievous type.

To see the opinion of Maimonides on this subject look into Pirkei Avot Chapter 4  and in the laws of Talmud Torah. He could not have been clearer.


Sometimes parents hear things like this: "Nobody can tell me what to believe ...".It seems that this might be a claim: "No one has the moral right to tell me what to believe."

Sometimes parents hear things like this:  "Nobody can tell me what to do or believe ..."
What exactly is this a defense against? It seems that it might be claiming one of the following:
1. No one can force me to believe something I don't want to believe.
2. No one has the moral right to tell me what to believe.
3. No one has the intellectual right to tell me what to believe.

1. Well, no one can force you to believe something -- true enough. But what exactly does this mean? Perhaps it says something like this: No matter how strongly someone else believes that I'm wrong, that will not cause me to believe otherwise.
 I can imagine cases in which this strength of will might be noble, even heroic. Saints and martyrs come to mind. But small children also come to mind, and inexperienced adolescents, and stubborn husbands. In other words, this trait might be a virtue, but it might be a vice, too. And so by itself, it does not recommend itself as a strategy.

2. On the face of it, it is not obvious that NO ONE has the moral right to tell me what to do. I can imagine a young cashier with sticky fingers, and his boss or colleague or parent reprimanding him. I can imagine a Colonel in the army lecturing a cocky new Lieutenant on the issue of courage. The Colonel has been there, done that, seen more, and faced more, and would seem to have the moral right to tell the Lieutenant what to think and how to act. I can imagine a seasoned teacher lecturing a younger teacher on the virtues of being patient with students, or on being overly easy in grading. And so, it seems that this claim needs to be justified.

3. This is the weakest position, and can't withstand even the slightest scrutiny. All you have to do is to imagine the relationship between someone who is bright and inexperienced in something, and someone who is bright and experienced in that same thing. The latter does have the intellectual right to tell the other what to believe -- at least in some situations. Indeed, it is one of the most maddening things to have someone who makes unjustified and false claims about something about which you know well. Yes ... you DO have an intellectual right to correct him.

So, it seems that the claim that "nobody can tell me what to believe" is simply not true, or at least if it is true, it has to be justified and defended. It is certainly not obviously true.

(This doesn't even touch upon the issue of social implication. Once my beliefs and actions effect other people, they no longer belong to just me -- they are public. They automatically open themselves up to public scrutiny, and I do not have the same proprietary rights to them that I had when they effected only me.)


All humans need to make decisions concerning the right thing to do. Most humans want to do what is good. It is good to do the right thing. Often knowing what is the right thing to do, knowing what is right, and knowing what is good is not all that easy. Answers to the questions, "What is the right thing to do?" and "What is the good ?" aren't obvious to many or universally agreed upon. Yet, humans need answers to these questions. Situations requiring moral deliberation and ethical principles.

1. "Well, it's true for me ...."
Many students have a difficult time seeing a distinction between the following two statements:

a. It's true.
b. It's true for me.

But there IS a difference, and it is important to see the difference, and most people see the difference when it comes to things like mathematics, science, accounting, engineering, law, etc.

Here's the question: What does "for me" add to "It's true"? What I mean is, why would anyone say "It's true for me"? Let's say, for example, your favorite physics teacher asks you to tell her what the rate of fall is for a body located approximately at the surface of the Earth. Let's say that you are a student of physics and know with more certainty than that Bush is president, that bodies fall at 9.4 meters per second per second. If you write on your exam that bodies fall at 9.4 mXsec2, your instructor would put an annoying red "X" next to your answer.

"But wait a darn minute, there, ma'am: it's true for me that bodies fall at 9.4 mXsec2!"

Examples of situations requiring moral deliberation and ethical principles.
Question 1: A friend of yours wants you to join his club and sponsors you for membership. Being a member of this club will greatly enhance your career plans. However, once you are inducted, you realize that there is an unwritten rule that no baal teshuvas [newly religious] are allowed membership.

Question 2: You meet some friends at a shabat meal and find yourself seated beside a rather attractive person. During the course of the evening, you have an enjoyable conversation and you promise to call that person to set up a date. When the person gets up to leave, you suddenly realize that he/she is physically handicapped.
Do you still call for the date?
Question 3: You have just earned a degree in Chemistry. Your best job offer comes from a laboratory that does experiments in chemical warfare. You do not agree with this practice, but you also realize that if you turn down the job, they will hire someone else who might do the job 'too well'.
Do You take the Job?
Question 5: You have been friends with a couple for several years. Now they are involved in a messy divorce and child custody battle. One of them asks you to testify on his/her behalf.
Do you agree to testify?

Question 6: When checking your mailbox one day, you discover a letter addressed to you from a legal firm in Florida. Inside is a letter explaining that you have been identified as a herd owner in a cattle farm that is now in receivership in the state of Florida. The letter further informs you that now that all accounts with creditors have been settled, the remaining proceeds from the sale of the herd are to be distributed among the shareholders. Enclosed is a check, made out to you, for a substantial amount of money. You know that you are not the person for whom this check is intended, since you have never invested in cattle or anything else. Upon reading the letter further, you discover that the funds due any unidentified herdowner will revert to the state of Florida after the passage of 7 years. It has now been 6.5 years since the cattle were sold. This means if you send the check back the money will most likely go to the state.
Do you cash the check?

Question 7: A close friend of yours comes to you and reveals that she is pregnant. Her partner does not know yet, and she is extremely upset. "This is just not the time to have a baby" she says, "I'm thinking of having an abortion, but I'm not sure if it is the right thing to do." She assures you that she and her partner tried to prevent becoming pregnant, but that it obviously did not work.
What would you tell her to do ?

Question 8: You're a West Point cadet bound by a strict honor code. You witness another cadet, who is also a friend, cheating on a test.
Do you turn them in?

An example will help illustrate the function of these principles in an applied ethical discussion. In 1982, a couple from Bloomington, Indiana gave birth to a baby with severe mental and physical disabilities. Among other complications, the infant, known as Baby Doe, had its stomach disconnected from its throat and was thus unable to receive nourishment. Although this stomach deformity was correctable through surgery, the couple did not want to raise a severely disabled child and therefore chose to deny surgery, food, and water for the infant. Local courts supported the parents’ decision, and six days later Baby Doe died. Should corrective surgery have been performed for Baby Doe? Arguments in favor of corrective surgery derive from the infant’s right to life and the principle of paternalism which stipulates that we should pursue the best interests of others when they are incapable of doing so themselves. Arguments against corrective surgery derive from the personal and social disbenefit which would result from such surgery. If Baby Doe survived, its quality of life would have been poor and in any case it probably would have died at an early age. Also, from the parent’s perspective, Baby Doe’s survival would have been a significant emotional and financial burden. When examining both sides of the issue, the parents and the courts concluded that the arguments against surgery were stronger than the arguments for surgery. First, foregoing surgery appeared to be in the best interests of the infant, given the poor quality of life it would endure. Second, the status of Baby Doe’s right to life was not clear given the severity of the infant’s mental impairment. For, to possess moral rights, it takes more than merely having a human body: certain cognitive functions must also be present. The issue here involves what is often referred to as moral personhood, and is central to many applied ethical discussions.

Not all moral questions are dilemmas. Most are not. It is just that moral philosophy has tended to concentrate on moral dilemmas because there is an underlying assumption in Western countries about the basic principles of Judaic-Christian morality.


ETHICS: Relativism: Not only do relativists fail to offer a basis for criticizing those who are intolerant, but they cannot rationally criticize anyone who espouses what they might regard as a heinous principle. If, as seems to be the case, valid criticism supposes an objective or impartial standard, relativists cannot morally criticize anyone outside their own culture. Adolf Hitler's genocidal actions, so long as they are culturally accepted, are as morally legitimate as Mother Teresa's works of mercy. I

Shortly after  Clinton was first elected to the office of President of the United States there was an election of a school board in a Florida county. The majority of the school board were now members of the Christian Coalition, a conservative political action group. The school board voted that all public schools in the county would teach in all grades, as part of social studies, that the United States has a culture superior to that of many others . This was to be supported by the claims that the United States held the values of freedom and equality most high, was a democracy and provided for the welfare of many in need and a number of other claims.

Both President Clinton and his wife , Hillary Rodham Clinton, criticized the school board for their intolerance. They both proclaimed that the US does not have a superior culture but that all cultures are equally valued and are to be equally respected. These proclamations are affirmations of doctrines of the post modern movement and are part of the set of "politically correct" ideas currently popular.

Nine months after this event a young citizen of the United States was arrested in Singapore for acts of vandalism. Michael Fay confessed and was tried and found guilty and sentenced to a whipping. At that time many people in the USA were very upset with this situation. President Clinton wrote a letter to the president of Singapore and requested that the sentence be changed. President Clinton wrote that the act of whipping was barbaric.

The president of Singapore was offended by the letter and upheld the custom and laws of that land. How could President Clinton declare another countries practices or any countries practices as being barbaric if he believed that all cultures are equally praise worth? The President was being inconsistent. He also criticized the people of China and the government for their barbaric practices with regard to political and religious dissidents.

When he later ordered the bombing in Bosnia and one of the planes bombed the Chinese embassy, several nations, including the Chinese, called that act one of barbarism!



The War on the Streets of Alexandria, Egypt Between Christians and Muslims

Remember everyone...this is what Democracy looks like! The Arab version of democracy basically means a political system that allows the murder of Christians by Muslims - that's the Arab Spring that Obama and the main stream media in America endorsed. Barack Hussein Obama subtly endorsed the extermination of Christians.

One person died and dozens were wounded during clashes between Muslims and Christians late Friday night outside a Coptic church in Egypt's second city, state newspaper Al-Ahram reported, in the latest violent sectarian row in the Muslim-majority country.


2:26AM BST 18 May 2013

A quarrel between two young men, one Christian and one Muslim, morphed into a family feud that sparked clashes in a western district of Alexandria.

The two sides threw firebombs at each other before security forces intervened and cordoned off the area around the church.

Police arrested eight people after about two hours of fighting.

In addition to the political and economic turmoil Egypt has endured since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February 2011, tensions have risen between Muslims and Christians, especially since the election of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in June.

Christians make up about 10 per cent of Egypt's 84 million people and have complained that the authorities have failed to protect them since Mubarak was ousted, giving radical Islamists a free hand.


Disturbing abuses of power

The revelations that the Justice Department had secretly seized journalists’ phone records and that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status show that government’s heavy hand has not been lifted.

Paul Ryan: IRS Withheld Information From Congress.

I admit I gave up on the American republic a long time ago. While on paper it looks good but in practice it is not any difference than any totalitarian system. Now it is the tyranny of the socialists. It might take them some time to tear the USA down completely but they are certainly working hard at it.


I still have yet to study the Chaim Soloveitchik essay on the subject of keeping Sabbath and work done not for its own sake. However, a few day ago I wrote my own answer on the issue of the contradiction in the Rambam/Maimonides.
 Yesterday [on Shavuot] I opened up the Reb Chaim (Chidushei HaRambam) without my learning partner and I noticed that the major issue he deals with is not the contradiction in the Rambam but the fact that the Talmud in Keritut does attribute the argument about stirring coals to the idea of it being a thing that is not intended.] So first of all even if my answer is correct it does not in any way relate to the major problem Reb Chaim is dealing with. and just off the top of my head without looking at it in depth it seems to me he is trying to say that it is as the Gemara itself says a thing not intended and he understands that the argument there depends on the Aruch [a rishon/first authority quoted by Tosphot]-- that a thing not intended but a pesik reisha (the work must happen in spite of the fact that he does not do it directly) is forbidden to Rabbi Yehuda because the pesik reisha bring the intention to the thing and to Rabbi Shimon it does not.

 If in fact this is what Reb Chaim means, then everything is fine. And as for the contradiction in the Rambam I am not sure of how he explains it. But my idea I think is true. If you just look at the Mishna, you will see that it seems to be saying that capturing any reptiles besides the main eight, if done not for the sake of keeping them is not a work on Shabat at all. Not that it is a work done not for its own sake.
 And I did not mention it, but as for chabura [wound] for the other thing the Rambam allows though it looks like a work not for its own sake --to answer that I plead the Talmud in Sanhedrin about mekalkel damaging which to Rabbi Yehuda is patur/ not liable and there a puncture in a wound is considered damaging--so no question on the Rambam even starts there.

The issue of conversion to Judaism

The issue of conversion to Judaism really depends on two different places in the Talmud, one in Tractate Sanhedrin and the other in Tractate Avoda Zara. It is not complicated at all.  However, when it comes down to what to do in practice you need three judges.  However since there is no such thing as a “judge” as defined by the Torah anymore; [A judge has to have ordination/semicha from Moses at Mount Sinai and that has stopped existing since the time of the early Amoraim  [in the middle of the times of the Talmud]] what you end up today is that you need simply three kosher witnesses which according to Tosphot can do the shelichut ["messenger service"] of the real judges that once existed a long time ago. The truth is this opinion deserves respect because it is coming from Tosphot. [Tosphot is always right. You just have to think into what he says long enough.]  However it is clear that this would not work at all to the Rambam. The witnesses do have to be male.  So in fact as sad as the state of affairs is for women converts there is simply not much you can do.  The dipping needs to be witnessed by three adult males and it does need to be seen that she is completely immersed. Believe me if there was a way to get out of this I would know about it and announce it from the rooftops.

While on the subject I might as well mention that conversion to Judaism today is largely considered as joining a community. This is however not the Torah approach. In Torah it is considered the act of a person that accepts the Torah-- i.e. the world view of the Torah and to do a certain minimum amount of mitzvot.

The idea as stated in the Shulchan Aruch and the Rambam is that when one comes to convert one does not tell them all the difficult details of the mitzvot. One simply tells them "chapter headings" [literally roshie perakim]. [That there is a general idea of shabat etc]

The reason the actual dipping needs to be seen is that it is a kind of act of witnessing something. A woman that goes to a mikvah in general needs no witness.the mikvah woman is there just for things like checking nails etc. Conversion is a whole different ball game. It needs to be effected and created by some act. This act is the dipping into a natural body of water in teh presence of three kosher judges with intention to keep the mitzvahs and believe world view of the Torah

I see the effect of cults on people in general--Jewish and gentile as being very destructive. If I was a law maker in any country I would be very careful about which religious groups I would allow to operate in my territory. Once  a group is known as a cult I think I would make it illegal without too much more thought.
Freedom of religion is not such an important value as to put the public into danger of lunatic cults.


 Today I want to say a few good word about Nietzsche to make up for what I wrote yesterday against him. The argument against him I might not get to today, but let me just say he is very important to read. He is part of a tradition that one needs to know in order to be literate.  Much Jewish philosophical writings of the twentieth century borrows  from him without mentioning his name. Certainly many of Freud's main theses are directly taken from Nietzsche. [Not just the idea but even the very name of the The Id is straight from Nietzsche]
He always has some good point. Most of what passes for "Leshem Shamim" behavior--for the sake of Heaven  is 99% of the time a cover for low drives. Yet there is another side of the coin. Much of what people do quietly without fanfare is in fact for the sake of heaven. Nietzsche tried to simplify what a human being is about but one sub-level of desire for power. Sometimes human beings do thing for other motives. Sometimes these motives are compassion or a desire for knowledge or desire to do what one knows is right.

 Consider an argument  against moral relativism by Michael Huemer:

 Consider such claims as

(a) Happiness is good.
(b) Honesty is a virtue.
(c) It is wrong to burn children just for the fun of it.

The anti-realist must disagree with such claims, not of course in the sense of asserting their contraries, but in the sense of holding them false. He would not say happiness is bad, but he must insist that happiness is not good. Yet surely, if those evaluations are either true or false, they are true, rather than false.

This objection may appear to border on begging the question. But what we have to ask ourselves is this: what arguments is the anti-realist able to offer against moral realism; and are the premises of any of these arguments more initially plausible than each of (a)-(c)? We must choose between rejecting (a)-(c) (along with all other moral claims), and rejecting the anti-realist's premises. Only if he can adduce some premises that are (jointly) more certain than any of (a)-(c) can he hope to convince us to resolve the dilemma in his favor.

Perhaps the anti-realist would deny he is committed to holding all first-order evaluations false. Perhaps moral claims contain one or more false presuppositions and are for that reason neither true nor false, just as "The King of France is bald" is neither true nor false because it presupposes but does not state that there is a King of France. Nevertheless, at least this much is clear: the anti-realist of the 'error theory' variety can not hold moral claims to be true. So whether or not he accepts the law of excluded middle and concludes that "Happiness is good" is false, he must at least maintain that it is not true. And from the point of view of maintaining our first-order moral discourse, this is no improvement. A claim that contains false presuppositions is as clearly unassertable as a claim that is false. I cannot say, "The King of France is bald, but there is no King of France." And nor can I say, "Murder is wrong, but there are no objective values," if the existence of objective values is presupposed in first-order moral claims.

Consider the statement: Value judgments are universally false

This theory is really quite outrageous. It implies, among other things, that it is not the case that people generally ought to eat when hungry; that Hitler was not a bad person; that happiness is not good; and so on. I submit that this is simply absurd. I feel much more confidence in those denied judgements, as I think nearly everybody does, than I can imagine feeling in any philosophical arguments for relativism. At least, I think it would take an extremely strong argument to shake my confidence that happiness is preferable to misery, or the like. And there does not seem to be any argument at all with that import. It is hard to see how there could be.


 These would be false wisdom not based on objective reality but man made inventions and legal conventional and usages. Things like languages or psychology and other pseudo sciences would false into this category of man made illusions.

things designed to traps one mind in a world of illusion.--like many of the false eastern cults would have wonderful inspiring books that were also consciousness traps in this way.

This that the Rambam/ Maimonides clearly held were good and important subjects of study were sciences based on objective reality-things he called physics but clearly meant to include chemistry. Also when he emphasized learning Aristotle it is not the same thing as what is called in later centuries, “philosophy.” It is in fact a real crime against Aristotle to put him in the same box as madmen like  Sartre. When the Rambam/ Maimonides emphasized Aristotle he was not referring to the madmen called philosophers of the twentieth century.

What does the Rambam expect to accomplish with getting people to learn Physics and Metaphysics [in his terminology]? In the Guide he expects Physics to result in Fear of God and metaphysics in Love of God. While in the Yad HaChazaka he seems to include both effects into one also for both subjects. How I ask can this work?
I claim that what the Rambam means by love of God and fear of God is not what modern terminology refers to. 
Nor did he mean people that know how to use the right buzz words about halacha and frumkeit .

I have not time to defend this here but the Rambam thinks that Fear of God starts when one learn Physics and this opens a spring or a well deep inside of him that is not visible on the surface. And it might never get to the surface. It is deeply buried inside a hidden region of the consciousness that the person himself is never aware of


I am still on electricity on Sabbath and work not for its own sake. If we look at the Talmud in Sabbath in a normal way we see that the Talmud is accepting Abyee that he is not intending the work and saying it is pesik reish and he does not care if the work happens that this Gemara is understanding teh whole idea of not intending the work different than the rambam. And this is a good thing. For the Rambam does not poskin like Rabbi Shimon, rather like Rabbi Yehuda. So by this we get an opening into how we might possible explain the Rambam. But where is this opening? If we simply ignore this Gemara and just look at the rambam things seem to get worse. Once there is a pesik resiha then automatically the intention goes onto the work.

Besides this I should comment that so far there does not seem to be any difference between a work not intended that is pesik reisha and a work not done for its own sake.

It could be at this point it might be wise for me to open the Reb Chaim Solovechik.  


Is a Jew obligated to serve in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force)?

I consider the fact that Muslims are at war with Israel, puts Israel in a defensive position. And as we see in the Talmud in Eruvin [as brought in the Rambam] this is something for which that one can carry on Shabat. It this puts it in the category of Milchment Mitzvah . At any rate we can safely say it is a mitzvah. And we know the Halacha that if there is before a person two mitzvot: (1) Learning Torah, and  (2) Another mitzvah (even the smallest mitzvah), then one has to stop learning to do the mitzvah.
In conclusion, people that do not serve in IDF  are not kosher Jews.
And the Ultra religious that object to this are not on the level of the Rambam to be able to disagree with this. And frankly, most of them don't know how to learn anyway. [Just because they dress up like with black clothing  does not mean they can learn.] So why even care about what they say?

[ Ultra Orthodox  are going with the idea of the super-organism to decide  and not on actual Halacha. What I mean is that Ultra religious have been trying to form a super-organism called Ultra religious which would in  theory be divided into two parts. One  would form the ruling Brahmin class of the Jewish people. Then there would be the untouchables, the secular Jews, who would be supporting them by hard labor. This model of the Jewish people is not based on the Torah, so it is no surprise that many Jews in Israel are not in favor of it.]

Electricity on Sabbath

This blog is mainly for philosophy but right now while it is on my mind I wanted to discuss an important Tosphot in the Talmud as it relates to the subject of electricity on Sabbath This is the Tosphot in Kritut 20b-second on the page. First I want to point out that today I glanced at the Reb Chaim Solovetich on this subject an he in fact says something about the Rambam that I was saying about Tosphot.
I said a simple idea.: according to the idea at the end of that Tophot you have an answer for the original question without having to turn the whole subject/sugia into an issue of work that is not done for its own sake. The idea is to say that the whole issue is a pesik reisha [inevitable event] that is not acceptable to him. The Aruch says that to R Shimon he is not liable. Now we can say that to R. Yehuda he is liable and so you have explained the sugia.
[and this fits like a glove into the sugia since in fact we know he does not what the coals to be burnt--it is clearly a not intended act.]

Reb Chaim simply says what I said and puts it into the Rambam. And gives a good reason why it should be so.

This is a point I have said already a few time son my other blog. But right now I wanted to mention an important reason why tosphot puts together the idea of unintended work along with a work not done for its own sake after he gives his idea that the own sugia is talking about work done not for its own sake.The reason is that he is trying to say that to R. Yehuda that not only is it a work done not for its own sake but also it is not intended and still he says he is liable--because it is a work done not for its own sake. And this explains exactly why in the next Braita that the Talmud brings that it only says it is a work done not for its own sake and does not mention that it is not intended --because it is intended and yet still R. Shimon says it is not liable. This is the usual way of the Gemara to show the stronger side of each opinion.

Now it is this next Braita in which he is stirring the wood to get warm but he is not trying to make coals that we see that if one turns on a light on Sabbath to have light but not to make a filament that it is a work done not for its own sake.--even if you accept the idea that this is a work of building. [What I mean is that this idea of turning on a light being building is already highly doubtful in my eyes.]

[Just for a bit of background. To the Rambam, to make a coal on Shabat is  work. We in fact see this in the Talmud itself in Kritut. This is in fact not related to the reason the Chazon Ish said lighting a light bulb is forbidden. But in either case it is a work not done for its own sake. This is a type of work made by people who have nothing better to do all day that to think of what they can forbid other Jews to do on Shabat ]


System builders--the heyday of this was in pre World War I Germany

The main Jewish System builders were the Rambam/Maimonidess and Isaac Luria
[The main branches of Isaac Luria were Shalom Sharabi and Moshe Chaim Lutzato. They organized the system of Luria in an impressive way but they were not system builders.]

[The first thing you need for any legitimate system is self consistency. That is why I am dismissing all the kook Kabalah and Chasidut out there. But the Ari'zal himself is very impressive.]

There is something nice I noticed about Rabbi Isaac Luria. Even if you question his system it still is pretty impressive.

I don't know if there is much or a connection but it is hard not to notice the similarity between Hegel and the Luria System. It is not just the groups of  triads. I have not mentioned this in my blogs because I am trying not to say anything nice about Hegel if I can help it. I am literally horrified by some of the things he writes. And no one learns  Hegel without somehow changing in some fundamental way.

And this relates to the fact that I have also been trying not to say much of anything nice about the USSR--the prime Hegelian system.

I mean I am in a unique position to see a lot of the good they accomplished but my horror at any type of Authoritarian system prevents me from being very complementary.


The theory of "Torah for its own sake" should be explained here. This is a theory which I agree with. It is that Learning Torah [i.e. the Old Testament and the Talmud-or as it is known the Oral and written law] is a mitzvah of prime importance. I personally feel there is a objective reality behind this idea. That means I do not think this reality depends on the subject. This is like when I say something is yellow. I also mean it is objectivity yellow and does not depend on who is looking at it. This is how I look at the Torah and the Talmud.--as objectively holy. and not dependent on who is reading them. 
Torah, I feel, should have two effects. One is character correction, and the other attachment with the Divine. Often we find these two effects are not present. 

Now as for the idea of learning Torah for its own sake. This ideal is built on statements in the Talmud and on this idea of learning Torah as being the highest service of God that one can aspire to. In this world view it is proper to trust in God and to learn Torah all day long and to depend on the idea that God will provide for ones needs.

However it does not mean that one depends on charity or on extorting the State of Israel to pay for this activity. It further does not imply shirking ones obligation to his community as in serving in the IDF.

[Now why should Torah learning have these desired effect you might ask: Character correction and devekut?
Because holiness is intimately connected with character. If you see a person with bad character you can bet that he is not connected in any way to anything Divine. If you see someone you think  is a tzadik--does miracles etc, but has bad traits then you can bet that his powers comes from the Intermediate Zone or perhaps even the three prime kelipot--the dark side.]