Translate

29.6.13

The day of the philosopher as isolated thinker--the talented amateur with an idiosyncratic message--is effectively gone. ” —Nicholas Rescher, "American Philosophy Today," 'Review of Metaphysics' 46 (4)


Campbell, James: " No longer could the [philosophy] professor function as a defender of the faith or an expounder of Truth. The new philosopher had to be a leader of inquires and a publicizer of results. This shift was made obvious when certified (often German-certified) philosophy Ph.D.'s replaced theology graduates and ministers in the philosophy classroom. The period between the time when almost no one had a Ph.D. to when almost everyone did was very brief. [...] The doctorate, moreover, was more than a license to teach: it was a certificate that the prospective philosophy instructor was well, if narrowly, trained and ready to undertake independent work in the now specializing and restricted field of academic philosophy. These new philosophers functioned in independent departments of philosophy [...] They were making real gains in their research, creating a body of philosophic work that remains central to our study even now. These new philosophers also set their own standards for success, publishing in the recognized organs of philosophy that were being founded at the time"

This seems to me to be the reason that philosophers with a message like Hegel are ignored and marginalized.
This is sad because it means that people with a message are never trained in philosophy an could not tell you the difference between an a priori and an a posteriori if it hit them in the face.
People with a message nowadays are in general cult leaders and charismatic idiots  the assorted Eastern cults



And it also means that professional philosophers in general have no idea of what they are talking about when they venture outside of trivial philosophical word puzzles.
Certain professions do not take well to become professions.
Some people  think that professionals know what they are talking about, and talented amateurs are just plain ignorant. It does not matter what profession it is.  What ever the professionals say is true. Period. 
I, on the other hand, am a pure bred Californian. To me anything any professional says is suspect until proven true. I would rather the talented amateur over the professional; the very word "professional" leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Using Torah as a profession is by definition against the Torah. 

But there certain professions where in fact the professionals are better than the talented amateurs. Math and Physics and the other natural sciences come to mind. 

 But in the field of Philosophy the professionals seems to be fairly good at word puzzles and that is all. When they start to talk about Physics I run the other way. The repeat clichés they think are true because they heard them from someplace.






26.6.13

In order to print my booklet on Bava Metzia--- open gmail.Download file table top. Then push on the right mouse button. You will see "help" in Russian.. Push on Help. Choose program. To "observe" To "local disk". Go to"Soft" then to  "Portable". Go to "Microsoft Office Word 2007." Then "save as" "Document Word." Then send tomy computer then to HDD disk. then to popka polzavit
Otherwise the letters all come out in Russian script.

25.6.13

The problem with women is not that they care too much. It is that they don't care at all.

I figure that a young woman who flirts with me would be considered flattening to most men of my age.
But personally I am finding it annoying. While it is true I have no wife, that still does not mean my time or attention is free.
I know young attractive women can command center stage when they want to. I am just trying to figure out in my own case how to say "No" politely.
The problem with women is not that they are too emotional. It is that they are not emotional enough. They think men are at their becking and command. The problem is not that they care too much. it is that they don't care at all.

21.6.13

The Trouble is that Islam as a group has declared war on Israel and use daily any and all means to destroy it.

Americans' news feeds are overflowing with images of domestic scandals, protests in Turkey, and war in Syria. But the real story is Iran. By year's end, we may be confronted with a choice: Accept a nuclear-armed Iran, or support a military action to delay the program.



President Obama's policy on Iran has failed. Diplomacy has fizzled. And even The New York Times' news page and Obama's former advisors agree that sanctions aren’t working. And this is why Obama’s reaction to the recent Iranian election is so troubling.


My own feeling about Iran is I admit the hard line. It is not that i am in principle against Muslims.. I have known many fine and upright Muslims. Especially in the North of Israel. But also in the areas around Jerusalem i have had know many fine Muslims. I have nothing against them as people. And even as a religion my only complain against Mohammad as a highly immoral person. But i admit there were many great philosophers in th Islamic tradition. The Trouble is that Islam a s a group has declared war on Israel and use daily any and all means to destroy it.And their war on America is undeclared but real nevertheless.They will not launch a nuclear device against the USA At first. thy will try other means of stealth. Biological weapons, chemical weapons, forest fires, random attacks by knifes. Then when the timing is right they will go in for the kill..





Also I need to put together some kind of essay for the Internet about Musar of Israel Salanter and the problem that faced the Musar movement--There is no no second order ethics (I.e. no justification for ethics).  So they could have gone to the Medieval sources themselves for the issue of second order Ethics--like the Guide for the Perplexed. But instead went to the Kabalah of the Ari'zal. The Ari'zal's system is a powerful and amazing system but it is has two problems. No argument. No justification for statement that are laid down by Fiat-decree. Also I have another problem with the Ari'zal. He is based on the Zohar. I dislike the Zohar so much that yesterday as i was walking to the local synagogue I walked by a Zohar that was in the trash on the street and i did not even pick it up. It is not that I don't like what it says. But I dislike the fact that it is a forgery.

Also ethics is a big deal. The Musar movement approach to ethics is this: no one has had anything to say about ethics besides Jewish orthodox people. Muslims barely count and Christians are of course much worse as being idolaters. So the movement automatically cuts itself off from the basis of Musar: the books that were written during the Middle Ages by Muslim and Christian scholars.

In the view of the Musar movement (and Chasidut also) there has not been any legitimate thinking about morality outside the Jewish world. It is all just convention.

It would be difficult to support this contention by attention to the history of ethics.

Perhaps this will help:  Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Augustine, Maimonides, Aquinas, Hobbes, Butler, Hume, Kant, Bentham, Mill, Nietzsche, Hegel, Bradley, Sidgwick, Moore, Prichard.(4)

 I do not think anyone  with them would argue that Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Aquinas, Butler, Kant, Bentham, Mill, Bradley, Sidgwick, Moore, or Prichard--any one of them--thought that ethics was
 convention.


On the other hand Musar is important. People need some sort of a moral guide through life. Many may think that they can get by without one but chances are that they are egoists and do have a principle which is guiding them. "If it makes me feel good, if it makes me happy, if I like it and can live with it then it is all right for me to do it." That may seem like an attractive principle by which we can make decisions until one starts to think about it. As a guide for all people that principle would lead and does lead to many conflicts.  





19.6.13

My impression of the original people that opposed secular education is that they were dealing with a situation in which their community supported them.


However he was a person that was respected by his community. and he was talking to people that could have sat in the local beit midrash and learned Torah and their father in laws would have supported them. They had little problem finding a wife or parnasah.

What would happen I wonder if suddenly the whole community returned against him? There can be such things. We know in the Torah of episodes of what you could call miracles of the Sitar Achra. We know many cases in which whole communities turned against Tzadikim. Moshe Rabbainu was not the first and not the last. [Korah seems safely far in the past but I know that he shows up even nowadays in rabbinical garb.

But let ups say for the sake of argument a tzadik would find himself with out a wife, with no parnasha wherever he would go in the Jewish world people would hound him out of town. Not just no one would hire him but they would actively try to bring blood libels of today the equal of sexual abuse libels against him.

I ask you --would not collage seem to him to be better option than what he had originally thought? It is not possible he would rethink his opinion?

In such a case a tzadik would think thus:
If A then B. A= the community is righteous. B I= am a wicked person.
I find A plausible. But I find B to be highly plausible. If I would accept A I would have to accept B. But B seems highly unlikely. Therefore I reject A. This is the type of Logical thinking a tzadik would do in such a case. Further he would reason further:I find not B to be the most plausible of all the propositions. Therefore not A


The problem of the Rambam.
The problem is that it looks like that if you take the Rambam together with the Gemara you get a different halachic decision than if you take him on his own.


This seems to be the problem that Reb Chaim Soloveitchik is coming to answer.
An example is the Rambam in laws of forbidden sexual relations. In the case a person jumps into a mikvah before his is dipped for the sake of avdut (slavery) then he becomes free- but only if he was bought from an Akum (gentile). The problem is that the Rambam says if he is bought from an Akum the Israel still has kinyan Haguf (possession of the body). To put in arbitrarily the distinction of a mikvah like the Kesef Mishna does does not seems very much like it according to the simple peshat in the Rambam. But Reb Chaim makes a distinction here that makes sense. If the Israel buys the Akum from himself he has Kinyan Haguf completely because the akum can sell himself. But buying from another Akim he buys the kinyan Haguf that gives him the right to dip the akum into the mikvah for the sake  of advut.

So the Rambam comes out exactly like he says. The simple peshat (explanation) in the Rambam is the true peshat (explanation) and yet it is accord with the Gemara also!

This is according to my basic impression that the Rambam wanted to be able to be read on his own without looking at the Gemara.


In spite of the fact that the Rambam wanted to be learned on his own still people that read the Rambam without the proper Gemara background have just enough knowledge of Halacha to mix everything up without knowing they are doing so. And it is easy reading. A million times easier than the Talmud. So people can pretend to understand and fake their way.
Perhaps the Rambam was addressing an audience of people that already had basic Gemara concepts. and could read Gemara simply and plainly as opposed to the general Baal teshuva today.

18.6.13


Motivations and world view are two intertwining issues.
People have some control over their motivations and this often depends on their world view.
When it comes to morality most philosophers are mostly interested in motivation. Schopenhauer thinks all motivations come under three headings: egoism, malice and compassion.
I there are more than just these three. And I think that they are to some degree subject to ones own choice.
But I also think that one can only follow a small number of principles. So while you might have open to you a number of principles or prime directives in your life, I do not think you can hop between them.



Each one of these people was apparently aware of the need to have a prime principle in ones life and also believed the choice of this prime directive is subject to choice. But they each choose a different prime directive not just for themselves but also to claim that thus and thus prime directive is the true one for all men.

This principle we find in political philosophy also. John Locke felt the protection of natural human rights is the proper Prime directive of government and that the way to protect peoples rights is by one main method-to protect their property from other people and from the government itself.  To Hegel and Marx, this is all ridiculous and they have another basic principle for government--"the State" which embodies the General Will. All individual interest is to be subjected to the State. This is now sadly the acting principle of the American government in direct opposition to the Constitution. [I don't want this to be a polemical peeve because I have not decided against Marx at all. Sometimes I feel in a situation the playground is occupied by bullies that a large degree of power granted to the State by Marx is important. 

----------------------









17.6.13

Classical Torah Theory is I believe a good system. I think it is clear that Classical Torah theory of people like Maimonides and Saadia Geon is advocating a morality that is logical, objective and humane.
This is however very different from Chareidi Jewish ethics of the modern era.
These two systems are so different it is not like comparing apples and oranges.

And I think the doctrine people believe in has a great influence on their actions

On the other hand I see Classical Torah theory as highly moral.


In response to this I recommend a return to learning Classical Torah Theory--starting with the Guide of The Rambam and the Emunot and Deot of Saadia Geon.
And when we find that our attitudes are different from those of the Rambam or Saadia Geon I suggest that the mistaken attitudes should be the ones to go.

16.6.13

The issue here is that the Conservative and Reform Movement have left the works of Musar and Medieval Jewish ethics in the hands of the Orthodox. This has given the Orthodox a monopoly in defining what Musar says. This was a bad mistake.

I would like to argue for a renewal of the idea of Israel Salanter about having a small Beit Midrash in every city for the sake of the study of Musar-Jewish Ethics.

But I am going to do this in such a roundabout way that it might not be obvious what I am advocating.



This one word made everything clear to me, but I realize it might not for people reading this blog.
So I will elaborate.

Classical Torah Theory as developed rigorously by Maimonides and the other Jewish thinkers of the Middles Ages is different in Orthodox Torah Theory. The area of difference is in Meta Ethics.

Orthodox Judaism today does not seem to have one theory of Morality but many. It slides between these theories seemingly almost at random.,- according to perceived interest of the group. The way it slides is by supposing that the many conflicting approaches do not conflict. But for lack of time I will not go into this right now.


 [To say things are good because God commands them means that mitzvot are arbitrary conventions established by God for no rhythm or reason. If so the Torah is not good. It is arbitrary]  Or because God is stronger than us and can punish  us if he wants to. Or that it is in our nature  But it is far from clear that we ought always to act in accordance with our nature. Suppose it were discovered that I (an aggressive male) am naturally adapted to fighting other people. I presume it will be granted that such a nature is possible--I could, for example, have naturally quick reflexes, physical strength, and an innate bloodlust; I might even have a naturally fearsome visage, suited to intimidating my opponents. Would it follow from this that I ought now to go out and attack people physically?





Now what I want to ask about this situation is, would Nazism be a good form of government, or would it still be bad? Surely this would be a case of establishing Halacha conventions according to which  Nazism  is good, if there were any such thing?  Yet here Nazism  would still be just as bad as it always was. The fact that something is generally practiced, obviously, does not make it right; that is why it always makes sense to doubt whether current practices are right. It always makes sense to try to establish better conventions, to find conventions good or bad, and so on, which it could not make sense if there were no possible standard of value independent of the conventions themselves.


On the other hand Classical Torah Theory as developed by Maimonides and Saadia Gaon [Ibn Ezra and many other Jewish thinkers from the Middle Ages] is very well grounded.
Their justification of Torah Morality is based on Aristotle and Plato. Saadia Gaon and Maimonides are from the Neo Platonic school (see chapters 3 and 4 from Emunot And Deot) and Ibn Ezra from  Platonism.
Whether in Plato or Aristotle Morality is objective and that is how the Medieval Thinkers understood the Torah to mean. as opposed to Orthodox Judaism today.  What I mean by  "objective" is that their truth does not depend on beliefs, feelings, or other attitudes of observers towards the things evaluated. This provides a reasonable interpretation of the notion of the objectivity of ethics. Assuming the correspondence theory of truth, this view entails values being 'part of reality' or 'part of objective reality.'

The issue here is that the Conservative and Reform Movement have left the works of Musar and Medieval Jewish ethics in the hands of the Orthodox. This has given the Orthodox a monopoly in defining what Musar says. This was a bad mistake.

But The Orthodox are right that morality in the area between man and man is not all what Torah is about.
There is the numinous aspect also. And in fact without this between God and Man aspect it is doubtful how far the moral aspect can go.
This is because as Israel Salanter noted many times we humans can only do good and act decently from a religious motivation., not from a moral motivation.





14.6.13

There is in the Jewish world an existing movement which was intended  to be a mass movement but which never really took off.. It is the Musar Movement of Israel Salanter. It had two parts to it. One was the emphasis on every person to learn a cannon of five Medieval books about Jewish ethics. Another part of the movement developed with new books coming out by Israel Salanter himself and his disciples.
 The Musar Movement  is a very good thing.

But I also have complaints about this Musar movement
[1] There does not seem to be an Meta-Ethical Theory unless you count the books of Jewish philosophy from the Middle Ages..Maimonides and Ibn Ezra and Saadia Geon for examples.
[2] But if you include Meta-ethics then you are almost invariable trust into the world of Medieval scholastics which were not Jewish. If you ignore the scholastics then there is not possible framework to understand Musar expect as pure anti Rational fanaticism. Which is in fact how Musar is understood today.

But the lack of Musar in the Jewish world today means that Jewish people get their morality from whatever is in the air --the spirit of the times and try to find justification for this in the Torah, or they can the world view of  hasidut. None of which is very Jewish. While many Hasidim are not insane, but the world view of Hasidut is insane and when people accept that world view it makes them slowly lose their morality and sanity
Hasidut does make great effort to look Jewish. Everything that is visible and public is emphasized.  Jewish dress,  and extreme observance of rituals that are public. This is good for public image. But Hasidut is a variation of th movement of Shabatai Tzvi. They simply took the basic ideology of Natan from Gaza that he created to justify the claim that Shabati Tzi was the Messiah and Divine, and they used that intellectual framework to say that their own leasers were of similar grandeur. In fact though Hasidut looks original when compared with Jewish books, in fact its entire intellectual structure is taken over from the movement of Shabatai Tzvi

13.6.13

You have an identifiable population in the USA which is openly hostile to America.

Instead of spying on all Americans why not do the simple thing? You have an identifiable population in the USA which is openly hostile to America. They have openly declared war on the USA for all who have stopped to listen. Why not simply send them home? When has there been in history a nation has allowed it avowed enemies to remain in its borders?
My learning partner and I are having a debate about learning Jewish  ethics ( Medieval Books of Jewish ethics ).
He must have noticed my recommending learning Musar {Jewish Ethics} on this blog.
The first Musar book he was introduced to was the Orchot Tzadik. This provoked such a negative reaction that he actually said, "I hate Musar."   The Medieval Books of Jewish ethics gives--a coherent world view.]

The truth be told learning Musar has been a debate for a long time among Lithuanian sages. Volloshin had no musar sessions. Reb Chaim Soloveitchik was openly against the Musar Movement.
The Chazon Ish penned a great critique on it. He brought a case of when people in a  =city were all getting angry at a teacher of children that had come to the city when there was already a teacher there. the Chazon Ish talks about how they would get all indignant about "masig gevul Reehu" [infringing on another's territory.]
But the Halacha says  that the new teacher was right So what good is Musar with no Halacha?

In spite of all this, I still think Reb Israel Salanter was right because of one word "Paradigm." It is gives on the basic world view of Torah. This is not possible with just Talmud alone.


[Ponovitch where Rav Shach was he Rosh yeshiva learns Musar and he even has in his intro to the Avi Ezri some deep praise about Musar.]


Just to be clear: a lot of Gedolai Israel thought  it is best simply to be in a Lithuanian kind of yeshiva all day and by that good values and world view would be absorbed by learning Torah and by the effect of the group.  The reason my learning partner is not happy with Musar is he thinks it lacks insight and depth.  Who am I to place my opinion among these great people? But my impression is for myself that I need Musar and I also wish I could spread the ideas of Musar and Ethics around the whole world because I see them as being good for me and for others. One rav in Netivot said to me something along the lines once about people that don't learn Musar are like nightmares.{Or something like that. He is the rav in Yeshiva HaNegev over there, and we were discussing the issue of students. One student had come to the internet place in Netivot twice and was caught in the act and expelled. He said to me as he was leaving: "It is high time to join the IDF anyway." But in any case this incident got me discussing students with the rav and the subject of Musar came up.

[I can't account for the reason yeshivas tend to throw out people. Shimon Buso [the grandson of Bava Sali once said to me it is a אחריות גדולה לזרוק תלמיד a terrible responsibility to throw out a student]. David Bronson said I have nothing against throwing out students. The question is which students? The trouble is they tend to throw out the sincere and leave in the ones that are there because of "connections" and family relations. Almost as if they are private clubs and not real yeshivas for learning. I admit David Bronson's analysis of the situations seems accurate. I have personally had enough of the Ultra Religious, but my complaints come from more personal directions. I would go to a conservative or Reform synagogue but not the ultra religious.




The elderly lady turned Dirty Harry as she defended her home in Orange County, California, and her wheel-chair-bound husband – scaring off the 31-year-old assailant by firing a single shot from her .357magnum revolver as he tried to break through the front door.

This is a story about how owning a gun saved lives. The good guys are still alive and the bad guy is behind bars. Gun ownership is the great equalizer…. and these stories need to be embraced and celebrated often to combat and battle the liberal media gun-grabbing meme.

A burglar came in for the shock of his life when he burglarized the house of a 72-year-old grandmother.

The elderly lady turned Dirty Harry as she defended her home in Orange County, California, and her wheel-chair-bound husband – scaring off the 31-year-old assailant by firing a single shot from her .357magnum revolver as he tried to break through the front door.

A 911 call reveals Jan Cooper screaming ‘Back up you son of a b****! Back up! Get the hell out of here!’ before firing a round from the mighty handgun. It missed the burglar by just inches. [...]

Read more here. A FoxNews report offers more:

 Jan Cooper, of Anaheim, fired one shot from her .357-magnum Smith & Wesson revolver around 12:30 a.m. Sunday as a man attempted to break into her home. During a 911 call of the incident, Cooper can be heard begging with the dispatcher to send deputies and warns that she has a gun at the ready as her Rottweiler barks furiously in the background.

Minutes later, a breathless Cooper says the man has come to the back porch and is trying to get in the house through a sliding door. Through the vertical blinds, Cooper saw his silhouette just inches away through the glass as he began to slide open the door.

“I’m firing!” Cooper shouts to the dispatcher as a loud band goes off.

Cooper then curses at the suspect, shouting at him to “back up.”

Perez had a rap sheet that included other burglary and narcotics charges and was on parole and staying at a halfway house not far from the Coopers’ address, Amormino said. 

11.6.13

Learning Torah

The Gemara has a discussion if one fulfills the mitzvah of learning Torah by saying the Shema. It comes out that one does. It also says one should not tell this to  "ami haarez" [ignorent] least they learn to be lenient with this mitzvah.

On the other hand we know the Talmud Yerushalim in Peah says that one word of Torah is worth more that all the mitzvot.

This can be understood in two ways. This idea of one word of Torah being worth more than all the mitzvaot might refer to just the bare obligation. Or it might refer also to all the words of Torah one learns after that during the whole day.

Now we know that learning Torah during the day after one has fulfilled the bare obligation in the morning is not the exact same thing as doing a mitzvah that one is not obligated in. We do find in the Talmud that when one has a mitzvah in front of himself or learning Torah one should learn Torah. This seems as far as I can tell to the non obligatory of learning Torah during the day that one is morally obligated to do even though he has in fact already fulfilled the obligation by saying the Shema in the morning.
[This discussion shows why one must stop learning if a mitzvah comes up that can't be done by someone else. This is simple. Since one has fulfilled his obligation in the morning therefore any obligatory mitzvah that comes up later obviously one should do instead of learning]





Now on one hand they are right that everyone should learn Torah. But frankly I feel kind of like the German Jews that came to America that were based on the teachings of Shimshon Refael Hirsch--that they took an unbelievable degree of offense at anyone that even suggested that their children should not go to collage.



9.6.13

There was movement started by Reb Israel Salanter to learn books of Musar [Five books of Jewish Morality written by Medieval sages].
This had a core cannon of six books from the Middle Ages and one post  Renaissance book-the Mesilat Yesharim.The complaints about this movement were varied. The Chazon Ish asked "What good is Musar if you do not know Halacha?"

Clearly this is a good point but I have  a further complaint. What good is Musar if you do not know the philosophy behind the books? What I think is important about Musar  only comes because of the general paradigm of Musar i.e. it imbibes into tone the general world view of Torah.

Also I want to mention a few more flaws in the movement that should be taken constructive criticism not destructive criticism. Things that should be corrected to make the movement better than it already is. First get rid of all the moral busybodies



Second the are issues that come up in Musar that are not dealt with. The Ramchal emphasized learning Kabalah. The Rambam emphasizes learning Physics and Metaphysics [i.e. each on a set of books written by Aristotle]. The Ramchal puts down all secular disciplines  and is opposed to the Rambam in this issue. why are these issues not dealt with? and what about borrowing from Aristotle and Plato that Musar does but today this is ignored?

In spite of these complaints I agree that Musar is very important for religious and non religious Jews. We all need Ethics and to understand the basic point of view of the Torah concerning world view issues. Halacha gives us "Particulara." Musar gives us "Generala."

8.6.13

While people think many laws of the Torah seem counter to objective reason I think it can be shown that most of the time critiques of the Torah are based on ideas of morality that are based on false views like empiricism or moral relativism.

From a philosophical point of view  what is of value in the Torah and Talmud and what is not?First we have to establish a philosophical point of view to start with. and we have to establish a set of ground rules for what constitutes evidence.
I do not start out thinking that everything in the Torah or Talmud is true and then work backwards to eliminate things I don't like.  I start out like Descartes with zero assumptions and then build up.
This is a significant difference between me and Orthodox Jews.
But to get to my point I start with Moral objectivity. I holds that moral claims assert propositions that are at least sometimes objectively true. What is meant here by the qualifier "objectively" is that their truth does not depend on beliefs, feelings, or other attitudes of observers towards the things evaluated.
 I will not here try to counter moral relativism or relativism in general. Nor the lunatic American British Analytic Linguistic schools of thought. [Most serious modern philosophers have awoken to the fact that all twentieth century philosophy is "obviously false" (in the famous words the Professor of philosophy at Berkley John Searle) and so there is no need here to bother with them.]

So we start with Moral objectivity.. From that standpoint I think there are two things of great value in the Torah and Talmud: the Laws of Morality that can be defended by objective reason and Fear of God.

While people think many laws of the Torah seem counter to objective reason I think it can be shown that most of the time critiques of the Torah are based on ideas of morality that are based on false views like empiricism or moral relativism.


But I do not think that the fanatic  Orthodox approach is right either. We can't assume the whole tradition is right against evidence.  [For example where would the Tyrannosaurs Rex have fit into the ark? Afetr all Noah was commanded to take all living things into the  ark.]

I think the best approach is to combine the two approaches (1) start from the philosophical way from zero assumptions and work up. (2) Work with the basic content of Torah and Mitzvot and only reject what is clearly contrary to evidence. (3) Assume that even you evaluations of evidence and of the Torah itself are flawed and that we all have to listen to people smarter than ourselves.  None of anyone reading this blog are going to examine the Talmud with more rigor than the Tosphot or Rambam or Chaim Soloveitch. \


We are not going to understand evolution better that Stephen Gould or Steve Dutch. We all have to realize our limitations. Aish HaTorah is not going to disprove evolution.


Then you end up with Straightforward Conservative Judaism.




7.6.13

As Habermas has noted there needs to be some new thought concerning politics.
Frankly I was a bit shocked to see his basically positive approach towards Hegel and Marxism.
But to be frank I was shocked to see the famous critic of Marx, Karl Popper also seeing a lot of the good points in Marxism.


But being in a city of the former USSR where people are still afraid to break the law from the terror of the police or as they call it the "malitzia." Only after twenty year is this fear of breaking the law wearing away.



 And I have written before about main main complaint about John Locke and the American democracy--empiricism..Empiricism is false. we have knowledge of things besides what we know by our senses. Examples are out there by the millions
Some type of new political philosophy is clearly needed.

And what philosophers think does effect people. 100 years ago all philosophers in England were Anti Christian- some more openly than others. This was in spite of the fact that 99% of English people were starkly Christian.  Do you think that the Philosophers had an effect? clearly they did. Islam is the fastest growing most vibrant religion in england is is due to be the religion of the  majority in a few years.
Philosophers have an effect.


What i mean by this is that there is a very wide variety of concepts of what the soul is starting with Plato  and on . An also there is a wide variety of opinions of what is the goal of human existence in this world.

I want to suggest that these two questions as linked together with super-glue.
I dare not here go into the complicated borrowings that went on in the Middle Ages among Christian, Jewish and Muslim philosophers.[i would love to but i have no time right now]


[1]  Only the sechel hanikne (acquired intellect) will be left of a person after his passing way. (acquired intellect) is when one know many things in one knowing
This from the Rambam. I suggest this is pure Neo Platonic thought. where the actual souls is included in the higher Intellect  Wisdom which is the first emanation of the G-d.
[2] An Aristotelian concept that the soul is the form of the body. This is not against the Neo Platonic concept of Torah lesson 25 but complements it. The in fact reinforces it.] the real soul is included after passing away in the highest form-pure form the form of the good.while the actual aspect of the soul that is tied to the body will not exist after death.
[3] The soul is the "I".

[4] And the purpose of all this is to be included in the Infinite One--pure Neo Platonic thought again.] where after the soul is included in wisdom it rises to the Infinite One







6.6.13

Being included in God? Is this the goal?  This is  a neo platonic idea.

To the Rambam  by sechel hanikne ones merits to the world to come.  

I have recently become interested in Musar and the seemingly extravagant claims made for it by Israel Salanter. I am thinking that perhaps the Musar movement was right and that there is something about that basic set of books [the six classical ones I mean] which instills good character traits in people. While I am not totally convinced,  I am still tending in this direction. In fact, I brought this up with one fellow I know and his thought that it sounds good and further that someone should put the basic Musar cannon into dots. What this would mean would be someone should get together the basic Musar books of the disciples of Israel Salanter and make a set out of them and put dots into them.
That would be the books of Reb Israel Salanter, "HaTvuna," "Or Israel" of Isaac Blasser, The second recent volume of the writings of Isaac Blasser that came out recently in Israel, The "Madgragat HaAdam," "Chachma and Musar" from Simcha Zizel. 


This maybe is not on the deep philosophical level of Kant or Plato but these are still very good books and perhaps in fact do instill something precious into people.







I agree learning is not everything.  I have long held that something like the Boy Scouts of America is very important for children  and this instills values into people that no books could ever do.
The problem is that it seems to me that this is not very workable in Brooklyn.  At any rate is it my suggestion to start the Orthodox Jewish Boy Scouts of America  that meet every week and would learn out door skills and survival skills and what things like “team work” and “loyalty” and “human decency” mean in real life.
 Also I must mention later books of Musar after the direct disciples of Israel Salanter are not very good. They became "frum" [in the non complementary connotation of that word].  In my recommendation of Musar i meant specifically the books of the first generation disciples

4.6.13

Issar Zalman Meltzer had a disciple that became Breslov.
This was Shmuel Shapiro, the most famous Breslov Chasid of the Pre-World War II generation.
Issar Zalman  said about the person that convinced Shapiro to join Breslov, "I am sure he will never leave hell."
It seems to me that he must have considered the person that seduced him as a "mesis and madiach" [one that tries convince someone else to join a cult of Idolatry.] [See the Nefesh Hachayim concerning the subject of attaching oneself to a Tzadik.


It is hard to disagree with Rav Issar Zalman.

The first thing that happens when one becomes Breslov is the learning of the Talmud stops. Stops cold.
Who can argue with this?  who can deny the basic effect of Chasidut  on people?


hink in connection with a regular Talmud session per day and a regular Musar session per day his teachings are great. But when one goes into this without balance something goes wrong.




There are several levels of insanity. The two most basic ones are simply people that can't function as used to be committed to insane asylums.the other level is spiritual and refers to people like Hitler or a sub-level of that.
What causes insanity.
I hold that a radical change in world view causes insanity.This is when a child is growing up in a loving and caring home and then something happens to shatter his point of view.This causes the wiring in the child;s brain to be severed.At that point it takes super human effort to reset the connections.


Another cause of insanity is to be holding from a world view that has internal contradictions.These contradictions are like a Trojan horse. One is not aware of the conflict on the surface level, but internally these contradictions eat away at ones sanity. This is like how sometimes concrete blocks are made with an steel rod inside  that is purposely bent before the concrete hardens so there will be a constant stress.

Another way is simply by belonging to a group of people that have an insane ideology i.e. one that has internal contradictions and also ignores reality. These last two levels are held by Orthodox Judaism










3.6.13

The interesting subject for today is what is called Musar. This has relevance for Jews and gentiles alike.
It is a subject that is built from certain foundations and then reaches its peak in the person of Israel Salanter.
The essence of Musar is the  idea that everyone should learn one of five basic books of Morality written during the Middle ages on the subject of ethics. To this is added the idea of the subconscious that Israel Salanter borrowed from Schopenhauer. The idea is this:by daily review of these books something of their ideas on ethics gets into the subconscious.

But there are a few unstated insights about this idea that are not stated explicitly. One is a very well known Jewish idea but sadly enough Christians seem to be completely unaware of it.It is the idea that during the Middle Ages people were very careful in what they wrote about philosophy and theological subjects. It is what is called in the Jewish world "Rishonim." It means not that people that wrote then were somehow divinely inspired.It does not mean that. It means that they were extremely careful not to write things that would be logical fallacies. This care and caution was shot to smithereens after the time of Hume who in spite of his great and original thought wrote in basic logically fallacies--so much so that it leaves me wondering if he did so on purpose. since then philosophy is dominated by circular reasoning including Hegel who assumes what he wants to prove. [As Habermas noted that in the phenomenology Hegel tries to prove the identity of Subject and Object--but in fact he assumes it right from the start.] You never see this in writing from Jewish Christian or Muslim philosophers from the Middle Ages.

Christians probably have some equivalent of Jewish Musar from the middle ages but i am not sure of what it could be. They should probably make and effort to dig it up. What I means is Musar may be based on philosophical thought but these are books that are specifically about morality, not philosophy.

This means that learning Aquinas would not be in this category of Musar.

At any rate back to the Jewish subject of Musar

This subject was highly misunderstood after Israel Salanter. The reason was that the divide between reform Jews and orthodox Jews had grown to such a degree that the emphasis of people like Maimonides on science and philosophy was ignored. So Musar was taken to be a radical anti science anti philosophy doctrine and any books from the actual Musar books that said differently were explained away.


Something is curious about Musar in terms of the treatment of the soul. This subject is too big for this blog right now. But just briefly let me mention that the Jewish treatment of the soul was influenced by the brethren of purity. In fact the whole move away from Neo Platonic thought in Ibn Ezra [who accepts the Neo Platonic scheme point black] and Saadia Geon to Aristotelian thought in Maimonides seems to have been influenced by the Muslim philosophers of those times.  But as we reach the Musar Movement of Israel Salanter it seems the idea of the soul have changed to the general Christian concept  of an ethereal essence.
 I really have no time to go into this right now but it would make a great term paper.

Reb Israel did borrow the idea of the self from Hobbes and the subconsciousness from Schopenhauer and other ideas developed by Enlightenment philosophers. Later on the Musar movement made a move to deny this debt. The prime directive in the Jewish Orthodox would today is never acknowledge a debt to a Christin or Muslim thinker.



 The Rambam (Maimonides) and Saadia Geon always acknowledged from where they borrowed their ideas. That is what makes them interesting and it helps to see what they are adding or improving on.




2.6.13

I have a love hate relationship with the Musar movement of Israel Salanter.

It is hard to disagree with the basic three core themes. (1) Fear of God is the most important thing in the world. (2) Good Character traits are a basic component of Fear of God (3) The way to get to Fer of God and good character traits is by learning the traditional books called Musar-- books of ethics written by medial Jewish authorities like Maimonides.
He borrowed from  Schopenhauer the idea of the subconscious 


[Schopenhauer was the most widely discussed philosopher in the German-speaking world in the time of R.Israel Salanter.]

And the system of R. Salanter was based on the concept of the subconscious--i.e. to read Musar in such a way that it will penetrate into the subconscious. [See letter 6 in Or Israel. he calls the subconscious there by its German name. It is not possible to imagine he did not know about this from the Gemran speaking world he was in at the time in Konigsberg.the city of Kant]
This is all good.

Where Musar went wrong is a whole different subject in itself.
Perhaps someone could devote a academic study on this subject?

Musar became "Frumkeit."
Reform Jews to them are the arch enemy, "the prime enemy" (Glavni Protivnick) as the Russians used to say about the USA.
Somehow Musar the idea that we the frum orthodox are all righteous and holy and everyone else is criminally insane.
To me this seems to indicate a slight disconnection with reality.