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31.3.12

The Wall Street Journal has an article blaming Catholics for Islamic addiction to murder.

The Wall Street Journal has an article blaming Catholics for Islamic addiction to murder.
(Voltaire and Toulouse, Then and Now)
Here is a comment (not mine):
Here is an extraordinary exercise in cynicism. Using the killings in Toulouse as a pretext, the author manages to write (another) expletive against Catholicism, under the guise of a condemnation of an abstract sentiment: “religious fanaticism”. Being a professor of history, the author certainly does not ignore that the complexities of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, as well as the subsequent emergence of the Enlightenment rationalism, do not even remotely fit into his suggested and preposterous caricature of a dualist fight between “reason” and “religious fanaticism”. One does not expect a treatise, or an essay, from an opinion column, but the format is no excuse for such gross historical misrepresentation.

However, this is not the worse: the author manages to dedicate eleven paragraphs to a judicial absurdity that occurred in 1762, while only mentioning the murderer of French soldiers and a Jewish family in the last two paragraphs, but only after invoking Voltaire’s writings –malgré lui même– to engage in (another) exculpatory exercise of Islamism. A distracted reader could be excused for thinking that Mr Merah’s murderous ideology of Islamism was an offspring of Catholicism.

In a word: deplorable.

30.3.12

I would only pray in a Reform Temple or a Conservative one. Ethical Monotheism





Reform Judaism is right about Ethical Monotheism. This is first of all true. Also it is what the Torah is about.  But Reform is wrong in ignoring the Oral Law and the efforts of the  Sages to understand Divine Law. Also-It is bourgeois. They have no Gra, or Chaim from Voloshin, or Isaac Luria, Israel Abuchatzeira. No juice. No taste. The batteries need charging



Reform  ignores the most important aspect of Torah,- the holy numinous aspect.

There are a few people in the context of Torah who discovered and  revealed parts of the divine reality contained in Torah. They were the Rambam and Ari (Isaac Luria), the Gra, Israel Salanter,
Also "social justice" is an 1840's invention of two Catholic priests meant to replace noble obligation (Noblesse oblige). It is not the main idea of the Torah, nor the Prophets, nor the Writings.[תנ''ך, תורה נביאים כתובים]  Social justice is the opposite of justice. Social justice is steal from the rich. This is based on the idea that the rich must have somehow gotten rich in some non proper way even if there is no evidence for this. Justice means don't steal; not from the rich and not from the poor. Simply don't steal.

In spite of this, I would only pray in a Reform Temple or a Conservative one. I would run from the "Charedi" like one runs from a charging leopard. That is just how frightened I am from them. (This is not irrational fear. It is fear based on personal experience and observation of what I see they do to people. They make a tremendous effort to make baali teshuva (to make people religious) and then destroy them systematically.) [But one does have to learn and keep Torah. To learn Torah you should take one page of Gemara and keep learning it day after day. That is read it from the beginning until the end with the Tosphot and Maharsha--every day the same page until something gives way and you understand its depths.  This is  the "in depth" session. besides that you need a fast session to get through the  Oral Law- Bavli, YerushalmiTosefta, Sifri and Sifra. But you don't need to go anywhere near a religious synagogue, Heaven forbid!]





And it would not matter if the only mikvah in town was in an religioussynagogue. I would still simple refuse to go anywhere near the religious. [I would go to the ocean.  When I was in the mountains there was a nearby stream which I dug deep into so it could be used for  mikvah.
The Sitra Achra (Realm of Evil) just got too much intertwined with "religious" Judaism until it is impossible to separate the two.


This fact is hidden to many religious  people because they think their approach is based on Talmud and Halacha. They are unaware that it is not based on Halacha at all, but rather it takes a few  rituals to cover up what is really going on.

This was not always the case. Before the time of Shabati Tzvi things were straightforward. But after his time the energy of teachings of the Shatz (Shabati Tzvi) got totally entwined with religious Judaism. What makes this almost impossible to know is that people today rarely every learn the books of the Shatz and his prophet Nathan from Gaza. But if you have had the sad experience of  reading those misguided books, then you can see right away how the most basic teachings of the Shatz are part and parcel of "Charedi"Judaism today.

[If I was back at Beverly Hills I would not drive to Temple Israel in Hollywood on Shabat. I would stay home and learn Torah. But I would make an effort to be part of a Conservative, Reconstructionist or Reform Temple during the week. The trouble with driving is that it involves  fire. I learned that in a high school physics books about how the spark plug and the four- cylinder car engine works. If it would be just electricity, that would be allowed.]

In sum: Reform is right about some things but wrong on others. My younger brother in fact goes to a conservative shul. But there are things I think conservative have also gotten a bit wrong. Personally I just can't see anything as good as a straight normal Litvak yeshiva.




Appendix:
1) The major support of Reform and Conservative Judaism comes from Musar (Ethical) books of traditional Judaism.
I mean the major principle of Reform Judaism is what? That between man and your fellow-man comes before between Man and God. This is the exact principle of Musar.
 "You should walk in his ways, and keep his mitzvot."
The command to walk in his ways we know is the commandment "What is he? Kind. So you too be kind."
R. Chaim Vital, the disciple of Isaac Luria, in chapters one and two of his Musar book Shaarei Kedusha makes the same point. And the great Yemenite Kabbalist, The Rashash (R. Shalom Sharabi), goes into this exact point in detail. He says the soul of a person is his character traits. The mitzvot are simple the clothing and food of the soul, but not the soul itself. [נפש השכלית]
Reb Chaim Vital says, "One must be more careful to stay away from bad character traits than be keeping positive and negative commandments, because bad traits are very much worse that sins."
2) The major problem with the Orthodox is not so much in places where there is a strong Litvak yeshiva presence. For example in Brooklyn where the three major Litvak yeshivas are located {Chaim Berlin, Mir, Torah VeDaat} even local shuls (synagogues) tend to be straight Torah oriented.
3) The main problem I see with the strictly religious  is the idea of a עיר הנדחת a city in which false gods are worshiped. The law is that the city is destroyed--everyone  and everything. The reason being that even the tzadikim inside the city acquiesced. That is they did not actively protest or simply leave. Only Rav Shach saw the problems and objected.




27.3.12

At any rate I want to mention that in the USSR they had a system of physical education that I think should be used in the West

I had a P.E. in HS teacher that told me he wants to train us students to be fit at that time and not to depend on the idea that we would continue to exercise in collage. But clearly he believed that exercise should be a daily thing. Also I think there are two ages when the basic metabolism of the body changes--about 40 and then again at 55.
And I think the same applies the the mind.

At any rate I want to mention that in the USSR, they had a system of physical education that I think should be used in the West. On the radio at 7:00 A.M. they had a ten minute program of home exercise.
The reason I think this is important is because I think the West made a great mistake when it linked physical education to school. This almost guarantees that people that are out of school will stop.

24.3.12

Moral obligations (that is, the facts that we ought to act in certain ways) should be self-evident. But we need the holy Torah because though the principles of Torah should be self evident, most people allow considerations (of what social group they want to fit in with) to cloud their judgment about what is moral.




My basic contention is that the Torah is objective. As I am using the word "objective" to mean "not subjective" -i.e. not dependent on anyone's opinions or viewpoint. Further I want to contend that the Torah consists of principles, not laws.

And that the difference [between principles versus laws] is easily seen in today's society where you have collages giving out rule books about sexual conduct (to protect themselves from lawsuits) and theaters have to tell people not to talk during the show. This is because people have forgotten the basic principle--don't be inconsiderate.


Yosi Faur contends that the Rambam (Maimonides) discovered this objective aspect of Torah, and all his opponents were off the true path.

(My feeling is that the Rambam together with the other "Rishonim" (people from the Middle Ages that wrote either commentary on the Talmud or Halacha books) form a seamless whole.)

At first the Rambam seems to stand on his own, but then little bugs in the system start to creep in. It looks to me that Yosei Faur was trying to make out like that the Rambam/Maimonides found the absolute truth of the universe, and he writes very convincingly in this direction.

At first I was convinced by Yose Faur. But that is me. I find myself always between great charismatic leaders that are very convincing. It takes me a long time to step back and to try to consider things from a rational point of view.

After some time I looked at the original essay of Yosi Faur and I discovered what you can see in a lot of religious writing--they sound very convincing about subjects you know nothing about, but then when it gets to a subject you know something about their supposed genius falls apart. (But I admit this does not happen with the Rambam or Tosphot, or the Torah itself. For me the deeper I go into these things, the better they become.)

  But my claim is that no one person discovered the real Torah. And that true Torah observance is not person based, and not even text based, but rather God based.

  Also my final contention is that one should be like a hound dog with his nose to the ground. That is after one has read and learned Torah and the Talmud, then one should look at the individual questions that come before him. I.e. the big picture is not just too big, but distracting. People that learn Halacha (Law) or Kabalah forget how to be simple decent human beings.

 Moral obligations (that is, the facts that we ought to act in certain ways) should be  self-evident. But we need the holy Torah because though the principles of Torah should be self evident, most people allow considerations (of what social group they want to fit in with) to cloud their judgment about what is moral.





23.3.12

The problem with the American democracy is in its very essence. It is based on the empirical British school of thought begun by John Locke. And empiricism is wrong.

The problem with the American democracy is in its very essence. It is based on the empirical British school of thought begun by John Locke. And empiricism is wrong. Here, I will give a counter-examples to empiricism.

Nothing can be both entirely red and entirely green.

A naive empiricist might appeal to my experiences with colored objects: I have seen many colored objects, and none of them have ever been both red and green. One thing that makes this implausible as an explanation of how I know that nothing can be both red and green is the necessity of the judgment. Contrast the following two statements:

Nothing is both green and red.
Nothing is both green and a million miles long.
These are justified in completely different ways.

And there is a connection between the idea that all knowledge from from the senses and John Locke idea of a democracy. People are not blank slates. Not when they start and at no time. They have genes. And genes are not blank slates. And stuff is written on them. Sometimes really bad stuff.  Sometimes really great stuff. (All men are created equal comes from the idea of the tabula raca, empty slate. But the slate is not empty.)

My learning partner noticed this also. He thinks the direction the USA is going in is is almost the default position.You might say it gives license for people to follow their desires with no restraint. So why not take it all the way? What stopped this for so long was obviously the fact that people were believing in Torah. [Christians and Jews]. But take away that numinous core you have nothing to hold society together.



Charles Darwin and John Locke continue to exercise extraordinary influence from the grave. The former birthed a revolution in biology which has persisted to the present day, the latter fomented a revolution in political philosophy which reasserts itself in every contemporary iteration of “individual rights.” Darwin’s theory is widely taken to be the unifying theory in modern biology; apparently nothing in biology makes sense except in light of his view.

And Locke’s classical liberalism, developed in diverse ways, has had a profound influence on the Founding Fathers of the United States. Collectively, Darwin and Locke tell human beings where they have come from, what they are, and how they ought to live with each other. The combined legacies of these men could hardly be more powerful.

Yet  Darwinism and classical liberalism hold incompatible visions of morality, human nature, and individual autonomy.That means that basic biological science has as view of human nature that is in direct contradiction to the view of human nature as understand by John Locke.

Thus the American democracy can only work together with Torah. It can't hold together without Torah.

















22.3.12

Dear Professor Michael Huemer,

Dear Professor Michael Huemer,
I have been reading you writings for a few years and i want to thank you for making public your ideas. I find your writing to be very impressive. My question for you is what do you think about the Kant-Fries school of Professor Kelley Ross. I know you have a some major critique on Kant's "thing in itself," but it seems to me that your thought on this issue runs parallel to the Kant-Fries school.

Your critique of Kant is something that the scholars from that school also deal with.

In fact, the one major difference that you seem to have with that school is that they believe in immediate nonintuitive knowledge, while you don't believe in any such knowledge. It seems to me that you believe that reason itself has the ability to perceive universals--but no universals are inherently known.

I also wonder what he thinks of Princeton school of philosophy. They seem to be doing some good work--but i did not include it in my letter.


The answer: "Thanks for your message. I have not studied the Kant-Fries school and thus have nothing useful to say about it.

I am not sure what you mean by "inherently known". Perhaps you are referring to innate ideas. In that case, I don't know whether there are innate ideas. That seems to be more a matter for cognitive psychologists than for philosophers to investigate.

I am also unsure what you have in mind by "immediate non-intuitive knowledge".

Sorry not to be of more help.

--
Prof. Michael Huemer"



Afterword: The school of thought of Michale Huemer begins with Prichard and is called the "intuitionists." The closest thing to it in German idealism is Fichte.




21.3.12

I want to claim that forming beliefs based on non rational methods is in itself against the Torah.

I want to discuss the thesis that reason can know moral values, and moral values are objective. On the other hand by non rational considerations people can form non moral beliefs and think that their beliefs are moral. (A good example of this is Islam. In Islam people believe that it is a mitzvah to murder Jews or Christians as we see in this news: "Gunmen linked to Al Qaeda shot dead an American teacher in Yemen on Sunday, accusing him of Christian proselytizing." This shows that people can believe in things that are against reason.) This gives a great beginning to understand how God could create a covenant relationship with Israel.
This would not work very well to the Rambam (Maimonides) but I think this fits with Saadia Geon pretty well. And you can actually see this in the Gemara itself where mitzvot are assumed to have rational reasons that support them.

The problem is that the beliefs that people hold are determined by their self-interest, the synagogue they want to fit into, the self-image they want to maintain, and the desire to remain coherent with their past beliefs. People can deploy mechanisms to enable them to adopt and maintain their preferred beliefs, including giving a biased weighting of evidence; focusing their attention and energy on the arguments supporting their favored beliefs; collecting evidence only from sources they already agree with; and relying on subjective, speculative, and anecdotal claims as evidence for religious theories.

I want to claim that forming beliefs based on non rational methods is in itself against the Torah. This is at least implicit in the Rambam and the Сhovot Levavot (Duties of the Heart).
The Rambam considers the halacha process of the Talmud to be using reason to analyze and legal material that was received by tradition. The idea of the Geonim that the Talmud itself is received tradition he said was a very bad view--מְתֹעָב "disgusting" he called it.



Suppose I offer the opinion, "Colors are objective." What then is it that I am saying about colors? What I am saying is that colors are 'in the object.' In what object? In colored objects. What does "in" mean here? It means that a color - redness, say - is a property of the objects that are said to be red. That is, that the nature of those objects themselves and not anything else determines whether they are red or not. Hence, to say that morality is objective is to say that whether an action is right depends on the nature of that action; whether a person is good depends on the nature of that person; etc.

If one knows moral relativism to be true, then one cannot rationally believe any moral judgement. One cannot do so because in order to rationally believe something, the proposition must first be justified, and as a moral relativist you know that no moral proposition is true before you believe it, so you would not have any justification for accepting it.


So if moral values are objective, it is hard for me to imagine that the Torah would say to do otherwise. Rather we say we should keep Torah because it is good--it can't be measured against a standard of objective good. If it would be good by definition then saying "It is good" would be question begging. And this is how it is possible to analyze the Torah by reason as the Talmud does. Torah reveals what is good objectively, and the Talmud analyzes it. This leads to the type of understanding the Rambam had of Torah --a strong correlation between Torah and reason.
The sad thing about the lack of gentile understanding of the Talmud, is that it creates a situation in which they can't understand  the Bible either because they don't know how to learn it with rigorous logic.

 It seems to me that natural law [as some understand it] is not the same thing as the morality that we can perceive by reason. Natural law seems to imply that one who nature is to murder ought to murder since it is part of his nature. But the morality that can be perceived by reason says no.

Now you might complain to me that religious people are often not moral. That is because morality and spirituality are two separate areas of value. Each is perceivable of reason but they are two separate areas.