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13.9.12

One of the ways that I disagree with  the  Ultra Orthodox is in the issues of: (1) Anachronism, (2) Objective moral values, (3) Divine Command theory.
(1) Anachronism. While I agree there is great value in the Talmud, but I do not see it as the system of law that was in place during the time of the prophets of Israel.
(2) Right and wrong are not  dependent on what people think.  Nor do they depend of social conditions or upbringing. They are not relative. The reason this is so is that relative morality is logically incoherent. It can not claim its own truth without contradicting itself.

(3) G-d commands us things to do in the Torah because these things correspond to a natural order that he created. They are not good because he commanded them, and they are not arbitrary.



Abuses of rabbinic power are swept under the surface. It is hard for a person who wants a clean conscious to be part of a word that has a guilty conscious and is more afraid of the light of truth than the darkness of lies.

The reason it seems to me that people are afraid of the truth is because in fact as Nietzsche said "the truth is terrible." We live in a harsh world and we ourselves from the aspect of our animal nature are terrible beings. And we use the appearance of  morality to cover up our savage, cunning, violent, lustful, sadistic nature. But what makes this all the more terrible is the meaningless aspect of it. We are in a desperate search for meaning. So    the  Ultra Orthodox world will do anything to guard the sanctuary of what they think gives them meaning. This is where I disagree with them. In this issue I am a monotheist--God gives me meaning. I do not need to find it anywhere else.

12.9.12

Values, if they are objective, can't be Jewish. There can't be Jewish chemistry or Jewish mathematics.

Values, if they are objective, can't be Jewish. There can't be Jewish chemistry or Jewish mathematics. Even if Jews do these things, that does not make them Jewish. And even if only Jews did them, they still would not be Jewish. Only subjective values can be Jewish. The reason we learn Torah is that because of the evil inclination it is hard for an person to discover on his own true objective values. So we need to learn Torah to discover these values. [The move to disregard Divine ideas (Plotinus) to preserve Divine simplicity in Aquinas caused reason to no longer be the criteria of morality, but rather the Divine Will. This was a mistake.  At least, to my relief, Maimonides preserved a lot of neo Platonic thought.

[But I can't prove that he did so with logical rigor. I hope someday some one will do the same job on the Guide that Chaim Soloveitchik did on the Mishna Torah. Before Reb Chaim people believed the Rambam was rigorous even thought it seems to be full of contradictions. Reb Chaim proved it is rigorous.]

However if someone would say, "Then, fine. Jewish values are subjective.-So what?

Then it will follow that if we all took an attitude of approval towards Adolf Hitler, then Adolf Hitler would be good. Beside this, there are other objections to subjective values. [See Kelly Ross, Michael Huemer, John Searle.]
I think it is important to note that to the Rambam [Maimonides], the values of the Torah are objective and not observer dependent.

[Kelly Ross does defend Divine Command theory but I have not gotten a chance yet to see how he does it.]

So in short my attitude about moral values is this: Moral values are objective. They are embedded in reality. They are not observer dependent. And they are known by reason. Torah is to help us to know moral values that we would automatically know if not that the evil inclination affects our reasoning.

[Some people think belief in some system or other is the most important thing. This is found by religious people of most denominations. That is they put faith in their system above what reason perceives as moral value. That is not my approach. And I think it is not the Torah approach either according to Saadia Gaon or Maimonides. But this faith based approach did become the universal approach of religious people across all spectra.

11.9.12

There are too many subjects to write about today. so just a quick list as a reminder. [1] The very important argument between Nietzsche and  the Ari  concerning the Will. With Nietzsche it causes nothing and is just a effect of deeper things happening under the surface. The known will is just indicative of which one of the lower level wills beats the others. (Leiter, the foremost Nietzsche scholar, thinks there are several possible approaches to Nietzsche's opinion about the will. But at least we know he is disagreeing with Schopenhauer). To sum it up: To Nietzsche neither the will nor consciousness causes anything.
To  the Ari the Will is everything. It breaks through all barriers. It is clearly a causative agent. And I agree with this. I think modern psychology has way too much accepted the doctrines and Nietzsche and not realized that the will has the ability to overcome all personal flaws and mental problems. [Though they dress their guesses in scientific language to impress people. Feynman openly called all social sciences pseudo sciences.]
My own opinion here is that I don't know if there really is an argument.I would first have to see which will Nietzsche is attacking. It seems to me unlikely that he is knocking the actual will of Schopenhauer (the higher Will). Sure he knocks Schopenhauer but in terms of what Schopenhauer though people know they are willing something. Not in terms of the will as the dinge als sich alein. Maybe I am wrong but it seems more likely that he is attacking the individual will, i.e. what people call their will. The more basic thing I think is going on is Nietzsche is trying to attack free will which  Ari clearly holds from.
 If you believe in free will, obviously the will is going to play a large role and not just the higher will but the individual will.


[2] The other issue I wanted to deal with is Constant the French aristocrat that saw the genius of Rousseau but also his flaws. The difference between the freedom of ancient Athens and the freedom of the moderns.


 But the pure secular is a empty of content. [I mean meaning of life type of content]  so clearly people have a good motivation in getting involved with Torah in a Lithuanian Yeshiva.
I am reminded of a televised debate [or discussion] in the 1980's between the USSR and the USA.

Someone asked a woman on the panel about their attitude towards sex in the USSR. She said, and I quote, "We don't have any sex in the USSR."
Notes
() My own perspective on this is towards the Schopenhauer and  Ari axis.
() These two subjects are related because if you think like Nietzsche that the will is nothing then free will will also mean little to you. and if free will means little then why bother letting people do what they want.? This is the reason freedom has suffered in the modern age. If people are determined then why let them be free. This is the reason why totalitarianism  of the Democrats today in America has so little appeal to me since I see freedom as a prime value.



9.9.12

Learning Torah according to the Gra

According to the Gra and his disciple Chaim from Voloshin Learning Talmud is the goal in life.  There is no  basis in reason for this which makes it work. It is based on faith. [They have plenty of support for this thesis from the Talmud itself. But they make it more clear that what you would think from reading the Talmud. And I tend to agree with this in principle, but I have a few preconditions. Learning Torah has to be not a means of making  a living. And it should be done with Musar (books of ethics).]

The problem with this path is an test that I have. It is:  If a certain service in fact unites one with God, then it has to be visible by the person's actions. This puts a big hole in the learning Torah for money path- since there are some people for whom this does not work.

The problem is I actually felt the holiness that is at the center of the learning Talmud path. So I do not want to discount it. Rather, I think when the Torah is used as a mode to be making money, it turns into its opposite. It becomes a source of negative value.


My own idea here is that the one highest service to God is what is called in Torah, "Attachment with God" (or as this is often referred to as the Highest Awe of God. In my way of thinking all services of God are to bring to attachment with God. [Attachment with God is a commandment in the Law of Moses and is mentioned twice in Deuteronomy as a command in and of itself. It is also counted in the list of the commandments of the Rambam. ]


Yet, I also have another idea which seems to contradict this. It is that a person's portion in the next world depends on his actions towards his fellow man. And that attachment with God is simply the way that one's personal actions will in fact be good and not just appear good.

So what we have is in the Torah itself there seems to be a hierarchy of value. We have the things that the Torah clearly considers to the the fundamental essence of Torah-- the Ten Commandments. However you read it these two tablets of stone are clearly the climax of the Torah and what it puts all its energy into.

The rest of the commandments are clearly secondary. But we do find that the Torah and later prophets stress keeping all the commandments which includes everything that God says in the Torah. Most have to do with building the temple and also bringing the Jewish people into the land of Israel and  laws of property and how God wants society to function when the Jews arrive in Israel

To understand the Gra and the idea that everyone word of Torah is worth more than all the mitzvot we need two things. One is to recognize that all  a person's deeds depend on what he thinks. The next step is Hegel. We can understand empirical reality to flow from the Mind. [In that way Hegel is  close to the Neo-Platonists]

[I should mention however that in Silverman yeshivas which go by the path of the Gra, they concentrate on the Tenach (Old Testament)  and Mishna.  Only after the ages of 18 or so do they start on the Gemara. And I might mention that I really loved learning Mishna with the commentary of the Rav from Bartenura. (That is the regular edition of Mishna).]



The general result of the Silverman Method is that people that graduate from the system know the Tenach [Old Testement] and the Mishna very well. Almost by heart. 

6.9.12

weaknesses in libertarianism

People that live under the American democracy have forgotten how precious freedom is. This is how the Democrats have been successful in undermining the American Democracy. [Clinton capped the second night of the Democratic National Convention with a rousing speech designed to remind voters of the budget surpluses and job growth he led in the 1990s during his two terms in the White House. This is a logical fallacy called a red herring. It has nothing to do with the fact that the present day president has led America into an unprecedented era of stagnation and 222 trillion dollars of debt.]


However there are weaknesses in Libertarianism {I.e. Thomas Jefferson and John Locke type of Democracy}. Ayn Rand is a gold mine of holes.
Holes in Libertarian philosophy:  the most simple of all problems is the fact that man is not a blank slate and that the social group is infinitely more important to people than self preservation or morality based on logic. People become religious fanatics every day because they don't care about rules of logic and material evidence but rather on the need to join a social group.
I.e. John Locke's idea of the blank slate is not true, and it is essential to his idea of a just government.


Also, I am bothered every single day when I see the good and bad that were part of the USSR. A determined enemy of freedom could easily find enough evidence to knock serious holes in Libertarianism.

Some of the good things the USSR were housing, central heating of whole cities from a central plant, the attempt to create a society based on justice, and not arbitrary rule of religious fanatics, their space program. Also, they seem to have been able to avoid some of the evils that are plaguing America right now-extreme addiction to law suits, an incapability to withstand the forces that are opposed to freedom and democracy from within like Muslims and the Democratic Party.



You can see a more robust libertarian approach based on nature law. At least this way we would avoid the obvious  conflict between John Locke and Darwin. That is we don't have to chuck out John Locke but we would have to modify him. And the nature law approach would help a lot of things in the USA. It would mean that people can protect themselves when government refuses to do so.
It means people have a natural right to their own property. It would eliminate the politics of the left which is based on making people angry at rich people.












5.9.12

Kabalah of the Ari and Moshe Kordavaro. This is Neo-Platonic.

  The system that is accepted by the Kabalah of the Ari and Moshe Kordavaro. This is Neo-Platonic. Personally while I have a great respect for this, still I do not see that universals can exist outside of particulars. Also even if I would agree with this the fact remains that the thinkers who tried to use this approach ended up with a basic contradiction. Universals in the mind of God introduce a pluralism in God that is unacceptable in Jewish thought.

For just a fast run down of some of the ways to understand Torah, Talmud,   Rambam are these: (1) What did the author meant. But obviously with  the Rambam this is very hard to know. So we ask a different question: How did people understand him?
 We can guess at what probably a  reader would have taken the text to mean. To me the great sin in understanding Torah is anachronism.  So while I realize that the Torah has many levels of understanding, but I also think that when the Ari [Isaac Luria] dressed his insights in verses of Torah, he was doing just that. He was not saying that that is the meaning of the Torah. He is rather dressing his own insights in the verses. I also hold by a idea of the Rambam that there is a level of religious truth that is not accessible by reason. So if people have personal inspiration by verses of the Torah, I do not discount that.

Appendix:

The subject I wanted to deal with is Plotinus (the founder of Neo Platoism) [You can imagine I have a great respect for him because of my Kabalistc background.] as he relates to ethics. The sides of this issue I wanted to deal with are, (1) The bankruptcy of modern ethics.   (2)  The need to found ethics on Faith.  (3)Kabalh's Neo-Platonic point of view.   (4) The Rambam's-Aristotelian point of view  (5) Kant and Hegel.
Also, I wanted to mention the Neo-Platonic Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages that got stuck in the problem of the ideas being in God. While this would work for the Neo-Platonic school, it can't work for any Christian or Jewish school of thought. So if I have time I would like to argue for a Kant approach to ethics which I consider a modified Neo-Platonic approach.

 First I want to mention some reason why people should reconsider the Neo-Platonic approach. The most basic reason is that the approach to theology based on Aristotle of the Ramam and Aquinas is too fraught with problems. I could go through a whole list here. On the other hand the nice thing about it is that with Aristotle universals depend on particulars. This is nice and in fact can work very well in the system of R. Shalom Sharabi [a Yemenite Jew]. That means that in the context of a Neo- Platonic system, it might be possible to work in this important insight of Aristotle.



) Secular Ethics: The problem with secular ethics is that it not an end in itself, but rather a means to further social-political aims. The outwardly professed sensitivity for ethics and ethical treatment of popular causes of the Left and the Democratic Party in the USA in effect affords people with a pseudo-religious engagement with reality, in what is otherwise an anti-religious, morally sterile, secular age. For people reading this blog outside of the United States I have a revelation for you. In the Democratic Party in the USA , Reason and Logic are not  held to be the final court of appeals in settling rational matters.  Debating has become a pointless and fruitless activity given that the foundation of morality has been vanquished.

In essence, debating today has become a rhetorical tool used for relativists to control problems of the day through obfuscation. Ethics, according to our leading academics, has everything to do with our social environment. This is obviously false.We have indeed tried out as many types of societies in human history as we have been quick to conceive them. In every one of them there always surfaces that undeniable, pesky entity called man.--who refuses to be formed and molded by his social environment.












4.9.12

The Godel proof of God I should say up front is something that I believe in. I know that as Dr. Kelly Ross wrote: "the modern principle in this respect is the formula, "Existence is not a predicate." Now, I tend to agree with this, but I do not think that the issue is anywhere near settled or certain. The modern case is compromised with the decision in logic to treat existence as part of the system of logical quantification. I think this is nonsense. In traditional logic and ordinary language, existence clearly is a predicate. A more sophisticated and accurate approach would be to develop the difference between verbal and nominal predicates. Existence would not seem to be a nominal predicate -- though there are indeed languages without a present tense verb "to be" that must use a nominal construction. "

 In Mathematical Logic there are two  principles which answer the objection of Kant.
(Completeness Theorem)(Compactness Theorem).
I am not at present involved in this subject but I thought to write it down just for a reminder to look at this later.
The place I learned about these two theorems was from Stefan Bilaniuk's book Chapter 4. [http://euclid.trentu.ca/math/sb/pcml/pcml-16.pdf]