Translate

15.9.13

The Spectrum of Heresy [apikorsus]

In Torah thought there is a spectrum of heresy [apikorsus] from innocent or even silly to outright damaging. I admit that I am not able to drawn exact line between heresy and apikorsus that is outside the line of kashrut. And I think this is in fact not a 2 dimensional line but rather an multi dimensional array.

My basic idea is to concentrate of what the Torah and the Talmud Bavli say. But given the wide range of interpretations that are possible, I look for rigorous thinkers like Maimonides and Saadia Gaon  and the Chovot Levavot [Duties of the Heart by Bacheye ben Pekuda] to define what is in the category of Torah and what is not.

I should mention that heresy is in fact an important theme in the Talmud. While we do not find the thirteen principles of Maimonides spelled out in that exact order and formulation, we do find all of them stated openly and it is stated in the Talmud that one that does not believe in them does comes under a general classification of "apikorus" or "min." [Heretic.]

\

Many people have attempted for two centuries to bring pantheism into Torah. But according to Maimonides the Torah is not pantheistic. It is Monotheistic. There is a difference between God creating the world and a god being the world. This is entailed by the law of the excluded middle.

Others try to bring in moralrelativism. But moral relativism is surely false as can be demonstrated from two trivial axioms, namely, the law of excluded middle and the correspondence theory of truth. For if moral judgments represent claims, then we know from the law of excluded middle that they must be either true or false. That is just basic logic. And if they are true, then we know from the correspondence theory that that means they correspond to reality. And, finally, if they correspond to reality but they don't correspond to the nature of the object then they must correspond to the nature of the subject. But this last alternative is not true. we don't think if all  would think Nazism is good that that would make it good.
More so--the type of moral subjectivity is in violation of the naturalistic fallacy. You cant derive an "ought" from an "is." That fact that one or even many  say something is moral is an empirical fact. You cant derive an a priori "ought" from that fact.


21.8.13

Talmud Pesachim

Rabbi Akiva says [in pesachim 5a] that the verse "make the unleavened bread rest on the first day" has to refer to the fourteenth of Nisan because other wise it would conflict with the verse that says one can't burn anything on a festival except in the case one needs to cook .


Why cant we say like we do for doing sacrifices on Shabat that this verse says that even though you can't do normal burning on Yom Tov [the festival] but in case of burning leavened bread- chametz there is an exception.

Because then we would have to split up the verse "make to rest". If the verse would only say burn unleavened bread only for need, then everything would be fine. But that can't be what the verse means. The main intention is to burn the bread not for any need but rather to get rid of it.

20.8.13

Reb Chaim [Soloveitchik] and the the Avi-Ezri

There were four people in pre World War Two Europe that had the best understanding of the Torah.
They were Reb Chaim [Soloveitchik], Reb Naphtali Troup, Reb Baruch Ber, and Reb Shimon Shkop.
I would rather not go into the issue of why expertise in Talmud makes one an expert in Torah at this point.
That is a worthy question but it is not the question I want to address right now.
[Simply the major reason is that the Talmud is a rigorous examination of the Torah in the most logical powerful way possible. Talmud does not claim Divine inspiration. It does however try to determine what the Torah requires from people,  and how to go about keeping the commandments of the Torah. It is not a conspiracy to uproot the Torah, but rather an extreme  and rigorous evaluation of the verses of the Torah in order to best understand what God wants us to do in life. It does not claim authority for itself to interpret and verses. Its sole claim is that reason alone is qualified to understand the Torah, and who ever reasons better- wins.]

But it was specifically  Chaim Soloveitchik that concentrated on understanding  the Rambam and how his opinion flows from the Talmud. [The Chidushei HaRambam of Reb Chaim is thus the kind of Tosphot that the Rambam would have written to explain how he derived his result from the Gemara.] And after him his two students worked on continuing this effort, (Baruch Ber and Shimon Shkop). This was definitely a revolution in Torah thought. After that came Elazer Menachem Shach with the incredibility deep book, the Avi-Ezri. I learned  under Shmuel Berenbaum who in some way was a continuation of this school of thought, but applied the Brisk method to the Gemara itself. I have long wondered why no one seems to have put down his classes in writing? For I think he had some very important insights into the Gemara.
[Towards the end of his life they taped his classes. But they were deep, and also in Yiddish. I can see some of the problems involved in publishing his ideas.







Appendix:
To understand the Rambam on the surface level is what the commentaries were doing before Reb Chaim Soloveitchik. For example the Rambam might say a certain Halacha, Then the Magid Mishna or Keseph Mishna will point out that he is going like the principle Shmuel in dinim (civil law) and like Rav in isurim (prohibitions). The trouble is that in Shas, there are about ten major ways of deciding Halacha. There is: (1) the order of tenaim in Eruvim. (2) We have: "Student against his rav (teacher) , the halacha is like the rav." (3) We have: "stam Mishna." [The Law goes like an anonymous Mishna.] (4) We have "majority," etc.(5) "Rav and Shmuel the law like Rav in Isurim and like Shmuel in Dinim/monetary issues. Take any principle and apply it to any halacha you will get a completely different halacha. Plus לישנא בתרא which is how the Rambam and Rif always decide is itself subject to argument. Some Rishonim hold you always go by the first לשון. Some by which ever is more strict in Torah din and less strict in derabanan. I could go on, but you get the idea.

These are vast and hard problems and the beginning of the effort to deal with them comes from Reb Chaim Soloveitchik. This effort was mainly crystallized in his book and his two students Barch Ber and Shimon Shkop and later in the Aviezri by Rav Shach. The most readable of them is Rav Shach's book, and I think it is also the best of them all.
So the best idea is the get the basic set, Rav Shach's Avi Ezri Reb Chaim's Chidushei HaRambam, plus the basic set of the classical Musar books along with Reb Israel Salanter's disciples  and you are all set for launch.

[In a side note: I would suggest in terms of Halacha the Tur and Beit Joseph as the best halacha book out there.]
The Rambam is not infallible. No one says he is. In the Guide he says Aristotle is right about everything under the orbit of the Moon.  He did not for some reason see that what Aristotle wrote about circular motion made no sense.

Here is what Dr Steven Dutch writes about that:
The ancient Greeks weren't trying to be us. They didn't know our sort of world was possible. In many cases they were trying to answer the big questions: what is motion? What is cause and effect? It wasn't at all clear that meticulous observations of commonplace natural phenomena would lead anyplace. Add to that the pervasive disdain for manual labor that permeated the intellectual community pretty much up till the time of James Watt, and it's not hard to see why they didn't develop science as we know it. But the clearest exposition of the fatal conceptual errors the Greeks made is probably in Aristotle's On the Heavens. Quotes are from The Internet Classics Archive.
Book I

Part 1

A magnitude if divisible one way is a line, if two ways a surface, and if three a body. Beyond these there is no other magnitude, because the three dimensions are all that there are, and that which is divisible in three directions is divisible in all. ... We cannot pass beyond body to a further kind, as we passed from length to surface, and from surface to body. For if we could, it would cease to be true that body is complete magnitude.
We're not off to a very promising start. Aristotle can certainly be forgiven for assuming there are only three spatial dimensions. Even modern scientists and mathematicians have trouble thinking about higher spatial dimensions, even though we can do the mathematics perfectly well. Aristotle could have taken three dimensions as given, or he could have tried to work out the implications of more dimensions and then argued that we don't observe those phenomena.
Instead, he commits an elementary fallacy - a circular argument. There is nothing else beyond body (three dimensional solid) because if there were, then there would be something else beyond body.
Part 2

It's in Part 2 that we may find the clearest exposition of how ancient science went wrong.
"The question as to the nature of the whole, whether it is infinite in size or limited in its total mass, is a matter for subsequent inquiry."
Good move. An impossibly turgid discussion of this topic makes up much of the early part of his Physics.
"We will now speak of those parts of the whole which are specifically distinct. Let us take this as our starting-point. All natural bodies and magnitudes we hold to be, as such, capable of locomotion; for nature, we say, is their principle of movement."
I guess there's no harm in assuming everything is capable of motion, but there is also no deep conclusion to be drawn, either. By linking motion to a "principle," that is something inherently linked to matter, Aristotle has waded knee deep into a morass.
"But all movement that is in place, all locomotion, as we term it, is either straight or circular or a combination of these two, which are the only simple movements. And the reason of this is that these two, the straight and the circular line, are the only simple magnitudes."
Now he's waist deep. Yes, you can describe all motion as a compound of linear and circular motion. For that matter, vectors treat all motion as combinations of linear motion. And it makes sense to do this kind of analysis because lines and circles are easy to analyze. But that's solely a matter of mathematical convenience to us. It says nothing at all about the kinds of motion that exist.
In his Physics, Aristotle devotes much effort to distinguishing properties that are "essential" from those that are "accidental." Having weight is essential to a stone, being red is accidental. The stone could just as easily have been gray or black. Aristotle's fundamental mistake here is failing to realize that the geometric description of motion is accidental, not essential.  The shape of an object's path is wholly dictated by external forces. The motion itself has no other meaning. A stone in a sling moves in a circular path solely because the sling is the radius of a circle, and the motion itself has no other significance. In fact, all motion itself is accidental. A stone might be at rest on the ground, or in linear motion because you throw it, or in circular motion because you are slinging it.
We have now encountered the two chief fallacies that derailed Greek science, and the whole Western world, for that matter:
Motion is an inherent property of matter.
The geometry of motion has special properties.
"Now revolution about the centre is circular motion, while the upward and downward movements are in a straight line, 'upward' meaning motion away from the centre, and 'downward' motion towards it. All simple motion, then, must be motion either away from or towards or about the centre. This seems to be in exact accord with what we said above: as body found its completion in three dimensions, so its movement completes itself in three forms."
If "up" is away from the center, and "down" is toward the center, then Aristotle must have believed the earth is a sphere, right? Yet another demolition of the myth that people in ancient times thought the earth was flat.
And Aristotle comes this close to drawing the correct conclusion about motion in three dimensions. A rock has three dimensions because it has length in a vertical direction, from right to left, and from front to back. Motion has three dimensions because something can move in a vertical direction, from right to left, and from front to back. Instead, he falls back on numerological mumbo jumbo, classifying motion as circular, upward, or downward to get his mystical three. His failure to consider horizontal motions has enormous negative ramifications for science. Actually, he comes so agonizingly close. If circular motion is motion about the center, then motions parallel to the surface of the earth are actually circular, which means they must be the same as circular motions in the heavens. He could have avoided the false dichotomy between celestial and terrestrial that burdened science up to the time of Galileo, but he muffed it. Now he's chin deep in the swamp.
"Bodies are either simple or compounded of such; and by simple bodies I mean those which possess a principle of movement in their own nature, such as fire and earth with their kinds, and whatever is akin to them."
Now he's in over his head. We have come 777 words in the translation used here. It has taken Aristotle a mere 777 words to shunt science off onto a dead end that we won't extricate ourselves from for close to 2,000 years. He has assumed there is a fundamental link between matter and motion, he has assumed the geometry of motion has special properties, and now he's assuming that certain materials inherently possess motion as a property. All of it completely wrong.
"Supposing, then, that there is such a thing as simple movement, and that circular movement is an instance of it, and that both movement of a simple body is simple and simple movement is of a simple body (for if it is movement of a compound it will be in virtue of a prevailing simple element), then there must necessarily be some simple body which revolves naturally and in virtue of its own nature with a circular movement."
Rephrasing: Supposing, then, that there is such a thing as simple movement [there isn't], and that circular movement is an instance of it [it isn't], and that both movement of a simple body is simple and simple movement is of a simple body [these don't even rise to the level of being false - they're simply meaningless. What he appears to mean is that if a motion is simple - linear or circular - then the body with that motion must be simple.] (for if it is movement of a compound it will be in virtue of a prevailing simple element) [Except when the body isn't simple after all], then there must necessarily be some simple body which revolves naturally and in virtue of its own nature with a circular movement [non-sequitur].
We can see the groundwork being laid for the geocentric picture of the Universe, with the heavenly bodies having inherently circular motion. All based on a grand non sequitur. Just because a type of motion can be said to exist doesn't mean there must be a body which possesses it.
"By constraint, of course, it may be brought to move with the motion of something else different from itself, but it cannot so move naturally, since there is one sort of movement natural to each of the simple bodies."
Talk about a missed opportunity. If, say, a stone in a sling has circular motion only by constraint, maybe allcircular motion is by constraint? Maybe the planets move in circles only because they're constrained?
"Again, if the unnatural movement is the contrary of the natural and a thing can have no more than one contrary, it will follow that circular movement, being a simple motion, must be unnatural, if it is not natural, to the body moved."
Motion is unnatural unless it is natural. We can see why philosophy has been regarded as the pinnacle of human intellectual endeavor for thousands of years. And what says something can only have one contrary? Saying Milwaukee is the capital of Wisconsin is the contrary to saying Madison is the capital, but so is saying Green Bay, or Sheboygan, or Superior is the capital.
"If then (1) the body, whose movement is circular, is fire or some other element, its natural motion must be the contrary of the circular motion. But a single thing has a single contrary; and upward and downward motion are the contraries of one another. If, on the other hand, (2) the body moving with this circular motion which is unnatural to it is something different from the elements, there will be some other motion which is natural to it. But this cannot be. For if the natural motion is upward, it will be fire or air, and if downward, water or earth."
I bet Aristotle never went fishing. Everyone who's ever gone fishing has been confronted with a snarl where, the more you try, the worse it gets. The only cure is to cut the mess off and start over. Aristotle is hopelessly snarled here. He's way over his head in the morass and sunk deep into the mud on the bottom. Having already erroneously decided that he knows what kinds of motions exist, and what sorts of matter naturally possess what kinds of motion, he just keeps piling wrong conclusions one atop the other.
"Further, this circular motion is necessarily primary. For the perfect is naturally prior to the imperfect, and the circle is a perfect thing. This cannot be said of any straight line: not of an infinite line; for, if it were perfect, it would have a limit and an end: nor of any finite line; for in every case there is something beyond it, since any finite line can be extended."
Even in Aristotle's day, this was simply nonsense. A circle and an infinite straight line are the only two simple forms that are self-similar, that is, any part is like any other. We now know of self-similar fractal forms, but we can forgive the ancient Greeks for not knowing. However, an infinite straight line has the property that every portion, whatever its size, is exactly like every other portion. You can't say this about circles. Any 10-degree arc of a given circle is like any other, but it's not like a 10-degree arc of a different sized circle, nor is it like a 20-degree arc of any other circle. A millimeter of an infinite straight line is exactly like a segment a light year long. Aristotle says an infinite line can't be perfect because it has no end, and a finite line can't be perfect because it has an end.
Clearly, Aristotle has some sort of mystical attachment to circles. And another golden opportunity goes by. Because if he'd decided straight lines were the perfect form, he might possibly have groped his way to the concept of momentum and Newtonian physics.
Here we go. Road map to the Middle Ages.
"And so, since the prior movement belongs to the body which is naturally prior, and circular movement is prior to straight, and movement in a straight line belongs to simple bodies-fire moving straight upward and earthy bodies straight downward towards the centre-since this is so, it follows that circular movement also must be the movement of some simple body."

"For the movement of composite bodies is, as we said, determined by that simple body which preponderates in the composition. These premises clearly give the conclusion that there is in nature some bodily substance other than the formations we know, prior to them all and more divine than they."
Not a single premise in that paragraph is true and not a single statement follows from any other:
And so, since the prior movement belongs to the body which is naturally prior [Tautology, and meaningless]
and circular movement is prior to straight [false]
and movement in a straight line belongs to simple bodies [false]
fire moving straight upward and earthy bodies straight downward towards the centre [true observations, false implication, that there is only one center]
since this is so, it follows that circular movement also must be the movement of some simple body. [complete non-sequitur]
For the movement of composite bodies is, as we said, determined by that simple body which preponderates in the composition. [false in too many ways to list]
 These premises clearly give the conclusion that there is in nature some bodily substance other than the formations we know, prior to them all and more divine than they. [The Grand Non-sequitur]
At any rate the evidence of all other cases goes to show that it is the unnatural which quickest passes away. And so, if, as some say, the body so moved is fire, this movement is just as unnatural to it as downward movement; for any one can see that fire moves in a straight line away from the centre. On all these grounds, therefore, we may infer with confidence that there is something beyond the bodies that are about us on this earth, different and separate from them; and that the superior glory of its nature is proportionate to its distance from this world of ours.

So there we are, locked to the notion that circular motion is inherently superior and that bodies that possess it must be inherently superior as well.











15.8.13

Jewish Ethical works written during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Musar retreat.

I would like to suggest a school program for Musar [Ethics books written during the Middle Ages]. This would be a school that would learn some Talmud abut the main subject would be Musar.


The idea would be to read for one or two semesters all the thirty major works of Musar.
And I do not mean this as academic program but rather as a character improvement program.


But the major books of Musar say what they have to say with no regard to political correctness.

 Instead of LSD I recommend Gemara Rashi and Tosphot which is a much greater high. (It is not a drug high but a numinous high). Instead of random sex with fear and frustration, you get a wholesome happy marriage and good children.


The best way to go about this is in a Musar retreat. You go into the mountains with a few Musar books and spend the whole day talking with God as a friend while walking and hiking and then when you rest you learn Medieval Ethics.


It is not so much back to nature when you are in NY city . I had come from an environment in which I was always close to nature. two minutes outside my home I would be in a wildness. [Both in Newport beach was it was developing and also in Beverly Hills. --A ten minute walk away was the reservoir a tremendous lake and wildness preserve with no one around. --The only person anywhere near there was the warden or guard of the reservoir. NY was nothing like that




Concerning work on Shabat I am having a debate with my learning partner about what Tosphot means in Tractate Shabat page 94.

He is convinced that the base level of all work is it needs to be for the subject (the does) and the object (the thing he acts on) except for carrying.

My opinion is that it needs to be for the (1) object alone for all work except for (2) carrying and (3) works that are destructive in order to build. [מקלקל על מנת לתקן]
So the way I see it carrying needs to be for the subject. All other normal types of work need to be for the object. And destructive types need to be for the subject and object both.

I would not bother writing this down except for the fact that I have almost never discovered my learning partner to be wrong about anything.
So I am anxiously waiting for our next learning session.

14.8.13

The Talmud is synthetic a priori knowledge

The Talmud is synthetic a priori knowledge. It is not straightforward analytic a priori. It takes  a set of principles that are perceived by reason.--the Ten Commandments and the other set of mitzvas that are in order to support the  Ten and it derives principles based on that set.


In this way it is like mathematics.  Mathematical theorems are not derived from definitions as Kant saw, as opposed to Hume. The Talmud is the same in this respect.
But because it is a priori does not make it immune from criticism. Though in general we know that you can't derive an "ought" from an "is" and the whole Talmud is only about "ought;"--still it is not a logical fallacy to determine how well your logical deductions have been based on an "is."
It looks to me that Conservative Judaism is a much closer approximation to the Torah and Talmud than any other branch.


[I asked Kelley Ross about objective morality. I put his answer on my other blog. I was wondering about the proof of Michael Huemer. [together with this ] [and this]He still thought that Plato's proof was more simple and straightforward.] John Searle has a refutation of relativism here


Dr Kelley Ross's answer is worded in a way that might be not understood. What he means in his essay on moral relativism  is it is logically incoherent since it can not deny its opposite. That is is has no meaning but is just a play on words.