Emunah Peshutah vs Machashavah

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64 Responses

  1. Yoni Sacks says:

    That sentence sounds to me like a blurring of map and terrain. Knowing wisdom doesn’t usually mean knowing its Source. It might be instrumental, or could be made instrumental to it. But they are still two distinct things.

    It means knowing its source, if all Wisdom is one.

  2. micha says:

    The whole planet is one, but you could have only visited the US, Israel and England. Since you can never visit every point on the planet, you’re quite likely to know distinct pieces. Knowing the din of when Shabbos begins doesn’t mean knowing He is the Kol Yakhol. Many people know one and not the other. Especially w/in the Rambam’s worldview, where it isn’t really knowing until you can philosophically prove it.

    Saying it’s all one despite the fact that the person who knows one lemaaseh doesn’t know the other is mysticism, not the Rambam.

    Second, it is true that you can’t reach the destination without the journey. But is your job the destination or the journey. The Rambam says it’s the destination. The knowledge, not the process of acquiring it. In most contemporary hashkafos, someone of lesser intellect who at the end knows less, but put in more ameilus is in a higher “place” than a genius who knows more from one quick skim. According to the Rambam, no. In fact, that guy who needed all that ameilus has a smaller soul. (As he describes the people who can’t ever get beyond the iqarim.) The hamon am are lesser to the intelligentsia because of this lesser potential — in the same lifetime they won’t reach the same yedi’ah.

    It’s not lilmod that’s important, it’s lada’as.

    Just as it’s not middos that’s important, and da’as a way to get those middos, or an experiential deveiqus (knowing G-d) that’s important and daas (knowing about G-d) is a means to achieve that deveiqus. It’s the daas itself. It’s Aristotilian — to know is to connect to the active intellect which is connected to the intellect just above it in the chain and so on up to the Creator.

    Because da’as is so central, he casts the role of learning into that of daas. The ameilus which connects one to the stream of halachic process is not as important as knowing facts.

  3. Yoni Sacks says:

    You fundamentally mischaracterize the relationship of Rambam to Aristotle. To understand the category of the relationship, compare with the Rav and existentialism. The Rav was not in essence, a existentialist. He was, first and foremost, a Gadol BTorah. This reality is self evident to any who study him. Existentialism was a language, a basis of organization and communication, not a fundamental of the Rav’s Torah experience.

    How much more so the Rambam. Aristotle was the Chacham who best presented human research in his day, not the basis of Rambam’s Torah mentality. Rambam was first and foremost a Torah thinker. If he saw saw fit to express his deepest thoughts about Torah in Aristotelian category, it was because it served well to do so, as a tool and instrument of Torah.

    Given that reality, you are looking at Rambam’s use of Aristotle, in precisely the wrong way.

  4. micha says:

    Both the Gra and R’ SR Hirsch argued that the Rambam did go beyond the limits in his fealty to Aristotle. R’ Hirsch’s critique in 19 Letters is particularly interesting, given that he preached Torah im Derekh Eretz and then faults the Rambam for the wrong kind of fusion between the two.

    AISI after having looked at both the Moreh and Metaphysics, the Rambam really only breaks with Aristo on one issue — and all its consequences. Aristo believed that the laws of nature were necessary truths, and the Rambam held they were contingent truths. This is how the Rambam could break with Aristo’s argument that the world was eternal, as it allowed room for a creation that defies what we today call the Law of Conservation of Matter, and this break also allowed him to believe in miracles. But his angelology — straight out of Physics and Metaphysics. The role of Yedi’ah, again Metaphysics.

    But more fundamentally, the Rambam spoke in Aristo’s terms, using Aristo’s list of topics and his axioms. The Rambam builds proofs based on hylomorphism (form and substance), the 4 types of causality, the notions of essence, attribute, accident, etc… His categories of thought were Aristo’s — when he disagreed, it was on Aristo’s terms.

    The Rav was an existentialist for similar reasons. In fact, Existentialism is entirely a matter of topic and framework — the noted Existentialists barely agree with each other in substance on anything.

    Someone who disagrees with R’ Chaim on many things, but does so building his arguments using the Brisker Derekh is still a Brisker.

  5. Yoni Sacks says:

    You give a nice list of some of the best thinking of Rambam’s day (4 types of causality, the notions of essence, attribute, accident). That is what it was, the best thinking of his day.

    Someone who agreed with R Chaim on all things but one little issue, he held that nature was a necessary truth. Would such a one be a Brisker?

  6. micha says:

    A school of philosophy is defined by its mode of thought, not its conclusions. The Rambam discussed Aristotilian concerns using Aristrotilian style arguments.

    More than that, he held of the “best thinking” of his day to an extent that he questioned or recast as metaphor many of the beliefs held by Chazal. To many other rishonim and acharonim, he went too far. After I hit the sources, I wouldn’t say I agree, but I definitely see where they are coming from.

    Now, what does this have to do with any of our original topics?

  7. Yoni Sacks says:

    Before I answer your last question, you should answer mine. The question about the “Brisker” who denies the Yesod Hatesodot is the basis of how I will explain the connection to our original topic.

    Take Dr Wolfson as a concrete example. This Harvard Professor was an avid follower of R Chaim in the sense of studying Halacha as a “legal system”. Yet, he was a self professed denier of yesodos, he was certainly kofer in the Torah, it is likely he also denied the Yesod haYesodos, I can only assume he was not Shomer Shabbat B’shitta.

    Would such a one be a Brisker? How can one who denies the very definition of Talmud Torah as a service of Hashem, be classified as a lomed torah with the differentiating feature of being a Brisker subcategory of Torah student?

  8. micha says:

    I thought I answered your question when I wrote, “school of philosophy is defined by its mode of thought, not its conclusions. The Rambam discussed Aristotilian concerns using Aristrotilian style arguments.” As well as in my original answer to why I called the Rambam an Aristotilian, “But more fundamentally, the Rambam spoke in Aristo’s terms, using Aristo’s list of topics and his axioms.… His categories of thought were Aristo’s — when he disagreed, it was on Aristo’s terms.”

    Brisk is a religious trend rather than a philosophical school. It therefore not only is associated with a school of thought, but also takes for granted you bought into the religion. That’s why applying the adjective “Brisker” to a kofeir feels so wrong.

    The Rambam turned his back on a lot of mesoretic ideas due to that best thinking of his day. (At least, best thinking if you didn’t side with the Platonists…) Not saying he was wrong to — I’m not arguing that (eg) astrology works. But he didn’t just recast what he received into new packaging. The Rambam also whittled off the corners that didn’t fit.

  9. Yoni Sacks says:

    I can only assume that you are saying that the Kofeir is in fact a full fledged Brisker. My issue with this is not that it feels wrong. It is that saying that the Kofeir is one who fulfills mitzvat Talmud Torah in a certain Brisker manner, it is in direct contradiction to Rambam’s definition of Talmud Torah. The Brisker qua one who takes “buying into religion” for granted is in direct contradiction to himself qua one who “seeks to logically unify his principles in learning Rambam”.

    Rambam does not allow for vague notions about “taking for granted” that one has “bought into religion”. It is here that the self contradiction of the Brisker notion you portray, reveals itself.

    There is a minimal definition of student, and only one who meets this criteria may be taught Talmud Torah,whether of a Brisker variety or any other.

    א אין מלמדין דברי תורה אלא לתלמיד הגון נאה במעשיו, או לתם. אבל אם היה הולך בדרך לא טובה, מחזירין אותו למוטב, ומנהיגין אותו בדרך ישרה, ובודקין אותו; ואחר כך מכניסין אותו לבית המדרש, ומלמדין אותו. אמרו חכמים, כל השונה לתלמיד שאינו הגון, כאילו זרק אבן למרקוליס, שנאמר “כצרור אבן, במרגמה–כן נותן לכסיל, כבוד” (משלי כו,ח): ואין “כבוד” אלא תורה, שנאמר “כבוד, חכמים ינחלו” (משלי ג,לה).

    This priority in creating a Talmid with proper first notions is clear in Rambam’s instruction in his intro to the Mitzvot. Lest there be any confusion that “derech tova” is only about some behavioral “doing” of halacha , Rambam clearly shows that there are certain first principles which must be absorbed as well. This is made clear in Perek Chelek but also in Mishne Torah.

    ספר ראשון. אכלול בו כל המצוות שהן עיקר דת משה רבנו, וצריך אדם לידע אותן תחילת הכול–כגון ייחוד שמו ברוך הוא, ואיסור עבודה זרה. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר המדע.

  10. micha says:

    You distort my words when you recasted them. Perhaps because you are trying to fit my position into a false dichotomy.

    The definition of belonging to a school of philosophy is different than belonging to a derekh. A school of philosophy is not defined by a set of conclusions, but by how they are reached. A religion has core teachings.

    To the Rambam, na’eh bemaasav is a foundation for knowledge. Good behavior as a handmaiden for right thought. This prioritization of knowledge is something he found in Aristo, not Chazal. (To stay on my core message.)

  11. Yoni Sacks says:

    I can fully accept that the measure of “Yedia” of first notions can be very low to begin with. I can also accept that our “yeda” may remain very low for the vast majority of us our entire lives. But I cannot accept that one can be on the one hand honestly pursuing unity in understanding Rambam, yet, take “buying into religion” for granted as a vague completely undefined notion.

  12. micha says:

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. This last sentence doesn’t resemble anything I wrote. This conversation is drifting all over the place. And we aren’t any closer to reaching understanding than when we began.

    I wrote about the word “Brisker” meaning that someone actually believes certain things, and thus differs from the word “Aristotilian” or “Existentialist” in kind.

    I said nothing in that comment about whether we our beliefs should be founded on classical philosophical proof or some other justification system — and I never promoted faith without justification. (Although I believe it has value, I don’t think it’s an ideal.) I also didn’t use the phrase to describe the Rambam or following the Rambam.

  13. Yoni Sacks says:

    Lets think how to proceed.

  1. ד׳ בתשרי תשע״ה – Sun, Sep 28, 2014

    […] “Emunah Peshutah vs. Machashavah“: How do we maintain a personal, first-hand relationship with G-d while still having a well-developed theology (which will inevitably emphasis the distance between uns)? Also on the gap between intellect and emotion. […]

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