Hashem and Morality

You may also like...

7 Responses

  1. CA says:

    “Both Rabbenu Bahya and R. Sa‘adyah Gaon argued that obedience to God stems from gratitude for all that He does for us. This contention clearly assumes that gratitude is a moral value preceding the Divine command as it serves as the rationale for adherence to that command. Thus, according to both those authorities, morality must exist independent of devar Hashem.”

    I find this extremely problematic. Does this mean that the Rasag and Rabbeinu Bahye believed in a) something existing outside of Hashem, b) something besides Hashem’s Will binding on us (and possibly Him)? Or did they just make a circular argument (we should follow G-d’s Will because of the moral principle of gratitude, and we should follow moral principles, because they are G-d’s Will)? I.e., did they state what seems to me like appikorsis or did they make a logical mistake?

    Maybe they were assuming as an axiom that people have certain inborn fundamental desires that define them and that they pursue for no reason. E.g., a desire to continue existing. A desire to seek pleasure and avoid suffering. And a desire to do what’s morally good. And, just like one can know from his hunger and thirst that he needs to eat and drink to survive, one can know from his moral intuition what good is. And since people know from their moral intuitions that being grateful is good, they can also know that being grateful to Hashem is good, and, therefore, that following mitzvos is good.

    One can also believe, at the same time, that our nature was created by Hashem, including our desires to survive, to seek pleasure and avoid suffering, and to do what’s morally good. The fact that we know where our fundamental desires come from doesn’t deny the fact that we have no choice but obey them, since they define us.

    That’s one way I see out of this. Unless you say that they didn’t believe that saying that something is binding on Hashem is appikorsis. (Maybe one could argue that morality is like logic. I.e., Hashem created His Universe with a certain fundamental reality. Included in that are logical constraints. Hashem cannot make 2+2 equal 5 and for “that” to remain an aspect of our Universe. Hashem also cannot make something immoral moral or vice versa.)

    • micha says:

      I wrote, as you quoted me, “gratitude is a moral value preceding the Divine command”. You then ask: “Does this mean that the Rasag and Rabbeinu Bahye believed in a) something existing outside of Hashem, b) something besides Hashem’s Will binding on us (and possibly Him)?” But I didn’t say that it precedes Hashem or His Will, but rather that it precedes His command. Not that “morality” is simply doing what He commanded, but it is also doing the Divine Will that led to those commands. IOW, that there is a morality and a behavior Hashem expects of us other than “Do My mitzvos”, from which the mitzvos logically follow.

      You then conclude, “One can also believe, at the same time, that our nature was created by Hashem, including our desires to survive, to seek pleasure and avoid suffering, and to do what’s morally good. The fact that we know where our fundamental desires come from doesn’t deny the fact that we have no choice but obey them, since they define us.” This is very similar to the thesis of this blog entry. My wording was, “I would argue that HQBH created the world with a tachlis, a purpose, He placed each of us in it with a tachlis, and what is righteous is righteous because it is in accordance with furthering that tachlis.” You speak of morality being how we were made, part of who we are, and I’m arguing morality is following the goal for which we were made.

      R’ Saadia Gaon and Rabbeinu Bachya are calling our duty to feel gratitude something other than a mitzvah, because to them it’s the motivation for keeping the mitzvos. The niche I’m giving it is that gratitude is part of the goal for which Hashem made man in a way that is logically prior to any of the 613. And thus doing His Will — but not “simply” because it’s a specific one of the 613.

      And then I ask why Hashem having a plan in creating us should obligate me to fulfill that plan. “In order for my moral choice to have any meaning, I must assume my actions have value. Otherwise, what difference does it make which actions I choose to perform? If I believe my actions have value, I am assuming my existence has value, since it makes those actions possible. And thus, presumed in the very quest for morality is the notion that the purpose for which I was created imparts value.”

  1. י״א בטבת תשס״ז – Sun, Dec 31, 2006

    […] This last list doesn’t correspond to either of the others. But the most notable difference in content is that it doesn’t include any eschatology — it doesn’t require belief in judgment in an afterlife, nor of mashiach and the resurrection of the dead. This is a very different trend than the one I wrote of in an earlier essay: I would argue that HQBH created the world with a tachlis, a purpose, He placed each of us in it with a tachlis, and what is righteous is righteous because it is in accordance with furthering that tachlis. … This means that of the Rambam’s ikkarei emunah, perhaps the last three are the most critical. Without an eschatology, without a final state, we have no way of defining which acts advance us to that goal, and which are ra, shattering that which was already built. Posted in Fundamentals by micha RSS 2.0 […]

  2. כ״ח באייר תשס״ז – Tue, May 15, 2007

    […] We therefore have two notions of morality: In this entry I am suggesting it means doing what we were made for. However, in that earlier entry (which was also expanded moments before this one) I wrote that being moral is all an elaboration of “what is hateful to you, do not do to your peer” and that even halakhah is only necessary because of the complexity that arises from applying a simple rule to a complex universe. […]

  3. כ׳ באייר תשס״ט – Wed, May 13, 2009

    […] Hashem and Morality […]

  4. כ״ו באב תשס״ט – Sat, Aug 15, 2009

    […] Hashem and Morality […]

  5. כ״ח בכסלו תש״ע – Mon, Dec 14, 2009

    […] Hashem and Morality […]

And your thoughts...?

%d bloggers like this: