Wednesday, April 25, 2007

“Know [there is a] God”

boy is this garbled.

Many Kiruv groups and individuals give proof-texts for a commandment to [in R. Noach Weinberg’s words from his “Lakewood Sessions”…I mean tapes]

“Know there is 'a' God”

…using them as a springboard to argue that “Judaism is an intellectual religion”, that - unlike “The Others”….Judaism is about “reasoned facts and arguments, not blind faith” (and other Hellenistic dualisms; see Faur’s ‘law review’ piece, Kolbrener review essay, etc).

IMHO, the proof-texts actually prove, over and again, that we already believe in a category of the Divine (for which 'classical religious' proofs have been - offered and refuted), in the most thorough and precise use of the term;

"Central to every religion is a teaching about what is divine—about what is regarded as utterly independent and on which all else depends. No matter what or whom any religion considers to be divine, that is what it recognizes or defines as the unconditional reality. The divine, in other words, is whatever people consider to be uncaused and unpreventable—as "just there."

The crucial point for our discussion is that this definition of religion makes clear that ideas of divinity are not confined to traditions most people recognize as "religious." Some people trust various parts of this world as divine. For example, some ascribe unconditional or uncaused status to matter, or to mathematical, logical or biological laws, or to the universe as a whole...Whatever is regarded as ultimate, independent reality thereby has the status of divinity, no matter how it is conceived and regardless of whether it is worshipped. Worship is not essential to religion; there have been beliefs in gods that did not include worship and there still are versions of Hinduism and Buddhism that include no worship...No matter how thoroughly some people avoid all organized religious traditions, worship, doctrines, and practices, and no matter how sincere they are about being atheists, they still have a religious belief insofar as they regard anything as being utterly independent or uncaused while all else depends on it.

I also think that the fulfillment of the Mitzvah is more likely to hold specifically YKVK and no one/thing else as The Divine - based on the specific relationship deriving from participation in the people Israel, their history and their God (all accessed through Covenant), as yours. Maybe this would be a clear historical and precise *opposite* of the ambiguous claim that Rambam’s codification is fulfilled by cognizing rather-ambiguous arguments for ‘The Divine’ (recently posted about by R. Gil and browbeaten by R. Eliezer Berkovits in "God, Man and History")?

I think the acknowledgment of a priori belief in the category of the Divine that HKBH surpasses, is quite different from claiming, “HKBH is a Deity whom we submit to a gauntlet of metaphysical proofs”. You don’t prove your experience to others w/o resorting to non-particulars of your experience, thus making it no longer yours (but the problem is that the Jewish experience is "Ours" - not based solely individual experiences or proofs). If any specifically-Jewish proofs are involved, they are what we prove from, not to YKVK, as our covenanted Divine (ex., He spoke to us, told us, showed us, He did such-and-such for, etc, that He - and no other elohim - YKVK, is God) - because to argue to HKBH (as with other arguments for what one holds to be Divine), is to risk presupposing another faculty, or the emergent evidence from several cognitive processes/faculties - as the foundation of all foundations (Berkovits chapters 5 & 7). And we can only tell others what He Spoke/Told/Showed/Did for us. R. Jose Faur noted;

"In the introduction to his work Or Adon-y, Crescas pointed out that the fulfillment of a commandment [as a commandment] presupposes the belief in God who had issued the commandment. Hence it is absurd to maintain that there is a commandment to believe in God, since such a commandment must presuppose the belief in a God.
This criticism overlooks the foregoing distinction between intuitive and rational knowledge of God. Maimonides distinguished between the first kind of knowledge, that is intuitive, at the subspeech level, and cannot be considered a commandment, and the second kind of knowledge, that must be expressed within the realm of reason and therefore may be the object of a commandment. the first kind of knowledge is, in Maimonides' words, "the foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom", and thus cannot be a commandment.

Many arguments presuppose (and their ‘kashered’ versions seemingly do so unknowingly), the defining feature of that which is sought to be proven - and as a result, in a sense proclaim the “God game” has just started at what is actually halftime (i.e., much of the groundwork has already been laid, the game already played, by the time they start to even ‘keep score’). Many of them also presupposed a 'detachment' from the 'object' being measured, weighed and judged...but He Spoke to us at Sinai! He led us out of Egypt! It seems to be a patent adoption of Greek modes of thought solely for Kiruv-izing the Greek-minded "Not yet 'Frum'" Jews (on the part of people who define themselves by the Greek-named ideology of "Ortho-dox"...). This sounds to be an adoption of a sort of non-relationship the nations, born as collectives at Bavel, have with HKBH by default - and even depicted in the 'distant sky god' polytheisms and ensuing theologies and extended-family scientific cousin Ologies - (Derech Hashem). Individuals were not born at Bavel, and there may lay their intuitive knowledge of the Divine (personal, r. Berkovits' "no science[nor empirical evidence] of the personal", experiential, etc) - but not in the manner the collective-individual Israel experienced. [addition 4/08: Maybe, as I have said elsewhere, we are obligated to make evidence for ourselves - by way of our observance, introspection and experiences - regarding the Divine; "Perhaps certain 'necessary' beliefs are emergent beliefs (but only 'emerging' from within the Divine system, the specific Jewish logic ,temporally-bound only by merit of occurring in history), that sustain, specifically for us, those very Truths which are always true. For example, that Sinai was an Encounter with HKBH and from that moment onwards we received Torah, revelation as text, by way of Moses, etc. There are Truths which all indeed have agreed upon {which makes this not merely individual, but also collective} (and be agreed upon to be considered part of the System) - but each era needing its way of making them thoroughly clear to each "us" in each unique era, as ours - and perhaps that is where 'necessary' truths - and the heated arguments and 'proofs' for them - come about. Our reception of Torah each era, each person". this appears ever more necessary, because mere emotional 'convictions' can come and go (R. Kook on the importance of balance in emotion and reason, etc), especially under the torrential onslaught of modern media, etc.]

Recent discussion of the “God gene” and the neurological basis for Divine beliefs (however interpreted), may lend credence to the particulars of this critique [links later].

“know this day…that YKVK is [the] God” (Deut 4:39)

The people are told to grasp that YKVK - HooHa Elokim – is the Divine; the ability to do so presupposes their a priori belief in the category of the Divine; knowledge must begin somewhere, with something or someone. But Israels collective knowing (special to them and no others, as collectives), began with The Encounter (and Deut. 29:3 “YKVK did not give you a heart to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear, until this day”?) – not in some individually-grasped argument or metaphysical speculations – in an encounter, a relationship (especially from verse 32; though we do have the tradition that they grasped *the same collective experience* in individually-unique ways). All further proof-texts from Nakh would seem to be in the aftershock of the Encounter of Maamar Sinai (see Berkovits pp. 48-50). There is no further national Encounter (as such?), in Tanach(?); everything afterwards occurs through individual Prophets and Sages, who rely on the evidence of the encounter and the witness (validated by the Stipulated standards) from previous generations who keep alive the memory (Berkovits ch.5) of the Encounter.

Know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing soul”
(I Chron. 28:9)
Know whom you know to be HKBH through the mesorah of one (David haMelekh), who is already in a relationship with Him, to whom the nature of service is clear.

Let him that [already] glories [in something] glory in this; that he understands and knows Me...says YKVK”. (Jer. 9:23)
This is known from HKBH Himself through a Navi! Upon hearing this, the Jews didn’t proclaim “helloyeswhat?…sorry…whom says what?”, because everyone knew full-well who He is to them from previous Neviim and the Torah they propounded. Naviut was a means of insight that already had a place in a Torah system already accepted by the people, in The Encounter.

Jose Faur notes in [] that such a grasp of the Divine is intuitive and that Rambam in Mishneh Torah does indeed obligate us in that which is in a sense intuitive and already a reasonably valid and cognitively-universal belief (truth value of claims as such aside).

But why obligate in something that appears to be both intuitive (philosophically speaking), and neurological in origin (cognitively-speaking; again links to come)? Assenting to individually-grasped proofs for the Divine, even for The Encounter, can’t be fulfillments of this collectively-binding mandate (?).

Belief in the category of the Divine is ubiquitous and beyond the purview of proof (serving as the basis for tradition-bound logics, moralities, etc), and is likely neurological; belief in YKVK is the Jewish experience and vice versa [also w/ Rambam’s contention about who is Israel, those who claim beliefs determine status, etc], and not something that is strengthened by appeals to that which isn’t particularly Jewish - Jewish being cognizable by The Encounter.

Stipulating that it is ‘commanded’ puts it in the category of being covenanted to one Divinity as THE Divine; as with other things that may come naturally for all people, all people are not obligated in knowing in the way Israel is - as they are specially obligated in a personal relationship to, say, God OUR father - and not simply ‘father’. Each Jew as a Jew is obligated in what comes naturally for all as individuals; particular collectives come and go - but individuals as such always remain. Personal narratives about “divine experiences” abound, even, if one follows Clouser's definition, in the sciences. And may even be considered empirically explicable (or not), or rationally acceptable as claims (‘properly basic beliefs’, etc). Plenty of religions have begun based on the presumed credibility of the claims of such individual experiences (truth-value claims aside). But only one narrative survives that is a national experience - and I said ‘surviving’ to allow for a moment of conjecture; in this solitary surviving narrative we are actually challenged to find an additional surviving national account. Brains are universal, such experiences and "God/Divine genes" are likewise so and as natural as other processes, and can't be rallied one against another due to the universal foundations of all grand scale theorizings -explicitly-religious or nay.

How many of the verses brought in defense of the claim that there is an obligation in knowing the Divine to be YKVK were spoken over specifically to the nation (or to be spoken over to the nation Israel), or presupposed the national revelation to make sense as proof-texts? HKBH does have interaction with individuals not of the nation Israel in Tanach (regarding those who merit his ‘contact’ in our generation or it's relation to sheva mitzvot, I have no idea). Adam is the father of all mankind, but precisely as individuals - because nations began at Migdal Bavel. The nations as such, according to Rav Kook, do not have Neshamah - but individuals of the nations do (in accord with Derech Hashem, not the Tanya), and there is account for their observance of their laws.

other stuff;

Davidson, Herbert. “Study of philosophy as a Religious Obligation”; Religion in a Religious Age p.53-68

Jose Faur pieces -perhaps with his claim that YH 1:1, etc is Jewish-specific as also Elohim-type grasp of the Divine as such; we are the model people, and therefore all other individuals also have an intuitive grasp. Otherwise, how could there be converts (almost exclusively individual…), at all, how could there be any sort of communication between peoples, how could there be any comparison to make, etc; Markham and difficulties of ‘translation’, etc. (that others like Christians/Muslims/Sikhs doctrinally discuss personal relationships with Divine as personal Deity - is because of our encounter as the Jewish people - which they read/heard about).

Yesodei HaTorah opening, what is stated regarding “foundation of all foundations”; Faur takes it as an intuitive knowledge that is only had by Israel; does this militate against an “Elokim” reading? Also first chapter of Avodat Kochavim. Eugene Korn piece on Rambam, 'world to come", etc (also search RAMBI for discussion of Y.H.)

Not merely that “belief in God can be considered properly basic”, i.e. rational to posit without recourse to proofs, arguments or evidences. This may actually be said to specifically and weakly.

Say it once more with feeling;

belief in the Divine is the only thing that is ever 'properly basic', and it therefore may be impossible to ever justify it by recourse to proofs, arguments or evidences - without ultimately being self-referential. If one accepts Clouser's definition of the Divine (though he learns it from Dooyeweerd, and both show the ubiquity and antiquity of it), if one can prove ones maxims [axioms?], they aren’t maxims [axioms?]

. Clouser/Dooyeweerd, religious presuppositions, etc.


At 6/07/2007 1:45 PM, Blogger Isaac Davidson said...

My theory is that the belief in the Divine is an aesthetic perception and not necessarily a totally rational one. One can logically believe in Ma'amad Har Sinai, but never truly internalize this belief unless one perceives it around oneself through one's own perceptions.


Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>