Saturday, January 01, 2011

More Physics And Torah (To My Taste...)
From a review by William Kolbrener of "One People, Two Worlds". [emph. mine in bold];

Bohr’s classic experiments with light demonstrated how interpretive perspectives (what Thomas Kuhn would later call paradigms) “must affect their object by their very act of observing.”[24] Bohr had shown that, depending upon the experimental context which he employed, light behaved sometimes as a wave, and sometimes a particle. From these experiments, Bohr developed his conception of “complementarity,” in which complementary, though sometimes contradictory, descriptions of physical entities combine to describe “the complex of reality.”[25] Bohr was not giving philosophical license, as some humanists have wrongly deduced, to unbridled subjectivity; for in his experiments, the observer is still constrained by the phenomena which he observes. Light behaves as either a wave or a particle, not, however, as a vector. Indeed, the theory of “complementarity” could stand as a perush for the halakhic principle “elu ve-elu.” In both the contexts of Torah and science, “elu ve-elu,” emerges as not only an inclusive, but also as an exclusive principle. Indeed, Hirsch, in his appropriation of the “elu ve-elu” for Reform, fails to show himself proficient in one of the most basic modes of talmudic exegesis: the inference. Elu ve-elu does indeed imply an exclusion: “these and these,” but not those. [to claim "elu ve-elu" reads "elu ve-khaym -"those" - is to read what is simply not there, to speak on terms outside what the text clearly says, what the tradition emerging from it says] Bohr’s scientific reality, like Torah, does not license all interpretations. Engagement with a precedent reality, and proficiency in its interpretive mechanisms, are the pre-requisite for any interpretation which will fall under the aegis of elu ve-elu—in both the physical sciences, and in Torah.

For Hirsch, as Reinman’s rhetorical strategies reveal, the precedent reality of Torah—the absolute—is a mere phantom, a remnant from an ostensibly totalitarian past, now vanished, thus licensing the interpretive excesses which Hirsch advocates throughout One People, Two Worlds. There is no absolute truth [or none accessible by studying Torah or abiding "revelation" as within text; not even the Conservative reconciliation of multiple auhtorship as "collection of accounts of Jewish interaction with the Divine"]—or less philosophically-stated, no commitment to the constraints of Torah—to limit his subjectivist excesses.[26]
Reinman certainly exposes the relativism of the Reform perspective—not without, however (given his emphasis on “absolute truth”), the risk of acquiescing to those who may wish to frame Orthodoxy as another in a long list of political and theological fundamentalisms. By emphasizing “absolute truth,” Reinman may be assured that a reader who actually does more than look at the cover of One People, Two Worlds will understand that Reform is moral relativism, and outside of the “umbrella” of authentic Judaism. But with that emphasis, Reinman may occlude the fact that a genuine Jewish pluralism—emphasizing interpretation, subjectivity, and the multiplicity of truth—does exist, but within Orthodoxy, that is, for those for whom the principle of Torah mi-Sinai is primary.

[here I am not at all clear what he means by Torah mi-Sinai; Torah min-haShomayim? All of Torah from Moshe Rabbenu coming down from Sinai? I don't know, but I will presume revelation, Revealing by the Absolute of something "Torah]

To be sure, the languages of Greek philosophy...are too sophisticated for many—if not most—of the potential readership of One People, Two Worlds. If, however, the languages or concepts of madda are to be invoked (and absolute truth certainly fits under such a rubric), they should be invoked with full awareness of their connotations. There are, of course, alternatives: one such alternative would begin not with the proclamation of belief in "absolute truth," but rather the non-philosophical assertion that certain beliefs are held absolutely. For it is less problematic to assert that we believe, absolutely, in Torah mi-Sinai, than to assert a belief in a philosophical conception of absolute truth. Indeed, the whole concept of "absolute truth" may be—even when properly contextualized—misleading. Ibn Ezra, in a philological note to Bereshit 24:49, asserts that Emet has the same root as Emunah—meaning that truth and faith are intertwined. From this perspective, truth emerges not as a function of philosophical speculation, but rather through a relationship created by faith [this is not to say 'faith' as colloquially intended under the reign of scientism; merely unprovable assertions; "emunah' is far closer in Tanakh to "trustworthy", to tested faith from relationship]. This relationship (what Levinas understands as the "proximity" to the divine) is antecedent to philosophical discourse, producing a conception of truth entirely different from the speculative efforts of the philosopher. [27] Put in other words, in a context where faith and truth are interdependent, "absolute truth" becomes irrelevant, as the languages of philosophy yield to a knowledge based upon a relationship—that relationship forged between God and the Jewish people at Sinai.[28]

Inserting such an option for relating to conceptions of truth may also reveal the "tradition-bound" nature of truth claims for the philosophies behind competing ideologies. They themselves have "faith" - place trust they believe to be, yes, ultimately untestable - but 'ultimates' are not considered within the domain of most modern philosophical schools and aren't quibbled over - and yet still maxims from which they prove, not to which they prove - ones they hold to have been indeed 'tested' in their acted-on relationships with their chosen maxims and the ensuing relationships with the world through their adherence to truth as perceived and how it is delivered by adherence to their maxims - Black Elk's supposition about life lived with through a modality that has untested and unstestable comingled with the self-evident, that "...if you think about it, you will see that it is true", beliefs regarding what they hold to be Radically Noncontingent (matter, typically, for secularists).


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