Thursday, March 08, 2012

Important Post at Lamalikra.

I have been following this excellent blog for several years and the latest post is amazing. I highly recommend it to anyone who reads Hebrew.

50 comments:

  1. the natural state of a "mind" without a body, a theoretical existent, a Tzura which Rambam tells us is a construct, is indeed to have an understanding for something similar to itself. if there were such an entity it would "know" hashem to a point - the Makom Iyun Moshe was shown at Nikrat Hatzur. Humans are a composite of Tzura and chomer, one never exists without the other. their natural tendency is to deny the existence of a non physical entity. They are taught by their parents that such an entity exists based on the "unnatural" achievement of certain unique individuals who have overcome their natural tendency and have "experienced" God. They then struggle so that their natural tendency to chomer does not take them to imaginary places where the God they were taught remains in a separate category unknowable.

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  2. David

    I took the liberty of copying your last comment from the Rav Lichtenstein context, putting it here instead. The context of this post from Lami Li Kra lends itself to my response.

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  3. Borrowing from the post above, I think we can get a better sense of the true accomplishment of Avraham Avinu in terms of renaissance.

    We are accustomed to thinking of the relatively recent European revolution in thought. This European version had enormous imapact upon us. It is difficult for us to even imagine what it would be like to live in a world where superstition and illiteracy were the norm.

    We take it for granted that all children are literate have a minimal rooting in science and rational methods. Rationality therefore is in certain respects, is taken for granted. We cannot imagine an alchemist or witch doctor being appointed to an official role in business or government. Yet this "norm" is historically new, a direct result of the European renaissance.

    We should not over estimate our personal contribution to this reality. The post renaissance world in which we live, rests on the shoulders of the giants of the renaissance, the amudei haolam of current thinking. It is because of these giants that we view it as "natural" that all children read and have educations.

    Yet, as significant as this accomplishment of European renaissance was, it pales in comparison to contribution of Avraham Avinu. Avraham lived in a time of dark age of an absolute primitiveness that we cannot hardly imagine.

    In the European version of Renaissance, there was a notion of lawful universe retained from Ancient Greece, that was built upon. Though the ancient Greek way had fallen into disfavor, it was in a minimal way still known.

    This was not the case with Avraham. In his day the very notion of lawful universe was forgotten completely. This forgetting had led to a notion of religion totally divorced from rational thought, absolutely rooted in myth and imagination. We associate this form of thought with ancient myths of Zeus et al from pre scientific Greece.

    What Avraham understood that the historic time in which he lived, was a dark age, rather than an evolutionary stage. Man had once known about a lawful universe and had recognized Hashem as the "crafter" of that order. This dark age had arisen from improper intellectual leadership and corrupt tyrannical kings. He knew that with proper education,mankind could be restored to this natural state of education.

    To be sure, it would require a titan of thought to restore man to its natural state of education. Avraham was that titan, amudo shel olam. He restored the notion of a lawful universe, kav hatzedek and reinvigorated a Philosophy of Hashem as the ultimate source of that lawfullness.

    ז וכיון שארכו הימים, נשתקע השם הנכבד והנורא מפי כל היקום ומדעתם, ולא הכירוהו: ונמצאו כל עם הארץ והנשים והקטנים, אינן יודעין אלא הצורה של עץ ואבן וההיכל של בניין, שנתחנכו מקטנותן להשתחוות להן ולעובדן, ולהישבע בשמן.

    ח והחכמים שהיו בהן כגון הכומרין וכיוצא בהן, מדמין שאין שם אלוה אלא הכוכבים והגלגלים שנעשו הצורות האלו בגללן ולדמותן. אבל צור העולמים, לא היה שם מכירו ולא יודעו, אלא יחידים בעולם, כגון חנוך ומתושלח ונוח ושם ועבר. ועל דרך זו, היה העולם מתגלגל והולך, עד שנולד עמודו של עולם, שהוא אברהם אבינו עליו השלום.

    ט [ג] כיון שנגמל איתן זה, התחיל לשוטט בדעתו והוא קטן, ולחשוב ביום ובלילה, והיה תמיה: היאך אפשר שיהיה הגלגל הזה נוהג תמיד, ולא יהיה לו מנהיג; ומי יסבב אותו, לפי שאי אפשר שיסבב את עצמו. ולא היה לו לא מלמד ולא מודיע דבר, אלא מושקע באור כשדים בין עובדי עבודה זרה הטיפשים.

    י ואביו ואימו וכל העם עובדים עבודה זרה, והוא היה עובד עימהן. וליבו משוטט ומבין, עד שהשיג דרך האמת, והבין קו הצדק, מדעתו הנכונה; וידע שיש שם אלוה אחד, והוא מנהיג הגלגל, והוא ברא הכול, ואין בכל הנמצא אלוה חוץ ממנו.

    יא וידע שכל העם טועים, ודבר שגרם להם לטעות, זה שעובדים את הכוכבים ואת הצורות, עד שאבד האמת מדעתם; ובן ארבעים שנה, הכיר אברהם את בוראו.

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  4. A story about 'יחידים בעולם', which I recall every Purim. (Every Pesah, too, but that that won't fit in a comment.)

    [I've marked hyperlinks with '^'.]

    The story is about Isaac Barrow ^, rav to Isaac Newton, the first Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge ^. From among the historians' facts, there are a few that frame the picture I find personally significant:

    << One of the stipulations in Lucas' will was that the holder of the professorship should not be active in the church. Isaac Newton later appealed to King Charles II that this requirement excused him from taking holy orders, which was compulsory for most fellows of the university at that time (some fellowships were exempt). The King supported Newton, and excused all holders of the professorship, in perpetuity, from the requirement to take holy orders. >>

    << In 1669 [Barrow] resigned his professorship in favour of Isaac Newton. >>

    And this has continued ^ to the present era:

    << The current holder of the post is the theoretical physicist Michael Green. He was appointed in October 2009,[2] succeeding Stephen Hawking ... >>

    This sets the stage for a perhaps-unconfirmable story, according to which Barrow journeyed ^ to Constantinople in 1659 to read the Archimedes Palimpsest ^. According to Wikipedia ^, it is the only known copy of two of Archimedes' works: the Method and the Stomachion.

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  5. GE

    I would be very interested to see you spell out the particular connection of this wonderful story to Purim?

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    1. R.JS, Sorry; I don't know where to start. Do you see something about Purim that could strengthen your proof-vs.-faith position vis-à-vis Mr. Guttmann? If so, that might help here.

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  6. I do not see David's position as "faith", he insists on calling his position that. I do not quite understand why he does.

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  7. I am not trying to disprove his position, I am trying to show him why his position is not "faith" and why I have such problem with those who use that term and why I think he should not use it about himself either.

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    1. By "strengthen your position" I meant something like "more effective communicational contact", not "disprove". "Proof-vs-faith" was just a moniker to which to attach a hyperlink. (Unfortunately, the blog's otherwise-pretty visual theme isn't friendly to hyperlinks.)

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  8. Rabbis Soloveitchik and Lichtenstein use the term about themselves also. I do not understand that either.

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    1. Look at the very early pages of The Lonely Man of Faith. For me, it took many slow readings to notice that Rabbi Soloveitchik uses the term 'faith' in an exceptionally unconventional way. Then take a fresh read through Rabbi Dr. Lichtenstein's The Rav at Jubilee [1] that I mentioned earlier.

      It would have helped me very much if the title had been "The Lonely Man of X", and he had opened the book "Dear reader, your job is to figure out what X I'm talking about."

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      [1] Available online at
      http://www.traditiononline.org/news/article.cfm?id=104742. There is a reduced-quality facimile at
      http://www.edah.org/backend/coldfusion/search/document.cfm?hyperlink=lichtenstein21.html&type=Document
      (IIRC, it was also reprinted in a collection of essays in the early-2000s.)

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  9. I understand they are trying to formulate a special sense of "faith". I am saying I do not understand why they think it wise to use such a special sense of the word "faith" rather than carefully modifying the word "knowledge" to accomplish the same end.

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    1. He is not talking about anything within the "semantic field" of the English word 'knowledge'. In my opinion, you've got to trust that he didn't make a categorical blunder in English usage. [1] In my case, nothing made sense [2] until I found the (un-preconceivable) raw, unlabeled phenomenon that was his subject. After that I experienced his words as communicative.

      Another way to look at it: The difficulty of finding the phenomenon is "proportional" to how "lonely" Rabbi Soloveitchik was.

      (All that said, I've wondered at times what LMF would have been like if, like HM, its original version had been in Hebrew. In Hebrew, HM "plugs into" all the connotative richness of our texts. No possible English translation could accomplish that.)

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      [1] Or, to hijack Niels Bohr: "Stop telling Rabbi Soloveitchik what to think!"

      [2] Somewhat like your term, "word salad", but reversed: in fact, Rabbi Soloveitchik was highly lucid, but my reading was not.

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    2. Re. my term 'un-preconceivable' and my fn. [1] ...

      If (and only if) your ear is attuned to East-European ways of intimate speech, this may work for you. It also helps if you can imagine Rav Amital זצ"ל and Romanians like him. (from Rabbi Lichtenstein's article, p. 54):

      << ... In a moment of striking candor, when my colleague, Rav Yehuda Amital, first visted these shores, almost twenty years ago, the Rav commented to him: "You know, I have devoted talmidim -- very devoted talmidim. If I were to announce a shiur at two o'clock in the morning, they would com en bloc. And yet, deep in their hearts, they think I'm an apikoros. ..." >>

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  10. How can it be that any talk about Torah cannot be related to a derivative of "knowledge" in a Judaism whose Ikkrim and yesodot are from Rambam who speaks in terms of מדע and ידיעה?

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    1. R.JS: "How can it be ... ?"

      I'm finding your language unclear. Is that a rhetorical question, expressing a profound state of perplexity, or a question to be taken literally?

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  11. GE

    Have you read this essay bu R Lichtenstein?

    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/toshba/tochniut/lichtin.htm

    This points to how I understand the issue.

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    1. Completely new to me. I'll try to read it within the next few days. (I don't expect anything by Rabbi Lichtenstein to be simple!)

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    2. Pay close attention to what had been holding him back from his current view of Rambam.

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  12. A question to be taken literally emerging from deep perplexity.

    Are you suggesting that the Rav's view of "faith" is an explanation of Rambam, or an independent approach?

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  13. In my opinion Rabbi Soloveitchik answers that question explicitly. [1] Also, in my opinion, he was one of those rare humans who said what he thought without fear of others. Between us and what he thought, therefore, lies only some not-necessarily-easy reading.

    Because I believe Rabbi Soloveitchik is completely open, I don't want to answer your question directly. (That doesn't mean you can't feel free to try to change my mind.)

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    [1] Like the Rambam, not necessarily in a single book. The Halakhic Mind, I think, is a vital book.

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  14. Lets discuss that after you read the article I sent you.

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  15. Emunah and Da'at are two complementary terms used by the Torah about God. RJS sees da'at as preceding emunah and I see them as parallel where the two play off each other constantly in a never ending cycle. Neither can be perfected when dealing with God the unknowable. It is the tragedy and the sublime ability of the human being. That is how I understand the Rav and Rav Lichtenstein. If that is not faith then what is it? How else does one differentiate between faith = emunah = Yediah and faith = superstition= AZ?

    As an aside Ramban in his introduction to Milchamot sees Talmud as a similar knowledge where perfect understanding is impossible. It probably comes from his understanding of Torah and its source and makeup in his intro to his pirush al hatorah. ramban and rambam are quite different but in many ways they are closer than one realizes see this article by rabbi david berger
    http://www.zootorah.com/books/MiraclesNahmanides.pdf

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    1. David

      #1

      I am surprised at the notion of daat preceeding Emunah. This I do not ever believe to be the case.

      I view Emunah as a lower form of knowledge / daat, in which one must make a judgement call about testimony of people, rather than necessity from phenomenon.

      In the case of Yosef, the Brothers were testifying that they were siblings with another sibling, Binyamin at home. This testimony could be supported by bringing someone who claimed to be Binyamin back to Egypt, but would remain testimony whose corroborating evidence would still require judgement by Yosef. The person claiming to Binyamin could be lying also. Nonetheless, seeing a person who claimed to be Binyamin would meet sufficient plausibility to act on the basis of the evidence.

      It is for this reason that Yosef characterizes the knowledge /daat to be derived by being presented with"Binyamin" -"emunah". Yosef promised to act on the basis of evidence corroborated by seeing Binyamin and free the imprisoned brother.

      Emunah may develop into daat in certain cases where proof becomes absolute, in others it may remain in the lower form of plausibility. But daat never precedes Emunah.

      #2

      The article by R Berger on Ramban is very interesting. There is one aspect to this style of scholarship which I would like your opinion on though.

      The aspect I refer to regards the dialectical objective pursued. Such articles give me the impression of treating all works of Torah greats,in this case Rambam and Ramban, with equal regard. Study revolves on the pivot of comparison and contrasting all the equally valid "opinions in the literature" rather than on making a decision of what is the best argument available.

      This objection regarding methodology follows from my objection to the use of the word "faith". The seeker of knowledge cannot be neutral with regard to "the opinions". He must choose what to his mind appears most plausible as a basis of action, like Yosef.

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    2. In MN 1:50
      אך אין אמונה אלא אחרי ציור12 כי האמונה היא לקבל-כאמיתי13 את מה שהצטייר13 שהוא מחוץ לדעת14, לפי מה שהצטייר בדעת15. אם יחד עם אמונה זו, הושג שאין משהו שונה מאמונה זאת אפשרי כלל, ולא נמצא בדעת15 מקום לדחות אמונה זאת ואין להעלות על הדעת אפשרות של דבר שונה ממנה - זאת היא ודאות16.

      This is in a perek discussing Ithakad - De'ah according to Kapach and Emunah according to schwartz.

      It is exactly because de'ah is much more powerful than Emunah, what is one to do when discussing HKBH the ultimate unknowable, the mystery par excellence? In 1:35 rambam introduces the method where first one is taught about HKBH as fact. We teach them all the rulkes about HKBH - eino guf, different categories etc... thses things are taught as Emunah. As and if a person grows he then tries to prove these things to himself - not as a tabula rasa but as a demonstrating previously accepted facts - in the process he slowly comes to develop a real understanding of what he was asked to believe. he is taught about the unknowability of HKBH, the derech shelili and as he struggles with these concepts he focuses on HKBH and this belief becomes established but never does he stop searching because the end of the road is Ki lo yre'ani ha'adam vachay.

      Re 2 - if you accept what I wrote above - the search leads people into different paths towards the same end. Ramban and rambam were not that far apart although at the end the things that developed from ramban's derech, in my opinion, set us back a long way from Geula . ramban himself was however still quite close to rambam on the basic issues of emunah and de'ah. Had rambam prevailed we and humanity would be much farther along the path of Veyroucha kol haberuim.

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    3. We teach them all the rules about HKBH - eino guf, different categories etc... these things are taught as Emunah.

      Re 2 - if you accept what I wrote above - the search leads people into different paths towards the same end. Ramban and rambam were not that far apart although at the end the things that developed from ramban's derech, in my opinion, set us back a long way from Geula .

      You do not identify any cause for the deviation of Ramban's students from his intended close approximation of Rambam which has led us so far away from the path of Geula.

      May I suggest such a cause?

      Rambam points out that he innovated an essential element in his presentation of true beliefs about Hashem. He did what no one else did, create an explicit educational system, the Moreh Nevuchim,Mishne Torah and perush mishna , in which the proper beliefs about Hashem could be interconnected with the general human pursuit of knowledge as well as be applied in a complete form of Talmud Torah resulting in a lifestyle of taryag mitzvot.

      This educational approach significantly delimits the "paths" on which a person can go, though I admit there is still a lot of room for personal application.

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  16. I think belief is a good word. This world lends itself to the sense of a level of yedia in which evidence is indirect and will need interpretation which requires careful scrutiny and judgement.

    This is not an ideal, but a decent choice. This sense of belief can be rooted in the Torah as well. In this case of Yosef, Emunah in the brothers claim to be brothers is only established through careful scrutiny and judgement.

    15 בזאת תבחנו; חי פרעה אם-תצאו מזה, כי אם-בבוא אחיכם הקטן הנה: 16 שלחו מכם אחד ויקח את-אחיכם, ואתם האסרו, ויבחנו דבריכם, האמת אתכם; ואם-לא חי פרעה, כי מרגלים אתם: 17 ויאסף אתם אל-משמר שלשת ימים: 18 ויאמר אלהם יוסף ביום השלישי, זאת עשו וחיו; את-האלהים אני ירא: 19 אם-כנים אתם, אחיכם אחד, יאסר בבית משמרכם; ואתם לכו הביאו, שבר רעבון בתיכם: 20 ואת-אחיכם הקטן תביאו אלי, ויאמנו דבריכם ולא תמותו; ויעשו-כן:

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  17. To connect to the lama li krah post, I would also like to point out the harmony of the word "belief" with the notion of "dark matter".

    In Wiki it is pointed out that dark matter is only indirectly known, it is believed as a hypothesis which serves as a notion needed to direct research in the quest for more significant yedia.

    Dark matter's existence is inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter and gravitational lensing of background radiation, and was originally hypothesized to account for discrepancies between calculations of the mass of galaxies, clusters of galaxies and the entire universe made through dynamical and general relativistic means, and calculations based on the mass of the visible "luminous" matter these objects contain: stars and the gas and dust of the interstellar and intergalactic medium.[1] The most widely accepted explanation for these phenomena is that dark matter exists and that it is most likely[3] composed of heavy particles that interact only through gravity and possibly the weak force; however, alternate explanations have been proposed, and there is not yet sufficient experimental evidence to determine which is correct. Many experiments to detect proposed dark matter particles through non-gravitational means are underway.[5]

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    1. What, as you use the word, is a 'יסוד' (about the world-in-which-events-occur)? For you, is 'hypothesis' within the semantic field of 'יסוד'? If there is, ultimately, just one 'יסוד', are you at ease saying that, therefore, there are only 'hypotheses'?

      To make things concrete ...

      I board a Boeing 737 at La Guardia. It whooshes down the runway. I feel the wheels leave the pavement. The fuselage vibrates with the engines at full thrust. My world suddenly, jarringly, tilts as the plane begins its steep noise-abating climb. I've "voted with my feet" for the laws of aerodynamics.

      O.K. ... I grant that the laws of aerodynamics are not "final", that in some sense they're inherently subject to "improvement". But are they nothing but 'hypotheses'?

      (P.S. to RJS: I've read that Lichtenstein article.)

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    2. P.S.

      Another scenario ...

      In an alternate history, it's 12 July 2006 all over again, but now Rabbi Lichtenstein is the ראש הממשלה or the רמטכ"ל ...

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    3. P.P.S.

      ... or Harry Wolfson or Leo Strauss ...

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    4. לפיכך יש שאדם מתייגע שנים רבות להבין חוכמה כלשהי ולעמוד על המשמעות האמיתית של הנחות-היסוד שלה עד שהוא קונה אותה מתוך ודאות. והתוצאה של כל החוכמה הזאת היא שנשלול מן האל עניין אשר נלמד בהוכחה מופתית, שלא ייתכן לייחס לו אותו עניין4

      RJs re your last comment re dark matter i think this applies

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    5. GE

      I completely disagree with your lumping of Rav Aharon into one class with Wolfson and Strauss.

      The class of scholars seeking to translate ancient texts into contemporary concepts applies to a shared study style, but not in application of concepts to action.

      Rav Aharaon has carefully chosen his place of study, with an eye to practical concerns, rather than exclusively scholarly ones. A Yeshivat Hesder is immersed in the world of material affairs, by its nature and design.This is in stark contrast to academic thinkers such as Wolfson and Strauss.

      The consequence of this choice of Yeshiva/military compound as his base of operations is that Rav Aharon is conversant with the language of war and diplomacy, as spoken by the real world warriors officers and even generals of his Yeshiva community.

      In a moment of decision, such as the Lebenon war, Rav Aharon would have a ready relationship and language with his military trained and experienced talmidim/advisors that would put his calculations in a different universe than Strauss or Wolfson.

      A major problem, that R Aharon only begins to acknowledge in his essay on Talmud, is that there is no language in which wise Torah based decisions can be communicated to the community at large.

      This is a severe consequence of the disconnect of the community from Torah study. This disconnect from Torah study is a direct result of a catastrophic educational program that equates Talmud study as currently conceived, with Talmud Torah.

      As Rav Aharon notes, this educational policy must be addressed immediately and forthrightly.

      If we were to have a Rambam based talmud torah, a language of wisdom could arise in which decisions made by a Rav ahron and his advisors could be understood by the people. As it stands, such decisions seem disconnected from talmud torah. They are rather viewed as personal opinions of Rav Aharon about contemporary affairs.

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    6. R.JS: "I completely disagree with your lumping of Rav Aharon into one class with Wolfson and Strauss."

      I didn't!

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    7. R.JS,

      After re-reading your objection several more times, I think my previous answer was inadequate. As with almost all real-world entities, many category-hierarchies are simultaneously applicable to these people. Within the category hierarchy you addressed, we happen to be more in agreement than not.

      It is not clear to me, however, that you addressed the category-hierarchy that I was inquiring about. The difficulty in talking about it is that it is -- so far as I know -- not nameable in any present-day Western language I know (including Hebrew). My comment yesterday about the term 'ידיעה' is about this difficulty.

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  18. The comments about 'dark matter' are going over my head. Not having acquaintance-knowledge [1] of so much as a single concrete measurement implied by that term, what I know is limited to one non-scientific proposition: "There are bright humans who say things about something they call 'dark matter'.". It's those bright humans who, perhaps, can predicate the existence of 'dark matter', but not me.

    The discussion seems similar to two scientific episodes that have some reality for me, and that I have found relevant to MT & MN:

    (1) The discovery of Neptune ^ by Adams and Le Verrier; and
    (2) the discovery of the electron ^. [2]

    These episodes have the advantage that the science has had time to become considerably more settled. E.g., the better part of a century of scientific development permits us to isolate and observe individual electrons in the laboratory.

    -----
    [1] Following William James' ^ usage.
    [2] IMO, Millikan's book is very helpful re. 'existence'.

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  19. Thank you GE, I was hoping you could translate these words "dark matter" into something useful.

    I will respond to the comments, to the best of my ability, as soon as I can.

    Can you offer some help in the area of aerodynamics as well? Perhaps a book or article for a woeful beginner who yearns to learn?

    I would also be interested in GE's thoughts about the distinction between a proof that something is, VS what a thing is.

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    1. I translated that passage in MN I.59 a bit differently.

      Aerodynamics is hard because it derives from more fundamental mechanics. With the two episodes I cited, the principles are "near to the surface" even if the mathematical manipulations are "hairy".

      My very favorite example is how celestial navigation, in modern form, arose from Newton. I think I still have my references for that. In 1942 there was a life-and-death urgency to teach it efficiently to air navigators, and some nice texts were produced.

      More later.

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    2. In my haste I committed a category violation. The example of celestial navigation, as clarifying as it can be, pertains to a different subject. Sorry.

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    3. R.JS: "I would also be interested in GE's thoughts about the distinction between a proof that something is, VS what a thing is."

      This question seems to me to be of a form that could only elicit from me "fancy jargon". It's possible that what I've considered over many years has some relevance, but I'd want to speak about it in a human-to-human way.

      What is more a man's Holy of Holies, more intimate, than his thoughts about existence-proofs?

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  20. GE

    You take away our hope for navigation textbooks and offer nothing in replacement?

    Perhaps at least give the titles of the navigation texts?

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    1. R.JS: "You take away our hope for navigation textbooks and offer nothing in replacement?"

      "Our"? There's a חברה?!

      Sorry for the delay; I had to reconstruct my notes from many years ago.

      Primer of Celestial Navigation (1944)

      "Bowditch" will be useful. The 1936 edition would be most useful, but is not available online. 1916 editions: American Practical Navigator: An Epitome of Navigation and Nautical Astronomy (1920 printing), Useful Tables from the American Practical Navigator. It's also useful to see a recent edition to see what's changed with technology and what hasn't: 2002 Bicentennial Edition.

      There's a different, useful, perspective that comes from considering the "problem of longitude".

      What's the point? All this illustrates a "sector of דברים" as seen from the perspective of the navigator's ידיעה and socially-significant problems like commerce and warfighting. From there, one can "climb the stack" of חכמות ותבונות in this sector up through practical and theoretical astronomy, all the way up to classical mechanics. At each level ידיעה displays different qualities and potentialities. E-mail me as you feel like digging in further.

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    2. R.JS,

      A bit more, while I've refreshed my memory:

      "The Board of Longitude was the popular name for the Commissioners for the Discovery of the Longitude at Sea. It was a British Government body formed in 1714 to administer a scheme of prizes intended to encourage innovators to solve the problem of finding longitude at sea."

      "The Longitude Prize was a reward offered by the British government for a simple and practical method for the precise determination of a ship's longitude. The prize, established through an Act of Parliament (the Longitude Act) in 1714, was administered by the Board of Longitude."

      The Commissioners of Longitude were willing to offer a "£10,000 [prize] for a method that could determine longitude within 60 nautical miles (111 km)." [That's a bit more than the road distance from Jerusalem to Haifa.]

      "Scilly naval disaster of 1707 is an umbrella term for the events of 22 October 1707 that led to the sinking of a British naval fleet off the Isles of Scilly. With four large ships and more than 1,400 sailors lost in stormy weather, it was one of the greatest maritime disasters in the history of the British Isles. It was later determined that the main cause of the disaster was the navigators' inability to accurately calculate their positions."

      "The Nautical Almanac has been the familiar name for a series of official British almanacs published under various titles since the first issue of The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris, for 1767: this was the first nautical almanac ever to contain data dedicated to the convenient determination of longitude at sea." [The first issue, 1767.] [A more up-to-date version, courtesy JPL.]

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    3. Thank you, I am really enjoying these.

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  22. David

    #1

    I think Rambam answers how a negatively known entity can be known to exist in principle.

    ג [ה] המצוי הזה--הוא אלוה העולם, אדון כל הארץ. והוא המנהיג הגלגל בכוח שאין לו קץ ותכלית, בכוח שאין לו הפסק, שהגלגל סובב תמיד, ואי אפשר שיסוב בלא מסבב; והוא ברוך הוא המסבב אותו, בלא יד ולא גוף.

    If there is some effect that cannot have a material source (Rambam suggests eternal motion but anything that is beyond material causality will do)

    שאי אפשר להיות גוף שאין לו קץ. וכל שיש לו קץ ותכלית, יש לכוחו קץ וסוף.

    Then there must be an absolutely non material cause.

    #2

    Are you agreeing or disagreeing with what I said about Avraham being the amudo shel olam of man's natural state of becoming educated?

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  23. Re #1 - You have quoted a quite problematic Rambam. Think about בכוח שאין לו הפסק, שהגלגל סובב תמיד, is he saying that the universe is eternal? Is he agreeing with Aristo?

    But coming back to your question this is only one proof on which he expands in MN 2. but again why does he need to bring if I recall correctly - 4 different proofs - if any one was perfect? Knowing what we know now about the laws of motion do you think this argument stands?

    #2 I agree with Amudo shel Olam - I have no idea how you take it to the next step " man's natural state of becoming educated". You make such sweeping statements that frustrate me and cloud my mind. Man's natural state is to use his faculties for survival. that supports his interest in the practical sciences (see shemona perakim in the beginning where he divides the science between the practical and the theoretical) but the existential and metaphysical sciences are not natural but rather an acquired taste which the Torah and Mitzvot is trying to teach us about. Avraham was central in getting this mode of thinking off the ground but was woefully unsuccessful until Moshe came and gave us the Torah.

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  24. #1

    This formulation of the argument, which assumes that any change of place by definition requires external force, has been shown to be questionable.

    But the more general argument, that the observation of a material event of similar kind, namely a phenomenon that could be proved to be incompatible with the limited nature of material power, would be valid. This points the Rambam's student to the kind of phenomenon to look for.

    #2

    We must distinguish between practical sciences and crafts. Crafts can exist based upon the experience of the tribe alone, as in hunting and gathering.

    But there cannot be practical sciences, without theoretical ones. The applied practitioner of math, must be aware of theoretical math and respect the leaders of that field as his Rabbanim. So too the applied physicist.

    So it follows that restoring practical sciences, can only be done by a theoretical thinker who builds upon the natural need of practical men for a theoretical basis.

    יד וכיון שהיו העם מתקבצין לו ושואלין לו על דבריו, היה מודיע לכל אחד ואחד לפי דעתו עד שיחזירהו לדרך האמת, עד שנתקבצו אליו אלפים ורבבות, והם אנשי בית אברהם. ושתל בליבם העיקר הגדול הזה, וחיבר בו ספרים. והודיעו ליצחק בנו, וישב יצחק מלמד ומחזיר; ויצחק הודיעו ליעקוב ומינהו ללמד, וישב מלמד ומחזיר כל הנלווים אליו.

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  25. Re. the phrase 'עמודו של עולם' at הלכות עבודה זרה א/ח: It refers back to בראשית ב/ה. If you consider the "nearness" of the vocabulary to הלכות יסודי התורה א/א-ד, that might kindle some first plausibility.

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    1. "Second plausibility" re. the phrase 'עמודו של עולם' ...

      1. At הלכות תשובה ג/ח:
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      וצדיק, יסוד עולם ^
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      2. At הלכות יסודי התורה א/ד:
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      העיקר הגדול שהכול תלוי בו ^
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      3. A striking usage of the term 'צדיק' in איגרת לחכמי קהל עיר מארשילייא ^:
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      דעו רבותי, שאין ראוי לו לאדם להאמין אלא באחד משלשה דברים. ... השלישי דבר שיקבל אותו האדם מן הנביאים ע"ה ומן הצדיקים.
      >>

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