Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

ZH comments on Tsuyoku Naritai! (I Want To Become Stronger) - Less Wrong

111 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 March 2007 05:49PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (73)

Sort By: Old

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: ZH 29 March 2007 08:39:15PM 1 point [-]

Eliezer makes a mistake (a major one in fact) with regard to his understanding of Jewish law being passed down over the generations. The mistake he makes is quite a common one among those people who have not studied the history of Orthodox Jewish philosophy in depth. Indeed, I have met many Rabbis with 40 or 50 years of experience with little or no knowledge of this topic, so this is not an attack on Eliezer. While I am only an Orthodox Rabbinical and Talmudic law student (I hope to be ordained within a couple of years), besides for being a college undergrad, my personal interests are in the history of Orthodox Jewish philosophy and reconciling Jewish law and philosophy and modern science and philosophy. The correct understanding (in a simple form) as Orthodox Jews like myself believe, of the concept, is that the Pentateuch was given by God to Moses at Mt. Sinai. As many of the laws in the Pentateuch are vague, God gave Moses the "Torah SheBa'al Peh," the "oral law" of these explanations of what was to be included in these laws. The Rabbis in later generations lost the reasons for many of these oral laws, besides for that according to Jewish legend, many of these laws were never given reasons in the first place. As such, these later Rabbis (of roughly 1500-2200 years ago) often tried to re-formulate the reasons based on their knowledge. This does not mean that the laws are based on incorrect assumptions, but merely that which we think is the reason for a law, is not actually the reason. Eliezer mixes this up with the concept that later Rabbis do not argue in law on earlier Rabbis. That concept is based on a completely different line of reasoning. This new line of reasoning is based on a Jewish belief that to properly understand Jewish law and apply it requires not just intelligence and the ability to think logically, but also on piety and trust in God. In other words, trust in God and piety also play a role in legal decisions. This combined with another Jewish belief that as the generations go on, there is a general decrease in piety and trust in God across the board, means that those making legal decisions now have less of a key component of the decision making, while we have no way of knowing who has the greater intelligence and reasoning skills. As such, later Rabbis do not argue on earlier Rabbis. Additionally, this concept that later rabbis do not argue on earlier Rabbbis is not set in stone and there are a number of exceptions to this rule. Of course one can merely argue that my background makes me biased toward an irrational belief, and perhaps that is true.