Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Post at Hirhurim

R. Gil at Hirhurim has posted the next installment of the series that served as motivation to go ahead and start this blog, Permission to believe in God II.

The following topic stood out to me,

However, there are other types of arguments for God’s existence that might not be conclusive or deductive. It could be that the conclusion probably follows from the premises or that it seems reasonable to reach this conclusion from various facts. While these do not satisfy the high standards of the Proof, they are still worthwhile arguments that can inform the religious worldview and imply the rationality of a belief in God’s existence. A non-conclusive proof that is good is still an “Argument,” even if it is not sufficiently definitive to be considered a “Proof.”

This reminded me of comments I made on his earlier post Why Be

'Some Jewish outreach professionals believe that the best way to convince apathetic Jews to become more involved in their religion is by proving, or attempting to prove, that traditional Judaism is the absolute truth.' I don't think it has been true that people expect "absolute proof" since the time of the great Jewish Philosophers. I think by and large the expectation of deductive proof, strictly speaking, is one we just don't have any more. But much of our experience and "knowledge" consists of that which cannot be deductively proven. However one cannot, and should not, expect any significant number of Jews to become attracted to Judaism without inductive evidence for accepting it's claims. It doesn't matter how pretty and attractive it is, many or most will find it too demanding to accept because of aesthetics or will be perfectly
comfortable or content with how they were raised.

I believe that the distinction between evidence and [deductive] proof is a very important one. It is easy to conflate the two concepts since proof would seem to imply something which has been proven it is often used similarly to evidence. I recently had the opportunity to attend a shiur by Rabbi Akiva Tatz where he made a passing reference to such a distinction.

While on the topic, here are a couple of my other comments on that post:

"Excuse me? Since when did Chazal give proofs of the Torah? Since when did they do philosophy as such?"

Um. Since the time of Chazal.

"On the other hand, are you saying that emunah isn't part of Jewish philosophy? That we are not called to stand on the shoulder of giants?"

Emunah is NOT belief in something for no reason and knowledge does not prevent one's belief from being Emunah. The Yidden had Emunah in Hashem and Moshe at the Yam Suf after open miracles there and in Mitzrayim.

“Proofs strike me in general as a means of "selling" Judaism ala a consumer product on a very superficial level. The notion, as advanced by some in the "Kiruv industry" that kiruv is simply a means of marketing and marketing tools known as proofs IMO is a singularly inappropriate and patronizing means of showing someone the depth and profundity of Torah.”

It’s a funny world when suggesting reasons to accept the truth of a position is marketing while techniques which appeal to emotion are legit.

“I agree. Orthodoxy needs to be intellectually satisfying. No one will want to accept a lifestyle that is false.”

Then I think it is important to be clear. A Shabbos meal is a GREAT way to deal with the extra-logical factors which stand as obstacles to people doing teshuvah, but to use is as a substitute for evidence is appeal to emotion and somewhat deceptive, imo. People are equivocating on the word proof. Proof may imply that an argument has been conclusively proven but I don't think that it is used that strictly most of the time. Proof is another word for evidence. The evidence may not make any other option impossible, but we make decisions based on the most likely conclusion we can derive from the evidence we have. Someone commenting on a Jewish blog once argued that 0 + 0 + 0 = 0. That is a poor analogy which flippantly dismisses all inductive reasoning.How can one "believe" something when they affirmatively believe there is NO reason to do so, that there is NO evidence. Show me ANY other example where someone "believes" something based on what they themselves consider to be no evidence. http://www.haloscan.com/comments/hirhurim/7766194713151047993/#579887

"The same pathetic genre exists in Muslim and Christian 'outreach' circles as well. (Not that we would ever, Heaven forfend, imitate the goyim...)"

So what? Your grouping them [together] is the fallacy of hasty generalization. Either the evidence stands or it doesn't, and if there is no reason why do you bother? And the fact that other religions also publish material just shows that people have a natural need to hold opinions based on reason. Just because one persons argument is incorrect doesn't mean someone who holds another view also has an incorrect argument.It seems to be somewhat popular on blogs to claim the intellectual high-ground by dismissing arguments to believe in God and His Torah. You may take comfort in not being "duped" for such arguments but if you think that it is somehow "rationalism" to believe something without evidence you need to think things through a little better.

Comments have been slightly edited

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