Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Elu V'Elu - Talmudic Dialectic

Originally published 5/31/11, 11:53 am.
Maybe Beth Hillel and Beth Shammai each see the truth as equivalent to their position. Yet we - at the meta-level - see that the reason we need them to dispute is in order for US to reach the truth via dialectically analyzing their respective positions

«The dialectical method thus views the whole of reality as an evolving process.»

Later on in history, the Baalei Tosafot realized there is no closing or sealing of the dialectic process. Such a notion would only served to undermine the Talmud which by nature and design can never be complete.
Similarly, the Rambam in Hillchot Talmud Torah ch. 1 describes Talmud not as a text but as a process of "l'vain davar mittoch davar" it is Eternal.
Why did the Rambam seek to end the Dialectic and codify a monistic code? This is a topic for a future post BE"H.
The "last laugh" is on the Rambam - whose codified decisions only succeeded to create many brand new debates and dialectics of their own.

Sources -
Dialectic [Wikipedia]
«Another way to understand dialectics is to view it as a method of thinking to overcome formal dualism and monistic reductionism. For example, formal dualism regards the opposites as mutually exclusive entities, whilst monism finds each to be an epiphenomenon of the other. Dialectical thinking rejects both views. The dialectical method requires focus on both at the same time. It looks for a transcendence of the opposites entailing a leap of the imagination to a higher level, which (1) provides justification for rejecting both alternatives as false and/or (2) helps elucidate a real but previously veiled integral relationship between apparent opposites that have been kept apart and regarded as distinct. For example, the superposition principle of quantum physics can be explained using the dialectical method of thinking—likewise the example below from dialectical biology. Such examples showing the relationship of the dialectic method of thinking to the scientific method to a large part negates the criticism of Popper (see text below) that the two are mutually exclusive. The dialectic method also examines false alternatives presented by formal dualism (materialism vs idealism; rationalism vs empiricism; mind vs body, etc.) and looks for ways to transcend the opposites and form synthesis. In the dialectical method, both have something in common, and understanding of the parts requires understanding their relationship with the whole system. The dialectical method thus views the whole of reality as an evolving process.»

Mishneh Torah

הלכות תלמוד תורה פרק א

יג   [יא] וחייב לשלש את זמן למידתו:  שליש בתורה שבכתב; ושליש בתורה שבעל פה; ושליש יבין וישכיל אחרית דבר מראשיתו, ויוציא דבר מדבר, וידמה דבר לדבר, וידין במידות שהתורה נדרשת בהן עד שיידע היאך הוא עיקר המידות והיאך יוציא האסור והמותר וכיוצא בהן מדברים שלמד מפי השמועה--ועניין זה, הוא הנקרא תלמוד.



Garnel Ironheart said...

1) The irony is that while the dialetical process is necessary, neither Beis Hillel or Shammai actually participated in it. It's left to us to discern the halacha from what they said but for them it was cut and dry in most cases.
2) The Talmud is closed and as complete as its going to be. Everything since then has, by definition, relied on the authority of the Talmud instead of adding to it.

Rabbi R Wolpoe said...

1) Actually Beth Hillel prefaced their opinions with Beth Shammai's opinion, this suggests some simple level of dialectic took place in their sessions

2) Tosafot continued Talmudic dialect for about 3 centuries. Tosafot felt they were continuing the work of the Amoraim - Source R Dr. E Kanarfogel.

There are several books that claim that the "talmud" was never closed and that we are ALL continuing to discuss it.

We are a long way from having a single defintive Talmudic text the way we have a masoretic Tanach