[Avodah] Source of Emunah

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Thu Jan 11 09:29:50 PST 2018

On Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 01:30:29PM +0200, Lisa Liel wrote:
: I have to disagree again. Belief is emotional. Conviction is, at least
: ideally, rational/intellectual. I would maintain that the latter is a much
: better fit for the Hebrew emunah, derived as it is from emet, or truth.

It was Plato who first defined knowledge as "justified true belief".
Aristo agreed, and so I assumed the Rambam did as well. Until the Gettier
Problem, this was the standard definition of knowledge. And Edmund Gettier
is still alive.

You might think of emotionally founded belief when you use the word. But
I told you I am talking about "belief" in the sense of "justified true
belief". My point of contention is that philosophical proof, or any
argument from first principles, doesn't work as justification. People end
up choosing which proofs they find compelling.

What I am saying is that deeply held beliefs, like religion (or the
superiority of vi over Emacs <grin>) are generally justified by first-hand
experience. And so it's experience that make those beliefs instances of
knowledge. That's not about emotion. After all, it's experience, not
emotion, that justify my belief that my tefillin batim are black. It's
not philosophically proven knowledge, but it's knowledge.

Similarly, it's the redemptive experience of a well-done Shabbos, or the
aesthetic beauty of a good piece of lomdus or the like that justify
my belief in the revalatory nature of halakhah and of Torah in general.
Those experiences turn the belief into knowledge. They are also what
make me willing to accept the proofs that further buttress and provide
more confidence in my knowledge. To accept the givens those proofs
are based upon. And to shelve attempted arguments against as interesting
open questions, rather than thinking they could realistically be

And I don't think there is a single school, orientation or modality of
psychology that would question this.

: Labeling something as Aristotelian doesn't mean it's wrong...

No, but pointing out that the idea was dismissed by people who study
and critique Aristo for a living does mean you shouldn't be so quick
to accept it. Even if the Rambam did.

One school of thought about Aristotle's position on akrasia (why people
make decisions they know are bad) is that he believes that bad choices
came from bad opinions. Rather than mussar's discussion of hergel, taavah,
and nequdas habechirah (that there are decisions made preconsciously,
without fee will). Or the typical psychological approach seeing reasn
and emotion in a two-way feedback loop. I argue in
<http://www.aishdas.org/asp/akrasia> that this belief that proper opions
is what leads to good behavior and proper dei'os is what underlies the
Rambam's focus on knowledge as the key to personal redemption.

:                                        As far as knowledge vs character,
: I think it's a false dichotomy. Both are vital.

I believe Chazal are clear that we are judged by our character. Knowledge
is vital -- as a handmaiden for character. You won't emulate G-d without
knowing something about Him. And even in a two-directional feedback loop,
there is still knowledge's role as cause of emotion (c.f. CBT).

: I also have a problem with most philosophers, so saying that they believe
: (there's that word again) that solid proofs may not even be possible
: is like saying that they question objective reality. Sure they do. Or
: at least they claim to. I think that when push comes to shove, none of
: them would step off the top of the Empire State Building because the
: reality of what that would result in isn't objective enough for them.

You are equating knowing a reality with philosophically proving it from
first principles. I am "only" dismissing the latter. Which is not only
the commonly accepted position among people who do epistomology, it's
R' Yehudah haLevi as well.

: And lest the social "sciences" get neglected, I find the idea that our
: perceptions of reality are "our reality" to be laughable, and very, very
: 20th/21st century in their solipsism...

All this is non-sequitur.

: To get more concrete and less theoretical, you know me. You must
: know that I have no emotional draw to a Torah life....

And, as I said about your detour into Chassidus, we aren't talking about
knowledge "justified" on emotion.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             When faced with a decision ask yourself,
micha at aishdas.org        "How would I decide if it were Ne'ilah now,
http://www.aishdas.org   at the closing moments of Yom Kippur?"
Fax: (270) 514-1507                            - Rav Yisrael Salanter

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