Knowledge and Reality

I was reading an article in the Wikipedia on Jewish philosophy at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_philosophy  and the section far down the page at:

Traditionalist attitudes towards philosophy

which reads: Haredi traditionalists who emerged in reaction to the Haskalah considered the fusion of religion and philosophy as difficult because classical philosophers start with no preconditions for which conclusions they must reach in their investigation, while classical believers have a set of principles of faith that they hold one must . Most Haredim contended that one cannot simultaneously be a philosopher and a adherent of a revealed religion. In this view, all attempts at synthesis ultimately fail. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, for example, viewed all philosophy as untrue and heretical. In this he represents one strand of Hasidic thought, with creative emphasis on the emotions.

Other exponents of Hasidism had a more positive attitude towards philosophy. In the Chabad writings of Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Hasidut is seen as able to unite all parts of Torah thought, from the schools of philosophy to mysticism, by uncovering the illuminating Divine essence that permeates and transcends all approaches. Interpreting the verse from Job, “from my flesh I see HaShem“, Shneur Zalman explained the inner meaning, or “”, of the Jewish mystical tradition in intellectual form, by means of analogies drawn from the human realm. As explained and continued by the later leaders of Chabad, this enabled the human mind to grasp concepts of Godliness, and so enable the heart to feel the love and awe of HaShem, emphasised (sic) by all the founders of hasidism, in an internal way. This development, the culminating level of the Jewish mystical tradition, in this way bridges philosophy and mysticism, by expressing the transcendent in human terms.

I’ve quoted the entire piece so it will be clear that I’m not trying to distort the meaning of the article. This is an objective factual article and the arthur is not advocating any personal stand on the subject.

The article is on the subject of Jewish philosophy, but if you remove the Jewish aspects you get a contrast that applies to all Fundamentalist vs Rationalist.

The extracts below were made by me because they jumped out as such a clear and concise statement of two ways of looking at reality.

(1.) Those who’s view of reality is predicated on faith;

(…have a set of principles of ..  faith that they hold one must

… one cannot simultaneously be a philosopher and a adherent of a revealed religion.

viewing … all philosophy as untrue and heretical.

And supporting their views … with creative emphasis on the emotions.)

and:

(2.) Those who’s view of is predicated on reason;

(… start with no preconditions for … conclusions they must reach in their investigation.)

These statements grabbed my attention because I had been pondering over the growing divide between these same two views of reality that is occurring today.

The emphasis on the emotions was especially significant; the idea that knowledge can come from emotion.  Knowledge has only 6 sources: the five senses, (sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste;) and the 6th; reason (or logic.)  Starting at birth our brains continuously use the input from the senses to build synapses between our brain cells, accumulating knowledge and building a picture in our mind of reality.  The more synapses the more data available for our reason to build a picture and understanding of reality.  There is no guarantee that the view of reality that our brains build is true reality, but the input from our senses and the analysis of that input by our reasoning is the only source we have of what reality is.   The emotions can NEVER be a source of knowledge or a way of determining what reality is. Yet the emotions can be and frequently are used as a way of validating ideas that have no basis in our sensory knowledge and can not stand up to logic. For example our parents used emotions (excitement [at the prospect] , joy [at the discovery] , and maybe a little fear [at the beginning]) to get to ignore the lack of sensory data and accept the of the Tooth Fairy.  When the first tooth was placed under the pillow because we were told the Tooth Fairy would come in the night and change it into a coin, there may have been some doubt about this happening. (Even children’s minds depend upon sensory data and logic [limited tho it maybe] to understand reality.)  If we woke during the night we checked to see if it’d  happened; still some doubt. But when morning came, and the tooth was gone, the coin was there, the emotions became the force that convinced our minds to accept the reality of the Tooth Fairy in spite of the lack of any sensory or logic evidence of this knowledge. The same use of emotion applies to children’s belief in Santa and the Easter Bunny.  Parents may not be (and probably aren’t) conscious of what is being done.

A good (and by good I mean only successful) orator does exactly the same thing.  By presenting ideas while stimulating the audiences emotions, the orator gets the audience to accept ideas as valid that have no basis in the five senses and that a non-emotional consideration by the minds reasoning powers would reject BECAUSE there is no such basis.


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