Sunday, July 03, 2005

The problems of modern discourse

I find much of today's debate and discussion to rest upon basic axioms, assumptions and personal parameters that differ from one to another. This leads to people debating apples and cars, chalk and cheese without them being aware that they are using differing frames of reference. This particularly happens in the religious and political sphere.

For example, a modern Orthodox Jew and an Ultra Orthodox one will have different assumptions about the role of the Jew in the modern world, his place in society, the function of women in religious society, the binding nature of daat torah etc.Compare that to the Reform Jew who has a different set of assumptions about social action, religion as culture and the evolution of religion. The Christian perceives his historical timeline to flow through Jesus, which the Jew cannot comprehend, and the Muslim believes Mohammad and the Koran to be the arbitrer of truth. This is all based on their conflicting axioms about those issues, each of whom consider these axioms to be self-evident. They could be ther result of education, of investigation, of upbringing, of indoctrination. The source of their beliefs and opinions is irrelevant here. I am trying to make the point theat the parameters of debate rest on these assumptions, without people being aware of it.

The same goes for political arguments - if I believe in self-determination then the woman has the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, but if I believe it to be murder/against the word of the Lord, then it is wrong. Similarly the concepts of big government, federalist law, affirmative action etc. They often rest on our assumptions about modern life, religion, race, the role of society and government, etc.

I don't want to enter into a political debate, I just wanted to express my ideas that much of what constitutes debate is often really just two people expressing their viewpoint based on their axioms and never the twain shall meet. I'm not sure if I expressed myself clearly enough, it being pretty late at night, but I hope and pray you get my point. Be aware of your parameters of discourse. Or else.



At 7/04/2005 12:30 AM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I just made a related post about how Orthodox Judaism limits the debate so as to avoid questioning the axioms.

At 7/04/2005 11:19 AM, Blogger LostSpirit said...

You made you point very well but I was hoping for a more insightful analyses of how that results in the different sects of our religion all having valid points of view from there perspective. Maybe something you can elaborate on if you are up to it, it sure would make interesting reading.

At 7/04/2005 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't like political debates either.

Anyway, about Judaism, when having a discussion, first a person has to look into the Torah and Talmud, and see what it says. Then people discuss their viewpoints about what it's saying. Their viewpoints differ b/c of how they see things.

What happens sometimes is that one might be trying to interpret it in a way that fits his lifestyle while the other is trying to see what God is actually saying. But if they both want to know what He is really saying, then while looking and discussing they can both learn something and if they have diff. views, that's fine. They can discuss it and then both understand each other more.

Judaism has many answers, people just need to keep trying and they'll find them.

people can talk at

At 7/04/2005 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

woops, i mean

At 7/04/2005 3:12 PM, Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

As Dr. Shatz puts it:

One man's reductio ad absurdum is the next man's in hachi nami.

At 7/05/2005 12:26 PM, Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

Just to compare this to something that I've said. In Speech class, the class that you present is called a persuasive speech. I'm sure that I don't have to explain what this is. Anyways, I did mine on why I'm pro Capital Punishment. At the end of my speech, I stated clearly that I didn't expect to change any-one's mind on the topic. Most people have made up their minds on these kinds of things, and are unwilling to listen to another's point of view. So, I just said that I made some points that I hoped would make people think, and maybe they heard things they hadn't known before, and it would effect them in some way or another. It's very hard to change a person's mind on a subject. My feeling is that all you can do is try to make people think. They can choose to listen to you or not, but that's their choice. Discussion and debate is one of the corner-stones of our society and, especially, at the heart of Judaism. We should be encouraging it instead of hiding it in some corner and being afraid of what questions might do. Apples and oranges. So what? Talking is all that matters.

At 7/05/2005 9:13 PM, Blogger Avi said...

... What a difficult heading I picked. "Only the truth" Do you realize how difficult it is to dig out the truth from the mountain of lies that the truth is buried underneath. I read the comments on President George Bush. They call him a liar. So what? Bill Clinton was also a liar " I did not have sex with that woman" Does anybody tell the truth anymore. I know a rabbi ( no names mentioned) who does not know what the word truth is. Thats ok, there are plenty of preists who also dont know what truth means. One of the names of God is " Emes" which means truth. That is probably the ultimate truth. That there is a God . The world belongs to someone. The world has an owner.

At 7/06/2005 1:47 PM, Blogger TwennyTwo said...


How many many discussion have I begun only to end at the very same point that you made, TRK. There will never be agreement on certain things. The question for me is, does that still make them worth discussion?

I think, only if I'm willing to be open to think and/or change my mind. And on religious points, that's either impossible or entirely to scary to contemplate. There's only so open I'm willing to be, as hard as that is to admit.

Thanks for the post.


At 7/06/2005 5:49 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...

The debate is there if you want it, lulei demistafina.

At 7/07/2005 1:45 PM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

It is good to challenge yourself.

At 7/14/2005 4:53 PM, Blogger Queenie said...

How do you look beyond diffeences of opinion and connect with the soul inside?

If only everyone could just get out and dance together,


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