The law and what’s mine.
This post presents a philosophical idea inspired by the text of today’s Daf. The Daf is one page in the Talmud that tens of thousands of people study each day. I explain the connection to the text in a comment below. My purpose is to show that there are underlying philosophical assumptions in the Talmud that can have great significance for anybody today trying to understand our complex reality.
Human beings are a species of animal on the one hand, but they are very special in many ways on the other. However, even seen as an animal, they are quite extreme in respect to the fact that they cannot survive alone; they need the support of a group or the facilities that they create in order to survive.
There always exists, therefore, a tension between self-interest and the need for individuality on the one hand and the needs of the collective on the other. We need the help, cooperation, and protection of others, but we want to be left alone to follow our own vision, for people not to take what is ours or restrict our freedom.
Our most intense debates often center around assumptions about private property.
One view is that the property that we own and our creations belong to us as an absolute right. We might choose to allow some of these to be given away in return for the fulfillment of our social needs, but our property always starts off as absolutely ours. Without our permission, even though it may be only implicit, society may not take anything from us, since it is always ours.
The opposing view is that ownership is a concept that the group creates. There is no meaning to the idea of ownership except as a rule in a cooperative game that we all play. In the interests of the efficient functioning of the group as well as an investment in its future, the group allocates all resources as it sees fit. If the group decides that some of the resources are for you to benefit from, for now, we call that ownership. Society is fully entitled to reallocate these resources as it benefits all of us collectively.