Press "Enter" to skip to content

A thought inspired by Monday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Gittin 76

A thought inspired by Monday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Gittin 76

Legal thinking and daily life.

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.

Imagine two people working together, living together, or simply cooperating. One person believes they should do X while the other believes they should do Y. You think that one task should take priority, but your partner thinks something else is more important. You think it is acceptable to go home now, but your boss believes you should stay late. You think the lane is yours, but another driver does not want to wait until you pass by.

How do we determine whose opinion should prevail in a disagreement? One way to resolve these questions depends on the nature of the relationship between the two people and the power dynamics involved. An alternative resolution method involves resorting to the rule book and citing specific rules, but in most cases this is considered extreme and out of place. Such recourse to strict rules is only appropriate when there is explicit conflict or a social deadlock.

However, power is not the sole determining factor in conflicting decisions. Often, general principles play a significant role in determining whose opinion will win. For instance, if your boss asks you to stay late at work, you might invoke your right to your own private time.

Conforming to these generally accepted moral principles is important because most people perceive themselves as decent and fair, explicit expressions of self-interest are socially unacceptable, and violating these norms is more likely to provoke an extreme response from the other party.

The majority of our mildly conflicted social interactions take place somewhere between the extremes of raw power dynamics on one hand and resorting to the wording of the rule book on the other.

Rules make us equal but rules are also stupid. Rules grant us equality and freedom by protecting us from the claims of those who are more powerful. Ideally, we are all playing the same game and bound by the same rules. However, society’s rules and laws often focus on the exact wording of one side’s claims or the rigid interpretation of the law. Words can be limiting because they lack flexibility.

We tend to find the general principles that underlie human interaction interesting because they help us make sense of our daily lives. We often find ourselves grappling with the general rules that help coordinate our collective existence. Dry legal reasoning rarely comes into play in our lives, so we are less likely to find its details engaging. The general concepts used to explain human interaction help us understand ourselves and why we behave in certain ways, while legalisms seem to provide no deeper insights into our lives.

It is useful to have people who find legal thinking interesting. Just as a mathematician finds excitement in the intricacies of their field, lawyers or judges derive pleasure from exploring legal thinking. This is often because the more time we spend on a subject, the more captivated we become. We need the skills of legal experts when conflicts arise.

However, perhaps it is worth investing time in understanding the rules that govern our societies for all of us. Rules do not materialize out of thin air, nor are they arbitrary. Ideally, society’s rules and laws are detailed verbal expressions of broad abstract ideas. Exploring these rules allows us to contemplate these abstract ideas. Many principles of human interaction are not explicitly formulated in our minds; we learn how to navigate within these principles, even if we are unable to articulate them. Understanding moves us from blind habit towards rational control.

This concept can be illustrated using a computer program from the 1980s called “Boids.” This simple simulation demonstrates how flocks of birds exhibit coordinated behavior despite the absence of central control guiding each bird’s precise movements. The “birds” in the simulation follow three simple rules based only on the actions of their immediate neighbors.

However, the birds in the simulation adhere to explicit rules defined by the programmer. In the case of human societies, we do not start with such explicitly defined rules. We evolved and learned the principles that coordinate our interactions. By examining our behavior and the laws that govern it, we can work backward to comprehend the simple principles that underlie our interactions. The ultimate result of this understanding is the use of words to describe those principles and help us reflect on ourselves.

submitted by /u/eliyah23rd
[link] [comments]

Source: Reditt

%d bloggers like this: