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A thought inspired by Monday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Nazir 14

A thought inspired by Monday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Nazir 14

Keeping borders clear.

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.

Maintaining clear boundaries between the various aspects of our lives often requires clearly defined borders. However, these borders may not always be present or feasible.

In the past, the majority of people only worked in fields, factories, or offices, and once their workday was done, they ceased work and went home. There was a distinct geographical divide between work and home, even if they stayed late. Today, however, most of us are reachable via our cell phones or instant messaging at all hours of the day. The convenience of working from home, while offering great flexibility, also blurs the line between work and family time. When work time and personal time overlap, it becomes challenging to maintain a clear distinction between the two.

Another example is a person who is responsible for managing both their own personal funds and corporate or public funds. While it may be possible to keep the expenditures separate, the same individual who benefits from their public image may also be able to offer benefits to their private life. When the distinction between these two areas becomes hazy and indistinct, it becomes challenging to view them as truly separate entities.

Consider two apples. They share type identity, but not token identity. All apples belong to the same type, but any two individual apples do not have token identity. In Computer Science, the distinction between a “class” and an “instance” conveys the same idea. When objects have clear boundaries or borders that define each instance, type identity does not lead to confusion regarding token identity. However, when there is no clear boundary, it becomes challenging to distinguish between token identity and type identity. For example, two bodies of water in separate lakes are easily differentiated, but when they merge and there is no clear boundary, it becomes difficult to say that the water on the left is distinct from the water on the right. This philosophical problem becomes particularly relevant when discussing abstract concepts such as two periods of time or two types of benefits.

If you want to maintain the distinctiveness of your activities, you might find the following suggestions useful. Take short breaks between activities, such as work and family time. Establish clear “do not disturb” times for your family, or make a symbolic gesture, such as dressing for work even when working from home, to help reinforce the distinction. Different strategies will work for different people, but the key takeaway is that when two activities merge together without clear borders to differentiate them, it becomes challenging to keep them separate, even in your own mind.

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