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A thought inspired by Wednesday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Gittin 43

A thought inspired by Wednesday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Gittin 43

You don’t understand until you realize that you could be wrong.

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.

Our minds need certainty. In order to succeed in our missions, we need to know the facts and be certain that we can predict the effects of our decisions. When this certainty is not available or not justified, we will persuade ourselves to feel certain anyway. We’re built that way.

However, such certainty is very rarely, if ever, justified. We don’t have the facts, we are very bad at predicting the future, every event has consequences that were not intended, our logic fails because our words are not carefully defined, a cloud of biases affects our judgment, and for every statement, there is usually a different perspective that contradicts it but is equally valid.

So if you think you know something, or have understood why some event occurred or some concept, that’s great. If you now realize that you could be wrong, then you know more and understand better.

A significant objection to this attitude is that it will prevent you from making any decisions. Any path you choose might be the wrong one, and any prediction you make might be incorrect. How could you ever do anything? Moreover, why would anyone else ever follow your lead or cooperate with you if you yourself are not certain that your path is a good one? Surely it is much better to shut down all these questions and doubts. Even if certainty is not justified, the need for certainty is well justified.

Perhaps it is best to set aside this objection. It might nevertheless be rational to choose some action rather than none; the path that seems best to you at the time – even if it is uncertain. Just don’t pretend to yourself, or project to others, that you are sure when you can’t be certain of that. Perhaps some may not cooperate with you, perhaps you might reduce the chance of success on this specific mission, but if you can succeed while still preserving the values of honesty and the awareness that others may also be right, then you will have achieved a broader success.

submitted by /u/eliyah23rd
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