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A thought inspired by Wednesday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Nazir 9

A thought inspired by Wednesday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Nazir 9

Can you ever fail?

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.

How can anybody ever tell you that you’ve failed? How can anybody else decide for you what your goals should be, that you have not managed to reach them or that the conceptual structures that you have chosen to live your life by are incorrect?

We live in the age of the subjective and of standards set by the individual; can there ever be, for us, any argument that allows others to create constructions that we should allow ourselves to be judged by.

Of course, if you decide, say, to build a tower of blocks to a height of two meters and each time the blocks fall down before you reach that height, you have, technically failed to achieve your goal. However, it was you who set the goal and nobody else.

An objection may be that meaning in life is created through the pursuit of goals. Achieving a goal implies that there is a desired state that has not yet been reached. However, if the goalposts are set solely by you and can be moved arbitrarily, there is no actual goal. If, after minimal effort, you find that the standard you set for yourself is elusive, you alone have the power to declare that the level you’ve already attained will be deemed a success. It takes the involvement of others to set and judge the success of goals.

You can counter this objection by disputing the idea of weakness. It’s only you who must confront yourself and acknowledge that you set the goals and have no inclination to cheat. As an autonomous individual, you have the power to create your own rules and have the self-respect to pursue growth and ambition. You are fully capable of recognizing that your goals have yet to be reached. However, there will always be fears of failure within your mind that can lead you, despite your best intentions, to declare victory prematurely, resulting in self-delusion and a reduced drive to achieve.

The next counterargument is that we all rely on each other and must play the game together. A game requires rules and objectives, which must be established collectively. No one person holds the power to set these rules alone. These rules determine when objectives are achieved. You could argue that a game with limited objective options is not worth playing. While this response is valid, it’s important to note that society has the ability to play a game with multiple paths to reach objectives, placing a value on openness and diversity whenever possible. The rules, or at least the overarching rules, can be set collectively, allowing for a less rigid and more flexible game

The next objection is that cultural influence cannot be escaped. Your past experiences and interactions shape who you are, limiting your freedom. Even the language you use to express your independence is a shared creation, with meanings defined collectively. Setting your own goals means thinking in terms defined by cultural understanding.

The final objection is a powerful one, yet it can still be addressed. You must acknowledge that certain facts, rules, and objectives are determined by your past experiences and interactions. Failure will ultimately be defined externally, but this does not have to stop you from striving to define structures that go beyond the limitations of the past. Others may argue against your endeavors, but the decision to accept or reject their objections remains yours. You still have the power to create your own goals and pursue them.

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Source: Reditt