Do you value the rules or wish to transcend them?
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.
Some societies value members who follow the rules and norms of their culture, while others believe that the best person is one who pursues goodness for its own sake.
An individual who has a set of principles that determine their decisions might be disruptive to society. They might follow the logic of their own idea of the good and decide to ignore the rules that their culture has collectively adopted. In some cases, laws may seem unimportant to them, such as paying taxes or not speeding, but in other cases, they may see the law as protecting and encouraging evil behavior. In such cases, they see a value in deliberately disobeying such laws.
Who would you rather have on your team, someone who values the decisions agreed to by everyone or someone who follows their own ideas for what is best? What if the decisions were made by the team captain rather than collectively?
Let’s say you are that strong-willed team player who refuses to play by everyone else’s rules. How do you know that you are right? You are convinced that you know what is best for the team, but perhaps it is your own ego that is driving you – you just aren’t able to see that. You think that your reasoning is better than that of anybody else on the team, but they believe that their reasoning is correct.
One way out of this impasse is to use the law of averages. We often have conflicting desires. We may get angry with someone, but we don’t really want to be angry. We may want to eat correctly, but we still give in to the impulse of the moment. We may know that it won’t make much difference if we get home five minutes earlier, but we still take risks to shave off those seconds.
The best way to determine what you really want is to average your desires over a significant period, such as a week or more. Consistently holding the belief that you don’t care about a particular value during this period reflects your true belief. Averaging flattens out the power of momentary, short-term needs. By reflecting on your consistent desires over time, you can generalize and establish rules about what truly matters to you. The tough part, now, will be trying to follow those rules.
One individual in a group is like one short-term desire over time. The best way forward for the team is to average out the opinions of the entire team. While it is true that there are disadvantages to “decision by committee”, there are solutions for that, like appointing an executive decision-maker.
Of course, if you still believe that you are right and everyone else is wrong, if you insist that your outlier opinion is the correct one, you might be right. In fact, sometimes, it takes a visionary to break the fixed and stultifying mindset of the group. However, a little objective reflection may help you see that there is only a small probability that the extreme view is correct.
The rules of the group represent an average taken over both time and individuals. Some value following those rules, and some believe in an objective truth that transcends those rules.
submitted by /u/eliyah23rd