2 of 3
2
Jew and the Law
Posted: 01 September 2007 01:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  819
Joined  2004-12-21

[quote author=“mcalpine”]“Ever wonder why we haven’t put “love thy neighbor” in any statute?”

Haven’t you noticed the trend of legislation regarding “hate crimes”?

Love is difficult enough to define, much less legislate.  Attitudes cannot be controlled by legislation, only behaviors and actions can.
Certainly everyone has noticed the prosecution of hate crimes but if you are trying to make some subtle point regarding this topic, frankly I missed it. Please elaborate.

Stay Well
Wot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 September 2007 06:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  805
Joined  2007-08-28

Wot,

Your original post concerned theft as it relates to Jews and non-Jews. Then Rod asked the (probably rhetorical) question about “love thy neighbor” in statutes.

My reply was that, to some extent, a variation has been legislated, in the US, anyway, and not for any religious reason. It’s political and controversial, and maybe all that was my “subtle point”.

A cynical interpretation of the criminalization of “hate” is: if I steal from someone like me, I’m just a thief; if I steal from someone not like me, I a sociopath.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 21 October 2007 02:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1321
Joined  2006-04-24

“bencharif” date=“1129240117”]Wot,

Jewish law was written to create a social and political structure for Jews living exclusively or principally among other Jews.  It was not written to exclude non-Jews or, for that matter, to relieve Jews of moral responsibility in their dealings with non-Jews. 

Such dealings would have been limited in number and nature; were not matters of particular concern because they were so few; and so were not addressed specifically as far as I am aware.  Nothing I have ever seen, read or heard suggests formal or informal approval of a moral double-standard in relation to Jews’ dealings with Jews versus non-Jews.  Certainly in our own time such an idea is indefensible on any grounds.

Hi Ben,

Nice to meet you.  Welcome to the board.  I am enjoying your posts.  You’re a smart cookie. wink

I appreciate your point of view.  I agree with you that those scriptures are not the product of divine inspiration but a religio-political propaganda, basically.  The authors of those scriptures were deliberately working on molding a Jewish identity - defined by a common ideology, common God, common traditions, rituals, mythology…  And, being surrounded by hostile tribes and enemies, it was necessary to establish a *moral* identity.  Thus, the world was divided into Jews and non-Jews.  Ethical concern was extended to fellow Jews, but not to non-Jews.  This is why Jews are permitted to own slaves, so long as they do not enslave fellow Jews.  There most certainly is a double standard.  It is not just a matter of interpretation.  The double standard was deliberate.  It was a necessary part of establishing a Jewish national identity. 

Thus I am not at all surprised by that rabbi’s opinion that stealing from Jews is a worse offense than stealing from non-Jews.  We are dealing with “holy” scriptures here.  There is nothing holy about them.  They are political pieces of propaganda, whose core message is nationalistic: preserve your Jewishness at all costs.  Don’t kill, steal from or enslave other Jews.  The “Old Testament” is full of examples of God ordering his Chosen People to kill, steal from and enslave non-Jews.

Nice chatting with you.

Rami

Profile
 
 
Posted: 21 October 2007 03:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1321
Joined  2006-04-24
Wotansson - 14 October 2005 04:08 AM

I seem to have missed the part where one of the rabbis says (I’m paraphrasing) that a Jew committing a crime against another Jew is somehow a graver offense than a Jew committing the same crime against a non-Jew.

This is xenophobic nonsense; a distortion, an inversion of communal solidarity. You were right to be appalled. I certainly was.


Agreed.  Yet it is not uncommon for religions to impose two moral codes; one for like-believers and one for infiidels - not to say that any morality is actually practiced.  I think this is especially true for the Abrahamic faiths and less common for the the far-eastern faiths.
Wot

Yes, I would agree.  I am told that it is a Seventh-Day Adventist tradition, if not actual doctrine, that SDAs are not to sue fellow SDAs.  It is about religious identity.  It is about tribalism.  Those who are in the in-group have to take care of each other.  I think it is the same with the Mormons. 

Look at our own history.  “All men are created equal”, eh?  Does it really mean that?  Did they really mean that?  No.  They did not mean slaves, they did not mean women, they did not mean Native Americans.  It sounds nice and inclusive, but they did not mean it to be such.  The fact that women, African Americans and Native Americans have (in theory) equal rights now is the result of our own ethical evolution and development.

It is the same with the ancient Jewish Laws.  “Thou shalt not murder”.  Sounds terrific.  But they did not mean that.  The holy scriptures make it perfectly clear that the murder of anyone who is perceived to be an enemy of the Chosen People is OK - and ordered by God.  Heck, even genocide is justified!  Ben’s impulse to extend moral concern to all people is not the result of a more profound interpretation of the holy scriptures; it is the product of his having grown up in the 20th century, rather than in 500 BCE.  We live in a country in which the ideas of tolerance, acceptance of diversity, and the ideals of equality and freedom are generally looked on favorably.  So, using this emotional and intellectual filter it is easy to decide that the morality of the holy scriptures was intended for all mankind.  But it wasn’t.  The Hebrew Holy Scriptures were intended to be an ideology that united the Jews as a nation, that gave the Jewish tribes a unifying definition.  Non-Jews, non-believers, had to be excluded.  Look at how much of the Old Testament has to do with Israel’s enemies.  Psalm after psalm asks God for deliverance from enemies and asks God to destroy them utterly.  It is all about tribalism.  The basic idea is “We are to take care of each other and stick together against our enemies.”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 October 2007 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  334
Joined  2006-11-06
Rami - 21 October 2007 07:12 PM
Wotansson - 14 October 2005 04:08 AM

I seem to have missed the part where one of the rabbis says (I’m paraphrasing) that a Jew committing a crime against another Jew is somehow a graver offense than a Jew committing the same crime against a non-Jew.

This is xenophobic nonsense; a distortion, an inversion of communal solidarity. You were right to be appalled. I certainly was.


Agreed.  Yet it is not uncommon for religions to impose two moral codes; one for like-believers and one for infiidels - not to say that any morality is actually practiced.  I think this is especially true for the Abrahamic faiths and less common for the the far-eastern faiths.
Wot

Yes, I would agree.  I am told that it is a Seventh-Day Adventist tradition, if not actual doctrine, that SDAs are not to sue fellow SDAs.  It is about religious identity.  It is about tribalism.  Those who are in the in-group have to take care of each other.  I think it is the same with the Mormons. 

Look at our own history.  “All men are created equal”, eh?  Does it really mean that?  Did they really mean that?  No.  They did not mean slaves, they did not mean women, they did not mean Native Americans.  It sounds nice and inclusive, but they did not mean it to be such.  The fact that women, African Americans and Native Americans have (in theory) equal rights now is the result of our own ethical evolution and development.

It is the same with the ancient Jewish Laws.  “Thou shalt not murder”.  Sounds terrific.  But they did not mean that.  The holy scriptures make it perfectly clear that the murder of anyone who is perceived to be an enemy of the Chosen People is OK - and ordered by God.  Heck, even genocide is justified!  Ben’s impulse to extend moral concern to all people is not the result of a more profound interpretation of the holy scriptures; it is the product of his having grown up in the 20th century, rather than in 500 BCE.  We live in a country in which the ideas of tolerance, acceptance of diversity, and the ideals of equality and freedom are generally looked on favorably.  So, using this emotional and intellectual filter it is easy to decide that the morality of the holy scriptures was intended for all mankind.  But it wasn’t.  The Hebrew Holy Scriptures were intended to be an ideology that united the Jews as a nation, that gave the Jewish tribes a unifying definition.  Non-Jews, non-believers, had to be excluded.  Look at how much of the Old Testament has to do with Israel’s enemies.  Psalm after psalm asks God for deliverance from enemies and asks God to destroy them utterly.  It is all about tribalism.  The basic idea is “We are to take care of each other and stick together against our enemies.”

It is perhaps the case that the law was not practiced as it should have been (though none of the posts have provided any example of conduct which deviates from the norm of universality), and I need to see the debate that got this one going, but your analysis does not square with the text on three levels. 

First, the language of the moral (as opposed to ritual) commandments is all phrased in the universal and admits of no exception for Jew or Gentile.  Second, Gentiles were not required to adhere to any of the ritual requirements (although one does find evidence of debate about this), Gentiles are only required to adhere to the 7 Noahide Laws. 

Third, the Torah contains numerous provisions (in fact far more than any other mitzvot) on the requirements for treating the stranger with justice.  E.g. “You shall not taunt or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of egypt.” (Exodus 22:20). “Do not oppress a stranger; you know the feelings of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of egypt.” (Exodus 23:9).  “There shall be One Law for you, it shall be for proselyte and native alike, for I, Hashem, Am your Judge.” (Leviticus 24:22).  “When a proselyte dwells among you in your Land, do not taunt him. The proselyte who dwells with you shall be like a native among you, and you shall love him like yourself, for you were aliens in the land of egypt—I Am Hashem, your Judge.” (Leviticus 19:33-34). “For Hashem, your Judge—He Is the Judge of the judges and the Lord of the lords, the Great, Mighty, and Awesome Judge… He Carries out the Judgement of orphan and widow, and Loves the proselyte to Give him bread and garment. You shall love the proselyte for you were strangers in the land of egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:17,18-19).

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 October 2007 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5404
Joined  2006-09-27
Publius - 22 October 2007 11:33 AM

Third, the Torah contains numerous provisions

You write just like a Muslim claiming that Islam is a religion of peace and citing numerous verses in the Koran that purport to “prove” this. Surely you can come up with something that indicates how any particular monotheism really differs from another. An infinite amount of nonsense (the notion that the text is important because it was dictated by a deity) is still an infinite amount of nonsense. Enshrining a text because it is old is the oldest trick in the book. Heck, it is the book.

As I understand it, Jews don’t feel the need to defend their text to non-Jews, as they do not seek to convert others to their faith. Or are you one of those Jews-for-Jesus nutcases? Having an erudite knowledge of a text is not the same as demonstrating that the text means anything.

It’s fundie Xians who want to put giant stone tablets bearing the X Xommandments in the lobbies of government statehouses. You come off like one of them.

First, the language of the moral (as opposed to ritual) commandments is all phrased in the universal and admits of no exception for Jew or Gentile.

This is very important to you, and you lean heavily on the notion that (you say) it was dictated by God in order to preach to people who really are starting to look at you as if you are just another religious nut. Let’s cut to the chase and inquire whether it makes one whit of difference how it is phrased as to whether it admits of no exception. This is primarily due to the fact that the Torah is not, in fact, the only text in existence. Or are you just trying to counter the argument about tribalism? Most Jews don’t really behave as if they consider themselves members of a tribe any more, since nation states are so important these days. But some of them still worship the Law, as you do.

Your position is incoherent, except for constantly trying to correct what you consider to be other people’s misunderstanding of the contents of Torah. Make yourself an authority on the text. To anyone who considers the text an inconsistent mess, your protestations of authority must fall on deaf ears.

Publius - 19 October 2007 12:32 PM

Second, my conception of faith seems markedly different from yours.  To engage Torah is to question.  It is silent as guidance and insight to man until we question, until we challenge, until we doubt.  The one who questions most vigorously is greater in piety.  Thus, we read Gen. 32:29 “And he said: ‘Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with G-d and with men, and hast prevailed.’”  The blessing is bestowed on Jacob only after the struggle and the victory, not through passivity and acceptance.

We see above that you know perfectly when to engage and strive and when to meekly point out how specific and unambiguous the text is. We also see this in your reading of Genesis. You seem to know perfectly when it is Law and when it is metaphor. Wherefrom do you gain this mysterious capacity? As far as anyone can tell, you are just another sinister nutcase who believes he knows exactly what the text is telling everyone.

Publius - 19 October 2007 02:45 PM

The point of course is that we act on hunches and hearsay all the time.  I have no direct evidence that the moon isn’t made of green cheese:  but I accept what I’ve been told is the truth of the matter.

You also notice that on our planet, there are mountains made of rock, and see that it would be ridiculous to speculate that other celestial bodies are made of, uh, green cheese. This argument is based on the rheological properties of green cheese that prohibit it from forming mountains. Are there no mountains on the moon, Publius? There is none so blind as one who will not peer through the business end of a telescope. According to the laws of physics that describe the dynamics of bodies influenced by gravity, the moon could not be made of green cheese, as it has the wrong density to explain these dynamics in terms of the center of gravitation of the Earth-moon system. This shows that you are willing to make entirely corrupt rhetorical choices in trying to justify to people why you believe what you do about the sources of ancient texts.

[ Edited: 22 October 2007 08:42 AM by Traces Elk]
 Signature 

INVEST in cynicism!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 October 2007 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  334
Joined  2006-11-06
Salt Creek - 22 October 2007 11:47 AM
Publius - 22 October 2007 11:33 AM

Third, the Torah contains numerous provisions

You write just like a Muslim claiming that Islam is a religion of peace and citing numerous verses in the Koran that purport to “prove” this. Surely you can come up with something that indicates how any particular monotheism really differs from another. An infinite amount of nonsense (the notion that the text is important because it was dictated by a deity) is still an infinite amount of nonsense. Enshrining a text because it is old is the oldest trick in the book. Heck, it is the book.

I acknowledged that it could very well be the case that the actual practice of Jews may have deviated wildly from what the religion requires.  Judaism is no guarantee that people won’t be moral shits.  On the other hand, no example has been provided of an instance that would support your view.  The onus is on you to come forward with an interesting example of a systematic deviation by the Jews from the law.  The post I made was in reference to a comment that misread the text.  Thus, the defense was more than adequate.

As I understand it, Jews don’t feel the need to defend their text to non-Jews, as they do not seek to convert others to their faith. Or are you one of those Jews-for-Jesus nutcases? Having an erudite knowledge of a text is not the same as demonstrating that the text means anything.

Jews for Jesus are Christians.  So are so-called Messianic Jews.  If you worship Jesus as God, you ain’t a Jew.  And in fact there are prohibitions on prosyletizing in Judaism.  Just here to correct misunderstandings of my religion.  Makes no difference to me one way or the other if you believe or not.  I just enjoy discussing such matters.

First, the language of the moral (as opposed to ritual) commandments is all phrased in the universal and admits of no exception for Jew or Gentile.

This is very important to you, and you lean heavily on the notion that (you say) it was dictated by God in order to preach to people who really are starting to look at you as if you are just another religious nut. Let’s cut to the chase and inquire whether it makes one whit of difference how it is phrased as to whether it admits of no exception. Or are you just trying to counter the argument about tribalism? Most Jews don’t really behave as if they consider themselves members of a tribe any more, since nation states are so important these days. But some of them still worship the Law, as you do.

Oh, I’m quite comfortable with tribalims.  So is everyone who has a family.  As the philosopher Bernard Williams put is so eloquently, if I see my wife drowning and I decide to jump into the water to save her, not just because she’s my wife, but because in general I believe husbands ought to save their wives, I’ve acted on one “ought” to many.

Your position is incoherent, except for constantly trying to correct what you consider to be other people’s misunderstanding of the contents of Torah. Make yourself an authority on the text. To anyone who considers the text an inconsistent mess, your protestations of authority must fall on deaf ears.

No.  I’m just pointing out what the text says.  Since none of y’all actually quote the text which you claim supports your view of it.  And where you do quote the text, it’s still important to recall that the text comes with an interpretive tradition.  But you, for some reason, seem inclined to read it like a protestant fundamentalist. 

Publius - 19 October 2007 12:32 PM

Second, my conception of faith seems markedly different from yours.  To engage Torah is to question.  It is silent as guidance and insight to man until we question, until we challenge, until we doubt.  The one who questions most vigorously is greater in piety.  Thus, we read Gen. 32:29 “And he said: ‘Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with G-d and with men, and hast prevailed.’”  The blessing is bestowed on Jacob only after the struggle and the victory, not through passivity and acceptance.

We see above that you know perfectly when to engage and strive and when to meekly point out how specific and unambiguous the text is. We also see this in your reading of Genesis. You seem to know perfectly when it is Law and when it is metaphor. Wherefrom do you gain this mysterious capacity? As far as anyone can tell, you are just another sinister nutcase who believes he knows exactly what the text is telling everyone.

Dumbass:  stories can be taken metaphorically or literally.  If someone provides a historical about the French revolution, based on context that’s not the kind of thing to be read metaphorically.  On the other hand, if you read A Tale of Two Cities as historical truth, you’re, well, an idiot.  I have no idea how one reads a law or rule metaphorically, though certainly rules and principles, depending on their level of generality may be subject to interpretation.

Publius - 19 October 2007 02:45 PM

The point of course is that we act on hunches and hearsay all the time.  I have no direct evidence that the moon isn’t made of green cheese:  but I accept what I’ve been told is the truth of the matter.

You also notice that on our planet, there are mountains made of rock, and see that it would be ridiculous to speculate that other celestial bodies are made of, uh, green cheese. According to the laws of physics that describe the dynamics of bodies influenced by gravity, the moon could not be made of green cheese, as it has the wrong density to explain these dynamics in terms of the center of gravitation of the Earth-moon system.

If you say so ...

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 October 2007 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5404
Joined  2006-09-27
Publius - 22 October 2007 12:53 PM

if you read A Tale of Two Cities

...you do get to learn razor-sharp truths about the nature of ancient grudges, and about altruism, and about self-hatred. Same with some bible stories, except the latter are shrouded in weird supernatural bullshit, which takes away some of the sharpness. The lessons are not allowed to stand on their own. I don’t know why someone would try to learn from one when they had the choice of the other. As bencharif points out in another thread, some people just want to dip their toes in the shallow end of a very deep pool of history of which they stand in a sort of awe that makes them seem entirely child-like. It’s the other part that I reject, about the way humans stand at the center of all creation that seems both childlike and utterly insane. I never pondered much whether Sidney Carton was going to heaven or to hell.

[ Edited: 22 October 2007 09:24 AM by Traces Elk]
 Signature 

INVEST in cynicism!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 October 2007 09:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  334
Joined  2006-11-06
Salt Creek - 22 October 2007 01:15 PM
Publius - 22 October 2007 12:53 PM

if you read A Tale of Two Cities

...you do get to learn razor-sharp truths about the nature of ancient grudges, and about altruism, and about self-hatred. Same with some bible stories, except the latter are shrouded in weird supernatural bullshit, which takes away some of the sharpness. The lessons are not allowed to stand on their own. I don’t know why someone would try to learn from one when they had the choice of the other. As bencharif points out in another thread, some people just want to dip their toes in the shallow end of a very deep pool of history of which they stand in a sort of awe that makes them seem entirely child-like.

There’s nothing worse than an inconsistent nihilist—if neither truth nor authenticity are values, because after all there are no values, then your comment is meaningless ...

... should one not read the Illiad because it mentions the Greek Gods?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 October 2007 09:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5404
Joined  2006-09-27
Publius - 22 October 2007 01:22 PM

There’s nothing worse than an inconsistent nihilist—if neither truth nor authenticity are values, because after all there are no values, then your comment is meaningless

Hey, you’re the one who leans on “interpretive traditions” to come up with all your bullshit. Unfortunately, your readings are wrapped in a leaden legalism that stifles any lightness in the conversation. I thought you might appreciate my noticing the scriptural echoes in Dickens.

[ Edited: 22 October 2007 09:30 AM by Traces Elk]
 Signature 

INVEST in cynicism!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 October 2007 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5404
Joined  2006-09-27

We misunderstand one another, Publius. I only strive to maintain a wall of separation between my interpretive traditions and my historical truths. This is what a scientist does.

[ Edited: 22 October 2007 09:39 AM by Traces Elk]
 Signature 

INVEST in cynicism!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 October 2007 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1321
Joined  2006-04-24

“Publius” date=“1193082834Oh, I’m quite comfortable with tribalims.  So is everyone who has a family.  As the philosopher Bernard Williams put is so eloquently, if I see my wife drowning and I decide to jump into the water to save her, not just because she’s my wife, but because in general I believe husbands ought to save their wives, I’ve acted on one “ought” to many.


But that isn’t tribalism.  You would be saving your wife because you care about her.  You know her and you care about her.  Tribalism is when you favor people you don’t know, simply because you identify them as members of your own “in-group.”  Rooting for your home town’s football team is tribalism.  If there were two people you did not know drowning - a Jew and a gentile - and you could save only one, and you chose to save the Jew simply because he/she was a Jew, that would be tribalism. 

Years ago I was in New York.  On the bus I sat next to a somewhat mentally handicapped person.  We started ot chat.  When he found out I was from California, he told me that if I were to ever hurt a New Yorker he would beat me up - because he is a New Yorker and feels he should defend “his people”.

And likewise, once I went to the movies in Sacramento.  The guy let me go in without paying?  Why did he do this?  Because he knew me and we were friends?  Because he was a fan who liked my singing?  Because he liked my beautiful brown eyes?  No.  It was because he was Armenian and noticed that I had an Armenian name.  Tribalism.  I was one of “his people”.

Back in Bulgaria, in the days before I knew homosexuality existed, I was dating a girl.  I was brought up in Bulgaria, spoke only Bulgarian, spoke almost no Armenian.  I was culturally Bulgarian and half my genes were Bulgarian.  But my name is Armenian.  So my girlfriend’s parents threw a fit!  They decided I was not Bulgarian and they were not going to have their daughter date me!  They barely knew me.  And they thought i was a nice young boy.  But because I was not from the “in-group” they decided I was not worthy of their daughter. 

Tribalism is about moral identity.  I confess that my affinity for some Bulgarian opera singers is somewhat the product of tribalism.  I mean, they are dear to me because when I first discovered opera, it was through them.  However, some of them have vocal flaws that I would probably not tolerate if they were not Bulgarian.

When we say “God bless America”, that is tribalism.  When we pray for “our” soldiers in Iraq, yet it never occurs to us to pray about the Iraqui civilians who are about to be killed by “our” soldiers, that is tribalism.

[ Edited: 22 October 2007 10:29 AM by Rami]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 October 2007 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  334
Joined  2006-11-06
Rami - 22 October 2007 02:22 PM

“Publius” date=“1193082834Oh, I’m quite comfortable with tribalims.  So is everyone who has a family.  As the philosopher Bernard Williams put is so eloquently, if I see my wife drowning and I decide to jump into the water to save her, not just because she’s my wife, but because in general I believe husbands ought to save their wives, I’ve acted on one “ought” to many.


But that isn’t tribalism.  You would be saving your wife because you care about her.  You know her and you care about her.  Tribalism is when you favor people you don’t know, simply because you identify them as members of your own “in-group.”  Rooting for your home town’s football team is tribalism.  If there were two people you did not know drowning - a Jew and a gentile - and you could save only one, and you chose to save the Jew simply because he/she was a Jew, that would be tribalism. 

Years ago I was in New York.  On the bus I sat next to a somewhat mentally handicapped person.  We started ot chat.  When he found out I was from California, he told me that if I were to ever hurt a New Yorker he would beat me up - because he is a New Yorker and feels he should defend “his people”.

And likewise, once I went to the movies in Sacramento.  The guy let me go in without paying?  Why did he do this?  Because he knew me and we were friends?  Because he was a fan who liked my singing?  Because he liked my beautiful brown eyes?  No.  It was because he was Armenian and noticed that I had an Armenian name.  Tribalism.  I was one of “his people”.

Back in Bulgaria, in the days before I knew homosexuality existed, I was dating a girl.  I was brought up in Bulgaria, spoke only Bulgarian, spoke almost no Armenian.  I was culturally Bulgarian and half my genes were Bulgarian.  But my name is Armenian.  So my girlfriend’s parents threw a fit!  They decided I was not Bulgarian and they were not going to have their daughter date me!  They barely knew me.  And they thought i was a nice young boy.  But because I was not from the “in-group” they decided I was not worthy of their daughter. 

Tribalism is about moral identity.  I confess that my affinity for some Bulgarian opera singers is somewhat the product of tribalism.  I mean, they are dear to me because when I first discovered opera, it was through them.  However, some of them have vocal flaws that I would probably not tolerate if they were not Bulgarian.

When we say “God bless America”, that is tribalism.  When we pray for “our” soldiers in Iraq, yet it never occurs to us to pray about the Iraqui civilians who are about to be killed by “our” soldiers, that is tribalism.

To paraphrase Hume: Man is a creature of limited sympathies.  Tribalism can indeed be about moral identity, but when people have a sense of connection to you in virtue of say a shared language, land, or culture, there’s nothing even remotely problematic about that.  Obviously, the flip side can also be true, which is why you want a universalist morality to adequately constrain one’s tribalism.  But I find nothing problematic with tribalism per se.

But let me go back to the hypo you posed up top because I think it raises a far more profound dilemma than you think.  Suppose I see two strangers drowning.  I know one is a Christian because he’s wearing a cross, the other a Jew because he’s wearing a Jewish star.  Both are equadistant from me.  Both are the physically the same.  The risk to my life is minimal no matter whom I save.  Let’s assume further that whomever I choose to save I will in fact be able to save, but I can still only save one.  Is choosing to save the Jew because we are both Jews immoral?  From a universalistic perspective the two individuals are indentical, I have no basis to choose one over the other, but clearly letting them both drown because I can’t find a basis to distinguish them is not an adequate solution.  So on what basis, from a universalist perspective, does one choose whom to save?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 October 2007 11:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  334
Joined  2006-11-06
Salt Creek - 22 October 2007 01:29 PM

We misunderstand one another, Publius. I only strive to maintain a wall of separation between my interpretive traditions and my historical truths. This is what a scientist does.

That is fair enough my nihilistic friend ... but religion, morality, ethics, and the like are not sciences ... they are not about providing the most accurate description of what is, but rather providing prescriptions for how one ought to live.  Prescriptions will be constrained by the facts, but the facts do not dictate prescriptions.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 October 2007 02:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1321
Joined  2006-04-24

“Publius” date=“1193090880”]

To paraphrase Hume: Man is a creature of limited sympathies.  Tribalism can indeed be about moral identity, but when people have a sense of connection to you in virtue of say a shared language, land, or culture, there’s nothing even remotely problematic about that.

 

Of course there is.  It is showing favouritism not based on reason, but prejudice.  This is what this “sense” of connection is - prejudice.  We have no connection to people we don’t know.  The man who let me get into the movie theater had no *reason* for doing so. 

Obviously, the flip side can also be true, which is why you want a universalist morality to adequately constrain one’s tribalism.  But I find nothing problematic with tribalism per se.

I find much hat is problematic with tribalism, especially considering that we no longer live in tribes, but in a global community.  Our ethics need to be adjusted accordingly.  I believe in equal consideration of interests, so the life of an Afghani civilian is just as valuable to me as tthe life of an American soldier.  In a tribal mentality, there is no equal consideration of interests.  Those outside the “in-group” are not given equal consideration of interests.  That’s a problem. 

But let me go back to the hypo you posed up top because I think it raises a far more profound dilemma than you think.  Suppose I see two strangers drowning.  I know one is a Christian because he’s wearing a cross, the other a Jew because he’s wearing a Jewish star.  Both are equadistant from me.  Both are the physically the same.  The risk to my life is minimal no matter whom I save.  Let’s assume further that whomever I choose to save I will in fact be able to save, but I can still only save one.  Is choosing to save the Jew because we are both Jews immoral?

 

Immoral?  I don’t know.  But is it reasonable?  What *reason* do you have for favoring him?  Does his being Jewish make his life more valuable to you?  Why?  How is the Christian’s life any less valuable to you? 

There may be reasons as to why you would choose to save the Jewish person and not the Christian.  But if the only reason was that one was a member of your “in-group” and the other wasn’t, then this would not be a decision hat is informed by reason.  It would be prejudice.

From a universalistic perspective the two individuals are indentical, I have no basis to choose one over the other, but clearly letting them both drown because I can’t find a basis to distinguish them is not an adequate solution.  So on what basis, from a universalist perspective, does one choose whom to save?

Well, this is just a hypothetical situation.  And according to your hypothesis, you posit that there isn’t a single reason to favor one over the other.  And so you would make a decision based on tribal mentality.

But this is a mere hypothetical situation.  No two individuals are precisely the same.  There might be differences between the two that would lead you to make a reasonable decision regarding whom to help.  Perhaps one has a better chance of survival.  Perhaps one seems less likely to pull you under the water with himself and drown you along with himself.  Perhaps one is 10 years old and the other is 98 and you feel that the 10 year old should be given a chance to experience life.  All of these are legitimate considerations, reasons that can inform one’s decision.  But basing one’s decision on the mere fact that one is a member of the “in-group” is in effect acting out of prejudice.  It is saying that the value of life is determined according to in-group/out-group membership.  Please don’t take this as an attack, but I think it basically boils down to this: if a tribal thinker is White, American and Protestant, other White American Protestants’ lives would be (in his eyes) more valuable than the lives of Black Haitian Catholics, White British Protestans, Black American Muslims, etc…  There may very well be excellent reasons as to why an individual should receive our support or opposition, but membership of “in-group” or “out-group” is not reason.  It is prejudice.

Profile
 
 
   
2 of 3
2
 
RSS 2.0     Atom Feed