Flawed Arguments
Moshe Ben-Chaim
Below is an actual dialogue.
I will show the flaws in the "Responder's" answers:
Line01 Questioner: Is there such a thing as a gilgul?
Line02 Responder: Yes
Line03 Questioner: How do you know?
Line04 Responder: The Zohar says so
Line05 Questioner: What is the translation of gilgul?
Line06 Responder: Reincarnation
Line07 Questioner: OK then, look at this article....
Line08 Responder: Oh I know about him,......he did say gilgulim are wrong, he disrespected Rav Ovadiah Yosef for saying the Jews killed in WWII were gilgulim
Line09 Responder: Lots of reasons. I haven't seen that site in a couple of years I think. He totally has weird ideas about Judaism
Line10 Questioner: What makes you say he is wrong?
Line11 Responder: Because he makes no sense
Line12 Questioner: Why not? Please explain
Line13 Responder: Explain what?
Line14 Questioner: How he makes no sense, give me an example
Line15 Responder: He wrote how Rav Ovadiah Yosef saying Jews who were killed re: gilgulim, when its a perfectly legitimate point of view.
Line16 Responder: He had no sources to back himself up.
Line17 Questioner: He said Saadia Gaon calls reincarnation "absurd".
Line18 Responder: Yeah well even if we will accept that, there are others who say its not absurd, so why isn't Rav Ovadiah allowed to follow the others?



Mesora's Comments:
Responder's first error is in Line 04. He sides with a view for no other reason than it being voiced by some source - not based on any analysis of truth. What would he do if he found another source with the opposing view? Would he abandon his current position? And if so, is this any reflection of reason on his part? Certainly not. He is merely "following the leader", and not using his mind at all. If he follows ideas based on the fact that an authority claims such a view, he will not be able to select a position in every area of life where disputes are found. He will be stuck, as there are many opinions in many cases.
"More essentially, Responder is not selecting an opinion because of content. Therefore, he lacks any benefit, as holding an opinion alone does nothing for a person. Only when reasoning is engaged, do a person's words reflect his knowledge. But if one simply mimics another's position, he thereby attests to his complete ignorance of reason. He is as a marionette who responds to the pulls of the puppeteer's strings. As the marionette knows not why he makes such movements, so also Responder knows not why he follows others. Just as the marionette is not applauded for his movements, so too, Responder cannot merit anything he mimics. His views are not his, and he gains nothing by espousing them. The only person of merit is one who arrives at ideas based on reasoning. Then, such a person achieves conviction of what is real in the world. Reasoning alone is the one tool with which one learns real ideas about the nature of the world and the Torah. Through reason, man builds fact upon fact, uncovering more and more truths grounded solid in reality. Only this person performs the will of God, to use what God gave him. Only this person uses his tzelem Elokim - his intelligence. Only this person actually "knows" anything.
I wonder what the goal is in a person who thinks as does Responder, who defends an opinion without any understanding of why he should defend it. To me, quite frankly, the person is a liar, and doesn't know it: He wishes to imbue another person with the notion that opinion "A" is right, but he simultaneously has no idea why. Nonetheless, he desires that others agree with his view. This demonstrates insecurity and falsehood.
Responder errs again in Line 08. He makes a claim that 'respect' must be shown. This is proved false quite simply: If even a Rabbi tells you that God is really two beings, and not one, you do not agree out of respect. Reason tells us the person is wrong. Nothing else matters but reason. Not his title as Rabbi, not his numbers of followers. Reason alone is to be respected. As we read Lines 11 and 15, Responder makes claims using terms as "sense and "legitimate", but fails to provide any intelligent argumentation. Throwing words around which have a semblance of rational argumentation is sometimes deceiving. But we see he does not follow up with explanations.
Line 16 Responder says that 'sources' is the method for arriving at truth. Here we see his primary flaw. Responder holds the opinion that a source alone suffices to proves something as correct. So this means that any time any person says something, it is true? as he now became a "source"? Responder will of course say that the source must be a viable source. To which I reply, "what makes a source viable?" He will be forced to conclude that reason must be the decisive factor.
Responder then contradicts himself. First, Responder says sources is sufficient, but when he is shown a source, he changes his argument in order to defend his position. We see that the true intent of Responder is to defend his view, and not arrive at truth. He switches to whatever argument will safeguard him from having to admit error.
If we probe this point, we can deduce the emotion driving Responder: That is the need for acceptance. This emotion cripples all too many people from discovering true ideas, as their desire for acceptance outweighs their search for truth. But if Responder thought about this, who is he trying to be accepted by? Others with the same disease? Other people who themselves are also following the leader? I ask, "where is the leader?" It is pathetic.
In Torah, the true leader is God. He created all the reality we see. He gave us the gift of reason so we can study these beautiful ideas. We go against His will and lose our single chance at a true life when we abandon our minds like this, looking over our shoulders to see what everyone else does and thinks. The Rabbis of blessed memory didn't behave this way. They argued vehemently on each other - as we should. Personalities, acceptance, respect.....all these emotional considerations must not enter the picture when we learn.
In Line 18, Responder feels the discussion is about "who can follow who", as he says, "why isn't Rav Ovadiah allowed to follow the others?" In reality, Questioner was asking in Line 12 for explanations of content. Questioner was not asking "who should I follow?" Questioner sought truth, whereas Responder was trapped in his mind set of "who can follow who".
Yes, people need to feel they are following a leader. At the early stages of youth, a child has no other choice, as he has not enough knowledge or reasoning abilities to arrive at truth independently. But once intellectually mature, the Torah requires one to engage his own mind and arrive at his own conclusions. This is why God endowed EACH man with intelligence. If mimicking was man's goal, intelligence would not have been given to man.

Philosophy | Tnach | New Postings | JewishTimes | Audio Archives | Suggested Reading | Live Classes | Search | Letters | Q&A's | Community Action | Volunteer | Links | Education | Chat | Banners | Classifieds | Advertise | Donate | Donors | About Us | Press | Contacts | Home


Mesora website designed by NYDesign.com
© 2003 Mesora of New York, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Articles may be reprinted without permission.