Thursday, September 20, 2007

Irreconcilible differences


evanstonjew commented:

Think of a frum professional. At the office he's Joe, at home Yossi...Such a split need not be a disorder unless a person has a problem with it. There is no mitzvah min hatorah or min Freud to integrate everything.Of course, if the guy has five selves and they begin fragmenting so he falls apart...that's a different story. Your trouble in understanding might stem from an overdose of Torah u'Madah, where everything has to be integrated.Witness the sad case of Mr. Slifkin. Charedim don't try to integrate very much.

I'd like to think I am open minded. I freely admit that there are many things that I don't understand, or have wrong ideas about. Is this one of them?

I guess my opening position is that in general, it is human nature to try to integrate the information around us into a coherent mental model of reality. This is essentially what our brain is designed to do. At a more macro level, the notion of cross disciplinary scholarship has really improved the gains in understanding in many areas of research. At my alma mater in Urbana-Champaign, the Beckman Institute combined biologists, physicists, neurologists, computer scientists and psychologists all working together.

I think part of my discomfort with evanstonjew's comment is that there is a difference in my mind between a lack of integration and essentially a dissonant contradiction. I think a person who compartamentalizes being a hardnose boss at work and a loving father at home is an example of harmless lack of integration. At the other extreme, DovBear posted about Nazis enjoying themselves at Auschwitz. He says:
You can't help but ask yourself: How in the hell? Was it bifurcation? A form of mental illness? Or did these smiling men and women simply come of age in a foreign time and place, a time and place where people mattered less (Jews especially) and such things were unremarkable?
Don't get me wrong. I don't believe that a human being in isolation is a rational creature. I will not deny an individual their right to retreat into an irrational state. I don't deny a Kugel or a Schiffman their personal POMO lifestyle. But as a society, people do have to be rational. Is it possible to have a whole culture built on a foundation of irreconcilible paradoxes?

7 Comments:

Blogger Shoshana said...

Really interesting question. In general, I think that it is natural for a person to attempt to integrate themselves throughout the different aspects of their life, however this is not always possible. Also, you cannot suppose to know what turbulence someone like Kugel does feel on a regular basis - you don't see the full picture reading his text or even knowing him personally. And maybe in what you don't know about him, you would find more answers to your questions.

September 20, 2007 8:58 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

"And maybe in what you don't know about him, you would find more answers to your questions."

I agree with this. I just can't imagine that someone who does this much research doesn't address the consequences to himself in a public way.

I think BenAbuyah's comment to the previous post is balls-on accurate.
He has arrived at a conclusion that "ruins" everything, and is turninig it over to the masses much in the same way the blogosphere does internally, with a gesture of shrugged shoulders, saying, "hey, everybody, what are we going to do with this??"

September 20, 2007 9:19 AM  
Blogger evanstonjew said...

I don’t know much about our Mr. Kugel. If you read his cv he did write a book On Being a Jew, (as btw did Fishbain), so it is there I would first look for answers on how he puts it all together.
http://www.jameskugel.com/cv.html

As to your main point about the importance of having what you call a coherent mental model I want to make 2 claims, which I obviously can’t argue in full as a comment. The first is that we are never fully cohesed nor should we be. We are driven by passions and desires, some of which are unconscious and others even if conscious cannot be satisfied because of our life in a community. But you will say you are talking at the cognitive level,etc.I firmly believe that whenever you have a conflict such as religion and science, modernity and orthodoxy ,charedim and MO the attempt to solve the conflict ends up with a worse situation that the one posed by the initial problem. I follow the Rebbe Reb Yogi who said "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!" I have taken this approach on my blog last year, in my rantings on post modernism on XGH and elsewhere. Just last night I took a whack at it when I argued at length for separateness and being a people apart. (http://www.goingoffthederech.blogspot.com/...9/16).

(My apologies for the self advertisements….I didn’t quite know how else to explain myself.)

September 20, 2007 11:04 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

ej,

"the attempt to solve the conflict ends up with a worse situation that the one posed by the initial problem."

Agreed. There is an obvious hypothesis on why this could be. Remember the Ptolemeic attempts to describe an elliptical orbit using epicycles?

I think I am beginning to get your outlook on life. What I'd like to know is whether you practice what you preach. Do you live this "non cohered life"? Don't worry, I'll find out soon when we get together for coffee at the downtown Evanston Starbucks, away from the prying eyes of the downtown vaad haTznius :)

September 20, 2007 11:41 AM  
Blogger collegejews said...

>I don't deny a Kugel or a Schiffman their personal POMO lifestyle.

What is the basis for your characterization of Kugel's opinions as POMO? He is very explicit about what he believes. Granted, it's somewhat difficult to understand and appreciate, but he is trying to express something definite. If you have any doubts, read the selections I put on my blog from "On Being a Jew."

September 20, 2007 8:16 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

>What is the basis for your characterization of Kugel's opinions as POMO?

collegejews,

I didn't mean to imply Dr Kugel personally, hence the indefinite article in front of his and Dr Schiffman's name. I don't know anything about him and I look forward to reading your post. I mean't a Ploni Almoni who lives his life in a totally compartmentalized manner.

September 20, 2007 8:20 PM  
Blogger collegejews said...

>I don't know anything about him and I look forward to reading your post.

Thanks. Sorry if I misunderstood you. Thanks for commenting on my post.

September 20, 2007 8:43 PM  

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