Monday, July 07, 2008

Chardal on the Attack

While the Holy Hyrax is in rehab, the blogger chardal posted a couple of comments on HH's latest post:

I am not claiming that skeptics do not have an overarching value of "lining up their beliefs about the world with reality as best as humanly possible."

What I am saying is that such an approach is not a initial axiom which can not be explained by other factors. I have noticed a psychological similarity among skeptics that suggests an undelying psyche which is simultaniously philosophically shallow and existentially insecure. There is a thrist for clarity even when the data will not allow it and a need to "win" empirical arguments.

many skeptics don't even realize that by defining truth as correspondence to reality, they are staking out a philosophical postion that is by no means established (this is what evanston Jew has tried to pound into their brains).

There are exceptions. one of my favorite skeptics was Big-S Skeptic but he is rarely active anymore. The reason I appreciated him was that he was able to remove himself philosophically from the normal skeptics drivle and discuss the true underlying issues. Unfortunatly, most of the skeptic drivle out there is simply a rehash of old polemics or and argument from the authority of academia. Frankly - its boring and stupid. It does not clarify a thing and is unlikely to do anything other than act as a support group for skeptics. Which I guess they need.

But in the end, I still believe that 99% of skeptics just have a psychological predisposition to be skeptical (and often times cynical) and that many of their life positions derive from this and not just their value of "lining up their beliefs about the world with reality as best as humanly possible." If fact, "lining up their beliefs" is a response to deeper psychological needs.

(by the way, you can see the lack of self awareness of the skeptics in that they will often write of the underlying bias and psychological needs of believers while being completely ignorant of their own biases and needs - I will not deny that many believers are philisophically shallow as well - however, can a skeptic ever admit that a believer has arived at their place through a sophisticated and solid philisophical approach that is simply different than their own? I doubt it - most of their own dogma is based on the axiom that religious people are either biased, not honest, or stupid)

How thoroughly disappointing and unoriginal. I usually like chardal, and perhaps he is just venting his frustration, but what a silly argument. Firstly, it drives me absolutely bonkers when people use the term 'skeptic' in these conversations, because it implies a general philosophical outlook which is rarely the reality of the situation. Most people that I know who are skeptical of the claims of Orthodox Judaism are not 'skeptics' that go around "questioning" the entire corpus of human knowledge. They are skeptical of very specific claims. Trust me, chardal, there are many well balanced, happy individuals, philosophers, academics, biblical scholars, heterodox rabbis even, who do not fit your diagnosis of possessing an "undelying psyche which is simultaniously philosophically shallow and existentially insecure."

Secondly, even if it were the case that many of these so called "skeptics" are just contrarian, self-unaware, philosophically unsophisticated troglodytes, it still has little bearing on the true nature of the conflict. When you evaluate a battle of ideas, you don't look at the rabble, you look at the champions on each side. Do I need to start quoting "drivle" from the hundreds of frum websites that are out there to prove my point? Likewise, I could probably find you some Chabad BT who is a PhD in philosophy who can give me a sophisticated philosophical justification for drinking the Rebbe's mikvah water.

"many skeptics don't even realize that by defining truth as correspondence to reality, they are staking out a philosophical postion that is by no means established (this is what evanston Jew has tried to pound into their brains)."

This is perhaps my favorite dodge. Yes, philosophers cannot agree on how to define truth. But this is really mostly irrelevant to our discussion. There are two concepts that are being confused. There is a difference between things that can never be proven and things that are very difficult to prove. It is very difficult to prove whether the Torah is a composite of multiple documents, but it is not impossible; say, for the sake of argument, one were to find four perfectly preserved documents that matched up with JPED. Assuming this find, the entire edifice of Rabbinic Judaism which is predicated on the Divine Written Torah and the corresponding Oral Torah which is derived from the Written Torah, finds itself on much shakier ground.

Philosophers like to think they are very sophisticated, but in many ways it is a mutual admiration society. I say their value is "by no means established".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha. Chardal is mostly talking about me. I have thrashed him mercilessly a few times, and he's not happy about it. Your response was pretty good. Essentialy, whent he facts don't line up with the preferred religious beliefs, the Intellefundies start to attack the meaning of 'truth'. According to Chardal, thinking that truth has something to do with reality is an outdated 18th century concept. Funny how when it comes to PoMO we must be up to the minute in our philosophy, but when it comes to everything else, only a 3,000 year old document has all the answrers. Chardal reminds me of a few other intellectual style BTs that I know. They get very, very defensive when you point out that their beliefs are ridiculous, and usualyl can go (and have gone) to great lengths to try and intellectualyl rationalize them.

July 07, 2008 8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also note how each Fundie has their pet subject, and only intense familiarity with that subject will show you how OJ is indeed the one true religion. For RJM, it was ANE history and Medieval theology/philosophy (and its contemporary comeback). If only you knew those you would see that OJ is true! (and what about all the ANE history and Medieval philosophy experts who don't believe OJ? They're all biased or they just don't appreciate the depth of Torah of course). For chardal it's post modernist epistemology - if only you understand post-modernist epistemology then you will see that OJ is (or could be) true. Or maybe you will see that being 'true' is an irrelevant concept.

July 07, 2008 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Freethinking Upstart said...


You're so vain you probably think chardal's comments about you. You're so vain, I'll bet you think that comments about you. Don't you? Don't you?

Ouch! What a post! I've never seen this from you.

I hadn't seen that he responded before I saw your post.

There's been a lot of talk about epistemics and morality on the blogs I read recently.

Maybe it's a message from God!

July 07, 2008 9:15 AM  
Anonymous resh lakish said...

drinking the Rebbe's mikvah water

Ewwww. Thanks for the worst mental image I've had in a very long time. Please tell me you made this up (except that, with the elokisten and so forth, nothing from Chabad would surprise me).

July 07, 2008 6:39 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

resh lakish,

I thought I made it up, but apparently I was drawing on my subconscious:

"This is not the Lubavitch’s first involvement with water. In 1996 the Jerusalem Post reported that a Lubavitch rabbi in Herzliya had collected the Rebbe's mikvah water, called it ‘living water’ and was distributing drops in plastic bottles. It was to be drunk after saying a short prayer confirming the Rebbe as the ‘King Messiah for ever’. The water would then effect a cure." (source)

July 07, 2008 6:52 PM  

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