Monday, July 11, 2005

R' Aryeh Kaplan - is there psak on hashkafa?

R' Aryeh Kaplan states clearly and unequivocally that the answer is no.

He discusses this issue in an article The Age of the Universe - A Torah True Perspective and he writes as follows

The second introduction is a principle (klal) that the Rambam makes in his Perush HaMishnayos. When one has a question of historical fact or hashkafah – there is no p’sak.
...
The Rambam makes this point in his Perush HaMishnayos on Shavuos, at the end of Makkos, and in a few other places in Shas.
...
In any case, the Rambam says clearly that in questions of hashkafah or history, there is no p’sak. In other words, if an opinion is found in Chazal or in our
accepted Torah seforim, one cannot say that we do not posken like that opinion. Thus, the Rambam often takes a daas yachid (the opinion of just one person) and builds an
entire hashkafah on it. He may use this opinion because it fits into his system of logic, even though it may be a minority opinion. He can do this, since the entire concept of p’sak only applies to questions of halachah and not to questions of hashkafah.


I am going to try to find these Rambam's in the Peirush Hamishnayos when I get home.

If R' Kaplan is right then it it completely and utterly negates the Slifkin ban.

18 comments:

Nobody said...

"If R' Kaplan is right then it it completely and utterly negates the Slifkin ban."

These matters are subject to psak. Who is a Kofer is a halachic question, with halachic consequences, so it is subject to a p'sak.

bluke said...

Do you think he just made it up? Really, did you read the Rambam's that he quoted? The Rambam says explicitly in the Perush Hamishnayos that there is no psak on these things. I am going to post the Rambams tomorrow.

Nobody said...

"Do you think he just made it up?"

Not at all. All I am saying in "these matters" is the subject of Kefirah. Who is a Kofer, and what they have to believe to be a Kofer, is a matter for p'sak. My comment was a little unclear, as I wasn't intending to address the post per se, but rather how it informed the previous series of posts. I apologize for the lack of clarity.

bluke said...

I was not nuanced enough in my response. The Rambam holds that there is no psak in hashkafa that has no practical application in halacha. Therefore, there would be no psak on the age of the world or on whether chazal made mistakes because these are not relevant to halacha. However, there could be a psak on what the ikarrei haemuna are to know who is a kofer which is a halachic issue. For more see Is there psak in hashkafa?

Anonymous said...

I think the idea of the objection is that there is a practical halakhic application to any aspect of hashkafah that may render someone a kofer, since there are halakhic implications about a person who is a kofer.

Maybe no halakhos directly relate to the age of the universe, but hypothetically, if holding viewpoint X about the age of the universe makes you a kofer then it is a halakhic matter to determine what viewpoint X is.

bluke said...

Why would holding viewpoint X about the age of the universe make you a kofer? These days the "Gedolim" seem to go with the Rambams 13 principles as the definition of normative thinking and kefira (interestingly enough this is the only hashkafa of the Rambam that the Charedi world accepts). Which of those does it contradict? Which principle does saying that Chazal made mistakes contradict (considering that the Rambam himself said Chazal made mistakes and obviously didn't think he was violating one of his 13 principles)?

R' Feldman only gets to kefira in a very roundabout way as he writes
I believe this is because they diminish the honor and the acceptability of the words of the Sages, which has the status of apikorsus.

However, this is only true if this is not a legitimate opinion. If it is a legitimate opinion by definition it does not diminish the honor and the acceptability of the words of the Sages. Given that there is no psak on this it is a legitimate opinion and therefore does not diminish the honor and the acceptability of the words of the Sages.

In other words, we have circular reasoning here. The only way it can be kefira is if we pasken not like the Rambam but the only way to pasken on this is if there is a halachic ramification, kefira. It isn't kefira without the psak and there can't be a psak because it isn't kefira.

R' Aryeh Kaplan clearly held that the age of the world/creation story had no halachic ramifications as he used teh Rambam's principle.

In essence, you are trying to eviscerate the Rambam's principle by saying that everything has a halachic ramification. IMHO that is not true. We throw around the term kefira much too lightly these days. Most things even if you disagree with them are not kefira and therefore the Rambam's principle applies.

bluke said...

One example of this (people throwing around the word kefira), is as R' Kaplan related
About eight years ago, I recall, there was a question about extraterrestrial life. I remember my children coming home from yeshiva and telling me that they had been taught that anyone who believes in life on other planets is an apikores.

Where exactly is the kefira? What ikkar of emuna are we violating if we believe in extraterrestrial life? It seems these days that any idea people don't like is called kefira. However, that doesn't make it kefira in the halachic sense.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

" Why would holding viewpoint X about the age of the universe make you a kofer?"

(I was anonymous that you are replying to)

I don't think it would, but evidently some gedolim (in whatever sense of the word) do.

If I had to take a stab I would guess that they believe the old universe thing is a violation of the 6, 7 and 8th ikkar, to whit, that believing in an old universe is to disbelieve the Torah's assertion of a young universe.

Now, you and I probably do not agree that the Torah asserts that the universe is about 6000 years old. But I think that they do. Therefore to deny that is to deny the truth of the Torah.

bluke said...

I really cannot see how that is denying 6,7, or 8. That is quite a stretch.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Sure its a stretch, especially as I believe that interpretation is just that: an interpretation among many. But isn't it also a stretch to say that chillul shabbos befarhesya is a demonstration of kefira?

Anonymous said...

Why does Rav Kaplan hold more weight than any of teh Gedolim who think that there is an issue of Kefira here?

Moreover, why does he have more weight than the Gedolim who do NOT think that this is an issue of kefirah?

bluke said...

His approach appeals to me intellectually and personally. He is a person who was one of the leading youngphysicists as well as a big talmid chacham. In addition, he is one of the few who are willing to address these issues in a meaningful way and not just dismiss the questions or answer with apologetics.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

" Why does Rav Kaplan hold more weight than any of teh Gedolim who think that there is an issue of Kefira here?"

That's not an intellectual argument. Discuss the facts and opinions on their merit.

Nobody said...

"Where exactly is the kefira? What ikkar of emuna are we violating if we believe in extraterrestrial life? It seems these days that any idea people don't like is called kefira. However, that doesn't make it kefira in the halachic sense."

First, I agree that Kefirah is bandied about much too easily.

Second, in this case, there is actually evidence from Chazal for extra terrestrial life (from a posuk in Shiras Devorah).

That being said, I understand where they are coming from, even if I don't agree with their conclusion.

The reason that the scientific outlook these days desires ("predicts" if you wish) extra teresstrial life is that they believe that life starts from random natural forces happening to create it, and they want to bolster that argument by finding that earth is not the only place such life exists.

Believing in such reasoning (that life is nothing more than a naturalistic process not involving Hashem) could indeed be Kefirah.

The problem with their (those who say it is Kefirah) resoning is they fall for a false delemma. Life could exist on other planets and the assertion of life not being a creation of Hashem could still be wrong, and then they have put themselves on a side of an argument that they could have remained neutral on for no reason.

bluke said...

The problem is that the charedi world is running scared. Instead of dealing with these issues (like evolution, age of the world, extraterrestrial life, etc.) in a meaningful way, they bury their head in the sand and either say it is kefira or just ignore the issue. That kind of approach only works for a short time. Sooner or later it blows up in your face. Now that more and more of the Charedi population has access to other sources of information (e.g. internet) it is going to be harder and harder to do this.

Nobody said...

"Instead of dealing with these issues (like evolution, age of the world, extraterrestrial life, etc.) in a meaningful way,"

The thing is that many of these ideas are contained within a philosophy which is Kefirah (it is reductionist/atheistic, and on its good days it will allow for deism - all of which is Kefirah), and not everyone should be tackling these issues head on. Too many won't survive intact.

"Now that more and more of the Charedi population has access to other sources of information"

The Charedi world is post-Enlightenment, and I don't see any reason to say that the current challenges are worse than those. On the contrary.

Anonymous said...

"The Charedi world is post-Enlightenment, and I don't see any reason to say that the current challenges are worse than those. On the contrary."

Why do you say "on the contrary"? What makes contemporary challenges smaller than the ones of 100, 200 years ago?

Nobody said...

"What makes contemporary challenges smaller than the ones of 100, 200 years ago?"

1) It is basically a repeat experience. Nothing changed over the past decades.

2) The 20th century was not a poster child for the supremacy of a secular outlook or philosophy, and now we are after that period.

Note: I am not refering to all challenges, but rather the secular issues "like evolution, age of the world, extraterrestrial life, etc."