Ethical Man 10

This shiur is l’ilui nishmat Michael Yirmiyahu (Jeremy) haCohen Barkan.

This is the concluding shiur in the series, and is an overview of the entire book “The Emergence of Ethical Man.”

Rabbi Triebitz asks the following question:

Rav Soloveitchik has reduced man to a naturalistic being, so is there any room for spirituality in the Rav’s system? Is there any transcendence in Judaism?

Rav Tzadok explains (likutei maamarim 5a) that kabbalah is the ‘internal’ of Greek wisdom.

Rav Soloveitchik describes his vision of the future as a merger of ontology and ethics. It is clear that through understanding the relationship of the two, that Rav Soloveitchik would have said that the historical evolution of naturalism and natural ethics is the external embodiment of an internal movement where ethics and ontology merge.

The overarching theme is that by understanding Scripture in a contemporary scientific way on is able to create a vision which is an outergarment of a spiritual garment which is only alluded to in this book.

Chovot HaLevavot says that in matters of hashkafa there is no Sanhedrin, and it is rather based on tradition and intellect. Rav Soloveitchik is continuing in this path, using modern thought to understand Torah and Torah to understand modernity.

We have seen many comparisons between the thought of Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Kook. In Shemonah Kevatzim Rav Kook presents a veiw of techiyat hameitim which sounds very similar to the Rav. Rav Soloveitchik could not have known these works of Rav Kook which were only published last year, but the themes of using science and integrating it with hashkafa is the common idea to both of them.

At first glance they would appear to be very different – the one a kabbalistic mystic with chasidic tendencies, the other a rational philosopher influenced by his grandfather and the Brisker derech.

Yet they both arrived at similar conclusions that science informs our understanding of Torah.

Rav Triebitz discusses the ways in which the challenges to Judiasm from contemporary scientific, archeological and theological thought can be resolved with traditional Judaism. He suggests that ‘The Emergence of Ethical Man’ can serve as an example of remaining a traditional religious Jew in the face of the challenges of modern thought.

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2 thoughts on “Ethical Man 10

  1. micha

    It would seem that the Is-Ought Problem is avoided if one believes that both the “Is” and the “Ought” are products of the same Author. The union of ontology and Ethics requires teleology.

    The problem is that He didn’t create things as they ought to be in terms of a state, but in terms of a process. Hashem’s Ideal World in one in which we can transcend ourselves, not be transcendent. (Or: Because He is Infinite, the only way the Image of the Divine can be transcendent is to be constantly transcending — one can’t reach the limit, but one can be approaching it.) This is a means to avoid the Naturalistic Fallacy — there are things in nature that exist as tools for transcendence, the means to get to the ought state, rather than being part of that state. Not everything in nature is part of the ideal (eg the Torah’s view on acting on homosexual desires), even if we overcome the Is-Ought Problem.

  2. Justin White

    Rav-Aristotle thought that F=mv! The Greeks didn’t understand acceleration and this wasn’t corrected until Newton’s time.


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