Thursday, February 28, 2008


Weekly Parsha Blogging

I was thinking a bit about idolatry and Kant's distinction between heteronomic and autonomic moral systems. Isn't either a heteronomic or an autonomic system idolatrous? Isn't worshiping human handiwork kind of like saying "following my own inner light is all I need to be moral"? OTOH, don't those in heteronomic faiths often idolatrously mistake laws and customs developed by their fellow men for the word of God?

Interestingly, this morning, there was a report on NPR about the different sorts of play and their value in building the kind of character needed to be a good student. While I tend to think even the sort of "fill out your paperwork" play lauded in this story really ends up being more akin to the kind of regimented play that does nothing to develop virtue than the free play of old, the general idea is illustrative of moral discipline: free play:moral autonomy::video games, etc::moral heteronomy.

If one belongs to a faith where grace is something received and there is a canonnical code that tells you all the answers for the "tough decisions", then how does one develop self-control? Having moral rules that build a sense of discipline and character is good (c.f. my earlier posts on virtue), but when one requires an idol to focus one's religious devotion (remember the Golden Calf wasn't necessarily meant even by its devotees to be a substitute for Hashem), one really doesn't build the discipline necessary to make the right moral decisions (and character alone doesn't magically make you make the right decisions -- and it's the decisions that ultimately count, contra the aretaic turn). OTOH, does free play (moral autonomy) really always teach you anything. And, of course, making up all your own rules is also akin to idolatry.

I dunno about this "Tools of the Mind" approach to education, but it is akin to the way Jewish morality works ... study Talmud, understand how to make moral decisions, get practice through virtuous living ... but ultimately you have to choose life, as the Deuteronomist puts it. It's in your hands, so don't pretend that the idol you've made with your hands is what is deciding for you.


Authors to consider in light of last week's parsha and about what I've rambled above: Bacon, Kant, Runes, Fromm, Nietzsche ... any others?


Meanwhile, yet again, I've made soup just in time for a weather change that has left me a bit tired/allergic/generally and literally "under the weather" ... last weekend I was thinking, "I'll have bones from what I'm cooking today, so why don't I make soup on Wed." and whaddya know? I needed that soup yesterday! And this isn't the first time it's played out this way ... Maybe I can predict my being under the weather a half a week in advance and should endevour to get extra rest whenever I feel the urge to make soup?

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