Friday, November 25, 2005

More on Difficulty in Learning

A commentor made this argument:

Unfortunately I missed the begining of this argument so I was unable to respond to each comment individually. However, I will try to respond to some general arguments that were made as well as lay out my basic argument.

My Basic Argument: (this argument is only valid if you agree with my first statement if you dont there is no purpose of reading my argument and you have hashkafic issues to work out)As a frum jew, we believe the ultimate conclusion decided by teh Gemora is not only the final word but rather it is the emes. It is the truth we seek when learning. Consequently, we dont just take arguments and statements at face value but we analyze them under a microscope (sorry for teh cliche but its late and i cant articulate well at this time of night) to be certain that there is flaw or loop in the conclusion. Every decision has to be 100% correct. (This is also the reason why there are so many machlokasot in the Gemora. Naturally people will continue to argue if they are seeking to attain the proper meaning i.e. the truth) In contrast the american legal system is sadly a craps-shoot. As a Justice Cardozo so eloquentally said (I think it was him)law is decided by what teh judge eats for breakfast. This delineates the weak backbone that our legal system is butressed by. THere is no emes. There is no truth they are trying to attain. Judges just want to decide the case at hand as best as they possibly can while keeping time in the back of theri mind. they dont want to sit on each case for too long. any decision that is rational on its face will suffice.

I illustrate this extreme distinction to make the following point: whenever the conclusion attempting to be reached must be flawless the task to reach the conclusion will be extremely arduous. The thinking has to be deep, sharp, clear, etc. You cannot half-ass an answer when you are seeking truth. On teh other hand, if you only have to reach the most logical conclusion out of several possibilities (not neccessarily a flawless conclusion)your thinking doesnt have to be at its highest level. It need not be flawless. There could be holes in the logic.

Ill sum up my argument to make it clear: when attempting to seek teh truth (as in Gemora) a much more thoruogh analysis is required. Hence the conclusion is harder to reach and usually harder to grasp (at least at first). The reasoning is a fine line. Furthermore, gemora is not totaly finalized; it evolves whith each generation (every jew has their own chalek in learning) so we arent just reading other peoples decisions but we are also formulating arguments (sometimes new arguments) in an attempt to find the truth.

responding to the language barrier argument:The hebrew used by many achronim is much easier than the legalese used by proffessors in law review and other articles. As mentioned before by someone they intentionally write confusingly to show their brilliance.

The basic argument seems to be that searching for the truth is more difficult than deciding between a few different possibilities. This is especially true if the decisor is only looking for any rational decision because his argument need not be flawless.

I disagree for a few reasons. First, I think the commenter overemphasizes the concept of legal realism. Not all judges just randomly decide what decision to make. Judges have to apply legal concepts to the facts at hand. Yes, we sometimes have different reasonable alternatives, but the judge is trying to find the best one.

Second, many judges do look for objective truth. If judges are working to ascertain the original understanding of the Constitution, they are looking for a single idea. Stopping short of that idea would be a violation of their oath to uphold the Constitution. Any judge who does this is looking for objective truth is the same vein as a serious student of the Gemara.

Third, I also fail to see why having reasonable alternatives makes something easier. If a judge is faced with two equally plausible readings of a statute, he has to make a decision. In many cases there is no mechanism to find the correct reading (if such a thing exists). He has reached the end of the process. In Halacha we do the same thing. Sometimes we have equally plausible readings of a Rishon and we have to choose which one makes more sense. We lack the tools to reach the correct interpretation because no one can accurately determine his intent. In both cases we end up going on intutition.

Let's try to parallel Halacha and constitutional interpretation. If the judge is an originalist, he'll be looking for objective truth. The Halachist does the same thing. Both groups analyze the works of earlier scholars. Both groups analyze the text to find new meanings. I don't see why one is easier.

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