Thanks to the pounding and grinding interwebs (which this piece by Ryan Holiday asserts is on the decline with the death of Google Reader and Google Alerts), it only takes me about 12 hours to separate the wheat from the chaff … Reddit definitely helps, thanks guys! … when I came across this piece in the New York Times by Matthew Hutson.
It is worth a read if you have some time and wish to challenge my (and all the other folks who have commented on this piece, I like to “read around” a piece sometimes) three second recap – but Hutson asserts that:
Objective moral truth doesn’t exist, and these studies show that even if it did, our grasp of it would be tenuous.
To put this in Jewish terms, God’s word is not God’s … and even if it was, we would probably not understand it.
Well, most Jewish folks might have some issue with the former part of the statement, but almost all would agree with the latter.
Some of the critiques of Hutson’s piece try to posit some “objective moral truths”. Harry at Crooked Timber pitches these four:
Human suffering is bad
Torturing human babies simply for personal enjoyment is wrong
Deception that is much more likely to bring harm than benefits is bad
Being kind to people is good
All Jews would easily get behind these four truths and any mindful coffee-klatsch of Jews could probably add a dozen more truths from our tradition… but what got me thinking about reading this piece and considering its application in the Jewish context (because that’s what I do much of the time) is this:
About which Jewish “truths” do (nearly) all Jews agree?
Is there some set of Jewish principles and/or beliefs that (nearly) all Jews could get behind?
I am not looking for a unanimous decision, just a healthy super-majority… or, considering the dictum “Two Jews, three yadda yaddas”, might this be too much to ask?
I, however, can tell you which “truths” used to be on that list…
Pride in and support for Israel used to be a list-topper … no longer.
Then there was that thing about rabbis being moral exemplars … that might still be up there, although some folks have expressed serious doubts about that…
So if you have some time, perhaps drop me a comment with your “Jewish objective moral truth” …
I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.