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Finding Common Grounds in Dewey Exploring the Real Differences between Humanism and Orthodoxy. by Craig A. Cunningham and Tamar Friedman For the John Dewey Society/AERA Annual Meeting, April 2001, Seattle. Agenda. What is Orthodox Judaism What is Deweyan Humanism

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Finding common grounds in dewey exploring the real differences between humanism and orthodoxy

Finding Common Grounds in DeweyExploring the Real Differences between Humanism and Orthodoxy

by Craig A. Cunningham and Tamar Friedman

For the John Dewey Society/AERA Annual Meeting, April 2001, Seattle


Agenda
Agenda

  • What is Orthodox Judaism

  • What is Deweyan Humanism

  • Some case studies in Modern Orthodoxy School Administration

  • Appreciating common ground

  • The educative value of traditions


Oxford English Dictionary:

Orthodoxy: the quality or character of being orthodox; belief in or agreement with what is, or is currently held to be, right, esp. in religious matters

Orthodox: holding correct, or currently accepted opinions, esp. on matters of religious belief; not independent-minded, conventional


“All of the things which traditional religionists prize and which they connect exclusively with their own conception of God can be had equally well in the ordinary course of human experience in our relations to the natural world and to one another as human beings related in the family, friendship, industry, art, science, and citizenship” (LW 9: 224).


“A philosophy of experience will not try to cover up the fact of inevitable modification, and will make no attempt to set fixed limits to the extent of changes that are to occur” (LW 5: 271).


Humanism also accepts a plurality of meanings and goods, seeking “the full participation of all our powers in the endeavor to wrest from each changing situation of experience its own full and unique meaning” (LW 5: 272)


Dewey’s humanism does not reject the relevance of religious experience or even of religion as a social institution, but it “certainly exacts a surrender of that supernaturalism and fixed dogma and rigid institutionalism with which Christianity has been historically associated” (LW 5: 273)


[N]othing is more immediate and seemingly sure of itself than inveterate prejudice. The morals of a class, clique, or race when brought into contact with those of other races and peoples, are usually so sure of the rectitude of their own judgments of good and bad that they are narrow and give rise to misunderstanding and hostility. A judgment which is adequate under ordinary circumstance may go far astray under changed conditions. (LW 7: 267-68)


The scientific-religious conflict ultimately is a conflict between allegiance to this method and allegiance to even an irreducible minimum of belief so fixed in advance that it can never be modified. The method of intelligence is open and public. The doctrinal method is limited and private (LW 9: 27).


“A moral law, like a law in physics, is not something to swear by and stick to at all hazards; it is a formula of the way to respond when specified conditions present themselves. Its soundness and pertinence are testing by what happens when it is acted upon” (LW 4: 222).

: “No past decision nor old principle can ever be wholly relied upon to justify a course of action” (MW 12: 179).


“the progressive secularization of the interests of life has not been attended by … increasing degeneration” (LW 9: 46) in moral behavior.


Giti Bendheim: has not been attended by … increasing degeneration” (LW 9: 46) in moral behavior.

“While Halakha [or Jewish law] is generally conservative in nature, the strength of the halachic system has been its combination of reason, firmness, and flexibility. Through the ages, rabbis have interpreted Halakha by applying precedent to the conditions that existed in their lifetimes.”http://www.womenandorthodoxy.org/ctddoc.html)


Dewey’s notion that intelligence is the application of the “funded experience of the past” (MW 12: 238), “developed and matured in the light of the needs and deficiencies of the present, [and] employed as aims and methods of specific reconstruction, and tested by success or failure in accomplishing this task of readjustment” (MW 12: 134)


While…we cannot actually prevent change from occurring we can and do regard it as evil. We strive to retain action in ditches already dug. We regard novelties as dangerous, experiments as illicit and deviations as forbidden. Fixed and separate ends reflect a project of our own fixed and non-interacting compartmental habits. We see only consequences which correspond to our habitual courses.” (MW 14: 159)


“a dreary exile from our true home in the ideal, or a temporary period of troubled probation to be followed by a period of unending attainment and peace” (MW 14: 160).


the “zealously devout” (LW 4: 245) type who is to be pitied, for the degree to which he is “affected by unavowed impulses—timidity, which makes him [sic] cling to authority, conceit which moves him to be himself the authority who speaks in the name of authority, possessive impulse which fears to risk acquisition in new adventures” (MW 14: 162-63).


“fixed ends upon one side and fixed ‘principles’—that is authoritative rules—on the other” as “props for a feeling of safety, the refuge of the timid and the means by which the bold prey upon the timid” (MW 14: 163).


Rabbi Saul J. Berman: ‘principles’—that is authoritative rules—on the other” as “props for a feeling of safety, the refuge of the timid and the means by which the bold prey upon the timid” (MW 14: 163). The Haredi experiment starts with the assumption that the two worlds are so radically opposed that the only way to safeguard the Orthodox worldview is to maximize separateness. This required the development of a vision in which the ideal life is led entirely within the confines of the Orthodox community - men in kollelim [institutions of Torah study], women at home, children in schools that reflect the desired uniformity of religious behavior. When economic conditions require adult departure from safe ground, the deviant experience should be minimized in time, in degree of intersection with the external world, and should not be rated any value for itself.


Rabbi Saul J. Berman, continued: ‘principles’—that is authoritative rules—on the other” as “props for a feeling of safety, the refuge of the timid and the means by which the bold prey upon the timid” (MW 14: 163).

  • This approach further urges maximum separation from the external culture—negating of general knowledge except as a neutral tool; distancing from cultural currents such as democracy and equality; avoiding the mechanisms of transmission of the cultural values of the non-Haredi world; and generally maintaining an attitude of spiritual superiority toward outsiders of any sort.


The Modern Orthodox experiment begins with the assumption that Orthodoxy can preserve its integrity and passion, and even be enriched, by its intersection with modernity, and that the interaction will allow Orthodoxy to bring to the broader world a clearer vision of the grandeur of Torah. On the other hand, this approach does not deny that there are areas of powerful inconsistency and conflict between Torah and modern culture that need to be filtered out in order to preserve the integrity of halakha… It welcomes the opportunities created by modern society to be productive citizens engaged in the Divine work of transforming the world to benefit humanity. (Rabbi Saul J. Berman,The Ideology of Modern Orthodoxy, http://www.Shma.com online magazine, February 2001)


We who now live are parts of a humanity that extends into the remote past, a humanity that has interacted with nature. The things in civilization most prized are not of ourselves. They exist by grace of the doings and sufferings of the continuous human community in which we are a link. Ours is the responsibility of conserving, transmitting, rectifying and expanding the heritage of values we have received that those who come after us may receive it more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than we have received it.


“that above the inquiring, patient, ever-learning and tentative method of science there exists some organ or faculty which reveals ultimate and immutable truths, and that apart from the truths thus obtained there is no sure foundation for morals and for a humane order of society.” (LW 15:58)


: “What is required is that every individual shall have opportunities to employ his own powers in activities that have meaning” (Democracy and Education; MW 9:179)


If Talmud is to be taught at all, and taught it must, certainly in our contexts, then it needs to be taught seriously, to assure that indeed it is understood and absorbed with the seriousness and with the earnestness, with the exhilaration, with the excitement, the passion that is coming to it. But secondly, not only respect for Torah requires this of us, but respect for women as well. Respect for their abilities, their commitment, for their potential which is inherent within them, if you want to mobilize this force for themselves and for the good of the community. We need to develop within that individual, an infusion of knowledge, sensitivity, and above all, that spirituality which links, which bonds the world of spirit to the world of action (During an address to teachers in girls schools in Jerusalem 1996; quoted on Lookjed listserve, 1999)


Tolerance is thus not just an attitude of good-humored indifference. It is positive willingness to permit reflection and inquiry to go on in the faith that the truly right will be rendered more secure through questioning and discussion, while things which have endured merely from custom will be amended or done away with. (LW 7:232)


Experiences in order to be educative must lead out into an expanding world of subject matter, a subject-matter of facts or information and of ideas. This condition is satisfied only as the educator views teaching and learning as a continuous process of reconstruction of experience. (Experience and Education, 1938; LW 13: 59)


What is required is that every individual shall have opportunities to employ his own powers in activities that have meaning. Mind, individual method, originality (these are convertible terms) signify the quality of purposive or directed action Democracy and Education, MW 9:179


Men live in a community in virtue of the things which they have in common; and communication is the way in which they come to possess things in common. What they must have in common in order to form a community or society are aims, beliefs, aspirations, knowledge--a common understanding--like-mindedness as the sociologists say. Such things cannot be passed physically from one to another, like bricks; they cannot be shared as persons would share a pie by dividing it into physical pieces. The communication which ensures participation in a common understanding is one which secures similar emotional and intellectual dispositions--like ways of responding to expectations and requirements. (Democracy and Education, 1916; MW 9:7


"A moral law, like a law in physics, is not something to swear by and stick to at all hazards; it is a formula of the way to respond when specified conditions present themselves" (p. 222)


[A] significant change that would issue from carrying over experimental method from physics to man concerns the import of standards, principles, rules. With the transfer, these, and all tenets and creeds about good and goods, would be recognized to be hypotheses. Instead of being rigidly fixed, they would be treated as intellectual instruments to be tested and confirmed-- and altered--through consequences effected by acting upon them. They would lose all sense of finality--the ulterior source of dogmatism (LW 4: 221).


In the absence of actual certainty, in the midst of a precarious and hazardous world, men cultivated all sorts of things that would give them a feeling of certainty... And it is possible that the cultivation of this feeling gave man courage and confidence and enabled him to carry the burdens of life more successfully (LW 4: 26-27).


As long as knowledge in general is thought to be the work of a special agent, whether soul, consciousness, intellect or a knower in general, there is a logical propulsion towards postulating a special agent for knowledge of moral distinctions… (MW 14: 129).


Orthodoxy s anti humanistic tendencies
Orthodoxy’s anti-humanistic tendencies a special agent, whether soul, consciousness, intellect or a knower in general, there is a logical propulsion towards postulating a special agent for knowledge of moral distinctions… (MW 14: 129).

  • Traditional non-egalitarian ways of life that reinforce traditional beliefs about what is proper for men and women

  • A system of anti-democratic social control

  • A reluctance to allow for experimentation by action by young people in their quest for deciding what is right and wrong for them

  • An elaborate system of justification in which traditional beliefs are sustained through generations not so much explicitly or consciously but by their embodiment in social habits such as story-telling and ritual.


The educative value of traditions
The educative value of traditions a special agent, whether soul, consciousness, intellect or a knower in general, there is a logical propulsion towards postulating a special agent for knowledge of moral distinctions… (MW 14: 129).

  • Coherent presentation of long-standing principles of belief and practice

  • Social rewards for conformity to communal values

  • Emphasis on inquiry within the tradition

  • Justifications for resisting cultural assimilation

  • Limiting inquiry to ideas not actions


the intentional endeavor to discover specific connections between something which we do and the consequences which result, so that the two become continuous. Their isolation, and consequently their purely arbitrary going together, is canceled; a unified developing situation takes place. The occurrence is now understood; it is explained; it is reasonable, as we say, that the thing should happen as it does. Thinking is thus equivalent to an explicit rendering of the intelligent element in our experience. It makes it possible to act with an end in view. It is the condition of our having aims. (Democracy and Education, 1916; MW 9:152-53)


[C]onventional morals conceal from view the uncertainty which attends decisions as to what is good in a concrete case, and covers up the problematic nature of what is right and obligatory…. There are still those who think they are in possession of codes and principles which settle finally and automatically the right and wrong of, say, divorce, …the extent to which legislation should go in deciding what individuals shall eat, drink, wear, etc…. Wars waged in the alleged interest of religion...prove the practical danger of carrying theoretical dogmatism into action.” (LW 7: 316-17).


Tamar Friedman and Rabbi Richard Friedman, 30 which attends decisions as to what is good in a concrete case, and covers up the problematic nature of what is right and obligatory…. There are still those who think they are in possession of codes and principles which settle finally and automatically the right and wrong of, say, divorce, …the extent to which legislation should go in deciding what individuals shall eat, drink, wear, etc…. Wars waged in the alleged interest of religion...prove the practical danger of carrying theoretical dogmatism into action.” (LW 7: 316-17).th anniversary


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