# Hashgachah Peratis as a level of abstraction

Say you were a chip designer, and you wanted to know why this particular trace (wire) on some particular microprocessor chip went from 0 volts to 3 volts….The answer could be given at various levels of abstraction.

1- In quantum mechanical terms: We could speak of the doped gallium arsenide that the chip is made out of, valence levels, electrons, and quantum tunneling, and get to the point where we explain how voltage going to one part of a transistor allowed the voltage to jump from another part to a third one that the trace is connected to.

2- In transistor terms: The power at the side of the transistor in the begining of the trace changed voltage, the transistor changed state, and now let power through to our trace.

3- In digital logic terms: Because the trace is the output of an “AND” gate, and both input to the gate were 1. 3v means 1, so the output was 1 as well.

4- In computer design terms: The trace we’re looking at holds the bit in the output of an adder that indicates whether the result is negative or not. The inputs to the adder were -3 and -5. Since the result is negative, the adder output has this
bit set to “true”.

4- Programming terms: The processor is implementing the code “sum = a[i][j][k] + y[x][y][z];”

5- Application terms: The user has a spreadhseet open. She entered -3 into cell A1, -5 into A2, and =A1+A2 into cell A3. It’s now computing the value to display for A3.

6- Human terms: A woman is using a spreadsheet to balance her checkbook, this wire plays a role in her knowing that at this point, the balance is negative.

All of the above descriptions could be true simultaneously, and as we get to higher levels of abstraction, intent becomes increasingly involved in the explanation.

Similarly, there is no contradiction between nature and hashgachah. A person who lives life staring at nature will see natural explanations for his experiences. One who lives for higher ideals will see events fitting Divine Intent. (This is just a variant of the Maharal’s and Rav Dessler’s explanations of nature vs miracle.)

Also, the more central one’s role is in the course of history, the simpler it will be to find the Intentional explanation. Just as it’s easier to explain the voltage level in a wire that denotes the sign of an addition result than it is to explain that used in routing data from one component on a chip to another. The former is closer to the purpose of the person balancing her checkbook.

And so, it may not be that the righteous experience more hashgachah peratis. We could say that everyone experiences a world that is both fully natural and fully hashgachah. However, the righteous merit more experiences whose hashgachah explanation is comprehensible and more obvious to us. They don’t experience more events of hashgachah, but more hashgachah in what could be the same events.

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1. ravyehoshua says:

“All of the above descriptions could be true simultaneously, and as we get to higher levels of abstraction, intent becomes increasingly involved in the explanation.”

Compare a fascinating presentation of a similar take (and much more) in “Prelude…Ant Fugue” by Douglas Hofstadter in Hofstadter and Dennett, “The Mind’s I”. Hofstadter was the author of the ’70’s classic
“Godel, Escher and Bach”

2. micha says:

Since I was a big fan of GEB when I read it (wow, that long ago?), it’s quite likely Hofstadter’s thought was percolating in there when I came up with that post.

Not that I was consciously aware of deriving from his thought.

-mi

3. Anonymous says:

‘They don’t experience more events of hashgachah, but more hashgachah in what could be the same events.”

I find it hard to believe this is what the rishonim are trying to say.

4. Bob Miller says:

You were exposed to Hofstadter’s idea so you could use it later for a higher purpose.