Phenomenalism – Baruch sheKivanti!

The central thesis of this “Phenomenalism” category of this blog was built on two parts.

The first is Rabbi Aqiva Eiger’s (RAE) explanation (shu”t, mahadura qama #136) that the ways in which uncertainty in halakhah is resolved come in two different kinds. And from that perspective we looked at testimony, migo, chazaqah demei’iqara, rov, chazaqah disvara, etc…

The second part of the thesis was a theory as to why this would be.

The Chinukh repeatedly explains various mitzvos by explaining “ha’adam nif’al lefi pe’ulaso — a person is affected according to his action.” Contemporary hashkafos differ over what halachic life is supposed to cause, whether the ideal is better described as “wholeness”, perfecting the image of G-d, or “attachment” to G-d…. But notice that both agree in describing the role of halakhah in terms of the change is causes on the self — whether perfecting him in a mussar sense, refining him in a Hirschian sense, bringing him experientially in a relationship with the A-lmighty, as Chassidim do, etc…

One thing this implies is that halakhah need not be concerned with determining an objective reality. Rather, it has to deal with that which has impact on the person — the world as it’s experienced. Perhaps this is why the realia to which we apply halakhah is called metzi’us, literally “what is found”, and substantive elements of the metzi’us are said to have mamashus, they can “be felt”.

I applied this notion to explain why microscopic bugs do not pose kashrus issues — they are not part of first-hand experience, they don’t impact the person the same, and therefore wouldn’t be the subject of a prohibition.

And similarly R Aqiva Eiger’s principle about doubt resolution. Determining the reality doesn’t mean knowing what’s objectively out there, but how people interact with the unknown reality. If we need to decide the halachic state of unknown meat, we can rely on majority because people dwell on the most likely possibility. Whereas, if we need to decide an unknown halachic state, it’s not about perception, and so such rules don’t apply.

I learned (from a post by R’ Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer) that Rabbi Gedalia Nadel may have had a different application, not leaning on Rabbi Aqiva Eiger, but in terms of this philosophical portion, he said it first (BeTorato shel Rav Gedalia, pg 53-53):

וזהו הטעם להבדל בין כל דפריש לבין קבוע: כשאנו מוצאים חתיכת בשר בחוץ ורוצים לקבוע את תכונתה – לגבי חתיכה זו כל החנויות שבעיר הן ״תערובת״ אחת, שממנה החתיכה באה. ״תערובת״ זו היא הרקע העומד מאחורי חתיכה זו, ואנו קובעים את תכונתה של החתיכה לפי תכונתה הקולקטיבית של התערובת, כלומר לפי רוב החנויות. לעומת זאת, כאשר אדם  נכנס לחנות וקונה שם בשר – אין החנויות מעורבות זו עם זו, אלא כל חנות ידועה ומוכרת במקומה ואם אחר כך הוא רוצה להיזכר מאיזו חנות לקח ואינו נזכר, עליו באמת להתייחם לזה כאל ספק, כי אין כאן ״תערובת״, דבר אחד חדש שמכריעים את תכונתו לפי הרוב. מובן שגם זה אינו הכרחי, שכן היה אפשר לומר שמחשבתו של האדם, הרהוריו מהיכן קנה, מצרפים את כל החנויות למציאות אחת שעליה דנים, וגם בזה יש ללכת אחר הרוב, ולכן גם כאן זקוקים אנו ל״גזירת הכתוב״ שתחלק בין קבוע לבין פריש, ותגלה לנו שכל שבא אל מקום הקביעות – כל אחד מן הקבועים נחשב כעומד בפני עצמו, ואין כאן תערובת. אבל לכל גזירת הכתוב יש טעם והיגיון. באמת מוצאים אנו את ההבדל הזה גם בהתייחסות הטבעית של האדם. אדם היודע שיש חנות טריפה וחנויות אחרות כשרות, נזהר מחנות הטריפה, והיא עומדת בתודעתו בפני עצמה, ובמקרה שנכנס לחנות ונעלם ממנו לאן נכנס הוא מבין שהוא במצב של ספק. מה שאין כן במוצא בשר מחוץ לחנויות, כאן הכל מצטמצם בחתיכת בשר זו, אין כאן איסור מבורר, ושייך יותר לסמוך על רוב. ובכלל, כך הוא הדבר ככל האיסורים ובכל המצוות, שהגדרים . ההלכתיים נקבעים לפי ההתרשמות וההתייחסות של האדם [3]

This is the reason to distinguish between “kol deparish” and “qavua“: When we find a piece of meat outdoors and want to establish its characteristics — with regard to this piece, all the stores in the city are one “mixture” from which this piece came. This “mixture” is the background behind this piece, and we establish the characteristics of this piece according to collective substance of the mixture, that is to say, according to the majority of stores.

In contrast to this, when a person enters a store and buys meat there — the stores are not a mixture one with the other. Rather, every store is known and recognized in its place. And if afterwards he wants to remember which store he bought from and it cannot be recalled, truthfully he must relate to it as an unknown. For there is no “mixture” here, a new thing whose characteristics are determined by majority.

It is understood that this too isn’t necessarily so, that just it is possible to say that the thought of a person, his speculations about from where he purchased,  combine all the stores into a single metzius — reality that we judge upon, and that on this too we should follow the majority. Therefore here too we need agezeiras hakasuv — a decree of scripture” that distinbuishes between qavua and parish and reveals to us that anyone who comes to an established place (a place of qavua) == all of these established items stand on their own, and there is no mixture. But to every gezeiras hakasuv has its reason and logic.

In truth we find this distinction also in relation to human nature. A person knows that there is a treif store and other kosher stores. He will be cautious of the treif store, and it stance in his awareness on its own. If by chance he enters the store and forgest where he entered, he knows he is in a situation of doubt. Which is unlike someone who finds meat outside the stores, here everything is reduced to this [one] piece of meat. There is not clear issur, and it is more fitting to rely on majority. And in general, this is the idea in all prohibitions and all mitzvos, that the halachic limits are set according to human impressions and attitudes. [emphasis added -mb] [3]

[3] א״ה: פעם אחרי שיעור שבו הזכיר הרב יסוד זה, שהיה חוזר הרבה בדבריו, שאלתיו: זה בגלל קאנט?(עמנואל קאנט, מי שנחשב לגדול הפילוסופיה החדשה, נזכר בכינוי ״הפילוסופים המעיינים״ על ידי המלבי״ם בפירושו לויקרא יט, יח. חידש בתורת ההכרה שהאדם אינו מכיר את העצם כשלעצמו אלא רק את תופעותיו, ועיקר שיטתו זו מביא המלבי׳׳ם בפירושו לאיוב יא, ו). ענה לי הרב: גם בלי קאנט. והסביר שהואיל והמצוות מיועדות לפעול על נפש האדם ולעצב את דמותו המוסרית, לפיכך מה שתשוב לגדר ההלכתי הוא ההתרשמות של האדם מן הדבר, ולא הדבר כשהוא לעצמו.

[3] One time after a class in which the rav mentioned this principle, for he repeated it many times in his ideas, they asked him: Is this because of Kant? (Emanuel Kant, who is thought to be one of the great modern philosophers, called by the nickname “meaningful philosphers” by the Malbim in his commentary on Vayiqra 19:18. He innovated recognizing that a person doesn’t recognize the essence in-and-of-itself, just its appearances. And the essence of this position is brought by the Malbim in his commentary to Iyov 11:6.)
The rav answered me: Even without Kant. He explained that since the mitzvos were established work on the soul of a person, and to inform his Mussar image, therefore, what defines a halachic limit is the impact on a person of the thing, and not the thing in itself. [emphasis added -mb]

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