Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Ten Commandments

I have a ton of information from my Ten Commandments class.  I just can't seem to make it into posts.  It will come, I hope.  Sneak Preview:  Most of the information about honoring one's father and mother seemed unworthy of putting it into the Top Ten of rules by God. Most writers could only say "Well, it's a good thing, because er, they gave you life, and it's sorta like honoring God."  One of my students - himself a Philosophy professor - gave me a chapter from The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis by Leon Kass. Remember him? Kass spends more time on this commandment than any other, and derives most of attitudes for a good society from the Sabbath and Mother/Father commandments. The key was not to think about my mother, my father, and the terrible parents we hear about, but to put this in the context of the really horrible parents and children of Genesis, and how the commandment slowly turns that wheel.

13 comments:

Unknown said...

I've found his 1994 article on Abraham fascinating and enlightening. I find whenever I speak to Christian groups whatever the topic I end up going back to how Genesis explains things.

Unknown/Douglas2

Texan99 said...

My strong tendency, probably in large part because I never had children, is to view parent/child relationships through a "tyranny" filter. Where does this parental authority come from? What are its just limits? How do children escape it to develop the autonomy that makes life worth living?

I have to work very hard to see the other part, the part I'm so deficient in: what is an individual's duty to subordinate himself to reasonable authority? How does one learn humble obedience and a ready attitude toward learning from the more experienced? What gratitude does one owe to people who turned their lives upside-down to support and nurture him?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I had noticed myself that it does not say "Honor your tribal leaders, or your rabbis, or the king, or the rich and powerful," but didn't get much beyond that. Kass shows that these would result in other types of societies, such as were known to the Jews then.

Texan99 said...

I see what you mean: not just "honor your elders" but honor the elders in the closest and most intimate relationship to you. Even then, though, honor them not only when they are in sweet, nurturing mode, but often when they're in "leader of the clan," "go tends my flocks" mode. Also later, when they're elderly and frail, don't just push them off onto the ice floe because it's too much trouble to take care of them, and it would be convenient to inherit their power, influence, and flocks. Honor the relationship that began when you were a helpless infant, and be loyal.

Grim said...

The appeal to natural authority develops in Confucian thought too, but rather differently. Perhaps that is because it is not divine, or perhaps because Confucius lived at a time when state authority was more firmly established.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

That thought about Confucianist proper order in relationships crossed my mind, but I didn't develop it. It's probably worth some thought. If it developed one other place, then it likely has some echoes in a third and a fourth, though never exactly the same.

Grim said...

Well, it's in Aristotle too -- he begins in the Politics with natural authority, and (like Confucius) expands from there to think of kings as enjoying a kind of natural authority over their larger, tribe-like families. But then he does something quite different from either: he identifies in the large, political structures a capacity for human flourishing that isn't present in the family alone, e.g., the capacity to form cities in which leisure (and thus education, art, and philosophy) become possible. Thus, he ends up prioritizing the political over the natural authority rather than suggesting that the natural authority should be the model for the political authority.

With the political untied from the need to 'look like' the relationship between parent and child, he is free to explore alternative models of governance and judge among them: kings, aristocracies, but also democracies, and constitutional systems. It helped, no doubt, that Greece was in his day full of many different kinds of governments, of course. He builds out a typology of them, and comes up with a principle for evaluating whether any kind of government is good or bad; and another principle for judging which governments are most dangerous.

But they all start with natural authority. They go different roads from there.

Roy Lofquist said...

We are born ignorant. We learn about the world from others. Your parents are by far the most likely to tell you things that are in your best interest rather than theirs.

Texan99 said...

As Jordan Peterson says, life's too short to figure out everything from scratch by yourself. Why not assume that your ancestors have some hard-won wisdom to impart to you? You don't have to accept it uncritically if you're convinced circumstances warrant a change, but don't just ignore it.

As my whimsy leads me.. said...

Dennis Prager has a Prager U series on the 10 commandments as a whole, and a video on each one.
Toy

james said...

I tried the book, and so far parts of it are good and parts seem a bit strained. (I jumped around a bit.) I'm not impressed so far by his take on the tree of knowledge of good and evil--I think he doesn't parse out the difference between knowing about and knowing personally. (I'm no Hebrew scholar, so I googled about, and in _An Old Testament Theology_ By Bruce K. Waltke he asserts that the Hebrew "to know" is more like connaitre than savoir.)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ James - I found his take on Joseph intriguing but not convincing. His view is that Egypt was the perpetual temptation to the Jews, a settled, urban society based on government power, as a opposed to the herding lifestle of the Jews. Young Joseph's dreams are Egyptian dreams. He does not see him as an entirely positive character, depriving his father of another of his sons, for example. There is something of the tyrant in Joseph. The brothers should have gotten the goods and gone home, encouraging Joseph to return with them but he didn't and it ended badly for the Jews. I'm not convinced, but I see elements I like.

james said...

Yes. That was one of the sections I jumped ahead to... I'd already concluded a long time ago that the impoverishment of the Egyptians suggested either bad judgment or bad character on Joseph's part--or maybe Pharaoh was one of a dynasty of invaders and didn't have any bond with the rest of the Egyptians. (If that were true, then when a new day brought a native-ist restoration, the Egyptians probably wouldn't be very friendly to these other foreigners either.)

One point I don't know if he brought up--who put the story together? Most of the details had to come from Joseph.