Monday, April 16, 2012

Free Will in Jew & Gentile - A Philosophical Stab at Quantification

Free will, or Free Choice, is the ability to act free of instinctual constraints. Before he commits himself to action, man can exercise this mental asset. In contrast, the dog lacks this intellectual component that can mediate for several behavioral options. If the dog's instinct is aroused to "go for it", it will. Man can restrain himself and hold himself in check.

The dog also can hold itself in check if such learned behavior brought pain, but avoidance behavior really is an instinct to recede from pain, not a cognitive foresight to weigh possible outcomes.

My question is: Does man's free behavioral choice factor differently in degree for Jew and Gentile? Given that both Jew and Gentile have both an animalistic inclination as well as a spiritual inclination to perform righteously, how then does the Gentile and Jew differ with regard to the "intellectual element" that mediates between these two inclinations?

Note my question bears NOT on the TYPES of behavior chosen, because it's well known a Jew's characteristic nature differs from the Gentile's in 4 ways: 1) He shows more mercy; 2) He feels ashamed if his sin is exposed (modesty); 3) He engages in more kindness to fellow men; and 4th, he has the capacity to behave selflessly, whereas even charitable behavior of a Gentile derives from a selfish motive (Tanya, chpt.1).

My question refers to the "space" allocated for granting free choice. That is, just how much mediation can be made available for the deliberation of free choice? Is there a quantitative difference between Jew and Gentile? Or, to put it more bluntly, who is closer to the dog's one-way mindset?

The question is, "How much SPACE is allocated for Free Choice activity?" How much "space" - irrespective of what actually was chosen or whether any deliberation even took place? Whether the person engages the intellectual element for decision-making, or not, are more POTENTIAL opportunities available to take advantage of, were it measurable, for the Jew or the Gentile?

I think this question touches on the essence of what the Jewish sages mean by the word "freedom", when they claim, "Torah makes you free!" (Pirkei Avot 6:2)

Chassidus often speaks about where "The Gentile has no free choice". I could be wrong but my impression is, it really means to say that RELATIVELY, relative to Jews, the Gentile has practically no free choice.

I think this issue must take into account the concept of commandments. God gave man commandments to follow. The minimum set of 7 commandments, known as the 7 Universal Laws, or 7 Noahide Laws, belongs to all people of the world. Upkeep of this minimum set of laws assuredly functions to make the world an ideal place to live in.

A commandment of God - by definition - means the person is given free choice to do it (and be rewarded) or not do it (and suffer the consequences). In other words, a commandment by God actually bestows upon the person the freedom to behave contrary to the commandment's direction as well. In effect, the commandment itself is PROVIDES the SPACE for freedom of choice to be executed.

Animals, like the dog, never received commandments to follow. For this reason animals lack the intellectual apparatus Free Choice depends on, the mechanism to behave contrary to a commandment. In this sense they are uni-directional. They possess no intellectual space for deliberating one way or the other.

The greater the contingent of commandments, therefore, the greater the SPACE that is created to accommodate these obligations. And vice versa, the less the load of divine duty, the less apparatus and room for deliberation that's provided.

(Note that for the small number of 7, however small it appears next to 613, which is the "Jewish load" of obligations, each law has innumerable ramifications. For example, although hitting someone is not prohibited expressly, for there is no Noahide law "Do not commit injury" as such, it does fall under the rubric of "Do not steal", for injuring someone, or even a minor infringement with no physical consequences, is similar to stealing from someone either in doctor's bills, or simply in lost time.)

The major thrust of this theory is this: Given that Jews have 613 ways to interact with nature to satisfy their commandments, or, more precisely, being that the Davidic dynasty hasn't yet been re-established, which means that approximately only 270 apply (Sefer Hachinuch, Preface), then 270 is the "space factor" of the Jew (today). Similarly, the Gentile's "space factor" is 7.

I contend that Gentiles have very little free choice compared to Jews because the degree of free choice is directly proportional to the number of divine commandments meant for the person to observe.

How does this difference manifest itself in day-to-day behavior? I'm not sure. I just know the Jew has more space in his repertoire, i.e., more freedom offered, because of his much greater load of commandments to keep.

My difficulty to express this advantage, of being subsumed under the canopy of 270 as opposed to one comprised of 7, suggests to me my theory may be faulty, and my thoughts on this issue remain unclear. Just where, however, I stand to be corrected, or taught more - hopefully by YOU.

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