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Orthodox Judaism is Kantian Whereas Progressive Judaism is Relative, Discuss

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"Orthodox Judaism is Kantian Whereas Progressive Judaism is Relative." Discuss This statement is a vast simplification. Kantian ethics, cannot be considered as a category of ethics, - it is an ethical theory in its own right. Orthodox Judaism includes an ethical theory that overlaps with Kant's theory but which is by no means identical. Progressive Judaism on the other hand is practically speaking relativist but base their relative code of behaviour on certain principles, which "affirms the central tenets of Judaism.1" The theory of Immanuel Kant is deontological in nature. An action is good because it conforms to certain independently valid principles. These principles are not valid because they promote a good situation but rather because they are intrinsically good. So far, the Orthodox Jewish ethical approach lives up to the status of a deontological approach. A good action is one that fulfills G-ds will, as defined in a guide of principles and laws, the Torah, independent of the human reality. Unlike Orthodox Judaism, Kant did not have divinely revealed principles. Kant had to find principles that were intrinsically good. He did this through the mode of rationality. Reason is universal, and so morality can be logically deduced. Orthodox Judaism places a tremendous emphasis on logic. However natural human logic is not a sophisticated enough tool for discerning moral reality. ...read more.


Kant believed that these are categorical, applying regardless of the consequences. Jewish law is for Orthodox Jews also categorical, demanding adherence regardless of the consequences. For example, Orthodox Jews should keep the laws of Shabbat regardless of the consequences. These laws are intrinsically good. At this point it could be argued that these laws are not categorical as they are suspended for the sake of preserving life; thus apparently making Orthodox Judaism, contrary to Kant, motivated by consequences, i.e. avoiding death. However in response it should be noted that the concept of suspending the Shabbat laws for preservation of human life, is sewn into the very fabric of the law itself, black and white in the 2nd chapter of Shabbat in the Rambams Mishneh Torah. Thus the maxim is not broken; rather the maxim is "keep the Shabbat as long as it does not endanger human life." The apparent compromise, is not a compromise but from the same source of the Shabbat laws and thus intrinsically good and part of the maxim. Kant thought there was only one basic categorical Imperative "act only on maxims which you can at the same time want to be universal laws." This is known as Kant's principle of universalisability. This notion is a version of the main principle in Orthodox Judaism as said by Hillel to a potential convert who wanted to know all of Judaism whilst standing on one foot. ...read more.


The following statement was made at the 1885 Pittsburgh conference: 4. "We hold that all such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity, and dress originated in ages and under the influence of ideas entirely foreign to our present mental and spiritual state. They fail to impress the modern Jew with a spirit of priestly holiness; their observance in our days is apt rather to obstruct than to further modern spiritual elevation.," By 1999 this had evolved to: "We are committed to the ongoing study of the whole array of mitzvot and to the fulfilment of those that address us as individuals and as a community. Some of these mitzvot, sacred obligations, have long been observed by Reform Jews; others, both ancient and modern, demand renewed attention as the result of the unique context of our own times. So Progressive Judaism is extremely relative in that it is re-highlighting the importance of absolute laws. In conclusion Orthodox Judaism heavily overlaps with Kantian ethics however there are some major technical differences in application. Progressive Judaism is largely relative however there is still a sense of absolute principles motivating direction. 1 A statement of principles for Reform Judaism adopted at the 1999 Pittsburgh Convention Central Conference of American Rabbis - May 1999 2 Maimonides- Guide for the Perplexed - Part.1. Chapter 2 3 Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals- Kant 1972 4 The wolf shall lie with the Lamb-The Messiah in Hasidic Thought - Shmuely Boteach 1993 ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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