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Reductio Ad Opinionibus At Dissiderent

March 29, 2015

Is Latin for “reducing to a difference of opinions.” I use this term to define the methodology that rabbinical scholars often utilize when they fail to take a position on an issue, and instead note that because the matter is subject to dispute, there is either no reason, or justification, or need, to actually take a position, thus reverting to a ruling that either adheres to the status quo despite its lack of tenability, adopts an unneccesary stricture, or attempts to meld the conflicting opinions. This fallacy permeates the halachic literature of the last five centuries, and is the main tool that does not feature in the methodologies of Maimonides and the Vilna Gaon, while it is used throughout the Shulhan Aruch and the subsequent commentaries.

A good example that came to mind recently is the shiurim argument.

The question of how much matza one should eat is addressed by this writer. Notice how he points out that the volume of an olive is subject to dispute, and therefore rules that the large estimates for that volume be utilized, but he does not entertain that the matter can easily be resolved by actually finding the volume of a natural olive.

The same method was used recently when a friend was told by one rabbi that he did not need to wear t’cheileth in his tzitzith because not everyone believes that it needs be done, without considering that the t’cheileth we have today has been proven beyond a doubt to be chemically identical to the real stuff. His argument is also circular: the difference of opinion is not one of how to understand the source material, but merely between those who have heard the evidence and those who have refused.

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From → halacha

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