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The Intellectual Devotional - Week 1

by David Kidder and Noah Oppenheim


The Intellectual Devotional - Week 1
Saturday, Day 6

Philosophy: Appearance and Reality

Throughout its history, one of the great themes of philosophy has been the distinction between appearance and reality. This distinction was central to the thought of the earliest philosophers, called the Presocratics, because they lived before Socrates.

The Presocratics believed that the ultimate nature of reality was vastly different from the way it ordinarily appeared to them. For instance, one philosopher named Thales held that appearances notwithstanding, all reality was ultimately composed of water; Heraclitus thought the world was built from fire. Further, Heraclitus maintained that everything was constantly in motion. Another thinker, Parmenides, insisted that nothing actually moved and that all apparent motion was an illusion.

The Presocratics took seriously the possibility that all of reality was ultimately made up of some more fundamental substance. And they suspected that uncritical, everyday observation tends to present us with a misleading picture of the world. For these reasons, their thinking is often considered a precursor to modern science as well as philosophy.

Many later philosophers -- including Plato, Spinoza, and Leibniz -- followed in this tradition and presented alternative models of reality, which they claimed were closer to the truth than ordinary, commonsense views of the world.

Additional Facts

The distinction between appearance and reality is also central to the venerable philosophical tradition known as skepticism.
Immanuel Kant also addressed the difference between appearance and reality. He distinguished between things we experience and what he called a "thing-in-itself."

Sunday, Day 7

Religion: Torah

The Torah is the name generally given to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, or the Five Books of Moses. Christians refer to these books as the Old Testament. The word Torah can also refer to the entire breadth of Jewish law encompassing several texts as well as oral traditions.

The Five Books of Moses are the basis for the 613 laws that govern the Jewish faith, and they are the foundation for the world's three great monotheistic faiths -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They are as follows:

Genesis: Tells the story of creation as well as the history of the Israelites, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their families
Exodus: Recounts the exodus from Egypt to Canaan, including Moses receiving the Ten Commandments
Leviticus: Contains the rules and practices of worship
Numbers: Relates the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness
Deuteronomy: Consists of speeches made by Moses at the end of his life that recount Israelite history and ethical teachings

The five books are traditionally believed to have been given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Alternative theories claim the beginning of the Torah was given on Mount Sinai but that the revelation continued throughout Moses's life.

Historically, archaeologists have argued that the Torah was written sometime between the tenth and sixth centuries BC. Proponents of the Documentary Hypothesis, which according to Orthodox Jews is heretical, claim that the original five books came from four sources, eventually compiled into one by a fifth author or redactor. The arguments in favor of this theory are the multiple names used for God, varying styles of writing. and the repetition of stories.

From the beginning, the Torah was accompanied by an oral tradition, which was necessary for its complete understanding. Although it was thought to be blasphemous to write the oral tradition down, the necessity for doing so eventually became apparent, leading to the creation of the Mishna. Later, as rabbis discussed and debated these two texts, the Talmud was written in order to compile their arguments.

The Jewish tradition uses the text of the Torah to derive innumerable laws and customs. Rabbinic scholars have spent entire lifetimes parsing every word for meaning.

Additional Facts

Torah scrolls written in Hebrew by hand, contain 304,805 letters and may take more than a year to produce by hand. If a single mistake is made, the entire scroll becomes invalid.
Reprinted from: The Intellectual Devotional: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Roam Confidently with the Cultured Class by David S. Kidder & Noah D. Oppenheim © 2006 TID Volumes, LLC. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling at (800) 848-4735.

David S. Kidder is an entrepreneur with a wide range of technology and marketing experience. Kidder and his companies have appeared in articles in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and other publications. He lives in Westchester, New York, with his wife, Johanna, their new baby, Jack, and Bella, their charismatic dog.

Noah D. Oppenheim, a producer of NBC’s Today show, has extensive experience in television and print journalism. He has produced and reported for Scarborough Country and Hardball with Chris Matthews, and his writing has appeared in Esquire, the Wall Street Journal, Men’s Health, and the Weekly Standard. He lives in New York City with his wife, Allison

For more information, visit www.theintellectualdevotional.com

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