Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rav Avigdor Miller, zt'l, on Greek Science

The import of this transcription is that Rav Miller zt'l has impeccable hashkafa credentials in the charedi world, and his views expressed here are seemingly in sharp contradistinction to pronouncements made within the last few years by certain talmidei chachomim with regard to this matter. Additionally, I do not believe that this position is widely known, as I have never seen it discussed online, or heard about it, except on my own tape:

Career of Listening series, “Success in Challenging Times,” Tape T109.

The very beginning of Side B:

“…Everybody was satisfied with what the Greeks taught them, and they adopted willingly everything: all the wickedness, all the attitudes, and all the technical achievements of the Greeks. And here was one little enclave of humanity in a small corner of the world that considered themselves, not only that they were indifferent to what the Greeks had to offer, but they considered themselves superior to the Greeks. They said, what you have is sheker v’kozov, and what we have is the truth. At that time it was preposterous, it was ridiculous. Now, looking back today, if we want to assess: What did the Greeks have? We see that there was a big literature and a big science of foolishness. Today, many things are actually comical. The Greeks taught for instance that there are four elements, and they swore by that. Air, water, fire, and earth. The Greeks taught that all matter had a primeval element they called chomer hiyuli, and the reason that matter has different forms is there is a state of existence called the tzura, that’s the shape. When certain shapes… these shapes are something that exist only in the minds of the people that talk about them. Actually there’s no such thing. When the shape rests on this original matter, so the matter assumes such a form. So let’s say that all metals are one. And all earth is the same as the metals - but when a certain shape attaches itself to the original material, so it becomes gold, to another kind of material the shape attaches itself and it becomes silver, and so on. Now, many of these things were considered for generations to be foundations of science, because the Greeks earned for themselves such a secure place in the world’s esteem that it took a long time before the world discovered the errors of Greek science. But at that time there was nobody to criticize, nobody to point out the flaws of Greek science, and therefore it seemed insane when the people of Judea refused to accept the gifts that the Greeks wished to bestow on them. At that time, Josephus, that is, 2000 years ago, attempted to demonstrate that the Jewish people are an ancient people, not like the Greek writers said that they are recent arrivals,” etc.

… short continutation of the shiur before the Q&A section …

“Question: Don’t we find in Hebrew seforim the four elements? Yes. Because the Hebrew seforim wanted to synthesize, to show that these things are in conformance with the Torah. I remember about 60 years ago when it was considered the “thing” for rabbis, rabbonim, from the bimah, to show: “Socialism min ha-Torah minayin?”  [light laughter] …that the Torah believes in socialism. At that time, socialism was considered the wave of the future, and therefore people sought to justify it by the Torah. Now, some of the seforim use this only as a symbol for all the elements, but we don’t look in these seforim for the study of chemistry, and therefore we will take it in a general sense, when they talk about elements. But four elements, forget it. That’s an ancient Greek error, and that’s only one of many misconceptions that the Greeks taught. The Greeks today wouldn’t pass a high school test, in any of the sciences. Now today, even with the knowledge of 40 years ago, the Greek philosophers of the first degree would flunk a freshman’s test - they knew so little about science.”

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