Monday, November 21, 2016

Great quotations: Israel Salanter on morality

The quote:
Most people worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls, when we all ought to worry about our own souls and other people's bellies

Who  said it:  Israel Salanter

Thoughts on the quote: 

 Why do I, an atheist who doesn't even believe in souls, like this quote? I think we can take "soul" as a metaphor.  Salanter is saying that we should help others in material ways, and worry about ourselves in spiritual ways. This is,  as the quotation notes, too often the reverse of what people do. Many people seem concerned with how much stuff they have and how evil other people are being.
This quote and modern politics
To me, this quote could be the foundation of liberalism and progressivism. I think that the current definition of "conservative" often fits the "most people" and the current definition of "liberal" fits the "ought".  Conservatives are very worried about gay marriage, abortion, drug use, and all sorts of things that are really "other people's souls", while liberals tend to be more worried with making sure that other people have enough to eat and so on.

About the author: 
Israel Salanter (ne Lipkin) was a rabbi in Lithuania. He was born on November 3, 1810,
in  Zhagory and died on February 2, 1883 in Konigsberg. Israel Salanter was a noted Torah scholar and talmudist. A devoutly orthodox Jew, Salanter's views were, nevertheless,  outside the mainstream, and he stressed ethical and moral teachings, and also wrote about the role of the subconcious.


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