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Dialogue and Dialectics

TalmudicThe Role Of Dialectics In The Bavli, An Example Of A Dialectical Argument, Talmudic Dialectics And Philosophical Dialectics

The Talmuds are compendia of commentaries, legal opinions, and sayings by and about rabbis of the first six centuries C.E. There are two: the Palestinian (or Jerusalem) Talmud (c. 400) and the Babylonian Talmud, or Bavli (c. 600). Both are arranged as commentaries, tractate by tractate, of the Mishnah—the compendium of the law of Judaism—itself a collection of legal sayings of rabbis and sages from up to the third century B.C.E.

Dialectical argument is a tool of systematic analysis. In the Talmudic framework, everything is in the moving, or dialectical, argument, the give–and–take of unsparing rationality, which, through their own capacity to reason, later generations are expected to reconstitute. Following the argument as set forth in the Talmud affords access to the issues, the argument, and the prevailing rationality. The Bavli sets forth not so much a record of what was said as a set of notes that permit the engaged reader to reconstruct thought and recapitulate reason and criticism.

A dialectical argument sets forth give–and–take in which parties to the argument counter one another's arguments in a progression of exchanges, often in what seems like an infinite progress to an indeterminate conclusion. A dialectical argument does not merely address the problem and a single solution; it takes up the problem and the various ways by which a solution may be reached. It involves not merely questions and answers or exchanges of opinion, a set–piece of two positions, with an analysis of each, such as formal dialogue exposes with elegance. Moving in an unfolding analytical argument, it explains why this and not that, then why not that but rather the other thing; and onward from the other thing to the thing beyond that—a linear argument in constant forward motion. A dialectical argument is not static and merely expository, but dynamic and always contentious. It is not an endless argument, an argument for the sake of arguing, but a way to cover a variety of cases in testing a principle common to them all.

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