Are You Thinking Logically?

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A Harvard scholar, Mr. Sean Goldstein approaches a learned Rabbi,telling him that he has a Doctorate in philosophy, and would now like to learn the Talmud to round off or complete his knowledge.

(The Talmud meaning, “instruction, learning”, from a root “teach, study”.The Talmud contains the opinions of thousands of rabbis on a variety of subjects, including law, ethics, philosophy, customs, history, theology, lore and many other topics.)
After summing him up for a few minutes, the Rabbi told him ” I seriously doubt that you are ready to study Talmud. Its the deepest book of our people. If you wish however I am willing to examine you in logic, and if you pass the test I will teach you Talmud. ”

Goldstein agrees.

Rabbi holds up two fingers ” Two men come down a chimney. One comes with a clean face and the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face? “

Goldstein stares at the Rabbi. ” Is that a test in Logic?”

The Rabbi nods.

“The one with the dirty face washes his face”, the young man answers with trepidation.

“Wrong. The one with the clean face washes his face….
Examine the simple logic. The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. So the one with the clean face washes his face.”

“Very clever” Says Goldstein. “Give me another test.”

The Rabbi again holds up two fingers “ Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face and the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?

” We have already established that. The one with the clean face washes his face”

” Wrong. Each one washes his face. Examine the simple logic. The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. So the one with the clean face washes his face. When the one with the dirty face sees the one with the clean face washing his face, he also washes his face. So each one washes his face”

” I didn’t think of that! ” Says Goldstein. ” Its shocking to me that
I could make an error in logic. Test me again!.”

The Rabbi holds up two fingers ” Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face and the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face? “

” Each one washes his face.”

” Wrong. Neither one washes his face. Examine the simple logic. The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. But when the one with clean face sees that the one with the dirty face doesn’t wash his face, he also doesn’t wash his face So neither one washes his face”

Goldstein is desperate. ” I am qualified to study Talmud. Please give me one more test”

He groans when the Rabbi lifts his two fingers “Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face and the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?”

” Neither one washes his face”

” Wrong”. Do you now see, Sean, why Socrates’ logic is an insufficient basis for studying the Talmud? Tell me, how is it possible for two men to come down the same chimney, and for one to come out with a clean face and the other with a dirty face? Don’t you see? The whole question is närrischkeit – foolishness – and if you spend your life trying to answers foolish questions, all your answers will be foolish.”
(This story is taken from Prof. Alok Kumar’s facebook post with his due permission. Kumar is a Professor of Communication at University of Calcutta.)
(Story Courtesy : Professor Biswajit Sen. University of Calcutta.
The Story was originally posted in the Loyola80-82 Message Board on Thu Apr 16, 2009.

Image : Talmud, Berakhot, Venice, 1520-1523, Printed by Daniel Bomberg. Page depicted :Volume.1, Folios. 46v-47r. 499.)

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