excerpt from the book : 

Why Moses 

was not allowed to enter the promised land

 Essays and considerations


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Why Moses was not allowed

to enter the promised land





Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egyptian captivity and through the desert for forty years to guide them to the land west of the Jordan, which God had once promised to the fathers and their descendants. 

But at the end of the way he was not destined to go over there himself.

He was one hundred and twenty years old when he climbed Mount Nebo, the highest elevation east of the Jordan, from which, far beyond the Jordan Valley, one looks to the region that extends west of the river. From there, God showed Moses the land. He reminded him of his promise and then said to Moses:

I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there5 Moses 34,4


Why was it destined to Moses to see the promised land after forty years of wandering in the wilderness but not to enter it?

The reason is less familiar, but is articulated in the preceding texts, in the descriptions at the end of the wandering: The people were dissatisfied because they suffered from a lack of water. 

There were allegations against Moses, whereupon he and his brother Aharon visited the tabernacle to ask for God's help. God told Moses to take a staff and to gather the congregation. In front of their eyes he should speak to a rock to let water flow:

Take the staff; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink. 4 Moses 20, 8


Moses initially did as he was told. He stepped before the people and said: Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?

Then, instead of speaking to the rock, as instructed, Moses, it is said, hit it twice with his staff. There was a lot of water coming out and the community could drink and their cattle.

Then it is said:

But the Eternal said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as the saint before the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them“


The water had flowed out of the rock in front of the eyes of the congregation, in such a quantity that all, and also the cattle, could drink enough. But in what, after all, consisted Moses’ failure not to have treated God as the saint before the eyes of the children of Israel?


One might think it could be seen in the announcement with which he stepped in front of the crowd: Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock? He refers to himself and Aharon, without mentioning God.


But this interpretation would not really consider content and background of the encounter between God and Moses; it would be an assumption that disregards the essential and articulated difference between the instruction of God and the behaviour of Moses: Moses was supposed to speak to the rock - instead he had hit it twice with his staff.


It was not the first time the people had complained about a lack of water and Moses, at God's command, had let flow water from a rock. It had already happened once before, at the beginning of the wandering. At that time, God had specifically instructed Moses to hit the rock with his staff. 2 Moses 17, 5


Now he instructs him to take the staff along, but then to speak to the rock, to let the water flow. It should, so it seems, be made clear to all eyes that now not the staff, but the word opens the rock.

But Moses again grabs the staff and hits the rock.

The commentator Rashi emphasizes: Because God had not commanded to strike the rock, but 'you shall speak to the rock ....' if Moses and Aharon had not failed here , they would have entered the land. 

 (Weil Gott nicht geboten hatte, den Felsen zu schlagen, sondern 'ihr sollt reden zu dem Felsen....' wenn Mosche und  Aharon sich hier nicht vergangen hätten, wären sie in das Land eingezogen.  Raschi- Commentare, Die fünf Bücher Moses, Bamidbar 20, 12


This is the reason given as to why Moses was only allowed to see the Promised Land, but not to enter it.

He had not, as commanded, spoken to the rock to let water flow, but used the staff as a tool. He did not let the Word become presence.


What was it about the staff?





The staff of Aharon



For the second time the people complained about a lack of water. At the first complaint, at the beginning of the journey through the desert, when God had commanded Moses to strike the rock with the staff for water to flow out of it, he had specified the staff: ... take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile.  2 Moses 17, 5


This points to an earlier use of the staff. It was supposed to be the staff that was used to hit the Nile, so that it turned into blood. This was the first of the ten Egyptian plagues that came about because Pharaoh did not want to let the Hebrews go. 

Here, again, a reference is made to a previous use of the staff: you shall take in your hand the staff that was turned into a serpent... 2 Buch 7:15


It was the staff of Aharon. Before the imposition of the ten Egyptian plagues, Moses and Aharon had come before the Pharaoh to demand the release of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity. 

At that time Aharon, by God's direction, had thrown the staff down in front of the Pharaoh and his entourage, so that if the Pharaoh asked for a miracle, the staff would turn into a serpent as a reminder to let the children of Israel go:

When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Work a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’  2 Moses 7, 9

The Pharaoh had then instructed his sages and wizards to turn their staffs into serpents too, and, surprisingly, they succeeded. But, it is said, the staff of Aharon devoured their staffs.


A snake as a staff or erected on a staff is a recurrent image. 

Later, Moses receives the instruction to make a copper serpent and raise it up on a staff. Those who look at them are healed by the bites of fiery snakes who had come upon the Israelites for their nagging

4 Moses 21, 4-9. 

Outside the Bible, there is a similar image in the symbol of the Aesculapian staff.


The staff of Aharon had been turned into a serpent and again into a staff. With it Aharon had struck the Nile, so that it turned into blood, and after the departure of the Hebrews and the beginning of the wandering in the desert, Moses was told to hit the rock with it.


But towards the end of the wandering, in the fourth book of Moses, after the people had again complained of thirst, Moses should take the staff along but not use it in front of everyone. Instead, he should talk to the rock in order to let water flow.


What has changed in the time between the first water shortage and the second?

 In the meantime almost forty years had passed. The Israelites had received the Tablets of the Law, the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. 

Thus, according to Jewish understanding, man was for the first time addressed as an individual, in his own relationship to heaven, in directive and answer and with his own judgment. 

The Exodus from Egypt, the liberation from a collectivist understanding of man, was now also spiritually accomplished for the Hebrews. In Christianity, the feast of this event of individuation, Shavuoth, which is celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover, became the feast of Pentecost. Pentecost means fifty. 

It was the feast of Shavuoth, to which the disciples had gathered, as recorded in the story of the apostles, when the Holy Ghost came down upon each of them, and each received their own spirit.


By receiving the instructions on Sinai, the individual emerges from the captivity of the collective, the bondservice, in which he is perceived as a mere function of the community. 

Thereby he is also freed from being determined by utilitarianism. He is no longer determined by a function, he has his own beginning. Thus, he is also able to see the world as his counterpart and not as something, that exists only as utility. 

The Word is given to him.


Therefore, the first of the The ten Commandments says: I AM your God who led you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of servitude. Do not have another deity before my face.. 2 Moses 20.2, 

Following the German Buber / Rosenzweig translation, the tetragram appears as the basicword of the person: ICH bin dein Gott, der ich dich führte aus dem Land Ägypten, aus dem Haus der Dienstbarkeit. Nicht sei dir andere Gottheit mir ins Angesicht.


The emphasis on uniqueness is that of identity. 

Pharaoh's wizards also had staffs, they too were able to transform them into serpents and do something with them. 

Up to this point, Moses was only gradually superior to them because Aharon's staff devoured those of the Egyptian priests. But it was done by using a tool -  a utilitaristic act.

A mentality, from which man had stepped out of at Mount Sinai.

Until then it was only God who had worked through the Word in the Bible. 

So, in the third verse of Genesis, where it is written: Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.  

Through the Word Thou created the heavens, says the psalm.


After the Sinai-event, heaven is supposed to work in the word of man.

The recourse to the staff of Aharon represented a disregard of this fact.

Moses had not allowed the Mythos to become present.  

Therefore, it says: Because you did not believe me and did not want to testify to me as the saint before the eyes of the Israelites …

Only Moses and Aharon had been entrusted with the staff of Aharon had been entrusted. In a certain sense, this exclusive position was still similar to that of the pharaoh in Egypt. The instruction to speak to the rock, to let the water flow, meant an emancipation of the individual: Speech is given to everyone.

By talking to the rock, it becomes clear that every person now has their own dialogical relationship with heaven - and with nature.

His speech to the people -  Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring you forth water out of this rock? -  could be seen as a motive of Moses to be confirmed again in the old authority. And so to beat the rock with the staff instead of speaking to it.


Having reached the Promised Land under the guidance of Joshua, the Israelites did not form a collective but found a federative polity, the Twelve tribes, an association of associations whose communication and interaction were not determined by a centralized state but by a common spirit.


Martin Buber refers to the anarchistic, federal idea of this polity. This era, called the Time of the Judges, ended when the elders in Israel declared that they wanted to have a king as well: now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have. 1 Sam 8


King David, the successor of the hapless Saul, the first king of Israel, later carried out the first census. It took place against the will of God, who did not want the children of Israel to be counted and to be comprehended as a counted quantity. Here we can find a first characterization of scientific thinking


The German author Heinrich Böll took up the idea in his short story about an employee of the city who has to count the daily passers-by of a bridge. 

He does, however, not count a woman who comes by every day and whom he secretly loves.

Heinrich Böll, Die ungezählte Geliebte



Thou shall speak to the rock


Because Moses did not as he had been told, namely to speak to the rock, the stone was not addressed by the beating with the staff.

By being treated with an instrument the rock remained just a purpose. Instead of being addressed with a Thou, the rock remained an It, a functional thing. Martin Buber


Nature remains unredeemed where it was supposed to become an encounterpart.

Martin Buber emphasizes this deciding situation in the disposition of man. 

The decision between the I-It-relationship, in which things are seen as utility, and the I-Thou-relationship, in which things become an opposite to be encountered and in which they are spoken to.


This is expressed in a remark of Baal Shem Tov about the sacred sparks, which Martin Buber recounts: The sacred sparks, which have fallen when God built and destroyed worlds, it shall be raised and upwardly purified by man from rock to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to speaking creature, 

to purify the sacred spark that is enclosed by the world of shell. 

It is known that every spark that lives in a rock or plant or other creature has a complete figure with the full number of limbs and sinews, and if he lives in the rock or plant he is in the dungeon, cannot stretch hands and feet and cannot speak, but his head lies on his knees. And who, with the good power of his spirit, can raise the holy spark from rock to plant, from animal to speaking creature, leads him to freedom. And no solution of prisoners is greater than this. How to save a king's son from captivity and bring him to his father.    from: Baal-Schem-Tow, Martin Buber


The staff of Aharon, which was temporarily a serpent, corresponds in the astrological interpretation of the Münchner Rhythmenlehre to the principle of Mars, which has to free the trapped waters from the rock.

Mars, which liberates the waters, appears in many places in the mythological images. 

With a lightning wedge, the Babylonian god Marduk strikes the dragon Tiamat and frees the waters that the dragon devoured, whereupon heaven and earth arise.

Likewise, the Vedic Indra, who strikes the dragon Vritra with the lightning bolt, so that the waters of the truth are released.


Mars, belonging to Aries, represents the other side of the sign Pisces with its planet Neptune. Mars is the Avenger of Neptune, who has to liberate the waters. 

At the end of the path Mars must become Neptune again.

Similarly, in the Arthurian legend, where the sword of Arthur, which he once pulled out of a rock, at the end is handed over to the lake. Wolfgang Döbereiner


In the case of Moses, who again used the staff instead of speaking to the rock as instructed, Mars was to become dialogue, the waters of speech.

It is not without reason that in German the preposition gegen - against forms a word field, which contains the fundamental element of the relationship – Begegnung - encounter, Gegenwart - presence, Gegenüber - opposite, counterpart, zugegen sein – to be present. 


Here, it is man, whom it is given to liberate the waters.


The name of Moses represents the Hellenized form of the Hebrew name Moshe-שששה. Moshe contains the root mosh - מוש – to pull. 

To the word field belongs moshekh -מושך - pull out, mussag - מושג - idea, moshia - מושיע - savior, as well as moshiakh - משיח, which became Messiah in Greek. In the case of Moses, according to Martin Buber, the name means pulled out, but also the one who pulls out or leads out.


Also, the Greek word Mythos, associated to mystic, from mysticos, the hidden or the secret, presumably goes back to the Hebrew adjective musthar - מוסתר -hidden, secret.


The Mythos is the Geheimnis, the German word for secret. Geheimnis comes from Heim – home. Originally, it means nothing elitist, something that is accessible only to the initiated, but the personhood of man, his sensibility, which is neither public nor measurable, the intimacy of his relationship to heaven.







Categorical imperative and the approval of the death penalty





Immanuel Kant:

In this way: that whoever steals anything makes everyone’s property insecure; he therefore robs himself of all security in property, according to the right of retaliation. Such a one has nothing, and can acquire nothing, but he has the will to live; and this is only possible by others supporting him. But as the state should not support the thief for free, he must yield his powers to the state to be used in penal labour; and thus he falls for a time, or it may be for life, into a condition of slavery.

But whoever has committed murder, must die. There is, in this case, no juridical substitute or surrogate, that can be given or taken for the satisfaction of justice.

Imanuel Kant, On Criminal and Pardon Law / Metaphysics of Morals



Martin Buber:

Answer to a questionnaire in 1928

- My answer to the questions submitted to me can be summarized in the following sentences:

1. The death penalty is partial suicide without legitimate subject.

2. It acts not as a deterrent, only by its terror it will disturb people even deeper into confusion.

3. The self-protection of society must be limited by its purpose, and it must always be reconsidered.

Martin Buber, from:  Nachlese, 1965




Categorical imperative

and the approval of the death penalty


A dialogue






- How does Martin Buber come to the conclusion that the death penalty means partial suicide?


- The one who kills another or causes his death, kills his counterpart. With this he also cancels himself as a subject. He kills something in himself. This is a primal sensation. It results from Buber's thoughts about I and Thou. 

Here, he articulates how the person-being of man, his I, grows out of being aware of and allowing the other person, the Thou. Who eliminates his Thou also cancels his I.

Buber transfers this to the community, which emerges from the I-Thou relationship in the first place. Here the individual and the community as such are affected: The community kills itself by killing the individual under the pretense of securing the community. It negate itself in its foundation.


- Kant emphasizes that his maxim of the categorical imperative, act as if the standard of your actions can become the principle of the action of all, is not debatable. Under all circumstances, even towards a murderer, you have to be truthful, otherwise you commit a breach of the law. Anyone who deliberately breaks the law, questions its general validity and thus makes social life impossible.

Moreover, no one can be misused for a purpose or reduced to a purpose.


- But precisely this maxim turns any life impulse and any living together into a purpose. More than before because the individual is understood as a function of the community. Here, the road to collective coercion, from that of the Prussian military state to that of German National Socialism, is laid down.


- Kant, however, contradicts even the ethical claim of his imperative with his reasons for the death penalty. A murderer must die, he says, because there is no other satisfaction of justice in this case. This is a contradiction to his deduction of the Categorical Imperative, according to which no person must be misused for a purpose or made a purpose.

Here, he refers to the execution as the only adequate punishment for those who have murdered.


- This is indeed a contradiction, since justice is granted an absoluteness here, it is even personified, because it can be satisfied.

However, in Kant's philosophy, justice can only be an intersubjective consensus which aims to create social conditions for the benefit of all. Kant formulated it like this:

An amount of rational beings who demand general laws for their preservation, but from which each of them is inclined in secret to exclude themselves from it, to order and establish in their constitution in such a way that, even though they are against each other in their private attitudes, they nevertheless hold each other back in such a way that in their public conduct the success is the same as if they had no such evil attitudes.  Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch


- From this, one cannot deduce a right of retribution. It is set arbitrarily. The satisfaction of justice by the death of the delinquent represents a reduction to a purpose which stands in contradiction to the alleged ethics of the categorical imperative.


- The contradiction reveals the basic idea of Kant's imperative. It lies in the matter and becomes obvious with Kant's advocacy of the death penalty: The very maxim of always acting in such a way that one's own actions can apply as the yardstick of the community turns the community into a functional end in itself which reduces the individual to the purpose of maintaining the community. This is the essence of Kant's teaching.

The appreciation of Kantian philosophy in Prussian-dominated Germany and the emerging industrial society may find an explanation here.


- The proposition represents the concepmechanism of the market. t of modern democracy i.e. to organize selfish claims to power in such a way that they keep each other in check.


- A political mechanics with reference to Adam Smith and what he calls the mechanism of the market. 


- That would mean that those prevail, who best understand how to disguise their striving for power as a mechanism.


- As long as a society actually relies on this rule and not additionally on something else, it leads to the dictatorship of practical constraint.


- To the dictatorship of those who understand how to present their interests as practical constraint.


- Reinhard Gehlen, chief of the Foreign Armies East intelligence service during the Nazi regime, who after the war founded the West German Federal Intelligence Service with support of the USA, once formulated this coherently.

A few years after the collapse of the Nazi regime, when the future German federal government was still in the process of being built, he speculated in a letter to the authorities that after Hitler, the Berlin Kaiserreich and the associated catastrophes, political decisions could no longer be communicated to the people via the authority of persons, since their trust in any form of personal authority was irrevocably lost. He wrote that government measures could no longer be justified in this way. Therefore, it would be advisable to present them as practical constraint.


- Gehlen apparently uses Hegel's definition according to which Freedom is the insight into necessity. Despite the differences quite in the sense of Kant. Both of them provided the theoretical equipment of the Prussian state and its guiding principle of state duty as the highest virtue.


- Kant's fallacy has systemic reasons: Proponents of community coercion are usually also supporters of the death penalty. It is the repression by the collectivistic compulsion What demands sacrifice is that what is repressed by communal compulsion. This is the essence of the matter.

At any rate, death penalty is contradictory to the idea of democracy. In its proper sense, democracy rules out the imposition of the death penalty.


- Why should the imposition of the death penalty be undemocratic? The USA is a democracy, actually the first modern democracy, and they have the death penalty in some states.


- The US democracy is not so old yet.


 - Is not the foundation of the United States of America in 1789 said to be the model for the modern democratic state?


- Is it not part of a democracy that the population chooses the government, that everyone is equally entitled to vote?


- Yes, that's exactly what was stated in the US Constitution.


- But it did not apply for the Native Americans and the slaves. They were not entitled to vote. If only certain sections of the population are allowed to vote, one cannot speak of democracy.


- Teething problems. That was overcome. Today, all citizens in the US are entitled to vote.


- Not very long. To be precise, the US can only be called a democracy since 1965, because only then did the so-called Voting Rights Act put an end to the suffrage restrictions and allowed all sections of the population to vote. Previously, in many states colored people had to pass an illiteracy test in order to be able to vote. So it came to pass that the majority of the population of entire neighborhoods or regions did not have the right to vote. 

As long as a state excludes a part of its population from elections, it cannot be called democratic, but at best be described as a modern Ständestaat - an authoritarian corporative state or oligarchy.


- All in all, the US is and will remain in its basic orientation a modern constitutional state.


- Are you sure? During the Bush administration, top government officials allowed torture by waterboarding, simply by calling it extended interrogation instead of torture. The delinquent is held horizontally with his head drawn backwards. Water is constantly poured over his face so that he cannot breathe and has the feeling of drowning. Isn't that disturbing or questionable?


- It is. But why should someone who holds the lives of others in their hands by holding back life-saving information, not be forced to divulge this information by some inconvenience or pain? In principle, that would be comparable to self-defense or emergency relief.


- No, it wouldn't. The immediacy is not given.


- But in the case of the bomber who does not reveal the deactivation code, there would be no other way to save lives. 


- This case is constructed and actually never occurred in practice. It is an example that is cited by torture advocates only. Reality is different. 

Where torture is used, it is used for investigation. 

But mainly to exert terror in order to create fear. As a means of investigation, torture is known to be less effective. For understandable reasons, the results are not reliable.


- However, since we can imagine such a case, it is at least possible and perhaps increasingly likely given international terrorism. 

If it is already debated whether the investigation results of foreign intelligence services should be used even if they are extorted by torture, we can assume a corresponding acute situation.


- You say it yourself: It's about investigation results. The case of averting danger by forcing the disclosure of a deactivation code is therefore not given here. So, this is about a very lapidary practice of torture interrogation.


- Indirectly, the averting of danger is given. These interrogations lead to insights that prevent terrorist attacks.


- As you can see, it gets more and more indirect, once you begin to posit a legitimate reason for torture. Where should the line be drawn? Who is to draw it and who will observe it?

The mere fact that the question arises, where to draw the line, clearly shows that in principle something is wrong.


- Think of the murderer, who does not respect human dignity. This cannot be a reason for a superordinate jurisdiction which is obligated to human dignity, to disrespect human dignity as well.

Accordingly, the fact that someone does not reveal life-saving information in contempt of humanity values, cannot be a a justification for disregarding human dignity. 

This person has made him- or herself a purpose. If the guardians of the law, tortured, they would do the same by making this person a purpose of information procurement.


- But by disregarding the human dignity of an individual one would save the lives of thousands of others. One has to weigh up all options.


- Hierarchies can be weighed up, but not the dignity of man.

In this respect, it seems logical that in the US, a society that calls itself democratic but prides itself on pragmatism, torture was legitimized under the Bush administration.


- If you want to see it that way, it's also inhumane to imprison someone. Again, a graduation is obviously applied: Physical mistreatment or an enforced confession, i.e. by torture or corporal punishment, are prohibited, but the restriction of physical freedom of movement is a common penalty.


- In the Declaration of Human Rights corporal punishment and torture were defined as violations of human rights.


- Why was such a line drawn?


- Possibly because corporal punishment could have lifelong consequences. Without a doubt, however, there is a violence that is more intimate than that of a mere capture. The difference is that the will of the delinquent shall be broken, he shall be pressed to confess.

It is the intimacy of violence that is shameful for a community committed to human dignity.

The crucial and essential reason is that corporal punishment means serfdom. It means that your body is the possession of another person, someone who can dispose of it in an existential way. It means that you do not belong to yourself. Hence, the imposition of corporal punishment shows the structures of a Ständestaat, a corporative state whose individuals are subject to graded appreciation and, correspondingly, to graded freedom.


- I cannot see why this should not apply to imprisonment. After all, obstructing my freedom of movement also affects my body. If one can imprison me and bring me hither and tither without me wanting it, he also rules about my body. And this is a physical experience.


- You do not experience them on your body, but via your body, because your freedom of movement and your freedom of action is limited.


- Again, you cannot draw a clear qualitative line. For example, what happens when someone is locked up in a very small cell, one in which he or she may not be able to stand upright, something which has indeed been applied as a method of torture? Here the restriction of the freedom of movement is synonymous with a corporal punishment.


- Not synonymous. This kind of restriction is a corporal punishment because it leads to physical pain. It is neither about the restriction of the freedom of movement, because this can of course mean a physical impairment, since physical movement is part of the physical existence. But it is about the restriction of the freedom of action. This is a difference.


- Let's take Japan which is also a democracy with the death penalty. In Britain, one of the oldest democracies we have, it was executed until the 1950s. Who wants to say that Britain was not democratic at the time? To me, the death penalty seems quite compatible with democracy. It can be regarded as a democratic agreement. If someone has killed, then they should also be punished with death. Whoever has taken the life of another forfeited the right to life by doing so.


- What does that look like in detail? Who should determine whether one forfeited the right to life?


- The state, I think, the courts.


- Who legitimates the courts and the state to deny someone the right to life?


- The people, the community.


- By popular vote, referendum, so to speak? Do you mean that by democratic?


 - This is how, in a country of law, laws are made and the organs of jurisdiction are determined indirectly. Democracy means that "the people themselves rule".


- If everyone is allowed to vote, is this not because everyone is given a basic right, which also includes the right to life? In total, what we call human dignity?


- Yeah, right. Everyone is granted this dignity, including the right to life, unless he has killed another person. This should, so the statement, be punished by death.


- What is ultimately again decided by the community. 


- Correct.


- This would mean that it is up to the arbitrariness of the community or their majority to deny a person the right to life. In so doing, however, they contradict this principle of the right to life in a fundamental way.


- Why contradict? Why arbitrariness? It is like a social contract in which certain statutes have been laid down, according to which the one who commits a murder forfeits his right to life. It is his or her own decision. This person does not have to kill. Who lives in a community also accepts its conditions, to which he or she, in a certain way, contributes.


- It is a fundamental contradiction in itself because the right to life cannot be subject to the decision of the community, since the right of the individual to life is the presupposition of its constitution.

If the community denies someone the right to life, it basically abolishes this elementary condition of respect for the human dignity of the other. Therefore, Martin Buber calls the death penalty a partial suicide of every community.


-  But this is about a murderer, not about just anybody.


- A murderer is also somebody. It's about a community that assumes the right to deny a murderer the right to life. And that is contradictory, because in a community which claims to be based on respect for the life of the individual, has to be unconditional because this respect would otherwise fundamentally be abolished.

This is why Buber called the death sentence pronounced against Eichmann, the only death penalty ever imposed by an Israeli court, a mistake of historical proportions


- But could you really say that, if the community denies this right, this decision would be arbitrary? Can you?


- This is a rhetorical question. Perhaps you think that democracy is essentially about making political decisions by majority vote.


- Yes, that’s exactly, what I think.


- In fact, this is only the secondary principle of a democratic society. Secondary because it is a consequence of the fundamental respect for the dignity of the individual. The relationship of the individuals, who recognize each other and who generally concede this dignity to each human being the liberal community is made possible in the first place. It is the crucial prerequisite.

Only enables the formation of a community and its workings, including majority decisions by vote of the individuals.


- But majority decisions are a fundamental function of a democratic society.


- Although not the basic content of democracy. The Greeks distinguished democracy from ochlocracy, the rule of the crowd.

Majority decisions alone are not decisive since they might negate their own precondition.


- Well, that's plausible. The majority principle cannot be the sole legitimization principle. But there is also the natural law. It is in the logic of the matter that one who has murdered deserves death.


- You think he also deserves to be murdered?


- Not murdered! Sentenced to death. 


- When you speak of the logic of the matter, you mean that it is about a deed to be paid back in kind.

And that means: A murder is atoned for by a murder. That would not be democratic jurisprudence, but the revenge principle like it dominates in clan societies. 

Anyone who wants to live like this should do so. But he should not, well provided with social security and pension insurance, use the state or the community for his murderous desires.

Let them take a gun and go. Then we would have a clan rule as they may still exist in Europe in the Albanian mountains. If they went there, these well-insured supporters of the death penalty would surely wet their pants.


- You are wrong. The lex talionis, the idea of retaliation as it existed the ancient jurisprudence and according to which the same should be compensated only with the same. It is not comparable to clan revenge which goes beyond this.

The biblical eye for eye, tooth for tooth is by no means a tighter jurisprudence in its time. On the contrary: it represents a containment of the clan revenge by specifying a measure and introducing a generally binding case-law.


- You're right. The lex talionis is not synonymous with the clan vengeance. However, your biblical quotation is, strictly speaking, not about repaying like with like.


- It is not?


- In the Mosaic laws it is not called an eye for an eye. The original wording is:

"give life for life, eye for eye" . Thus, the directive has a completely different meaning than what is commonly stated. It is not aimed at the injured party, who should now demand the eye of the perpetrator for their lost eye, nor at a judge, but at the polluter to compensate for the damage. It goes without saying that the instruction to him does not literally mean to rip his eye out and give it to the injured party, who would not be helped with that, anyway. What is meant here is a compensation.


- This applies only partly. The directive is repeated several times in the Five Books of Moses. Only once, the first time, it says Give life for life, eye for eye ... in the second book of Moses, chapter 21, verse 23 and 24. Only here the causer of the damage seems to be addressed.

But what is meant in another passage, say 3 Moses, 24, verse 19 to 20? There it is said expressly: If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done, it shall happen to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.

Here the higher-level instance of a jurisdiction is addressed: so shall it happen to him. And it is clearly articulated that like should be repaid with like.


- Actually not. With the first and only full wording of the phrase it was made clear that in all further mentions give life for life, an eye for an eye was meant. Everyone knew that.


- How come?


- By fundamentally emphasizing the meaning of the instruction and thus creating the context.

History is also clear here: since at no time there was a biblical or rabbinical jurisdiction that would have claimed the eye of the person who caused the damage to the eye of another person. In fact, it is always a question of proportionate compensation.The original Hebrew text contains the word takhat and that means instead of or in place of.  

The takhat is a continuous principle where accidents or damages in biblical jurisprudence are concerned.


- Anyway. Two lines before it is said that if anyone kills any man, he shall die. You will not be able to refute the fact that in Mosaic laws, at least some offenses are listed as death-worthy offenses.


- The statements are actually applicable to all sides. They would also apply to judges and executioners. But other interpretations are also possible for the well-known phrase in the first book of Moses 9, 6.

In Hebrew: "Shofekh dam haAdam, baAdam damo jeshafekh" – what ist usually translated as: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." King James


- What other interpretation?


- The colon is already an interpretation. There is none in the original Hebrew text. A well-known Talmudic derivation now puts it elsewhere, not in front of but behind "baAdam". The prefix ba" would then no longer mean "through a person"  but "in a person". The phrase then reads:

"Whoever sheds man's blood in a man, his blood will be shed."


- A man in a man?


- The statement was related to the unborn child. It is considered the prohibition of abortion.


- That does not contradict the other interpretation. It even includes the killing of an unborn child.


- That's true. However, it highlights the range of meanings of the prefix ba. It can also mean through or at or by, but the most common meaning is actually in.


Because of this "baAdam", as "in a man", can also be understood in such a way that when someone sheds a person's blood, he kills something in himself, in a man. HaAdam - baAdam - “Whoever sheds blood of man, his blood is shed in man".

A juxtaposition. This is probably what Martin Buber had in mind when he called the death penalty partial suicide:  Whoever kills someone else kills someone in himself.


- The argumentation in support of the death penalty is occasionally justified by its representatives with certain biblical passages from the Mosaic laws.  According to their interpretation, there are some passages which speak of killing an offender.


- Indeed. That is undeniable.


– It must be taken into account that the various texts of the Holy Scripture should be weighted differently - in terms of their importance and in relation to each other.

Thus, according to the orthodox tradition, the content of the Torah is revelation given directly by God, while the rest of the authors are considered to be inspired with God, and their writings are accordingly regarded as inspired revelations. 


- Well, Scripture is not a homogeneous block. But you say it yourself that the Mosaic instructions have a prominent position, since they are regarded as immediate revelation.


- Here there are also different points of view. Within the laws of the Torah, in turn, the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments, which Moses received from God on Sinai, take a prominent position. They stand above all other instructions.

These Ten Commandments can be considered the essential instruction of biblical ethics, given by God to Moses, and superior to all the other commandments and rules of the Torah. 


- Now, with regard to the Mosaic Laws on deadly crimes, these would be put into perspective by the fifth commandment of the Decalogue, usually translated as Thou Shalt Not Kill. Is it that, what you mean?


- Thou shalt not kill is not a perfect translation of the Hebrew lo tirtsakh. Another verb is considered as a more correct transfer of the fifth commandment of the Decalogue: Thou shalt not murder.


- Can the execution of a death sentence be called murder? Only in polemics the word is used in this context.


- It depends. Supporters of the death penalty like to emphasize this distinction, since the state-run execution would be affected by a ban on killing, but according to the linguistic consensus it is not called murder.

But still: the verb killing as an act of one person against another person is a specific act. 

Killing a person on purpose means to commit murder!


- You mean, this concerns any intentional killing? Even those executed by a government or a court?


- Due to the declared institutionalized purpose and the associated cruelty even more.


- An answer to the question what is the proper interpretation of the original Hebrew text, should be found in the handling of the jurisdiction of Judaism. How did they deal with the proscription of killing in the Ten Commandments?


- A look at the relationship of late antiquity Judaism to the imposition of the death penalty reveals a hardly comparable reluctance towards the death penalty, which ultimately resulted in general avoidance in the fourth century. 

Seventy judges and two witnesses were necessary in order to sentence a person to death. The Gemara says: A court that sentences only one person to death in seventy years is called a bloodthirsty court.

Whereas the possibility of a divine judge's verdict was principally admitted, no human judge was conceded infallibility.


- But theoretically the death penalty was seen as justified.


 - Since one could never be sure of this justification, it was practically abolished. But what is essential is the fact that there was also a rabbinical interpretation which understood the wording by no means as a directive for the judiciary, but as a passive divinum, as a matter of divine providence. 

In Hebrew the phrase as he has done, so it shall be done to him, can also be read as so it will happen to him.


- In other societies, people took a different view.


- As far as the interpretation of a Hebrew commandment from the Decalogue is concerned, there are good reasons to concede a certain competence to Judaism for grasping the linguistic meaning.

Thou shalt not kill / murder.

And the fact that the death penalty was already outlawed in Jewish ethics in the fourth century speaks for itself. 





Camokha and Categorical imperative

you shall love your neighbor as yourself 

ואהבת לﬧﬠך כמוך -v'ahavta l'reakha camokha -

you shall love your neighbor - he is like you.

The Hebrew word ahava, which became the Greek Agape ,

is translated as Love.

כ מ ו ך - camokha – like you,

is the literal meaning of the Hebrew phrase,

conventionally ranslated as  …  as yourself

3 Moses 19:18, caligraphy by Shai Kazav 




Camokha and Categorical imperative


The Commandment Love your neighbor and

the difference to the Golden Rule


The Golden Rule is defined as the obligation to treat one's fellow human beings as one wishes to be treated by them.

The rule is found in the ethical teachings of many cultures and religions.

In the Bible it appears in the Book of Tobit. Here, Tobit admonishes his son Tobijah before embarking on a journey: Do to no one what you yourself hate ...Tob.4: 15


Also, in the Gospels the Rule is mentioned a few times, there actively formulated: 

So, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, it is said in Matthew 7:12.


The validity of the equation seems immediately obvious. The Christian philosopher Origen regarded it as a natural, God-given commandment, accessible to every human being.


The most common form of the golden rule is: What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.

Here, too, the instruction is formulated negatively, whereas in Matthew 7:12 it is said that one should do good to the other, just as one would wishes it for oneself.


Theoreticians of the modern market economy see this as the basic principle of self-regulation of the market and the economic process.

The mechanical inevitability of the assumed self-regulation formed the basis of political and economic science in the run-up to the industrial age.


Adam Smith had stated that egoism was the engine of social interaction. 

Accordingly, Immanuel Kant proclaimed the complete detachment of the social process from the mutual benevolence of individuals and declared rational selfishness to be the very motive of community building:

The problem of the establishment of the state, as hard as it sounds, even for a people of devils (if they only have reason), is solvable and so reads: 'An amount of rational beings who demand general laws for their preservation, but each of whom is inclined in secret to exclude themselves from it, to order and establish in their constitution in such a way that, even though they are against each other in their private attitudes, they nevertheless hold each other back in such a way that in their public conduct the success is the same as if they had no such evil attitudes. Perpetual peace


In his political doctrine, Thomas Hobbes, who one and a half centuries before had declared, that a man is a wolf to man, he comes to the view that only one absolute authority, recognized by all, can guarantee social peace: The Leviathan.


With Immanuel Kant and Adam Smith a seemingly mechanical self-regulation is supposed to guarantee the order.

The phrase of the devils, whose evil attitudes become the motive of the establishment of the state, articulated a fundamental ideological pre-condition of the dawning industrial age.

However, this is already hinted at by Hobbes, who calls the state the great machine.


A short form of the negative formulation can be found in the ethical maxim of the Google Group: Do not be evil. 


This form can already be found in the rhyme of the German humorist Wilhelm Busch: Das Gute, dieser Satz steht fest, ist stets das Böse, das man lässt – which approximately translates as: The good, this sentence fits, is always the evil, that one omits. from: Die fromme Helene

In the two biblical quotations relating to the Golden Rule from the Book of Tobit and the Gospel of Matthew it can be noticed that they refer to the behavior of the individual towards the people. Consequently, it is about the behavior towards the community.

The instruction to charity, on the other hand, refers to the individual: Love your neighbor as yourself.


This is the conventional translation, which seems to correspond to the reflective pragmatism of the Golden Rule, to treat one's neighbor well because one would like to be treated well oneself.

But the wording and also the background of the sentence are different than in the case of the reminders in which the Golden Rule is embedded.


The instruction to charity in the gospel is preceded by a question. A scribe addresses Jesus and asks him about the essence of the Torah: Master, what is the greatest commandment in the law?

Jesus mentions two instructions from the Torah as equally important: the love of God and the love of one's fellowman.

"Love the Eternal your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength and with all your mind". Deuteronomy 6: 5

That's the first and biggest bid. But another is like him: "Thou shall love your neighbor as yourself." Lev. 19:18  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. Mathew. 22, 36-40


Jesus equates the relationship to God with the relationship to fellow human beings.

A translation based on the Golden Rule -  ... as yourself – does, in its reflective sense, not really do justice to this relation.


On the basis of comparisons with other corresponding passages the Hebraist Naphtali Herz Wessely proposes a more meaningful translation of the phrase: כ מ ו ך - camokha: love your neighbor - he is like you.

Wessely explains: The reason for the commandment "Thou shall love your neighbor" is: For he is like you, he is similar to you, is equal to you; for he too was created in the image of God, and thus he is a human like you. And this includes all the children of men, for they were all made in the image of God.


Thus, the statement goes beyond the reflective nature of conventional translation and provides an essential instruction to be in relationship. Namely, to recognize the other as a person like you

In the German translation of Buber and Rosenzweig, this content is made clear by the specific inclusion of the following tetragram in the statement:

Halte lieb deinen Genossen. Dir gleich. ICH BIN‘s. (Tetragramm) - Love your comrade. Like you. followed by the Tetragramm as: I AM it. ( or It is me) - English translation by the author


They translated camokha to German as Dir gleich- like you.

Buber explains: Das vierte Wort des ersten Satzes … ist keineswegs zu verstehen: »Wie dich selbst«, sondern »dir gleich«, »als dir gleich - The fourth word of the first sentence ... is by no means to be understood as: "Like yourself", but "like you", "as equal to you" Briefwechsel aus sieben Jahrzehnten II: 27. 1. 1937 to Hans Kosma, English translation by the author


The content is further clarified by the specific inclusion of the following tetragram in the statement. The tetragram, transferred as I AM it, is understood by Martin Buber in the sense of the principle of identity and relationship as the basic word of the person, as the I-Thou.


The Judeo-Christian directive to charity is different from the Golden Rule. It does not represent a maxim of action.

It is neither a code of social behavioral economics nor a practicable rule. It does not refer to a behavior but to a beingness. A Being-in-relationship. The recognition of the other, independent of one's own needs.

Kant's categorical imperative is considered to be the philosophically stringent version of the Golden Rule: 

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law  Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals


In its possible consequence Kant’s imperative actually goes further.

Kant generalized the demand to treat the other as one would like to be treated oneself, to a collective norm: Everyone should always act in such a way that the maxim of their will can count as a moral stipulation for all others - as a principle of general legislation.

The Golden Rule, taken by itself, without the commandment of charity, can be followed without affection, only moved by the purely socio-economic reasons of an anticipatory egoism.

The categorical imperative, however, goes beyond this and excludes even the motive of affection for the other - in favor of the duty that is directed at the collective

Consequently, with Kant acting out of duty appears to be the highest virtue, while the motive of love is not seen as virtue.

To that Schiller wrote the mocking verse: I like to serve the friends, but unfortunately, I do it with inclination, and so it often rankles me that I'm not virtuous. Schiller, Xenie, scruple of conscience.




- Nicolai Hartmann, born on 19 February 1882, with a position of sun at the beginning of Pisces, characterized the neutralization of the individual by the collective, that Kant's ethics contains. He called Kant's Categorical Imperative something that man, as a personality, cannot want in principle. Rather, he must at the same time want something beyond his general validity to have something of his own in his behavior, which no other should or may do in his place. If he renounces this, he is a mere number in the crowd, replaceable by every other; his personal existence is in vain, meaningless. N. Hartmann, Ethics.


To want … something of his own in his behavior is a contradiction that already implies the neutralization.


- The remark lacks clarity. It cannot be a question of wanting that beyond all general validity something of one’s own should be in one’s behavior. That would be constructed.

And defining it by using a comparison namely, to want... to have something of his own in his behavior, which no other should or may do in his place, articulates only another, reactive form of an external determinism.


- The own is beyond behavior. Since everyone is an own by himself, or at least created as an own, it can only be a matter of allowing one's own identity and, consequently, one's own behavior.

Man does not have to want an own, his existence is already an own, otherwise he would not exist. It can only emerge by let it be.

Being means identity, another beingness is unthinkable.




Thomas Hobbes, born April 5 in the sign Aries, Immanuel Kant, in the sign Taurus on April 22, and Adam Smith, in the sign Gemini on June 5, articulate the concept of collective, in which the community becomes an end in itself. Aries, Taurus and Gemini are the three phases of the first quadrant of the zodiac, the causa materialis, realm of Leviathan. 

Here, the individual is viewed only as a function of the collective and will be used up by it.

The destiny of the individual becomes a set of rules. Wolfgang Döbereiner


Nicolai Hartmann, born February 19 in the sign of Pisces, Martin Buber, Aquarius on February 8, and Franz Rosenzweig, Capricorn on December 25, are concerned with the freedom of the individual and recognizing Heaven in the fellow human being. They are representatives of the three phases of the fourth quadrant of the zodiac, the Causa finalis, which appears in the Revelation of John as the one of the four angels with a human face.








With the development of perspectival depiction in the Renaissance, events and things of painting were determined by the constructed space. Space was no longer formed by the meaning of the contents.


A painting did not have its own beginning any more.


The venture of beginning out of nothingness could be calculated and regulated with perspectival construction. This was connected with the unfolding world view, that things and events are placed in an already existing space and in a presupposed time and are determined by the laws of space and time.






This ideology was the precondition of scientific thinking which conceived of events as deterministic events of preceding causal events in a presumed time. The world as what Descartes later called Ideal machine.








In painting, one could now create on the pictorial surface an illusionistic, three-dimensional plane with first one, then two or three vanishing points, into which, as determined by the laws of perspective, the objects to be painted were placed.


Colors and shapes became filling material.


Either they faded, as with Masaccio, or they appeared in the sterile arbitrariness of calculated harmony, as with Dürer. The Italians called Dürer a palliator.




In the course of this development in 1425 it comes to a hitherto unprecedented depiction of the Trinity by Masaccio, in which God appears to be determined by space and time and is depicted as a phenomenon: God the Father, the hitherto unfathomable primal foundation of being, as a bearded old man.


With the perspectival construction as well as with the anatomical representation of the human body, the painters of the Renaissance took up the ancient Greek and Roman art, which were rediscovered at that time.


Once, in pre-Christian times, an early form of the perspectively illusionistic representation had been developed, yet without vanishing points and calculation, e.g. in the murals in the Casa dei Vetti in Pompeii.



In late antiquity and in the Middle Ages, however, this was abandoned in favour of anti-perspectival representations.


From a modern point of view, this change is often seen as a loss of a once-existing knowledge and in this sense as a technical step backwards.


Regarding the continuity with which the technical achievements of Greco-Roman culture were maintained and continued in later Christianized East-Roman Constantinople (such as the sewerage or the Greek fire, the weapon whose composition nobody elsewhere understood and which secured the supremacy of the Byzantine fleet for centuries, the view that the maintenance of the arts would have had a regression only in the technical mastery of perspective seems absurd.




Rather, in the Byzantine renunciation of perspectival illusionism in painting, a spiritual development becomes visible which, due to the spread of Christianity and the associated conception of the individual, is accompanied by a new understanding of the person and the Gestalt.

Three outline drawings of Russian icons. The first, on the previous, shows Christ, who frees the deceased from the Limbo. The second depicts the Evangelist Marc writing. The third shows the angel and the two women at the empty tomb after the resurrection. The table and footstool of Marc are shown in reverse perspective. Also the coffin and coffin lid of the thumb


Here the figures and events in painting begin to form the space. Through them, the space is created.


Significant persons do not only appear greater according to their meaning, represented objects are often in a reverse perspective; they become bigger instead of smaller as is the rule with the perspectival construction.




In contrast to central perspective, the vanishing lines do not collapse in a center but strive to the periphery. This would be the view of the angels, was an explanation in the later Russian icon painting.


Not only had late-antique illusionistic perspectival attempts not been further pursued – despite other technical innovations – but a counter-perspective developed: the centrifugal vanishing lines that enlarged toward the background.


In reversal perspective the vanishing point, i.e. the spatial orientation, is not located in an illusionistic space within the picture, but in front of the picture, in the viewer.

The image addresses the person of the beholder and turns him into a counterpart.


The renunciation of the illusion of a three-dimensional space at the plane creates a space of sensation between image and viewer.

This way of painting does not trick the plane, but creates the things within the plane. It unfolds them there. Thus they acquire a spatial simultaneity and find a presence that is possible only in the pictorial plane.

With the reversal perspective, an impulsation arises: ebb and flow, what is peripheral becomes close, what is close becomes peripheral: the rhythm of the periphery and the middle.

The word time comes from tide, which names the rhythm of ebb and flow.

This is the event, the Ereignis.


The constructed perspective with collapsing (centripedal) vanishing lines corresponds to the measuring of the space in the sign Gemini.


It is in the service of the sign Taurus, which is pulled toward the centre. (Wolfgang Döbereiner, Astrologisch definierbare Verhaltensweisen in der Malerei, Delacroix)

What in the sign of Taurus appears like the pull to the centre, becomes in the Sign of Gemini a mirroring, spatial illusion which creates a suction.

Central perspective and the illusionistic depiction are opposed to the concern of painters of the sign Aquarius. They aspire to the periphery.




The image of the reverse perspective leads to the periphery. The periphery becomes close.




When, in the representations of things, vanishing lines became larger towards the background, the obtaining causa, the causa finalis was seen behind everything: The background is of greater significance, and in the magnifying lines the experience of the presence of heaven as effecting causa behind all phenomena is expressed.




In the depiction of persons this agent became presence, got close.


But in spatial representation it is the background which is familiar and more important. This is the effecting causa, the real closeness.


‬The earlier, ancient form of perspectival representation, as it appears in the Pompeian murals, was not oriented towards a vanishing point, but on a vertical axis in the centre of the picture. The vanishing lines to the right and left of this central axis remained parallel in their inclination and ran without further tapering.


The development of a constructible perspective with one, later two and finally three vanishing points, corresponding to the three spatial dimensions, occurred more than a thousand years later with Bruneleschi and Masaccio.


To this, the influence of the Arab scholar Al Haitham, who had manifested the rules of optics around the turn of millennium, and whose Book of optics was available in Latin translation since 1240, had contributed significantly.




One of the philosophical preconditions is the work of Ibn Ruschd, or Averroes, which was more appreciated in Europe than in the Islamic world. In the 12th century, in his interpretation of Aristotle's works, he concluded that time had no beginning.


The concept of an a priori time in which events occur – the basis of the scientific world view as it developed in the course of perspectival construction – implies that time itself is not an event, and thus has no beginning.


Here, time is not understood as an evolving of the Gestalt but as a function of space, as causality circling in itself, like in the image of Leviathan.




The contemporary agreement regarding the nature of time is, for example in the German Wikipedia:


"The word time in philosophy describes the form of changes or the sequence of events perceived by human consciousness."


The English version is similar: “Furthermore, it may be that there is a subjective component to time...”






This definition is based on Aristotle, who linked the experience of time with change:


for that is time: the number of changes regarding the before and after.


Time and change are not the same, but are interrelated, and time reveals the movement.




But change is: the final "to-the-reality-coming" of that, what only as possibility is available - that is change.

Physics, Book IV, chap. 11 and 12




It is noticeable that in Aristotle the concept of time is not reduced to a “form of change perceived by human consciousness” or is consider as a “subjective component” .




Regarding the encyclopedic formulations the question arises as to how a form of change not perceived by consciousness would be different and how it should be experienced at all.




In fact, such statements about time reveal traits similar to those contained in the scientific definition of color: there color is defined as a certain wavelength range of light that is perceived as color by the human eye.




This attempt to separate the object of perception from the subject-object relation and thereby abstracting it from perception is based in a division made in nominalism, later by Kant and the natural sciences: the realm of subjectivity, encompassing sensation, perception and denomination, and the realm of what is outside of direct human perception, accessible only through calculation, measurement and instruments and assigned to the concept of objectivity (a conception that leads to an obvious epistemological dilemma.)




To this Hannah Arendt states: The modern astrophysical world view, which began with Galileo, and its challenge to the adequacy of the senses to reveal reality, have left us a universe of whose qualities we know no more than the way they affect our measuring instruments, and-in the words of Eddington-"the former have as much resemblance to the latter as a telephone number has to a subscriber."" Instead of objective qualities, in other words, we find instruments, and instead of nature or the universe - in the words of Heisenberg – man encounters only himself.


Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Page 261.






Specifying time as perceived by human consciousness as form of change negates itself conceptually, since time is part of our encounter with the object, which manifests itself in the fact that we do not experience any change that our perception is not directed to.


This tempted Kant to set time a priori.


Newton had already established the idea of a presupposed time as the container of events, so to speak.


This has determined the worldview of classical physics.




Although the idea of an absolute time was abandoned in the course of the development of relativity, quantum physics and thermodynamics, it still represents the attitude of modern science, e.g. when the beginning of space and time is understood as a big bang, as a sudden expansion the Urknall. The concept of the “sudden” as well as of the “expansion” are nullified when neither time nor space can be assumed, but are supposed to be the result. Trying to justify such concepts by means of illustrative clearness leads astray because they suggest a sensual perception that presupposes time and space.




The question of the beginning of time and the ensuing question of the beginning of movement are interrelated according to Aristotle occupied his interpreters in the course of centuries.


It was a crucial part of the debate between Thomas Aquinas and Islamic philosophy, represented by Ibn Ruschd.




In contrast to Ibn Ruschd, Aquin argued that the beginning did not happen in time, but that through the beginning, which he equated with theWord, time became - that the Event thus puts forth time and does not happen in a presumed time.‬‬




Therefore, according to Aquin, in the first verse of Genesis we read: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth ... and not At the beginning ..., for that would mean that time had already existed before.


If the time would precede the event, it would negate itself terminologically, since time without an event is unthinkable.




Ibn Ruschd had tried to do this justice by starting assuming an infinite time and an infinite movement without beginning.




An infinite time without beginning, however, would negate the experience of the flow of time, since there could be no development from something to something else.




Cultures that hold the conception of an eternal time, e.g. those influenced by Vedanta or Buddhism do not comprehend time as a flow: Here, on the one hand, time is understood/perceived as a an ocean of possibilities, the continuity of events, and on the other hand as a circle or a wheel.


Change is seen as a mandala, as an ever-recurring cycle, that must be left behind.


The experience of time, the presence, is regarded as an illusion - and consequently one's own identity.


But the Jewish philosopher Saadja ben Josseph argued:


When the time would be infinite, the past would be infinite. In this case the past could not be limited by the present.


So if time has no beginning, there would be no present.


But as we all are experiencing the present, Saadja concludes, the time has a beginning.




Similarly, in citing human experience, Ilya Prigogine contradicts Richard Feynman.


Feynman fosters the physical view according to which every temporal sequence is fundamentally reversible. Whereas Prigogine argues that this would contradict the human experience of life, of becoming and passing away.




The idea of a time-flow and a temporal development first appears in Greek philosophy and is connected to the emerging comprehension of personal identity as a realization his or her presence as an individual.




Everything is in flow. into the same floods we step and we do not step; we are it and we are not it, says Heraclit




The statement of Heraclit captures the identical of identity (from idem - the same), just that what makes it possible to experience change: only those who are same can tell that today other waters are flowing than yesterday.


Henceforth time was understood as a flow, in contrast to a history of ideas a circle or a sea.


Stepping into the river means the experience of the present: the Now is and yet cannot be ascertained.


From this paradox the identity of the experiencer emerges as a continuous one, as the same.




In this sense, Heraclits picture of the flow seems comparable to that of the burning bush, which was on fire it did not burn up.




Identity as the essencing but not ascertainable, not graspable being of the individual.

(C) Herbert Antonius Weiler

Galileo's telescope

The red of the rose. 

A dialogue


- It is considered an achievement of science that it gives a deeper insight into the reality of things. Take genetics, for example. Genetics can determine why one rose turns yellow and another turns red.


- Is that so? Do we experience a deeper reality of a rose, when we are informed about its genes? Does not the scientific derivation of the rose, from whatever causality, obscure the view of the rose from what it is?


- Why should scientific derivations obscure a view? Even without science, to me, the knowledge of the origin and condition of the rose seems to be enriching.


- Look at a rose. Nothing of what one could cite regarding the origin and condition of their existence can explain that it is simply there - that it is. 


- The physicist Feynman emphasized that the beauty of the rose was no less accessible to him through his idea of its atomic nature. On the contrary. The knowledge the redness of the blossom emerges as a specific wavelength of light striking the eye, of stimulations of the atoms of the molecules that make up the blossom, allow him to perceive the rose in a greater depth and complexity than would be the case if he knew nothing about it.


- He thinks that the amount of information accounts for the intensity of the experience. A rather sterile worldview.


- Why that? Are not the jumping of the electrons and the associated release of energy as light particles an experience?


- Release of energy as light particles, bouncing electrons? All nonsense. None of this is an experience. A rose is something you can see, in contrast to the electron.


- Of course, I can look at electrons. With a microscope it is possible.


- In the microscope you do not have the view of the rose as a rose anymore. In addition, the view through the instrument of the microscope is not comparable because with the microscope you cannot see as we see with our eyes.


- No doubt - with the microscope we see more precisely because we can look at things and processes that are so small that we just cannot see them with the naked eye. That is a sensual opening of expanses to which we previously had no access. 


- Are you sure? Do not the microscope and the telescope rather simulate a sensuality that in reality does not exist? But precisely because it seems to be sensuous, it pretends to have an authenticity, a genuineness which we actually only grant to the senses - so far. We do not see any molecules. Simply by using an instrument, the microscope, we see something to which we, without considering the presupposition of this experience, assign the same concreteness and thingness that we assign to the things of our everyday sensual life.


- You mean, the microscope does not show the real world, but the eye does?


- First of all, the microscope as well as the telescope are considered to show a world that is more real than the world we have before our eyes. Here, the world is understood as an issue that needs to be investigated in order to bring to light a hidden truth that remains hidden to the senses.


- Galileo invited the representatives of the Church just to take a look through his telescope to convince themselves of the heliocentric truth ((as a fact of case)). What should be wrong at that?


- The sacrilege of Galileo was not the assertion that the earth revolves around the sun.

On the one hand, it was Galileo’s claim that the heliocentric model was the sole truth. The church had emphasized that it was a mathematical model among other perspectives.

The heliocentric view was well-known in the Vatican a long time before the Galileo trial. It had already been introduced by Christophorus Clavius, born in 1537, who worked in the Vatican as a Jesuit priest and mathematician. His affirmation of the Copernican system was based on the observation of phases of planet Venus that he probably introduced into the debate.


- It is said today that Clavius discovered the phases of Venus independently of Galileo.


- A bold euphemism. Galileo, born in 1564, had not only attended lectures with Clavius, who was 27 years his senior, but also corresponded with him. He had obviously adopted the Venus-phase-theory from Clavius. According to the theory of science, the church at that time behaved more scientifically than Galileo, by acknowledging both, heliocentricity and geocentricity as theoretical models of world view.

But that was not the crucial point.


- So, why was he put to trial?


- The sacrilege of Galileo was to claim an evidence by means of the telescope, an evidence that is not accessible to the naked eye, but claims to be a sensory experience.

He asked only to look through the telescope, in order to convince oneself of the truth.

In this way, man was deprived of encountering the world.

Things could no longer come into presence in a sensuous encounter and become Gestalt. Instead, they were treated as an isolated fact, as thing-in-itself whose truth lies beyond perception and is therefore only approximately accessible by means of instruments.

This led to the assumption that natural science suggests a reality that can be only be mediated through measurements by instruments. Since some decades computer simulation has been added, which means a further step, as it is pretending for example to visualize the creation of the universe.


- But even this is just a consequence of the attitude that nowadays seems so natural to us that we hardly think of its prerequisite: the assumption that the world is an ascertainable deterministic sum of facts that can be verified by observation and analysis. And precisely that was Galileo's sacrilege.

But Galileo had already come into conflict with the church because he had claimed that, according to his atomic theory, the observable properties of things manifested their identity and thus showed what they really were.

If it now turned out that the bread of Holy Communion, after the eucharistic trans-substantiation, would not differ in its composition from any other bread, it would be only bread, and this would violate the church doctrine of the sacrament of Eucharist. (Pietro Redondi).


- And that was the reason for putting him to trial?


- The reason was the the repression of an identity of things – and consequently also of man - as the origin of the qualities. Thou and I: We are not our properties but we have properties. 

In intellectual history, Galileo's thesis of the finding of truth meant the repression of the dialogical principle: the world is regarded as a matter of fact, and not as something coming into realty by encounter. Although the church sensed the loss, it could not articulate it, since it was too much determined by Hierarchy.

The Truth of the world can arise only from a dialogical relationship and not from mere observational assessment since it can no longer be a truth at the moment of observation. Our sensual perception is based on the confrontational distance to things, we have achieved: The ability to see has arisen of this.


- Why have we achieved a distance? What kind of achievement was necessary to be able to perceive a rose? 


- To be able to perceive a rose, it has to become an opposite to us. This is not only a development we make as individuals but also in human history, as far as it is known.


- You mean, infants or even unborn children cannot yet distinguish between themselves and the other?


- For the unborn, it is certainly so. They do not experience something like inside and outside and still do not breathe independently. Breathing is the first expression of the polarity and the interrelation of inside and outside. The beginning of one's own breathing is also regarded as the beginning of one's own life.


- Aristotle speaks of the being together of all things before time.


- If everything was one with everything, we could perceive nothing and experience nothing. Seeing has developed from of this distance. Many young animals open their eyes some time after birth only. Being able to see something requires to experience it as a counterpart. Our senses are therefore the precondition and consequence of that distinction. Hence the double meaning of sense.


This means that things in counterpart to us are part of the encounter with our senses. Things are not by themselves, not per se. They are directed towards us. In the sense of the subject and object relationship


- It was Kant who postulated the thing-in-itself 160 years after Galileo. But he explicitly stressed that the thing-in-itself, namely the real nature of the world, can  principally not be experienced, since his experience is always subject to the conditions of perception.


- The mistake already lies in assuming a thing-in-itself, thus separating the object from the subject. Aristotle had already refuted that, with the image of wax and seal.

The notion of a thing-in-itself is a pseudo problem. The thing-in-itself  is unthinkable. As impossible as thinking a nothingness. 

The nothingness is unthinkable, says Parmenides.


- Why is a nothingness unthinkable?


- Because if you think it, it is no longer nothing. Likewise, the thing-in-itself. If you think it, it is not a thing-in-itself anymore.

Things are directed towards us and we are directed towards them. The experience conveyed by the eye belongs equally to the object which is experienced as to the subject who experiences it.