It's An Ill Wind Introduction Early Days Education Circa 1941–59 Graduate School, 1959–6 Toronto, 1963–95 Travel Some Conclusions An Addendum Notes References

Ricardo Afterword: A Memoir Continued

Some Conclusions

At the most general level it seems to me that my practices have saved me from myself. The Sabbath day has protected me from some of the effects of my workaholism, by providing at regular intervals that minimum of tranquillity required for the maintenance of sanity; that my insomnia afflicted me on all nights except Friday is revealing. (And I don’t much care for horse riding anyway.) Unfortunately, that workaholism itself can perhaps be traced to the same source. Apart from the danger of wasting time, which was always a standard refrain, there is the drive to prove oneself in a ‘hostile’ environment – a much recorded sociological phenomenon – the hostility, however, emanating in my case from within as much as from without the community.

As for specifics, I have already mentioned that traditional Talmudic scholarship is ahistorical; history can be dangerous, for it threatens the notion of a seamless whole whereby the forefathers, some three and a half to four millennia ago, are perceived to have obeyed the Law before it was handed down at Sinai.x And, of course, there is the Creationism that is taken for granted.xi If then I have devoted myself to history it must be in spite of, not because of, my training unless by way of reaction. I do, however, admit to finding the notion that time moves in all directions touching and have recently learned much in this regard from the writings of my paternal grandfather, an adept bible critic who practised a sort of ‘bounded deconstruction’ whereby anything goes in biblical exegesis provided the outcome satisfies the orthodox codes of law and morality (I. M. Hollander, 1956–7). But only on the day of rest, in small doses and after a glass of whisky, do I permit myself the luxury.

My hostility towards ‘deconstruction’xii and my inclination towards ‘positivism’ requires elaboration. I am old-fashioned enough to seek to isolate what someone patently sane intended by his utterances; and believe the position to the contrary, embodied in the dismissal of authorial intent, to constitute a threat to the very concept of a university.xiii I suspect that my stance has been reinforced by the training in textual interpretation I received almost since birth, though not my grandfather’s variety, which is too modern for my liking. That same training has led me, I believe, to avoid premature recourse to charges of inconsistency. And it might also have generated a bias towards emphasizing continuities in intellectual development, though (I hasten to add) not to the extent of perceiving them where they do not exist. I must justify this latter qualification. At one time I subscribed pretty much to Piero Sraffa’s reading of Ricardo (Hollander 1973: 14, 186); and also perceived J. S. Mill as riddled with inconsistency in maintaining features of both ‘Ricardianism’ and ‘neoclassicism’ (Hollander 1976). My continuity position developed with the evidence; it was not ready made.

That I am greatly attracted to the utilitarianism that runs through the British classical school might seem paradoxical, since that perspective was, of course, designed as a counter to natural law and other varieties of ‘absolutism’. Yet Rabbinical Judaism has a pervasive utilitarian component, as illustrated by legal devices to allow interest payment and receipt, and – my favourite – by a nice ‘Malthusian’ injunction against sex in marriage during periods of famine, notwithstanding the general rule to be fruitful and multiply. One problem has been to allow innovations without threat to authority and social control; the solution is to represent them not as responses to specific contemporary problems, but as the drawing out of implications to be found in the scriptures.xiv

It has been said often enough that my work is ‘controversial’. This is so, and perhaps appropriately, for controversy (in the best sense of that word) is the essence of the exegetical procedures in which I have been trained. Moreover, life at the interface of my ‘two worlds’ may well tend to encourage a certain independence of mind. I stand by the optimistic title of this memoir.