Sago Boulevard

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Jewish Philosophy Via Halakhah

In the recent Edah Journal, Rabbi Dr. Alan Brill reviews the three collections of articles and speeches of Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein as a way of evaluating his thought in general and his role as a leader of "modern" or "centrist" Orthodoxy. There's a lot to say about the article but I'll defer to close students of R. Lichtenstein for the details of his approach. One point of Dr. Brill's, though, stood out to me as somebody concerned with the appropriate method of doing philosophy of Judaism:
In the texts cited to prove his social views, we gain a window into R. Lichtenstein’s approach. He avoids the texts of Jewish thought of the last millennium except for those of the Eastern European beit midrash; he does not cite liturgists, midrash, medieval philosophers or kabbalists. Instead, he bases his corporate view of life on the legal texts that discuss the laws of sacrifice, property responsibility, and the four watchmen. His proof text on the need to work is a citation from Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Gezeilah 6:11) that a dice player cannot be a witness because his vice places him outside of society. This case is paradigmatic of the way in which R. Lichtenstein takes a particular halakhah and globalizes it into a general idea about society.

It seems obvious that on this point, R. Lichtenstein takes a page from his rebbe and father-in-law. R. Soloveitchik devotes the last section of The Halakhic Mind to advocating the approach which Dr. Brill criticizes:
...There is only a single source from which a Jewish philosophical Weltanschauung could emerge; the objective order - the Halakhah... The halakhic compass would also guide us through the lanes of medieval philosophy and reveal structural standards by which to judge and evaluate the philosophical thought of the golden age... Out of the sources of Halakhah, a new world view awaits formulation.

Personally, I think the shift from medieval philosophical methods to what I'll call "philosophy via Halakhah" is the most important treasure that R. Soloveitchik bestowed on the Jewish community (at least as far as Jewish philosophy goes). Of course, neither R. Soloveitchik nor R. Lichtenstein exclude biblical references, midrashim, kabbalistic sources, or medieval philosophic ones; but their focus is the normative Halakhah.

In traditional Judaism, the Gemera is authoritative in a unique way. Even biblical episodes are understood by the great rabbis through rabbinic lenses. More importantly, though, basic halakhic categories such as the four shomrim (watchmen) are considered to be unchanging and objective - which makes them suitable as the raw material for philosophy. The realities of space and time influence only the application of such halakhot, not their essence. Poskim may disagree about the status of a particular shomer (watchman) but none would deny the halakhic fact of four distinct kinds and their implications for compensation. The weight that Halakhah carries in governing the life of the traditional Jew, I think, stems from this basic assumption.

Halakhah is the window into the divine mind. In formulating a genuinely Jewish philosophical position, it makes sense to rely primarily on such foundational sources. It is the basic halakhic principles around which traditional Jewish life bases itself. If Jewish philosophy is to be grounded in the Jewish experience, it must focus on what motivates that experience.

Flew: Atheist Turned Deist

Long time atheist and philosophy professor, Antony Flew (at age 81!) concedes deism. It's actually old news (December '04) but it's just been pointed out to me, thanks to Godol Hador.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ask the Chaplan

In a previous post, I suggested that that perhaps science and religion don't clash because each is concerned, at the end of the day, with fundamentally different kinds of questions. Apparently, Richard Dawkins disagrees, calling such a solution an "appeasement policy":
I once asked a distinguished astronomer, a fellow of my college, to explain the big bang theory to me. He did so to the best of his (and my) ability, and I then asked what it was about the fundamental laws of physics that made the spontaneous origin of space and time possible. "Ah," he smiled, "now we move beyond the realm of science. This is where I have to hand you over to our good friend, the chaplain." But why the chaplain? Why not the gardener or the chef? Of course chaplains, unlike chefs and gardeners, claim to have some insight into ultimate questions. But what reason have we ever been given for taking their claims seriously? Once again, I suspect that my friend, the professor of astronomy, was using the Einstein/Hawking trick of letting "God" stand for "That which we don't understand." It would be a harmless trick if it were not continually misunderstood by those hungry to misunderstand it. In any case, optimists among scientists, of whom I am one, will insist, "That which we don't understand" means only "That which we don't yet understand." Science is still working on the problem. We don't know where, or even whether, we ultimately shall be brought up short.

The answer to "why the chaplain" isn't because of his claim to some esoteric wisdom. If that were the case, Dawkins would be right to question the credibility of such a claim. The answer is that, unlike the scientist, the chaplan is presumably concerned with that kind of question. Interestingly, Dawkins' conversation with the astronomy professor is evidence of exactlty that point. The professor simply wasn't interested in the question.

I have no doubt that science will provide answers to questions we have yet to dream of asking. Much of what the we don't understand about the world will likely be high-school science to my grandchildren. But there are certain kinds of questions that science won't answer, not so much because it can't, but because it isn't trying to. Of course, religion may not have the answers either. But if you want to know, like Dawkins does, what "made the spontaneous origin of space and time possible", I suggest you ask somebody who's interested in the question.

World's Shortest Personality Test

Think they got it right? People who know me, feel free to weigh in.

You are dependable, popular, and observant.
Deep and thoughtful, you are prone to moodiness.
In fact, your emotions tend to influence everything you do.

You are unique, creative, and expressive.
You don't mind waving your freak flag every once and a while.
And lucky for you, most people find your weird ways charming!

Take the World's Shortest Personality Test

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Why Does the Left Hate Israel?

For all of you world leaders racking your brains to figure out a way to end terrorism in the world, just listen to Cindy Shehan: "You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism."

First of all, Palestinian violence against Israelis long preceded the State, let alone the Occupation. More to the point though, the Left is making itself sound ridiculous by holding her up as a hero.

I've been a Democrat since I first registered to vote and I still am. Where are my Democratic leaders when Bush, Rice, and Rumsfeld stick out their neck for Israel over and over again, defending her from the senseless Euro-Arab antisemitism? Why do I only hear right-wing pundits praise Israel as the bastion of freedom and liberty that she is? Why are liberals turning their backs on their most loyal voters in the history of the country?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Chapter in the Book of Peace

As should come as no surprise, Elie Wiesel offers a tempered, intelligent, and insightful perspective on the Disengagement from Gaza. In 1991, when Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles into Israel, Wiesel remembers seeing Palestinians dancing in the streets and on the roofs of their houses.
I saw them. I was in Jerusalem, and I could see what was happening in the Arab quarter of the Old City. It happened again later, each time a suicide terrorist set off a bomb on a bus or in a restaurant.

But Wiesel's Judaism demands a higher standard:
And here I am obliged to take a step back. In the tradition I claim, the Jew is ordered by King Solomon "not to rejoice when the enemy falls." I don't know whether the Koran suggests the same.

He then dares to imagine a Palestinian leadership that would embrace and encourage such a standard of decency:
Let's imagine that, faced with the tears and suffering of the evacuees, the Palestinians had chosen to silence their joy and their pride, rather than to organize military parades with masked fighters, machine guns in hand, shooting in the air as though celebrating a great battlefield victory. Yes, imagine that President Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues, in advising their followers, extolled moderation, restraint, respect and a little understanding for the Jews who felt themselves struck by an unhappy fate... I will perhaps be told that when the Palestinians cried at the loss of their homes, few Israelis were moved. That's possible. But how many Israelis rejoiced?

Yet, even the crisis in the Holy Land, like the Holocaust he survived, fails to shake his remarkable optimism. "Gaza," he says, "after all, is but one chapter in a book that must ultimately be about peace."

(via Seth Chalmer)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Really Bad Survey

A friend sent me an online poll called "How Liberal / Conservative Are You?" Some of these kind of polls are interesting, especially if you're surprised by the results. This poll was just terrible. Here's an example:
2. Immigration policies

(a) Should be less strict. Immigrants enhance this country.
(b) Should be more strict. Too many people enter illegally.

First of all, the choices aren't mutually exclusive. I happen to believe both. I agree that immigration laws should be less strict in allowing immigrants into the US. But we should be more strict in enforcing whatever laws we do have. National security requires that we know who is living in the country at any given time.
Here's another idiot question:
4. Public education could be improved by

(a) Having a voucher system
(b) Revoking No Child Left Behind

For the sake of public education, I really hope that there are more options than those. And again, they're not mutually exclusive.
11. It's more important for our country

(a) Reduce the deficit and national debt
(b) To help the poor and helpless

Well, when you put it that way, it seems kind of obvious.

This one's my favorite:
8. Some people have less luck than others

(a) False
(b) True

Tough question, right? The wonderfully unbiased survey is trying to figure out whether you believe that people "deserve" what they "earn". Thus, a = conservative and b = liberal. Something tells me that's not quite accurate.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Good Ol' Days

Don't you just miss the days when the holiness Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, permeated American culture? I don't, but
There was a time, not so long ago, when Sundays were special - and it didn't matter if you were religious or not. Whether our motives were sacred or secular, we all followed the prescription from Genesis for quiet contemplation.

Translation: There was a time, not so long ago, when even non-Christians did at least something Christian. I have more to say about how annoying (and offensive) it is when Christians lamet about the good ol' days of blue laws and prayer in school. But I have to get ready for the real Sabbath - Friday night, that is.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Misunderstanding the Question

When I started blogging, there were a few topics I decided I wasn't going to touch. One was the subject of my thesis: Plato's Euthyphro and Rabbinic Literature. I caved on that one last week. Another was the creationism/intelligent design vs evolution debate. Something about that whole issue really annoyed me but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. That is, until I read this post by Julian Sanchez.
For a lot of people, positing a deity is a pretty straightforward form of inference to the best explanation—and for a lot of our history, given the dizzying complexity of the natural world, it was scarcely an unreasonable hypothesis. Evolutionary theory is seen as a threat to religion precisely because, at least when they're first forming their views, most people don't rely on "faith" at all: They're rational empiricists to a much greater degree than most secularists probably give them credit for.

Julian's right. "Intelligent design" isn't religion; it's just bad science. And its handful of advocates misunderstand both. They mistake the Bible (the first chapter of Genesis at least) as describing a physical reality when in fact its focus is a spiritual one. As R. Heschel explains:
Science... describes and explains the way in which things behave in terms of casual necessity. It does not try to give us an explanation in terms of logical necessity - why things must be at all, and why the laws of nature must be the way they are (italics in original).

Science is interested in "what" and "how" questions: how did life as we know it develop into what it is? Or, what's the structure of an electron? The answer doesn't clash with religion because religion (mature religion, that is) addresses a different kind of question. A question about why things exist at all and what they mean.

The confusion comes in because the two kinds of questions sound alike and are easily confused. "How did life come to be?" for example. The appropriate answer depends on your perspective. Which kind of question are you asking? R. Heschel gives an analogy:
On a lovely summer afternoon an influential educator admired the sky. His little girl turned and asked: "What is there beyond the sky?" The father gave her a "scientific" answer: "Ether, my child." Whereupon the girl exclaimed: "Ether!" and she held her nose.

Monday, August 15, 2005

More Choices

Patrick Basham has a good article on the importance of competition in congressional elections. "Political competition," he argues, "heightens voter interest, stimulates the adoption of distinctive policies by candidates and parties, and produces higher voter turnout." So many polls suggest that Americans aren't crazy about either major candidate in elections. Last year, voting in my first presidential election, I seriously considered abstaining or writing myself in simply because couldn't decide which candidate I disliked less.

Current redistricting practices and gerrymandering really have to go. They have "evolved into an electoral instrument to protect and strengthen the incumbency advantage." Third parties have to be allowed in but it's only possible with some major institutional changes. Libertarian and Green parties nominating presidential candidates is a waste of good ideas. The problem is that they can't get into Congress and the only way to have some kind of voice is to try for the national scene.

I hate having to vote for the lesser of two evils; I want more choices. Sounds like an unreasonable request, doesn't it? That's the sad part.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Unitive Time Consciousness

What does it mean to mourn for tragedies of the past? From Rav Soloveitchik's "Avelut Yeshanah and Avelut Hadash":
The past is not gone; it is still here. The future is not only anticipated, it is already here, and the present connects the future and the past. That is what I mean by a unitive time consciousness... We say in the Kinnot, "On this night, be-leil zeh, my Temple was destroyed." "This night" means a night 1900 years ago; "be-leil zeh" means tonight. Apparently, that night nineteen hundred years ago is neigther remote nor distant from us; it is living - as vibrant a reality as this fleeting moment in the present. The unitive time consciousness contains an element of eternity. There is neither past nor future nor present. All three dimensions of time merge into one experience, into one awareness. Man, heading in a panicky rush toward the future, finds himself in the embrace of the past. Bygones turn into facts, pale memories into living experiences and archaeological history into a vibrant reality... Historical mourning is based upon this unitive time consciousness.

Disengagement Video Game

This is as tasteless as it gets. From Ha'aretz:
The "disengagement game"... puts the player into Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's shoes. Sharon, sitting in a bulldozer, has to remove orange-clad children protesting the pullout... The prime minister has to run into a protesting child with the bulldozer's shovel... Sound effects are a bizarre evil laugh of the horror-movie genre.

The prime minister has a few other tools at his disposal. He can use a club or a kick to disperse the children, or release a herd of pinkish-purple pigs, which puts the pious kids on the run. Sharon's doomsday weapon, after he has collected 75 young protesters, is to "explode" himself from anger, at which point the children fly in every direction. The object of the game is to collect as many points as possible, awarded by the number of children evacuated.

Responding to criticism, the game's creators actually defended themselves: "The disengagement game was selected because of its current-events value and its humor. It was not intended to hurt anyone's feelings or take a political stand." (Are you kidding me?) According to the article, 50,000 people have downloaded the game so far. 50,000 people have decided that the suffering of Gush Katif residents is an appropriate source of humor and entertainment.

Look, I realize this is a loaded political issue with strong advocates on both sides. But regardless of what you think about the Disengagement, you still can't ignore the fact that real people living in Gaza are being kicked out of their homes this week. That's not funny.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Quoting the Rav

Rav Soloveitchik on how Torah eludes the constraints of time and space:
When I sit down to study, I immediately find myself in the company of the scholars of the Mesorah. The relationship between us is personal. The Rambam is at my right; Rabbenu Tam to my left. Rashi sits at the head and explains, Rabbenu Tam asks, the Rambam codifies and Rabad comments. They are all in my small room, sitting around my table. They look at me with fondness, playful with me regarding the logic and the text, encouraging and strengthening me like a father.

The study of Torah is not simply a didactic act; involvement in the words of Torah is not simply a technical formal matter concretized via the creation and exchange of ideas. It is a powerful experience involving the closeness of many generations, the joining of spirit to spirit and the connection of soul to soul. Those who transmit the Torah and those who receive it meet one another at the same historic juncture.

Monday, August 08, 2005

What If Steroids Weren't Dangerous?

In the wake of the steroids controversy in pro sports, Arthur Caplan raises the possibility of a much broader ethical dilemma:
It is easy to condemn steroid use. The drugs, while effective, are dangerous. But what if they were not? How are professional and amateur sports going to deal with the impending explosion in performance-enhancing drugs and bioengineering tricks that can boost performance with little or no risk for the user?
Scientists around the world are busy making pills that enhance our performance a bit by letting us sleep better, fight fatigue, slow the loss of memory, speed up learning, recover more quickly from hard exertion and calm anxieties. Some of us already are benefiting from drugs like these when we use Ambien, Provigil, Ritalin, Prozac or Effexor.
We show up at the Olympics with our athletes who have the best training, superb diets, and top-flight equipment and whomp the tar out of athletes from poor nations, some of whom seem to have shown up just to get a decent meal. We are used to employing science to our advantage when it comes to sports, so why should we draw the line at genetic engineering or new miracle pills?
Is the point of sport to see what human beings can do without aid of any sort in fair competition? If so, we may need to close the training facilities and cut back on what dietitians and trainers are allowed to do.

But if the point of sports is to test the limits of human performance, then we had better get ready to add genetic engineers and a bevy of pharmacologists to the hordes of specialists now working with elite athletes from elementary school to the pros.

The issue goes deeper than just sports. The fact that we still stigmatize people on psychiatric medication stems from the same confusion about what drugs and chemicals really are. When somebody takes antibiotics for strep throat, we consider the medication as restoring the person to a "normal" healthy state. And a sling for a dislocated shoulder isn't frowned upon as cheating nature. Our culture hasn't figured out, though, what to make of the advancements of neurobiology and psychiatry. I think one reason is that we really have no idea what's going on.

I don't have a good answer and I certainly don't know where to draw the line. But the steroids controversy is just one manifestation of a bigger problem. Making arbitrary distinctions about what constitutes "drug use" will only take us so far.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Alright... I'll Post About Ta'ame Ha-Mitsvot

I wrote my senior honors thesis on a hypothetical dialoge between Socrates and Hazal, focusing on the philosophical implications of ta'ame ha-mitsvot (rationalizing mitsvot). By the time I finished, I was completely exhausted by the subject matter. While blogging on related Jewish topics, I stayed far away from this one. That said, two bloggers whom I usually enjoy reading (Hirhurim and Not The Godol Hador) have sufficiently tempted me to jump back into the fray.

Any answer to the question "Why do we do mitsvot" short enough to fit on one page is almost certainly insufficient (although not necessarily wrong). Of course, the "because God said so" answer is popular but not enough. It begs the question "Why did God say so?" To answer that question with "just because" or "no reason" renders God's will arbitrary and thus, lacking justification. In fact, the Mishnah (Makkot 3:16) is quite clear about why God commands mitsvot: "The Holy One, blessed be He, desired to grant merit to Israel." As Kehati explains: "He multiplied warnings and prohibitions for them, even regarding things from which man naturally keeps apart, for since they stay away from them because the Torah has thus commanded, their merit is increased." This implies, of course, that such actions had some merit to begin with. They are justified, at least in part, without being accompanied by the divine imperative. The act of God commanding, then, serves to somehow enhance the already righteous deed to a higher level.

Louis Jacobs captures this idea well:
Although God commands them it is not implied that the command is the reason for their observance, so that if God had commanded man to steal or to murder this would have been the right thing to do. On the contrary, the commands are announced in such a way as to suggest that they are already fully comprehensible to man as the basis for living the ethical life… Once God has commanded, however, the command itself is, of course, an additional reason for its observance.

You Gotta Feel Bad For This Guy

Here's a real heartbreaking story. According to Daily Mail:
An extreme Muslim cleric whose family have been living on benefits in Britain for 20 years says it would not be 'fair' to deport him...

Since Syrian-born Bakri settled in Britain, he and his extended family have raked in benefits amounting to at least £300,000. He is registered disabled because of an injury to his leg during his childhood, and was recently supplied with a £31,000 Ford Galaxy under the Motability scheme.

Bakri, who lives in a £200,000 home in North London, tops up his £250-a-week benefit payments with an extra £50 incapacity allowance. He has praised the September 11 terrorists as 'magnificent', called Israel 'a cancer' and said homosexuals should be 'thrown from Big Ben'.

In January, he declared that Britain had become a 'land of war', and called on Muslims to unite behind Al Qaeda. He has supported suicide bombings and urged his followers to kill non-Muslims ' wherever, whenever'.

Don't you just want to give him a big teddy bear?

(via Dean)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

How Israel Responds to Jewish Terrorism

The news of Friday's terrorist attack in Shfaram left me staring blankly at the computer screen. I vaguely remember Baruch Goldstein's rampage, killing 29 Muslim civilians during a prayer service. But at the time, I wasn't as aware of current events and don't remember the news coverage and commentary that immediately followed. About last week's attack, though, I have a sense of what it means and it's making me sick.

I wasn't alone in feeling disgusted. The entirety of Israeli society condemned the attack without reservation - the kind of condemnation that's rare in Middle East today. It's Israel's response, I think, that sets it apart from its neighbors. I was referred to this editorial in the New York Sun:

Prime Minister Sharon immediately denounced the killings as "a reprehensible act by a bloodthirsty Jewish terrorist." The leader of the settlers' council, Bentsi Lieberman, said, "Murder is murder is murder, and there can be no other response but to denounce it completely and express revulsion."

Contrast these absolute condemnations to a recent response of the Palestinian Arab leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to terrorism against Jews. Last month, after two grandparents were shot dead by Palestinian Arab gunmen, Mr. Abbas said, "The Palestinian Authority will make every effort to stop these useless operations." Not because murder is murder and murdering is wrong, but because they are "useless." Because Israel doesn't buckle to terrorism and a different tactic is needed.

There was no dancing in the streets of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, like the celebrations in Arab villages after 9/11, no Israeli politicians or religious leaders blaming Palestinian violence and oppression, nobody making excuses for what is, in fact, cold-blooded murder. Israeli society looked the tragedy in the eyes and said "I'm sorry." May God forgive us.

Friday, August 05, 2005

"Christian" is Short For "Judeo-Christian"

The term "Judeo-Christian" seems a bit redundant. Insofar as Christianity sees itself as the legitimate heir to Jewish religion, to be Christian is to properly understand and carry out the covenant between God and the Jewish People. The term "Judeo-Christian" merely makes this position explicit. When people talk about "Judeo-Christian values", they mean Christian values and simply wish to add that such Christian values stem from properly understanding Judaism.

As I fully reject that Christian claim, I find the expression annoying. For one thing, Judaism and Christianity have a lot less in common than many seem to believe. Despite sharing a fundemental text, we read it through a very different set of lenses than Christians do. For traditional Jews, at least, the biblical text is understood in the larger context of the rabbinic tradition. (I realize this is a bit of an oversimplification but I don't want to dwell on it for now). Fundamentalism, as refering to the literal rendering of the biblical text, doesn't make sense to even the most right-wing of Orthodox Judaism - which advocates reading the Bible in rabbinic perspective.

That said, it boggles my mind when Jews adopt the very Christian jargon that undermines them. In this article by Dennis Prager, "Judeo-Christian" appears 11 times. (He also refers to the Jewish Bible as "Old Testament" - a term that carries connotations of being outdated). He proceeds to quote verses as if they weren't accompanied by a 2000-year-old rabbinic tradition. I'm picking on Prager somewhat arbitrarily; he's not alone. It's become somewhat of a trend for right-wing Jewish thinkers to try to sound Christian. Traditional Jewish treatments of "social conservative" topics marshal in the revelent rabbinic and halakhic material and thus, present a more nuanced and sophisticated view.

When Christians present a Christian view of the Bible, well, that makes sense. I realize that guys like Prager are trying to make themselves credible to a greater religious audience but I still don't like it.

Flatter Yourself

I always knew I had a beautiful name... Go ahead, try it.

(via Bitch Ph.D)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Welcome To Sago Boulevard

...formerly known as David's Blog.
(David's Blog --> Sago Blvd ID --> Sago Boulevard, ID --> Sago Boulevard)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Is Privacy a Right?

In Olmstead v. United States, Justice Louis Brandeis describes the right to privacy as he sees it:
The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness. They recognized the significance of man’s spiritual nature, of his feelings and his intellect…. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their emotions, and their sensations. They conferred, as against the Government, the right to be left alone—the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.

For Brandeis, it sounds like the right to privacy is a kind of foundation upon which all other rights depend. The following question then arises. If particular rights such as speech, assembly, and religion are enumerated in the Constitution, is it at all meaningful to talk about a right to privacy, per se? Timothy Sandefur of "Positive Liberty" says no: "I have never liked the phrase “right to privacy.” It is redundant. All rights are a right to privacy." Brian Radzinsky of "Stalinist Orange" adds:
It follows that "right to privacy" is a backward construction of sorts. Essentially, privacy is a manifestation of the permissions we enjoy and possess under those abstract things called "rights." Privacy stems from property as much as it stems from liberty. Its nature is determined by application, not inherency. Therefore, for example, if one is to buy a house and live in it, privacy stems from the right to be secure in that property. One's medical files are kept secret because their circulation might lead to an infringment of liberty, by being used in an unwarranted search for incriminating evidence.

If "privacy is a manifestation of the permissions we enjoy", then it's not quite redundant. What Sandefur should say is that all rights stem from a right to privacy. It's not a backward construction. The implied right to privacy justifies the 4th Amendment, not the other way around. The reason that "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated" is because the Founders assume a basic right to privacy.

Returning to my original question, if we have a 4th Amendment why do I need a particular right to privacy? Well, not every manifestation of privacy is foreseen in the Constitution. As both Sandefur and Radzinsky agree, privacy is implied by liberty. Simply put, it's the right to be left alone. S0 when the Constitution omits a particular instance of privacy, it's certainly acceptable to appeal to the generally implied right in applying constitutional values to new circumstances.