Aug 022018


Anyone attending his London Ontario appearance at Centennial Hall on July 21 would have noticed that Jordan Peterson’s message is no longer focused on gender issues or on his conflict with university policies. His mission has now turned towards philosophical fundamentals and the determination of Truth.

In this venture, Dr Peterson has relied heavily upon religious and mythological symbolism and metaphor, while finding himself opposed to most ‘atheistic’ philosophical interpretations of Truth. Secular philosophies, he suggests, are incapable of describing humanity’s Truth, lacking “an animated, spiritual world, saturated with meaning, imbued with moral purpose.”

This view of Truth has now itself become subject to a growing controversy, one ironically being debated amongst those who are already generally agreed that Truth and Reality are objectively determined – which includes today’s show panelists as they review some of the ideas of Jordan Peterson.

Do abstractions and religious stories used to describe Truth help clarify or confuse the issue? The correct answer may simply depend on perspective and context.

The determination of Truth is necessary in order to arrive at the correct Hierarchy of Values necessary for the survival and well being of humanity and life itself, observes Peterson. Hierarchies are natural and essential to all forms of life on earth, he says, comparing the likes of everything from lobsters to human beings in his demonstration of that principle.

Attaining values, in turn, requires ‘sacrifice’ according to Peterson, a word that itself ignites yet another controversy – the meaning of ‘sacrifice.’ Citing Russia’s revolution and history of ‘sacrifice’ in light of its atheistic and secular ideology, Peterson expressed a hope that Vladimir Putin would embrace and support Russia’s current return to a Christian orthodoxy.

Peterson distinguishes between two kinds of ‘sacrifice’: the ‘self-sacrifice’ necessary to achieve one’s values, and the ‘sacrifice of others’ as practiced by Russia’s despotic revolutionaries.

Unfortunately, by using the same word ‘sacrifice’ to describe two opposite concepts, ideologically motivated state murder and mayhem becomes morally equated with personal self interest. Worse, by suggesting that ‘sacrifice’ is necessary in the attainment of personal values, ‘sacrifice’ has been elevated from vice to virtue.

In the attainment of real values, no ‘sacrifice’ is necessary.

True sacrifice requires a loss of a greater value for a lesser value or non-value. A real loss must be experienced (such as that experienced by the victims of Russia’s revolutionaries), not an increase in value being described as a ‘sacrifice.’ ‘Giving up’ one value today for a greater value in the future does not constitute ‘sacrifice’ – it is an investment towards a greater value. Most importantly, it is a choice made freely.

Just semantics? Not when Truth is at stake. Because determining the Truth always depends on getting the definitions Just Right.

  One Response to “567 – The search for truth – Avoiding the lobster trap”

  1. I first must say how much I have enjoyed your programs. In the desert of ideas, your show is a bright light. Dr. Peterson is in a tough spot. He Is trying to communicate some complex ideas in a short public talk. I would recommend getting his earlier book, Maps or Meaning, which was his PhD thesis and the foundation of one of his advanced psychology of personality courses. 12 Rules is not really representative of his thinking, nor is a short talk. His complete psychology lectures on YouTube also give a fuller picture.
    The importance of the archaic terms taken from biology and religion do not signify a commitment to religion or biological determinism. Danielle. You were right when you said that the lobster example is intended to show that capitalism and the West did not invent hierarchy. As that is the foundation of the leftist argument that says humans are infinitely malleable, and so any constraint, like biological sex is just a device to control, rebutting it is important to him. Hence the roots of hierarchy in the lobster.
    In the case of religion, he is recognizing that the morality which we can arrive at by reason now, did not spring spontaneously from the first humans. Over millennia, humans have refined their understanding of morality through religious questions. To get a clear idea of that progress, we have to go back to beginnings. He examines the change over time of the idea of sacrifice, from crude “placating” something humans conceptualized as “god” to the more advanced idea of self development and learning to delay gratification. He is not using obscure language to baffle. Rather he is drawing on decades of study which he is trying to compress into a talk. In truth, the history of religion will show that all the major religions are an expression of a much more advanced idea of morality. It is worth remembering that the story of Abraham’s interrupted sacrifice of Isaac was a reaction to the custom of feeding children, preferably first born, into a fiery furnace for the god Moloch. Humans have come a long way, and the history of myth and religion have many insights to offer.

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