Monday, May 21, 2018

This Will Be Entertaining

I don’t mean my post (as I leave this to you to decide), but the comments section….

Still holding fresh the memory of our little Jordan Peterson slugfest in the comments, I offer a tidbit from a discussion between Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro.  As it is a video, I will do my best to capture the dialogue; I will only paraphrase it as the two speak very rapidly, sometimes jamming several thoughts into one.  You can hear the dialogue directly, beginning at the 42:00 minute mark. 

Shapiro asks about the meaning of the Tree of Good and Evil from the Garden of Eden; what did man do wrong by eating from the tree?  He constructs his arguments and then answers his question as follows:

1)      The rules for behavior are embedded in the object, and God made these rules in Creation.
2)      What makes a man good is what makes a man unique – his reason.
3)      Acting in accordance with right reason is what makes an action good.
4)      God makes the universe along these lines of right reason; natural law is the human attempt to understand the lines along which God created the universe.
5)      Where humans went wrong is when they decided to separate values from the universe – humans decided that values are a completely separate thing from how God made the universe.
6)      We believe that we can construct the rules arbitrarily; we can depart from natural law.
7)      So eating from the Tree changes the nature of good and evil, from nature coming with God’s rules to humans believing they can use their own intuition to supplant God’s rules with their own rules.

Peterson replies:

1)      That’s associated to some degree with Milton’s warning in Paradise Lost; Milton portrays Lucifer as the spirit of unbridled rationality – which accounts for the Catholic Church’s antagonism of rationality.  (I will touch on the second part of this comment later.)
2)      It is the same idea in the Tower of Babel: human beings have a proclivity to erect their own dogmatic ethical systems and then to expand them into a grandiosity that challenges the transcendent – and that is a totalitarian catastrophe.
3)      For Milton, Satan was the spirit that eternally does this, believing “everything I know is enough.”  This supplants what I don’t know, the transcendent.
4)      How that is associated with the Knowledge of Good and Evil, well you’re making some headway toward sorting that out.

This realization causes Peterson to perhaps reconsider his interpretation of the meaning of the story of the Tree and Adam and Eve.  Of course, if Peterson was a faithful reader of bionic mosquito, he would have come to see this long ago.

If he chases this to its logical conclusion, this understanding will end up causing Peterson – and maybe Shapiro, although I don’t know his thoughts as well – to reconsider his conclusions from the Enlightenment: individual good, group bad (which in his construct already causes some contradictions, as the “individual good” part really has no defense against the infinite number of gender pronouns – the fighting against which has made his fame).

What was the Enlightenment but the final nail in the coffin of supplanting God’s natural law for man’s reason – a coffin which first started taking shape with the Renaissance and Reformation (well, really Adam and Eve, but you understand my meaning) and took full flower with the Progressive Era?  Once man’s reason was no longer chained by an underlying ethic, every path was possible – and the Enlightenment offered us a complete range, from Jefferson to Rousseau.  And worse, but more on this shortly.

At shortly after the 20 minute mark, Shapiro introduces this topic of the wave in current politics of favoring the group over the individual.  He also wants to address divisions within the group of thinkers who are friends of the Enlightenment – of which he includes both himself and Peterson (and Peterson does not object to this label).

Shapiro points to the numerous differences amongst this group of thinkers who are sympathetic to the Enlightenment – to include people like Steven Pinker and Sam Harris.  So what is the possibility of revivifying Enlightenment mentality – because we see the rise of the rejection of the Enlightenment in favor of this group mentality?  We forget: if we toss out this Enlightenment in favor of old-style tribalism, things get ugly.

But tribalism was tossed out with the Enlightenment, and it resulted in the bloodiest century known to man.  How much uglier were things during “tribalism”?  Peterson has to deal with this contradiction as well, as he rightly points to the evils of communism without also reconciling from whence it came. 

In any case, to Shapiro’s statement Peterson replies: that’s the question: what [from the Enlightenment] do you toss out the window before things get ugly?


Nope, that is the wrong question. The question is: what is required to be reintroduced that the Enlightenment destroyed?

Tribes: a group of people formed around kinship, culture, tradition, religion.  Man will forever form tribes.  There is no possibility of individual freedom without such a generally accepted social structure.

Of course, there is “bad” in tribes.  But, to borrow Peterson’s take on patriarchy, that’s not all that there is.  Peterson himself recognizes the value of tribe over individualism – first of all, by valuing the patriarchy; second on his position on open borders.  Regarding open borders and immigration (and I paraphrase):

A complex system cannot tolerate extensive transformation over too short a time.  Arms-open-to-everyone immigration policy is rubbish.  It should not be assumed that citizens of societies that have not evolved functional individual rights-predicated polities will hold values in keeping with such polities.

[And in his dripping, sarcastic tone] Don’t assume that when they immigrate that they will have their innate democratic longings flourish.

What is this other than a statement of the reality of tribes?  Might not be your definition or my definition of a tribe, but it is a statement that recognizes differences in kinship, culture, tradition, and religion.

The only open question: around what values and characteristics will these tribes be formed?  Will it be tribes that humans naturally chose or those forced upon them by the same creatures intent on destroying their naturally chosen tribes?

That is the question, Dr. Peterson.


Regarding Peterson’s comment about the Catholic Church’s antagonism to rationality: I am certainly no expert on this matter, but have done enough reading about the Middle Ages and the Church to at least comment.  Everyone can point to an example supportive of Peterson’s view here or there on this matter, but all of it is without context and in any case ignores the larger trends.

Monasteries were the foundation of a medieval industrial revolution; law was based on the rational natural law; medieval society offered a true liberalization – of slaves, women, checks on absolutism, etc.; the Catholic Church stood against socialist sects; the Church played a key role in decentralizing governance and saving the west.  Is that enough rationality for you?

Finally, one last Peterson contradiction: for one who leans so heavily on myth, it seems strange to label the Catholic Church as antagonistic to rationality.  Both Peterson and the Church look(ed) to the Bible for rationality.

Man’s reason cannot explain everything nor understand everything.  Peterson both accepts this and rejects this.  This seems irrational.

P.S.  But I still find good aspects in his work.


  1. I have nothing to add to this, bulls-eye imo.

    1. This 85 year old single (no, widowed) white male is jumping for joy at your most skillful addressing of the subject.
      Peterson's stand earns him the hearing from the cognoscente, those who have been conditioned to believe God is a pre scientific idea. And that faith and superstition are the same thing. This is a little like saying thrift and greed are the same thing. Peterson's main contribution is showing why there is a final standard for judging what is right and what is wrong.
      Again, many thanks !
      Don Cain, Orlando, FL

  2. I think that you are taking one statement out of the broader context of his work with respect to rationality.
    The problem of holding a balanced view is that you can't balance every statement. The qualifiers become too cumbersome.
    I suggest Paul VanderKlay's youtube work on Peterson and what he views as Peterson's attempt to heal the enlightenment.

    1. Mr. M.,

      I, too, would like to read your thoughts on Paul VanderKlay's thoughts on Jordan Peterson.

    2. Jim, may I ask two things?

      1) Regarding "rationally," in which use of the word in this post am I not considering the broader context?

      2) May I ask you to suggest one or two specific videos?

      Thank you

    3. Ron, I would love to do so, but I seem to be getting no help from Jim.

    4. Jim,

      Thanks for introducing Paul VanderKlay. I was not familiar with his work.


      I feel relatively certain that you will find value in almost any of VanderKlay's videos. He's a pastor who is spending a lot of time unpacking Peterson's work. He is an astute observer, seems to be quite a scholar, and is just a pleasure to listen to.

      Like Ron, I am keen to hear your thoughts on VanderKlay.

      Here is a link to a video that I find quite interesting:

      Jeff L

  3. BM - Nice find; astute points.
    Looks to me that Peterson and Shapiro are attempting to elucidate some of the aspects of Nested Levels of Consciousness.
    A bit of insight I gleaned about Nature/Natural Law from my study of Spiral Dynamics (SD) : Natural, organic development always and only builds upon what already works about itself. All attempts to build upon that which does not fully and sustainably work, will crumble. What has been repeatedly tested and mercilessly refined, and eventually been found to be tried and true over many bio-engineering iterations, is what survives.
    This is clearly and commonly understood in the realm of biological evolution.
    It is rarely if ever grasped and understood in the realm of Consciousness (mental, emotional, spiritual realms). Spiral Dynamics helped me to see that progressively expanding human consciousness also builds on what works. Each new ‘level’ embodies emergent characteristics and abilities that are natural outgrowths and expansions of what came before. Each of these newly emergent capabilities are immediately and ruthlessly tested to see how they work. Also, and most importantly, is that any increase/improvement in level of consciousness (LOC) that disregards or negates its previous working foundation will self-destruct. It literally ‘eats itself’ in a self-destructive feedback loop. What resurrects itself from the ashes is a contracted, lower LOC that slowly dusts itself off and tries to climb that ladder again.
    IOW, evil always eats itself in the end. The problem is that the end may a long time in coming… and irreparable damage can occur all the way down the levels before the present day evil is eliminated.
    Another extremely important point in SD is that there are Two Tiers. First Tier encompasses the different levels of consciousness that emerge within human egoic reality. The first tier is about deficiency; lack. All sorts of strategies appear to try to assuage this deep feeling of lack.
    The 2nd Tier is dramatically different, and is one of reconnection to one’s environment and an internal unified reality. The second tier is about being, concordance; the Flow state. Cold rationality, for example, merges as a subset of spirituality in 2nd Tier. The arrogance and need-for-control characteristics of rationality so common in 1st Tier adherents dissolves away after the 2nd Tier leap forward.
    I mention all of this because some significant work has been done to roughly identify how many people exist at the various levels, and to put the larger picture of humanity into perspective. The bottom line, here and now, is that more and more people are rapidly making the leap into 2nd Tier. Since higher 2nd Tier LOCs inherently hold within themselves much more potent power, it does not require a majority of people to exist there in order to instigate huge change. In fact, it only takes a small percentage to reach a tipping point. This may happen very soon…
    Interestingly, “divide & conquer” strategies do not work in 2nd Tier. That’s why you are now seeing yeoman efforts being directed to divide and conquer at all 1st Tier levels across the earth: a last ditch effort by insecure control freaks (TPTB) to destroy the foundations holding up 2nd Tier.

    1. Thank you, BDev. I'll be following these links.

    2. Congratulations you have rediscovered the (ludicrous) Hegelian dialectic.

    3. Woah ok at first I was just making fun of you with the dialectics comment, but then I actually went to your "Spiral Dynamics" link and wow I'm not sure this is the blog for you.

    4. Not what I was expecting. I'll stick to studying Taleb. Thanks anyway, BDev. If you're unaware, it's rare on this blog that commentators act like Anto, above.

    5. Anto - Everyone's got something to gain from each other's posts, if one is open to it.

    6. Anto - What is it you mean? Why would this blog not be suitable for me? Am I missing something obvious?
      EMP - Have you got a link to a summary or short "best of Taleb" you could recommend to me?

    7. BDev, best to ignore Anto

      I don't recall him every appearing before this post.

    8. @BDev


      His major conceptual contributions and formulations include the following: "black swans", fragility/antifragility/robustness, ergodicity, the lindy effect, the agency problem, the ethical and practical necessity of "skin in the game", etc.

      He's a greek orthodox christian who grew up in Lebanon. He's also a Stoic. Not exactly a libertarian or an Austrian, but close enough for my taste.

      For what its worth, I know of no other thinker as learned as Dr. Taleb. His books are treasure troves of literature.

    9. EMP- Cool; thx. I'll check him out. FEE had an article about him recently:

    10. And BTW - The Spiral Dynamics has really served me well over the years. You can pretty accurately zero in on likely actions by people based on their SD placement, and the situation they are up against. It also opens doors to understanding history much more deeply for me vis-a-vis SD.

  4. I'd like to again recommend Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. It's a future world (the same universe as Snow Crash) that implicitly grapples with answers to the question: what practices of the past are required to be reintroduced in order to achieve maximum self-determination and group-determination on a global scale? Spoiler alert: it's complicated, decentralized, and technology plays a large part. America doth not fair well.

    It's also a fun read. And you learn a lot about Confucian customs, including Confucian law. It's a fun juxtaposition for western natural lawyers.

    I can't believe it would be a waste of your time.


  5. Peterson, while terrific on his knowledge of social data, is often contradictory.

    His therapy modality is lacking evidential backing and efficacy (Jungian vs. more modern and evidence-based behavior therapies).

    I like his guts though.

    1. "Peterson, while terrific on his knowledge of social data, is often contradictory."

      Love your comment and I agree.

      For example, he argues against the Basic Income Guarantee, but then goes on to suggest a system of wealth redistribution is needed(but doesn't offer specifics):

      It doesn't stop me from liking him beating up on SJW's or other such things, but your point about his inconsistency is well taken

      I've heard him suggest before a wealth redistribution system is needed in another interview, but I can't recall the link at this time other than the one above.

    2. Absolutely. He's a waffle on policy. He can smash away on SJWs. They threaten us all.

    3. Agree. He has done more good and shown more courage on this topic (SJW destroying) than anyone else I am aware of.

  6. "Shapiro points to the numerous differences amongst this group of thinkers who are sympathetic to the Enlightenment – to include people like Steven Pinker and Sam Harris."

    Did somebody say "Kosher Nostra"?

  7. Shapiro is an Orthodox Jew and a Zionist (a practitioner of tribalism and part of a deeply racial religion) but he doesn't want gentiles practicing it because they will see that America is not being ruled in the biocultural interest of the founding stock and that his people's interests are explicitly pursued. He is funatmentally incapable of being honest on this question.

    1. I trust Shapiro about as far as I can throw him. He's a fellow of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which is just another fake-conservative "think tank" led by the fake-conservative, war-mongering David Horowitz. Remember, Horowitz used to be a socialist but had a miraculous "conversion" to conservatism in 1985 when he came out as a "Leftie for Reagan" in a Washington Post piece. Anyone who believes that story has the gullibility of a five-year-old. WaPo has been controlled by U.S. Intelligence for decades, at least since the Church Committee in 1975. We're supposed to believe Intel reformed its ways and stopped controlling U.S. media, but that's utter nonsense. Shapiro, like Horowitz, is just another Intelligence agent planted in conservative/libertarian circles to confuse and misdirect.

      Zionism was never a grassroots movement. It always was, and continues to be, a major project of U.S. Intelligence.

      C. Stayton

      P.S. Been a while since I've been around. Hope you're doing well, BM.

    2. Mr. Peterson sure likes to hang with the "Tribe for me but not for thee" crowd.

      Then there's the "Rebel" media company he keeps. Ezra Levant, Gad Saad. More kosher nostra there. Remember the staged event with Ms. Goldy? A fine opportunity for a little bit of "conservative" gatekeeping.

      So there's Peterson in the company of these types, conveniently denouncing whitey "group think" and nationalism, praising the suffering of "the individual"..

    3. Neo-conservatism was a response to the USSR purging Zionists. Horowitz is a perfect specimen of the neo-conservative lineage. He and Shapiro cloak their own ethnic advocacy in language that appeals to WASPs (especially evangelicals). They talk about the founders as if they were raceless/cultureless entities dedicated to an entirely abstract and universal conception of rights (tho much of the founding ideology does create an opening for this attack). If red-state America became anti-Zionist (a tall order I know) they would change their tune in an instant (something Kristol has already done).

      As for Peterson, curious when he will admonish jews for "pride" and "tribalism"....

    4. C. Stayton, I am doing well. Thank you for dropping in.

    5. "Neo-conservatism was a response to the USSR purging Zionists."

      That may be true, but you have to ask why the USSR was purging the Zionists. Going back to the Russian Revolution, many of the major players were admittedly or likely Jewish (Trotsky, Lenin, Kerensky, etc.) and had ties to the wealthy Tsarist industrialists. See Maria Andreyeva, for example. The whole narrative we're given in the history books on the revolution and the establishment of the USSR doesn't make much sense when you scrutinize it. More likely, the revolution and subsequent Soviet regime were being bankrolled by the same people who were in power before, and continue to be in power today. So the expulsion of the "rootless cosmopolitans" around the time of Israel's founding reads more like an intentional catalyst FOR its founding, and for the eventual importation of Zionism into the American conservative and evangelical domains.

      C. Stayton

  8. The question is: what is required to be reintroduced that the Enlightenment destroyed?
    "Tribes: a group of people formed around kinship, culture, tradition, religion. Man will forever form tribes. There is no possibility of individual freedom without such a generally accepted social structure."

    Tribes tend to be natural meritocracies, with the smartest and the strongest assuming leadership. But they’re also natural democracies, small enough that everyone can have a say on important issues. Tribes are small enough that everybody knows everyone else, and knows what their weak and strong points are. Everyone falls into a niche of marginal advantage, doing what they do best, simply because that’s necessary to survive. Bad actors are ostracized or fail to wake up, in a pool of their own blood, some morning. Tribes are socially constraining but, considering the many faults of human nature, a natural and useful form of organization in a society with primitive technology.

    As people built their pool of capital and technology over many generations, however, populations grew. At the end of the last Ice Age, around 12,000 years ago, all over the world, there was a population explosion. People started living in towns and relying on agriculture as opposed to hunting and gathering. Large groups of people living together formed hierarchies, with a king of some description on top of the heap.
    Those who adapted to the new agricultural technology and the new political structure accumulated the excess resources necessary for waging extended warfare against tribes still living at a subsistence level. The more evolved societies had the numbers and the weapons to completely triumph over the laggards. If you wanted to stay tribal, you’d better live in the middle of nowhere, someplace devoid of the resources others might want. Otherwise it was a sure thing that a nearby kingdom would enslave you and steal your property.
    The Industrial Revolution and the End of Kingdoms
    From around 12,000 B.C. to roughly the mid-1600s, the world’s cultures were organized under strong men, ranging from petty lords to kings, pharaohs, or emperors.
    It’s odd, to me at least, how much the human animal seems to like the idea of monarchy. It’s mythologized, especially in a medieval context, as a system with noble kings, fair princesses, and brave knights riding out of castles on a hill to right injustices.
    The king is rarely more than a successful thug, a Tony Soprano at best, or perhaps a little Stalin. The princess was an unbathed hag in a chastity belt, the knight a hired killer, and the shining castle on the hill the headquarters of a concentration camp, with plenty of dungeons for the politically incorrect.

    With kingdoms, loyalties weren’t so much to the "country" – a nebulous and arbitrary concept ­– but to the ruler. You were the subject of a king, first and foremost. Your linguistic, ethnic, religious, and other affiliations were secondary.
    if you were born then, the chances were 98% you’d be a simple peasant who owned nothing, knew nothing beyond what his betters told him, and sent most of his surplus production to his rulers. But, again, the gradual accumulation of capital and knowledge made the next step possible: the Industrial Revolution.
    The Industrial Revolution and the End of the Nation-State
    As the means of production changed, with the substitution of machines for muscle, the amount of wealth took a huge leap forward.
    Then the game changed totally with the American and French Revolutions. People no longer felt they were owned by some ruler; instead they now gave their loyalty to a new institution, the nation-state.
    On the plus side, by the end of the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution had provided the common man with the personal freedom, as well as the capital and technology, to improve things at a rapidly accelerating pace.


    1. max, I am not considering that man returns to tents on the Steppes of Asia...I am considering that kinship, culture, tradition, religion and language remain important characteristics that bind a community - that assist in a community's desire to live in peace.

  9. You are looking for a solution to the problems that we have now.

    to solve that you need to find what and where did it go wrong.

    you think that problems started just after medieval period.

    maybe, but I think you need to try to look from different perspective.

    I agree with this:

    “I am considering that kinship, culture, tradition, religion and language remain important characteristics that bind a community - that assist in a community's desire to live in peace.”

    now what else they had approximately same in this period ( western and central europe ) ?

    I would say no religious and political pluralism ( more or less ).

    I think that is problem.

    thanks max.


      At the time I wrote this, I did not understand the Reformation well enough to include it on the list. I would now include it.

      There was no "state" until the competing governance structures were destroyed.

      We (libertarians) don't get it both ways; we can have absolute freedom and absolute freedom both at the same time. It has never worked and will never work.

    2. the concept of the modern state in fact developed along with that of sovereignty

      the greek polis was a state, the hun empire of china was a state, the roman empire was a state, Byzantium was a state

      “I did not understand the Reformation well enough to include it on the list. I would now include it.”

      problems started long time before Reformation

      Otto the Great
      Otto wrested from the nobles the powers of appointment of the bishops and abbots, who controlled large land holdings. Additionally, Otto revived the old Carolingian program of appointing missionaries in the border lands. Otto continued to support celibacy for the higher clergy, so ecclesiastical appointments never became hereditary. By granting land to the abbots and bishops he appointed, Otto actually made these bishops into "princes of the Empire" (Reichsfürsten);[citation needed] in this way, Otto was able to establish a national church.

      Otto marched on Rome and drove John XII from the papal throne and for years controlled the election of the pope, setting a firm precedent for imperial control of the papacy for years to come.

      Church and state
      Henry V (1086–1125), great-grandson of Conrad II, became Holy Roman Emperor in 1106 in the midst of a civil war. Hoping to gain complete control over the church inside the Empire, Henry V appointed Adalbert of Saarbrücken as the powerful archbishop of Mainz in 1111. Adalbert began to assert the powers of the Church against secular authorities, that is, the Emperor. The Waiblings, on the other hand, stood for control of the Church by a strong central Imperial government.

      The Concordat of Worms (Latin: Concordatum Wormatiense),[1] sometimes called the Pactum Calixtinum by papal historians,[a] was an agreement between Pope Callixtus II and Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor on September 23, 1122, near the city of Worms. It brought to an end the first phase of the power struggle between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperors and has been interpreted[b] as containing within itself the germ of nation-based sovereignty that would one day be confirmed in the Peace of Westphalia (1648). In part this was an unforeseen result of strategic maneuvering between the Church and the European sovereigns over political control within their domains

      Investiture Controversy

      he position of the pope, as bishop of Rome, was ill defined and pragmatically under the control of local factions. ... As long as secular rulers could appoint bishops and priests, any control from Rome would be illusory.

      As Gregory VII he reigned from 1073 to 1085, and under him the powers of the Papacy were further strengthened. He strove to keep all bishops under Papal authority and stood out against their investiture by lay princes. He compelled archbishops to come to Rome to receive the pallium, the symbol of the formal recognition of their office, and thus ensured their recognition of the prerogatives of the Pope. His greatest struggle was with the King of Germany, Henry IV. The issue was the right of investiture. Could the monarch appoint the bishops and compel them to swear fealty to him? The Pope held that this subordinated the Church to the State and tended to corrupt the faith.

    3. Max, of course there were such examples; in the west none survived for long until England first, then France, in the late Middle Ages.

      What do I mean by state? All power, authority, lawmaking, legal conflict resolution, ultimate arbiter, reside in one entity - with no competing governance institutions allowed.

    4. “What do I mean by state? All power, authority, lawmaking, legal conflict resolution, ultimate arbiter, reside in one entity - with no competing governance institutions allowed.”

      you mean “God State”

      this kind of state did not arrive to america until 1913
      Federal Reserve Act
      The Sixteenth Amendment
      compulsory schooling laws ( attempt to escape religious pluralism )
      Executive Order 6102

      seeds for this are planted with revolution 1775
      First Bank of the United States February 25, 1791
      The War of 1812
      The Second Bank of the United States from 1816 to January 1836
      The American Civil War from 1861 to 1865.
      The Fourteenth Amendment


    5. Much earlier, max. For sure not later than 1865, but an argument could be made for 1789.

  10. Speaking of Tribes... This guy Brownstein rightly implies, I think, that tribal groups definitely have their downsides:
    Yet we also know of the far more intimate and accountable relationships that tribes create, as well as the cultural bonding that occurs. Tribal life can and does create a wariness, fear and even hatred for outsiders... but this is a direct consequence of 1st Tier mindset in the Spiral Dynamics view. Seems to me that a base set of libertarian values, coupled with the immense communication and trade benefits of modern technology, can radically overcome age-old drawbacks of tribalism. IOW - keep the best traits, minimize the negatives, grow into more and more benevolent and altruistic actions that spring from the great wealth that will be created.
    Seems doable to me.

    1. Seems doable to me, too.

      To add to the entertainment value of the comments section, I will paraphrase Jordan Peterson: Of course tribes have a downside; that's not all that they have!

  11. "Is Jordan Peterson our new Aryan Christ?"
    Feb 8, 2018 by Dr. Joel McDurmon

  12. What Chaos really means, and its only real Antidote
    Jun 6, 2018 by Dr. Joel McDurmon
    (This article partly concerns Jordan Peterson)