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.
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.