• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

The Jordan Peterson Phenomenon

Like many others, I have watched the Jordan Peterson phenomenon unfold with a certain fascination. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you don’t spend a lot of time on social media, for Peterson, a mild-mannered psychology professor from the University of Toronto, has emerged as one of the hottest personalities on the internet. He is followed by millions of people, especially young men. His lectures and presentations—cool, understated, brainy, and blunt—are avidly watched and commented upon. And his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, is a number one bestseller all over the world. Moreover, Peterson’s spirited and articulate opposition to the imposition of speech codes in his native Canada has made him a controversial political player, a hero of free speech to his supporters and a right-wing ideologue to his detractors. His interview with Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News, during which Peterson’s interlocutor revealed herself as a hopelessly biased social justice warrior, has, as of this writing, been viewed 7.5 million times.

In many ways, Peterson is doing for this generation what Joseph Campbell did for the previous one, namely, reintroducing the archetypal psychology of C.G. Jung in an appealing and provocative manner. Jung’s theorizing centered around what he termed the archetypes of the collective unconscious, which is to say, those primordial instincts, insights, and memories that influence much of our behavior and that substantially inform the religions, philosophies, and rituals of the human race. The Jungian template enables Peterson to interpret many of the classical spiritual texts of Western culture in a fresh way—those very texts so often excoriated by mainstream intellectuals as hopelessly patriarchal, biased, and oppressive. It also permits him to speak with a kind of psychological and spiritual authority to which young people are not accustomed but to which they respond eagerly.

His new book, an elaboration of twelve basic psychological rules for life, makes for bracing and satisfying reading. Peterson’s considerable erudition is on clear display throughout, but so is his very real experience in the trenches as a practicing psychotherapist. His advice is smart indeed, but it never seems abstract, detached, or unrealistic. In the course of this brief article, I can only hint at some of his fascinating findings and recommendations. A theme that runs through the entire book is that of the play between order and chaos, symbolized most neatly by the intertwining fish of the Tao image. Human consciousness itself, Peterson argues, sets one foot in the former and the other in the latter, balancing the known and the unknown, the settled and the unexplored. Too much of one, and we fall into complacency, routine, and at the limit, tyranny; too much of the other, and we lose our bearings completely, surrendering to the void.

The great myths of the hero—from Gilgamesh to Luke Skywalker and Bilbo Baggins—typically recount the story of someone who leaves complacent domesticity behind in order to venture into the dangerous unknown, where he manages to find something of enormous value to his family or village or society. One key to psychological/spiritual fulfillment is to embody this archetype of the hero, to live one’s life as an adventurous exploration of the unknown. So Peterson tells his readers—especially young men, who have been cowed into complacency for various reasons—to throw back their shoulders, stand tall, and face the challenges of life head on. This archetype of the hero also allows us to read the story of Adam and Eve with fresh eyes. In Paradise (the word itself denotes “walled garden”), our first parents were secure and innocent, but in the manner of inexperienced children. Leaving Paradise was, in one sense, a positive move, for it permitted them to grow up, to engage the chaos of the unknown creatively and intelligently. This reading of Genesis, which has roots in Tillich, Hegel, and others, permits us to see that the goal of the spiritual life is not a simple return to the Garden of dreaming innocence, but rather an inhabiting of the Garden on the far side of the cross, that place where the tomb of Jesus was situated and in which the risen Christ appeared precisely as “gardener.”

Peterson’s investigation of the psyche of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was, for me, one of the most illuminating sections of the book. Solzhenitsyn, of course, was a victim of both Hitler and Stalin, a terrorized and dehumanized inmate in the Gulag Archipelago, and one of the most tortured of souls in the terrible twentieth century. It would have been surpassingly easy for him simply to curse his fate, to lash out in anger at God, to become a sullen figure scurrying about the margins of life. Instead, he endeavored to change his own life, to turn the light of his moral consciousness on himself, to get his psychological house in order. This initial move enabled him to see the world around him with extraordinary clarity and, eventually, to tell the story of Soviet depravity with such devastating moral authority. The lesson that Peterson draws from this example is this: if you want to change the corrupt world, “start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. Start stopping today.”

I have shared just a handful of wise insights from a book that is positively chockablock with them. So do I thoroughly support Jordan Peterson’s approach? Well, no, though a full explication of my objection would take us far beyond the confines of this brief article. In a word, I have the same concern about Peterson that I have about both Campbell and Jung, namely, the Gnosticizing tendency to read Biblical religion purely psychologically and philosophically and not at all historically. No Christian should be surprised that the Scriptures can be profitably read through psychological and philosophical lenses, but at the same time, every Christian has to accept the fact that the God of the Bible is not simply a principle or an abstraction, but rather a living God who acts in history. As I say, to lay this out thoroughly would require at least another article or two or twelve.

On balance, I like this book and warmly recommend it. I think it’s especially valuable for the beleaguered young men in our society, who need a mentor to tell them to stand up straight and act like heroes.

Bishop Robert Barron

Written by

Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Rob Abney

    Welcome back Bishop Barron!

    (Peterson's) tendency to read Biblical religion purely psychologically and philosophically and not at all historically

    As I have read and listened to Peterson I get the distinct impression that he considers the archetypal stories to be true in every way even historically.
    Thanks for a good review of a complicated author.

  • Arthur Jeffries

    His interview with Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News, during which Peterson’s interlocutor revealed herself as a hopelessly biased social justice warrior, has, as of this writing, been viewed 7.5 million times.

    Brandon, what does Bishop Barron mean by the term "social justice warrior"?

    • Phil

      I guessing he is using it in the traditional way it is used these days. If you google it, it is both defined by google and then there are some good thoughts on Wikipedia on it.

      I'd say both do a decent job of describing how it is normally used.

      • Arthur Jeffries

        Thank you.

        In my experience, "social justice warrior" is used online to refer to anyone who speaks out against discrimination, economic disparity, etc. Pope Francis, Cardinal Cupich, and other clergy are frequently criticized as "sjws" by their detractors in online discussions.

        Wikipedia says that "The accusation that somebody is an SJW carries implications that she or he is pursuing personal validation rather than any deep-seated conviction[4] and engaging in disingenuous arguments.[5]" That's not the way I've seen the term used in the last couple of years.

        Wikipedia also quotes a Vice report: "Allegra Ringo writes for Vice that '[i]n other words, SJWs don't hold strong principles, but they pretend to. The problem is, that's not a real category of people. It's simply a way to dismiss anyone who brings up social justice.'[5]"

        I do not believe that Bishop Barron is opposed to social justice, or that he is using "social justice warrior" in the way that it seems to be popularly used, which is to deride anyone who speaks out for social justice. So what does he mean by the term?

        • Phil

          Hey Arthur,

          Correct, social justice is different from "social justice warrior".

          You'd have to ask Bishop Barron exactly how he was using it, but it probably wouldn't be too far of from someone who vocally promotes many of the more socially progressive views these days such as radical feminism and identity politics.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            I don't understand why we should degrade the term "social justice" instead of using terms like "social progressive" and "secular progressive" instead.

            "SJW" is not only used to attack people who promote a secular-liberal theory of social justice. The term is also employed against people who promote Catholic social doctrine, including the pope himself. That is why it would be helpful if Bishop Barron were to use more specific terminology.

          • Phil

            I'd say there is absolutely a good argument that could be made about this. Especially about whether there is a more precise term that should be used.

            Because Bishop Barron used the term, we had to work with that he said and how the term is commonly used. But I think it would be fair to say that maybe Bishop Barron could have used a more precise term. Nothing wrong with saying that.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          The term "social justice" was coined by the Catholic church, but as used by many today dies not include subsidiarity, but only means adherence to the feel-good Democratic agenda. For example, it often includes advocacy of the ACA because "affordable care" sounds good in the abstract, but pays no attention to the actual Act and its actual effects: such as increasing costs, loss of doctors, and so on. An SJW is someone who crusades to replace things that work with things that sound good.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Why call liberals "SJWs" instead of just calling them liberals? If liberals are misusing the term "social justice", I don't see why we should effectively endorse their error by using the term as part of a pejorative.

            Is it widely understood that the term "SJW" is only intended to identify a false, secular form of social justice?

          • BCE

            I find myself using SJW, but I actually agree with you

          • David Nickol

            I think it's a matter of throwing a little "red meat" to what is almost certainly a predominantly conservative audience. It's the kind of thing a bishop should think twice about. There is a lot of complaint about "identity politics" today, but I think by the use of canned insults like "social justice warrior," Bishop Barron is saying to his audience, "I am one of you!"

            Certainly the issue of women's equality in the workplace is a very complex one, like a number of others discussed in the television interview with Peterson. But there are real problems faced by women in what is still largely a man's world (especially in the upper echelons of corporate management). I don't think Peterson would deny this, but I think his masterful performance and the interviewer's ineptitude was no doubt pleasing to men who really do find women inferior.

            I find it quite possible that Bishop Baron's reservations about Peterson's approach to the Bible would, 75 or 100 years ago, have been grounds for the Catholic Church to discourage or forbid Catholics to read Peterson's work. There's been a lot of change since Vatican II.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            I think it's a matter of throwing a little "red meat" to what is almost certainly a predominantly conservative audience. It's the kind of thing a bishop should think twice about. There is a lot of complaint about "identity politics" today, but I think by the use of canned insults like "social justice warrior," Bishop Barron is saying to his audience, "I am one of you!"

            Bishops should indeed think twice about using the term "social justice warrior." Bishop Barron could have energized conservative readers by using something like "secular feminist" instead.

          • AJay333

            That's a very odd thing of you to say, because I think you're implying that some sort of sex based discrimination is inherent within western society. Which is completely false, but maybe I misunderstood you.

          • David Nickol

            That's a very odd thing of you to say, because I think you're implying that some sort of sex based discrimination is inherent within western society.

            You don't think women are discriminated against?

          • dudester4

            As are men.

          • Michael Murray

            It takes up less characters on Twitter. Like RWNJ :-)

          • Is it widely understood that the term "SJW" is only intended to identify a false, secular form of social justice?

            Nobody regards social justice as such to be objectionable. To call someone a social justice warrior or SJW is to say: "What you are calling social justice is a perversion of true justice." The dispute is not about whether we should have justice. It is about the meaning of justice itself.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            The common use of the term online as I've seen it is not at deep or lofty as what you describe.

          • Insults are rarely intended to be deep or lofty. People who want deep or lofty discussions don't often use insults against their interlocutors.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            advocacy of the ACA because "affordable care" sounds good in the abstract, but pays no attention to the actual Act and its actual effects: such as increasing costs

            Costs would have increased regardless. The question is whether or not ACA mitigated those cost increases.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Depending on which states implemented the expansions? That's not short of Magic.

          • ClayJames

            How did the pre-ACA healthcare system work? The same people that are against ACA are also against universal healthcare for the same dubious reasons you gave. I don’t understand how someone can be pro-life without demanding that the richest country in the world guarantee healthcare for all of its citizens.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That's supposing the ACA actually delivers on health care rather than on subsidies for insurance companies. Working people had employer-supplied insurance; elderly people had Medicare, and poor people had Medicaid. There was also SCHIPS, which covered children specifically. No one was denied medical treatment. Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986 it was illegal to do so. Even without any type of insurance, a person could walk into any hospital in America and be treated for an injury or illness.

            However, in the first year of ACA;s full implementation, premium costs increased more than in the eight previous years combined. For example, Obama had promised that his health reform plan would “bring down premiums by $2,500 for the typical family” by the end of his first term. Instead, they rose by an average of $3,065. As for deductibles, Obamacare "Bronze" plans averaged $5,081/year -- about 450% higher than the $1,135 average deductible for employer-provided individual plans, and 42% higher than for self-purchased plans.

            Note that the metric used for Obamacare was the percentage of people with insurance rather than the percentage of people receiving medical treatment.

            Of the "14 million uninsured" -- the number comes from the Census Bureau's(*) Continuing Population Sample Survey -- about 39% earned $50,000 per year and just over half of those earned $75,000 per year -- could afford insurance, but chose not to purchase it.

            Another 30% were low-income Americans eligible for existing government assistance programs like Medicaid, and SCHIP, but who had never taken the time to enroll. (Medicaid and children’s health programs allow patients to enroll in the emergency room.)

            (*)census bureau. This may have been the real reason behind Obama's attempt to take direct control of the Census Bureau back in 2009.

            https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB123423384887066377

          • ClayJames

            That's supposing the ACA actually delivers on health care rather than on subsidies for insurance companies.

            That is not supposing anything of the sort. You could have problems with ACA and acknowledge the huge moral problem with a society that has the resources but choses not to take care of the sick and suffering. The least that the richest country in the world should do is to make sure that everyone has access to healthcare without conditions.

            But it seems that instead you are posting a very optimistic and unrealistic view of healthcare before ACA. Working people are not guaranteed employer-supplied insurance and millions of people working are without it. You can definetly be denied treatement unless you define it by removing any kind of prevention or long term care. A family of 3 making a bit more than two thousand dollars a month would not qualify for Medicare, making health insurance extremely costly and completely out of the picture especially if they have pre-existing conditions.

            Once again, this is not in a country that cannot afford it. This is happening in a country that just does not care or buys into cultural political narrative that makes things like universal healthcare not even an option. In my experience, and it seems to be the case with you, those that are against ACA are also against universal healthcare.

            I must have overlooked Jesus´ caveat that exempts us from helping the sick if we made healthcare too expensive or prioritized other more trivial expenses over our most important responsibility.

            Hopefully one day, most Christians in the US will spend the same amount of time agreeing with Jesus as they do disagreeing with atheists.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The least that the richest country in the world should do is to make
            sure that everyone has access to healthcare without conditions.

            Health care had been becoming more expensive due to increasing technological costs(*) and because the population has been growing older. [Older folks generally require more health care.] It is exacerbated by plugging a hose into the federal treasury -- prices rise to meet the money available.

            (*) technology. Your hospital bill will not include the cost of an MRI, if there aren't any MRIs.

            The ACA is making health care even more expensive. That it, it addresses insurance, not health care.

            a very optimistic and unrealistic view of healthcare before ACA

            The vast majority of people surveyed were satisfied with their health care.

            Remember, most health care is routine and inexpensive. What many people want -- especially, the young and healthy -- is a policy that will cover catastrophic expenses while they take care of the routine stuff out of pocket. But most government regulations actually forbid such policies.

            After ACA, not only have premiums and deductibles skyrocketed, but lifespan has declined, albeit slightly. What good is an insurance policy if you cannot afford to use it.

            In many cases, people received their new ACA policies only because under the new rules, they had first lost existing policies they had been satisfied with.

          • ClayJames

            Human beings in other developed countries that get good universal healthcare require the same care with the same technology as Americans. While technology has increased, improvements in vaccines and medicine has also decreased the total amount of healthcare someone will need. This is not a good argument for the huge disparity in US healthcare compared to other parts of the world (including much of the developing world).

            The last numbers I saw put the overall satisfaction of healthcare in the mid to high 50s last decade and in the mid 60s this decade. But clearly this is terrible way to conclude that the system is not broken and that we do not have an obligation to fix it. A country were 65% of the population is satisfied that they do not experience hunger on a daily basis can still behave immorality in their lack of desire to make sure the other 35% are provided with basic needs. This is especially the case when talking about a basic necessity in the richest country in the world.

            We obviously disagree on ACA, but would you agree that we should do everything possible to move toward a universal healthcare system similar to what is seen in just about every developed country in the world (and many developing countries as well)? Would you also agree that this is not just good policy but actually our moral obligation as Catholics?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            a) Most of those other systems either do not provide the same technology, ration it with long waiting times to use it, or depend upon US to develop the technology in the first place.

            b) The demand for a free good is infinite. This will sooner or later outrun the economic ability of the society to pay for it, and "the last state of that man will be worse than the first." We are already seeing an acceleration in premiums and deductibles under ACA rules. (In fact, I have seen it in Medicare co-pays.)

            c) Centrally-planned systems seldom work as well as evolutionary systems -- largely because there are always more variables (and variation) in the real world than in the planners' world -- and never work as well as the vague-generality folks believe they will.

            d) The French and Belgians complain about English crossing the Channel to take advantage of French healthcare, so we must keep in mind that not all "universal healthcare" systems are created equal. The French system involves more free enterprise than the British. The Germans exclude non-natives, and so on.

            e) The Canadian system appears to work well enough and a similar US system may as well -- if we could get the Canadians to run it for us. Otherwise, the special interests, campaign contributors, and the Chicago Machine will run it. Furthermore, the Canadian system is decentralized: Each province runs its own program under broad rules set up by Ottawa.

            f) Scale matters: a smaller and more homogeneous population is more easily managed. The largest Canadian system, that of Ontario, is about the size of the State of Illinois. The UK and France are each about the size of the US Northeast: Maine to Virginia and inland to Ohio or W.VA. Just as an ant cannot be as large as an elephant without breaking its legs and a Romanesque cathedral cannot be as large as a Gothic one, a healthcare system that works for one homogeneous country cannot be automatically scaled up to a more diverse country four times its size. California alone is larger than most of these other countries.

            g) The road to hell is paved with good intentions, so the saying runs. Hippocrates begins his Oath with "First, do no harm." It is not enough to want "in general" this thing called "universal healthcare"(*). There must also be specific means of achieving it, and they must be evaluated to decide whether the be effective or not at achieving the ends. The US is uniquely positioned with 50 sovereign States to conduct 50 independent experiments on the means and to then determine which worked best, why, and whether it might be translated or scaled to other States. Cases in point: "Romneycare" in MA; the expansion of Medicare coverage in Oregon.

            (*) universal. But universal in what way? All people covered by an insurance policy? Or all treatments available to everyone?

            h) Virtue signalling is to virtue as Ponzi schemes are to economic investments.

          • ClayJames

            a) This is a talking point that Americans like to throw around that is just not true. I have first hand experience in a couple of third world countries that have public healthcare systems and also offer healthcare on par with the US in everything but the most complicated health situations. Then you must also explain the terrible health care ranking that the US has among countries in the developed world.

            b) No one is saying that you give an unlimited free good the same way no one is saying you give the hungry all the food that they want. A country that can afford to guarantee their citizens the minimum, especially if they can more than afford it, has the moral obligation to do so.

            c) What do you mean by ¨work¨? Because clearly they work better than the US system if the goal of a working healthcare system is to offer the best healthcare to the most people.

            d) Yes, people complain. We can disagree on the details behind a healthcare system that guarantees everyone at least minimum humane care. This does not mean that every systems is valid or that some are not immoral.

            d) I don´t necessarily agree with you here and while it certainly would not be easy to implement, it is far from impossible. But your argument is beside the point. There are many countries that cannot afford to offer the citizens this level of care but that does not mean that it shouldn´t be an ideal it should strive for. Similarly, there are many countries that have legal and foundational obstacles that would also impeed its implementation but this does not mean we shouldn´t strive for this change. Its ironic that most Catholics on here (myself included) are willing to push for making abotion illegal even in the face of similar obstacles because this is truly a moral issue where a solution must be found. When it comes to healthcare (and immigration), pro-life has another meaning for many of us.

            f) Another obstacle that is in no way insurmountable. If there are developing countries that can do it, clearly the US can find a way to do it.

            g) The road to hell is also paved with a lack of good intentions. You have yet to show that this good intentions is not really ¨good¨ to begin with or that it is impossible. The US is also uniquely positioned with incredible resources to implement something like this.

            h) This is lazy. I never made this about me and you could take this same lazy approach to argue against any moral argument. You can do better than that.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            a) Did these third world countries develop the technologies which they then offered, or did they receive it in foreign aid? Did the developed countries develop it themselves or did the US develop it and teach or sell it to them? There are lots of ways in which health care may be provided, and one of them is by commerce and aid.

            Who does the ranking and what metric is used? I recollect one comparison of infant mortality between Switzerland and the US from a number of years ago. The US was much higher, which would make it worse. However, in Switzerland, babies below a certain length were considered as stillborn and no efforts were made to sustain them. The US classifies babies by weight, not length, but below the equivalent weight, often strenuous efforts are made to preserve the babies, who nonetheless often die despite these efforts. These account for about one-third of US infant deaths. IOW, one-third of US infant deaths in the US would not even be counted as live births in Switzerland. When corrected for this difference in definition, the gap in infant mortality between the two countries vanishes.

            Statisticians are ever cautious of naive comparisons between numbers from different venues even if they are called by the same names.

            b) "no one is saying you give the hungry all the food that they want."

            So, you would let the hungry starve? Where is your compassion? Where is your Christian charity? Etc. (You see how the game is played?)

            c) If policy wonks with no skin in the game cannot design a really good toaster oven, why suppose they can design a really good insurance policy? Especially one in which "if you like your doctor you can keep him" and which is promised to reduce premiums and deductibles. Three deliverables which not only were not delivered, but in the latter two cases increased and became even more unaffordable for poor people. That seems to be "not worked."

            d) The point of this point was that the devil is in the details. It is possible -- and very easy -- to be in favor of "affordable and universal health care" when one need not specify the details. It grows more problematical when those details must be spelled out and their unintended consequences, short-term and long-term become evident. For one thing, there is a difference between providing health care and providing insurance policies; esp. if poor people cannot afford to use the latter.

            For example, expanding Medicaid coverage to families previously uncovered would have seemed on the face of it to improve health outcomes. But when Oregon did so a number of years ago, there was no measurable change in outcomes whatsoever. "In theory," as the saying goes, "there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is."

            f) The obvious way to do it is on a state-by-state level, as Canada did; but then federal politicians would be unable to pose and preen, thereby voiding the whole purpose of the legislation. Most developing countries, supposing that they actually can and do deliver US-level health care are not very scale countries. Then too for most of these countries, routine health care may be sufficient for nearly all their needs. Heck, clean water and drainage may be sufficient for a vast improvement in their health. Recollect China's "barefoot doctor" program of several decades ago.

            g) The ACA may or may not have been well-intentioned; but suppose it was. By vastly increasing premiums and deductibles it has burdened the poor. By insisting on policies with specified coverage (rather than the coverage the insured prefer) it has driven providers out of the market, reducing choice. (Do the Little Sisters of the Poor really need to include birth control and abortion in their health care policies?) Do complex bureaucratic rules -- which are intended to prevent clerks from using their own judgments and which tend to grow over time -- really may life easier?
            https://thomism.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/on-a-cause-of-corruption-in-popular-governments/

            h) That was the source of h), which was not about you, but rather about politicians and other rabble-rousers.

          • Pete the Greek

            "I must have overlooked Jesus´ caveat that exempts us from helping the sick if we made healthcare too expensive "
            - General rule of thumb: when someone resorts to snide, passive aggressive emotional crap like this, you can be sure they've realized they lost the argument on facts.

          • ClayJames

            Nothing in that statement is snide, passive aggressive or emotional. It is simply pointing out the hypocrisy of people that hide behind political realities in order to deny moral responsibility for their inaction.

            I am Catholic, but I recognize that the United States is a country where many among us are vocal supporters of Jesus´ message unless that message disagrees with political beliefs. So we are all for taking care of the sick, unless that requires coming to conclusions that are at odds with our political affiliations. We then normalize the problem, throw our hands up in the air and say that it is just too hard, expensive or unfeasible when it is anything but.

            US Catholics can´t attend their best friend´s gay wedding because it is too scandalous but there is no problem attending the rally of a racist, sexist, proud sexual abuser who makes fun of the disabled, says other countries are ****holes and is currently (to this day) approved of by about 40% of Catholics.

            If you disagree with this then I am all ears. But ironically, I think it says a lot that you actually feel threatened by simply pointing out that there is no such caveat in Jesus´ teachings.

          • dudester4

            "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?"
            Luke 14:28

      • It's sad that the term has evolved into this. You may know it was once a neutral or complimentary term. Indeed "social justice" was coined by a Catholic priest in the early 1800s.

    • He winges an about political correctness gone wild and crypto communism infestating universities.

      • Do you think there are no interesting problems with regard to political correctness suppressing/​distorting speech, or with aspects of communism other than Marx's diagnosis of the ills of his time continuing to percolate in Western universities? You may note that Marx's proposition for what we ought to do about those problems flagrantly violates WP: Secularism § Secular society's "1. Refuses to commit itself as a whole to any one view of the nature of the universe and the role of man in it." Furthermore, plenty of Marx's followers were happy to use physical violence to get their way. Might it be concerning if, for example, many who championed Communism before the fall of the Berlin Wall have not repented of their ideal of human existence but have instead ducked their heads? See for example:

        The number of public intellectuals duped by the Potemkin-village tactics of their communist hosts in tours of the Soviet Union, China, North Vietnam, East Germany, Cuba, and elsewhere in the communist bloc is legion.[64] Paul Hollander quotes a remarkable number of statements by distinguished intellectuals that reveal astonishing ignorance, obtuseness, naïveté, callousness, and wishful thinking. Yet relatively few people have read the small literature of which Hollander’s book is an exemplar, and the luster of the deceived fellow travelers (many of them still alive and still speaking on sundry public topics, like John Kenneth Galbraith, Jonathan Kozol, Richard Falk, Staughton Lynd, and Susan Sontag) remains for the most part undimmed by their folly. (Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, 150)

        Do you think that Dave Rubin has gone off the deep end when he says he values freedom of speech over against political correctness on the Left?

        • Michael

          On liberal college campuses, race, gender, and sexual orientation are understood to have primacy over class. Marxism is against identity politics since it divides the working class on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation. In the Marxist view, identity politics is a liberal reformist trap. Since universities are awash in identity politics, they seem more post-Marxist to me than "communist."

          • I suspect both camps exist. I'm definitely guessing here, but I'd wager this is partly because Marxism's critiques haven't been addressed by any other system of thought which has penetrated the West to any significant degree. It might also be worth considering whether Marxism has a harder fight than the race/​gender/​sexual orientation group.

    • Here's what Peterson says on one aspect of "social justice" people:

      The other thing that's so interesting is if you push back against them hard they just fold. I can't even get the social justice types to debate me. They won't do it. Now they don't believe in debate—so why would they debate?—they only believe in power. But like when I went to Queen's University to talk to the law students there about Bill C-16, from what I gathered all of the law professors were invited to debate me. Now think about it: I'm not a bloody lawyer; I'm no law professor. I'm talking about legislation. A good lawyer should have been able to come out and just have twisted me into knots and sent me home in a cast, and they couldn't find a single bloody professor to come out there, so Bruce Pardy who's a professor had to come out and play devil's advocate. So there's no debate there, no discussion. (5:22)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xss0vC3mRfE

  • In a word, I have the same concern about Peterson that I have about both Campbell and Jung, namely, the Gnosticizing tendency to read Biblical religion purely psychologically and philosophically and not at all historically. No Christian should be surprised that the Scriptures can be profitably read through psychological and philosophical lenses, but at the same time, every Christian has to accept the fact that the God of the Bible is not simply a principle or an abstraction, but rather a living God who acts in history.

    So, is this article addressed to atheists or not?

    • BCE

      Well, I might guess, that comment might be the Bishops way of saying,
      whatever social commentary he makes, he doesn't forget he is Catholic and a shepherd

    • Strange Notions raises questions and topics that are generally of interest to both Catholics and atheists. The Jordan Peterson phenomenon and Biblical interpretation are topics fit that bill.

      Not every article here is explicitly addressed to one group or even both. But as always, if it's not a topic that interests you, perhaps just not comment on it.

      • David Nickol

        I thought this was a good piece for a Strange Notions post. It is my understanding that Jordan Peterson may very well be an atheist (or perhaps an agnostic). I see that Rob Abney, who has recommended Peterson in previous threads, says above, "I get the distinct impression that he considers the archetypal stories to be true in every way even historically." This is in contrast to Bishop Barron's statement in the OP as follows: " In a word, I have the same concern about Peterson that I have about both Campbell and Jung, namely, the Gnosticizing tendency to read Biblical religion purely psychologically and philosophically and not at all historically." Based on what little I have seen of Peterson's biblical analysis, I think Bishop Barron is correct and Mr. Abney mistaken.

        • Rob Abney

          Bishop Barron says that he could back up his claim by writing more about it and I would appreciate his further discussion of it. But when you say that Peterson is an atheist or agnostic you don’t clarify how you came to such a conclusion. Can you elaborate?
          Peterson himself has said that he doesn’t believe there are really any atheists, “you can only find out what you really believe by watching how you act”. His public actions have been Christian, including his humble approach to Cathy Newman.

          • David Nickol

            But when you say that Peterson is an atheist or agnostic you don’t clarify how you came to such a conclusion. Can you elaborate?

            Here is a snippet from an interview in which Peterson is at best evasive about whether or not he is a Christian:

            You call yourself a Christian?
            I don’t; other people do.
            Do you object to that?
            I don’t object to it, but it’s complicated.

            And here is a snippet from an interview in which he is asked whether he believes in God:

            Are you a Christian? Do you believe in God?
            I think the proper response to that is No, but I’m afraid He might exist.

            There is an article in The Federalist (which is so conservative that I look at it only a few times a year) titled Is Dr. Jordan Peterson A Gateway Drug to Christianity, Or Just A Highbrow Joel Osteen? Since Peterson is at present a kind of conservative hero, one might expect The Federalist to praise him. However, here is the conclusion:

            Peterson gets ever so close to this confidence, but because of his a priori embrace of Darwinism, his raft must fall apart. With his focus on the psychological, the best Peterson can provide is temporary avoidance of psychological pathology, something he does quite well. But as far as big questions are concerned, docking at Peterson’s harbor can only be temporary.

            Eventually the undercurrents of the nihilistic tsunami reach the shallow waters of his safe harbor and toss all ships therein ashore. Why? Because to reduce the foundational truths of the Christian faith to mere psychological projection can work for awhile, but how long can one play pretend with his own mind?

            In the end, Peterson’s fundamental argument, though profound, falls flat. His psychological advice, while insightful, makes him little more than a highbrow Joel Osteen. Still, his defense of the West against the leftist ideologies of the day is fresh, and well worth the investment in time.

          • David Nickol

            Bishop Barron says that he could back up his claim by writing more about it and I would appreciate his further discussion of it.

            Yes, by all means. I would be fascinated to hear what Bishop Baron has to say. I have a very strong suspicion that I would be more in sympathy with Bishop Baron on this matter than you. Although his piece above is very positive, his reservations strike me as very serious ones indeed. You think Peterson believes the Bible stories as literally true. I think he considers them to be very powerful and true myths.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I think Bishop Barron is correct and Mr. Abney mistaken.

          For the short version of the answer to this question, see this interview excerpt:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0O8Jw6grro

          Based on that, it seems to me that Rob and Bishop Barron are both somewhat mistaken (in different ways). He certainly does not yet have any strong positive belief in the historical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. But nor does he seem to have a "tendency to read Biblical religion purely psychologically and philosophically and not at all historically." He is very aware that something very important may hinge on the historicity aspect, and he is admirably humble and sincerely curious on this point. See especially his discussion of his Catholic friend, starting around 5:27.

          Separate point, but I also found this to be excellent, and probably of interest to some readers here:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwi9Q9apHGI

          • David Nickol

            I have watched the first video. The second video is identical to the first, so there is some problem with your links.

            Having watched a number of videos and read a number of articles, I think it is wise to be extremely cautious about attributing any particular view on religion (or anything else) without acknowledging that his views are very unique and complex, and his understanding of the terms he uses may be very different from your understanding. I also suspect he is not necessarily always consistent. For example, I saw a Youtube video (titled Am I Christian? | Timothy Lott and Jordan B Peterson) in which Peterson is asked if he believes in the Resurrection of Jesus. He thinks long and hard and eventually says, "Well, the first answer is it depends on what you mean by Jesus." (I can imagine some will be reminded of Clinton saying it depends on what the meaning of "is" is.) After it is established that the historical figure of Jesus, having a material body, who dies is what is meant, he says, "I would say that I am agnostic about that issue."

            Now, I am presuming, based on what little I know so far (and it is admittedly very little), that if he ever does get to an answer, it is not going to be yes or no. It is going to be something very deep sounding (and perhaps maybe even very deep) about consciousness, embodiment, time, space, what it means to be alive, what it means to be dead, and so on, and so on. For a believing Christian, the question of whether or not Jesus rose from the dead has three possible answers: "Yes," "No," and "I don't know." It is not a question to which you can say, "Now let me think really hard about my own personal answer to that, so I can find a personal understanding and say I assent to my own understanding." St. Paul says (to paraphrase), "If Christ has not been raised, just forget it all." He doesn't say, "Think for a few years to see if you can find some deep meaning in the idea of resurrection so that you can claim to believe it."

            By the way, in the video you link to, he clearly says he is not arguing in favor of the existence of God. He is arguing that our whole understanding of morality is based on something transcendent which can be called God, and if you deny that transcendence, all morality collapses and is without foundation. I think it is quite possible that Peterson's idea of God is very different from yours. Nothing he says is simple.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            that if he ever does get to an answer, it is not going to be yes or no.

            That's precisely what I was trying to convey, and what I think is abundantly evident from the first video that I linked.

            St. Paul says (to paraphrase), "If Christ has not been raised, just forget it all." He doesn't say, "Think for a few years to see if you can find some deep meaning in the idea of resurrection so that you can claim to believe it."

            Right. And this also is what I was trying to convey about the linked video when I wrote that Peterson, "is very aware that something very important may hinge on the historicity aspect, and he is admirably humble and sincerely curious on this point."

            He is arguing that our whole understanding of morality is based on something transcendent which can be called God,

            I can't delineate that view in any substantial way from my own, so I think it is in fact unlikely that his idea of God is very different from mine. I think it is much more likely that his idea of God is different from what others may think my idea of God is, because I self-identify as Catholic and because they think have a clear idea of what that means.

            Here let me try again with the link:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=q0O8Jw6grro

          • David Nickol

            he is admirably humble and sincerely curious on this point

            Humble? Hah!

            It seems to me he refuses to assent to basic Christian doctrines not because he is humble, but because he must reformulate everything in his own terms. That seems arrogant to me. I think "Do you believe in God?" or "Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?" are rather simple questions for the vast majority of Christians. No one should need to ask, "What do you mean by Jesus?" He seems to want to ask what is meant by Jesus, believe, life, death, resurrection, and he reserves the right to give all of those concepts his own personal meaning.

            If I say, "I believe in God" or "I believe Jesus rose from the dead," I think it is arrogant and deceptive for me to have my own personal concept of each and every word in the sentences that means something different for me than for anyone else.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think "Do you believe in God?" or "Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?" are rather simple questions for the vast majority of Christians.

            This is false to the point of absurdity, and I can't believe it is coming from you. A couple thousand years of Christian (and non-Christian) culture has produced untold tomes of theological reflection, the whole point of which is to understand and articulate what we mean when we name "God", and it has likewise produced untold tomes of Christological reflection, the whole point of which is to understand and articulate what we mean when we refer to "The Christ". I don't doubt that there are some ignorant people who think that these terms can be simply understood, but I think it is absurd to claim that this accounts for the vast majority of Christians.

            I submit that the vast majority of Christians have only a very vague sense of what they are talking about ... but that most (not all) of them still know what they are talking about.

            It's like this. My daughter once asked me: "Dad, there is a weird, brownish grey-ish blobby thing on the lower shelf of the kitchen cabinet. Should I throw it out?" My response included:

            1. No, that is called "ginger".
            2. It is a root vegetable.
            3. You actually know the taste of it. It is a very prominent flavor in a stir-fry that you really like.

            Although she had only been able to describe, in the vaguest of terms, and without naming it, that which she encountered after a particular line of inquiry, that was enough for me to translate her experience of a particular aspect of reality and correlate it with my own experience of that same reality ... and even correlate it with other aspects of her own experience of that same reality that previously seemed disconnected to her. She didn't know much about the thing that she was asking about ... but we both understood that about which she was asking. I think it is similar for most Christians and God. They do know that about which they are talking. They just don't know much about that about which they are talking.

          • DN: I think "Do you believe in God?" or "Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?" are rather simple questions for the vast majority of Christians.

            J(hc): This is false to the point of absurdity, and I can't believe it is coming from you. A couple thousand years of Christian (and non-Christian) culture has produced untold tomes of theological reflection, the whole point of which is to understand and articulate what we mean when we name "God", and it has likewise produced untold tomes of Christological reflection, the whole point of which is to understand and articulate what we mean when we refer to "The Christ". I don't doubt that there are some ignorant people who think that these terms can be simply understood, but I think it is absurd to claim that this accounts for the vast majority of Christians.

            I've been working my way through Anne E. Inman's Evidence and Transcendence: Religious Epistemology and the God-World Relationship (itself apropos to your bold) and she reminded me of Francis of Assisi and how he arguably opened up new vistas for the importance of the individual by doing precisely what you describe:

            For Francis of Assisi and his followers, however, Jesus the human individual became the object of the devotion. This turn to the individual removed whatever hesitations Western Christians might once have felt about expressing the God-bearing form. God's incarnation in an individual human nature religiously legitimated the uninhibited representation of the physical features of Christ and of those whose lives had been touched by them. It also granted individual form a definitiveness which it had not possessed before. Thus began a daring cosmic symbolism that endowed each facet of nature with inexhaustible expressiveness. Far from being added to nature, this symbolic potential constituted its very essence. To the medieval mind, nature appeared intrinsically symbolic. A merely literal reading of nature would have fallen far short of a full understanding. (Passage to Modernity, 36)

            Much more research is required, but it may be that we wouldn't have individualism as we know it today without this. Our current turn away from the individual and toward identity politics is a regression and it could end very badly. We Moderns are probably the best of all humans at all times of taking our current society for granted, as if human evolution were naturally going to bring us to political liberalism. (Simultaneously, our scientists deny that evolution is directed in any way; paradoxes abound per usual.) For more on this topic, see Moral Topography, a chapter in Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self.

            By the way, the standard naturalistic way of understanding Jesus in a historical/​literal fashion would have his death and resurrection be causally disconnected from normativity today. It is not that we ought to act such and such a way because Jesus did thus and so. Modernity's way of understanding history and causation and personhood and relationship prevents any rich connections from being made between Jesus' life, death, and resurrection—except of the 100% subjective connections which are subject to no rules and can be made up at people's whims. I have suspicions that this is incredibly damaging to human psychology. (I suspect Liah Greenfeld pushes in this direction with her 2013 Mind, Modernity, Madness: The Impact of Culture on Human Experience.)

            Finally, from Timothy Ware, a bishop in the Eastern Orthodox Church:

                The life of the Church in the earlier Byzantine period is dominated by the seven general councils. These councils fulfilled a double task. First, they clarified and articulated the visible organization of the Church, crystallizing the position of the five great sees or Patriarchates, as they came to be known. Secondly, and most important, the councils defined once and for all the Church's teaching upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith—the Trinity and the Incarnation. All Christians agree in regarding these things as 'mysteries' which lie beyond human understanding and language. The bishops, when they drew up definitions at the councils, did not imagine that they had explained the mystery; they merely sought to exclude certain false ways of speaking and thinking about it. To prevent people from deviating into error and heresy, they drew a fence around the mystery; that was all. (The Orthodox Church, 10)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Re: your third paragraph ("By the way, the standard naturalistic way ..."), I think that is correct.

            I'll have to let David confirm or deny this, but I suspect that he suspects me of trying to subjectivize the Resurrection. The reasoning seems to be something like: either one holds to a literal "common sense" reading, or else one is trying to subjectivize the whole thing. I claim that I'm doing neither one of those. I just plain reject that scheme as a complete partition of the possibilities.

            If we are to believe the experiences of the Gospel witnesses at all, we do have to concede (as David correctly points out) that they are clearly not reducible to something like "a summary of insights and feelings in the wake of Jesus's passing". Something completely extraordinary and surprising grasped them and radically re-centered their lives on their experience of Jesus. I get that. But, it doesn't follow from that that their reportage can be interpreted in a straightforward literal way. On the contrary, it seems to me that it's not just that something unusual happened; it's that whatever happened, it was sufficiently discontinuous with our everyday experiences that they didn't even have all the right categories of thought to describe it. If that's the case, then we can't possibly interpret it in a straightforward way while remaining faithful to the text.

          • I'll have to let David confirm or deny this, but I suspect that he suspects me of trying to subjectivize the Resurrection. The reasoning seems to be something like: either one holds to a literal "common sense" reading, or else one is trying to subjectivize the whole thing. I claim that I'm doing neither one of those. I just plain reject that scheme as a complete partition of the possibilities.

            Heh, this is basically the scheme George Lindbeck objects to in his 1984 The Nature of Doctrine (2000 'citations'). Arguably Tim Crane attempted to get at this issue with his 2017 The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist's Point of View. I came across that over on The Secular Outpost via Keith Parsons' How Atheists get it Wrong, According to Tim Crane. In the comments I tried to push the idea that Lindbeck had put his finger on the problem 33 years before Crane and that should give us pause.

            Instead of take seriously the possibility that theologians may have said some useful things, @BradleyBowen:disqus (another regular contributor to SO) pivoted immediately from the objective/​cognitive/​propositional view to the subjective/​experiential-expressive view. He carved reality up into those two halves, and in the course of the discussion, maintained that it was legitimate and helpful to do so. He especially balked at the following:

                In a Hellenistic environment, knowledge is true if it leads us into goodness, making us happy and good. The idea that knowing good things makes us good implies continuity between the knower and what she knows. It is not simply to be cognizant of the truth but to be assimilated into it. (But Is It All True?, 144–145)

            Anyone sufficiently interested can go read the subsequent discussion; my point is to question whether your interlocutor can tolerate the above "Hellenistic environment". If [s]he cannot, I'd like to suggest that you're dealing with Cartesian dualism, perhaps the cryptic version. If subjectivity is sufficiently disconnected from objectivity for David's scheme to hold, then you have something sufficiently similar to Cartesian dualism for some massive critique.

            Jordan Peterson seems like precisely the person who would strongly disbelieve that subjectivity is lawless in the a way similar to how Descartes' mind could be arbitrarily disconnected from his body (and therefore, from physical law—which only ruled the 'body' half). But the way he may be approaching things is via figuring out the "structure of subjectivity" bits at a time, and that he may be rather far from figuring out how to attach that structure to physical law.

            On the contrary, it seems to me that it's not just that something unusual happened; it's that whatever happened, it was sufficiently discontinuous with our everyday experiences that they didn't even have all the right categories of thought to describe it. If that's the case, then we can't possibly interpret it in a straightforward way while remaining faithful to the text.

            I'm not quite sure I agree; I think the bit about bodily resurrection is fairly straightforward. But the bare fact of miracle is merely a signal to "pay attention"; I read Revelation 13 as suggesting that another resurrection will happen and it will not be via the power of God. What was radically new to Jesus' disciples was that Jesus advanced a radically different … template for human existence, one which laughs at the standard tool of political power: the threat of annihilation. This template is also the opposite of Vanguardism, where the rulers benefit while the ruled suffer. Jesus turned that absolutely upside-down (Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20). We continue to chafe against that today:

                How truly intolerable, then, is a message, and even more so a life, that centers on weakness. Not sacrifice on behalf of a cause that one wants to bring to success, but in all truth love for nothing, faith for nothing, giving for nothing, service for nothing. Putting others above oneself. In all things seeking the interests of others. When dragged before courts, not attempting any defense but leaving it to the Holy Spirit. The renunciation of power is infinitely broader and harder than nonviolence (which it includes). For nonviolence allows of a social theory, and in general it has an objective. The same is not true of nonpower. Thus the revelation of X cannot but repel fundamentally people of all ages and all cultures. (The Subversion of Christianity, 166)

            N.B. Ellul thinks the word 'Christianity' has been so mangled that he uses 'X' instead: "First, the revelation and work of God accomplished in Jesus Christ, second, the being of the church as the body of Christ, and third, the faith and life of Christians in truth and love." (11)

            When Jesus' life and death and [bodily!] resurrection are not accompanied by the above, I don't see why it's worth believing. I even wonder if God ensured that "the physical evidence" would not suffice when divorced from the normative dimension of human existence and divorced from our relationship with God. (Alternatively, humans back then didn't slice up reality like we do and thus did not deem it important to write history as we think it ought to be written.) There is also the problem that at its core, science is about giving us power over reality—to dominate it. That's pretty much the opposite of what Jesus did: he gives us power to serve creation. Jordan Peterson may be keying into that, but from a rather nontraditional direction. I hope he is!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm not quite sure I agree; I think the bit about bodily resurrection is fairly straightforward.

            You are right. I was overstating my case. They did seem to have all the necessary perceptual categories. Or, at least, you don't find any Gospel writers saying, "We couldn't even find the words to describe what was happening."

            But do you think that they had all the necessary conceptual categories to describe it? And, more importantly, do you think that all of the necessary conceptual categories exist in contemporary Western culture? And on the specific point I was driving at, that "matter" is now defined methodologically, in terms of measurability: do you think that Christ's resurrected body was measurable / quantifiable? (Or that any claim was being made to that effect?)

          • David Nickol

            do you think that Christ's resurrected body was measurable / quantifiable? (Or that any claim was being made to that effect?)

            Do you mean could they have ordered Him a new pair of sandals and a robe from L. L. Bean?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yeah, I guess :-)

            I can imagine it might seem silly that I'm pursuing this particular line of questioning, but here's what I'm getting at:

            A major upshot of Trinitarian belief is that God is fundamentally relational. The heart of reality is relational. So, if the heart of reality is revealed in the Resurrection, can one then apprehend that reality in a purely objective fashion? Measurement is at least an attempt to treat aspects of reality in a purely objective fashion, so that's why I am focusing on this issue.

            Actually there are other reasons I'm focusing on this as well, but I'll leave it at that for now.

          • They did seem to have all the necessary perceptual categories.

            Yep, and this is important. It is fashionable among some atheists to pretend that the Jews were easily fooled by tricks/​cognitive biases. One version has them not knowing that people don't come back from the dead; another has them so devastated by Jesus' death that they collectively hallucinated his resurrection. In contrast, we have the tomb being guarded by the Romans at the behest of the Jewish rulers because both groups wanted to avoid this very phenomenon. People back then were not as stupid as we sometimes tell ourselves. It holds together plenty well.

            [1] But do you think that they had all the necessary conceptual categories to describe it? [2] And, more importantly, do you think that all of the necessary conceptual categories exist in contemporary Western culture?

            [1] No. [2] I suspect we've destroyed or at least buried many of the conceptual categories figured out between Jesus' time and now. From what I can tell, Jordan Peterson is trying to put the pieces together after A Canticle for Leibowitz happened to our self-understanding. I'm drawing heavily on MacIntyre's After Virtue, but also on the self-righteous tenor of the [post]modern West. We humans are both better and worse than the dominant tales of [post]modernity. There's more raw potential than most seem to believe (Peterson believes this), and yet we're more screwed up (technically: irreparable sin) than we want to admit. But here's the cool thing: Peterson seems to have a captive audience who may be happy to admit that—or something like it.

            do you think that Christ's resurrected body was measurable / quantifiable?

            Sure, but perhaps it had (has) qualities we could not even now measure. Jesus demonstrated to his disciples that he wasn't a ghost by being his normal self: asking for something to eat. :-) Thomas wanted to play doctor on Jesus' pierced side, but that's a lower bar of evidence than I've seen demanded by any atheist so it's hard for me to be hard on him.

            I think it's important to emphasize that Jesus' physical resurrection is anti-Gnostic: it is a demonstration that God still loves creation and that the Greek tendency to devalue matter is not God's way. We humans love scapegoating and one of our targets is matter. In contrast, Claude Tresmontant writes: "Only the Hebrew tradition energetically asserts the creation of reality. It alone uncompromisingly affirms the goodness of reality, in the sensible world, of created things." (A Study of Hebrew Thought, 11)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            He seems to want to ask what is meant by Jesus, believe, life, death, resurrection,

            He most surely should ask what is meant by all of these terms, as should anyone who gives these things a moment's reflection. None of those terms have clear and unambiguous meanings. None of them. Moreover, nothing that really matters can be defined with absolute clarity. What does my own name refer to? Does it refer simply to my body as a physical object? Does it refer to the collection of immeasurable qualitative experiences that "I" have had? Does it refer to a particular pattern of information? These are perfectly reasonable questions to ask, and it is perfectly unreasonable not to ask them.

            he reserves the right to give all of those concepts his own personal meaning.

            I guess you'll have to show me where he does that. What I see him doing is questioning and seeking to understand what these terms mean from an "emic" perspective in the culture that produced them, and acknowledging that he does not yet fully understand that perspective.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If I say, "I believe in God" or "I believe Jesus rose from the dead," I think it is arrogant and deceptive for me to have my own personal concept of each and every word in the sentences that means something different for me than for anyone else.

            That is certainly true. It is also arrogant and (unintentionally) deceptive and breathtakingly common to assume that each and every word means the same thing to you that it means or meant within the culture whose claims are being evaluated.

            Secular culture simply does not have the same semantic ecosystem as does traditional Catholicism. Spirit means something different. Matter means something different. God means something different. Freedom means something different. Natural and supernatural mean something different, and the list goes on. For this reason, even many Catholics who live in a primarily secular culture do not understand the semantic ecosystem of traditional Catholicism. And so many secularists and many fundamentalist Protestants, and yes even many contemporary Catholics are unable to properly evaluate the claims of Catholicism as expressed in the language of traditional Catholicism.

            In contrast to traditionalists, I would not propose that everyone must therefore learn the language of traditional Catholicism. I'm pretty sure that's just not gonna happen. I think it falls to Catholics to re-express their claims, as much as possible, in terms that are comprehensible in a modern secular environment. However, it likewise falls to any non-Catholics who are interested in sincere dialogue to listen with a sympathetic ear to those who would attempt such translations, and to not assume that the would-be-translator is being disingenuous or unfaithful to the traditional formulations. It is possible that the translator is actually competent to straddle the traditional and contemporary worlds and deliver new understandings that, while surprising, actually have fidelity to the traditional faith content.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If words did not have common meanings, communication would be impossible. We all know that different people have different nuances of understanding of terms. But if the uniqueness of each person's definitions were insurmountable obstacles to speech, we would all be the incommunicable products of a literal Tower of Babel.

            But, having taught philosophy for longer than I have been alive (!), I assure you that students can quickly grasp the meaning of basic terms -- enough to decide that they disagree with what I am saying, if that be the case. That is why we define terms, and why dictionaries are useful. If even the definitions were totally unintelligible, the publishers of dictionaries would go out of business.

            We all know quite well what is meant by saying that Jesus actually lived in past history, that Christians are marked by the strange belief that Christ is actually God, and that there is a classic understanding of God that most all philosophers share. The last is true so much so that, when someone wants to posit a different notion of God, they will immediately say, "Well, I believe in God, but my concept of God is x, y, or z, which differs from the traditional concept."

            It would not be at all hard for Dr. Peterson to say directly that he believes that the classical God of Western philosophers is real or not real. If he means he is not quite sure whether that classical God exists, he should just say so.

            Despite the legitimate points you make in your comment here, I also think that David Nickol's prior comment was essentially on target.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            there is a classic understanding of God that most all philosophers share

            But "most philosophers" is not his audience, and I think he is quite right that many in his audience would imagine that he is instead talking about some disapproving old man in the sky type thing. So, again this is a cross-cultural thing. Words that have a particular meaning in the culture of academic philosophy do not convey the same meaning in popular culture. One has to take into account the interpretive framework of one's audience, especially in the situation where one doesn't have a whole semester to disabuse them of their preconceptions.

            And the "belief in God" question is actually a relatively easy one, for the reasons you mention. This thread began by discussing Peterson's understanding of the historicity of certain aspects of the Bible, where the ambiguities are far greater and the conveyance of subtlety are harder.

            To elaborate that last point: Catholic catechesis states that that the Resurrection was not merely a resuscitation back to the same material type of existence. There was something super-material about it. And yet, I have seen even very well-informed and sophisticated commenters here who evaluate the plausibility of the Resurrection exactly as if it were a resuscitation back to the same material type of existence. They are very clearly evaluating a claim that just isn't the Gospel claim, which is hardly surprising given their cultural presuppositions. So here again I would say that it is quite reasonable -- for anyone -- when asked about his or her belief in the Resurrection, to respond: "It depends what you are imagining when you ask that question."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think a much more illuminative response would be to express in clear terms exactly what one does believe -- at least in broad terms. Anyone with Dr. Peterson's skills could well do that, instead of essentially ducking the question by translating it into an epistemological enigma. Indeed, most philosophers do exactly what I just described. They would say that "this is my understanding of the term, "God," and I do not believe that such a being actually exists.

            We can always define what our words mean and state our position regarding such concepts. Just saying, "No one will ever fully understand me," does not really help a questioner.

            If you know that such terms as "resurrection" are commonly misunderstood, the obligation is to define your terms so as to remove the impediments to understanding. My point is that it really isn't all that hard. Frequently, miscommunications can be remedied in relatively few words or sentences.

          • I think a much more illuminative response would be to express in clear terms exactly what one does believe -- at least in broad terms. Anyone with Dr. Peterson's skills could well do that, instead of essentially ducking the question by translating it into an epistemological enigma. Indeed, most philosophers do exactly what I just described. They would say that "this is my understanding of the term, "God," and I do not believe that such a being actually exists.

            What about the possibility that the entire scheme you've put forward—which seems reminiscent of Descartes's 'clear and distinct ideas'—is just toxic, when made a dominant mode of understanding reality and ourselves instead of just a tool in our philosophical toolboxes? I'm reminded of the following, which might perhaps get some empathy from you:

                The assumption that there is an exclusive dichotomy between the formal and the physiological is, in our view, an error of enormous consequence. We shall maintain that the most important metascientific concepts with which philosophy deals, such as cause, law, explanation, theory, evidence, natural necessity, and the like, have not been shown to be capable of adequate characterisation in wholly formal terms. We hold that adequate accounts of those concepts which are neither purely formal nor simply psychological can be achieved by attention to the third element in our intellectual economy, namely the content of our knowledge, content which goes beyond the reports of immediate experience. We shall show in a wide variety of cases that the concepts with which we are concerned, and particularly the concept of Causality, can be adequately differentiated, the rationality of science defended, and the possibility of the world preserved only by attending to certain general features of the content of causal propositions by which they can ultimately be distinguished as having a conceptual necessity, irreducible either to logical necessity or to psychological illusion. In this way we resolve many of the problems which the tradition has bequeathed us. (Causal Powers: Theory of Natural Necessity, 2–3)

            If causation in objective reality is this complex, what about causation in subjectivity? Maybe it's actually terribly murky. Maybe the idea that we can do better than Dr. Peterson is doing is a reason that Modernity is so sickly right now.

            We can always define what our words mean and state our position regarding such concepts. Just saying, "No one will ever fully understand me," does not really help a questioner.

            First, Revelation 2:17 seems to pose a problem. Second, there is the problem of the unarticulated background. Third, the quotes from Aristotle and Russell in the first two pages of de Koninck's The Unity and Diversity of Natural Science seems to belie your claim.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I still think that Dr. Peterson could simply have referred to the classical philosophical concept of God, well known not only to philosophers but to most laymen as well, and said clearly either that he believed in such a Being or not.

            Formal abstraction always leaves behind some of the reality to which it refers. Otherwise, it would not be an "abstraction"-- from "abs -- trahere, "to drag away from."

            Nonetheless, we do communicate by using words whose conceptual content is based on intellectual abstraction. Despite any unarticulated background, Christ taught in clear terms to the people. When he told them that "before Abraham, I AM," the Jews had no trouble understanding his implication of self-divinity and sought to attack him. When he told his disciples before his ascension to go and preach to all nations, he did not suggest that they needed to take good courses in philosophical semantics before doing so.

            I wish I could see the de Koninck text citing Aristotle and Russell to which you link me, but my computer says that site is too dangerous to open! I cannot find the title on Amazon books and I am not sure if its author is Charles de Koninck, or his son, Thomas.

            Nonetheless, I was a student in the graduate philosophy classes of Dr. Charles de Koninck at the University of Notre Dame for two years in the early 1960s. I do not think he had any problem with communicating his thoughts clearly, while being in no danger of becoming a Cartesian.

            In fact, I recall an example he gave to show how a concept can have clear meaning even when its marginal applications are difficult. He gave the example of what it means to be "alive." While viruses appeared to stand at a confusing margin between life and non-life, he said that one can see the clear distinction by taking evident extremes, say, a human being and a stone. I am not defending his example here, but it does appear to show that abstracting from the complexity of the object under consideration does not prevent one from getting a concept that is useful for communication and founded on extramental reality.

            It simply isn't that hard for a philosopher or any other human being to say whether he believes in such realities as God or the spirituality of the human soul -- even if we sometimes have to clarify our exact definitions of these terms to others,

          • I still think that Dr. Peterson could simply have referred to the classical philosophical concept of God, well known not only to philosophers but to most laymen as well, and said clearly either that he believed in such a Being or not.

            I am skeptical of your claim that most laypersons are well-aware of the God of the philosophers. I'm not convinced that has ever been true. One way to find out would be to ask people to compare & contrast Jesus and God the Father.

            Despite any unarticulated background, Christ taught in clear terms to the people.

            That's not how I understand the following:

            And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

                “‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
                    and may indeed hear but not understand,
                lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
            (Mark 4:10–12)

            Or:

            So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. …” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:53–60)

            Even the Beatitudes have been widely interpreted. The disciples themselves did not understand a great amount of what Jesus was doing until after he had been resurrected and appeared to them.

            I wish I could see the de Koninck text citing Aristotle and Russell to which you link me, but my computer says that site is too dangerous to open!

            The paper is by Charles de Koninck. I've excerpted the first two pages at the end of my comment.

            It simply isn't that hard for a philosopher or any other human being to say whether he believes in such realities as God or the spirituality of the human soul -- even if we sometimes have to clarify our exact definitions of these terms to others.

            I don't see how this can be true given John 8:31–47. Jesus seems to be saying that some of his audience claimed to be following God when they were actually following Satan! This seems similar to how "the temple of the LORD" had taken on an inverted meaning in Jeremiah 7. The following seems like a distinct possibility:

            Woe to those who call evil good
                and good evil,
            who put darkness for light
                and light for darkness,
            who put bitter for sweet
                and sweet for bitter!
            (Isaiah 5:20)

            There is also Psalm 50:16–23, especially v21b: "you thought that I was one like yourself". For more, see Creating God in your own image (referenced science paper: Believers' estimates of God's beliefs are more egocentric than estimates of other people's beliefs).

             
            Charles de Koninck:

            The Unity and Diversity of Natural Science
            ON THE QUESTION of where the study of nature should begin, Aristotle’s teaching is clear and familiar. His first treatise on natural science, the Physics, tells us, at the very beginning, that the investigation of nature must

            start from the things which are more knowable and certain to us and proceed towards those which are clearer and more certain in themselves; for the same things are not “knowable relatively to us” and “knowable” absolutely. So in the present inquiry we must follow this method and advance from what is more obscure by nature, but more certain to us, towards what is more certain and more knowable by nature.—Now what is to us plain and obvious at first is rather confused wholes, the elements and principles of which become known to us later by analysis. Thus we must advance from [vague] generalities to particulars. For it is a [vague] whole that is more known to sense perception, and a generality is likewise a kind of whole, comprising many things within it, like parts. Much the same happens in relation of the name to the definition. A name, such as “circle,” means vaguely a sort of whole: the definition analyses this whole into its parts [i.e. defining parts]. Similarly a child begins by calling all men “father,” and all women “mother,” but later on distinguishes each of them.[1]

                Should the thought occur to us that modem science may have rendered this mode of procedure obsolete, just as it has invalidated much of Aristotle’s cosmology, we shall find no support for our suspicion in one of the more advanced expositors of the scientific outlook, namely Lord Russell. Just last year, he wrote of a “prejudice” which he describes as “perhaps the most important in all my thinking.”

            … This is concerned with method. My method invariably is to start from something vague but puzzling, something which seems indubitable but which I cannot express with any precision. I go through a process which is like that of first seeing something with the naked eye and then examining it through a microscope. I find that by fixity of attention divisions and distinctions appear where none at first was visible, just as through a microscope you can see the bacilli in impure water which without the microscope are not discernible. There are many who decry analysis, but it has seemed to me evident, as in the case of the impure water, that analysis gives new knowledge without destroying any of the previously existing knowledge. This applies not only to the structure of physical things, but quite as much to concepts. ‘Knowledge,’ for example, as commonly used is a very imprecise term covering a number of different things and a number of stages from certainty to slight probability.
                It seems to me that philosophical investigation, as far as I have experience of it, starts from that curious and unsatisfactory state of mind in which one feels complete certainty without being able to say what one is certain of. The process that results from prolonged attention is just like that of watching an object approaching through a thick fog: at first it is only a vague darkness, but as it approaches articulations appear and one discovers that it is a man or a woman, or a horse or a cow or what not. It seems to me that those who object to analysis would wish us to be content with the initial dark blur. Belief in the above process is my strongest and most unshakable prejudice as regards the methods of philosophical investigation.[2]

                Now, what can such a mode of procedure have to do with our question, which is where we ought to begin a study of nature? The method described means that we should begin with generalities which, though vague, are quite certain. Of course no intellect with a speculative vitality can rest in these generalities however reassuring in their certainty. The mind wants to know as much as it can about as much as there is to know. Knowledge, as we progress, must become more and more specific and detailed. The real question is, ought we to make some formal, radical, distinction between our first approach to nature, with its vague certainties, and the more particular knowledge acquired as we move forward? (The Unity and Diversity of Natural Science)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Philosophy is challenging enough to the average person without making it even more esoteric and complicated than it need be.

            Again, if Christ's teachings to the multitude were so obscure as to be misleading, how could he, as God incarnate, have engaged in such deception? Rather, as is evident in the case of the parables, there is a surface teaching that the multitude came to hear, but then, he took the Apostles aside and gave to them the deeper, but never contradictory, meaning. If you read the synoptic gospels from beginning to end, you can see that Jesus took to himself twelve men -- men whom he taught, as the first seminarians, in deeper, but not contradictory, fashion to the public in general. He later ordained them, gave them the power to forgive sins as did he himself, and sent them out to teach all men all things that he had taught them -- an oral tradition and magisterial authority existing even before the existence of the New Testament.

            What you cite from Dr. Charles de Koninck is to me like going back to my old home town. I have forever known that the philosophical sciences proceed from what is first known as to us to that which is most knowable in itself. I knew that I must have learned something from sitting in his class for two years! Thanks for reminding me of where I got that truth so deeply ingrained in my understanding.

            But, just as with the authentic development of dogma, what we come to learn on deeper reflection does not contradict what we initially knew, but rather refines and adds proper distinctions not initially comprehended.

            To cut to the chase here, you challenge my "claim that most laypersons are well-aware of the God of the philosophers?" Then please explain what St. Thomas meant when he ends each of his famous five ways to prove God's existence with the declaration "... and this is what all men call God." (S.T.I, q.2, a.3, c.)

            The mere fact that this common understanding of God, which at least applied to the Western culture in which we still reside, had to have further refinement and clarification, in no way undercuts the truth that the nominal definition initially given in the quinque viae had as its referent the same God that all men understood when they used the term, "God." Otherwise, St. Thomas could not have said what he said.

            If St. Thomas could do it, why cannot Dr. Peterson?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Then please explain what St. Thomas meant when he ends each of his famous five ways to prove God's existence with the declaration "... and this is what all men call God.

            I think what he meant was: "... and this is what all men in the thirteenth century call God."

            It just isn't what most people call God anymore.

            Consider part of one of David Nickol's recent responses to me:

            [Jordan Peterson] is not arguing in favor of the existence of God. He is arguing that our whole understanding of morality is based on something transcendent which can be called [implication: can be disingenuously called] God, and if you deny that transcendence, all morality collapses and is without foundation. I think it is quite possible that Peterson's idea of God is very different from yours.

            In other words, David is saying, "Peterson is arguing for some transcendent grounding of all moral striving ... but that's probably not what you or most people mean by God"!! So, we arrive at exactly the same terminus as Aquinas's argument from desire, but whereas Aquinas said, "and this all men call God", David is saying, "and this is probably different from what most men call God."

            And this is from David Nickol, who is one of the most educated and sophisticated contributors here.

          • Rob Abney

            I think what he meant was: "... and this is what all men in the thirteenth century call God."
            It just isn't what most people call God anymore.

            Jim, I've no doubt that when St. Thomas said "this is what all men call God" he was well aware that "all" didn't refer to everyone. He had to be aware of the invincibly ignorant as well as the willfully blind. And to say that he would limit his understanding to the 13th century would be to absurdly say that he expected his understandings to no longer apply afterwards. He did have tough competition afterwards in the form of the anti-Catholic reformers who sought to ridicule his work as well as from the enlightenment philosophers who tried to forget his work rather than make valid arguments against it. Fortunately for us he didn't take the same approach to the centuries old work of Aristotle.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If you want a lot of great insight into the ways that our conceptual furniture has been rearranged since Aquinas, I would highly recommend A Secular Age, by Charles Taylor.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Actually, if one wishes to be precise, the conclusion of each of St. Thomas' Five Ways is a bit different. We have, in order, (1) a first mover unmoved, (2) a first cause uncaused, (3) a necessary being that accounts for its own necessity, (4) a first cause of the being, goodness, nobility, and so fourth found in all things, and (5) an intelligent being that directs all things to their natural ends. Now these descriptions do not sound immediately like what most people think of as God. So, St. Thomas merely says that these are different designations for what all men call "God." It is a nominal definition. It does not mean that all men would necessarily know God by these functions, but simply that the being which does these things happens to be the same single entity and that this entity happens to be the same being that men call God. It is not until a couple questions later that St. Thomas explicitly proves that this being is the God of Christianity.

            So, when he says that "this is what all men call God," St. Thomas is indicating that (1) there is a common understanding of what God is, and that (2) the being that plays these particular roles manifested in each of the Five Ways happens to be that same being we call God.

            Given that many people have somewhat confused notions of God today, there probably is (1) a least common denominator of a meaning for some ultimate being that is responsible for the what makes the world exist and run, and
            (2) that is what all men call God. If that be the case, then St. Thomas' nominal definition of God probably fits, not only the men of his century, but of ours as well.

            After all, Gallup took a poll in 2016 and found that most all people still believe in "God," and the poll did not even clearly define the meaning of the word, "God."

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It is a nominal definition. It does not mean that all men would necessarily know God by these functions, but simply that the being which does these things happens to be the same single entity and that this entity happens to be the same being that men call God.

            OK, that makes sense and sounds right to me. But assuming (as I do) that Aquinas was successful in making that last identification, that would have been a matter not primarily of philosophy, but more of just being reasonably attuned to what regular people meant when they talked. (And yes, to your point, and Rob's, we can't speak monolithically about "regular people". Various understandings are more or less common depending where one lives, socioeconomics, education, etc.)

            Let me give you an example that might make clearer what I mean. If you've never seen or heard what Christopher Hitchens wrote and said about "the Numinous", just do a quick google with the string "Christopher Hitchens numinous". Because I (like many or most people, I expect) have sufficient overlap with Hitchens' experience of reality, and because I have sufficiently overlapping understanding of the words that he used, I know what he is talking about. And based on that, I am of the very strong opinion that he was talking about direct some sort of encounters with God. In Biblical language, one would say that God was speaking to him in those moments. Now, obviously, he absolutely would have refused that description. He would have found it preposterous and abhorrent to identify the object of his numinous experiences with the God of the Bible (and I'm sure I have just offended some readers by proposing this identification). But this, to me, is very much akin to the failures of identification that you mention. As you wrote: "It does not mean that all men would necessarily know God by these functions ...".

          • Rob Abney

            The daily readings address this issue, its been a problem far longer than just recently.
            This is the nation that does not listen
            to the voice of the LORD, its God,
            or take correction.
            Faithfulness has disappeared;
            the word itself is banished from their speech. (Jeremiah)

            Whoever is not with me is against me,
            and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (Luke)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            No doubt that is an issue as well, but that is not the issue that I'm trying to raise.

            The point that I'm making is that many people do have a sort of "anonymous" Christian faith that they no longer recognize as Christian.

            Christopher Hitchens clearly had fervent faith that whatever he did for the sake of truth (such as he perceived it) was not in vain. He acted as if it would somehow amount to something, some day, notwithstanding the presumed future heat death of the universe. He seems to have maintained that faith courageously even in the face of death.

            In an earlier age, the referents of "truth" and "God" were recognized to be one and the same. As such, Hitchens faith in the truth would have been recognized as a sort of fervent and sincere faith in God (however errant his particular intellectual conceptions of truth may have been).

            And yes, it is true that whoever is not with us is against us. The problem is that it is often far from clear, from our limited and sinful perspectives, who is with us and who is against us. Sometimes devils wear Roman collars and sometimes saints self-identify as atheists. I think this is why we are encouraged to let the tares grow with the wheat.

          • Rob Abney

            Jim, it may be hard to tell sometimes but an intentional and specific opposition to God cannot be overcome by a faith in truth. Especially when the reasoned truth about God has been made very accessible to learned men through Aquinas and many others. A rejection of those well supported truths based upon a lack of attempting to understand them goes directly against faith in truth.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The idea that it is even possible to have an an intentional and specific opposition to God while also having faith in truth is incoherent on a Biblical understanding of God.

            A rejection of those well supported truths based upon a lack of attempting to understand them goes directly against faith in truth.

            If you are so sure that lack of attempting to understand is the reason for the failure to understand, then we will have to just disagree and leave it at that. I know the lack of any specific Christian faith that I had over about the first half 3/4 of my own life, and I know it wasn't for lack of trying and I don't think it was because I am stupid either. I just found the God of Christianity to be totally unrecognizable and it was all so foreign to me that I couldn't even understand why most Christian dogma would matter one way or the other.

          • Rob Abney

            I never intend to imply that anyone is stupid or lazy or any such derogatory reasons for not understanding. But for in-depth discussions of God we cannot discount or disregard what has already been well-defined even if it seems ancient. That's my main point for replying to you initially.
            There seems to have been a difference between you and Hitchens as far as I can tell from a distance (I don't know either of you personally and even if I did I cannot judge your soul!); he misrepresented the understanding of God, and it was clear that he did not understand the basic demonstrations, and based upon this misrepresentation he abused his trusting admirers by telling us definitively that God is not great. And many of us believed him because we trusted him based upon his ability to speak the truth to many subjects.
            ("why" he didn't understand the basic demonstrations is beyond our ability to know).
            You may feel that you have led people who trusted you away from God while you were/are searching but your writing style indicates to me that you probably engage in more of a Socratic style that would allow others to come to their own conclusions even as you try to discover the truth yourself. And if you led anyone away you have time to lead them back because you do know the truth and the way even if it is hard to convey at times.

          • Rob Abney

            Jim, if you have time to listen to a podcast/soundcloud then you might enjoy this.
            Dr. Brad Gregory- "The Middle Ages: Dark Ages of Backwardness, Age of Catholic Harmony, or Neither?"
            https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-thomistic-institute/id820373598?mt=2&i=1000405150657

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I just found the God of Christianity to be totally unrecognizable and it was all so foreign to me that I couldn't even understand why most Christian dogma would matter one way or the other.

            I would say something similar to this now. I don't see how a belief in the transcendent has anything to do with not using condoms, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the Bible as special revelation, etc.

            These metaphysical exercises "demonstrating" a first cause that we call God are largely just mental exercises. I don't accept the background metaphysics and even if I did I do not think the philosopher God is Catholic God.

            When the theists on this forum begin to speculate about Satan, this life as an entrance exam, or the use of a condom with a hole poked through it to collect sperm samples, I know their view of the transcendent is at odds with any view of the transcendent that I could think is correct.

            SN bills itself as a dialogue between atheists and theists. I think the dialogue should really be about believers vs unbelievers. I could see myself identifying as something other than an atheist, but I could not see myself identifying as a Roman Catholic.

            I'm reminded of this song:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-BznQE6B8U

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            These metaphysical exercises "demonstrating" a first cause that we call God are largely just mental exercises.

            OK, but mental exercises aren't entirely irrelevant in life. Sometimes conceptual baggage can hold us back. Mental exercises can at least clear the path for experiencing new dimensions of reality.

            I don't accept the background metaphysics and even if I did I do not think the philosopher God is Catholic God.

            Then I would suggest just approaching those as two separate issues. Forget the "Catholic God" (at least for a while; then come back and reconsider :-) If you recognize the reality of the "philosopher God", then what seems to be the most promising path for experiencing that philosopher God as fully as possible? I know I was never able to look at Catholicism with fresh eyes until I had taken some courses in Buddhism and Hinduism. Maybe try something like that.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Sometimes conceptual baggage can hold us back. Mental exercises can at least clear the path for experiencing new dimensions of reality.

            Respectfully, I really don't think it is the non-believers that have the conceptual baggage when talking about God. I'm not trying to fit God into a Catholic paradigm.

            If you recognize the reality of the "philosopher God", then what seems to be the most promising path for experiencing that philosopher God as fully as possible?

            Mathematics, nature, music, art, ethics, and cultural mythology are all in some sense (to me anyway) transcendent. The only theologian that I really admire that speaks of God as being-itself is Tillich. I find more "God" in Shakespeare than religious rituals.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm not trying to fit God into a Catholic paradigm.

            Nor should you, nor should anyone. Nonetheless, for some of us, a sort of inchoate portrait of the logos of God emerges over time through our natural lived experiences, and then we find a completion of that portrait in the Gospels. But that is a recognition that the portrait fits the God that we already knew inchoately, it is not a "fitting" of God into the portrait.

            The only theologian that I really admire that speaks of God as being-itself is Tillich. I find more "God" in Shakespeare than religious rituals.

            No objections here! Go with that!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            What do you think is the broad portrait of the gospels?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Oh man, that's a heck of a question to try to answer in a combox.

            But OK, here goes.

            I feel that the most moving patterns in nature are things like old trees rotting in the woods and nourishing the soil for new growth. Or, terrifying and heart-wrenching as it may be, there is nothing as mysterious and stirring as one animal literally consuming the life of another, of the death of one somehow becoming the life of the other. I don't mean to be all "woo-woo", but there really is something Deep about that whole death-to-new-life cycle. To me, it seems to be at the very heart of reality. I imagine this is part of why cultures all over the earth engage in ritual sacrifice.

            And then there is this curious thing about humans that we can engage in that cycle in a way that both turns it on its head and provides its apotheosis at the same time. We can intentionally sacrifice ourselves, for some reason that transcends self-interest, in order to give new life to others.

            There is the "dark side" of charity. Hence the double meaning of "passion" as both intensity and suffering. To be really engaged and fully, passionately participating in charity/love is to be suffering in some way. You also can't fully be open to the charity of others unless you are vulnerable and even wounded.

            And I find that, just as nature's death-to-new-life cycle reaches a surprising apotheosis in humans, so human charity seems to have reached a surprising apotheosis in the life and death of Jesus. And, if the Resurrection really happened, well that would really be the icing on the cake. That would mean that if you enter as fully as possible into the logic of charity and self-sacrifice, if you trust in that logic and follow it all the way down, you will come out on the other side, in the realest way possible.

            Now, maybe all that is too good to be true. But if it is true, it sure would be Good News.

          • Rob Abney

            "These metaphysical exercises "demonstrating" a first cause that we call God are largely just mental exercises"
            Did you finish reading the first part of the Summa?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            No - I'm working on it.

          • Dr. Bonnette, I hope you know I'm enjoying our exchanges. Sometimes I come off as more combative than I intend; I just think that this stuff is so incredibly important that it's worth hammering for a while to get it as right as possible.

            (1) We seem to be miscommunicating on the 'contradiction' front; perhaps you could explain what you think is meant by Mark 4:10–12 and Isaiah 6:8–13? I'd also like to remind you of what you said a few days ago:

            DB: It is possible to look through the wrong end of the telescope in searching for God. The mere fact that something appears “difficult to understand” does not make it intrinsically unintelligible.

            Perhaps it would be fair to say that the Jews whom Jesus excoriates in John 8:31–47 are looking through the wrong end of the telescope? Perhaps they had created God in their own image rather like "the temple of the LORD" had been [re]created in the thieves' own image in Jeremiah 7? It could be that we differ greatly on the intensity of the noetic effects of sin, on what irreparable sin can do to one's perception and understanding of reality.

            (2) I'm glad I could bring some good memories to mind in excerpting Charles de Koninck. I didn't mean to point to contradiction in doing so; instead I intended to point out how the starting point can be fuzzy and vague—far from Descartes's 'clear and distinct ideas'.

            (3) As to Aquinas' "... and this is what all men call God.", how many laypersons actually agree that Aquinas is talking about the same God as they are? Merely asserting the reference is the same doesn't make it so—even if you're Aquinas.

            (4) Your question of "If St. Thomas could do it, why cannot Dr. Peterson?" caught me off-guard; surely Aquinas is one-of-a-kind? But perhaps you mean to restrict "it" to some small fragment of what Aquinas wrote—perhaps just his Five Ways? But in that case, we don't have a very robust understanding of God. Where is the willingness to suffer on the cross for the sins of humankind? Getting even more intense, where is the well-articulated understanding of the atonement, which is ostensibly what operates at least subconsciously in the believer and thereby empowers him/her to forgive any sin committed against him/her? Peterson is very interested in such psychological details. And unlike many psychologists, he seems willing to think that psychology connects to theology. I hold out hope that he'll realize that forgiveness and repentance and redemption and reconciliation work differently if Jesus was only resurrected in idea-land than if he was resurrected bodily.

            You seem to expect Peterson to act like a theologian instead of a psychologist, Dr. Bonnette. Peterson seems to be taking the complexity—but also structure—of psychology as his starting point. Whether he can get from there to God is a question I find absolutely fascinating; the trick is that he won't really be reasoning purely from the finite to the infinite, because he is well-aware of revelation ostensibly from the infinite to the finite. But how can he, as a scientist, make these meet in the middle? That seems like an incredibly difficult problem. Is it so terribly wrong that he isn't going to stake out a solid position—based on 'clear and distinct ideas'—on the side of the infinite? Can you state strongly that Jesus would prefer he snap to 'clear and distinct ideas'? If not, then maybe Peterson is pursuing a course of action which may be more fruitful than the current repertoire of Catholics which is being practiced in Canada and the US.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I suspect that I am letting myself get too far afield from my own proper role as a philosopher in trying to sort out these questions.

            When we even begin to wonder whether St. Thomas was really referring to "what all men understand as God" we are no longer doing the demonstrations proper to metaphysics, but rather some sort of social psychology or communications analysis. That really isn't my job. You might think I can do it better if I get in tune with what people really are thinking, but that is a secondary task for which I guess I would need a better press secretary than myself.

            My job is to try to get to the truth as precisely as possible. I find that the terminology and intellectual instruments of Thomism enable me to do that better than any other method of which I know. Having done that, it is secondary that I find the means to communicate this effectively.

            I guess what bothers me about Dr. Peterson is that he seems so focused on the need for perfect communication that it becomes difficult for some hearers to understand precisely what he is communicating, even when it comes to so simple a question as "Does God exist?"

            If you think I am being too simplistic here, take a look a this Gallup poll conducted in 2016: http://news.gallup.com/poll/193271/americans-believe-god.aspx

            Please notice that it does not even bother to give a definition of God! Admittedly it is addressed to Americans, and maybe a group similar in Western traditions even to what St. Thomas was speaking about some eight centuries ago. And it seems that the people managed to respond to the question asked, since I do not see any report of massive objections against the intelligibility of the question itself.

            For my part, I find that I can offer a proof for God's existence and explain the general qualities that apply to the "standard definition" as I proceed. If people don't seem to grasp what I am talking about, it is my obligation to explain and define more fully. But that is rarely the case. Most people either say they agree with my reasoning and conclusion, or else, they question my inference and intelligence. Virtually no one tells me that they do not know what I am talking about.

            I think Dr. Peterson is perfectly capable of doing the similar thing.

            For my part, it is probably time for me to return to working on my theoretical, even if not fully understood by all, speculations.

          • Since you say you need to get back to work, I'll focus on but one thing, because it's not clear you have taken account of Peterson's precarious position in the public spotlight.

            I guess what bothers me about Dr. Peterson is that he seems so focused on the need for perfect communication that it becomes difficult for some hearers to understand precisely what he is communicating, even when it comes to so simple a question as "Does God exist?"

            I completely agree that this is obnoxious. But I think that the 21st century West has corralled him into precisely this situation. In multiple interviews, he has voiced that his biggest fear is saying something sufficiently "wrong" that he will be crucified in the public's eye. Jacques Ellul put his finger on the fate that awaits Peterson if he is not hyper-vigilant:

                We have to try to understand the meaning of this inhuman insanity. To scorn is to condemn the other person to complete and final sterility, to expect nothing more from him and to put him in such circumstances that he will never again have anything to give. It is to negate him in his possibilities, in his gifts, in the development of his experience. To scorn him is to rip his fingernails out by the roots so that they will never grow back again. The person who is physically maimed, or overwhelmed by mourning or hunger, can regain his strength, can live again as a person as long as he retains his honor and dignity, but to destroy the honor and dignity of a person is to cancel his future, to condemn him to sterility forever. In other words, to scorn is to put an ecnd to the other person's hope and to one's hope for the other person, to hope for nothing more from him and also to stop his having any hope for himself. (Hope in Time of Abandonment, 47)

            When a society cannot gain energy and joy from bringing life, it gains energy and joy from bringing death.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Certainly, I have no ill-will against Dr. Peterson himself. And I can understand his precarious position as a professor in Canada dealing with certain "touchy subjects." So, let us let this discussion quietly fade away for now. Thank you. It has been interesting and thought-provoking.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If words did not have common meanings, communication would be impossible.

            I agree with you and David on this point, but I am emphasizing a particular implication of that:

            When words do not have common meanings, communication is impossible.

            It is a regularity in these comboxes to get into the "Who is at fault?" argument when there is a divergence in meanings. You will very often see Catholics accused of being disingenuous for using semantics that are inconsistent with popular contemporary usage, notwithstanding that these very words have a Christian provenance! In that situation, it seems to me that the so-called "disingenuous" meaning should in fact be treated as the normative "emic" / correct meaning!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I fear the "divergence" you describe in the comboxes is caused more by a desire to score points than to remove misunderstandings. I have had some good discussions with philosophical opponents here when we both were trying to understand the other's position. I have had some unfortunate discussions with others who were merely trying to point out my stupidity.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think you will also find that many atheists simply don't trust that we are actually arguing in good faith. They think we are twisting the meanings of words just so that we can win at some technical word game. (I'm not sure why they imagine we would want to do such a thing, but whatever.) And in that situation, I find that my efforts to "simply define my terms" are met with distrust. I try to instead enter into their semantics and state what I believe within that framework, but that doesn't work either, because in that language it does not seem (to them) to correspond to the traditional faith content.

            Given all this, it seems important to me to point out the real difficulties in translation. You and I may just have to disagree on this, but I don't think it is merely a matter of "defining one's terms". It is more a matter of sympathetic listening, and I think the potential for sympathy is increased if one acknowledges the difficulty of translation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This reminds me of the old argument about whether the skeptic's inability to understand a proof for God's existence was based on his "bad faith" or not. Some argued that the proofs were clear and valid and the premises secure to anyone of "good faith" - so that the conclusions were unavoidable to the sincere of heart.

            But the existentialist Gabriel Marcel argued that trying to "prove to" another entails moving them from their unique personal perspective over to your own in a fashion that might just not be possible for even a sincere listener. Much like trying to explain the inner workings of Wall Street's stock exchanges to someone in a purely agrarian culture in Outer Mongolia in a limited time frame. It just might be no one's fault that the proof is not successful!

            That said, I still think anyone as articulate as Dr. Peterson could at least leave his audience in no doubt about his essential positions on central points of philosophy and theology. There is such a thing as being "too brilliant by a half." The members of his audience understand each other well enough to share their mutual confusion as to his real position, which means that the essential terms are understood by ordinary people. Surely, Dr. Peterson can make himself clear to his hearers, if these same hearers still wonder in common whether he believes in the same God they are wondering whether he believes in!

          • Rob Abney

            I just finished his book this afternoon. And I’ve listened to his bible series. I can say definitively that he believes in God and that he believes in the God of the Bible. I think that anyone who reads his book would make the same conclusion. He seems to have a limited understanding of the divinity of Jesus Christ though.
            Peterson seems to have not been exposed to Catholicism through any strong Catholics, quite understandable at Harvard and at Univ. of Toronto. He would benefit from some Thomistic thought, as we all would!
            I suppose he could write and speak more straightforward but that seems akin to asking Bob Dylan to explain what one of his songs mean.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am pleased to hear all that. Thank you.

          • Rob Abney

            Here's a reason that he's not yet catholic, from Anthony Esolen: I’m troubled by a curious neglect. Peterson is not a Catholic, or any kind of Christian, though he treats the Scriptures with respect. Why has he not been praised by the Catholics of Canada? Which prominent Catholics have rushed to support him, or to join him in his still lonely crusade for freedom of thought and sensible ordinary speech? As far as I can determine, no such support has been forthcoming. I may be wrong about this, and if so I apologize.

          • I just finished his book this afternoon. And I’ve listened to his bible series. I can say definitively that he believes in God

            That might not mean much. I'm still reading the book, and was a bit taken aback to find this:

            Does that mean that what we see is dependent on our religious beliefs? Yes! And what we don’t see, as well! You might object, “But I’m an atheist.” No, you’re not . . . . You’re simply not an atheist in your actions, and it is your actions that most accurately reflect your deepest beliefs (Kindle edition pp. 102-103)

            So he is saying in effect that everybody believes in God. But to do that, he has to be defining "God" in some idiosyncratic way that is different from what most people mean when they talk about God. He also must be defining "believe" in some similarly idiosyncratic way.

          • Rob Abney

            And a few sentences later he concludes with “you didn’t even know you were blind!”.
            I might classify his definitions as being particularized, that is, deduced from talking intimately to many people who share their supposed beliefs with him only to reveal that their actions don’t match those beliefs.
            I would agree that most atheists live their lives as if their is a transcendent meaning to it all.

          • And a few sentences later he concludes with “you didn’t even know you were blind!”.

            I first heard the claim that there are no real atheists during my adolescence, when I was a Christian myself. I didn’t believe it then and have come across no good argument for it since then. It has always struck me as just an argument from personal incredulity: “I just can’t believe how any sane person could doubt God’s existence.”

            I might classify his definitions as being particularized, that is, deduced from talking intimately to many people who share their supposed beliefs with him only to reveal that their actions don’t match those beliefs.
            I would agree that most atheists live their lives as if their is a transcendent meaning to it all.

            Most of us do live our lives as if our lives had meaning, because most of us do find some kind of meaning in our lives. Nothing about the way we live them, though, presupposes anything about the source of that meaning. Christians are convinced that only their God can be the source of any meaning. We atheists beg to differ.

          • Wait a second. Based on that excerpt, we have "not an atheist". That leaves open a great number of possibilities—not just the God of the philosophers.

          • That leaves open a great number of possibilities—not just the God of the philosophers.

            An atheist denies the existence of, or disbelieves in, all gods. If it's anybody's god, we don't believe in it. An arguable exception would be the god of the pantheists. They say the universe is God. We accept the existence of the universe, but we see no reason to call it any kind of god.

          • That's fine; it still doesn't correct your error:

            “But I’m an atheist.” No, you’re not . . .

            DS: So he is saying in effect that everybody believes in God.

            ¬"atheist" ⇏ "believes in God"

          • If it is not the case that you don't believe in any god, then it is the case that you do believe in some god.

            [I thought posted this earlier, but don't see it now. If it appears twice, that is why.]

          • You could also believe in multiple gods.

          • Sure. Some god ⇒ at least one god.

          • Ok, we've now removed the God of the philosophers from the sole implication of Peterson's "“But I’m an atheist.” No, you’re not". Now, what does he mean by "god"? I haven't read the book but I have seen some of his interviews. (I haven't watched his series on the OT.) I've seen him argue that people act as if the Christian God† exists; I haven't explored deeply what he means by that. The Founding Fathers thought that some sort of civil religion needed to exist; there might be a connection between that and John Rawls' secular overlapping consensus.

            What I am fairly confident about is that Peterson thinks we haven't really grappled with Nietzsche's claims that removing God from the world is a massive, massive social change. This happened to a high degree in the USSR and Communist China and we see the death tolls which resulted. Nietzsche predicted that 100 million people would die, following upon God's death. I believe Peterson would say that Western culture has not evacuated its foundations of God† as the Russian and Chinese Communists did. Those foundations can exist in the subconscious and social consciousness while being denied by the consciousnesses of some.

            Now let me add my own gloss: what happens when those foundations are completely and utterly gone? One option is that egalitarianism is no longer seen as sufficiently valuable by sufficiently many people.‡ It is well-known that in order to commit genocide against a group of humans, one first needs to psychologically distance "us" from "them"—like the Nazis calling Jews "pigs" and the Hutus calling the Tutsis "cockroaches". Egalitarianism is a bulwark against that—if it is rooted strongly enough in our psyches and social consciousness. I doubt the US is in severe danger of that sort of thing; its economic situation is nowhere near as bad as the Weimar Republic's or early 1990s Rwanda's. Where I'm matching perfectly with Peterson in this paragraph is that I refuse to blind myself to the incredible darkness that is in humans, the incredible capacity for heinous evil. Nietzsche also faced this. Many intellectuals in the West refuse to—or utterly externalize it, which contributes to the darkness.

             
            † Given the deistic, rationalist past of the United States and probably many intellectuals in the West when democracies were being formed, this may be somewhat similar to the God of the philosophers. But probably what's important here is some sense of divine providence. I don't know how much this would mean a sort of pre-ordained order (perfectly compatible with deism) and how much it would entail God actively judging and blessing people (this might have been seen by the elite as necessary for the masses so that they will behave appropriately). Any God or set of gods which can accomplish this ordering and perhaps this justice will suffice for Peterson's argument, if I understand it correctly.

            ‡ Louis Pojman:

                The possibilities [for grounding equal worth] are frighteningly innumerable. My point is that you need some metaphysical explanation to ground the doctrine of equal worth, if it is to serve as the basis for equal human rights. It is not enough simply to assert, as philosophers like Dworkin do, that their egalitarian doctrines are "metaphysically unambiguous." But, of course, there are severe epistemological difficulties with the kinds of metaphysical systems I have been discussing. My point has not been to defend religion. For purposes of this paper I am neutral on the question of whether any religion is true. Rather my purpose is to show that we cannot burn our bridges and still drive Mack trucks over them. But, if we cannot return to religion, then it would seem perhaps we should abandon egalitarianism and devise political philosophies that reflect naturalistic assumptions, theories which are forthright in viewing humans as differentially talented animals who must get on together. (Equality: Selected Readings, 296)

          • Now, what does he mean by "god"?

            I haven’t figured that out yet. He doesn’t discuss it in any of the videos I’ve watched, nor in any of the parts of the book that I’ve read so far. His only defense, in the immediate context, of his claim that anyone who thinks he is an atheist really isn’t, is a reference to Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment and the not-otherwise-supported assertion, “you’re simply not an atheist in your actions.”

            I've seen him argue that people act as if the Christian God exists; I haven't explored deeply what he means by that.

            I don’t know exactly what he’s getting at with that, either. I agree with him that at some level our behavior is a better indicator of what we really believe than anything we say, but for one thing I don’t agree that it’s a perfect indicator. Not many of us, if any, always act consistently with our own standards. For another thing, I have a problem with the blanket proposition that if I act as if A were true, then I must somehow, in some sense, believe A. I might act that way because, so far as I can be aware of my own thinking, I instead believe B and B, to my way of thinking, entails that I’d better act that way. I might very well live as if I believed in Peterson’s God, but my reasons for living that way have nothing to do with whether Peterson’s God exists.

            What I am fairly confident about is that Peterson thinks we haven't really grappled with Nietzsche's claims that removing God from the world is a massive, massive social change.

            I get that same impression of his thinking. And, so stated, I have no quarrel with it. A society of atheists will certainly be very different from a society of theists. What is more debatable is the nature of those differences. That will depend on a great many variables that I suspect Peterson isn’t giving due consideration to.

            This happened to a high degree in the USSR and Communist China and we see the death tolls which resulted.

            Lemme see . .  .  . Those governments were officially atheistic, and they killed lots of their own citizens. Therefore atheism makes people homicidal? I don’t think so. But that isn’t really your argument, is it?

            I believe Peterson would say that Western culture has not evacuated its foundations of God† as the Russian and Chinese Communists did. Those foundations can exist in the subconscious and social consciousness while being denied by the consciousnesses of some.

            Time constraints preclude my responding at adequate length, but I would suggest some consideration be given the notion that the foundations could be eroded from the subconscious and social consciousness while continuing to be affirmed by the consciousness of some.

            Where I'm matching perfectly with Peterson in this paragraph is that I refuse to blind myself to the incredible darkness that is in humans, the incredible capacity for heinous evil. Nietzsche also faced this. Many intellectuals in the West refuse to—or utterly externalize it, which contributes to the darkness.

            He talks about that in a passage that I read last night, and to quite an extent I agree with him. People who say they would never have lifted a finger to help the Gestapo if they’d lived in Nazi Germany are nearly always kidding themselves. I’ve never read anything by Hannah Arendt, but if the commentaries that I have seen are any indication, I totally agree with her about the banality of evil.

          • Quick partial response:

            LB: What I am fairly confident about is that Peterson thinks we haven't really grappled with Nietzsche's claims that removing God from the world is a massive, massive social change. This happened to a high degree in the USSR and Communist China and we see the death tolls which resulted. Nietzsche predicted that 100 million people would die, following upon God's death. I believe Peterson would say that Western culture has not evacuated its foundations of God† as the Russian and Chinese Communists did. Those foundations can exist in the subconscious and social consciousness while being denied by the consciousnesses of some.

            DS: Lemme see . . . . Those governments were officially atheistic, and they killed lots of their own citizens. Therefore atheism makes people homicidal? I don’t think so. But that isn’t really your argument, is it?

            Neither Peterson nor I said that necessarily, this is what happens when a belief in God is removed from not just consciousness, but societal foundations. I'm less sure about exactly what Nietzsche thought; perhaps he believed that we would learn how to manufacture our own values and that a 100 million deaths was a necessary stopping point along the way. What is most interesting in my view is that Nietzsche was right. We can debate whether his prediction was more like a "justified true belief" or whether he got to the right answer for the wrong reasons. But he told a darker story about humanity than his contemporaries and he was right.

            Time constraints preclude my responding at adequate length, but I would suggest some consideration be given the notion that the foundations could be eroded from the subconscious and social consciousness while continuing to be affirmed by the consciousness of some.

            Most definitely. Os Guinness deals with precisely this in The Gravedigger File (updated version: The Last Christian on Earth). One could understand a great deal of Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue along these lines as well.

          • Neither Peterson nor I said that necessarily, this is what happens when a belief in God is removed from not just consciousness, but societal foundations. I'm less sure about exactly what Nietzsche thought; perhaps he believed that we would learn how to manufacture our own values and that a 100 million deaths was a necessary stopping point along the way.

            I haven’t read anything Nietzsche himself wrote other than some quoted snippets. Peterson references him a lot in 12 Rules, but fails to convince me that he was right. Not that he really tries. It’s all “Nietzsche says such-and-such, which supports the point I’m trying to make here.” He obviously likes Nietzsche’s thinking, but so far as he lets on, it’s just because Nietzsche agrees with him.

            It is just possible, so far as I know, that whatever needs to happen to make the world a better place cannot happen without a massive amount of collateral damage. I don’t see how that could be proved beyond reasonable doubt, and even if it could, we would then have to ask ourselves whether a better world (however defined), would be worth such a price. And right now, I haven’t the foggiest idea how I would even attempt to answer that question. Perhaps fortunately, I don’t think we’re going to need to answer it in the foreseeable future.

            But he told a darker story about humanity than his contemporaries and he was right.

            I agree that humanity’s story is way darker than most would-be reformers have any clue about. But it isn’t all darkness. Even Peterson makes a passing reference, approvingly, to Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. I haven’t read it, but I’ve watched some videos in which he summarizes it, and his case looks pretty solid to me. Even assuming he is right, though, there is of course no guarantee that we can continue the trend he has identified.

          • Peterson references [Nietzsche] a lot in 12 Rules, but fails to convince me that he was right.

            I doubt 12 Rules is the kind of book which would convince you of anything. Your standards of convincing seem to require rather more support for virtually every point.

            It is just possible, so far as I know, that whatever needs to happen to make the world a better place cannot happen without a massive amount of collateral damage. I don’t see how that could be proved beyond reasonable doubt, and even if it could, we would then have to ask ourselves whether a better world (however defined), would be worth such a price. And right now, I haven’t the foggiest idea how I would even attempt to answer that question. Perhaps fortunately, I don’t think we’re going to need to answer it in the foreseeable future.

            My answer to all that is the same as Wayne C. Booth's:

            Futurism is of course especially dangerous when the engineer is not personally required to share in present sacrifice. (Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, 22n15)

            One can contrast this to the example set by Jesus.

            I agree that humanity’s story is way darker than most would-be reformers have any clue about.

            How much more do you have to say about that? Even though I've read a bunch of stuff which touches on this topic, I would still like to learn a lot more about it. Interesting enough, I'm currently dialoguing with one person who is rather optimistic about human nature (Keith Parsons) and one who is rather pessimistic about human nature (@Andy_Schueler:disqus). In my opinion, the former doesn't see enough of the darkness while the latter doesn't see enough of the potential. What would explain both of these extremes is a limited toolbox for improving human nature and society.

          • Your standards of convincing seem to require rather more support for virtually every point.

            I keep hearing that my epistemological standards are too restrictive. No one has yet shown me how I would benefit from lowering those standards, other than by appealing to the comfort I might derive from accepting certain ideas that I now reject.

            I agree that humanity’s story is way darker than most would-be reformers have any clue about.

            How much more do you have to say about that? Even though I've read a bunch of stuff which touches on this topic, I would still like to learn a lot more about it.

            It relates to your occasional references to Stanley Milgram’s most famous experiment. It is not as difficult as many wish to think to motivate ordinary people to do bad things. That being so, we should not believe that during World War II, either ordinary Germans or their Nazi leaders were in any relevant sense different from the rest of us. That is what Arendt, if I understand her correctly, was getting at. Reformers need to take this into consideration, and they usually don’t. The kinds of people who would be running their better society would inevitably be the same kinds of people who gave us the Holocaust, because those are the only kinds of people there are.

          • I keep hearing that my epistemological standards are too restrictive.

            That entirely depends on what you want to do in the world. If your only purpose is to show other people how you think, then there are almost no restrictions to your epistemological standards which would interfere with that. But if you also want to do things in the world, you might have to act with less confidence than you would like.

            No one has yet shown me how I would benefit from lowering those standards, other than by appealing to the comfort I might derive from accepting certain ideas that I now reject.

            Heh, I can't think of a single thing I believe which makes my life more comfortable. All my religious beliefs make my life harder, ask me to do more, push me to sacrifice more, etc. Jesus did not live a comfortable life, excepting perhaps the eating and drinking with friends he did frequently (which earned him the description "glutton and drunkard").

            It is not as difficult as many wish to think to motivate ordinary people to do bad things.

            Ah ok, so you were talking pretty exclusively about motivating people to do bad things, not other ways that human might not be as awesome as some in the Enlightenment believed.

          • I keep hearing that my epistemological standards are too restrictive.

            That entirely depends on what you want to do in the world.

            What I want to do in the world depends on what I believe about the world. Anything I want to do will have consequences, and not every conceivable consequence will be something that I also want. I therefore need to anticipate the consequences of what I do as accurately as my cognitive abilities allow. In order to do that, I must perceive the real world as accurately as I can. That in turn requires an epistemology that maximizes my tendency to form true beliefs and minimizes my tendency to form false beliefs. The latter requires a level of skepticism that many people find unacceptable.

            But if you also want to do things in the world, you might have to act with less confidence than you would like.

            In my day-to-day life, I do a great many things with full knowledge of a significant probability of their being mistaken. In those situations, I have judged the consequences of my error, if I am in error, to be an acceptable risk, judged against the apparently likeliest consequences of my inaction. And I sometimes discover that my risk assessment was totally screwed up, but that doesn’t happen quite as frequently as it did when I was much younger.

            Heh, I can't think of a single thing I believe which makes my life more comfortable.

            I was talking about all the people before you who have told me I should lower my standards. I’m not saying that there is no good reason for me to do so. I’m just saying that so far, nobody has given me one except for how it would make me feel if I did.

            All my religious beliefs make my life harder, ask me to do more, push me to sacrifice more, etc.

            In exchange for what? Do your religious beliefs also tell you that those aspects of your will never change?

            Jesus did not live a comfortable life

            As he is described in the canonical gospels, I don’t see him as an epistemological role model.

            Ah ok, so you were talking pretty exclusively about motivating people to do bad things, not other ways that human might not be as awesome as some in the Enlightenment believed.

            I wasn’t talking exclusively about anything. I was trying to answer your question as succinctly as I could.

          • What I want to do in the world depends on what I believe about the world.

            Of course. But the more I talk to you, the more I wonder how much you actually do believe about the world, and whether that gives you a solid platform from which you can go out and do things, or whether it's more like you're stuck in analysis paralysis. Because:

            That in turn requires an epistemology that maximizes my tendency to form true beliefs and minimizes my tendency to form false beliefs. The latter requires a level of skepticism that many people find unacceptable.

            There are costs to failure to believe true things as well as costs to believing false things. One way you can protect yourself against false beliefs is simply to ensure that you are advancing them in environments which would be hostile to them, such that you would be forced to defend them and then find they don't hold up. Not only does this spread the cognitive load, but I find that it is often more efficient for other people to spot problems in my thinking than it is for me to.

            It makes me a bit uncomfortable to be so abstract, but without knowing more about what you're trying to do (over and above showing people how you think), I'm not sure how else to respond, how else to maybe help you better achieve your objective or examine whether it is as good an objective as you believe. You play your cards closer to your chest than just about anyone I've talked to even 1/100th as much as you and I have.

            LB: All my religious beliefs make my life harder, ask me to do more, push me to sacrifice more, etc.

            DS: In exchange for what? Do your religious beliefs also tell you that those aspects of your will never change?

            The promise that acting according to the telos of creation, the telos of humanity, the telos of my group, and my own telos, I will better actualize the raw potential of creation and better [play my small part in] fix[ing] what is broken. It's basically Abraham being called out of the land of Ur plus John the Baptist's call to repent. As to your second question, I don't think anything can accomplish that except from an unquenchable fire in a person's soul, fed by God himself. But this is just a tautology: infinite desire can only be stirred by an infinite source. Beliefs about a person are important, but in a sense they fade when compared to an actual relationship with the person.

            By the way, I don't expect to receive anything like the full promise; I expect to be one of this motley crew: "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth." One needs to be able to measure forward progress in some manner, but it can be done differentially rather than by absolute value. I can have reason to believe I'm climbing a mountain without seeing the top.

            LB: Jesus did not live a comfortable life

            DS: As he is described in the canonical gospels, I don’t see him as an epistemological role model.

            He certainly transformed the world. That statement probably works if one assumes mythicism.

            I wasn’t talking exclusively about anything. I was trying to answer your question as succinctly as I could.

            In that case, I would be happy to read something rather less succinct. You've been around a while, seen a lot, and I haven't seen any ideology you cling to which would cause you to cling to the concomitant false beliefs. So I expect you have seen a lot of human foibles and the means with which they blind themselves or rationalize those foibles away. Of that big set of data, surely you've picked out examples which are especially detrimental to humanity—at least given present conditions.

          • the more I wonder how much you actually do believe about the world, and whether that gives you a solid platform from which you can go out and do things, or whether it's more like you're stuck in analysis paralysis

            You must be basing that wonderment on what I have to say about the subjects raised in this forum, which are a miniscule subset of every subject I could offer my opinions about. I’d have to write several books to tell you or any other reader everything I actually do believe about the world.

            There are costs to failure to believe true things as well as costs to believing false things.

            Sure. There is no free lunch, in epistemology any more than anywhere else. Consider the extreme cases. To ensure that I believe all true things, I would have to just believe all things, period. That would be global credulity. But then I would have to believe countless contradictions, and that obviously won’t work. To ensure that I believe no falsehoods, I would have to believe nothing at all. That would be global skepticism. That obviously won’t work, either. So, I need to put my credulity-skepticism slider somewhere in the middle. As do we all. Exactly where we put it in a judgment each of us has to make for themselves. A lifetime of wrestling with the problem has led me to put it farther toward the skepticism end than seems to suit most people.

            Am I therefore rejecting some true beliefs? Almost certainly. But except for the global skeptics among us, if there are any, we all do that. If I am rejecting more true beliefs than most people do, it’s a price I don’t mind paying, because of (a) the consequences that I have suffered because of some false beliefs I used to hold and (b) the suffering I have seen other people endure because false beliefs that they held or were held by other people in their lives.

            One way you can protect yourself against false beliefs is simply to ensure that you are advancing them in environments which would be hostile to them, such that you would be forced to defend them and then find they don't hold up.

            That is one reason (I have others as well) why I hang out in forums like this one.

            It is also one reason why, when I had a chance to return to college late in life, I decided to major in philosophy. Not that I was expecting any hostility to anything I believed, but I figured there could be, and sure enough there was. The professor who taught the two courses I took in the philosophy of religion happened to be pretty friendly to Christianity. Near the end of the second course, I went up to him after class one day and said, “I have been dragged and screaming to the conclusion that Christianity is not as indefensible as I used to think it was.” His response was something like, “Glad to hear that.” (Some of the papers I wrote for that class are on my website. I can post links if you’re interested.)

            You play your cards closer to your chest than just about anyone I've talked to even 1/100th as much as you and I have.

            This forum is about Catholicism vs atheism, to put it a bit crudely. I’m on the atheism side, of course, but my primary aim is not to attack Catholicism so much as just defend atheism. And my preferred strategy for doing that is to defend the kind of thinking that led me to atheism. That kind of thinking is more about general principles than about the specific conclusions I have reached by applying those principles, because I think that in many instances reasonable people can, while applying those same principles, reach different conclusions than I have reached.

            LB: Jesus did not live a comfortable life

            DS: As he is described in the canonical gospels, I don’t see him as an epistemological role model

            He certainly transformed the world. That statement probably works if one assumes mythicism.

            If Jesus of Nazareth didn’t exist, then he couldn’t have transformed anything, but what we can reasonably believe about his effect on the world if he did exist depends on the degree to which we accept orthodox Christianity’s account of its origins. The only fact about Christianity’s origins that I think is beyond dispute is that the world was transformed by a certain group of people who claimed to be following Jesus’ teachings. In other words, people calling themselves Christians certainly did transform the world. The extent to which those people had been influenced by the actual teachings of the historical Jesus of Nazareth is not, I would say, as undebatable as those people would have the world believe.

            In that case, I would be happy to read something rather less succinct.

            I’ll see what I can do in whatever free time I have in the next few days.

          • You must be basing that wonderment on what I have to say about the subjects raised in this forum, which are a miniscule subset of every subject I could offer my opinions about.

            Ok. I learn more about people and how they think when they defend what they believe than when they attack what they disbelieve. If you want advertise your style of thinking, you might consider that. People who merely/​mostly quibble are generally seen as exceedingly obnoxious, in my experience.

            I’d have to write several books to tell you or any other reader everything I actually do believe about the world.

            Me too. And someone like you could probably shred them because no human has ever written something on "Why I believe" which doesn't have numerous holes. And yet there are those who would trust Reason in a way that cannot tolerate a Swiss cheese belief system. Thought-castles in the air, I tell you.

            So, I need to put my credulity-skepticism slider somewhere in the middle.

            In my opinion, "middle" is not the way I would characterize your slider, given what you write on SN. Take that as you will.

            A lifetime of wrestling with the problem has led me to put it farther toward the skepticism end than seems to suit most people.

            One can be teachable while not being such a skeptic.

            If I am rejecting more true beliefs than most people do, it’s a price I don’t mind paying, because of (a) the consequences that I have suffered because of some false beliefs I used to hold and (b) the suffering I have seen other people endure because false beliefs that they held or were held by other people in their lives.

            It sounds like you have some good stories to tell which would be fantastic ways to advertise your way of thinking. Whether this particular article is a good place for them is another matter, although I'll bet you could pick out some things relevant to Jordan Peterson's interests.

            (Some of the papers I wrote for that class are on my website. I can post links if you’re interested.)

            Yes, please!

            If Jesus of Nazareth didn’t exist, then he couldn’t have transformed anything …

            Pedantic mode was on, I see. The slight correction is: "Jesus or the idea of Jesus certainly transformed the world."

          • “But I’m an atheist.” No, you’re not . . .

            DS: So he is saying in effect that everybody believes in God.

            LB: Now, what does he mean by "god"?

            DS: I haven’t figured that out yet.

            Ok, then I'm not sure why you said "So he is saying in effect that everybody believes in God."—both with the capitalization and the singular. Might I suggest that what Peterson means is something like:

                 (1) no belief in ultimate justice
                 (2) no belief in ultimate design
                 (3) no belief your good actions will persist

            What happens when (1)–(3) are sufficiently fully believed? I suspect Peterson is claiming that there is a lot of subconscious psychological and social belief in the opposites of (1)–(3). What happens when the momentum behind those beliefs sufficiently erodes? I suspect one can justify believing that evil might have to be used to persist good. And that's just for those in power.

            Now admittedly, (1)–(3) kinda sound like a single deity very much like the God of Judaism and Christianity. But weaker versions of (1)–(3) do seem compatible with Zoroastrianism and some forms of paganism of which I am vaguely aware. What's key is that those beliefs are strong enough to sustain social order. But what happens when they aren't—or when massive numbers of humans are seen as extraneous or expendable or worse? Perhaps that is what Peterson was getting at.

            Not many of us, if any, always act consistently with our own standards.

            That just means our introspection is faulty. This is something that we Moderns apparently need to re-learn (otherwise Eric Schwitzgebel's 2008 The Unreliability of Naive Introspection would have been a truism); see for example Therese Scarpelli Cory's Aquinas on Human Self-Knowledge (excerpts).

            For another thing, I have a problem with the blanket proposition that if I act as if A were true, then I must somehow, in some sense, believe A. I might act that way because, so far as I can be aware of my own thinking, I instead believe B and B, to my way of thinking, entails that I’d better act that way. I might very well live as if I believed in Peterson’s God, but my reasons for living that way have nothing to do with whether Peterson’s God exists.

            This is just Underdetermination of Scientific Theory. Generally, I think that over time, A and B will end up leading to different places. That is, there will inevitably be ways to differentiate them. Otherwise, how do you even know that they're different, vs. being the Morning Star and Evening Star?

            Time constraints preclude my responding at adequate length, but I would suggest some consideration be given the notion that the foundations could be eroded from the subconscious and social consciousness while continuing to be affirmed by the consciousness of some.

            Yup, I'm sure that happens. Although, I'd be inclined to say that there generally will be some referent to reality. Maybe it'll be radically different from what was originally the case, as for example shows up in Jeremiah 7, where "the temple of the LORD" has taken on a radically different meaning. It changed from being a place of transformation to a place of cheap forgiveness. Hmmm, that sounds a bit like some contemporary Christianity I've observed …

            I’ve never read anything by Hannah Arendt, but if the commentaries that I have seen are any indication, I totally agree with her about the banality of evil.

            The more I explore in my various readings, the more convinced I am that most things in society happen via gradual accumulation via there being very small differences between A and B. A society which is constantly being tugged a little more toward communitarianism than individualism will end up very different than the opposite. It's like Office Space, where the scam is to divert fractions of a cent from monetary transactions to a secret account.

          • Rob Abney

            Have you read his book Luke?

            I suspect one can justify believing that evil might have to be used to persist good. And that's just for those in power....when massive numbers of humans are seen as extraneous or expendable or worse

            That is the polar opposite of what Peterson believes and professes.

          • I have not read his book; I have seen quite a few interviews. The bit you put in a blockquote is something that someone who fully evacuates himself/​herself from any belief in one or more gods might believe.

          • then I'm not sure why you said "So he is saying in effect that everybody believes in God."

            Then I’ll spell it out. He said, “You might object, ‘But I’m an atheist.’” Considering the context, the “you” was obviously referring to any person who (a) was reading the book and (b) believed themself to be an atheist. It is definitive of any person who believes themself to be an atheist that they do not believe in any god. Therefore, when he then said, “No, you’re not,” he was denying the existence of any person who does not believe in a god.

            both with the capitalization and the singular.

            Context again. Nobody is telling us atheists what a mistake we’re making by doubting the existence of Zeus or Odin. Whatever Peterson is thinking about, it’s more specific than “whatever being somebody, somewhere, has called a god.” It is more reminiscent of Aquinas’s notion of “that which all men call God.”

            Might I suggest that what Peterson means is something like:
            (1) no belief in ultimate justice
            (2) no belief in ultimate design
            (3) no belief your good actions will persist

            Yes, he does seem to mean something like that. But none of those is either necessary or sufficient to constitute atheism. I get it many theists argue that if we don’t believe in God, then we can have no coherent belief in justice, design, or the persistence of good actions, but to then argue that if we believe in those things, then we must believe in God is to assume the theistic conclusion.

            What happens when (1)–(3) are sufficiently fully believed?

            It depends on exactly what they’re supposed to mean, particularly the “ultimate” part. I believe in justice all right, but I don’t care whether there is anything ultimate about it. To have a good society, we must have something that we will call justice. Anyone who says, “But it would not be ultimate justice” will have to explain to me what difference they think there is between ultimate justice and the justice characterizing that good society. As for design, ultimate or otherwise, I regard that as a product of intelligence, and in the currently known universe, the only intelligence is human intelligence, and so if we didn’t do it or make it, then it has no design. That noted, I agree with Richard Dawkins that design is an extremely useful, practically indispensable, metaphor with which to describe certain natural phenomena such as biological evolution, but we should never forget that it is still just a metaphor. Human beings were not literally designed to do or to be anything.

            As for (3), I think there is no useful criterion by which to judge our actions as good, bad, or indifferent, except in terms of their consequences. Our actions do have consequences, and at least some of those consequences, both good and bad, do persist. Our good actions, in that extended sense, therefore do persist. And this is just a fact that, so far as I can tell, has no relevance to the question of whether God exists.

            What's key is that those beliefs are strong enough to sustain social order. But what happens when they aren't—or when massive numbers of humans are seen as extraneous or expendable or worse?

            Obviously, those questions have to be asked and answered. And just maybe, theists collectively would answer them differently than atheists collectively would answer them. But so far in Western intellectual history, I see no clear evidence that either group is anywhere near a consensus on its answer. Atheists certainly are all over the place with their answers, and it doesn’t look to me as if theists are much closer to being of one mind about them.

            Not many of us, if any, always act consistently with our own standards.

            That just means our introspection is faulty.

            We are no more perfect with our introspection than we are with anything else. With hindsight, I can see occasions where I must now conclude that I couldn’t have really believed something that, at the time, I thought I believed. But then our hindsight isn’t perfect, either. Rather far from it, actually. I have caught myself remembering events that, with further investigation, I know could not have happened.

            Your hypothesis, it seems to me, presupposes another kind of perfection. It posits the existence in our minds of some set of real beliefs with which our actions are always perfectly consistent. It see no reason to suppose that our behavior is always consistent with anything at all except the fundamental laws of nature, whatever they might be. For us products of evolution, consistency between belief and action is definitely not one of those fundamental laws.

            otherwise Eric Schwitzgebel's 2008 The Unreliability of Naive Introspection would have been a truism

            Whatever his argument, the kind of introspection I’m talking about is not what I would consider naïve.

            I might very well live as if I believed in Peterson’s God, but my reasons for living that way have nothing to do with whether Peterson’s God exists.
            This is just Underdetermination of Scientific Theory.

            Then we go with parsimony. I think my hypothesis makes fewer assumptions than yours.

            Generally, I think that over time, A and B will end up leading to different places. That is, there will inevitably be ways to differentiate them.

            And when we get to that point, then we’ll have more data than we have now, and if one of us needs to revise our hypothesis, that will be the time to do it.

          • Context again. Nobody is telling us atheists what a mistake we’re making by doubting the existence of Zeus or Odin. Whatever Peterson is thinking about, it’s more specific than “whatever being somebody, somewhere, has called a god.” It is more reminiscent of Aquinas’s notion of “that which all men call God.”

            I don't know much about Jungian psychology, but I do know that (i) Peterson highly values at least some aspects of it; (ii) it can be connected with polytheism. I'm not aware of the God of the philosophers playing that big a role in Freud's psychology or the psychology of any of his acolytes.

            LB: Might I suggest that what Peterson means is something like:

                 (1) no belief in ultimate justice
                 (2) no belief in ultimate design
                 (3) no belief your good actions will persist

            DS: Yes, he does seem to mean something like that. But none of those is either necessary or sufficient to constitute atheism.

            I believe you on the "sufficient", but how can an atheist rationally believe in ¬(1), ¬(2), or ¬(3)?

            LB: What happens when (1)–(3) are sufficiently fully believed?

            DS: It depends on exactly what they’re supposed to mean, particularly the “ultimate” part. I believe in justice all right, but I don’t care whether there is anything ultimate about it. To have a good society, we must have something that we will call justice.

            It might be a good exercise—for yourself—to see if you can figure out why 'ultimate' might actually be important. I can make an attempt, but I'd first like to see whether you can, whether you can get inside the heads of people rather unlike yourself in a way that does sufficient justice to their way of thinking.

            Our actions do have consequences, and at least some of those consequences, both good and bad, do persist. Our good actions, in that extended sense, therefore do persist. And this is just a fact that, so far as I can tell, has no relevance to the question of whether God exists.

            I doubt it is helpful to much practical moral reasoning to assert that "sometimes, the consequences of good actions persist". In those times that it doesn't, maybe you're just being a sucker who is being completely taken advantage of, such that another person gets 100% of the credit for your good work (perhaps while simultaneously blaming you for 100% of your manager's errors). Maybe it would be better for the world to treat that evil person in a way that Jesus wouldn't. If you cannot see that as frequently being a tempting option, we need to talk.

            But so far in Western intellectual history, I see no clear evidence that either group is anywhere near a consensus on its answer.

            Where do you see Christians declaring masses of people "expendable" or treating them thusly?

            Your hypothesis, it seems to me, presupposes another kind of perfection. It posits the existence in our minds of some set of real beliefs with which our actions are always perfectly consistent.

            Why does it presuppose that? James 4:1–5 describes contentious disorder which exists between people; I see no reason why this cannot be mirrored inside individual minds. The phrase "be in two minds" is relevant here; so is the normative conflict which characterizes Greek tragedy. There is reason to think that political liberalism occludes this aspect of human existence[1]. But I don't see why my own thinking requires this. In being shown hypocrisy, I could very well discover that I have been treating some part of myself in a way similar to how whites treated blacks in America during the first half of the 1900s. One might even suspect that some sort of "every action produces an equal and opposite reaction" takes place, psychologically. Maybe in some cases, the fact that I'm demonstrating hypocrisy means that my standards need adjusting if not discarding.

            Then we go with parsimony. I think my hypothesis makes fewer assumptions than yours.

            But we're not in the domain of pure hypothesis; we need to talk about beliefs which prescribe action, not merely describe the status quo. Parsimony is the assumption that the future will be no more complicated than the present. Unless you want the future to look precisely† like the present, you'll probably have to violate parsimony. We're talking about envisioning a better future such that I can psychologically grab hold of it and pull, despite all sorts of debris flying at me, making me want to let go and join it.

            What we might want to do is not try to move away from our current state too quickly, for a variety of reasons I could go in to. This dictates that one not stray too far away from parsimony, at least when talking about what to do next.

            † I mean this on the macro scale; changes of microscopic state in a gas can happen without macroscopic observables changing in any perceptible fashion.

          • LB: Might I suggest that what Peterson means is something like:

            (1) no belief in ultimate justice
            (2) no belief in ultimate design
            (3) no belief your good actions will persist

            DS: Yes, he does seem to mean something like that. But none of those is either necessary or sufficient to constitute atheism.

            I believe you on the "sufficient", but how can an atheist rationally believe in ¬(1), ¬(2), or ¬(3)?

            I’m not saying they can, but nothing about atheism per se entails that whoever accepts it must be a rational person. I’m just saying an atheist can affirm those particular beliefs without contradicting their disbelief in God. The notion that there can be no ultimate justice if there is no God is a dogma of Aristotelian-Thomistic Christianity, not a deduction from any basic principle of logic.

            It might be a good exercise—for yourself—to see if you can figure out why 'ultimate' might actually be important. I can make an attempt, but I'd first like to see whether you can, whether you can get inside the heads of people rather unlike yourself in a way that does sufficient justice to their way of thinking.

            It doesn’t matter how important it is, unless by “important” you mean “rationally defensible.” It would have been really important, on the morning of 9/11 in 2001, for the New York Fire Department to find a way to prevent the Twin Towers from collapsing after they started burning, but the importance of that task was irrelevant. It was not a possibility, given the effects of that kind of fire on the towers’ structural integrity and the impossibility of extinguishing the fires with the available resources.

            As for getting inside the heads of those who disagree with me, I think I have fulfilled my intellectual responsibilities when I have studied, with all the good faith at my command, the best arguments they themselves have offered in defense of their position.

            Maybe it would be better for the world to treat that evil person in a way that Jesus wouldn't. If you cannot see that as frequently being a tempting option, we need to talk.

            Of course it’s tempting, and it would obviously be a problem for Christians. For the rest of us, not necessarily.

            I doubt it is helpful to much practical moral reasoning to assert that "sometimes, the consequences of good actions persist". In those times that it doesn't, maybe you're just being a sucker who is being completely taken advantage of, such that another person gets 100% of the credit for your good work (perhaps while simultaneously blaming you for 100% of your manager's errors).

            The issue at hand was the persistence of good actions, not how we judge them to be good or not. In my ethical universe, the rightness or wrongness of my actions is does not depend solely on their consequences for me.

            Where do you see Christians declaring masses of people "expendable" or treating them thusly?

            These days, I don’t. When Christian Europeans were conquering and colonizing the New World, I’d say we saw quite a bit of it.

            Your hypothesis, it seems to me, presupposes another kind of perfection. It posits the existence in our minds of some set of real beliefs with which our actions are always perfectly consistent.

            Why does it presuppose that?

            Where does it not? Unless I’ve missed something, your argument is: X’s behavior is consistent with belief B, therefore X believes B, even if, so far as X is aware of his own state of mind, he denies B.

            James 4:1–5 describes contentious disorder which exists between people; I see no reason why this cannot be mirrored inside individual minds.

            Beware the fallacy of division. What is true of a collection of things is not necessarily true of any individual thing.

            The phrase "be in two minds" is relevant here;

            In common usage, that refers to indecision, not unawareness. But let’s go with it. If one of my minds believes B and the other believes ¬B, which one is my real mind? My behavior cannot be consistent with both. On what basis do you say that whatever action I take is consistent with what I really believe?

            Parsimony is the assumption that the future will be no more complicated than the present.

            Not as I have ever understood it. I first encountered the term “Occam’s razor” when I read Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land shortly after it was published, and I’ve read lots of commentary about it ever since.

            Unless you want the future to look precisely like the present, you'll probably have to violate parsimony.

            You violate parsimony if and only if at any point in your argument wherein you infer, from “This is the situation now” to “This is what the situation will be,” you assume anything you don’t need to assume. There is no reason grounded in Occam’s razor why your necessary assumptions cannot entail a future more complicated than the present.

            What we might want to do is not try to move away from our current state too quickly, for a variety of reasons I could go in to.

            Our judgements about the optimal pace of reform will have to be based on defensible assumptions and rational inferences from those assumptions about the most probable correlation between the rate of reform and the consequences of enacting reform at that rate. I agree that no defensible assumptions could justify a reform program that, for example, attempted to eradicate every vestige of racism from the minds of every American voter within a single generation.

          • I’m not saying they can, but nothing about atheism per se entails that whoever accepts it must be a rational person.

            Which just provides more opportunity for Jordan Peterson to claim that their actions do not match their professed beliefs.

            The notion that there can be no ultimate justice if there is no God is a dogma of Aristotelian-Thomistic Christianity, not a deduction from any basic principle of logic.

            I don't need to claim with certitude that "no God" ⇒ "no ultimate justice". I can simply point out that I am unaware of any way that 'ultimate justice' has been constructed outside of monotheism. I can further claim that there are rules about subjectivity, such that not just any old haphazard construction will do the trick. It has to be 'psychologically tenable'. If no such construction is demonstrated, I think it is warranted to conclude that anyone who believes in 'ultimate justice' and yet denies monotheism is parasitic upon monotheism.

            It doesn’t matter how important it is, unless by “important” you mean “rationally defensible.”

            It seems trivial to imagine constructing a digital simulation of sentient, sapient beings, such that the creators of the simulation can either ensure ultimate justice obtains or let injustice persist forever.

            As for getting inside the heads of those who disagree with me, I think I have fulfilled my intellectual responsibilities when I have studied, with all the good faith at my command, the best arguments they themselves have offered in defense of their position.

            Seeing as no philosopher has advanced a philosophy which stood the test of time, I suspect you can dismantle every belief system about reality which has ever existed via your epistemological standards. This, I believe, goes to show that they are too stringent. An alternative is to ensure that your actions and beliefs are visible to all for constant testing; this way you can be less confident in your own analysis, but more confident that people's love of proving others wrong is probably a better insurance policy than you could provide yourself.

            For the rest of us, not necessarily.

            Please explain.

            The issue at hand was the persistence of good actions, not how we judge them to be good or not. In my ethical universe, the rightness or wrongness of my actions is does not depend solely on their consequences for me.

            That doesn't resolve the problem unless a world where people claim credit for things they did not do, and shift blame to people who were not responsible, can possibly be "good". Furthermore, rewarding the wrong people for good behavior and punishing the wrong people for bad behavior seems antithetical to promoting good behavior and discouraging bad behavior.

            DS: Your hypothesis, it seems to me, presupposes another kind of perfection. It posits the existence in our minds of some set of real beliefs with which our actions are always perfectly consistent.

            LB: Why does it presuppose that?

            DS: Where does it not? Unless I’ve missed something, your argument is: X’s behavior is consistent with belief B, therefore X believes B, even if, so far as X is aware of his own state of mind, he denies B.

            I made no claim of perfect consistency.

            Beware the fallacy of division. What is true of a collection of things is not necessarily true of any individual thing.

            So? I have some pretty solid sociological support for my position:

            It is from Marx that the sociology of knowledge derived its root proposition—that man’s consciousness is determined by his social being. (The Social Construction of Reality, 5–6)

            That book has 50,000 'citations' and is ranked "the fifth-most important sociological book of the 20th century" by the International Sociological Association. I think that makes for a pretty decent starting point. If you insist we can dig more into how we might know whether this is true or false. We can even investigate how people come to have a "self"—carefully checking whether the article "a" is appropriate. I have a very experienced sociologist who is trying to teach me the lesson that the self is really a community, so he can probably give me an extensive bibliography on the matter. :-D

            If one of my minds believes B and the other believes ¬B, which one is my real mind? My behavior cannot be consistent with both. On what basis do you say that whatever action I take is consistent with what I really believe?

            Your first question can only be answered by trying to bring unity to contradiction; I'll bet that a great deal of religion is meant to do precisely that, as are modern technologies such as psychotherapy. While the contradiction lasts, it is probably best to model the person as having multiple contradictory aspects, sometimes believing B and sometimes believing ¬B. I'm led to understand that alcoholics tend to teach their children this on a very deep (and damaging) level. Emil Brunner wrote a book on theological anthropology called Der Mensch im Widerspruch; the English translation of Man in Revolt fails to capture the dual meaning of revolt *and* contradiction. But "Man in Revolt/​Contradiction" doesn't have a nice ring to it.

            Your second question doesn't really make sense until the first is addressed. However, I wouldn't be surprised if expert manipulators (e.g. advertisers, politicians) know how to play people's contradictory aspects off each other. That will be somewhat protected knowledge, being how the masses are kept under control, but perhaps we could figure some things out with enough research.

            LB: Parsimony is the assumption that the future will be no more complicated than the present.

            DS: Not as I have ever understood it.

            Feel free to show me how rigorous application of parsimony creates models which are also able to describe reality being different in the future.

            There is no reason grounded in Occam’s razor why your necessary assumptions cannot entail a future more complicated than the present.

            Any time-evolution of a model which obeys Ockham's razor has exactly as much complexity in its output as in its input. The complexity might be latent in the input, but it's still there. Complexity does not get created ex nihilo—except by God.

          • It is a regularity in these comboxes to get into the "Who is at fault?" argument when there is a divergence in meanings. You will very often see Catholics accused of being disingenuous for using semantics that are inconsistent with popular contemporary usage, notwithstanding that these very words have a Christian provenance! In that situation, it seems to me that the so-called "disingenuous" meaning should in fact be treated as the normative "emic" / correct meaning!

            It's [partly] a relic of Modernity and the idolatry of a single 'Reason' to which we each have equal access. Contrast this to each of us having a uniquely best way to understand God, with plenty of overlap with others. The idea is that it is glorious for each of us to teach the others about God, where 'teach' has propositional content but also relational content (building each other up in love, where we love because God first loved us). In this scheme, absolutely nobody is replaceable. Furthermore, my teaching you about God can increase your ability to understand God and then turn around and teach me or someone else. This represents a pluralism which ends in shalom, rather than a Hobbsean pluralism which must be kept in order by an absolute sovereign.

            If I'm right (and I'm largely riffing on John Milbank), then miscommunication can actually be an opportunity to learn and grow. It can mean I've hit the boundary of "me" and have some awesome new territory to explore—with someone else! It can also mean that I've misunderstood "me", something Aquinas knew about. (See Therese Scarpelli Cory's Aquinas on Human Self-Knowledge; excerpts.) But it is glorious—although temporarily painful—to learn that I was wrong about "me". So it's really a win-win-win situation here. Unless, that is, the goal is domination of self and other instead of seeking truth which leads to freedom and increased ability to love others.

          • David Nickol

            I think it falls to Catholics to re-express their claims, as much as possible, in terms that are comprehensible in a modern secular environment.

            According to Jordan Peterson, asking him if he believes in God is a "trap." He agonizes over giving an answer to the question of whether Jesus rose from the dead, saying when he gets to the resurrection in his Bible lectures, he will devote six hours to it. Yet these two matters are addressed in a few lines in the Apostles' Creed, which millions of Christians have no problem reciting. If you can't say the Apostles' Creed without "making stuff up" about what it "really means," you aren't a Christian.

            It seems to me there are really only two possibilities for Christians or would-be Christians regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus. Either it happened or it didn't happen. Either Jesus was physically dead for three days and then physically rose from the dead and interacted (including eating) with his followers, or not. Any explanation that involves other than a real death and a real coming back to life in a straightforward way the followers of Jesus could witness with their own five senses is not Christianity.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, great.

            Now, if this is all so clear, please tell me what it means to be "physically real". Alternatively, tell me what "matter" is.

          • David Nickol

            Now, if this is all so clear, please tell me what it means to be "physically real". Alternatively, tell me what "matter" is.

            I think the average 7-year-old understands enough about what it means to be "real" and what it means to be alive or dead such that, if they had lived in the time of Jesus, they could have told whether he was a real man, whether he was killed, and whether he reappeared alive and well after his crucifixion and death. So if Paul and the evangelists (who were not children) got the story right, Jesus lived as a man, was murdered, and returned to life.

            There is a tremendous amount that a physicist or a chemist or a meteorologist might say about rain, but it is not necessary to know all that to know it is raining.

            The early Christian witnesses said unequivocally that Jesus "was crucified, died, and was buried" and that "on the third day he rose again." Christianity was based on their beliefs. If their beliefs were in error, then Christianity is in error.

            I understand that it is very difficult to believe that God incarnate was born of a virgin, lived a few decades, was crucified, and returned from the dead and appeared for a time after his death to his followers, even eating with them. But to me (I can't speak for anyone else), the choice is to believe what they believed and be a Christian, or reject what it seems they believed and not be a Christian.

            I have no problem at all with the belief that the resurrection did not happen, but somehow oral tradition about Jesus turned him into the miracle-working, death-conquering figure we encounter in the New Testament. But if that is indeed what happened, then the stories about Jesus are myths, and the claims of the Catholic Church to be the one true church are not credible.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think the average 7-year-old understands enough

            OK, good. I think this is an excellent working definition of reality. Let's call it:

            7YO reality: whatever a normally developing seven year old would recognize as being real.

            But now let's compare and contrast this with the "fundamental reality" of poetic naturalism. (I'll get back to our primary point of contention in a moment.)

            FPN reality: whatever is identifiable within a very very good mathematical description of the measurable properties of reality (more or less: whatever is identifiable within modern physical science theories.)

            Those two understandings of reality have massive intersection, but they also have massive non-intersection. A boy in 7YO reality can say:

            * I really feel bad.
            * I caused the window to break.
            * I should not lie about it.

            That is, 7YO reality includes, in a fundamental way, things like: the interior "I", causality, and should-ness. In 7YO reality, these are not epiphenomena that one can dispense with. These are fundamental components of 7YO reality. It is in most respects a much more expansive reality than FPN reality. (Though it is also true that FPN reality recognizes aspects of reality that 7YO reality does not; there are of course good reasons to do physics.)

            So now: It seems to clear to me that the Gospel witnesses to the Resurrection were making a statement that the Resurrected Christ existed in something like 7YO reality. Again, this is a very expansive reality, because it is phenomenologically defined. It is not limited to FPN reality, which is methodologically defined.

            The Gospel witnesses were not adjudicating whether the Resurrection belonged to FPN reality. They cannot have even had a position on that relatively narrow question, because they knew nothing of the methodology of modern physics. So, for example, there is no claim that the Resurrected Christ could have been measured. For all we know, glorified matter is immeasurable. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. There just isn't a Gospel claim either way. There is likewise no claim that glorified matter can be formalized in a mathematical system. Maybe it can be, maybe it can't be. There is no claim either way.

            So then, if a PN adherent asks me: "Was the Resurrection of Christ physically real?", I can very reasonably say that it depends on how narrow your conception of physical reality is. If you are talking only about FPN physical reality, then the correct answer is: "I don't know". If you are talking about 7YO physical reality, then my own answer is: "Yes, it was."

          • Rob Abney

            Interesting conversation with the previous roles reversed, with David Nichol arguing for and Jim arguing against the resurrection.
            I agree with the 7 year old definition, he grasps Being whereas the Poet tries desperately only to describe Being. I do think that Peterson is more in the second camp but his psychological basis is more real than the poetic mathematicians.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            the 7 year old definition, he grasps Being whereas the Poet tries desperately only to describe Being.

            I was trying to get at something a bit different. I would say that the 7 year old is grasped by the real, whereas the naturalist defines, methodologically and dogmatically, what reality is, and then asks whether certain phenomena fit into that box.

            I think poets are generally more likely to explore the full space of 7YO reality, because they have more flexible ways of describing the real phenomena of experience. Good poets are not constrained by dogmatic definitions of "the real" in the way that "poetic naturalists" are.

          • Michael

            It seems to me there are really only two possibilities for Christians or would-be Christians regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus. Either it happened or it didn't happen. Either Jesus was physically dead for three days and then physically rose from the dead and interacted (including eating) with his followers, or not.

            That excludes many mainline theologians, Bible scholars, and Christian clergy who interpret the resurrection of Jesus as either not bodily or not necessarily bodily. Every Easter the Episcopalian bishop of Washington DC gives a sermon at the National Cathedral in which she downplays the necessity of faith in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

          • David Nickol

            You are of course correct. But I still have to stick with what I said, which begins "it seems to me." Having been raised to believe in the resurrection as an actual, historical fact, it is very difficult for me to understand those who would try to reinterpret it in some "watered down" fashion. I have no problem, however, with those who don't believe it at all.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are "dead" right. Either Christ actually rose from the dead or, as St. Paul states so clearly, our faith is in vain.

            Of course, St. Paul himself died for that belief -- based on what he personally attested to have been an actual encounter with the risen Christ. I tend to believe witnesses who die for their beliefs.

          • Michael

            What Paul meant by resurrection is a point of contention among scholars. Some have concluded that Paul professed a two-body doctrine of the resurrection.

            Prominent scholars, theologians, and clergy across the denominations recognize that there is more than one way to understand the Easter story. Belief in the resurrection is a given in mainline Christianity, but how that belief should be understood is up for debate.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Given the modernist influence found among many scripture scholars today, I have no doubt that some of them would "demythologize" their own grandmothers, not to mention the authentic meaning of the resurrection both in the Easter account and for all of us at the end of the world.

            As a Catholic, I infer that St. Paul was himself a Catholic, and as such shared the Catholic belief in a literal resurrection of the body, as is dogmatically defined by the Fourth Lateral Council (1215), Denz. 429.

          • Either Christ actually rose from the dead or, as St. Paul states so clearly, our faith is in vain.

            I get it that a Christian will presuppose that their faith is not in vain. But for us who are not already Christians, this is not exactly a killer argument for the resurrection.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I did not say that I viewed this as the sole argument for the resurrection, nor as definitive in itself. That is why the use of the word, "tend," in my comment.

            Nonetheless, belief in a literal resurrection of the body is authentic Catholic teaching.

          • I did not say that I viewed this as the sole argument for the resurrection, nor as definitive in itself.

            And I did not call it the killer argument. I called it a killer argument, which is how Paul seemed to treat it. But it is hardly an argument at all, absent the assignment of some prior probability to the Christian faith being in vain. It carries all the logical punch of my saying, "Either there is no God, or else all the atheists in the world have made a big mistake."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think we have to realize that for Christians, the Scripture text does not carry its force from logical form as much as declarative revelation. "If Christ be not risen, then our faith is in vain," is simply an affirmation that the resurrection of Christ from the dead is the foundational miracle of a religion whose evidence was built on miracles. Philosophy may provide the preambula fidei for the faith, but the direct evidence of Christian revelation in particular comes from the miracles. You obviously do not believe that any of these actually occurred. The validation of their authenticity would be a subject we doubtless both agree would exceed our capacity here.

          • I think we have to realize that for Christians, the Scripture text does not carry its force from logical form as much as declarative revelation.

            This forum is supposed to be a dialogue between Christians and atheists. Neither of us can do much dialoguing if we both defend our worldviews with arguments that presuppose our worldviews.

            but the direct evidence of Christian revelation in particular comes from the miracles. You obviously do not believe that any of these actually occurred. The validation of their authenticity would be a subject we doubtless both agree would exceed our capacity here.

            I validate my disbelief by appealing to the absence of compelling evidence. You could validate your belief by demonstrating how my assessment of the evidence is erroneous.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I guess I misunderstood the primary purpose of the website. I thought it was primarily a dialogue between atheists and theists, not between atheists and Christians. For that reason, I have approached this mostly from the purview of a philosopher -- and philosophy can defend the preambles to Christian belief, but not the specific Christian revelation itself.

            I can share my personal reasons for my Catholic beliefs, but I make no claim to being a professional theologian. I do not represent my knowledge of Catholic apologetics or theology as essentially complete, since were I to present these inadequately, someone could infer from my failure the failure of the Church to be able to defend her teachings and truth.

            The most I can give you in these latter matters is merely my unprofessional opinions.

          • I guess I misunderstood the primary purpose of the website. I thought it was primarily a dialogue between atheists and theists, not between atheists and Christians.

            We were both mistaken. I was relying on my memory, but on re-checking the About page just now, it’s even more specific than what I said: “StrangeNotions.com is the central place of dialogue between Catholics and atheists.”

            I have approached this mostly from the purview of a philosopher -- and philosophy can defend the preambles to Christian belief, but not the specific Christian revelation itself.

            Two questions. (1) Those preambles, if I understand correctly, are certain concepts from Aristotle’s metaphysics. Do I understand correctly, or did am I missing something? (2) Are you saying that philosophy offers no intellectual tools that a Christian may employ to defend their belief in Christian revelation?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Thank you for checking out the purpose of the site. Good point.

            As for the preambles of the faith, I guess they themselves would be part of theology, since they are defined by the nature of the faith to be defended. I do not mean that their content is theological, but merely that theology tells us what natural, philosophical truths are needed in order to support and comport with divinely revealed truths.

            I have no source here, so please do not take my explanation as definitive from a Catholic perspective. Yet, certain things occur to me as follows:

            1. Truth exists and can be known by the intellect. Truth is not relative.
            2. The mind can know extramental being: epistemological realism is needed. Otherwise, how could one know anything about historical figures, in particular, Christ himself.
            3. Metaphysical first principles that are needed to prove God's existence and the spirituality and immortality of the human soul: non-contradiction, sufficient reason, causality, finality, and others.
            4. That God does in fact exist. That the human spiritual and immortal soul exists.
            5. Certain natural truths about God: omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, eternity, and so forth.
            6. Certain truths about God's relationship to his creatures: the nature of creation, secondary causality, ability to sustain free choice in intellectual beings, and so forth.
            7. The natural need for religion and for supernatural revelation.
            8. The fact that only one religion can logically encompass all revealed truth, since God cannot reveal contradictory truths.
            9. The whole realm of natural law as an extension of divine law. This is relevant as a rational foundation for Catholic ethics, where faith may exceed reason but not conflict with it.

            There might be a lot more specific content, but this is what occurs to me off off the top of my head. You can see it extends far beyond Aristotle's metaphysics.

            Also, as you can see, there is plenty of room for work for the philosopher in terms of the preambula fidei! Some of it belongs to several of the philosophical sciences: philosophical psychology, epistemology, metaphysics, and even ethics.

            Please do not ask me to explain and defend all of this. I was just trying to answer your questions!

          • There might be a lot more specific content, but this is what occurs to me off off the top of my head. You can see it extends far beyond Aristotle's metaphysics.

            Thank you very much. I now have a much better idea of where you're coming from.

            Please do not ask me to explain and defend all of this. I was just trying to answer your questions!

            Not a problem. It would be an intolerable derailment of this thread for us to get into all that.

          • This forum is supposed to be a dialogue between Christians and atheists. Neither of us can do much dialoguing if we both defend our worldviews with arguments that presuppose our worldviews.

            If your second sentence were true, scientists who operate according to different research paradigms could not "do much dialoguing", and neither could people from different cultures. You seem to be hewing to the following obsolete ideal of science:

            Indeed, for a very long time philosophers generally have been inclined to accept what I call the Leibnizian ideal. In brief, the Leibnizian ideal holds that all disputes about matters of fact can be impartially resolved by invoking appropriate rules of evidence. At least since Bacon, most philosophers have believed there to be an algorithm or set of algorithms which would permit any impartial observer to judge the degree to which a certain body of data rendered different explanations of those data true or false, probable or improbable. (Science and Values, 5)

            Nobody believes this anymore. Everyone realizes that there can be significant cultural differences even between two sciences such as biochemistry and biophysics, and yet plenty of productive conversation can still happen. One does need some commonality in order to communicate, but it doesn't have to be extensive as is e.g. presupposed by Donald Davidson in his 1973 On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme. One way to understand the reason for this is that there can be a lot of agreement on the phenomenological level—e.g. how to drive the car—while there is still plenty of disagreement on the ontological level—e.g. how internal combustion works. Two people can have two massively different ontologies and understandings of causation, and yet still communicate. It might even be the case that each of them has latched onto truths [s]he can see uniquely well, but over-extrapolated those to areas where the other person has a superior understanding.

            Doug, you seem to have some really weird views on miscommunication; I wonder if they're tied to the above obsolete understanding of how science works. It's very modernist—and critiqued by Charles Taylor in Explanation and Practical Reason (1989). As it turns out, it is possible to reason with someone in accordance to his/her way of reasoning, even when it conflicts with your own way of reasoning. And sometimes, when you get far enough in reasoning with him/her, you find out that the result is so valuable and unreachable by your own reasoning that you decide to assimilate the bits of the other person's reasoning that let you also get that result.

            For a fun account of how the Copernican/​Galilean worldview overtook the Ptolemaic worldview—without first passing through some neutral "same worldview" stage—see Alasdair MacIntyre's 1977 Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative and the Philosophy of Science.

          • If your second sentence were true . . . .

            It’s not. I’m not quite sure what I was thinking, but it was seriously in error.

            At least since Bacon, most philosophers have believed there to be an algorithm or set of algorithms which would permit any impartial observer to judge the degree to which a certain body of data rendered different explanations of those data true or false, probable or improbable. (Science and Values, 5)

            Nobody believes this anymore.

            I have seen no polling data to support that, and even if in fact nobody believed it, no proposition is falsified by a consensus against it.

            What I don’t need a survey to tell me is that nobody has found an algorithm that is generally accepted. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one or that we’ll never find it if there is.

            My own suspicion these days is that because the real world is so complex, we’re not going to find any all-purpose algorithm that would give us the answer to whatever empirical question we might put to it along with whatever data we suspect of pointing toward the answer. That doesn’t mean I’m committed to the nonexistence of that algorithm, but I think it would likely be too unwieldy for humans to implement. A very vague analogy would be a computer program that required more memory than we could put into a usable computer.

            As it turns out, it is possible to reason with someone in accordance to his/her way of reasoning, even when it conflicts with your own way of reasoning.

            It depends on what you mean by “conflicts with.” When I referred to different worldviews, I had in mind worldviews with different presuppositions or axiomatic beliefs.

            Since joining this forum, through what I hope has been good-faith dialogue, I have learned much about Catholic orthodoxy’s indebtedness to Aristotle’s metaphysical assumptions. And although I understand why those assumptions have a strong intuitive appeal, my own worldview happens to reject them, and thus do I justify my disbelief in Catholic orthodoxy. (That is a gross oversimplification, but it is not false and it makes my point.) Now at this point Catholics and I are just at an impasse in our debate, because I don’t have a good argument to the conclusion that Aristotle’s metaphysical assumptions are false. All I can claim is that my worldview seems to work just fine without them. Having had our dialogue, Catholics and I hopefully understand each other better than we did, and that is no trivial accomplishment.

          • LB: At least since Bacon, most philosophers have believed there to be an algorithm or set of algorithms which would permit any impartial observer to judge the degree to which a certain body of data rendered different explanations of those data true or false, probable or improbable. (Science and Values, 5)

            Nobody believes this anymore.

            DS: I have seen no polling data to support that, and even if in fact nobody believed it, no proposition is falsified by a consensus against it.

            You're being weird again, Doug. My point was not to establish an absolute truth, but to talk about the current limitations of our knowledge and the lack of warrant to believe that we will find such an algorithm. Without such warrant, we should not predicate much on such an algorithm existing—unless we add an appropriate disclaimer. It is quite possible that humans simply are not well-modeled as Turing machines (nor finite automata). The computer model of the mind has certainly lost much of its prestige in the psychological sciences.

            When I referred to different worldviews, I had in mind worldviews with different presuppositions or axiomatic beliefs.

            Sure, and you can explore the the table of contents of Luciano L'Abate's 2011 Paradigms in Theory Construction and see the different Kuhnian research paradigms in just psychology. Surely you recognize that even while operating in different research paradigms, psychologists can have productive conversations and learn more about reality?

            Now at this point Catholics and I are just at an impasse in our debate, because I don’t have a good argument to the conclusion that Aristotle’s metaphysical assumptions are false.

            You can make appeals to pragmatic efficacy. According to Chad Wellmon in Organizing Enlightenment: Information Overload and the Invention of the Modern Research University, appeals to pragmatic efficacy were key to advocating, designing, and implementing the modern research university.

          • My point was not to establish an absolute truth, but to talk about the current limitations of our knowledge and the lack of warrant to believe that we will find such an algorithm.

            Then you should have said, “Given the current limitations of our knowledge, we have no warrant to believe that we will find such an algorithm.” If I had challenged you to defend that statement, then you could have appealed to a consensus within the community of scientists who have been looking for that algorithm.

            The computer model of the mind has certainly lost much of its prestige in the psychological sciences.

            That doesn’t bother me much. I cannot claim much familiarity with the current state of psychology as an intellectual discipline, but what little I have seen gives me little confidence in its practitioners’ commitment to scientific rigor. To consider just one datum, the recent scandal about replicability seems to have pertained to the psychological sciences more than any other field.

            I don’t have a good argument to the conclusion that Aristotle’s metaphysical assumptions are false.

            You can make appeals to pragmatic efficacy.

            That is in a way, kinda sorta, what Occam’s razor is all about. I reject Aristotle because his work, insofar as I understand it, includes a bunch of assumptions that I don’t think I need in order to make sense of the universe. His defenders’ response is, “Oh, but you do need them.” And then insofar as any useful dialogue ensues, it is over that issue.

          • LB: At least since Bacon, most philosophers have believed there to be an algorithm or set of algorithms which would permit any impartial observer to judge the degree to which a certain body of data rendered different explanations of those data true or false, probable or improbable. (Science and Values, 5)

            Nobody believes this anymore.

            DS: Then you should have said, “Given the current limitations of our knowledge, we have no warrant to believe that we will find such an algorithm.” If I had challenged you to defend that statement, then you could have appealed to a consensus within the community of scientists who have been looking for that algorithm.

            I'm confident that you could have derived what you wrote from what I wrote (and included in this comment). I get that you have a hyper-precise way of stating things, and I'm pretty sure that I could find all sorts of quibbles with it nonetheless. But because I'm pretty sure you would acknowledge the quibble and adjust in an obvious way, I don't bring them up. I could crank up my precision with you, but do you really think our discussions would benefit? I personally think we'd turn into analytic philosophers who have exceedingly little to offer the world. Your goal of showing others how you think would be defeated by nobody being able/​willing to read it.

            LB: The computer model of the mind has certainly lost much of its prestige in the psychological sciences.

            DS: That doesn’t bother me much. I cannot claim much familiarity with the current state of psychology as an intellectual discipline, but what little I have seen gives me little confidence in its practitioners’ commitment to scientific rigor. To consider just one datum, the recent scandal about replicability seems to have pertained to the psychological sciences more than any other field.

            That seems irrelevant to the question of whether the computer model of the mind has proven to be empirically helpful to the relevant sciences.

            I reject Aristotle because his work, insofar as I understand it, includes a bunch of assumptions that I don’t think I need in order to make sense of the universe. His defenders’ response is, “Oh, but you do need them.”

            Have you seen me question them on grounds of pragmatic efficacy? I ask things like: "How would science improve if more scientists were to accept an A/T manner of thinking?" So far, I haven't gotten any concrete answer to that question. Maybe A/T is in a phase rather like string theory, where a bunch of work has to be done in theory-land before it touches down in empirical reality. If so, I wish them well and I look forward to chatting with them when they re-enter the practical atmosphere from abstract orbit.

          • I'm confident that you could have derived what you wrote from what I wrote

            Yeah, I can probably put words in your mouth better than I could when you and I began our dialogues, but I’d still rather not do it. Haven’t you noticed in these forums how often we see “You said X,” “No, did not say X, I said Y.”

            I get that you have a hyper-precise way of stating things,

            I’m not the one to judge whether it is so, but I’d like to think that the precision of my writing is a good reflection of the precision of my thinking.

            Your goal of showing others how you think would be defeated by nobody being able/willing to read it.

            I’m continually conscious of the need to balance precision with readability, but I need reader feedback to know how well I’m doing. Trouble is, if I’m unreadable, I usually don’t hear about it. People don’t comment on posts they think are too much bother to read. But when I’m imprecise, that I do hear about, because people let me know that they think I said something I didn’t mean to say.

            That seems irrelevant to the question of whether the computer model of the mind has proven to be empirically helpful to the relevant sciences.

            What is relevant to the assessment of any model is the fit between empirical reality and the model’s predictions. I don’t think our computer models of the mind are at the stage yet where they can be given such a test, mainly because we don’t know enough yet about the mind to construct a testable model. And if that is so, then the judgment of many psychological scientists that such a model can never work is, to put it most charitably, premature.

            I ask things like: "How would science improve if more scientists were to accept an A/T manner of thinking?"

            I don’t remember your asking me that question. And my comment was in reference to the general, overall, debate between Catholics and atheists in this forum, not to anything you in particular have said, because I don’t offhand recall any specific defense you have offered of Catholicism in particular.

            Maybe A/T is in a phase rather like string theory, where a bunch of work has to be done in theory-land before it touches down in empirical reality.

            I guess that’s possible, but A/T’s defenders have had a lot more time than string theorists to get their theoretical act together.

          • Yeah, I can probably put words in your mouth better than I could when you and I began our dialogues, but I’d still rather not do it. Haven’t you noticed in these forums how often we see “You said X,” “No, did not say X, I said Y.”

            Part of the joy of getting to understand another person is that you can simulate him/her better and better. When enough trust is built, errors are actually wonderful opportunities to find out that [s]he is more complex and probably better than you were modeling. What becomes obnoxious is if the person who makes the error doesn't do the intellectual work to see why [s]he probably made the error and then make the appropriate corrections in his/her simulator. On the other hand, sometimes it takes several examples of making the error in different ways to see what the true source is. In all this, a better simulator means that one can go more places in the conversation because one has more of a common ground—even if that common ground is only in the simulation instead of in an overlap of beliefs. And would you really want the other person to become an ever-more perfect clone of you? I think that'd be terrible; one of me is plenty for this world.

            But when I’m imprecise, that I do hear about, because people let me know that they think I said something I didn’t mean to say.

            Sure, and you can distinguish between those who are just being pedantic and arguing about things that don't matter (because correcting the error would in no way damage your overall argument) and those who have found a potential problem. If your goal is to communicate to average people, succinctness with the option of articulation seems critical. If your goal is to communicate to people who are closer to academics, then the extreme measures you go to thwart much of any criticism is probably the safest route. When one gets below the top echelon (I would put Charles Taylor at the top echelon), I find it very common for academics to quibble about irrelevancies.

            BTW, I say all this knowing that I practice plenty of "pedantic mode" myself. That's why I can recognize the dynamics at play. What I'm working on these days is more dynamic range, more ability to ratchet the level of pedantic up and down, and better ways to say things succinctly which don't open me up to too much criticism.

            Apropos to the OP, have you seen Jordan Peterson say that what he most fears is saying something sufficiently "wrong" that he will be condemned on social media? One could model your own commenting behavior according to that rubric. What I challenge you to consider is what kind of world we are constructing, when verbal errors are punished so severely. Is it actually a good world?

            What is relevant to the assessment of any model is the fit between empirical reality and the model’s predictions. I don’t think our computer models of the mind are at the stage yet where they can be given such a test, mainly because we don’t know enough yet about the mind to construct a testable model. And if that is so, then the judgment of many psychological scientists that such a model can never work is, to put it most charitably, premature.

            That's fine; this is sort of like Communism always being a live option in the sense that maybe there are good ways to make it work which we haven't discovered yet. Returning to my point, if the computer model of the mind has not yielded empirical fruit, I say it is iffy to depend on it in modeling human interaction in pretty much any way. That includes thinking that reasoning works like computer algorithms.

            I don’t remember your asking me that question.

            I think I was mostly asking Dr. Bonnette that question.

            I guess that’s possible, but A/T’s defenders have had a lot more time than string theorists to get their theoretical act together.

            The impacts of theological and philosophical ideas seem to be centuries-long, if not millennia-long.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I tend to believe witnesses who die for their beliefs.

            I do too, but I try not to assume that I know exactly what they are talking about when they claim to be describing a completely unique event at the center of human history. All the more so when they are expressing that experience using categories of thought and cultural idioms that are very different from the ones that I am embedded in.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I explained in a comment below my reason for ascribing the meaning of St. Paul's belief to the Catholic defined dogma. After all, how could he have gotten that wrong -- given that he actually wrote parts of the inspired Bible? Would we want to suggest that St. Paul's faith was defective?

            As to the actual ontological content of his "encounter with the risen Christ," I did not characterize that as being an immediate personal meeting like that of the Apostles in the upper room or simply a vision which would have to be from Christ anyway. In any event, it was an "encounter," which is what I said.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It's not a matter of thinking that he got it wrong or that he wasn't being literal. It's a matter of understanding what he meant when he (let's assume) literally got it right.

            To the best of my knowledge, Catholic dogma is silent on the question of whether glorified matter can be measured, and whether it can be modeled mathematically. That is the very specific sense of "physically real" that naturalists care about. To them, if it is not that, it is not real. And I'm saying that we simply don't know -- even if we assent to all the dogmatic and scriptural assertions -- if the resurrection had those particular characteristics. What we do know (assuming we trust Paul and company) is that it was palpably, tangibly, real, shockingly so, to the point that they re-centered their lives on it. But that has to do with the qualia of what they experienced; it is silent on the questions that a modern physicist might have.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Given that many modern physicist-naturalists themselves embrace an "atomistic mythology" in which they have no realistic concept of their own organic substantial existence and unity, I am not too impressed by their concerns about measurable matter that can be mathematically modeled. See my video, "Does Richard Dawkins exist?": https://aleteia.org/2015/04/27/video-atheistic-materialism-does-richard-dawkins-exist/

            But as far at what the Church teaches about the actually resurrected body, Ludwig Ott's classic "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma," p. 490, says that "the dead will rise again with the same bodies as they had on earth.," De fide.

            Further, he says that "the bodies of the just will be re-modelled and transfigured to the pattern of the risen Christ." Sententia certa.

            This latter point is critical, since Scripture tells us of the risen Christ being able to be touched by his disciples, cooking fish at the sea shore for them, eating and drinking with them. "Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” See Luke 24:28-53.

            I don't know exactly what these modern day skeptics are looking for, but just how skeptical do skeptics have to be before they are recognized for being absurd?

          • Rob Abney

            I always find it curious that those of us in the present day consider that this is an issue between us and Paul or between us and the Apostles. As if it depends upon us being convinced by Paul. We cannot omit the interceding generations who passed this information on to us and who did understand the preceding generation.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think that is true in one way and false in another.

            Let's look first at the primary way that Paul proposed to convey the Resurrection experience: through imitation. He claimed to have learned how to conform his own life to Christ, and he preached that if others imitated him (Paul), they would thereby be conforming their own lives to Christ, and that this was the primary means of conveyance of the faith.

            For example, in 1 Corinthians 4:

            Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
            Therefore, I urge you, be imitators of me

            For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

            He perceived that words are a very fragile way to convey a message. Every purely linguistic translation is a corruption to some degree ("traduttore traditore"), and even if one manages to translate an idea more or less successfully at first, this is always a very fragile thing, because the meanings of words shifts over time within languages. Moreover, the translation is never really complete anyway until the pattern of Christ is instantiated in practice.

            So, yes, I do think that the Resurrection has been translated with some success from one generation to the next via saints who really do learn the art of imitating Christ (it has also been communicated with abysmal failure, by the far-less-than-saintly). However, when it comes to our expression of that experience in language, I think we should be quite skeptical that we have adequate translations for our present culture.

          • I tend to believe witnesses who die for their beliefs.

            If it were reliably documented that any Christian was ever told: “Either deny that Christ is risen or you will die,” and they would not deny the resurrection, then I would be convinced that that Christian believed Christ was risen and had died for that belief. So far as I can tell from the extant historical record, no Christian was ever offered that particular alternative. In other words, there is no evidence that any Christian ever died for their belief in the resurrection.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            But the resurrection was a essential part of the entire packet of Christian beliefs for which they were persecuted and died. Put another way, if they were willing to deny the resurrection, it would have been just as easy to deny the rest of what they were being prosecuted for believing.

          • But the resurrection was a essential part of the entire packet of Christian beliefs for which they were persecuted and died.

            Why should I believe they were persecuted because of “the entire packet” of their beliefs? Exactly what—according to any part of the historical record that we can examine right now—did their persecutors persecute them for? Just what were Christians doing or saying that aroused their anger to a homicidal level?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't see the relevance of the specific issue the authorities had against the Christians. It may be because they refused to give tribute to the gods, of whom the emperor was one. But the point at issue is that the Christians could not comply without betraying their faith, of which the resurrection was the foundational evidence.

          • It may be because they refused to give tribute to the gods, of whom the emperor was one. But the point at issue is that the Christians could not comply without betraying their faith, of which the resurrection was the foundational evidence.

            The reason for the persecutions lay in the mind of the persecutors, not their victims. If the issue is “Why were they persecuted?” it doesn’t matter what the Christians themselves were thinking. If the Christians could have saved themselves just by giving tribute, then their belief in the resurrection was irrelevant as far as the persecutors were concerned. And if it was irrelevant in the persecutors’ minds, then the Christians were not killed for saying “Christ is risen.”

            Let me rephrase the question this way. Is there any evidence that any Christian threatened with death was told: “If you will just deny that Jesus rose from the dead, then we will let you live”? If not, then I see no justification for the claim that Christians were killed for believing in the resurrection.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Did I ever say that they were killed for believing in the resurrection?

            I understood that they were killed for refusing to give tribute to the gods. Their personal reason for refusing was that they could not do so without betraying the Faith. But a sine qua non of the Faith was belief in the resurrection. One could not really believe in the Faith without accepting the resurrection of Christ. And accepting the reality of the resurrection was tantamount to accepting the Faith. So they could not deny one without denying the other.

            Thus, giving tribute to the gods amounted to denying the resurrection.

          • Did I ever say that they were killed for believing in the resurrection?

            Not in so many words, no. I inferred so from the context in which you said, “I tend to believe witnesses who die for their beliefs.”

            Thus, giving tribute to the gods amounted to denying the resurrection.

            Some Christians escaped martyrdom by giving tribute. After the persecutions ended, church authorities had some discussions about what should be done with them, but I haven’t read any of the documents relating those discussions. I’m going to do that as soon as I get a chance.

          • Michael

            Biblical criticism is an important part of faith seeking understanding for some Christians. Those Christians might respond by saying that reinterpretations of the resurrection happened early on, and that they are trying to reinterpret later doctrine by recovering the original theologies of resurrection.

            There is no empty tomb in 1 Corinthians. Decades later Mark's resurrection narrative has an empty tomb, but no post-resurrection appearances of Jesus unless you accept one of the other four alternate endings. The resurrection story continues to evolve from there. That knowledge informs the faith of some Christians.

          • David Nickol

            Biblical criticism is an important part of faith seeking understanding for some Christians.

            I think for many of us who were raised Catholic (especially before Vatican II) or were raised as "conservative" Christians in other denominations, a great deal of Biblical criticism cannot help bring with it disillusionment and the diminution or even loss of faith. If the resurrection story "evolved," what we were raised to believe is then undermined, unless it "evolved" from something as truly remarkable as the resurrection story we believed in the first place. And how likely is that?

            What you will see here from many of those I call Strange Notions Catholics is a deep suspicion of any biblical scholarship that suggests the Gospels are not accurate historical accounts of actual events. The New American Bible (2 rev ed) is looked upon by more conservative Catholics as bordering on heretical (if not worse).

            I want to make clear that I am not complaining that I was taught Catholicism in elementary and secondary school in terms that were "age appropriate" for children, and now I am disillusioned because the adult version is more complicated. I was taught basically what now one finds in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in terms of the basics of the Catholic faith.

          • Michael

            I think for many of us who were raised Catholic (especially before Vatican II) or were raised as "conservative" Christians in other denominations, a great deal of Biblical criticism cannot help bring with it disillusionment and the diminution or even loss of faith.

            Unfortunately, that is what happened to me.

          • Rob Abney

            What happened?

          • Michael

            I was finally unable to preserve my faith in light of the critical study of Biblical literature that I immersed myself in.

          • Rob Abney

            What was your background? Strong Catholic, teenager, something else?

          • Michael

            Raised Seventh-day Adventist, shopped around as a teenager and converted to Catholicism.

          • Rob Abney

            At what age did you become Catholic? When did you lose your faith?

          • Michael

            Joined at 16. In my early forties I gradually came to the realization that I had lost my faith.

          • Rob Abney

            So you chose Catholicism of your own free will as a young adult and then practiced the faith as a true believer for more than 20 years. Throughout that time I presume you believed in the Trinity and the Eucharist in the least. How did modern biblical criticism replace those beliefs with something else? Did other parts of your life also change dramatically at that time?

          • Michael

            Over the years I become unable to reconcile the Trinitarian theologies of the New Testament as illuminated by scholars with the Trinitarian dogmas of the ecumenical councils.

            My loss of faith in the eucharist was not a direct result of my research. As I became unable to believe in the more basic dogmas professed in the creed I naturally lost faith in the eucharist as well.

            To this day I can appreciate a well orchestrated liturgy.

            Did other parts of your life also change dramatically at that time?

            No.

          • Rob Abney

            This is from an article by Elanore Stump: “final judgement regarding historical authenticity may turn out very differently if biblical scholarship is subjected to analysis and questioning by philosophers. Many cannot survive philosophical scrutiny, and bringing philosophical analysis to bear on biblical criticism often alters the historical conclusions which can be justified by that discipline....
            philosophical or theological argument based largely on a religious presupposition which the author neither examines nor justifies....
            So although there is something to be said for not gainsaying experts in their field of expertise, much of contemporary historical scholarship on the Bible is not sound historical research but rather just weak philosophical argument…”

            I think that you should improve your own ability to do philosophical analysis of the texts that have led you away from beliefs that you embraced with your heart for a long time.

          • Michael

            Biblical criticism has its issues, but if I understand Stump correctly she is conflating Biblical criticism with liberal theology. Liberal theology is informed by the modern critical study of the Bible and in turn it informs the critical studies of many scholars, but as Catholic scholars often prove, you do not need to assume liberal theology to take Biblical criticism seriously, and it is not a given that you will develop a liberal theology if you take Biblical criticism seriously.

          • Rob Abney

            I think biblical criticism suffers from falling too easily into fundamentalism, which almost always leads to fideism or atheism. Either one could be classified as liberal theology.
            Did you ever discuss your concerns about the contradictions you were noticing with a Catholic who had a strong philosophical understanding of scripture? If you would like to cite some of the deficiencies that you detected about the Trinity then I’m sure you could get help here at SN.

          • David Nickol

            I think biblical criticism suffers from falling too easily into fundamentalism, which almost always leads to fideism or atheism. Either one could be classified as liberal theology.

            The absolute last thing modern biblical criticism suffers from is falling too easily into fundamentalism! I can only assume you have no understanding of what modern biblical criticism is. And neither fideism nor atheism is "liberal theology."

            Might I recommend Introduction to the New Testament, by Raymond F. Collins (who is a Catholic priest), available as a Kindle book for $7.99. A used copy can be picked up for about the same (cost plus shipping).

          • Rob Abney

            That’s a good recommendation. I’ll read it, especially if you tell me that the Stump criticism of Raymond Brown’s conclusion about the ending of the gospel of John is unfounded. Brown and Collins were good friends. Dr. Bonnette put up a link to the Stump article, she writes about Brown ‘s conclusion toward the last half, she writes about another brown in the first half!

          • David Nickol

            . . . . if you tell me that the Stump criticism of Raymond Brown’s conclusion about the ending of the gospel of John is unfounded.

            Her criticisms of Raymond E. Brown are not merely unfounded; they are outrageous.

            What Stump fails to note is that Brown is presenting the scholarly consensus about the conclusion of Chapter 20 and the apparent addition of Chapter 21 as a kind of appendix. Every reference I have looked at in my library, including McKenzie's Dictionary of the Bible, The New American Bible (2 rev ed), St. John by John Marsh, and even David Bentley Hart's The New Testament mentions the end of Chapter 20 as the conclusion of the Gospel of John. Hart says, in a footnote:

            The Gospel clearly reaches a natural conclusion at the end of chapter 20; chapter 21 is, most scholars believe, a slightly later addition to the text, a sort of theological (and rather dreamlike and lovely) coda.

            The NAB says of Chapter 21:

            There are many non-Johannine peculiarities in this chapter, some suggesting Lucan Greek style; yet this passage is closer to John than Jn 7:53–8:11. There are many Johannine features as well. Its closest parallels in the synoptic gospels are found in Lk 5:1–11 and Mt 14:28–31. Perhaps the tradition was ultimately derived from John but preserved by some disciple other than the writer of the rest of the gospel. The appearances narrated seem to be independent of those in Jn 20. Even if a later addition, the chapter was added before publication of the gospel, for it appears in all manuscripts.

            Brown notes that the earliest manuscripts and the earliest references include Chapter 21. He does not (and would never) say it is not canonical. He is merely saying that looking at John as a complete literary work, Chapter 20 appears to be the end of the Gospel as a coherent literary work.

            Stump does not mention that in the very long, technical analysis that Brown presents, he takes great care to mention every instance that is characteristically Johannine and every instance that is not. For instance, here is a tiny snippet from pages and pages of notes:

            The proposition is syn which occurs only twice elsewhere in John (meta is frequent) but some seventy-five times in Luke/Acts.

            She relies on Brown's translation for her criticisms, and I assume she does not know Greek. This kind of evidence based on language use (of pronouns!) is not something she is competent to evaluate.

            Stump says the following:

            My aim has rather been to show the incredibly weak case on which RB, the author of the Anchor Bible volume, bases his claim to certainty about his view that Chapter 21 is not part of the original Gospel. I am certain, and I hope to have shown convincingly, that he has no grounds for certainty regarding his conclusion.

            Brown does indeed say the following:

            And so we consider it certain that ch xxi is an addition to the Gospel, consisting of a once independent narrative of Jesus' appearance to his disciplines.

            But I think anyone who reads biblical scholarship as done by exegetes like Brown understands that "we consider it certain" is not meant to convey the same meaning as "it is certain." Brown is summarizing the consensus of scholars who have weighed in on the matter, evaluating their arguments, and making his own judgments. Just because he says "we consider it certain" does not mean that the reader is obliged to agree. Everyone can judge for him or herself whether the following sounds like an ending:

            Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

            If you were unfamiliar with the Gospel of John and turned the page after reading those verses, and you found the next page blank, would you say, "But where's the rest?"

            Also, in Brown's own translation, Chapter 21 begins, "Later on . . . . " In a note he points out the following:

            Later on. The vague meta tauta is a stereotyped connective conveniently used to attach extraneous matter. After the conclusion in xx 30-32, its temporal value is very weak; contrast xx 26 with its more precise "a week later" relating two post-resurrection appearances.

            This is the kind of detail (like the use of prepositions mentioned above) that adds credence to Brown's position but that Stump disregards.

          • David Nickol

            Just one quick addendum: The issue here is purely a literary one. In terms of Catholic teaching, it matters not one whit whether Chapter 21 was appended to the Gospel of John or whether it was originally intended as the final chapter. Nor does it matter if it was written by John, by Luke, or by some unknown figure. It is universally agreed that it was "published" along with Chapters 1-20. It is unquestionably, for all practical purposes, a part of what has been known from the very beginning as the Gospel of John. It is an odd thing for Stump to challenge because it is a purely literary matter that makes absolutely no difference to the Catholic faith whether you agree with Brown and the scholarly consensus or not. Stump is pitting her own literary judgement against scholars who read Greek, have been through the Gospels with a fine toothed comb, and who have compared them to other Greek writings of the same period.

          • David Nickol

            Another addendum. Stump quotes Raymond Brown as follows:

            From textual evidence, including that of such early witnesses as P" and Tertullian, the Gospel was never circulated with ch. xxi. . . .

            Actually, Brown says "it was never circulated without ch. xxi.' (See p. 1077 in Volume II.)

            I assume it is a simple error and not a deliberate distortion, but perhaps it was a Freudian slip.

          • Michael

            I had a lot of discussions over the years with clergy, religious, and informed laypersons from across the spectrum of Catholicism. I still keep in contact with several people who were willing to struggle with me over my doubts and questions.

          • Sample1

            Went to Catholic grade school but not all eight years. Because of that I was required to submit an essay to proceed with confirmation. My mom was mortified. She wrote the essay.

            A little later in the week I received a phone call from one of the women who ran the chancery. I still remember her name. She said that in light of my mostly Catholic education I would be confirmed. But before she told me that I was made to feel I was being given a huge favor and that my subordination was understood.

            I finally saw my mom’s letter. Along with her devout defense of my qualifications she reminded them in no uncertain terms that she gave thousands of dollars for the new Church organ.

            Not long after that the bishop slapped my face (as was custom) at the altar and lo, I was now a full member of this Church.

            Adult converts in the US have no idea what organization they pledge fealty to.

            Mike, happy ex Catholic.

          • Rob Abney

            Oh, I always assumed you left because of theological or philosophical difficulties, didn't realize it was due to a personal squabble. Did your mom leave the Church also?

          • Sample1

            Rob, my journey into the light and out of your church probably began when I watched a NOVA episode about evolution as a young teenager. That’s when I asked around if others believed in God. But it took many twists and turns and many years until I finally had to accept that I couldn’t, in good conscience, continue with the charade. You might become an atheist someday to. Keep reading your bible.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            You’re saying that to become an atheist I have to watch a video and read the Bible but to become a Catholic all that is required is an essay written by my mom?
            What if I accept evolution and Catholicism, is it worth the risk of offending my friends!

          • Rob Abney

            Mike, will you read Peterson’s book? I would like to hear what you think about it, the opinions so far are all over the place.

          • Sample1

            It’s unlikely I will read him but he’s he’s on my radar. Already have books in front of him I’m trying to finish, and failing. Also, am currently trying to support a friend locally whose caught up with an accusation of cultural appropriation for an art piece that has received national news. Look up Doragon Wearable Arts Alaska.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            What do you like about him?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Here's a podcast of him reading chapter 6 of his book, one of the best chapters actually.
            The theme is how to make the world a better place by starting to stop doing things you know you shouldn't do!
            https://jordanbpeterson.com/podcasts/podcast-episode/40-message-to-the-school-shooters-past-present-and-future/

          • Sample1

            What is your favorite bit?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            This is a paraphrase but gets to the essence:
            Those who have done good deeds,
            build the resurrection of life, a heaven on earth;
            but those who have done wicked deeds
            bring the resurrection of condemnation, a hell on earth.

          • Sample1

            Are you interested in sharing what that paraphrase means for you when you read it? I’m interested in knowing that.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Ok, but the book (and/or podcast) is much better.
            I've mentioned this to you before, you/we must strive to do what is good in every aspect of our life, if we do that we can change the world. (He describes the meaning of good).
            In this chapter he says we should start stopping doing things that we know are wrong, such as small lies/untruths. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who was imprisoned unjustly and tortured in the Soviet gulags for many years and at the same time was diagnosed with cancer - yet he refused to blame his torturers, or the government, or fate, or God; instead he blamed himself for the many times he had cooperated with evil by doing things he knew were wrong. His famous quote "The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man."
            Then I used the essence of his writing along with the writing from John 5:17-30, the gospel reading for today.

          • Sample1

            That’s kind of what I was expecting for a reply. I thought there was a way you were incorporating what you liked about his worldview with your own religious one. That’s cool, we all tend to do this. People like me just don’t marry the supernatural parts with the natural in order to make a larger picture.

            I used to do that when I was a believer but no longer. I don’t feel, as you might suspect, that I’m therefore missing something of importance to my own outlook.

            There certainly are heroic examples of people under circumstances I will never endure who behaved admirably. Soltzhenitsyn is one of them. Those who took the place of others during the Holocaust are further examples of tragic beauty.

            Anyone who works to minimize suffering and increase human flourishing is going to move me to follow their example. The devil is in the details. Some people have different ideas than I do regarding the words flourishing and suffering. Moreover, suffering as in being a religious virtue simply holds no sway for me. Zero. In fact, suffering has risen almost to the level of a fetish in some religions and that I can’t condone.

            Secular humanism has many positive empirical results for our species and considering there are many metrics by which it can be shown that our time is likely the best time to see massive reductions in all kinds of violence that humans historically inflicted upon one another, I am filled with hope that such progress remains in our control.

            I’d rather not tamper with that by looking away from secular humanism toward, say, religions which by there very nature, their nature, create necessary, yes necessary divisions between a single species.

            I hope you understand my viewpoint on this. As Sam Harris once said, the Christians invented physics as we know it and the Muslims invented algebra but there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim physics. It’s just physics. Likewise, if we are lucky, one day there won’t be Christian or Islamic morality. It will just be human well being and flourishing. Secular humanism is driving that outlook and it is very very good.

            Peace.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Since you are such a fan of secular humanism, I assume you find the historical development of secular humanism to be of great interest. Has secular humanism ever developed anywhere in human history other than out of the Judeo-Christian background of medieval Europe? Do you view that as a coincidence?

            religions which by there very nature, their nature, create necessary, yes necessary divisions

            Secular humanism avoids these divisions only the extent that everyone becomes a secular humanist and understands secular humanism in the same way. But then, the same could be said of every religion, e.g. if everyone would just become a Muslim and understand Islam in the same way, there would be nothing to fight about.

          • Sample1

            Are you 100% confident that that’s the direction you want to run with?

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm not trying to run in any direction, and I'm not worried about where the conversation may or may not go.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for that reply, I enjoy reading your insights into your own thinking.
            I would like to be able to show that what you are advocating (such as: massive reductions in all kinds of violence) and what I am advocating (good deeds) is very similar, and the primary difference is how high we want to aim (what is the ultimate good).
            Peterson is not a professed Christian but when he describes how high we should aim he is getting at the heart of Christianity, love of God and love of neighbor, although he uses different terms to describe God.

          • Sample1

            Thanks to you too. Tangible journeys typically retain my interest more than unevidenced destinations. A bishop I once knew taught me this lesson on a mountain hike. I caught him on the trail as I descended from the top while he was climbing up. I said, “you’re almost there!”

            Rather than simply accept the common parlance of my good will observation he wrote an article for the secular paper exclaiming my focus on the top was shortsighted. For him it was the journey, not the top of the mountain. The irony is that now every step is my focus and the destination is not important, something that would be paradoxically difficult for him to disagree with without negating his own spiritual worldview.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            From my POV, the journey is important but there would be no journey if there was not some sort of destination, no matter how ill-defined.

            If you're a mountain climber then I suspect that you may try to minimize suffering but you are not totally against it, or else you would avoid the activity. Suffering is worthwhile if it is intended to help ourselves or others now or in the future.
            I'll refer to Peterson again, from his lecture series on Genesis, he says that when the first humans became self-aware was the same time that they realized that they could suffer or sacrifice now for future gain.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            So as not to appear to be attacking any of our atheist friends here, I will respond to some of the biblical criticism that has been alleged as undermining Catholicism to you instead.

            I really find it hard to believe that anyone has abandoned Catholicism simply because of reading modern biblical criticism. If anyone will simply take the time to read the following couple links, he will begin to see what I mean:

            First, here is a link to a pretty balanced historical overview of the development of biblical criticism in the last several centuries: https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/history-biblical-criticism

            Second, here is a link to a commentary showing the philosophical and presuppositional errors that permeate modern biblical criticism: http://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth20.html

            If anyone would spend one-tenth of the time they spend reading the criticism itself in reading the criticism of the criticism, they would realize that much like what we know of computers applies here: garbage in, garbage out.

            Specifically, the presuppositional influences of rationalism, idealism, evolutionism, positivism, existentialism, and other philosophical aberrations have so conditioned the work of people like Schleiermacher, Baur, Holtzmann, von Harnack, Barth, and Bultmann as to render any possible trust in their interpretations impossible. For example, when you start by assuming that miracles cannot occur in the order of nature, it is to be expected that the miracles of Jesus could not have occurred in real history. When you hypothesize that no real connection exists between the Christ of faith and the historical Jesus, skepticism is the only possible outcome.

            I can only urge those who say they have lost their faith in Catholicism because of modern biblical criticism to do a little research into the history of this criticism itself and its philosophical assumptions. Truthfully, I am dismayed to hear some say that they lost their faith in Catholicism or Christianity in general simply because they spent so much time reading such misleading authority figures. One must also realize that more recent biblical commentaries are influenced by this same historical input.

            I would hope that some would at least take the time to read carefully the two sources I linked above and do a little more reading from sources more sympathetic to the authentic Christian tradition.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            reinterpret it in some "watered down" fashion

            Do you imagine that this is what I am trying to do?

            I am trying to say that the Resurrection simply does not fit into the relatively narrow categories of thought that have been imposed by our post-Enlightenment culture, with the mind-body split and all that, where everything is either measurably material or else pure fantasy. That is not a matter of "watering things down". That is trying to let the Gospel witness speak for itself, projecting our contemporary categories of thought on it as little as possible.

          • Rob Abney

            How would you describe the event if it took place today?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think the term "glorified matter" seems to be faithful to Paul's "pneumatic bodies", and sufficient to convey both the continuity and the discontinuity with matter as we presently experience it. Some of the essential continuities with "matter" as we currently understand that term, include that it was perduring, and tangible, and had measurable causal effects (e.g. consuming fish). Some of the essential discontinuities include not being constrained by physical barriers like walls. Again, with regard to quantifiability via measurement, I think we just don't know whether "glorified matter" is continuous or discontinuous with ordinary matter in that respect. I think it is quite possible that glorified matter is literally "beyond measure" (that is, "beyond" it in the sense of being too real to be measured; again, this is not a watered down picture that I'm trying to paint).

          • Michael Murray

            Any explanation that involves other than a real death

            So the Romans melted Jesus' cortical stack ?

          • David Nickol

            Ha! I am at a loss for a clever response. :(

            I do hope we get a second season, and with Joel Kinnaman. I haven't read the trilogy yet, but I understand Book 2 begins with Kovacs in a new "sleeve."

          • Michael Murray

            Ah good. I was hoping you had watched those or that was going to sound weird! The books are good. If a bit gruesome. In the universe of the books there is something called "needlecast" which is faster than light communication. Bandwidth doesn't seem to be an issue so minds being digital can be needlecast quickly between planets. The second book has Kovacs on a different planet working as a mercenary in a military sleeve with various useful enhancements. Netflix fiddled quite a lot with the books so maybe they will allow needlecasting the DNA of the sleeves. Then Joel could be used again.

          • It seems to me he refuses to assent to basic Christian doctrines not because he is humble, but because he must reformulate everything in his own terms. That seems arrogant to me.

            Why can't Peterson think that there's something seriously wrong with how we approach this entire issue? As far as I can tell, his views aren't all that unique; what is curious is that against the current social context (e.g. social context of tens of thousands to millions of young folks in the West, perhaps particularly in Canada and the US), he is offering something very alluring. It certainly is structured and easy to find compelling, in contrast to the moralistic therapeutic deism which Christian Smith et al discovered during the longitudinal National Study of Youth and Religion (N = 3370).

            If you don't believe me, consider what George Lindbeck had to say in 1984 (2000 'citations'):

                This book is the product of a quarter century of growing dissatisfaction with the usual ways of thinking about those norms of communal belief and action which are generally spoken of as the doctrines or dogmas of churches. It has become apparent to me, during twenty-five years of involvement in ecumenical discussions and in teaching about the history and present status of doctrines, that those of us who are engaged in these activities lack adequate categories for conceptualizing the problems that arise. We are often unable, for example, to specify the criteria we implicitly employ when we say that some changes are faithful to a doctrinal tradition and others unfaithful, or some doctrinal differences are church-dividing and others not. Doctrines, in other words, do not behave the way they should, given our customary suppositions about the kinds of things they are. We clearly need new and better ways of understanding their nature and function. (The Nature of Doctrine, 7)

            There is also the ominous observation by Alasdair MacIntyre in 1981 (23,000 'citations'):

            For one way of framing my contention that morality is not what it once was is just to say that to a large degree people now think, talk, and act as if emotivism were true, no matter what their avowed theoretical standpoint might be. Emotivism has become embodied in our culture. But of course in saying this I am not merely contending that morality is not what it once was, but also and more importantly that what once was morality has to some large degree disappeared—and that this marks a degeneration, a grave cultural loss. …

                What is the key to the social content of emotivism? It is the fact that emotivism entails the obliteration of any genuine distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations. Consider the contrast between, for example. Kantian ethics and emotivism on this point. For Kant—and a parallel point could be made about many earlier moral philosophers—the difference between a human relationship uninformed by morality and one so informed is precisely the difference between one in which each person treats the other primarily as a means to his or her ends and one in which each treats the other as an end. To treat someone else as an end is to offer them what I take to be good reasons for acting in one way rather than another, but to leave it to them to evaluate those reasons. It is to be unwilling to influence another except by reasons which that other he or she judges to be good. It is to appeal to impersonal criteria of the validity of which each rational agent must be his or her own judge. By contrast, to treat someone else as a means is to seek to make him or her an instrument of my purposes by adducing whatever influences or considerations will in fact be effective on this or that occasion. The generalizations of the sociology and psychology of persuasion are what I shall need to guide me, not the standards of a normative rationality. (After Virtue, 22–24)

            You know I could go on for ages with many excerpts, but perhaps I've made you at least doubt your claim of "arrogant" a tiny bit?

            If I say, "I believe in God" or "I believe Jesus rose from the dead," I think it is arrogant and deceptive for me to have my own personal concept of each and every word in the sentences that means something different for me than for anyone else.

            And what if language is being used like this:

                The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’
                “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever. “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? … (Jeremiah 7:1–10)

            ? The very concept attached to "the temple of the LORD" had radically changed. If Peterson thinks that something like this has happened—or perhaps that we are en route to this happening—might it be prudent for him to point that out?

            By the way, Jordan's bit about needing to say who "Jesus" is has been partly created by mythicists, so perhaps you could lay off him a tiny bit. Let's acknowledge the world he lives in and how if he says anything which can be plausibly be construed in a terrible way, that could be very bad for him. He has repeatedly said in interviews that that is his greatest fear. It is as if the masses operate this way with public intellectuals:

            For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. (James 2:10)

          • David Nickol

            You know I could go on for ages with many excerpts . . . .

            I know! I know!

            . . . . but perhaps I've made you at least doubt your claim of "arrogant" a tiny bit?

            No, he strikes me as arrogant in many respects.

            By the way, Jordan's bit about needing to say who "Jesus" is has been partly created by mythicists, so perhaps you could lay off him a tiny bit.

            I don't buy it. If someone asks you if you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, it is clear that the human figure of Jesus is meant. Why would anyone ask if a person believed in the resurrection of a mythical Jesus?

            I've pretty much had my fill of Peterson videos. He is very intelligent and very interesting and very provocative, but he's never going to be on my "go-to" list of public intellectuals. I have his new book, and I expect to read it soon, but I am not in the mood to watch two hour-long videos at the moment. I have N. T. Wright's new book (Paul: A Biography) arriving via UPS tomorrow, and I am eager to dive into that.

          • I know! I know!

            I never thought of wanting "many exerpts" as my superpower.

            No, he strikes me as arrogant in many respects.

            I suppose, but I'm not sure I've seen him refuse to answer an honest question. A huge aspect of 'arrogance', in my mind, is unteachability. That doesn't seem to be the case for Peterson. (Counterexamples?) If you're merely talking "excessive confidence", I could be talked into that. But among the people I've seen, he seems to have been somewhat pulled into that during his rise to fame. Unlike online, where you can sow doubt about someone's position without exposing your own, I think IRL you have to push back at least as hard with a real alternative. Perhaps you could point me to someone who is as potent with his/her ideas without being arrogant in the way you think Peterson is arrogant? I think I can and he's another Canadian: Charles Taylor. I got to meet him in person and chat for a bit and he is one of the humblest people I've met. But he works in different domains—or at least ways—than Peterson.

            I don't buy it. If someone asks you if you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, it is clear that the human figure of Jesus is meant. Why would anyone ask if a person believed in the resurrection of a mythical Jesus?

            For the same reason that some people think the Jungian archetypes aren't "real" but are nevertheless useful in understanding human psychology? The canonical move of the Enlightenment was to take what was "out there" and say it only exists "in here"—in human subjectivity. It seems rather obvious to me that Peterson would be tempted in that direction. And yet, he seems to know that there is a true difference between "out there" and "in here". But what is it? That I think is an exceedingly complex question, given how naturalism has denuded causation to the point where there is a dividing wall of hostility between fact and value.

            This can be summed up in what an atheist friend of mine asked a few months ago: "What is the difference, in your action, between God existing and you believing in him, or just you believing in the idea of God?"

            I've pretty much had my fill of Peterson videos.

            Honestly, I think the most interesting thing is that he's so interesting to so many people. What he says is an attractive contrast to what is being taught (and allowed to hit the media) in Canada and the US. This tells us something about those attracted to him and what has been taught them previously. I'm reminded of Fukuyama arguing that we would no longer need heroes in his essay The End of History? (6700 'citations'). Life is reduced to consumerism:

            The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one's life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. (18)

            I'm not sure about this "purely abstract goal"—if that's the only alternative to "consumerism", then Fukuyama has set up a false dichotomy—but maybe Peterson is fighting against the kind of future Fukuyama imagined, and a whole slew of young people in the West want to join him.

            I have N. T. Wright's new book (Paul: A Biography) arriving via UPS tomorrow, and I am eager to dive into that.

            I look forward to reading it as well! Now David Bentley Hart needs to write his own biography of Paul so that more sparks can fly. :-D

          • Ben Champagne

            Basic epistemology says we all give those concepts our own personal meaning.

            I think his objection to the label is that he wishes to be precise, and the label itself is a futile attempt at that precision. It is in the end, a social cue, not a realistic abstraction towards truth.

          • David Nickol

            What would be the point of the Apostles' Creed if everyone had his or her own understanding of what the words meant?

            I can see objecting to being called a Christian is one is not indeed a Christian. I can see the objection to self-identifying as a Christian if one has one's own personal idea of what it means to be a Christian that one knows is not in conformity with the generally understood idea of being a Christian. But I think there is a sufficiently good idea of what "I believe in God" or "I believe in the resurrection of Jesus" that most people who say these things are actually saying something that is intelligible to others.

            Jordan Peterson, like everyone else, certainly has a right either to disbelieve in the resurrection or to have his own personal interpretation of it that an Evangelical Christian or a Catholic wouldn't accept. The problem here is that Catholics are claiming Jordan Peterson as a Bible-believing Christian and indeed a spokesperson for Bible-believing Christians when Peterson himself is not willing to assent to bare-bones statements in the major Christian creeds.

          • Ben Champagne

            Everyone does have their own understanding of what the words mean. That's the entire point. It's basic epistemology, as I said. Generalities and similarities abound, but unique meaning to each is a given. The point is in the similarity, not the difference. It doesn't mean the difference does not exist.

            His objection to being called a 'Christian' in my estimation has far more to do with his position as an intellectual, and regard for that precision, than having a care for an obtuse clarion call of the masses. His words have weight because he doesn't try to oppress interpretation, he openly acknowledges that elephant.

            I do agree that people claiming Peterson to be a 'Bible-believing Christian' are indeed in error, but I think we would disagree as to why.

          • I found that video on atheism disappointing. We never see anything new on this subject, I find. Instead it is the same claims, though I think they are dubious at best. How does transcendent equal objectivity? If morality is from a mind, then how can it be objective at all? These points would open us to a newer, more interesting line of inquiry.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You are right in the sense that the video is primarily raising questions rather than answering them. I think the value of that little summary of Crime and Punishment is really just to frame the "God" question in a way that it has clear existential import, rather than just being a matter of evaluating some propositional metaphysical hypothesis.

            I don't think the question is best formulated along objective / subjective lines. Morality has to be relational. When we behave in a moral way, we are moving from where we are toward something else. That inescapably involves our own subjective response, and in that sense it is not objective (I'm not sure that anything is exclusively objective, but we can probably leave that aside for now).

            So then a question is, what is the nature of that something else. It doesn't seem as though, in the course of all our moral maneuvers, we will ever arrive and say, "Ah yes, this is exactly that something else that I was striving towards. Mission accomplished!". It seems instead that that something else will always draw us toward a new horizon, in other words that it will always transcend us.

            And another question is: is it we who are in control of that something else, can we simply subjectively redefine it, or is it rather that something else that is in control and that, while we may discern it, we may not define it? That, as I see it, is the Crime and Punishment question that Peterson is summarizing.

          • Well, in the video he basically states that only with theism can there be a good basis of morals, which is a common claim, so I'm responding to that.

            In philosophy, objective is defined as "mind independent". So yes, such a "something else" could be that for us. However it might not be at all independent of God's mind, thus ultimately still subjective.

            True, we may never know precisely.

            On the other hand, I don't think this can be solely based on God (even if he exists) as this seemed to imply.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That is one philosophical definition of objectivity. Objectivity can also be defined in terms of the absence of personal bias. Since God, by hypothesis, has no personal bias, what exists in the mind of God would be objective, according to that conception.

            On the other hand, I don't think this can be solely based on God (even if he exists) as this seemed to imply.

            I don't follow. Can you explain what you mean by that?

          • Does mind-independent reality contain minds?

          • It's the only one that I've heard. The other definition doesn't apply here so far as I can tell. Even if someone's unbiased, morals could still be just their opinion. Here moral realism is a clearer term, perhaps, and more commonly used in philosophy. It's just like realism about universals.

            To clarify, I don't think an objective morality can be solely from God, as he's a mind.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, well, if you are curious about other definitions, one place to start would be: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-objectivity/

            I agree that objective morality cannot be solely from God according to the definition of "objective" that you are using. In fact, I'm pretty sure objective morality can't come from anywhere according to that definition, because the very term "objective morality" seems to become an oxymoron within that framework.

          • I know the other definitions-that's no different than what you already said.

            No, it can come from Platonic forms or natural things (think Aristotelian virtue ethics, etc.).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It's the only [definition] that I've heard.

            I know the other definitions.

            ???

            Nonetheless, I concede on the point that you just made. It is at least reasonable to talk about objective morality being defined without reference to a "mental" God. "Objective (in the sense of extra-mental) morality" is not an oxymoron, or at least not obviously so.

            I also agree that limited virtue is a natural thing. However, I'm not sure that virtue ethics can ultimately hold together without reference to perfect virtue, which would seem to exist only in God.

          • Sorry, that should be the only one in philosophy I've heard used for an objective morality.

            Okay, great.

            I'm not sure about virtue ethics, but must there be perfect virtue? Or anything else? I don't know what Aristotle thought of that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, I'm sure I am oversimplifying ... but it does seem simple to me in a sense:

            Unless I grossly misunderstand, virtue ethics is all about becoming more virtuous. That is, it has toward-ness; it is directional.

            Now, if the thing that virtue ethics is moving towards doesn't exist at all, then there really is no directionality, and virtue ethics is bogus. Barring that, there seem to be two possibilities:

            1. Virtue ethics is about moving toward something that exists and is eventually attainable in this world. This would be akin to the limit of x as x --> 1 on [0, 1]. Or else,
            2. It is moving toward something that is exists but is not attainable in this world. This would be akin to the limit of x as x --> 1 on [0, 1).

            I include the math analogies because I want to point out that, whether we are on [0, 1] or [0, 1), in either case the limit of x as x --> 1 requires the existence of 1 in order to be a sensible concept. It seems to me that the same is true of any directional ethical framework.

          • That was probably a bad idea to bring it up. I'll freely admit to not knowing much about virtue ethics, aside from the most basic concept.

            As for specifics...

            I see what you mean, but it seems like this could be simply moving toward a concept of an ideally virtuous person, rather than God specifically. Not that any theistic concept would be incompatible with it of course. Perhaps there is no set "height" of virtual at all that needs to exist.

      • That's cool. I do no social media to speak of, but I was somewhat aware of Peterson because I've come across a few of his YouTube videos, including the one of his interview with Cathy Newman. I've just now purchased the book the OP discusses. Maybe I'll have more to say after reading some of it.

  • I've noted Jordan Peterson ever since I used to serve him lunch near UofT as he would hold court with wide-eyed undergrads .

    More recently he's gotten lots of attention for his discriminatory rejection of his employer's writing style guide.

    I've never found him to have much interesting to say. I listened to his torturous interview on Sam Harris' podcast. After that painful exchange I have little time for either individual.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      If he rejects the use of the plural pronoun for singular subjects, then he is a hero.

      • David Nickol

        Merriam-Webster says the following:

        Much has been written on they, and we aren’t going to attempt to cover it here. We will note that they has been in consistent use as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s; that the development of singular they mirrors the development of the singular you from the plural you, yet we don’t complain that singular you is ungrammatical; and that regardless of what detractors say, nearly everyone uses the singular they in casual conversation and often in formal writing.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          It does reach a certain amusing climax when in a news ticker at the bottom of a page that an apprehended suspect gave an account of "themself." It's not as if the person in custody had an indeterminate gender.

          As for "you," thou art entitled to thine opinion.

      • To some, I guess. To me it's thinly veiled transphobia or sexism.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          In a way, Orson Scott Card once said that one technique to mark a villain in your story was to have him speak in entirely grammatical sentences. Since "transphobia" and sexism are modern innovations, it could not have been the reason for the original usage that pronouns should agree with their verbs in person and number.

          I am also miffed by the use of "person" for "man," since it denies rational thought to women and reserves it exclusively to weremen. (cf. in English men-tal, min-d, also mankind, etc.; in German mann as the genderless pronoun. Hence, "a rational being.") Adult males were once referred to as "wera," see also Latin vir, Irish fir, words like vir-ile, vir-tue, etc. Instead of changing every word with the suffix -man, just give males back their prefixes and give them a unique designator of their own.

        • Mike

          give me a break! come on; changing sex is metaphysically impossible; it courteous to use a pref pronoun but immoral to demand it.

          • Well it's biologically possible and happens all the time. It's not a a metaphysical issue it's a physical and definitional issue.

            You can deny the definition all you want but the sex is physically changed by sex reassignment surgery and treatment .

          • Mike

            WRONG on every single level. Sex is immutable. Shame on you for even considering this lunacy.

          • No it isn't.

          • Mike

            shame on you for even dignifying that complete and utter total BS.

          • David Nickol

            shame on you for even dignifying that complete and utter total BS.

            I hope I am not the only one who finds the above offensive. From the commenting guidelines . . . .

            If you disagree with a claim, please do not merely belittle or disparage it; show exactly why it is flawed.

            This site is supposed to be for dialog, not for emotional outbursts denouncing those you disagree with.

          • Mike

            you're right it's a bit over the top. but what he is claiming is still totally fucking bonkers.

          • Lucretius

            It doesn't take much reflection to realize that such surgeries are really just a more permanent form of crossdressing.

            Chris pax.

          • I disagree. Crossdressing is gender expression and this may have nothing (or everything) to do with gender identity. People who have sexual assignment surgery are altering their anatomy and physiology to better match gender identity. This is a huge step and the two should not be conflated if you want to be respectful.

          • Lucretius

            Crossdressing is gender expression and this may have nothing (or everything) to do with gender identity.

            What is gender expression as opposed to gender identity? What is their relationship?

            People who have sexual assignment surgery are altering their anatomy and physiology to better match gender identity. This is a huge step and the two should not be conflated if you want to be respectful

            They are messing around with the structure of their bodies in order to approximate the appearance of the oppose sex, as well as allow them to share something that seems practically similar to intercourse as it is in the opposite sex.

            But this is similar to build statues of a figure. They may be similar, but in reality they just appear so to some level.

            Look, our understanding of nature is through operation, and it is clear that this surgery doesn't even try to immitate the actual operations of human sexuality. That should tell us that we are not changing a person's sex in these operations at all.

            We are making them appear more like the opposite sex so that they may be treated more like such. But it is only in superficial things, like relations on the street, or even in sexual pleasuring. When it comes to real sexual identity though, fatherhood, motherhood, marriage, etc., most people simply do not treat them as the opposite sex, because in reality, they are not, and this is most clear in how a man who has the operation to appear like a woman can never become a mother.

            In the end, people prefer the real thing over a superficial and limited illusion of the real thing. How many men who praise this surgery would actually date, let alone marry, someone who "transitioned?" We aren't making life any better for offering them bona fide this surgery: we are usually, rather, making a rather permanent mistake.

            Christi pax.

          • Gender expression is how one presents oneself in tetms if gender externally. Gender identity is what one feels their gender is. They may be the same or bear little relationship. For example someone may identify as transgender female but expressbas cis male.

            >They are messing around with the structure of their bodies in order to approximate the appearance of the oppose sex

            No, this is a common mistake. I understand people who undergo the surgery change their bodies to better reflect their gender identity. It's not to the opposite sex, but a different sex. For example someone with sex assigned at birth as male may have surgery and transition to trans female.

            >When it comes to real sexual identity though, fatherhood, motherhood, marriage, etc., most people simply do not treat them as the opposite sex

            You may want to reflect on what you mean by "real" sexual identity. For example, would someone who is unmarried with no kids not count as having a real sexual identity? But I think the mistake you are making is seeing sex and gender as binary and necessarily intertwined. Intersex people are evidence this is not the case. Also as I noted someone who gets the surgery is not transitioning from cis to cis. A trans woman with a penis is a trans woman, not a cis woman, the surgery is to have their anatomy better reflect their sexual identity and possibly gender identity.

            >In the end, people prefer the real thing over a superficial and limited illusion of the real thing.

            I can go along with this as a general concept. I guess what you are saying is that when you consider someone who has undergone the surgery, and hormonal treatment you consider their sexual identity to be a superficial limited illusion.

            But keep in mind why they are doinv this in the first place, because to them their anatomy is not just superficial or limited or illusory, but plain wrong, and painfully so. Post transitioning certainly they may not feel the same as someone who has not had this experience but it often feels much more authentic and real to them than their sex assigned at birth. This is why surgical and hormonal treatment was contemplated and the extraordinary step was taken to attempt it.

            Ask yourself if people who underwent the process felt worse or more illusory or superficial do you think they would keep doing it? For several decades now?0/

            If you doubt the sincerity if these people I would recommend perhaps engaging with their stories. Stories from people who transition and the doctors who work with them.

            Now you may look at these people and see something superficial and illusory. You may always. Fine. All they ask us to be treated with respect and dignity.

          • Lucretius

            It isn't clear to me how you understand gender exactly. I understand gender to be the social relations and roles of each biological sex to each other, to family, to community, to society.

            In a way I agree with the gender theorists, that the sexes don't necessarily have to relate to each other and the rest in the 1950s model (which tends to be a caricature anyway).

            I think one of our disagreements is, that although we agree that whatever a trans female it isn't a cis female, you seem to approach these as two different sexes. I, on the other hand, view the former as a defect, and not a defect of the female sex, but a defect of the male sex, and I insist that this is obviously true.

            I attribute this disagreement due to a misunderstanding in natural philosophy as applied to sex: if we reduce sex only in its material organs, then of course we can be lead to believe that intersex, trans, etc. are real sexes. But once we reflect on the actual nature of sex, which involves sex formally as well as materially, we end up seeing only two sexes, with the rest being clear defects. This is clear in the fact that only males and females together can actually procreate.

            Once we understand how to approach nature, it becomes immediately clear that intersex, trans, etc. are defects inhibiting the proper expression of one's sex.

            The human person is a unity of body and soul, not a spirit that uses a body as an instrument in whatever it wills.

            I'm not sure what the answer to the transgender's issues, but I can tell you what the answer is not, and the biggest is treating their condition as anything other than an illness.

            Christi pax.

          • " I understand gender to be the social relations and roles of each biological sex to each other, to family, to community, to society."

            That isn't what I mean by "gender".

            "if we reduce sex only in its material organs, then of course we can be lead to believe that intersex, trans, etc. are real sexes"

            And what is wrong with that?

            "But once we reflect on the actual nature of sex, which involves sex formally as well as materially, we end up seeing only two sexes, with the rest being clear defects."

            But by "formally" you must mean definitionally. Yes if you define sex and defect that way you will get that result.

            "This is clear in the fact that only males and females together can actually procreate."

            But that's a different way of defining sex .if your definition of the female sex is "one who can bear children" you are dealing with a different subset and will leave large parts of the population out. If you define sex as referring to anatomy you will cover everyone.

            "that intersex, trans, etc. are defects inhibiting the proper expression of one's sex."

            This is incorrect if by "proper expression of one's sex" you mean biological procreation. But more than that, like this piece your are needlessly trying to push everything into two labels based on tradition and religion and define what doesn't fit as defective. The terms you use in the sentence above have a very different meaning to some people and this would be interpreted as highly offensive to some.

            "The human person is a unity of body and soul"

            I disagree, the human person is a body as far as I can tell. Still waiting for convincing evidence of a soul.

            Treating transgender people as suffering an illness is hurtful and marginalizing. There is no need to do so.

            I think an important step for you would be to first think about why we need these distinctions in the first place. Then consider the usefulness of first separating medical from social understanding of sex. Then consider separating sex and gender and then further gender expression and gender identity.

          • Lucretius

            What I'm saying is that we need to reflect on what nature is actually trying to do. Nature is a source or principle that is trying to act towards some goal. Our bodies, the structures of our organs, the tendencies of our psyche, our emotions and appetites, etc. are all arranged towards this end, and we can't understand these things without reference to it.

            You accuse me of defining sex arbritrarily, but what I'm trying to do is understand towards what ends nature has arranged our psychological and physiological form and inclinations.

            When we approach nature like this, it becomes pretty easy to see how human nature simply intends two sexes, and the intersex and transvestites and the like fall away from this intention.

            The reason I mention procreation is not to say things like "every person needs to have lots of children," or "infertile women are not real woman," or anything like that, but to remind us that we understand nature and its goals through our functions and abilities, and it is clear from the full operation of our sexual organs that nature intends the physical aspect of sex in particular (but also somewhat the psychological aspect) to be procreative. The fact that only male and females can do this indicates that nature is working towards these two sexes.

            Even if you want to say that these are two natural sexes, and the rest are artificial sexes, that's fine. But artifacts are dead arrangements, not living processions. Artificial sexes are simply the ruins of the real, natural sexes.

            So, rather than these distinctions and labels being religious and cultural constructs, they are natural constructs. Religion and culture is simply building on top of this foundation.

            Christi pax.

          • >Nature is a source or principle that is trying to act towards some goal.

            I couldn't disagree more. This by definition the opposite of what natural forces do. Goals are determined by conscious agents, natural phenomena are the result of natural laws not goal directed conduct. This reeks of the naturalistic fallacy.

            >The fact that only male and females can do this indicates that nature is working towards these two sexes.

            But if you are looking at "nature" this is not at all the case. Millions of organisms reproduce asexually and some organisms change sex completely and "naturally". Many if not most plants have both sexes.

            Further if we look towards some goal of nature (reproduction) as our guide as opposed to human well-being we end up with some disturbing circumstances such as justifying rape to procreate when one cannot find a consentual mate, largely discarding individuals who live past reproductive age, marginalizing the infertile.

            >two natural sexes, and the rest are artificial sexes, that's fine.

            But again you're not acknowledging the distinction between sex and gender. There is a respectful way to label people, and in this circumstance these labels have profound effects on individuals.

            For example I think it is indisputable that Christians are followers of a blood sacrifice cult. (Just look up the hymns children sing about being washed in the blood. Look at any church, it venerates the tortured bleeding god. Christians drink the blood of their god.) While technically accurate and defensible from my perspective, I get why Christians have a problem being labeled this way. The terms "blood sacrifice cult" are technically accurate but carry lots of baggage. Cult suggests a small or extreme religion. And blood sacrifice suggests you are sacrificing animals or people. Given the importance of these religions to so many people's identity, we consider it disrespectful and have protected religious people in many circumstances from discrimination of this kind.

            Sexual anatomy contains no such protection. Those who undergo reassignment can easily be identified by what they have, be it sex organs associated with one sex or the other or both, there genes can be discussed as xx or xy or both. This is sex and of course, where appropriate we should note when there has been surgery. But outside the medical context there are really almost no circumstances where this information is relevant. Think of how many people you know and how many you know what their sexual anatomy is, much less their genetics or hormone levels.

            What we are generally dealing with socially and culturally is not sex at all but gender expression. This is how individuals behave with respect to attributes traditionally associated with one sex. Most of this is based on stereotypes, and this gets complicated. But again there are few circumstances where it actually matters to discuss or label people. These things like sports teams, bathrooms and pronoun use.

            And we need to figure this out. Using the distinctions you allude to, which is sex assigned at birth, you would have large men with full beards being called women using women's bathrooms. This is not only discriminatory it's silly.

            Looking to gender identity works much better.

          • Lucretius

            When I say nature here, I mean human nature. What is our human nature attempting to do with all the "equipment" it gives us? We can also talk about what the nature of an oak tree is trying to do with its leaves, roots, etc., but that's a different nature than ours.

            And by human nature, I don't just mean human biology. I also mean human psychology, human sociology, etc. The mind and our sociality also arise from our nature.

            By "goal" I mean something more like "aim" or "end." I don't mean that plants are conscious (at least not in the way you and I are), but they clear act with aim and an end. The electron tends toward the positive charge; the bacterium is inclined towards the sugar; the branch grows towards the light; the lion towards the antelope. This is all rather empirical.

            What I'm trying to get at is that our inquiry about human well-being must involve reflection on our nature working towards certain aims or ends.

            I think our second major disagreement is that you view human sexuality as indeterminate enough that indefinite genders are possible. Even though I agree that gender is more fluid than the caricature of the 1950s, it is not so fluid that there are more than two genders, and that any human can switch genders. Gender is not sex, but gender is rooted in and arises from sex, and sex, both biologically and psychologically, is far more determined than many of the gender theory advocates would like to admit, so much so that talking about more than two genders is clearly wrongheaded.

            A person may feel like that want to relate to the same gender, the opposite gender, and society as the opposite gender, but this is impossible because they are already biologically determined, and, to be honest, more psychologically determined than they would care to admit, in his sex (not to mention how many times this is only a temporary circumstances).

            This doesn't mean gender looks the same in every circumstance, but it does mean we can't ignore the determinations of our biology and psychology (especially considering how our psychology does in fact integrate somewhat the opposite gender into our psyche: think of Jung's animus and anima).

            Christi pax.

          • >What is our human nature attempting to do with all the "equipment" it gives us?

            Nothing. Human nature is a term used to reflect human psychological tendencies it has nothing to do with anatomy. It has no goals or intentions. It is a fact, not an agent.

            >what the nature of an oak tree is trying to do with its leaves,

            No, the question of "trying to do" is superfluous. Roots and leaves do things as a fact. You're imposing intention in things that have none.

            How about when you are talking about anatomy and biology or psychology etc, you use those terms? Sex is an anatomical and biological isdue, gender is a social and psychological issue (broadly). This is why we need to discuss them distinctly.

            "but they clear act with aim and an end." I don't agree. You are anthropomorphizing.

            >What I'm trying to get at is that our inquiry about human well-being must involve reflection on our nature working towards certain aims or ends.

            No, that is a terrible idea. That way leads social Darwinism and eugenics. When considering human well being we need to be looking to human interests, desires, suffering and flourishing.

            >I think our second major disagreement is that you view human sexuality as indeterminate enough that indefinite genders are possible.

            My view on gender is that it is a social construct, and that we should not characterize or categorize behaviour, aesthetics and social norms or roles in terms of their traditional relationship to sexual anatomy. In other words I would hope that gender becomes obsolete. But neither sexuality nor gender are obsolete nor can they be treated as non existent.

            The way to think about gender is more of a spectrum than categories.

            >Gender is not sex, but gender is rooted in and arises from sex, and sex, both biologically and psychologically, is far more determined than many of the gender theory advocates would like to admit

            While it is true that gender is rooted in sex only as far as people connect attributes to sex organs or hormones. I haven't seen any research showing clear and convincing relationships between sex and other attributes, other than some connection of boys and abstract 3D modelling.

          • Lucretius

            You have to understand what I mean by nature being a source of things in order to understand our approach. A good way to understand how nature is a source is to understand how human art/technology is a source.

            Art is human skill which gives rise to machines, instruments, paintings, what have you. That is, it is a source, which gives form, to some material. The insight here is to distinguish between the artifact itself and the artisan and his skill by which the artifact is brought into being. We actually still preserve this distinction in our language when we speak of "works of art," art referring to the source and skill, not the artifact itself (the "work").

            In a similar way, nature is first and foremost a source of natural things.

            The only alternative is to say natural things are purely a result of another source, chance. But this is rather evidently false: no one says that roots arise by chance from the acorn. Chance plays a part in nature and is used by nature, but it isn't reducible to nature.

            But if nature isn't chance, then it is a source aiming for a determined result, then it immediately follows that nature is acting for an end. Trees structure their roots and use them to take in nutrients and water. This is what roots are for. If nature didn't act for an end, there would be no reason why electrons "always, or for the most part" tend towards protons, there would be no reason why leaves take in sunlight rather than, well, anything. This is not consciousness intention, but it is something analogical to intention in animals.

            It becomes immediately clear then that both our anatomy and psychology are structured towards some end, for they both arise from human nature.

            This shouldn't be controversial, since biologists speak in this way all the time, especially when they talk about evolution and why things evolved the way they did. The difference between our approach here is that we consider all aspects of human nature, and not merely the "animal" side of our nature: this is why social Darwinism and the like wasn't as much of a problem with ancient, Medieval, and early modern thinkers.

            And so, when we consider human interests and desire, we have to consider what are these things are for. What this means is that the particular aim of the desire might not necessarily be what it should be aiming at. We all understand this: a man who takes out his anger at work on his wife and children has a disordered anger: an anger not aimed towards its proper end.

            The contemporary West needs to give up the foolish idea that desire determines the good, rather than the good determining the desire. Just because people "feel" like that are women, doesn't mean that feeling isn't false.

            My view on gender is that it is a social construct, and that we should not characterize or categorize behaviour, aesthetics and social norms or roles in terms of their traditional relationship to sexual anatomy.

            Social constructs are built with the material of, among other things, determinations in biology and psychology. Houses aren't built ex nihilo, so why do so many people think that social constructs are castles built on absolutely nothing, purely arbitrary? It is pretty clear that there's are biological and psychological reasons why, say, soldiers tend to be young men, or why men tend to dominate the STEM fields, or women tend to dominate the "nuturing" occupantions, or why sexually promiscious women tend to be looked down upon more than sexually promiscious men, or why people, especially women, have little respect for cowardly men. I'm not saying there isn't a level of contingency in these social constructs, but they are not constructed from pure potential either (everything I've mentioned here has a lot of literature behind it too).

            Christi pax.

          • "But if nature isn't chance, then it is a source aiming for a determined result, then it immediately follows that nature is acting for an end."

            No it doesn't. Water flowing in a river to the ocean is not acting randomly, it is following laws of physics. That doesn't mean the ocean is the "goal" of that river. To say it is the goal implies an intent or desire, which the river does not have.

            Ultimately it is unknown to me if the order we appear to see in some aspects is designed or arbitrary. It seems ultimately arbitrary to me .

            "Trees structure their roots and use them to take in nutrients and water. This is what roots are for."

            Its with this rhetorical switch that you impose design in nature. Its not what roots are "for", it's what they do because the evolved they have other uses such as stability, stopping erosion, food, habitat.

            I'm sorry but you can keep imposing purpose and design in nature, I'm not buying it .

            "This is not consciousness intention, but it is something analogical to intention in animals"

            In a sense yes all mental thought as well is determined like everything else in nature. But the fact of determinism indicates nothing about goals, purpose or design in nature.

            "The contemporary West needs to give up the foolish idea that desire determines the good,"

            I don't advocate that, well being determines the good. And when you deny desires for no good reason you harm people's well-being.

            "Just because people "feel" like that are women, doesn't mean that feeling isn't false."

            What do you mean by "woman" here? Do you mean do they have a vagina? Then you are correct, if theu dont have one If you mean they feel socially, culturally and psychologically female, them yes they are a woman. Which is why you should not conflate sex and gender. The term "woman" is imprecise.

            "why do so many people think that social constructs are castles built on absolutely nothing, purely arbitrary?"

            No one is saying that, I'm saying gender is not determined by biology, though it is related, it is a social and cultural issue. And many people have been harmed even killed because their gender identity did not fit well with their anatomy .

            "It is pretty clear that there's are biological and psychological reasons why, say, soldiers tend to be young men, or why men tend to dominate the STEM fields, or women tend to dominate the "nuturing" occupantions, or why sexually promiscious women tend to be looked down upon more than sexually promiscious men, or why people, especially women, have little respect for cowardly men."

            No, no that is not at ALL clear to me. I would say most of those tendencies are the legacy of centuries of patriarchy.

        • Alexandra

          What specifically has Peterson said that is transphobic?
          And does this mean if someone chooses to remain silent as to whether Caitlyn Jenner is a woman, you will call them transphobic?

          • His opposition to non discriminatory style guide. And no, depending on the context.

          • Alexandra

            Opposed to a university style guide? No. As others have already told you, he was opposed to Canadian Federal House Bill C-16. He publicly spoke out against the law (through a youtube video).

            From the Newman/Peterson interview :

            "Newman: Let me move on to another debate that’s been very controversial for you. And this is you got in trouble for refusing to call trans men and women by their preferred personal pronouns.

            Peterson: No. That is not actually true. I got in trouble, because I said I would not follow the compelled speech dictates of the Federal and Provincial governments. I actually never got in trouble for not calling anyone anything. "

            ...
            Newman: ...A trans person in your class, has come to your class and said they want to be called “she”.

             Peterson: That’s never happened. And I would call them 'she'. "

          • Ya thanks.

            Of course gender identity has been in the provincial code for years, and he's subject to that as a professor.

            But you know he regurgitated Campbell and Jung...

    • Rob Abney

      Can you explain the “discriminatory rejection”, I assume it’s something different than excluding weinies from his sauerkraut.

      • He rejects preferred gender pronouns. Here are some other complaints by students.

        He seems to be dabbling in alt right or men's rights movements.

        He's certainly not getting attention for his work in psychology up here.

        https://thevarsity.ca/2017/11/29/hundreds-sign-open-letter-to-u-of-t-admin-calling-for-jordan-petersons-termination/

        • David Nickol

          He rejects preferred gender pronouns.

          In fairness, he rejects the law dictating what pronouns he must use. There is a brief moment in the controversial television interview where he says he actually would refer to a biological "he" as a "she" (or vice versa—it's in a very quick passing remark that I don't want to take the time to hunt down).

          I don't pretend to be an expert on the interpretation of the law in question, but based on the little knowledge I have, it seems to me it is intended to prohibit deliberate disrespect of transgender individuals and not to limit free speech on issues surrounding transgender issues. So I disagree with his making a big deal out of it.

          I consider myself very liberal, and while I would have no problem with a policy requiring referring to a male-to-female transgender person as "she" or a female-to-male transgender person as "he," I would be less than comfortable being required to use invented words like "ze" and "zir." There's something almost Orwellian about making up words to promote—or even enforce—a new version of "reality."

          It doesn't particularly bother me that Facebook currently offers 51 options for gender, but I can certainly understand why many people would consider it ridiculous or insane. Sex/gender is a lot more complex than most people imagine (the testing of athletes turned into a nightmare, since it is much more complex than M/F). But how deeply we should expect our legal systems to get involved in pronouns is certainly open for debate.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            (the testing of athletes turned into a nightmare, since it is much more complex than M/F).

            What are you referring to here? Just curious.

          • David Nickol

            A quick introduction to the topic can be found in the Wikipedia entry titled Sex Verification in Sports. Ye Olde Statistician is wrong. Sex is biological, but not simple.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Sex is biological and simple. Gender is grammatical.

          • Wrong. Gender is a social construct.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            So dass der Löffel im Deutschen sozial als männlich konstruiert ist, während die Gabel weiblich und das Messer kastriert ist? Interim agricola est feminino genere appellavit in linguam Latinam!

            Naturally, language is itself a social construct, whatever that is.

          • Valence

            Saying gender is just a social construct is a dogma that seems blatantly false. This relates to the postmodernism that Peterson rightly complains about. Why don't transgender people only rely on social constructs to change their gender? Why do they attempt to change their phenotypic sex to match their preferred gender. Separating gender from phenotypic (not genotypic sex) flies in the face of common sense, and denies biological influence on behavior and personality. It flies in the face of a massive amount of science on sex difference in cognition, though it's completely fair to say social norms and culture have a serious influence on gender. It's also fair to say gender can exist in a spectrum, which extreme masculinity on one end, and extreme femininity on the other. Masculinity and femininity are defined by traits we find on average in male and female populations.
            One thing that's interesting is that gender equal societies see larger personality differences between men and women than sexist countries. The best explanation for that is culture gets out of the way in the most egalitarian countries, and people's innate nature is allowed to express itself more freely. In Norway men and women still pick traditional fields (women tend to be more interested in people, and men in things) and all gender equal countries have the largest STEM gender gaps. There is a ton more evidence than just this (for example we see similar behavioral differences in all mammals, suggesting the evolution of cognitive differences between male and females is quite old. Even female monkeys go after dolls, male monkeys after trucks), but this suffices for now. The Catholic dogma is closer to the scientific consensus than the social construction dogma, it seems.

            https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/02/the-more-gender-equality-the-fewer-women-in-stem/553592/

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4839696/

            https://www.bradley.edu/dotAsset/165918.pdf

          • David Nickol

            Saying gender is just a social construct is a dogma that seems blatantly false.

            There is a difference between saying gender is a social construct and gender is just a social construct. Money, after all, is a social construct, but it is also very real. I have no problem saying money is a social construct, but I certainly wouldn't say it is just a social construct

          • Valence

            Sure. Too many argue it’s just a social construct and attack anyone who disagrees. It’s mostly radical feminists. They are wrong.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_construction_of_gender

          • Michael

            Saying gender is just a social construct is a dogma that seems blatantly false. This relates to the postmodernism that Peterson rightly complains about. Why don't transgender people only rely on social constructs to change their gender?

            Too many argue it’s just a social construct and attack anyone who disagrees. It’s mostly radical feminists.

            Yet feminist criticism of transgenderism usually comes from radical feminists:

            Radical feminists reject the feminine essence concept of transsexuality (the idea that there is a "female brain"). They believe that the difference in behavior between men and women is the result of socialization; Lierre Keith describes femininity as "a set of behaviors that are, in essence, ritualized submission".[d][61] In this view, gender is less an identity than a caste position, and transgenderism is an obstacle to gender abolition.[61][66] They hold the same position with respect to race and class.[67] Julie Bindel argued in 2008 that Iran carries out the highest number of sex-change operations in the world because "surgery is an attempt to keep gender stereotypes intact", and that "[i]t is precisely this idea that certain distinct behaviours are appropriate for males and females that underlies feminist criticism of the phenomenon of 'transgenderism'."[68][69] (According to the BBC in 2014, there are no reliable figures regarding gender-reassignment operations in Iran.)[70]

            In The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male (1979), the lesbian radical feminist Janice Raymond argued that "transsexuals ... reduce the female form to artefact, appropriating this body for themselves".[71] In The Whole Woman (1999), Germaine Greer wrote that largely male governments "recognise as women men who believe that they are women ... because [those governments] see women not as another sex but as a non-sex"; she continued that if uterus-and-ovaries transplants were a mandatory part of sex-change operations, the latter "would disappear overnight".[72] Sheila Jeffreys argued in 1997 that "the vast majority of transsexuals still subscribe to the traditional stereotype of women" and that by transitioning they are "constructing a conservative fantasy of what women should be ... an essence of womanhood which is deeply insulting and restrictive."[73] In Gender Hurts (2014), she referred to sex reassignment surgery as "self-mutilation",[74] and used pronouns that refer to biological sex; she argued that feminists need to know "the biological sex of those who claim to be women and promote prejudicial versions of what constitutes womanhood", and that "use by men of feminine pronouns conceals the masculine privilege bestowed upon them by virtue of having been placed in and brought up in the male sex caste".[75][61]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_feminism

            Radical feminism is niche, but the theory of gender as a social construct is the norm in academia. It's likely that only a minority of the academics who promote the theory are radical feminists.

          • Valence

            Fair enough. Do you have a source to show the social theory of gender is the norm in academia? It seems to be, but it’s hard to find solid evidence via polling or something like that. It could be that the constructionists are just the loudest and effectively silence the opposition.

          • Michael

            I don't have a survey, but judging from the academic journals I follow it is widely taken for granted that gender is a social construct. It's assumed.

          • Valence

            I agree in general, I was just curious if you had quantitative evidence, especially be department. Perhaps this is something the Heterdox Academy might eventually do. I know it's what motivated Pinker to write "Blank Slate", but in spite of his work and others, the assumption is still prevalent. I suppose it is partially an attempt to over simplify things, but it makes things way too simple and results in serious error, from my perspective.

          • BCE

            I agree, academia might call it a social construct.
            However, whereas the 40s -70s was big on promoting
            the nurture and learned behavior model
            The evolutionary psych and neuro-bio field is less likely
            to consider gender as "social"
            Of course then we have memes, saying something often enough
            can change perception.
            Where gender meant Prima facia male/female( efficiently 50/50 ) because 90+% of the time it is.
            to where now gender means how you were assigned, and trained by social bias.
            That seems to promote the nurture and learned behavior model.
            It's easier to postulate, and get funding for "social" studies.
            It's also easier to comprehend and publish for a greater mass consumption.

          • I don't pretend to be an expert on the interpretation of the law in question, but based on the little knowledge I have, it seems to me it is intended to prohibit deliberate disrespect of transgender individuals and not to limit free speech on issues surrounding transgender issues. So I disagree with his making a big deal out of it.

            From Jordan Peterson, published on The Hill:

            Two weeks ago I posted three YouTube videos about legislative threats to Canadian freedom of speech. I singled out Canada’s Federal Bill C-16, which adds legal protection for “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal code.

            I noted that the policy statements surrounding similar legislation — most particularly those on the Ontario Human Rights Commission website — were dangerously vague and ill-formulated. I also indicated my refusal to apply what are now known as “preferred” pronouns to people who do not fit easily into traditional gender categories (although I am willing to call someone “he” or “she” in accordance with their manner of self-presentation). (Canadian gender-neutral pronoun bill is a warning for Americans)

            Let's take a look at a snippet from the Ontario Human Rights Commission:

            Discrimination happens when a person experiences negative treatment or impact, intentional or not, because of their gender identity or gender expression. It can be direct and obvious or subtle and hidden, but harmful just the same. It can also happen on a bigger systemic level such as organizational rules or policies that look neutral but end up excluding trans people. Friends, family or others who face discrimination because of their association with a trans person are also protected.

            Harassment is a form of discrimination. It can include sexually explicit or other inappropriate comments, questions, jokes, name-calling, images, email and social media, transphobic, homophobic or other bullying, sexual advances, touching and other unwelcome and ongoing behaviour that insults, demeans, harms or threatens a person in some way. Assault or other violent behaviour is also a criminal matter. Trans people and other persons can experience harassing behaviour because of their gender identity or expression (gender-based harassment) and/or their sex (sexual harassment).

            Social stereotypes about gender, and prejudice and fear towards trans people are often at the root of discrimination and harassment. Negative attitudes about a trans person’s racial identity, family status or other grounds can combine or intersect to make things worse.

            Organizations are liable for any discrimination and harassment that happens. (Policy on preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression)

            I know Peterson was concerned with at least the following two aspects:

                 (1) "intentional or not"
                 (2) "Organizations are liable for any discrimination and harassment that happens."

            I myself am concerned about society not maintaining a distinction between being offended because free speech can offend, and being harassed. I'm reminded of the Spiked article Hate Speech Is Free Speech.

          • BCE

            I am only vaguely familiar with Peterson, so mine is all conjecture.
            He might just want to decide for himself what hat he wears.
            Today no psychologist can be unaware of evolutionary psych,
            neurology, biology, along with social science.
            Therein my lay some of the reason for his esoteric language.
            A Dr.may say "you have a deviated septum" or "a defective valve or genetic defect, or atypical cells"
            of course we know he is not saying the patient is a deviant or defective but those described as SJW have issues with words.

            i.e. a baby duck, imprints on a cat, a behavioral scientist, might
            call " an imprinting error"
            (even Dawkin) suspects imprinting and/or maternal hormones or genetic defect in gender preference/orientation
            In animal husbandry, conservation, or with lab rats, it's still ok to use
            abnormal, atypical, deviations, defect, maladaptive, optimum,
            selective, average, hyper, female/male/ambiguous.

            ...the *male* panda *failed* to display *normal* sexual curiosity toward
            the *female*. *He* had *atypical* sexual interest .
            ..
            Peterson might be making a statement, that he doesn't have to abandon
            words to appease that of the "social" justice movement.
            Not that as a private person he can't defer.

            Evolutionary psych and the social sciences compete for grant money and are often at odds.
            The evolutionary psych group are less inclined to submit to the pressures of word wars compared to that of special interests.
            Which just by chance is the same sentiment of many conservatives
            who think it's Government over-reach. Which is also the view of
            many Christians.
            If Peterson wants to draw attention (lectures, interviews, articles, $$$$) then maybe he uses esoteric language to his gain.
            However that doesn't mean in civil discussion one should confuse terms or their position

          • SpokenMind

            A person is male or female based on their DNA.

          • David Nickol

            For just one example of why this is wrong, read the Wikipedia entry for Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Would you deny that such individuals, though XY genetically, are women?

            If you want to see a very conservative Catholic's thoughts on the ramifications of such genetic problems, ready Jimmy Akin's column on the matter. Note this, for example:

            Similarly, we’ve been living since the beginning of the human race (or almost the beginning, anyway) with folks who have one outward sex even though a genetic test would raise questions about it. It seems asking an awful lot to mandate that a XY females or XX males undergo surgery to switch their outward sex.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi David,

            I would agree there is an extremely small percentage of the population with a genetic deformity that fall under the category like you mentioned. Please place an asterisk at the end of my previous comment. In my opinion, most transgender people do not fall under this category. I would also add that I believe all people – transgender or otherwise – should be treated with respect and dignity.

            Peace.

          • David Nickol

            I am glad you recognize there are exceptions to XX and XY chromosomes determining gender.

            In my opinion, most transgender people do not fall under this category.

            If by "this category" you mean CAIS females, then sure, the numbers are about 1 in 20,000. But if you mean most transgender people are not caused to feel the way they do because of biology, I will note only that as far as I am aware, this can only be a matter of opinion currently. Nobody that I am aware of has explained why some XY biological males are absolutely convinced they are females, and some XX biological females are absolutely convinced they are males. There is no form of psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy that makes such convictions go away. Unless and until the phenomenon is clearly understood, there is no way to determine if it is biological or not.

            I believe all people – transgender or otherwise – should be treated with respect and dignity.

            Absolutely!

          • SpokenMind

            My guess is, many transgender people have a psychological condition. I also find it extreme to chemically and/or physically alter someone’s body, especially when one considers the origin could be psychological or uncertain.

          • I think you are correct except for the uncertainty. There is a stringent process to be sure before surgery .

            Don't guess, educate yourself.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi Brian,

            I haven’t seen you comment in a while. Glad to have you back.

            What are your thoughts on the following hypothetical scenario:

            If someone was convinced their left hand was not part of their body and wanted it removed, would you as a surgeon remove their hand?

          • David Nickol

            If someone was convinced their left hand was not part of their body and wanted it removed, would you as a surgeon remove their hand?

            What if the hand is causing the person tremendous suffering, and removing it is the only way to end the suffering? What would you do then?

            The problem with opposing surgery for transgender individuals or those with "amputee identity disorder" is that there is no recognized treatment to alleviate their suffering.

            Even if these conditions are in some way "mental illnesses" (whatever that may mean) that doesn't mean that they can be "cured" by psychologists or psychiatrists.

            I am currently reading an interesting book titled Blue Dreams by Lauren Slater that deals with the history of psychiatric drugs. She tells us that the initial use of Thorazine for schizophrenia or lithium for bipolar disorder—drugs that have alleviated suffering for millions since they came into wide use, were initially rejected by many in the medical establishment because mental illnesses were considered to be problems in the "soul." And how could drugs fix a problem in the soul?

            Suppose (just for purposes of discussion) that a biological man believes himself to be a woman, or a person with normal limbs believes his right hand is alien to him because of some genetic or hormonal problem that cannot be changed. What if the only thing that offers some measure of relief is surgery? On what moral grounds would you oppose it?

            Question: Do you actually know why some people believe their biological sex is not their real sex? Do you actually know why some people suffer from "amputee identity disorder"? Can you point to anyone who actually does know? I think it is easy to hold a position on these kinds of issues when your involvement with them is purely theoretical. I don't know of any moral principles that govern attempts to alleviate suffering in such cases that definitively rule out surgery. To the best of my knowledge, the Church doesn't rule out sex-change surgery. It merely holds that those who undergo it do not actually become the opposite sex for purposes like marriage or ordination.

          • SpokenMind

            [What if the hand is causing the person tremendous suffering, and removing it is the only way to end the suffering? What would you do then?]

            Assuming the pain was permanent and the surgery would stop the pain, then I think I would.

            I’m not sure such a scenario exists. Amputees often still feel phantom sensations, including pain, from their removed limbs. I can also imagine less drastic alternatives such as cutting a nerve or medications.

            [And how could drugs fix a problem in the soul?]

            I’m not sure you were really looking for an answer with this one, but perhaps back then the medical establishment’s understanding of these illnesses was limited or incorrect. Also there is a subtle difference between alleviate and fix.

            [What if the only thing that offers some measure of relief is surgery?]

            Please provide articles you have that say it does.

            I suspect the relief is temporary. I also suspect that most eventually realize they are still faced with the same psychological issues they had before the surgery. I would also add, that in my opinion, this type of surgery should not be performed on children since most grow out of it.

            [On what moral grounds would you oppose it?]

            “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)

            Basically, our bodies are sacred.

            That being said, I don’t foresee my personal morals being imposed through law on transgender people. However, in my opinion, I don’t think one is acting in their best interest by advising surgery. If someone is anorexic or alcoholic, we don’t just give into their misperception and let them wither away or give them an all you can drink pass at the liquor store. We get them help and support. This seems like the best approach. The recovery can take years with no guarantee of success, but we do it anyway.

            In answer to your last questions:

            My understanding is, no one knows at this point.

            I am not aware of any teaching of the Church that is specifically against gender-reassignment surgery, though I know Pope Francis weighed in with his opinion to the negative. To posit a guess, the Church would be against this type of mutilation because it unnecessarily damages the human body.

          • David Nickol

            From the little I know, "body integrity identity disorder" is extremely rare, and no studies exist of the kind we have been discussing for transgender individuals. Here is a brief summary from the National Institutes of Health. The statement I would call attention to is the following (boldface added):

            Psychologists and physicians explain this phenomenon in quite different ways; but a successful psychotherapeutic or pharmaceutical therapy is not known.

            So if your attitude is that these people are mentally ill and need therapy, the problem is that no therapy exists.

          • David Nickol

            Assuming the pain was permanent and the surgery would stop the pain, then I think I would.

            I don't think it is a matter of physical pain. Rather it is an issue of having a hand or limb that feels utterly alien, perhaps a bit like the boy who recently was operated on for a 10-pound tumor on his face and unfortunately died during the surgery. I won't link to any of the photos, since they are disturbing, but it is not difficult to find them by googling.

            I think the experience is one that is very difficult to imagine, but since some afflicted with it actually amputate parts of their own bodies, it is clear that the experience can be very distressing indeed.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi David,

            I would like to thank you for sharing your perspective and try to wrap up this current line of thought.

            Hopefully you will agree with me, I think you and I want what is best for folks who suffer with gender identity issues. Maybe one day, our world can treat such people so that they feel accepted. I think that would help. I can scarcely imagine the suffering they have to endure.

            Perhaps one day there will be simple cure and/or way to prevent it.

            Your perspective is – and please correct me if I am misunderstanding - you are just looking for a way to help these people – and since there are no known solutions, if gender reassignment surgery helps – that is a valid option.

            In my opinion, I think a surgery that denies one’s biological gender and doesn’t solve the root cause is not a long term solution and certainly not a cure. That being said, it is not my life to live, or my place to tell someone else what to do, even if I think it is immoral.

            Redirecting the conversation, what is your opinion regarding the following question: Do you think it is right to make surgeons, by force of law, perform gender reassignment surgery that goes against their conscience?

          • Probably not. But if after enough therapy it was making life intolerable, maybe, sure.

          • Rob Abney

            Complex issue, BGA has said no, probably not, and sure.

          • So what? Ok let's not be coy. The issue here is whether people should have sexual reassignment surgery. The overwhelming consensus in the medical community is yes and discrimination against those who are transgender is illegal.

            The Catholic Church says no for some naturalistic fallacy plus god.

            If you want to debate trans issues fine.

            But yes, I have not spent much time at all thinking about voluntary amputation.

          • Valence

            Here is some evidence sex reassignment surgery can result in negative outcomes like higher suicide rates. The jury is still out, and more evidence is needed, but so far it doesn’t look good.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3043071/

          • No I don't think the jury is still out. The problem with that study is it compares to the general population not candidates who don't get the surgery or live in denial or oppression.

            But in any event I'm not making a medical case but a legal one. The issue here is one of human rights.

          • Valence

            You said "The overwhelming consensus in the medical community is yes and discrimination against those who are transgender is illegal." You certainly were making a medical case. I'm glad you changed your mind.

          • Michael Murray

            Something they note in the section "Strengths and limitations of the study"

            In other words, the results should not be interpreted such as sex reassignment per se increases morbidity and mortality. Things might have been even worse without sex reassignment. As an analogy, similar studies have found increased somatic morbidity, suicide rate, and overall mortality for patients treated for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.[39], [40] This is important information, but it does not follow that mood stabilizing treatment or antipsychotic treatment is the culprit.

          • Sample1

            This. Thanks for that coda.

            My own point of view is to trust the patients, their physicians and the researchers. Religious moralists and ethicists have a voice but to me the empiricism must be added to the philosophical and when they conflict, I lean toward the empirical.

            We cannot reasonably expect to find healthy approaches that do not include empirical data. Aristotle, Aquinas and the altar are probably of no help here. These medical fields are relatively young. Answers will come but slowly. Maybe those answers for health of mind and body will turn out to be something unexpected or maybe such answers won’t be accessible in our lifetimes. But the path is clear: more empirical data, more study and less politicizing. And certainly more acceptance of real consenting people who harm no one through their own personal choices on their own journey toward well being.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            We cannot reasonably expect to find healthy approaches that do not include empirical data.

            Correct.

            Aristotle, Aquinas and the altar are probably of no help here.

            Incorrect.

            Here's a short well-reasoned article: Sex Reassignment Surgery and the Catholic Moral Tradition: Insight from Pope Pius XII on the Principle of Totality.
            https://www.chausa.org/docs/default-source/hceusa/sex-reassignment-surgery-and-the-catholic-moral-tradition.pdf

          • Sample1

            Thanks. I’d forgotten about Aquinas’ Principle of Totality. While I have no good reason to accept the metaphysical “whole/part” beliefs from the article it does not appear SRS is dogmatically prohibited but rather depends on an interpretation of what Pius XII meant by “being as a whole.”

            Yet, Pius XII states that a patient “may use individual parts, destroy them or mutilate them, when and to the extent necessary for the good of his being as a whole.”16 The phrase “being as a whole” implies more than just a benefit to the physical body. It acknowledges our obligation to care for the whole person, and that health care should embrace “the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions of the human person” because Jesus sought ‘physical, mental, and spiritual healing.”

            Very interesting POV Rob, thank you for it. If we can strip the metaphysics and religious requirements for non-Catholics perhaps the notion of patient’s well being can be further understood for others.

            Glad we agree about the need for more studies and applied empiricism in these cases.

            What do you think of Francis’ encyclical on the environment? Do you think it obligates obedience from you?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Mike, we cannot strip metaphysics and religion from important life-altering decisions. But that depends upon how you define those terms. Metaphysics is the study of what actually exists. Religion is man's search for meaning. Basically, the two are needed to help us know why we exist and from that, how we should live. As I suggested before, there cannot actually be a journey unless there is a destination.

            As I recall from reading Laudato si a couple of years ago, I was impressed that our care for the environment included caring for each other, it had a strong pro-life message.
            I am not obligated to obey it other than the fact that I am obligated to obey my conscience, and it is sensible theologically.

          • Sample1

            As you know, a good life can be had without understanding metaphysics or specific religions. For those who want such things, believers, then that would be their business to square up their decisons in accordance with their religion.

            As much as a challenge that may be for them (or not), non members and non theists exist where religion and its metaphysics have no significance.

            Empirical studies and medical knowledge is the path for others. What I think we can both agree upon is a type of ideal that favors as much consideration of the facts involved which may include decisions that have possible benefits and possible negative consequences. Such is the nature of medicine and new technologies.

            I think that is the extent of the input I can share on this topic.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks Mike, here's how you and I are alike, we are both on a journey, and we happen to be pretty much on the same route, but you keep threatening to veer off into the weeds because you don't believe that there are any guardrails or any crevices!

          • Sample1

            Oh, life is full of crevasses only mine are typically visible. I know you mean well, most believers feel they are trying to do their part to save a soul. I get it.

            My conscience is clear. I would be less fully human going back to faith. I don’t expect you to understand but you should be able to allow me the freedom of my choices.

            If you ever want to talk about what it’s like being an atheist as opposed to a Catholic, hmu.

            Cheers,
            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Don't be so defensive, I cannot save your soul!
            As I've already said, I enjoy conversing with you, but we won't always agree.
            If your conscience is clear despite your driving into ditches then you should examine it from a different perspective. But it doesn't seem as though you are really driving into ditches, you just don't want to admit they are there.
            How did your friend's headdress issue end up?

          • Sample1

            I take it you’re joking. You believe the HS is responsible for soul saving but that you can be a medium for it. That’s what I waa getting at. At any rate I have no good reasons to believe in a religious soul.

            What ditches are you talking about? Normal life with good times and tough times? Join the club. I pretty much have only myself for the twists and turns life throws at one, outside of luck/chance/measures beyond my control. But it’s always my brain that decides how to react. I think that’s how you probably think too.

            The art situation has not gone done well for many. People are claiming SJW and racism, etc. I did my part and atrended a “community conversation” about it but found the format/agenda wanting. In some ways it was a complete straw man, talking about true cultural appropriation (which is a reality) rather than artistic license and addressing the actual art piece. The artist was kinda sorta meant to feel judged as racist while never mentioned directly. Her winning entry wasn’t even brought up.

            No offense but people I know said it felt like a sermon, a religious dressing down rather than a true conversation to understand one another. I kind of agree with that.

            We must protect speech, even speech we do not like. Freedom of expression by consenting adults in an adult venue died a little bit. The social media villianization has been insano. I can’t even read it anymore. I feel bad for my friend, I know her, think I know her mind/heart and it saddens me that she is going through this. But she has lots of supporters too and will be fine after this dies down. We are such a small community though so it’s quite personal. She is thinking of creating her own art event with others as solidarity against the local censorship. I wish her well. Anyway, I’m rambling. Thanks for asking.

            Mike

          • David Nickol

            The problem with that study is it compares to the general population not candidates who don't get the surgery or live in denial or oppression.

            Agreed. But imagine the difficulty of selecting an appropriate control group. For a really meaningful study, you would have to take a large group of people who sought gender-reassignment surgery and randomly grant the surgery to half of them, making the other half the control group.

            It seems to me that there will always be a significant difference between people motivated enough to get such radical surgery and people willing to go without it. (Also, imagine the difficulty of meeting the so-called "gold standard"—a double-blind study!) So there are real limits to what a study of this kind can demonstrate.

            Nevertheless, I think it must be admitted that the study certainly is not reassuring. And yet, the conclusion of the researchers is as follows: "Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism, and should inspire improved psychiatric and somatic care after sex reassignment for this patient group." They do not recommend abandoning gender-reassignment surgery. They say it is effective in alleviating gender dysphoria. What they do recommend is better follow-up care.

          • It is difficult and complex issue. But I'm also aware of some of the stories of how devastating it is and was before this option existed.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi Brian,

            Again, I need to thank you for your continued willingness to share your perspectives.

            [The overwhelming consensus in the medical community is yes]

            I offer the following article for your consideration, written by someone who underwent gender-reassignment surgery:

            https://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/the-troubling-history-of-sex-change-surgery/16113

            Here are some interesting quotes from the article:

            On August 10, 1979, Dr. Meyer announced his results: “To say this type of surgery cures psychiatric disturbance is incorrect. We now have objective evidence that there is no real difference in the transsexual’s adjustments to life in terms of job, educational attainment, marital adjustment and social stability.”

            He later told The New York Times: “My personal feeling is that the surgery is not a proper treatment for a psychiatric disorder, and it’s clear to me these patients have severe psychological problems that don’t go away following surgery.”

            “Eventually, I gathered the courage to admit that the surgery had fixed nothing—it only masked and exacerbated deeper psychological problems.”

            “It is intellectually dishonest to ignore the facts that surgery never has been a medically necessary procedure for treating gender dysphoria and that taking cross-gender hormones can be harmful.”

          • David Nickol

            I am afraid there are some troubling aspects to the article you link to.

            First is Walt Heyer's branding of several of the early proponents of gender reassignment as "pedophilia activists." Although they may have had controversial opinions on pedophilia, they were hardly "pedophilia activists." That is a very inflammatory charge, and it really has nothing to do with the effectiveness of lack of effectiveness of gender reassignment surgery.

            Second (from my personal point of view, at least) is Walt Heyer's association with the rather-far right. For example, he writes for The Federalist and Public Discourse. I take a look at both occasionally, and I would't say they are in "wing nut" territory, but they are to far right for me. An anti-trans position might seem more credible to me if it came from less ideological sources. I am sure many readers of Strange Notions are quite comfortable with the Public Discourse and the Federalist, so I stress that this is my own personal opinion (or bias, if you insist).

            Third, one man's story doesn't really prove anything. Good information about him on the web is a little scarce, but according to this source and this source Heyer was misdiagnosed and did not have gender dysphoria. He also jumped into surgery without living a year as a woman, as the guidelines require. Be aware that I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these two sources, but they both seem to be attempting to be fair.

          • David Nickol

            To comment a little further, it seems like what Walt Heyer is putting forward is a conspiracy theory. For example, he says:

            A committee was formed to draft standards of care for transgenders that furthered their agenda, with Paul Walker at the helm. The committee included a psychiatrist, a pedophilia activist, two plastic surgeons, and a urologist, all of whom would financially benefit from keeping gender reassignment surgery available for anyone who wanted it. The “Harry Benjamin International Standards of Care” were published in 1979 and gave fresh life to gender surgery.

            First, note the listing "a psychiatrist, a pedophilia activist, two plastic surgeons, and a urologist," as if the creators of the guidelines said, "We must have a pedophilia activist on the team!" Also note that the implication is that the guidelines were created with the intention of monetary gain. The "pedophilia activist" is not named and a search of the web for “Harry Benjamin International Standards of Care” plus "pedophilia activist" yields only hits on reprints of the above article. It is not explained how a "pedophilia activist" would reap financial gain from gender-reassignment surgery. As I mentioned above, the pedophilia accusations seem meant to discredit (even demonize) the compilers of the guidelines, but in addition to being unsubstantiated, have nothing to do with the issue of gender dysphoria or surgery to alleviate it.

            Perhaps of interest to some is the fact that the 1979 guidelines have gone through six revisions and are now maintained by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. I took a very quick look at the guidelines (actually called "standards of care"), and they do not seem to promote surgery as the answer to gender dysphoria. They also call for candidates for surgery to live 12 months in their new gender role before having genetical surgery.

            It seems to me that the correct approach to individuals with gender dysphoria is on a case-by-case basis, which is very much the approach of the standards of care. I would not describe myself as any kind of advocate of sex-change surgery, but I would certainly not presume to stand in opposition to the mental health professionals, surgeons, and sufferers of gender dysphoria and oppose such surgery in all cases.

          • Honestly I'll leave it to the medical community on whether it is advisable. I'm sure we can go on trading positive and negative cases.

          • Michael

            There have been more than eighty studies that show that sex reassignment surgery helps treat gender dysphoria: http://www.cakeworld.info/transsexualism/what-helps/srs

            More than eighty studies also show that hormone therapy is another helpful treatment: http://www.cakeworld.info/transsexualism/what-helps/hormones

          • SpokenMind

            Hi Michael,

            Thanks for the link. I did take a look over several studies that concur with what you said.

            There are other studies as well not cited in your link, and overall, I see the results as mixed. I don’t yet see a consensus in the medical, psychiatry field. There are those who seem to benefit and those who don’t. I’m particularly interested in studies with long term results which I think would shed more light on this subject.

            All the best!

          • Michael

            Nobody that I am aware of has explained why some XY biological males are absolutely convinced they are females, and some XX biological females are absolutely convinced they are males.

            We have a pretty good idea of what's happening.

            Cantor has written that transsexuality is a phenomenon of the brain, stating that MRI research has verified the Blanchard theory of there being two different kinds of male-to-female transsexuals. One of these types (called "homosexual transsexuals") have brains like gay men, which are mostly male with some features more common among women, and another type (called "autogynephilic transsexuals" or "heterosexual transsexuals") which also have brains that differ from typical, but not with features like those of women.[37] In a subsequent article, Anton Guillamon, another neuroscientist studying transsexuality said, "Cantor seems to be right."[38]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Cantor#Transgenderism

          • David Nickol

            Thanks for the information, but it doesn't tell us all that much to say that a particular type of transsexual is that type of transsexual because he or she has that particular type of transsexual brain. Of course, it would be important to establish that there is a biological basis for gender dysphoria.

          • Valence

            The issue is resolved by specifying phenotypic female or male. Genotypic male or female usually results in male or female phenotypes, but obviously not always (but this only fails to be the case when something is wrong). The phenotype is what's important, i.e. how genes are expressed. Transgenderism literally attempts to change one's phenotype via hormones and surgery. Perhaps it should be called "transexism", especially if one thinks gender is only socially constructed. If gender is only socially constructed, than only social tools would be needed to change ones gender. Obviously this is NOT the case, and transgenderism is proof.

          • David Nickol

            The issue is resolved by specifying phenotypic female or male.

            I am not sure exactly what is resolved. What should parents do, for example, if they have a genetic and phenotypic male child who insists from his earliest years that he is female? Were I in the shoes of such parents, I wouldn't hesitate to seek some psychological counseling for the child, but after that, what? Or say I am genetically and phenotypically male (which I am) but have an unshakable belief (which, fortunately I don't) that I am really female and that I feel like a total fraud dressing and acting as a male. Again, I would have no problem seeking psychological counseling, but what if I can't change my gender identity?

            There is no reason that I know of, at the present time, to rule out the possibility that there is a physical component to "gender dysphoria" that cannot be altered by any currently known method. How are you suggesting that society should deal with transgender individuals?

          • Valence

            I think we are experimenting with sex reassignment surgery. Over time we will be able to measure if it’s helpful via outcomes. I think people should be able to do what they want with their bodies, but the jury is out on how to handle gender dysphoria best . Like anything there may not be a universal solution.
            Why bring up phenotype and genotype? To avoid confusion by using precise scientific language.

          • Valence

            FYI most evidence I’ve seen shows sexism reassignment surgery has a negative effect on mental health outcomes, like higher suicide rates. As I said, the jury is still out, but we should always follow the evidence where it leads.
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3043071/

          • No they aren't.

          • No they are not .

          • I am an expert in the law in question and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

            The change was adding gender identity to the federal human rights act. But it has been in the provincial code for many years and it is the provincial code that he is subject to as a university prof.

            His website might be a different story.

            All the law says is that you cannot impose a detriment to someone based on gender identity in housing employment services or contracts.

          • Valence

            It's reasonable to argue that Peterson overreacted to the gender pronoun law, but there is a good reason for the over reaction. There has been a growing climate of censorship, dogma, and smearing of anything not politically correct on many college campuses in the US, and it's been spilling out into the media via indoctrinated journalists ect. It's become pretty absurd in many cases, but there has been a growing pushback that Peterson is a part of. There is also a growing organization called the Heterodox Academy trying to bring back viewpoint diversity to the Academy.

            https://heterodoxacademy.org/the-problem/

            It's funny that atheists seem to think that dogma and group think are a function of religion, but that's only true if you consider the extreme left a religion, and that might be right. People are different, and men and women are different in their life goals and priorities on average. A mountain of evidence suggests biology plays a role. I'm with Peterson and anyone who is fighting the silly orthodoxy that all differences between sexes is socially constructed. Of course culture plays a role, but so does biology. They interact in complex way. The idea that believing men and women are different is "misogyny" has become fairly wide spread among feminists, and it's false. Even researchers at Stanford Medical have to grapple with charges of "Neurosexism" for daring to study the differences. People are sick of this, and rightfully so. The justified reaction allows people like Peterson, Jonathan Haidt, and Steven Pinker to become so popular. There was a recent smear campaign against Pinker because he rightfully pointed out that political correctness is aiding the alt-right and allowing them to take censored facts and take them to false, and awful conclusions. People are tired of the smearing and unethical behavior of so many on the extreme left. So am I.

            But over the past 15 years or so, there’s been a sea change as new technologies have generated a growing pile of evidence that there are inherent differences in how men’s and women’s brains are wired and how they work.

            Not how well they work, mind you. Our differences don’t mean one sex or the other is better or smarter or more deserving. Some researchers have grappled with charges of “neuro­sexism”: falling prey to stereotypes or being too quick to interpret human sex differences as biological rather than cultural. They counter, however, that data from animal research, cross-​cultural surveys, natural experiments and brain-imaging studies demonstrate real, if not always earthshaking, brain differences, and that these differences may contribute to differences in behavior and cognition.

            https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2017spring/how-mens-and-womens-brains-are-different.html

          • To be clear there is no pronoun law. These are human rights codes that say nothing about pronouns. And again, he is subject to the provincial code that has been in place for many years .it was the addition of gender to the federal code he objected to.

            Do you realize that it's a contradiction to say it's an over reaction with good reason?

            Peterson is part of a push back against human rights and substantive equality that has also been going on for decades .

            There has not been censorship of him that I'm aware of. If you have an example of the Human Rights Act prohibiting speech unjustly, let's hear it. There was an SCC case prohibiting hateful homophobic use of the mail system a few years ago, and I'd say the court got it right.

            There have always been pushback against equality. Whether an end to slavery, interested racial marrige, same sex marriage and so on.

            No the point is not that all differences between the sexes are social constructions. Gender seems almost entirely a social construct but sex is primarily biological.

            The law prevents detriment in some areas to people on the basis of sex, gender, and also religion by the way. That's it.

            The jury is still out on the relationship between sex and behavior. Last I heard the connection was specious.

            But all of this is beside the point. If Peterson objected to the inclusion of gender and gender identity in the human rights act, what he is saying is that it should be ok to cause a detriment to people on the basis of their gender identity (ie the trans commumity). This would mean that it's ok to fire someone or not serve them because they are trans. This nonsense about pronouns is a dog whistle.

          • Valence

            These are human rights codes that say nothing about pronouns. And again, he is subject to the provincial code that has been in place for many years .it was the addition of gender to the federal code he objected to.

            This is false. I will point directly to the Ontario Human rights association, as just one example.

            The law recognizes that everyone has the right to self-identify their gender and that “misgendering” is a form of discrimination.

            As one human rights tribunal said: “Gender …may be the most significant factor in a person’s identity. It is intensely personal. In many respects how we look at ourselves and define who we are starts with our gender.”[1] The Tribunal found misgendering to be discriminatory in a case involving police, in part because the police used male pronouns despite the complainant’s self-identification as a trans woman.

            Refusing to refer to a trans person by their chosen name and a personal pronoun that matches their gender identity, or purposely misgendering, will likely be discrimination when it takes place in a social area covered by the Code, including employment, housing and services like education. The law is otherwise unsettled as to whether someone can insist on any one gender-neutral pronoun in particular.

            Gender-neutral pronouns may not be well known. Some people may not know how to determine what pronoun to use. Others may feel uncomfortable using gender-neutral pronouns. Generally, when in doubt, ask a person how they wish to be addressed. Use “they” if you don’t know which pronoun is preferred.[2] Simply referring to the person by their chosen name is always a respectful approach.

            http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/questions-and-answers-about-gender-identity-and-pronouns

            Do you realize that it's a contradiction to say it's an over reaction with good reason?

            I'm saying it's caused by a clear context.

            Peterson is part of a push back against human rights and substantive equality that has also been going on for decades .

            One of the most fundamental human rights is freedom of speech. From freedom of speech, most other rights follow. Now we have new concepts in human rights that come down to freedom from bullying and discrimination. Freedom of speech and choice can run into direct conflict with some of these newer rights concepts, and the correct approach is as clear as mud even among atheist liberal (hopefully) humanists like you and I. At what point does your demand to be referred to by a specific word infringe upon my right to use words as I chose? This can come down to which right you find to be more important, and I place freedom of speech in a very high place. Being offended is not clear grounds to limit speech, otherwise I shouldn't be allowed to admit I'm an atheist and declare I don't believe a personal god exists because it offends theists. We have to be careful in placing certain groups in a privileges position where they have a right not to be offended while other groups can just such it up when they are offended. The problem is that it's largely arbitrary, and there is certainly no divine command we can appeal to to resolve disagreement. So no, Peterson is not pushing back against human rights, he's drawing a line on which rights he thinks are most important. Your statement is a mischaracterization, but that may not be intentional.

            There has not been censorship of him that I'm aware of.

            There was a concerted effort to get Peterson fired, but it failed. There are also constant smear pieces written about him from the extreme left that seem intentionally dishonest. These things are largely why he has become so popular. Attempts to censor are beginning to have the opposite effect.

            There have always been pushback against equality. Whether an end to slavery, interested racial marrige, same sex marriage and so on.

            Slavery was a horrible evil. I find it a bit offensive to even put it in the same category as same sex marriage and the pronoun debate, but I see what you mean. I think we have a conflict in human rights, and again it's not clear what is "right" unless you are part of an echo chamber. Group think can be powerful.

            The jury is still out on the relationship between sex and behavior. Last I heard the connection was specious.

            If you actually read this article I linked from Stanford Medical, you'll find the connection is not specious. You will also find that whether or not gender "seems" socially constructed, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of biology playing a significant role, but culture and and societial norms are important too. It's a complex interaction. Most people are content to just stick with the dogma of their group, and not seek out and engage actual evidence. This is especially true when ideas become sacred (like there is no differences between men and women).
            https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2017spring/how-mens-and-womens-brains-are-different.html

            If Peterson objected to the inclusion of gender and gender identity in the human rights act, what he is saying is that it should be ok to cause a detriment to people on the basis of their gender identity (ie the trans commumity). This would mean that it's ok to fire someone or not serve them because they are trans. This nonsense about pronouns is a dog whistle.

            This is not true at all. What he is saying, and only what he is saying, is that the government should never be able to compel speech. It's a huge emphasis on a specific human right, freedom of speech. Making accusations about "dog whistles" is just an ad hominem smear and irresponsible. Here is him having a conversation with a transgender person. If you have an open mind, you'll watch it, but I get the impression you don't have an open mind. You didn't even engage anything I said about the gender parodox and other evidence against social construction. You just assume you are correct. This is atheists behaving like religious people when they have become convinced of an absolute moral truth. Atheists are supposed to know better, but I suppose not.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkmzdiJXwaA

          • I don't know what the human rights association is, you've linked to the Commission whose statements and reports do not carry the force of law. In Ontario the law is the Code and it is enforced by the tribunal. But yes refusing to use preferred pronouns is likely discrimination in the areas covered by the Code. Just like using racist epithets would be or using sexist language.

            Freedom of expression is a fundamental constitutional right, by in Canada it's not considered a human right, i.e it is not covered by human rights legislation. Freedom of expression protection is a limit imposed on government. It supercedes the human rights legislation. But the human rights legislation are reasonable limits on expression to ensure equality which is also a constitutional right.

            Yes there are conflicts. But these are not the issue. The issue is whether gender identity should be a human rights ground .I say it should. Seems like Peterson does not. I'm really not sure.

            What this legislation does is remove barriers in a limited number of areas. You never have an unrestricted right to expression. These laws restrict your right to cause detriment to others on the basis of gender identity in services, housing, contracts and employment. Outside of these you are only limited by criminal sanctions on hate speech and criminal harassment, but you can be transphobic all you want.

            Yes it does come down to which right is more important. In Canada we have struck the above balance and it works quite well.

            Human rights legislation do not consider "offence". They look at detriment based on the protected grounds. But sure you will not generally be allowed to use offensive language at work and in providing services. You will face penalties if you create barriers by not using preferred pronouns.

            It's not arbitrary. The test is detriment based on grounds. There are many legal decisions and analyses and expert evidence may be called. Tribunals have to make objective decisions based on evidence and can be overturned if they are arbitrary.

            He is drawing a line and he's wrong. Gender identity is important and detriment based on it in the above areas is a harm society has an interest in preventing. His failure to accept this marginalized trans people and denies them equal opportunity .

            The effort to get him fired is due to the fact that his position on this is discriminatory not to mention his paranoia about post modernist communists taking over academia. But universities have a right to fire people and taking a discriminatory stance on transgender issues is a good reason to me. It's not censorship to fire bigots. If fired he can still write his crap.

            The point about slavery is that people can be wrong about what we later see as obvious horrific oppression. I don't think the slave owning Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were evil. Nor necessarily the thousands of Christian slave owners who used the Bible to defend slavery. But they were wrong they should have realized it sooner. So shouks Peterson.

            I'm not going to engage in the debate on sex and behaviour. I know this is a highly debatable topic.

            Of course governments can and should place limits on speech. You shouldn't be allowed to call a black employee the n word and you shouldnt be allowed to call a trans woman a man. Both are hurtful and are true barriers to equal opportunity. Your right to freedom of speech does not entitle you to discriminate in these areas in my country. If people want to change that they can. But they are helping a wrongfulky marginalized sehnese if society access to employment housing etc. This is more important that Peterson's naturalistic fallacy about gender.

            It certainly was an ad hominem. I will do more .Peterson is a bigot. He is also silly and paranoid.

            Then you end with ad hominems and assumptions against me. Ha!

          • Valence

            The Ontario Human rights Commission does have the force of law. If I said association, my mistake.

            The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) was established as an arm’s length agency of government in 1961 to prevent discrimination and to promote and advance human rights in Ontario. The OHRC is one pillar of Ontario’s human rights system, alongside the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC).

            http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/about-commission

            Otherwise keep doing what you are doing. I would never have heard of Peterson if it wasn't for people like you. He went from completely unknown to making a fortune from his Youtube channel, not to mention his book being #1 on Amazon. He really should be thanking you.

            But they are helping a wrongfulky marginalized sehnese if society access to employment housing etc.

            I didn't understand this sentence, but I guess it doesn't matter. Of course, let's define bigot:
            "intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself."
            https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/bigotry

            That certainly applies to you here, and anyone who disagrees with you on the application in human rights. Of course, we are all bigots in a way. I'm bigoted against authoritarian tendencies and political extremists, so it's not fair to cast stones without calling yourself out too, I suppose.

            This is more important that Peterson's naturalistic fallacy about gender.

            You won't engage any of my arguments or evidence about gender not being socially constructed, but you want to throw "fallacy around" seems intellectually lazy at the very least. Most people don't want to really think and have their ideas challenged. Not surprising either.
            Good luck, and thanks again for supporting Peterson and powering his rise to fame :)

          • So there is the Tribunal and Commission. The decisios of the Tribunal have the force of law. The Commission's reports and publications do not.

            The issue here is whether or not gender and gender identity should be included as human rights grounds. Whether or not gender is a social construction or not is really not the point. Most human rights grounds are social constructions including race, religion, and culture.

            I say they should be included based on the importance of them to personal indentity and that marginalizing people on the basis of gender is a harm to society that we should prohibit like we do on the basis of religion, disabity and sexual orientation.

            I say Peterson is a bigot because I think he doesn't want this protection because of wrong views he holds of the transgendered based on negative stereotypes. This is recognized be his repugnance at using preferred pronouns. Insisting on using a male pronoun for a trans woman is an affront to her dignity and worth. It is saying you aren't really who you are you're not a woman your a man playing dress up. She should not have to deal with these issues, it denies her right to equal opportunity and it's not justified by his right to express himself. It is properly curtailed in employment, contracts, services, and housing.

            Let me know to the extent you disagree or I've misrepresentated Peterson.

          • Rob Abney

            I say Peterson is a bigot because I think he doesn't want this protection because of wrong views he holds of the transgendered based on negative stereotypes

            That's not true. He has tons of video and writings available and you will not be able to find anything that supports your position.

            This is recognized be his repugnance at using preferred pronouns. Insisting on using a male pronoun for a trans woman is an affront to her dignity and worth.

            He has been very clear that the position you are proposing is not his concern. His concern is compelled speech.

          • So you are saying that he does agree that gender identity should be a human rights grounds in the Canadian Human Rights Act?

            Oh, ok. Well there is nothing compelling any speech in any human rights instrument that I'm aware of. What does he think he is being compelled to say?

          • Rob Abney

            No, I'm saying that his views of the transgendered are not based upon stereotypes.
            It is my understanding that he feels that he is being compelled to use certain pronouns not just to avoid using other pronouns.

          • I think his views are based on stereotypes. Specifically that trans people don't seriously have a different gender identity than sis folk. That this is just a style choice instead of a vital part of their selves as vital as someone's identity as a Catholic for example.

            If he gets that and does accept that this is a human rights ground and that calling a trans woman "he" really is like calling a racialized person "coloured" or a woman a "broad".

            There is no more compulsion in the trans issue than the language above.

            And I maintain that he is smart enough to understand this and should recognize and accept it. His failure to do so indicates that this is really a dog whistle for his view that indeed trans people are not entitled to human rights protection.

          • Rob Abney

            You should be able to provide some evidence if any of that is true rather than just innuendo and conspiratorial.
            I am interested in your legal perspective on compelled speech though, is there a penalty if someone fails to use a preferred pronoun, not that they use a non-preferred pronoun?

          • Yes if you use discriminatory language in the areas covered by the laws, yes there can be monetary penalties.

            For example if a teacher uses the n-word in class the students may make a claim against the school and likely name the teacher. But such a complaint really is against the school for failing to provide a service free from discrimination.

            So knowing this, schools will impose codes if conduct that staff not discriminate against students and may be terminated for cause if they do. I'm not sure the individual teacher would be personally liable.

            Calling it compulsion is hyperbolic. It's a prohibition on discrimination. That's all the laws actually say, you can't discriminate on the basis of a list of grounds.

          • Rob Abney

            You evaded my direct question, which was:

            is there a penalty if someone fails to use a preferred pronoun, not that they use a non-preferred pronoun?

            And you answered:

            Yes if you use discriminatory language in the areas covered by the laws, yes there can be monetary penalties.

            Do you know if someone can be penalized for NOT using a preferred pronoun?

          • I'd say it depends on the circumstances. It depends if it is an area covered by the legislation and whether it amounts to discrimination and whether the applicant can prove damages.

            I would think certainly an employer or landlord could be ordered to pay damages .

          • Rob Abney

            If Peterson refused to refer to a student who wanted to be called "zher" as a pronoun, yet he referred to other students as "he" or "her", then he would be discriminating. If the student claimed this as offensive would that be grounds for punishment?

          • David Nickol

            I don't see a big problem here. It seems a simple matter to me for a professor to avoid referring to a specific individual with a singular pronoun. If he wants to refer to zher, he can just call zher by zher name.

          • Rob Abney

            You are ignoring the legalities and circumstances that BGA listed. If Peterson refers to a female as her and a male as he but will not address a transsexual as zher then Peterson could be charged with discrimination.

          • David Nickol

            Are you claiming that if I always refer to Pat (for example) as Pat, then Pat can demand I use a pronoun instead of zher name? If the law and its interpretation are at all reasonable, then it is about not repeatedly calling a person by a pronoun he or she or zhe objects to. It is not as if a professor would be required to use pronouns in place of names.

          • Rob Abney

            BGA, a Canadian lawyer, seems to confirm that your desire for the law to be reasonable has not been met. Maybe Canada doesn't have constitutionally protected freedom of speech?

          • David Nickol

            BGA, a Canadian lawyer, seems to confirm that your desire for the law to be reasonable has not been met.

            That is not my understanding of what BGA has written. I found this explanation in a Canadian newspaper of what the law (Bill C-16) does and does not do.

            It only criminalizes extreme speech

            C-16 added gender identity and expressions as a category for what counts under Canada’s hate-crime laws, which include calling for genocide or wilfully inciting hatred toward an identifiable group. The categories of colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation and mental or physical disability were already on the list of identifiable groups.

            The threshold for a conviction under these laws is high, and charges can only be laid with the approval of a province’s attorney general.

            The bill also added the targeting of gender identity and expression as an aggravating factor in sentencing. This means that if you’re convicted of an offence such as assault, the sentence can be made harsher if there’s evidence you were motivated by hatred or prejudice on this basis.

            It changes the federal human rights code, but this doesn’t apply to university classrooms

            C-16 added gender identity and expression as grounds for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, but this applies to people employed by or receiving services from federally-regulated industries, such as banks or the public service. In other words, not a university.

            “The faculty member who first says that it is now contrary to Bill C-16 fails to understand the reach of the federal human rights act,” said University of Toronto law professor Brenda Cossman, who has extensively studied the legislation.

            Universities instead fall under provincial codes — but the Ontario Human Rights Code has included gender identity and expression for five years now, long before Peterson gained fame for his arguments.

            Could presenting Peterson’s argument violate the Ontario Human Rights Code?

            Nobody knows for sure, but it would be a stretch.

            A workplace, housing or service provider covered by the provincial code could be forced to pay a fine or change their practices if found to be discriminating on the matter of gender identity or expression. But it’s unclear how the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario would rule on a case involving pronoun use.

            The Ontario Human Rights Commission, which is separate from the tribunal and focuses on education, has a policy guideline saying that “refusing to refer to a person by their self-identified name and proper personal pronoun” could constitute gender-based harassment.

            But the commission also says cases involving pronouns and free speech require a balancing act.

            “The Supreme Court has also found that some limits on free speech are justifiable to protect people from harassment and discrimination in social areas like employment and services,” says a document posted online. “On the other hand, decision-makers have said that freedom of expression is much less likely to be limited in the context of a public debate on social, political or religious issues in a university or a newspaper.”

            Cossman strongly doubts that showing some clips as part of an academic debate would lead to a discrimination finding.

            “It is hard to imagine that a court would make such a finding,” she said. “The point of showing the video was to discuss the content of the ideas, and a court would have to balance the rights to non-discrimination with the values of academic freedom and freedom of expression.”

            So, as I understand the above, Bill C-16, which Peterson objected to so strenuously, doesn't apply to university classrooms. The Ontario Human Rights Code, which would apply to classrooms, has granted similar protection to transgender individuals for five years, and Peterson has not been taken away in chains yet.

            Do you know of any unfair prosecutions under either the Ontario Human Rights Code or Bill C-16. I certainly can't find any. I found one case of a teacher being disciplined by his own school by officials who didn't understand the law, but that's it as far as I can tell. If either law is unreasonable, then let's have evidence that it has actually been used in an objectionable way.

          • Rob Abney

            If either law is unreasonable, then let's have evidence that it has actually been used in an objectionable way.

            The test of reasonableness isn't based upon how or if the law has been used, the test is whether it is considered reasonable to require a person to use words mandated by another and with the force of the government behind them.
            Of course unreasonable laws are written frequently and are then tested in court, your position simply says that this law has not been tested in a court because it hasn't been used in a way that would cause a court action. But that doesn't mean it hasn't been enforced, it just hasn't been violated, there are probably any number of professors/teachers using words they find offensive because they have been pressured by the law to do so.

          • David Nickol

            it just hasn't been violated, there are probably any number of professors/teachers using words they find offensive because they have been pressured by the law to do so.

            "Probably any number"? What evidence do you have?

            Do you have any idea how many, or how few, transgender persons there are who insist on being referred to with specific pronouns?

          • Rob Abney

            "Probably any number"? What evidence do you have?

            I should have said that there are "probably" at least one, which would be too many.

            Do you have any idea how many, or how few, transgender persons there are who insist on being referred to with specific pronouns?

            No, but surely there have to be some or else why was the law written?
            David, I'm pretty sure that you are actually against mandated speech based on an earlier comment where you said it would be unreasonable to compel speech. Perhaps you are being very protective of this minority population and in the process agreeing to give up basic human rights. There should be a way to be supportive without infringing on free speech rights.

          • David Nickol

            I simply don't agree that the laws involve mandated speech. I can't imagine a situation in which a professor would be forced into using a pronoun if he or she did not want to. It is not as if the law gives anyone the right to walk up to a professor and say, "Call me by a pronoun right now, and it better be the right one, or you will go to jail."

            Give me a scenario in which a hypothetical professor is forced to call a hypothetical student "zhe," and perhaps I will be more sympathetic.

            I spent several decades during my career in publishing dealing with my company's guidelines for "inclusive language," which largely involved avoiding the use of the generic he. I am therefore very much aware of pronoun usage and its complications. I just can't imagine a situation in which a professor (or any authority figure) could be trapped into using specific pronouns. Language is flexible enough to avoid it.

          • Rob Abney

            Give me a scenario in which a hypothetical professor is forced to call a hypothetical student "zhe," and perhaps I will be more sympathetic.

            This is the one I proposed to BGA: If Peterson refused to refer to a student who wanted to be called "zhe" as a pronoun, yet he referred to other students as "he" or "her", then he would be discriminating. If the student claimed this as offensive would that be grounds for punishment? And BGA agreed that it could be.

          • David Nickol

            That is much too vague. Really, what we need are actual cases, and it doesn't seem that there are any. Any actual application of the laws would depend on a commission or a court evaluating the complaint. In the absence of any know uses of these laws, it seems pointless to debate them endlessly based on pure speculation. I will be happy to continue this discussion when there are some actual facts, but until that time, further discussion is pointless.

          • Rob Abney

            Related. http://dailycaller.com/2016/05/23/transgender-teacher-gets-60k-after-co-workers-wont-call-her-they/
            "the new policy will require all teachers to refer to their co-workers by their preferred names and pronouns, and it will also ensure transgender employees and students have their bathroom needs met. Teachers who refuse to comply with the pronoun command may be fired, the school district warns."

          • David Nickol

            A biased article from a right-leaning publication.

            While googling the whole issue, I found out that New York City Human Rights Law has essentially the same requirements as spelled out in the Canadian laws we have been discussing. It has been the case since 2015. I live in New York City and have never heard of any cases of the laws being invoked, let alone any claims that the laws have been used unjustly. Here's a good evaluation of the conservative claims and the facts of the matter on Snopes.

            This is the end of the discussion, as far as I am concerned, until some actual evidence is produced that the laws are being used unfairly. The issue is not really one of pronoun use. The issue is harassment. Show me a case in which the laws were invoked and someone got in legal trouble for innocently using wrong pronouns. Then we will have something to discuss.

          • Rob Abney

            You don't have to discuss it anymore, you just have to be sure that you use the preferred pronouns because it is the law whether or not it has been used. Not that the punishment is similar, but capital punishment is legal in several states where it hasn't been used in more than 10 years, should it no longer be a concern?
            But, the main reason that I was discussing the subject was because BGA was claiming that Peterson was a bigot for opposing the law. It seems clear that he opposed it for other reasons.

            ETA: from the snopes link: However, a person who intentionally and repeatedly refuses to use an individual’s preferred pronoun would be subject to fines (that could reach as high as $250,000 for multiple violations) under the law.

          • BCE

            I agree employers, and public institutions should favor the persons choice, however I don't know if there should be a legal protection compelling using a preferred pronoun.

            Pronouns often act as adjectives, or have that quality.
            the word "she" not only referring to person or thing but a quality
            (feminine)
            Why that matters? Interesting that people now are suspect as to the value of commonly held pronouns, when there use was to make clearer social interaction.

            In large data basis, what proceeds(flows) from it can be significant.
            i.e. .....
            If the DNA left at the murder scene is male, then with 90% or more
            probability, *he* looks male. If identified as Mrs., then
            she is or was married

            We have since suggested the choice is the individuals, but even if *she* didn't like using She, or Mrs. or (F), systems do and they
            don't work as well with ambiguous info.

          • >he would be discriminating.

            If, given all the circumstances this could be said to cause an unjustified detriment to the student. But he has been subject to this since 2012. I'm not aware of anyone ever making such a claim and it is not at all clear to me whether any such a claim would succeed on the basis of pronoun use alone.

            >If the student claimed this as offensive would that be grounds for punishment?

            No. If it met the test for discrimination under the human rights Code, the University could be liable for failing to prevent discrimination in a service. He could also be personally liable for damages, but I think the university would likely take on vicarious liability. It would then be up to the University to determine whether to discipline him and how much. Most likely the university would be ordered to provide training in human rights. The amount of damages would depend on how serious the Tribunal found the discrimination and any mitigating factors and the impact on the student. Without researching it further I could not guess how much if any.

            Certainly repeated behavior contrary to the Human Rights Code with respect to students would likely lead to a dismissal eventually. But on one comment, I would doubt it.

            But I am just speculating. Remedies and damages range.

          • Rob Abney

            It appears that you agree that this can be called a case of compelled speech, notwithstanding all the circumstances that would have to be present?

          • I don't know what you mean by "compelled". You can label it how you like, there are penalties to the employer and potentially to him for discrimination under the code.

            What is your view? Accepting this is "compelled". Do you think there should be an absolute right to speech? Eg that teachers should be allowed to use racial epithets and derogatory words referring to students? Or do you just disagree with gender identity being a ground? Or do you just think ignoring preferred pronouns on gender is not a detriment? What should change?

          • Rob Abney

            I don't know what you mean by "compelled"

            RA: Peterson refused to refer to a student who wanted to be called "zher" as a pronoun
            BGA: If, given all the circumstances this could be said to cause an unjustified detriment to the student.

            Using your words from earlier, Peterson should be required/compelled to use a pronoun to avoid perceived/judged detriment to a student. He is compelled by the threat of remedies/damages. That seems clear.

            Opponents of Peterson routinely try to confuse the issue by suggesting many of the issues you are now bringing up in your last paragraph. Those issues are not the subject of the protest.

            What should change?

            Free speech should not be restricted by the government mandating words that we should use.

          • Again there is nithing in the law that does this but the question us: Should the government restrict the language we are allowed to use in employment and services? Eg prohibit by allowing civil remedies conduct such as a teacher referring to dark skinned individuals as n-words?

            Do you also believe no one should be allowed to sue for libel or defamation?

          • Rob Abney

            Should the government restrict the language we are allowed to use in employment and services? Eg prohibit by allowing civil remedies conduct such as a teacher referring to dark skinned individuals as n-words?

            Yes, that should be restricted! But it has nothing to do with the point Peterson has been focused on. Stop trying to play gotcha!

          • I'm not trying to play gotcha. I'm trying to understand the objection .

            So there is agreement that gender and gender identity (trans) should be protected on the same basis that race and religion should.

            He just thinks that it is not discriminatory to call a trans person by a previous gendered pronoun? I.e. he thinks it's fine to call a trans woman "he"?

          • Rob Abney

            I don't know what he thinks about those two issues, but what he has said directly is that he doesn't want to be compelled by the government to use words he finds offensive.
            "I will never use words I hate, like the trendy and artificially constructed words “zhe” and “zher.” These words are at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century."

          • BCE

            In your opinion how would you handle this example

            A student starts 10th grade. The student had spent the previous years
            as female. Now identified as male.
            The school offered to allow the student to use a private bathroom
            (and shower in private)

            There was no issue of being (outed) all the students knew the child
            The child being 15 having a 17 and 20 year old brothers
            and an 12 year old sister.
            The parents had the 15 year old move out of the bedroom shared with the 12 year old sister, but also instructed the sons 17 and 20 to remain discreet (dressing, showering, etc. with the same segregated privacy as before (as towards a sister)
            The school was not allowed to have medical or psychiatric info.
            They acted...in loco parentis, believing a private bathroom/shower was
            appropriate. Believing too the transition is a process and that at 15 the child needed to be protected from being in a uncomfortable situation by either gender, as well as the same for the student body
            The parents publicly complained that their daughter was transitioning
            to male and they insisted on using the male bathroom and shower facilities.
            The school responded, social services said (even in fostercare placement) they want the child to have their own bed, and
            privacy while dressing and toileting. They can not co-sleep co-dress
            or toilet together even with others, opposite or of the same sex.
            The school maintained its position.

            The parents sued

          • I'd let him see the male toilets if I were the school. I don't think the home situation engages trans issues. I think any 15 year old or anyone who is potty trained should have their own bed and privacy in the toilet.

          • BCE

            I question how much (legal)experience you have in this area.

            Brothers might share bedrooms, not every family has a bedroom for each child so even at 15-17 the boys might share a bed room and change in front of one another, or brush their teeth while the other is in the shower.
            but a 15 year old girl wouldn't share a bed room or change in front of
            her 18 year old brother. It's not just the girls privacy but not putting
            either in an uncomfortable situation.
            Regardless of how the minor feels, the adults must act prudently.

            So the parents set up a separate bed room because their tran son
            was no longer going to share a bed room with their 12 year old daughter
            nor did they want her(now him) to share a room with the 17 year old brother. They understood their trans teen is adjusting, so are the siblings
            and that no one should be put in a compromising situation.
            That was the suggestion of social services.
            Except the parents demanded the school allow her to use the boys
            facility
            "let him see the male toilets " like a tour? That wasn't the issue.
            The issue was the school offered private facilities, but was sued.

          • Ok.

          • Valence

            After sleeping on it, I apologize for being a little snarky in my posts. If I didn't think you were over reacting, we could probably find common ground of criticism of Peterson. I even agree he's kind of paranoid (though just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you) but there are lots of good things about him too. Most people are a mixed bag. This article entitled "Enough with the Jordan Peterson Hysteria" makes some good point from the Toronto Star. When his detractors calm down and actually engage what he says on his terms and takes him seriously, they don't just automatically polarize and encourage support for him. I'm dead serious that the over reaction to him vindictates his paranoia in a very real way. I think the social effect is similar to how hysteria over Trump (even though I think Trump is awful in many ways, he's not a devil) helped propel Trump.
            One specific think I agree with Peterson about is the troubling level of polarization we are seeing in the West. Sure, he's riding a wave of polarization himself, but he makes some good points. You are like many of his detractors that just has some name calling, and complain about his free speech stance, but know little about him otherwise. I've seen more positive articles lately than negative, and most of the negative ones are nonsensical emoting, unfortunately. It really does make Peterson look exactly right about the extreme left, and his detractors lack the self-awareness and familiarity with him to know they are proving him right. When I said you were helping him, I was dead serious.
            He's a likable character in a lot of ways, even if he's overly zealous. I've seen tons, and tons of people who claim that he has really helped people in their lives. I've read his stories about the awful disease and surgeries his daughter had, and really feel sorry for them. I really think he's telling the truth about how he pulled through his own depression and psychological disturbances, though his psychological issues likely fuel some of his current paranoia. I could defend some of his stances on postmodernism and cultural Marxism (critical race theory specifically) but I will also agree he over uses him. You can call him a bigot, and you might be right, but bigot != bad person. Everyone is a bigot in some ways, that's just the truth. I relate to him because I'm a bit paranoid myself probably. I don't mind admitting it. I really like Peterson's stance on radical honesty, especially with yourself. If nothing else, he's authentic, and that's refreshing.

            https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2018/03/18/enough-with-the-jordan-peterson-hysteria.html

            https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2018/03/16/jordan-peterson-is-trying-to-make-sense-of-the-world-including-his-own-strange-journey.html

          • Valence

            While I could post tons of examples of censorship, the Lindsey Shepherd affair was an absurd one. She simply played a clip of Peterson and got attacked for it. Luckily she recorded it. They even compared Peterson to Hitler, which demeans the Holocaust victims and is patently absurd.

            https://heterodoxacademy.org/lindsay-shepherd-and-the-potential-for-heterodoxy-at-wilfrid-laurier-university/

  • David Nickol

    His interview with Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News, during which Peterson’s interlocutor revealed herself as a hopelessly biased social justice warrior, has, as of this writing, been viewed 7.5 million times.

    I watched the interview and found it quite interesting. I don't think anyone could deny that Jordan Peterson's performance was far superior to Cathy Newman, whose heart was in the right place (from my point of view) but who seemed ill informed and intellectually outmatched. It reminded me of watching William F. Buckley in the old days of Firing Line, when few could score points against Buckley, not because he was necessarily right, but because he was so verbally adept.

    I do think Bishop Barron kind of tipped his hand as a certain brand of conservative in calling Newman a "social justice warrior." But we already knew that.

    • BCE

      Evolutionary psychology, is a hot button for feminists and SJW.
      You could see in the interview, each of their respective focus, was very different.
      Surely, let's agree there is a disparity in wages. She focused on that, as though why didn't matter.
      Where he says...ok but WHY matters. He wasn't debating wage disparity but
      that she wanted to infer if he asks WHY(and suggests an analysis) then he is
      indifferent. She thinks it's obvious, the disparity speaks for itself and matters more then the analysis. To him, without analysis, it CAN'T speak for itself and is only a bit of info, not an objective conclusion.
      To the observer, her position is emotive, she wants to debate...what's fair
      He, (might care very deeply about fairness) but debates the need for investigation before making a conclusion.
      He adeptly shows not only that social justice positions can be flawed, but how
      proponents can derail any real analysis.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        let's agree there is a disparity in wages.

        Chemical engineers make higher wages than store clerks. Yes.

    • Rob Abney

      not because he was necessarily right, but because he was so verbally adept

      That’s not a fair summation of Peterson’s conversation, he knew facts and stuck with them, he was not more verbally adept than a professional television personality.

      • David Nickol

        That’s not a fair summation of Peterson’s conversation . . .

        I wasn't characterizing Peterson. I was speaking of William F. Buckley. Your quote from my message was a distortion.

        Also, please notice the difference between saying someone was "not necessarily right" and saying he was "not right."

        Exactly what do you claim Peterson was right about? You seem to have adopted him as a kind of guru.

        • Rob Abney

          Your quote from my message was a distortion

          Why say that he reminds you of Buckley if your not making a comparison? Did you mean that he looks like Buckley?!
          What guru Peterson was right about was that he didn’t accept sweeping generalizations rather than distinctions, such as when he explained that disparity in wages is a multi-variable issue.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            E.g., as when the University of California was held to have discriminated by sex even though each of the schools had admitted more women than men.

        • DN: I watched the interview and found it quite interesting. I don't think anyone could deny that Jordan Peterson's performance was far superior to Cathy Newman, whose heart was in the right place (from my point of view) but who seemed ill informed and intellectually outmatched. It reminded me of watching William F. Buckley in the old days of Firing Line, when few could score points against Buckley, not because he was necessarily right, but because he was so verbally adept.

          RA: That’s not a fair summation of Peterson’s conversation, he knew facts and stuck with them, he was not more verbally adept than a professional television personality.

          DN: I wasn't characterizing Peterson. I was speaking of William F. Buckley. Your quote from my message was a distortion.

          Also, please notice the difference between saying someone was "not necessarily right" and saying he was "not right."

          For what it's worth, I really appreciate what you said David, and wish more people would ratchet up their logic faculties in times like this. You remind me of a debate about economics I had in college when I was a freshman and the other guy was a junior or senior. I advanced a position and he was able to dance around it with facts and quotations—rather like I can do now with excerpts. I on the other hand only knew a few basics about economics. After a few minutes I told the other guy that he could appear right no matter whether he was right or not, because of the great information asymmetry. He tried to keep the debate going in spite of this—he really didn't want to accept that he was fighting unfairly and any "victory" would be meaningless.

          Now, what do we do about this? I just noted that William Lane Craig has a similar "problem", in the sense of being much better at debate tactics than many of his interlocutors. Surely we can't say, "Well, in spite of the other person's superior facts/​methods, I'm going to stick by my position!" Although, I think that rather does model how many humans behave—even the "smart" ones (Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government). But what can we do about this?

          I have two ideas:

          (1) In my experience, most humans operate much more on trust than on facts. I think this is exceedingly rational, as rationality itself seems more of an add-on to human behavior than its fundamental motor. This can be seen in the adage "No plan survives first contact with the enemy." Technically, purpose is more stable than mechanism/​strategy. But purpose is expressly excluded from instrumental rationality—the dominant kind of rationality practiced today—especially by scientists. I say we need an open, honest discussion about this, and how we are terrible at what Max Weber called Wertrationalität.

          (2) I think we need to understand kenosis, both the theological variant but also the secular variant. In the present situation, kenosis shows up as limiting yourself, only being as complex as is necessary for the argument. (Yes, I certainly fail at this frequently. I'm working on it and could use all the help I can get.) One should not ratchet up the rigor or introduce too many new facts without that being justified for where the discussion is currently at. Argument by inundation is often a very bad strategy if one's aim is mutual understanding. (Repeat parenthetical.) If the discussion can be had at the present level of simplicity, it is wrong to ratchet it up without one's interlocutor assenting. (Repeat parenthetical.)

          I hope there are many more ideas, because we need a tremendous amount of help.

      • Valence

        You missed an opportunity. You should have started your comment with: “So what you are saying is, Peterson is stupid.” That meme is here to stay, lol.

        • David Nickol

          You should have started your comment with: “So what you are saying is, Peterson is stupid.”

          What an astonishing thing to say! I never said or implied Peterson was stupid. I certainly don't think he is. He seems remarkably intelligent. What possible justification can you give for saying the above?

          • Valence

            It was what Cathy Newman would say over and over again when she mischaracterized Peterson. It’s a joke based on the interview. I don’t diss with what you said and I know you don’t think he is stupid. That’s the point.

          • Valence

            Just google “So what you are saying is”. Here is a good article from the Atlantic.

            https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/putting-monsterpaint-onjordan-peterson/550859/

            Many of us see bad intentions from many on the extreme left. I’m confident we aren’t wrong.

          • David Nickol

            Many of us see bad intentions from many on the extreme left.

            Are you saying I am on the "extreme left"? What gives you that impression?

          • Valence

            No, not you. Cathy.

          • Valence

            FYI I apologize if I offended you, that wasn’t my intention. I assumed people were familiar with the interview and would get the joke.
            The extreme right is guilty of the same things, so I don’t want to seem partisan.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      It reminded me of watching William F. Buckley in the old days of Firing Line, when few could score points against Buckley, not because he was necessarily right, but because he was so verbally adept.

      I thought the same thing. (I've only seen WFB on youtube though.) It is a pleasant change though. It is nice to have a conservative on TV that reads books without pictures.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Now, if we can find some left-wingers who can do the same, they could have a civil discussion. That was another marker of Mr. Buckley's show -- there was no slanging or shouting and sentences often consisted of more words than can be accommodated in 450 characters.

        • Valence

          I agree. Both sides of the political spectrum have become intellectually vacuous from my perspective. I’m hopeful things are changing. Part of what is driving it is tribal dogmas. Serious intellectuals think for themselves and are always heterodox at least in some ways. They get pushed down in a climate that rewards group think and punishes heterodoxy. Liberalism is supposed to be about intellectual tolerance and openness to other viewpoints. Liberalism has been losing ground on the left, but gaining on the right. We need it on both sides to avoid intellectual stagnation.

          • Both sides of the political spectrum have become intellectually vacuous from my perspective.

            This has been the case for a while; see for example:

                Ronald Dworkin's assessment is, if possible, even gloomier. Dworkin deplores "the lack of any decent argument in American political life."[3] [M]ost people," he laments, "now have no interest in discussion or debate with those they regard as belonging to an entirely alien religious or political culture."[4] Nor is it only ordinary folks (a word I use with apologies to Jacoby, who cringes at the term[5]) who have lost interest in serious deliberation or debate, Dworkin declares. "[T]he news is not much better when we look ... to the contributions of public intellectuals and other commentators. Intellectuals on each side set out their own convictions," but rarely they make any effort to engage in "genuine argument."[6] (The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, 3–4)

            Dworkin, according to his Wikipedia page (with citation), "was the second most-cited American legal scholar of the twentieth century." The endnotes are to Dworkin's 2006 Is Democracy Possible Here?.

            Part of what is driving it is tribal dogmas.

            When has that not been the case? What I think needed to happen is for the water on the pot to be increased suddenly, so that the frog might actually think about jumping out. But I wouldn't say we're anywhere past "might actually think about jumping out". There's too much externalizing evil to the other side—which thankfully, you did not do!

            Liberalism is supposed to be about intellectual tolerance and openness to other viewpoints.

            I think we should ask whether that kind of liberalism is a coherent idea. See for example Stanley Fish's NYT op ed Are There Secular Reasons? and Alasdair MacIntyre's Whose Justice? Which Rationality?. Wow, that's three books ending in question marks I've cited.

    • It reminded me of watching William F. Buckley in the old days of Firing Line, when few could score points against Buckley, not because he was necessarily right, but because he was so verbally adept.

      What does it say about the Left that it [apparently] has nobody with the rhetorical skill of William F. Buckley? The same might apply to William Lane Craig; I'm reminded of:

      B: By the way, for those wishing to debate Craig on his own turf, this is what they need to learn to master:

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf6HBKgkSAM

      LB: Hey, that's neat. This reminds me of Marc Stiegler, who wrote the scifi book David's Sling, in which he outlined a really neat debate system. I have to believe it was based on many internet flamewars, as well as his time trying to build the [in]famous software Project Xanadu. The debate would show up live on a computer screen (or multiple), and constantly morph in useful ways as the debate went forward. I dream of building something like that. Oh dreams, how fragile you are...

      B: Good luck with your dream. In competitive debates, all participants, including the judges, use flow sheets in order to keep track of the entire debate. Not sure how that can be programmed into internet discussions. It would be very useful if it could be done.

      By the way, this is why it is difficult for me to have much respect for, or to be impressed by, Craig defeating his opponents. He's been trained to use an indispensable tool for competitive debates that his opponents know nothing about. Then when he wins, everybody marvels at his skill. Everybody except other trained debaters. It was clear to us from the beginning what the result would be. And the actual content of the arguments had little to do with it.