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You are here: MacNN Forums > Community > MacNN Lounge > Political/War Lounge > The Jordan Peterson phenomena. Discuss

The Jordan Peterson phenomena. Discuss
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Doc HM
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May 23, 2018, 05:31 AM
 
Independently, both my partners son (22 engineering student(, and my daughter (22 english student) have become big fans of Canadian professor and all round media star Jordan Peterson. It seems strange that an essentially mild mannered psychology prof from of all places Toronto should have risen so far into the consciousness of so many, without shouting a lot.

So much so that my partner and I have now sat through quite a few hours of YouTube listening to this man. While he is obviously intelligent, well read and reasonably personable, his ideas are a fairly mixed grab bag of philosophy revolving around personal responsibility. His only marked bias seems to be an almost genetic hatred of Marxism and Marx, who wasn't actually a Marxist if the people who have become labeled as such are to be the definition, while his continuing quest to entirely define religion without actually requiring a God is pretty impressive. For a religious person he would make a brilliant atheist.

So what's his draw? especially with the young people. Is it the same thing that mild mannered and also grey haired Jeremy Corbyn (who has a fundamentally different world view than JP) brings to the table?
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subego
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May 23, 2018, 08:24 AM
 
I haven’t seen his stuff, but I get the impression he’s to the alt-right as Libertarians are to Republicans.

A lot of Libertarians are really Republicans who don’t suck. Or at least, suck less.
     
Doc HM  (op)
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May 23, 2018, 05:22 PM
 
and out of the blue, emailer from the Swindon Philosophical Society says they will be discussing Jordan Perterson this Friday evening. Co-incidence is a fine thing. I shall go. Because it's what Friday nights are for.
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OreoCookie
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May 24, 2018, 10:14 AM
 
I think Jordan Peterson is vastly overrated and some of his opinions are bizarre. I listened to two podcasts of him with Sam Harris, and the first was spent on Peterson’s notion of truth. Peterson’s “Darwinian” conception of truth: things that further the procreation of mankind are true. Based on this conception of truth he starts to talk about things like God — if it helps to keep the community together and have more descendants, then that’s “true” and “good”. This part of the interview was as bizarre as it was unconvincing, and therefore his idea of God collapses in on itself like a house of cards. I also don’t understand his obsession with “neo Marxism” and “post modernism”, whatever that is. And some of his videos seem popular with young men that suffer from low self esteem and pin point their troubles in the love life department to the way modern women are. (Lots of contradictions.) Some of his opinions on women are old fashioned and facile (e. g. when it comes to women wearing make-up).

I have the impression that he is someone whose social values stem broadly agree with those of his generation, albeit conservative leaning (he looks as if he is in his early 50s), with some weird opinions on things that is not related to his work and who must have made decent contributions to his field (the University of Toronto is top notch as I can attest myself). By chance he got famous. But I don’t find him that interesting, and he certainly isn’t the Second Coming of Truth.

My brother also mentioned him last weekend during a phone conversation, when we were discussing his relationship troubles
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May 24, 2018, 10:57 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
...and the first was spent on Peterson’s notion of truth. Peterson’s “Darwinian” conception of truth: things that further the procreation of mankind are true. Based on this conception of truth he starts to talk about things like God — if it helps to keep the community together and have more descendants, then that’s “true” and “good”...
Peterson is really big in the incel, MRM crowds. This framing of God and procreation is used to support the idea of a strong patriarchy as well as the idea of women being submissive to men.
     
OreoCookie
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May 25, 2018, 08:30 AM
 
Originally Posted by Thorzdad View Post
Peterson is really big in the incel, MRM crowds. This framing of God and procreation is used to support the idea of a strong patriarchy as well as the idea of women being submissive to men.
What does MRM stand for?
His ideas are less old-fashioned if you transport society back 50 years or so. I remember a rant of his on women using make-up, and that it is “unfair” or “causing misunderstanding” because they are sending sexual signals to all the men around them.
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Laminar
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May 25, 2018, 09:46 AM
 
Men's Rights Movement? I've heard MRA for Men's Rights Advocates. Basically a group that exists to spite feminists.
     
subego
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May 25, 2018, 10:30 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
His ideas are less old-fashioned if you transport society back 50 years or so. I remember a rant of his on women using make-up, and that it is “unfair” or “causing misunderstanding” because they are sending sexual signals to all the men around them.
Again, never heard his stuff, so I’m only going on this summary.

1) Do you mean 50 years ago, or more like 70? Fifty years ago was the beginning of the hippy era.

2) If it is more like 70, I think it’s odd to say this is an idea which would make more sense during a time when society demanded women wear makeup.
     
subego
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May 25, 2018, 10:31 AM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
Men's Rights Movement? I've heard MRA for Men's Rights Advocates. Basically a group that exists to spite feminists.
It’s not “activists”?
     
Thorzdad
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May 25, 2018, 10:57 AM
 
Yeah, my apologies. It's MRA. Just mis-typed and didn't realize it until now.
     
subego
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May 25, 2018, 11:58 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Peterson’s “Darwinian” conception of truth: things that further the procreation of mankind are true. Based on this conception of truth he starts to talk about things like God — if it helps to keep the community together and have more descendants, then that’s “true” and “good”.
You see, I love this idea, but it’s full of semantic pitfalls.

IMO, religion doesn’t really exist. We evolved the capacity to imagine it as a survival trait.

Let’s take a different survival trait, say claws.

Are claws good? They are for whomever has them.

Are claws true or false? Neither, they just are.

I believe holding religion to a different metric is in error.


As as aside, good and bad don’t really exist either.
     
Waragainstsleep
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May 26, 2018, 10:13 AM
 
I feel like most of what he says has at least some glimmer of a basis in fact or logic but its never tempered for people who can't be that coldly rational, which is pretty much everyone.
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OreoCookie
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May 27, 2018, 07:54 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
You see, I love this idea, but it’s full of semantic pitfalls.
The idea, the way Peterson conceives it, is at heart moronic, and the pitfalls are not mere semantics. Before commenting on it, listen to the first time Peterson is interviewed on Sam Harris's podcast. Because I am not sure you know what Peterson argues for here.
Originally Posted by subego View Post
IMO, religion doesn’t really exist. We evolved the capacity to imagine it as a survival trait.

[...]

I believe holding religion to a different metric is in error.
Peterson makes a very different argument: he doesn't argue that claws or religion are useful, but that usefulness means they are true. If knowing 1 + 1 = 3 helps humanity survive, it means to him that 1 + 1 = 3 is a true statement. That's the argument that Peterson makes.

Harris and Peterson went around in circles for two hours precisely for this reason: Harris suggested that what Peterson is talking about is utility, not truth, but Peterson insisted to conflate the two.
Originally Posted by subego View Post
As as aside, good and bad don’t really exist either.
This wasn't an argument about good vs. evil, but about the nature of truth.
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subego
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May 27, 2018, 11:13 AM
 
I would listen to the interview, but podcasts aren’t really my thing.

I’ll just take the proposition as you present it.

What’s more important... helping humanity or being right?

If believing 1+1=3 is true will on the whole help us, why should I care it’s wrong?
     
Waragainstsleep
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May 27, 2018, 01:48 PM
 
Maybe because believing one lie opens the door to believing more lies. Now look where we are.
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subego
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May 27, 2018, 02:30 PM
 
Why does that matter if there’s a net gain for humanity?
     
OreoCookie
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May 28, 2018, 03:41 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
What’s more important... helping humanity or being right?
Again, the problem is not utility, it is that Peterson conflates the notions of utility and truth. Why do you want to go down that route? You can always discuss the utility of knowing the truth in certain situations, but to equate utility with truth makes no sense.
Originally Posted by subego View Post
If believing 1+1=3 is true will on the whole help us, why should I care it’s wrong?
Because it systematically hinders progress, progress that could, in principle, be much more beneficial to human well-being. If you believe that diseases are caused by your neighbors using witchcraft on you, and you (“accidentally”) start washing your hands and clothes more often as a cleansing ritual, then this increases hygiene. But knowing the truth about how infectious diseases spread, the theory of germs, would evidently be much more beneficial.
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Doc HM  (op)
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May 29, 2018, 04:13 AM
 
So a meeting of the Swindon Philosophical Society on a Friday evening is generally around 15 middle to late-middle aged men sitting around chewing the fat. However this meeting managed to draw 5 young (mid 20s) people away from their Friday night to turn up and discuss Jordan Peterson. This in itself was probably the most interesting part of the meeting.
They all turned up expecting (they said) to hear a bunch of sad older people being rude about Jordan, and wanted to be able to defend him. In reality it was reasonably balanced from both ends although the most contentious part turned out to be one man vigorously defending Petersons assertion that anyone who would never resort to violence under any circumstances was someone you could not respect. It was pointed out that the meeting was in a Quaker hall.

The only consensus seemed to be that everyone hates Post Modernists and that Heidegger had some strange and unhelpful ideas. (Heidegger is becoming more favoured by Peterson as he develops his own thoughts).

The second Peterson/Harris discussion is way more productive than the first, once they have put aside the mostly semantic sparring over definitions of truth that bogged the first one down.
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OreoCookie
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May 29, 2018, 05:06 AM
 
Originally Posted by Doc HM View Post
The second Peterson/Harris discussion is way more productive than the first, once they have put aside the mostly semantic sparring over definitions of truth that bogged the first one down.
Yes, I should have mentioned that. But I have to say that the first discussion to me really brought to the fore how weird Peterson's ontology is, and helped me understand the philosophical basis of some of his claims, especially with regards to religion and (purported or real) differences between the sexes and racial groups.

The other thing that left a weird aftertaste in the interviews was the extent to which he harps on post modernism and post Marxism, because that seems to be just a big surface for his audience to project on. (I'm not a philosopher, so perhaps in the philosophy circles these have a clear definition, but I don't know what they mean.) In much the same way that certain parts of the web make fun of “feminists” or “the Left” or “the Right” without recognizing that these are not homogeneous blocks, that black-and-white thinking is not just intellectually lazy but usually flat-out wrong. Just for this reason, I don't find him very interesting.
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Doc HM  (op)
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May 29, 2018, 05:27 AM
 
Further to the importance of Truth, there's a great (but small) book called "On Truth" by the philosopher Harry Frankfurt which highlights the dangerer created when people expand definitions of truth.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Truth

"In On Truth, Frankfurt develops the argument that individuals should care about the truth, regardless of whether they intend to be truthful. Frankfurt explicitly avoids a definition of "truth" beyond the idea of the commonsense concept of truth people commonly hold, i.e., that which corresponds to reality.

Frankfurt's strategy is to show that the truth, whether an individual is to be truthful or not, is integral to nearly every endeavor, the final point of his argument being that it is a requirement for self-knowledge and therefore all distinctions between ourselves and the world. Frankfurt concludes that the importance of truth, and thus the need to care about it, is incorrigible thereby."


He also wrote "On Bullshit" which has become something of a poster boy for modern business speak but is a far less intellectually satisfying read.
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subego
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May 29, 2018, 08:05 AM
 
Originally Posted by Doc HM View Post
everyone hates Post Modernists
Feels bad, man.
     
Chongo
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May 29, 2018, 12:07 PM
 
Watching this now.
45/47
     
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May 29, 2018, 12:22 PM
 
Bishop Robert Barron’s thoughts.
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andi*pandi
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May 29, 2018, 03:22 PM
 
Never heard of him before this. What do you think, Chongo? I'm more interested in your opinion than the good Bishop's.
     
Chongo
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May 29, 2018, 04:39 PM
 
Never heard of him before this thread. I haven’t seen any of his lectures, so I cannot give an opinion.
I gather from his interview with fellow Canadian and Catholic Answers aluminst Patrick Coffin, he takes issue political correctness.
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Doc HM  (op)
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May 30, 2018, 05:56 AM
 
Just watched his 12 points for life lecture on YouTube. Long. Undeniably he's personable, and very sincere, which is a quality that people (especially young people) respond to positively.

He does seem to like black and white though. I question his assertion that "the literature" shows zero chance of effecting a child's sociability after age four. He's very emphatic.

Also his point that ebay proves people are basically honest. He posits that ebay's feedback system shows how honest people are given that anything lower than a 98% feedback is an issue on the site, when ebay feedback is in fact the large and very heavy stick that keeps people honest. you try buying a used car of Craigslist or a local dealer and see how honest people are when given the chance to make money.
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andi*pandi
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May 30, 2018, 08:01 AM
 
ebay keeps people honest? there are those that game feedback (friends buy things) and those who give false feedback.
     
Doc HM  (op)
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May 31, 2018, 10:31 AM
 
Originally Posted by andi*pandi View Post
ebay keeps people honest?
not quite. He claimed ebay was evidence of people basic honest, and that feedback shows how honest people were because most people maintained very high ratings, rather than the obvious, that people maintain feedback so high because it maximises revenue. This forces honesty onto people.

When he gets things like this SO wrong yet says them SO convincingly then it calls into question how honest his other assertions are.
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subego
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May 31, 2018, 09:47 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Again, the problem is not utility, it is that Peterson conflates the notions of utility and truth. Why do you want to go down that route? You can always discuss the utility of knowing the truth in certain situations, but to equate utility with truth makes no sense.
A false proposition providing utility is cognitively dissonant. This dissonance negatively effects the utility one can get from it. Considering it to be true eliminates the dissonance, thus allowing maximum utility.


Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Because it systematically hinders progress, progress that could, in principle, be much more beneficial to human well-being. If you believe that diseases are caused by your neighbors using witchcraft on you, and you (“accidentally”) start washing your hands and clothes more often as a cleansing ritual, then this increases hygiene. But knowing the truth about how infectious diseases spread, the theory of germs, would evidently be much more beneficial.
My statement contained a critical qualifier: if it on the whole provides benefit. If believing the falsehood leads to a worse situation, it is not on the whole providing benefit.

With witchcraft and germ theory, the fact it is not on the whole beneficial is clear. One cannot make nearly as clear cut a statement on Christianity.
     
OreoCookie
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May 31, 2018, 10:24 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
A false proposition providing utility is cognitively dissonant. This dissonance negatively effects the utility one can get from it. Considering it to be true eliminates the dissonance, thus allowing maximum utility.
Well, you are one step ahead of Peterson here, because you distinguish between truth and utility — which is exactly my criticism of Peterson. Because Peterson does not distinguish between truth and utility, so something that provides utility is true. (I feel like you are arguing on Peterson's behalf without subscribing to his central tenet about his concept of “truth”.)
Originally Posted by subego View Post
My statement contained a critical qualifier: if it on the whole provides benefit. If believing the falsehood leads to a worse situation, it is not on the whole providing benefit.
Yes, but this is so vague that you cannot build an ontology from that, precisely because the distinction between microscopic (or local) benefits and macroscopic (or global) benefits is ill-defined. The earth is locally flat, and I don't need to take the earth's curvature into account when walking home from work. When I am flying from Japan to Chile, I better do, though. But if you look more carefully, you can see effects of the earth's curvature even locally (the horizon comes to mind).
Originally Posted by subego View Post
With witchcraft and germ theory, the fact it is not on the whole beneficial is clear. One cannot make nearly as clear cut a statement on Christianity.
Of course you can: you can treat the question whether Christianity is beneficial to society and whether it is true separately. Peterson's argument here is that religion is true because it gives society a benefit (in the sense that it furthers the procreation of the human species).
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subego
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Jun 1, 2018, 02:30 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Well, you are one step ahead of Peterson here...
I’d say it’s the opposite. He’s one step ahead of me. I’m just offering a proposal, that crazy mother****er actually went off and did it.
     
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Jun 1, 2018, 02:36 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Of course you can: you can treat the question whether Christianity is beneficial to society and whether it is true separately.
How?

Just like witchcraft, the primary detriment of Christianity to society arises from its falsehood. I mean, unless teh gays really do burn in Hell for all eternity or something.
     
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Jun 1, 2018, 04:25 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
How?

Just like witchcraft, the primary detriment of Christianity to society arises from its falsehood. I mean, unless teh gays really do burn in Hell for all eternity or something.
Well, some believers would argue that God is the source of morality and religious belief is therefore conducive to a more cohesive, more just society. So the advantages that Peterson talks about are not those you may expect in the afterlife, but about benefits to humans while here on earth.
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subego
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Jun 1, 2018, 11:56 AM
 
I’m not talking about supernatural benefits. Religion has no supernatural benefits. The supernatural doesn’t exist. Religion is false.

The costs and benefits are both worldly. The costs are incurred by the falsehood.

The net gain or loss, the utility, depends on the cost of the falsehood.
     
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Jun 2, 2018, 11:04 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Well, some believers would argue that God is the source of morality
People argue that all the time but its utter nonsense.
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subego
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Jun 2, 2018, 11:24 AM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
People argue that all the time but its utter nonsense.
It’s untrue, but not exactly nonsense.

Morality is an illusion.

Our brain actively tricks us into thinking it’s not.

Religion is an attempt to rationalize the trick.
     
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Jun 3, 2018, 10:33 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I’m not talking about supernatural benefits. Religion has no supernatural benefits. The supernatural doesn’t exist. Religion is false.

The costs and benefits are both worldly. The costs are incurred by the falsehood.

The net gain or loss, the utility, depends on the cost of the falsehood.
What think you?
https://www.yahoo.com/news/apos-demo...081531844.html
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“There are many other psychiatrists and mental health care professionals who do what I do - perhaps not to the scope that I do - who seem hesitant to speak out," he explained. "That’s what gives my work some singularity. That I have had so much experience and that I am willing to speak out. I feel an obligation to speak out. I think that I should.”
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Jun 3, 2018, 10:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I’m not talking about supernatural benefits. Religion has no supernatural benefits. The supernatural doesn’t exist. Religion is false.

The costs and benefits are both worldly. The costs are incurred by the falsehood.

The net gain or loss, the utility, depends on the cost of the falsehood.
You are barking up the wrong tree here, I am not the one making these arguments, Peterson is. If you don't find them convincing, join the club.

That's why listening him explain his conception of truth was so useful, because it clearly shows where his higher-level arguments break down. If you don't subscribe to his version of “truth” (which is conflated with utility in the evolutionary sense), then his arguments collapse like a house of cards.
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Jun 3, 2018, 10:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
People argue that all the time but its utter nonsense.
Sure, and I wholeheartedly agree with you.
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subego
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Jun 4, 2018, 07:33 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
You are barking up the wrong tree here, I am not the one making these arguments, Peterson is. If you don't find them convincing, join the club.
I’m arguing against the argument you gave against Peterson.

The question was “what is wrong with believing untrue things to be true?”

The reply was the witchcraft analogy. Witchcraft would retard discovery of germ theory. The net utility of believing in witchcraft is negative.

This is correct, however my argument is the utility calculation with religion (let’s say Christianity) isn’t nearly as cut and dried as witchcraft. I eyeball Christianity as having a net benefit. Yes, it will retard advancement, just like witchcraft, but the benefits outstrip this negative and the others.

Peterson has presumably made a similar conclusion. The utility analysis complete, he proceeds to believe the untrue thing.
( Last edited by subego; Jun 4, 2018 at 08:01 AM. )
     
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Jun 4, 2018, 08:12 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I’m arguing against the argument you gave against Peterson.

The question was “what is wrong with believing untrue things to be true?”
No, that wasn't the question and wasn't my argument against Peterson: I'm saying Peterson does not distinguish between truth and utility (in the “Darwinian” sense).
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subego
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Jun 4, 2018, 08:44 AM
 
It’s not?

Originally Posted by subego View Post
If believing 1+1=3 is true will on the whole help us, why should I care it’s wrong?
     
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Jun 4, 2018, 09:55 AM
 

Originally posted by Pontius Pilate
What is truth?
45/47
     
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Jun 4, 2018, 10:04 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
It’s not?
Nope, because according to Peterson logic 1 + 1 = 3 would be true if it turned out to be useful — it would no longer be a false statement. (Which would be pretty distressing for me.)
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andi*pandi
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Jun 4, 2018, 11:34 AM
 
Originally Posted by Chongo View Post
we've all got truths, are mine the same as yours?
     
subego
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Jun 4, 2018, 02:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Nope, because according to Peterson logic 1 + 1 = 3 would be true if it turned out to be useful — it would no longer be a false statement. (Which would be pretty distressing for me.)
To which I reply...

If believing 1+1=3 is true will on the whole help us, why should I care it’s wrong?

This was the original question, and the question to which the witchcraft reply was made.
     
Doc HM  (op)
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Jun 4, 2018, 02:31 PM
 
Moving on from the truth thing which is where Sam Harris got bogged down as well, id there anything else of interest in what he is saying? Mostly it just seems like your (1950s) dad giving you the benefit of his wisdom; stand up straight, do unto others, button up that collar boy.

I've heard that the original spur to his fame (his rejection of being ordered to say certain things rather than choosing to say them) was an almost wilful disregard for the actual law as it stood. If yo build your house on shaky cards...
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Jun 4, 2018, 03:26 PM
 
His free speech, anti-PC angle is what seems to have propelled him with the alt-right.

The funny thing is, unless the politicization of Internet frog cartoons is somehow modernism, the alt-right is so postmodern it hurts.
     
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Jun 4, 2018, 03:31 PM
 
     
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Jun 4, 2018, 07:30 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
To which I reply...

If believing 1+1=3 is true will on the whole help us, why should I care it’s wrong?

This was the original question, and the question to which the witchcraft reply was made.
I think we have different aims here: my point here was to explain Peterson's position, not to defend or litigate it in detail. If you are interested in this exact discussion, I recommend you listen to the first podcast where Sam Harris interviews Jordan Peterson.
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