I sit in my office, just before 9PM with a cup of tea, hardly any milk, no sugar. This I believe I can be sure of. I would usually class this as a true statement – until now. I’ve just finished listening to Sam Harris’ Waking Up podcast with Jordan B Peterson, which has left me with both a headache & a moment of clarity – very similar to the Cenk Uygur v Sam Harris debate. Although at least this time it had two genuinely intelligent people instead of one.
I think many would be tired, to say the least, with Sam spending 2 hours basically repeating the same claim with different examples at 4 minute intervals. In fairness I think he was correct to do so. When discussing any topic of debate there must be a level ground of understanding. When I debate the idea of God with Muslims or Christians, it’s best to define what that God is. You can spend 3 hours debating how immoral a being this “man” is, only to be told by your opponent that his version of God is not a being at all – much more a silent mover outside the material & testable realm. In this case a new 2 hour debate can ensue with these new parameters.
Clarity is key.
Sam seems to believe in the simple notion that Truth is a basic premise, what is true is not false. A man wearing glasses is truly wearing glasses. Whereas Jordan seems to propose the man is only wearing glasses on a micro level, but in a deeper field of philosophy, the statement can only be true if certain unknown factors are met. And here lies Jordan’s fault. When pushed on this, he can never clarify what exactly those parameters are. Only that truth must be contingent on the betterment of the human species. His biggest failure here, is that his version of truth only seems to hold water in the case of one species of hominid. What about the rest? What if the truth was in fact great for the survival of humans but terrible for the survival of, let’s say, insects. How can this have any bearing on a statement being true or false? I claim it does not.
There are of course, Newtonian, Darwinian & many more views that propose different causal outlines for scientific truth, but on a base level they cannot subjugate the very nature of the word. If Jordan would like to use a different word (irony intended) to describe his view, that is fine. But claiming, as he has, that a woman having an affair because she is found in bed with a man other than her husband, is not in fact having said affair – due to evidence that shows her husband treated her horribly in previous years – makes absolutely no sense. The affair happened regardless of whether or not she had a right to stray from the marital bed. Truth is truth. Anything other than this is absurdity.
In philosophy classes around the world, there can be no doubt that many professors are working on the old “Is this jar empty?” trick, only to add pebbles & ask again, then to add smaller stones & ask again; then sand. Finally to propose the matter & space inside the jar must be accounted for. Each one of the answers given to this would have in some way be both true & false – but only in a separate context. I believe Mr Peterson calls this “micro” “macro”, which scarily reminds me of Ray Comfort trying to deny evolution. As clarity is key, I do not mean to compare these men in any intellectual way. Jordan B Peterson is a very intelligent man, with many reasoned arguments – especially when it comes to political & social oversight. Sadly on this topic he is wrong.
In the same way we can say a woman wearing a purple dress, is truly wearing a purple dress. Only to magnify the fibers & find the dress is made of both Magenta & Cyan thread. This is semantics, although it does remind us of the scientific standpoint that nothing is ever truly certain. The point I think Sam should make is the difference between contexts. From normal eye-line, the dress is purple, the threads themselves may not be – but that is a different question altogether – not an alternative truth. Once the basic premise that all further correspondence with Jordan B Peterson can be examined on the micro level, is found. I think this will alleviate any trouble going onto the topics of religion & morality. One hopes.
Either way I will still listen as it’s a fascinating discussion. And one that reminds me that even though everyday I am the smartest I have ever been, I am not the smartest there has ever been – truly.
Please head over to the podcast & give it a listen if you haven’t:
Also here are the social media links for both men: