Social Jordan Peterson thread, V.4 - "Darwinian truth" and misreading Nietzsche

Discussion in 'The War Room' started by Not A Theist, Aug 28, 2018.

  1. Not A Theist

    Not A Theist Purple Belt

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    I participated in the last thread a bit and was going to follow up some more, but instead tried to get the pulse of the types of criticism Peterson was often getting around here. Some of t was, to say the least, disappointing. Much of the criticism I was seeing was about on par with that we saw in the 2016 election – a bunch of partisan hacks not thinking in what could be called an even remotely critical fashion and instead chanting “lock her up!” and fixating on individual things said “But, but… Basket of deplorables!” It was, frankly, stupid and reveals a lot about the petty and shallow people who feel the need to tear this guy down. What many of you came in and fixated on was bad, and you should feel bad for having done so, especially to the lengths you did it. Go get out and experience sunshine and come back when you have something meaningful to say you basement dwelling troglodytes.

    I want to start this next thread up on a bit of a less superficial note and actually go after some of the guy’s ideas in a way that isn’t depressingly facile. Now, I can’t speak to much of what Peterson does – I’m no psychologist, and have only distant knowledge of pragmatism and Jung – but I can speak to some of his points with some authority. It’s on this note that I want to talk about his notion of Darwinian truth as to what truth is in general. I’ll say it bluntly – I think he starts from an incorrect reading (I stand to be corrected on this) of Nietzsche and his expansion upon it serves to obfuscate a discussion of truth more than add to it. This leads to two criticisms – one general one about obfuscation, and a second one about misreading Nietzsche.

    Anyway, both stem from material in this podcast.



    In this podcast Peterson did with Sam Harris he opens up drawing a distinction between what he sees as Sam’s conception of truth – a fairly common notion of there being an objective truth without any sort of consensus or perspectival involvement, which Peterson dubs as “Newtonian truth” (Sam rephrases this as scientific realism, I believe) – and Peterson’s own Darwinian truth. What is Darwinian truth? Well, it’s a notion which is driven by a model of natural selection and a model of truth influenced or inspired by the American pragmatists. The way he presents their conception (around 29:00) is “The truth of a statement or process can only be adjudicated with regards to its efficiency in attaining its aims”. What we should immediately take from this is that truth, on this type of model, isn’t something that simply exists in a vacuum, but a proposition to be judged based on a framework of ends. He goes on to say “Truths are always bounded because we’re ignorant” (don’t’ know precise timestamp but it’ll be around 29:00) and it gives a bit of an inkling as to his motivation behind this pragmatic model. I believe he’s pointing to a fairly robust tradition which argues the ultimate unknowability of the objective, and there is something to it – but that discussion is a bit beyond the scope of this conversation.

    Peterson’s approach to this type of model, as far as I can tell, is to ask “What’s the most fundamental end of an organism like a human being?” and then locate truth within the framework of the most fundamental telos of the human. All other truth claims would be subordinate to the truth claims of this most teleologically relevant framework. This is where Darwin comes in, because he sees the human being as operating within a Darwinian landscape of natural selection. In his words, the great problem – the end – is for the animal “to keep up with a multidimensionally transforming landscape.” This is a fundamental impossibility, over a long enough time frame, so the solution – which is the organism which is put through the Darwinian ringer of natural selection – is a “very bad and partial” one. This leads to a phrase Peterson uses a lot – of something being “true enough” – meaning that things are true to an extent only insofar as the fundamental telos of the being can be temporarily met.

    The advantage of this model, as far as I can tell, is that it allows for us to clearly say “Our end is X, and we have a clear framework to say what is true or not based on how successfully we attain X.” This is an advantage over “Newtonian truth” insofar as the truth the Newtonian variant reveals is, ultimately, always in question (Harris gets this – “We never come into contact with naked truth… All we have is our conversation” (somewhere between 30 and 45). That hasn’t lead Sam to throw the baby out with the bathwater and move to some merger of a subjectivist model with some biological realism thrown in like Peterson is adopting though – but that’s beside the point of the criticism.

    The main criticism I have of Peterson here isn’t his model of truth – there is something to be said for teleologically oriented models of truth rather than objectivist models, since our access to the objective world is flawed and it leaves us in a credible position to nihilistically throw up our hands and declare truth an impossibility, until our relationship with objective truth is mediated by teleological ends. My criticism of Peterson is one related to the term he uses, and where he gets that term from.

    My more general criticism of his approach to this is that he presents this truth as somehow exclusionary to Newtonian truth. It would be easy enough to say “Yep, Newtonian truth is great, but we can’t reliably access this truth – so while we can theorize about it and attempt to approximate it, here is this Darwinian model for making truth claims which actually provides us with a clear model for making truth claims, and its truth is based on the universalizability of the problem/corresponding teleological end it is contending with.” There – two models of truth, one which is absolute but can only be approximated, and one which provides clear and functional truth claims based on teleological ends derived from a fairly universal biological problem of survivability, and he and Sam go out for beers. Instead of doing that, Peterson insists on pursuing this as if the two models are exclusionary. He is aware of “Newtonian truth” and formulates Darwinian truth in relation to it, and I am critical of the way he approaches this discussion. If someone could perhaps explain why he doesn’t seem to frame his discussion in terms of the two being not mutually exclusive – IE, there are different types of truth, operating in different ways, which can lead to effective truth claims. Bret Weinstein even tries to bridge this gap with his explanations of metaphorical truths (ballpark of Peterson’s Darwinian truth) on multiple instances where he talks with Peterson, but Peterson just doesn’t seem to be able to take the leap and say “Yep, both are types of truth which can exist together.

    My second criticism is specific to his sources and an attribution. At one point he says he’s drawing this notion of truth from a Nietzschean position. Specifically, he says he’s dealing with “Something that was basically expressed by Nietzsche, and it’s a definition of truth. If it doesn’t serve life, it’s not true.” (timestamp pending – I forgot to record it). I think he is misreading his source, though I’d be open to consider citations other than what I’m about to provide since Nietzsche does tend to bounce around a lot. Nietzsche, to my knowledge, doesn’t put forth a notion of truth where “truth serves life” unless you adopt the idea of “Truth serves life – and it’s not truth.” To quote Nietzsche,

    Truth is the kind of error without which a certain species of life could not live. The value for life is ultimately decisive.” (WTP, 493)

    He goes on to say:

    The most strongly believed a prior ‘truths’ are for me – provisional assumptions; e.g., the law of causality, a very well acquired habit of belief, so much a part of us that not to believe in it would destroy the race. But are they for that reason truths? What a conclusion! As if the preservation of man were a proof of truth.

    This whole section, “Biology of the Drive to Knowledge, Perspectivism” from The Will to Power is worth a read and its message is quite clear – that truth isn’t true because it preserves life, but rather that truth is in fact an error and the real value behind what we think of as truth isn’t that it is true, but that it preserves life. Let me restate – for Nietzsche, truth is a special, life preserving, type of error and not necessarily true at all. He’s attacking the relationship of what we categorize as truth to what is actually true – and arguably the concept of truth, period.

    Peterson’s take on this – and again, I’d love to see where he’s getting this from in Nietzschean philosophy, as I don’t study it that closely any more – I that truth is true in virtue of its life preserving ability. He attributes this to a Nietzschean axiom but I think Nietzsche is arguing something quite different – that what we think of as “true” preserving life in no way proves it true, and rather shows that truth is a type of error. So, I consider this a fundamental misreading of Nietzsche, even after he directly attributes the basis of his position to Nietzsche.

    To be generous, he does say it’s an idea he’s playing around on, and maybe his position is based on a partial denial of Nietzsche’s position, paired with a partial acceptance – but where he says “If it doesn’t serve life, it’s not true.” I think he’s just getting it wrong.

    That’s enough time spent for now.


    @Lead
    New
    Counting this as the v3 of Jordan Peterson threads. Please make a v4
    v1 http://forums.sherdog.com/threads/u...-and-the-black-liberation-collective.3358077/
    v2 http://forums.sherdog.com/threads/the-jordan-peterson-thread-v2.3497273/
    v3 http://forums.sherdog.com/threads/criticism-of-jordan-peterson-thread-v3.3765781/page-31
     
  2. Devout Pessimist

    Devout Pessimist Tragic Vision

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    The Peterson/Harris debates are something I will never listen to. I am a fan of Dr. Peterson, but those two are a match made in hell. Harris is autistic and Peterson has a problem with rambling. Pass.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2018
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  3. Lead

    Lead /Led/ Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    Good effort on the OP. I'm going to take out the word criticism from the title just because it's a thread for anything related to the guy. You all can discuss it here.
     
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  4. Not A Theist

    Not A Theist Purple Belt

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    You nailed it. I was curious about the whole thing, so I listened and was frustrated all the way through. I did hear Harris say, somewhere else, something to the effect of "Everyone seems to have a productive conversation with Peterson except for me." He's right, because they're a match made in hell to talk. Would be more interesting watching them have an MMA match together.
     
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  5. Yorkist

    Yorkist Red Belt

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    The recent attempts to discredit guys like Petersen and Shapiro have been disgusting if entirely predictable.

    You can't mention these guys anymore without someone loudly sighing and trying to lecture you on how they're 'dog whistling' to nazis or incels or whatever the newest buzzword is on any given day.
     
  6. Not A Theist

    Not A Theist Purple Belt

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    I hope you recognize that I have tried to not do that starting this thread. Like him or not, he's a legit intellectual. Sometimes he talks out of his area of expertise and that's frustrating, and I think he gets some things outright wrong, but there is a will to system and a certain level of rigor and thought there that I respect. His thoughts are, in my mind, an attempt to replace metaphysics with a biological substratum. I find this fascinating, but I think it's doomed from the get-go.
     
  7. Yorkist

    Yorkist Red Belt

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    Yeah I thought your OP was very fair.

    He isn't perfect but he also isn't a guy who should be being demonitized on YT or met at college campuses by armies of rioters in masks.
     
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  8. nac386

    nac386 Gold Belt

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    So what you're saying is, Jordan Peterson is a Nazi sympathizer?
     
  9. mrsenor

    mrsenor Black Belt

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  10. Wadtucket

    Wadtucket Semi-professional hair historian Platinum Member

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    Lmfao

    Mentally ill
     
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  11. VivaRevolution

    VivaRevolution Whoopin' Belt Double Yellow Card

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    Is Newtonian truth an attempt to rebrand Kissinger's hard power?

    I will say this about hard power/Newtonian truth. They are right. If you drown a child, you have one less mouth to feed. Very efficienct, and very fucking evil.
     
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  12. Wadtucket

    Wadtucket Semi-professional hair historian Platinum Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  13. Wadtucket

    Wadtucket Semi-professional hair historian Platinum Member

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  14. luckyshot

    luckyshot The ONLY iPotWR Platinum Member

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    Cliffs?



    I mean for the OP.
     
  15. TheGreatA

    TheGreatA Silver Belt

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    Hyper-sensitivity is what's wrong (and right) about him.

    I've known dudes like this and they are just much more "tuned" into what's going around them than rest of the people. And that is what renders them almost hysterical to the rest. Every single ache, nosebleed, felt emotion, is a thing of great importance to them, while the rest of us just truck forward.

    It's a gift and a curse in the sense that you may be able to see things that other people do not see, because your biology simply forces you to react, whereas for others it does not. But on the other hand you may also be distracted from things of importance, and focus on the not so important.

    I give Peterson some credit for having fought a decent battle against the irrationality of his innate being, unlike many of the people he encounters in those university grounds. But from what I'm seeing, he might be starting to lose that battle due to the massive amounts of stress that he has put on himself.
     
  16. Wadtucket

    Wadtucket Semi-professional hair historian Platinum Member

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    This guy is anxious, unhealthy and mentally ill.... and that's a good thing!

    Something like that? What's the gift?
     
  17. Tycho Brah

    Tycho Brah Zero Shift Belt Platinum Member

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    Fuck this legit triggered me for a second lol.
     
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  18. LouisBolanos

    LouisBolanos Popcorn tastes good

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  19. Tycho Brah

    Tycho Brah Zero Shift Belt Platinum Member

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    The first person I ever heard make a distinction between these two kinds of truth was actually Allan Watts lol. Can't track down where he talks about it though - near the beginning of one of his speaking series.

    Anyway, I don't think the two types of truth are absolutely exclusive conceptually, but if you consider their development chronologically then it seems like one needs to subsume the other, in a fundamental way.

    In other words, the order of actual events went something like: single-celled organism --> man --> man's perception of Darwinian truth --> science --> man's perception of scientific truth.

    Barring other arguments for the legitimacy of scientific truth, it could very well be the case that what we perceive as scientific truth is just an contemporary expression of Darwinian truth (not saying I believe that, just pointing it out). In fact IIRC Alvin Platinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN) rests on premises similar to these.

    Anyway, remember the context Peterson is developing this idea within: he wants to avoid what Harris might call "the worst possible situation for everyone". If that's THE FUNDAMENTAL VALUE, then every other, including scientific rationality, is subservient to it. That way when you develop something like a hydrogen bomb scientifically, you've got a value system to tell you what to do with it, since science as it's currently understood (Newtonian) has done that neither philosophically nor empirically.

    I think you've nailed down the rest with the Will to Power stuff. Figured you would after the other thread lol.
     
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  20. TheGreatA

    TheGreatA Silver Belt

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    The gift is that he has an enormous innate drive to voice his displeasures with the society, because he can see everything that frustrates and depresses him so clearly, while the "common man" does not.

    He would most likely not be an academic, a known public figure and a fairly wealthy man, if he did not possess this drive.

    Most of us are merely satisfied with giving our 2 cents on a forum like this. He has gone through the effort of attaining a scholarship, improving his rhetoric, becoming a professor and a "public intellectual", operating from a position of authority, all in an effort to be more capable of illustrating his points of contention with the current society, to influence others who may subconsciously acknowledge these same faults.

    You have to be atleast a little crazy to put yourself through such an ordeal.

    But as crazy as he may seem, he has nothing on his two "father figures" in Dostoevsky or Nietzsche, who by all accounts, were completely unhinged and hyper-sensitive to everything around them. And it is their "madness" that drove them to great heights in the realm of philosophy and writing.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2018

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