January 25, 2018

SQUARLEY IN THE ANGLOSPHERIC SKEPTICAL TRADITION:

Jordan Peterson: 'The pursuit of happiness is a pointless goal': Life is tragic, says the provocative Jordan Peterson, and we are all capable of turning into monsters. But this hasn't stopped millions from watching his online lectures. : Tim Lott meets him as he publishes 12 Rules for Life (Tim Lott,  21 Jan 2018, The Guardian)

[H]ow do we build meaning? By putting it before expediency. Which is quite close to simply "acting right". Peterson believes that everyone is born with an instinct for ethics and meaning. It is also a matter of responsibility - you need to have the courage to voluntarily shoulder the great burden of being in order to move towards that meaning. This is what the biblical stories tell us. The great world stories have a moral purpose - they teach us how to pursue meaning over narrow self-interest. Whether it's Pinocchio, The Lion King, Harry Potter or the Bible, they are all saying the same thing - take the highest path, pick up the heaviest rock and you will have the hope of being psychologically reborn despite the inevitable suffering that life brings.

Peterson's biggest analysis of story has been the Bible. He lays out how the Adam and Eve myth shows the coming of self-consciousness - and therefore an awareness of mortality, vulnerability, the future, and good and evil. Everyone in the story immediately starts to lie and dodge the blame - Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent. Then they give birth to Cain and Abel, and the first act of human history is for Cain to murder his own brother out of resentment against him and God alike, and then lie about it: "Am I my brother's keeper?" [...]

"God", in Peterson's formulation, stands in for "reality" or "the future" or "the logos" or "being" or "everything that isn't you and that you don't know". And the principal discovery of early mankind is that "God" can be bargained with, through sacrifice - which is no more than saying if you sacrifice the pleasures of the present, reality is likely to reward you in the future. It's not guaranteed, but it's the best option you've got.

Having said that, and noting that his lectures are purely about the psychological rather than the theological value of the Bible, Peterson is a devout Christian. "Yes. Which is a form of insanity. The ethical burden is ridiculous. God might swipe you down even though you're doing the right thing. But it's your best bet. There is a great level of reality out there which we don't know and don't understand. We can bargain with it, but it doesn't guarantee you anything and God can turn on you. That is the thing about life. There's no guarantee of success."

Does he believe in life after death? "I don't know that I even believe in death! I'm not sure we understand anything about the role of consciousness in space and time. I don't think the world is the way we think it is. I'm not a materialist. Whatever is going on down there at the subatomic level of matter is so weird that the people who understand it don't understand it."

Posted by at January 25, 2018 1:35 PM

  

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