2018-09-15: Sam Harris & Peterson Debates



podcast session

my notes

  • morality via brute force search (trying all possible options and keeping what worked)
  • adult, children, law, consent
    • adults that view other adults as children, are dangerous - that society failed to integrate those individuals into adults, and therefore they must be discarded and reprimanded - religion served a role in accepting society as a mode of civility with competing narratives, no religion anymore allows ideological leans to arrogantly view themselves as superior without integration and opposition as children who are naive/ignorant/petulant
  • morality of step sibling relationships
    • liberal morality ok, conservative morality bad, threatens lineage of the social roles, does not gain double wealth potential
  • integration of the shadow, requires courage, and imagination
    • fear of becoming your shadow, means you constrain your imagination, to remain ignorant of truth that may lie within and/or outside the shadow, inhibiting your ability to adapt, integrate, and succeed yourself
    • one is not necessarily constrained by a lack of empathy, but by a lack of imagination of how compassion can be cruel/abused
  • master subordinate morality
    • embedded in every hierarchy, and relationship
    • seizing - imploring one’s will - even subordinate implores their will onto their master
  • herd animal vs social animal
    • there are individual roles/jobs within the social animal group
  • sam’s morality has parallels of wellbeing with heaven and suffering with hell, sam doesn’t seem to have a morality that integrates cruelty, such as overall hardship reduction through economical lifting through slavery and prostitution
  • veganism only around today as first time it is economical, so enters the realms of imagination - we fail to imagine and consider what is outside the realm of possibilities
  • draws to amish vs islam, flat earthers on mars
  • patriarchy vs matriarchy vs anarchy
  • contribution points now vs 10 generations ago


Well-being left as a vague catch-all for anything we consider good. (similar to the Platonic Good) Because, if you are to ever hold up one specific value as being supreme, the other below make things worse. We desire a multi-valuate society, and these values are composited into Well-being. (though I doubt Harris would agree with it, unless it was brought up to him.

If you want as much freedom as possible, then you lose security. If you want as much security as possible, you lose freedom. Both are values we hold, but both in subordination to 'capacity to live a good (virtuous) life, since this is the type of citizen that society desires for its people.

People generally change group sides not out of argumentation, but from a distaste for the implications within their own side. (This is useful if you want to change someone’s mind)

People with personal moral convictions seek out others that share those moral actions, or rituals, or dietary restrictions, and, because these acts are moral in nature, there’s a deeper connection within identity between these people than the shallow commonalities of likes and dislikes.

According to well-being, is it wrong for a 4-year-old to call his parents by their first names?

Is it wrong for step-siblings to have a consensual relationship.

Societies rely upon the conformity to the roles given to them, why there are police that identify as the representative of the state. If that cop were to behave like a normal citizen in a sign of trouble, that is a breach in their psycho-social role in the cultural environment.

The desire for a community closer involved with hard work and nature, while still retaining the niceties from life.

The freedom gained from understanding your role in a relationship. If you’re always supposed to be the head of making decisions, and that your decisions will affect your partner, you have a larger responsibility.

Similarly, the upsetting loss of the feminine ideal, the role and the archetype of the woman worthy of being protected. And how both liberal and conservative have not done an effective job of heralding the interests of these women as pertinent.

Sam tends to non-contextualize historical events according to their background, but rather the current day/morality. Hence why slavery is so abhorrent for him, despite not being economically feasible until very recent history.

Peterson has quite obviously been able to integrate Sam’s way of thinking (considered it from all angles) much more than Sam has been able to do so with Peterson.

The devout Christian typically doesn’t need to defend their faith, up until the time that it becomes threatened. To do otherwise would be a waste of energy. It’s been a perfectly functional tool for their environment thus far.

Mars will be the ideal for communes and monasteries, because internet from Earth would be impossible, but there would be plenty of work to do, as well as books that could be read, and technology still exists.

The neutral underpinning to Western morality is ‘Do not harm, and do not force’ which Sam has just articulated into a moral ethic.

Beyond Good and Evil needs to be a mandatory book to be read in schools.

Moral Landscape is ‘good’ insofar as it’s simple and it’s intuitive.

The lack of recognition for what makes evil tick is a lack of imagination. Prior to that is the strengthening of your position to withstand that imagination.

Poor cultures in harsher environments hardly commit suicide compared to Western cultures.

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2nd conversation:

Sam Harris makes good points in regards to the incongruity between religious structures. Whatever is true about them can be ascertained by stripping off the metaphysical propositions and finding the truths about life and its experiences and how to achieve the good life.

And, because a community based upon a barbaric book will have it’s psychopaths (that would commit atrocities anyways), and its peaceful (that would be peaceful anyways). The problems arise when, in an environment where outside threats (such as the West) are encroaching, the more moderate Muslims can be influenced by the more psychopathic with relation back to the book your culture is based upon, because they have the more intuitive reading of this book.
(now of course, a large part of what’s driving that intuition is the experienced threat by the outsiders. Same for the more literal readings of Genesis, prior to the scientific mindedness the stories were recognized as symbols regarding consecrating a temple, but when the ‘atheists’ have proven a better framework for manipulating the world (scientific truth) the more religious use that same reading of their bibles)

The wavering of personal stances that can arise without having a central position of authority to interpret problems.

One method is to find the encapsulating value, or framework, that fits both contradictory stances against each other in order to compare the two.

Another is to take the furthest extent of a position in order to undermine it’s validity as being the top value in a hierarchy. (Such as we do not desire people to have the freedom to become addicted to meth and kill themselves happily)

The free-rider problem: Participants within a social fabric must abide by communally held values (or dogmas) and rituals to convey their participation within that group. It’s easy to find the non-Jew in a Jewish community, because they’re not participating in the personal ‘sacrifices’ (how they dress, what they do, how they act, etc). These rituals are social identity markers to prove that you are not a free-rider.

The belief in free-will might be more profitable than not, so to believe in it is better, even if it’s not true.
(the belief doesn’t come at a high social cost, so it’s easy enough to adopt. Whereas the belief in God, does come at a cost)

To act as if free will exists, or that God exists, could be enough, even if it’s different from a belief in a deity.

The belief in God (or some sort of Platonic form) that is variable and adaptive to the environment might be necessary, since there certainly might be cases where providing enough food for the group is necessary, but, after that, the highest need is to propogate the group, and then after that, to care for the group. These are are incommensurate values, and must fluctuate according to the environment, but, by having some sort of abstraction that encapsulates each of these values, then to centralize according to this abstraction, or personification, might be necessary to have a society with competing value-sets. (polytheism, without a master-God).

The cognitive dissonance that we regularly utilize, our contradiction in what we believe to be true, and what we believe in order to act. So, I can hold the believe in the heat death in the universe, or that there is no inherent meaning to reality, but I can brush aside those beliefs and act ‘contrary’ to that in order to fulfill my meager goals in the present. Similarly, the Christians don’t regularly consider that every other nation all held beliefs in different gods, or all the brutish things done by God or his people in the Old Testament.

The skepticism I see in the atheists types seems almost self-refuting, since they’ve organized only very specific things that can be proven to fit within their worldview of facts (scientifically reproducable, or scientifically consensused) and stick to that framework for acting within the world. The problem is that there are ‘things left out that I don’t think need to be left out’ Since, we know for ourselves we contain intentionality and movitations for actions, but cannot prove such a experience occurs for others that we cannot communicate with. Plus, being inside or outside of the matrix is unfalsifiable, but there certainly are people that just do not care about these types of questions, they’re perfectly content in their life without having to know. (this is a problem with truth as your highest value, because, if all you can know for certain is what you qualify as truth, any good skeptic can invalidate your uncertainty in anything, especially if you’ve already invalidated experiential subjective data from the picture, everything else falls along with it. Unless you have an amount of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance could be considered in how we watch a movie, and project ourselves as that main character. Or, through the placebo effect. Or, in the case of hypnotism, certain people could be triggered to think of a kitten dying every time they reach for a cigarette. There’s obviously no causal relationship between a kitten dying and a drag on the cigarette, but if it’s effective at adapting detrimental actions, it’s something worth believing in. (this fits in with Peterson’s point against Harris’s, that rational arguments for why not to masturbate are hardly effective to a horny teenager, whereas stories about God being unhappy are effective (sometimes too effective).

In order to reach conclusions about how to act there’s a coherence to be made with the different values that we hold, is in fact our methods of holding beliefs. So, my values in truth, familial relationship, well-being, meaning, have to come into alignment, or one of these will suffer.

What if the truth that arose, that in order to have the best well-being, one would have to act as if God exists.

How to deal with those of low IQ? Our environment of competition of technology within capitalism is driving the economy towards higher IQ people to satisfy these desires of the economy. Same for those that go into legal work, or stock-trading. And leaving the lesser intelligent, but perhaps more influential, to run for president. And this isn’t necessarily a problem that can just be fixed via eugenics. People do not like to feel that they can be readily replaced (either by another worker, or by a machine) so they will lash out at potential threats of replacement (muh jobs). Even those with high IQs that can work within the tech community, being a useless cog in a wheel (for those unable) is just as bad as being a useful cog in a useless wheel (for those proficient in technology but do not approve of how it is altering the psyches of the users). Government useless jobs being given away do not satisfy this itch we have, and can still send those that feel useless towards opiates and radicalism.

What if we developed small communities for the homeless (NOT labor camps) for them to have the option to live in, and adopt the roles necessary for that small society, having a necessary role in existence, in building the community and sustaining it. It’s better than living on the streets, and if their personality isn’t conducive to ‘Amish’ (or similar) living, they can leave. But there can’t be any free riders.

Now, there have certainly been communal compounds with horrific end results (Waco, etc). And that seems to arise from a fear from the external community towards the inner community. The Waco compound was preparing for the end of the world with their armament of guns, which caused their seclusion to present a high-potential threat for the outside world). This hasn’t really happened for the Amish, and similar communities, perhaps because of their stance of pacifism.
(their seclusion is understandable, considering many from just a somewhat more conservative country would be driven towards radicalism if they thought that Western culture (along with the gay-pride parade, and transgenderism) were soon to invade the world.)

All that would be necessary is a plot of land, a group of leaders to harbor the culture, and a a small amount of people. (Plus, as mentioned last night, there’s a high amount of environment incentive to develop this, since technology and national providers of sustenance creates a large surplus wasted.

Now, for the more Western cultures that have inkling or desire for a belief in God, more work would need to be done to create an ethic for the people, as well as a shared identity. This could partially be done through ritual, but, since sacrifice is also necessary for longstanding communes, there’s would need to be some sort of shared highest value. Perhaps that value can be education. I know I’d appreciate a monastery life devoted to reading literature and performing experiments (though there is too the risk of another ‘Cult of Reason’) like the Catholic priests used to do before the secularization of science. Perhaps something like the Unitarian churches would be more amenable towards the atheistic types.

Analyse just what it is that is being incentivized with a social ruling. If you have a democracy where the uninformed can vote along with the informed, you run the risk of getting con-men. If you only allow owners of land to vote, then those that desire to enforce policies will have to work towards owning land. (but of course, then the landowners can create polices that don’t allow people they dislike for owning land.)

Understand the incentives that are in place, and utilize them.

What to do when factual understanding of reality actually comes at the cost of well-being?
Humilty to recognize your conception of reality is unfinished, and to act in a way that’s still useful towards our goals.

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