Jordan Peterson & Sam Harris Debates


The 4th show which took place in London is my absolute favorite so far. Both the 3rd and 4th shows were mediated by Douglas Murray.

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My notes for Dublin:

SH: I’d say existing in that better space already is just as good as well.
-This is what I find worrisome about Sam’s conception of well-being, is that it seems finite, as in, their is an end-point to be within. A peak. Peterson’s conception seems to be building up upon itself. No end in sight.

Anyone else just get so frustrated when Peterson was trying to tell him that pure rationality didn’t have enough flesh on it to be sufficient, as well as motivational enough, which is why Jesus is the Word made flesh, embodied truth…to which Harris just responds with 'Does that flesh include irrationality and dogmatism?

-I was reading a blog post by David Sloan Wilson about how we multiple uses of the word ‘reality’. To say that some plan of action is unrealistic, is saying that it is a fiction that is unattainable, while, there are fictions that we create that are certainly attainable (Brave New World for instance). There is factual realism, and there is practical realism. Peterson is advocating (via pragmatism) to include the practicality of an idea’s usage as an indication of the truth behind that idea, like a extra sense for discovering truth, alongside our tactile sense data, logic, empiricism, intuition, etc.

-I like what Vanderklay said, It’s as if Harris says that everything is a noun, verbs are just nouns about how humans behave. While it’s also like Peterson is trying to say that what we think to be nouns rest within a context of purely verbs.

Here’s where Peterson disagrees with Hoffman and Weinstein. These religious symbols aren’t inaccurate, they’re just low resolution. We place low importance upon unnecessary information (facts) that do not aid in our survival, while heightening the value of these abstractions (which are hardly facts) to be most important because through these abstractions we can organize the world and our action.

-I cannot comprehend what the hell Sam Harris means about values as facts about human well-being. Because, as pointed out by Peterson, what a central value does is hierarchically organize the placement of facts in context to the central value. And, our unconscious mind hierarchically organizes those values in regards to the context of the environment.
So, there’s a fact about how many hairs are on my head, but because I have no care for what that fact is, despite it existing, I will not organize my actions according to that fact. It’s like, before I can even hold a fact in my head, I have to care about the fact. thus, values presuppose both facts, and beliefs, held by conscious creatures.
“There are facts that can be loosely defined.”
-Alright, so Sam’s endeavor is to use the fact that we universally agree that hell is bad, in order to organize and structure the facts about the world, with increasing and decreasing specificity in regards to how much or little it affects experienced positive and negative well-being.
-But, just because all of us hold the worse possible hell for everyone, that does not make it a fact. And it especially doesn’t mean that all hold it for the reason you think. It might be that people consider the worst possible misery for everyone is bad because it’s a waste of potential utility. Or maybe they consider it’s wrong because it’s a misuse of God’s creations. You’re presupposing your own value as being the reason everyone holds this belief, and then stating that your reason is correct, despite not being the only available option.

-I suppose my frustration with Sam is that there is a functioning role we use for terms like facts, values, subjective, and objective, and his rudimentary philosophizing is muddying the water. For instance, how we use the word ‘value’, it means a variable weight that can be assigned to datapoints.
What Sam doesn’t realize he’s doing is that he’s saying ‘the only thing worth ever valuing (the only thing we should place as our hierarchically ordering structure) is experienced well-being of conscious creatures.’ And essentially, everyone that doesn’t value this vague abstract (questions such as ‘which conscious creatures’ certainly arises) are wrong for not sharing in this highest value. What about the people that value truth more than experienced well-being knowledge of that truth? What about people that hold purpose and meaning as a more important value than experienced pain and suffering? What about people that hold the extension of their species as a higher value?

-Harris seems to see any disagreement people have with rationality as the highest value to be an automatic dichotomy of advocating for irrationality. We already know that there are rational claims that have to be made without proof of the axioms, which are attained through intuition. Sam, just like Peterson smuggling in Jesus is smuggling in redefinitions of rationality to include moral and scientific intuition. Which are not predicated upon any provable axioms (such as well-being is the only thing people ever mean when they refer to value).

-The limits of rationality are that there are much more people than just Sam Harris’s in the world. And considering many of our most meaningful, most valuable experiences are spiritual, we require institutions to catalyze this aspect of ourselves into something formal and understandable (otherwise we will get the New Age movement). Also, not everyone is smart enough to be an individualist (nor desire to be one).

SH: Peterson is giving the youth justification for believing things they clearly shouldn’t believe.
-What is with Sam’s tyranical thought-policing? Why is it wrong to believe things for the wrong reasons if it leads to the well-being of those that hold those beliefs?

Sam is placing rationality right in the space of where we can communicate and better understand each other’s ideas, but that can only occur when there is some sort of central …god, let’s say, that’s held by all members of that group. Dialogue is only possible with those you share a cultural language with, and the problem with the new atheists (along with the fundamentalist protestants) is they have placed a border between understanding of the objective world, and the cultural methods of social cohesion, creating huge divides in our capacity to communicate and share values, leading to bad outcomes for all parties.

Animals and children are capable of developing societies without having rationality.
SH: I’m trying to get people away from still thinking childishly.
DM: But if you walk away from what has been effective in our past, you become susceptible to unforeseen negative outcomes.

-That’s all. While Peterson redefines God and atheism, Harris redefines rationality, values, and facts. I wonder if Harris has answered the experience-machine question?
-I have not seen how Harris has tied together Truth and Well-being as being equivalent (other than redefining well-being as positive experiences had for accurate reasons, but I’m not sure he’s even done that.) Maybe that is his position, since he’s said before that the Christians are siding with him against Islam for the wrong reasons. Maybe a new term needs to be created then for Harris to use: Rational-wellbeing.