Harris and Peterson agree that we can’t always solve utilitarian calculations over multiple time periods. Harris says we are certainly getting better. Peterson agrees, but suggests fundamental evolutionary based ethics do better.
I think Stuart Kauffman’s “Reinventing The Sacred” does a really good job teasing out how cold rationality fares in complex forward predictions compared to informed intuition. Kauffman suggests that our faith in rationality is mainly backward looking. It rarely does well with Black Swan events. It just looks really good in hind sight.
This is a fairly powerful argument. I suspect Harris would dismiss it by rationalism’s 1% improve rate compounded into the future.
48:00 - 48:40
Nice to see Harris saying that moral messages may best be conveyed by story rather than scientific papers. This seems like a winning position. I’m not sure Peterson would disagree. He would probably say that those stories are likely to become optimized with archetypical forms whose moral lessons are tied to evolutionarily selected pro-social ethics.
Peterson gets back to the danger of atheism leaving nothing to fill an ethical and social coherence role.
I think Harris would agree. We’ll soon see. I think Harris acknowledges the need for a moral ethic. He just thinks it shouldn’t be based in supernaturalism. In effect you have a non-supernatural, humanist fact based United Church.
Murray made an excellent point with respect to Nietzsche. If you remove the religious substructure, or even just parts of it, you may end up with no redemptive narrative or vehicle. This may result in overwhelming guilt build up which can’t be assuaged.
I’d note the current build up of white guilt and privilege seems spot on here. However, I would be very surprised if a more formalized redemptive narrative doesn’t soon come in to fill this gap. Right now it is still a nascent “grace” based form. You just need to admit your privilege and then start giving things up. This is obviously problematic. It is not sustainable because there are no limits to what should be given up. Thus, for me, it comes across as very cult-like. There is nothing wrong with that per se. Most new religious movements start off as cults. They then navigate a socio-cultural fitness landscape and either stumble into some combination of heuristics that work or they die. There seem to be a few obvious ways confessional progressivism can go to keep things sustainable. Whether or not it takes one of those paths, innovating through combinatorics and novelty, is of course any one’s guess.
Peterson and Murray are hammering home the critique of motivational force in rationalism/atheism. As Murray says, atheists aren’t lining up for weekly Stoicism readings.
This seems like a cheap shot. But, it is also somewhat accurate. The cheapness is that as per the debate audience - people do line up to discuss things somewhat regularly. The critique is that the regularity is insufficient for societal coherence. Things are just too spread out.
Peterson - “if we can’t move into the realm of deep discussions about good and evil then we can’t reach the level necessary to help people who have been touched by malevolence.”
This might be true, but I think Harris’ point stands - you can get lots of depth out of non-supernatural understandings of human nature which also include heroism and depravity. Why do you need a story and supernaturalism? I think the rejoinder is so that people believe they can leave their funk even if they think they can’t. They have to believe in the impossible. Saying you can do it. It is rational to think so, may not have the saving force necessary to motivate. Quasi-factuality may be needed.
I think this is a very significant point. I hope they stick on this one, or that Murray holds their feet to it. I would like to hear his view too.
I really like the current discussion about inspiration’s role in the bible and other books. Mormonism has certainly dealt with this much more than any other religion. The general answer from this tradition is fairly close to what Peterson says. “Divine” inspiration is a process greatly influenced by the person recording and experiencing it. It also involves a sense of coherence with deep societal values and needs. Peterson would certainly say this is the Logos of our evolutionary roots being expressed. I would tend to agree. At certain times, inspiration seems to find great coherence with some very fundamental human moral issues and lessons. The accuracy of this coherence certainly can be questioned. Sometimes what felt right is out of whack from rationalistic ethics. But, I would wager a guess that, on average, it is probably fairly expressive of the existential concerns of a group - provided of course that the individual conduit has a significantly deep history of trying and succeeding in a lifelong experience of attenuating to the group’s moral and existential needs.
In effect “revelation” is often a licensed expression of group morality and moral needs. Can individuals game this? Certainly. Tammy Fay Baker and all the other televangelists certainly do. Do all the “shamans” of a group or their “prophets” game things? It is certainly possible. But it is also possible that there are significant filtering processes for religious leaders in terms of their pro-sociality. Many people might think leaders are bedevilled and are simply grafting. For instance, the Shaw of Iran may be interpreted as corrupt and destroying his society. That is a very valid point. It is also likely that despite the corruption and other things that he is actually interested in the existential survival of his people.
Which one dominates? Over time, systems almost always corrupt. I think this rather complicated and long post summarizes how things are apt to work
Peterson’s point about a hierarchy of revelation (wisdom) is a very hard point to argue against. I’m not sure how Harris will respond? Has he ever encountered anyone well versed in modern revelation with respect to scripture (not just new age like revelation/intuition)? I’m not sure. I guess we’ll see.
Harris makes the point that all these scriptural revelations are simply things done by people. This leads to an obvious rejoinder - “what would you call the best moral exposition done”? Scripture? What would you call the best possible exposition?
This of course fails if one believes God to be a perfect being (in absolute terms). But what if God is simply representative of the best, or near best that can be done in a given context?
This is certainly within the scope of Mormon’s rather materialisitc perspective of Deity. In that view perfection is always getting better because both the environment and individuals are growing in capacity. It is interesting to see that Peterson has likely recreated this position. I think Harris is still hung up on absolutes though…
I love Murray’s answer here. We are currently creating a whole new set of religions that are reinventing all sort of heresies. They are not yet drawing blood, but it is very easy to imagine them taking a path whereby they do. I’ve been saying this for years. Social progressivist and fundamentalist politics are de facto religions or quasi-religions. They just lack supernaturalism. But they are just as quasi-factual or a-factual - at least in many areas.
Harris is again going back to the argument that religions have irreconcilable belief differences and therefor we can’t have a multi-path approach to the “truth”. I can see what Peterson is getting pretty frustrated at this. He says “then try Buddhism Sam.”. I don’t see why you can’t have different paths. This is a pluralistic, multi-cultural approach. Each group can deeply believe in at the utility of their own traditions. Accept that other things work for other people, for a variety of reasons. Then you’ll probably find out that where people overlap is in the deepest aspects of pro-sociality. You wouldn’t expect the Dali Lama and the Pope to get in a fist fight. They are probably both really pro-social people who would love each other’s company I think Harris may be too caught up in history here. People’s gene-culture evolution to pluralism continues to increase. Religious pluralism is more and more likely People can be subsumed by emergent pro-social essences while still expressing different story based expressions.
Perhaps that is why Harris’ hyper-rationalism has always felt a bit scary and tolitalitarian in potential. It seems to allow minimal expressional difference. Two stories with different surface ideas that different people can take to support mutually incompatible ideas is a real threat to Harris. It just doesn’t mesh with hyper-rationalist book keeping. And yet in practice, the degree of error probably isn’t that big a deal. It is the deeper stuff that matters. Over time religions seem to be tending toward more and more focus on this deeper stuff, while the superficial trappings are more like individual’s tattoo’s. They are more about colour than incompatibility.
The guests make a distinction that the pursuit of truth and the pursuit of tolerance are not the same thing. To me this is an essential point. Harris seems to think the pursuit of truth will lead to better outcomes than the pursuit of tolerance. Peterson and Murray seem to take the opposite position.
This is where I think Peterson’s 20th century genocidal worries really seem to provide some power. It is easy to go wrong when you put pressure on groups to pursue truth. It is harder to go wrong when you try to pursue tolerance. Of course both positions need some boundaries and tensions to work. Thus, Im quite happy including Harris’ hyper-rationalism as part of pluralistic endeavour to better humanity. It is, in effect, another belief system that works for a certain percentage of the population. Just let others believe differently, and focus on people’s and group’s pro-sociality much more than the specific strokes in their story expressions.
Murray says that the worry is that the roots of the enlightenment seem not to have gone very far and very deep. I would fully agree with this. We are dealing with gene-culture traits that take a long time to stabilize and a long-time to change. Going too fast is reckless. That doesn’t mean certain groups can’t go faster than others. Just don’t assume everyone is like you. Hence the importance of humility stories - say like those in most religious traditions…..