Thursday, March 16, 2017

Conversation Between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson

I first discovered Jordan Peterson a few weeks ago while researching The Brothers Karamazov.  In fact I linked to one of his videos in that review.  This one here.



After watching one Jordan Peterson video, Youtube algorithms kept putting more and more Jordan Peterson videos in my feed, and I started watching more and more.  Turns out he's an interesting and very controversial guy.  (Apparently he's been in the news a lot in his home country Canada for opposing mandatory pronouns.  I don't even know enough about the issue to comment.)

Anyway, while I've been learning about Jordan Peterson, a number of the philosophy nerds at my work have been recommending Sam Harris's podcast to me.
I've known who Sam Harris is for a long time, and have linked to some of his debates on this blog before.  But I've never regularly listened to his podcast.  But I began checking it out.
And then it turns out that the two interests collide, because Jordan Peterson was recently a guest on Sam Harris's podcast.

The first interview was regarded by Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson as a failure, because they got stuck on Pontius Pilate's question: What is truth? And they couldn't get off the question, resulting in roughly 2 hours of talking in circles.  But it was still interesting in its own way, if only for the fascination of watching a train wreck.

 

The second discussion was a lot more productive.



Many of the things Jordan Peterson says about interpreting religion as stories reminded me of some of Whisky Prajer's recent posts on how Protestants and Catholics take a different approach to stories.  See many of his recent posts, but in particular: Vigils 'n' Sigils: Wither, The Protestant Imagination and Vigils 'n' Sigils: The Magisterium Vs. The Protestant Pantry

14 comments:

Whisky Prajer said...

As ever, thanks for the shout-out Joel. Re: Jordan Peterson, I'm not altogether sure what to make of the man. I suppose I should be grateful that resolute contrarians of any stripe exist in this country, while the rest of us muddle along in a state of baffled placidity.

Joel Swagman said...

Jordan Peterson has a lot of opinions. I wouldn't expect anyone to agree with all of them. I certainly don't. But he's articulate enough that he makes interesting listening.

Whisky Prajer said...

It's been too many years since I last spent time at a U of T lecture, but he's calling out stuff I was certainly catching sight of in the early-90s. I was considering graduate work in Literature (my friends were all doing graduate work in their fields, so it just seemed like the thing to do). But the closer I got to the profs I'd be working with, the more apparent it became that post-modern theory was locking down the department. I couldn't imagine a more joyless environment. Making the choice between graduate studies and working an entry level job was one of the easiest in my life.

Which is all to say I'm glad Peterson is disturbing the shit at U of T -- way overdue.

Joel Swagman said...

Interesting. I had never heard of Peterson before I started research Dosteovsky last month. But I get the impression you've been following his career for longer?

Darrell Reimer said...

I wouldn't say I've been "actively" following him, but his provocations seem to show up in the various newsfeeds I subscribe to. His public game of baiting U of T admin is kind of fun to watch. I've a couple of friends who were on staff there -- they say it was a nightmare, and are relieved to be elsewhere.

Joel Swagman said...

This latest round of controversy is making me embarrassed to be on the Left:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p1UFiNiOek

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9T2MmttE0s

Whisky Prajer said...

Eef! Yeah, best to leave the chimps in their solitary tree until they run out of food.

Whisky Prajer said...

Enjoyed that last dialogue -- haven't listened to the other two (not sure I'm up for yet another hashing through of epistomology). Not the sort of guy I'm normally inclined to giving a close look, but your prompting (again) yielded rewarding results. Thank you.

Joel Swagman said...

Yeah, you can safely skip over the first dialogue.

I'm thinking what Peterson was saying was very much in line with your own view of religion as being primarily about stories. No?

Whisky Prajer said...

At first blush, given what I've heard, I'll say yes. But I have to give him a closer read, probably, where it comes to collective consciousness, "memes" and the like. It sounds to me like he leans Jungian, with some caveats, but that's just my speculation at this point.

Another impression: Harris sounds like he has zero use for Jung, which is amusing and a little predictable.

Joel Swagman said...

Yes, it does. In the first dialogue with Jordan Peterson, Harris also says he has no use for Derrida. (If I'm remembering right.)

Harris strikes me as a very straight forward materialist thinker--what you see is what you get. Which simplicity accords very much with my own proclivity for viewing the world. But I really don't know enough about Jung to comment.

Whisky Prajer said...

Harris has a Spock-like way of playing gadfly in a room full of McCoys, I'd say. I wish he'd had a better grasp of nuance, though -- at the very least it would have kept him from naming his podcast "Waking Up With Sam Harris." Brings thoughts of Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

Tangentially related: what do you make of Scott Adams?

Joel Swagman said...

I don't know what to think of Scott Adams really. I've always enjoyed his trip, and I read a couple of his books back in the day.
When he first starting coming out and saying that he thought Trump would win, I thought he was wrong. But it looks like in retrospect he was smarter than me.

But it's one thing to predict Trump's victory, it's another thing to endorse it. Later when he came out and endorsed Trump, I found that hard to forgive.

Whisky Prajer said...

I'm willing to give a fair bit of credence to the PUA line of reasoning, as I think you know. But when it ramps up to full-blown chest-beating mode, that's a whole nother tree of chimps I'm ready to set fire to.