Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

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LG2V
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Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by LG2V » Tue May 22, 2018 6:04 am

Here's a very provocative video of one of Jordan Peterson's lectures. In it, he discusses some of the problems with atheism as construed by contemporary intellectuals such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins:

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Sam Vara
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by Sam Vara » Tue May 22, 2018 6:32 am

Yes, I've seen that clip before, and I love it because - unlike his book, which tends to be a bit laboured - JP is flying and veering towards free association there. Inspirational, allusive lecturing at its best.

What he says does not, of course, apply to Buddhism, because kamma provides that transcendent grounding for action, just as God does in theistic traditions. A person who is aware of, or even just believes in, the likely consequences of their actions, would be extremely unlikely to act like a Raskolnikov. What JP is talking of would be more akin to the type of moral nihilism which is rarely far from self-centred materialism.
The Buddha points to two mental qualities as the underlying safeguards of morality, thus as the protectors of both the individual and society as a whole. These two qualities are called in Pali hiri and ottappa. Hiri is an innate sense of shame over moral transgression; ottappa is moral dread, fear of the results of wrongdoing. The Buddha calls these two states the bright guardians of the world (sukka lokapala). He gives them this designation because as long as these two states prevail in people's hearts the moral standards of the world remain intact, while when their influence wanes the human world falls into unabashed promiscuity and violence, becoming almost indistinguishable from the animal realm
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DooDoot
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by DooDoot » Tue May 22, 2018 6:39 am

I found the following issues with the speech:

1. It highlighted a character in Dostoyevsky's book who struggled with his "conscience". It seems this "conscience" was sufficient for moral guidance; at least in hindsight.

2. The belief in "God" appears to have not brought peace to the world; with World War 1 as probably the greatest example of moral failure of the nations of Christendom. After WW1, it was downhill, although prior to that, there were still many evils, such as exploitative colonialism, slavery & feudalism. In fact, the Western God ultimately is sourced in the Biblical Old Testament, which is a book that does not exactly exemplify a turning away from evil (despite its lip-service to moral law).

3. Similar to "conscience", there are many tribal & wisdom traditions, such as Buddhism, which refer to Natural Law (Dhamma Niyama). Such Natural Law is sufficient to guide behaviour; just as attempts at Secular Law are sufficient to guide behaviour if & when they are enforced. Many recent moral failures are simply due to not enforcing laws that have been previously enacted.

4. Personally, I am no fan of Sam Harris although Richard Dawkins seemed to be quite virtuous. In short, I think the attempted correlation between 'atheism' & 'moral nihilsm' is flawed. The Buddhist suttas (e.g. MN 60) often criticise "moral nihilsm" (natthikavādo; akiriyavādo; ahetukavādo) in a rational way.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by Sam Vara » Tue May 22, 2018 8:20 am

DooDoot wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 6:39 am
The belief in "God" appears to have not brought peace to the world; with World War 1 as probably the greatest example of moral failure of the nations of Christendom.
Indeed, Peterson would probably agree that mere belief - in any entity - is incapable of changing anything, unless it informs actions as well. Kierkegaard pointed out that Christendom was probably the greatest threat to Christianity, and a version of this particular dichotomy is often to be found in what Peterson is saying.

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Bundokji
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by Bundokji » Tue May 22, 2018 8:26 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 8:20 am
Indeed, Peterson would probably agree that mere belief - in any entity - is incapable of changing anything, unless it informs actions as well. Kierkegaard pointed out that Christendom was probably the greatest threat to Christianity, and a version of this particular dichotomy is often to be found in what Peterson is saying.
Oh Christendom is pampered with the nonsense that the Christian God is a decent and harmless chap, a good fellow, and especially a friend of female busyness and the begetting of children. All human effort tends towards herding together – Let Us Unite, etc. Naturally, this happens under all sorts of high-sounding names, love and sympathy and enthusiasm and the carrying out of some grand plan and the like. This is the usual hypocrisy of the scoundrels we are. But the truth is that in a herd, we are free from the standard of the individual. So, millions of men live and die. They are just numbers and the numerical becomes their horizon. That is to say, they are just copies and Christianity, which in the Divine Love wants everyone to be an individual, has been transformed by human bungling into precisely the opposite. – Soren Kierkegaard
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by Sam Vara » Tue May 22, 2018 8:33 am

Bundokji wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 8:26 am
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 8:20 am
Indeed, Peterson would probably agree that mere belief - in any entity - is incapable of changing anything, unless it informs actions as well. Kierkegaard pointed out that Christendom was probably the greatest threat to Christianity, and a version of this particular dichotomy is often to be found in what Peterson is saying.
Oh Christendom is pampered with the nonsense that the Christian God is a decent and harmless chap, a good fellow, and especially a friend of female busyness and the begetting of children. All human effort tends towards herding together – Let Us Unite, etc. Naturally, this happens under all sorts of high-sounding names, love and sympathy and enthusiasm and the carrying out of some grand plan and the like. This is the usual hypocrisy of the scoundrels we are. But the truth is that in a herd, we are free from the standard of the individual. So, millions of men live and die. They are just numbers and the numerical becomes their horizon. That is to say, they are just copies and Christianity, which in the Divine Love wants everyone to be an individual, has been transformed by human bungling into precisely the opposite. – Soren Kierkegaard
Thanks Bundokji. I think Peterson would appreciate the "human bungling" phrase!

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DooDoot
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by DooDoot » Tue May 22, 2018 9:28 am

In addition:

5. The speaker often speaks of a "transcendent god" however, apart from some lip-service (e.g. Matthew 5:45), the god generally has remained a "tribal god". A real transcendent god is described as follows:
And he lets his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of Love, and so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around, and everywhere, does he continue to pervade with heart of Love, far-reaching, grown great, and beyond measure. ‘Just, Vāseṭṭha, as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard—and that without difficulty—in all the four directions; even so of all things that have shape or life, there is not one that he passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all with mind set free, and deep-felt love. ‘Verily this, Vāseṭṭha, is the way to a state of union with Brahmā.

https://suttacentral.net/dn13/en/tw_rhysdavids
"All things" include in their pristine state:

Image Image Image

I think Thai Buddhism is an example for the world, where Buddhist monks rose to be the nation's religious leaders yet they often did not intrude upon the indigenous cultures & religions. Thus, in Thailand, there are different religious beliefs & practises that Thai people follow.

:yingyang:
Last edited by DooDoot on Tue May 22, 2018 9:46 am, edited 4 times in total.

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rightviewftw
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by rightviewftw » Tue May 22, 2018 9:32 am


this video exposes the shortcomings of both imho
kind of funny really, they resort to dissing Sam Harris instead of actually debating after a while.
Last edited by rightviewftw on Tue May 22, 2018 9:59 am, edited 2 times in total.
He goes to Niraya, the one who asserts what didn't take place, as does the one who, having done, says, 'I didn't.' Both — low-acting people — there become equal: after death, in the world beyond.
Tyranny of Words - An Introduction to General Semantics
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Bundokji
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by Bundokji » Tue May 22, 2018 9:41 am

By the way, Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson and Douglas Murray will have an event on the 14th of July.

It is going to be interesting
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

binocular
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by binocular » Tue May 22, 2018 10:28 am

DooDoot wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 6:39 am
1. It highlighted a character in Dostoyevsky's book who struggled with his "conscience". It seems this "conscience" was sufficient for moral guidance; at least in hindsight.
But conscience doesn't come out of nowhere. A person doesn't simply have a conscience, regardless of what society/community they are raised in.
3. Similar to "conscience", there are many tribal & wisdom traditions, such as Buddhism, which refer to Natural Law (Dhamma Niyama). Such Natural Law is sufficient to guide behaviour; just as attempts at Secular Law are sufficient to guide behaviour if & when they are enforced. Many recent moral failures are simply due to not enforcing laws that have been previously enacted.
As far as I understood, Peterson argues that such "natural law" doesn't exist; and I agree with that.
4. Personally, I am no fan of Sam Harris although Richard Dawkins seemed to be quite virtuous. In short, I think the attempted correlation between 'atheism' & 'moral nihilsm' is flawed.
Peterson talks about New Atheism, which is a specific kind of atheism.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by binocular » Tue May 22, 2018 11:36 am

DooDoot wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 9:28 am
In addition:
5. The speaker often speaks of a "transcendent god" however, apart from some lip-service (e.g. Matthew 5:45), the god generally has remained a "tribal god". A real transcendent god is described as follows:
Listen esp. from 4.18 onward.

Petersen says, "The proposition that underlies Western culture is that there is a transcendent morality." He says that this transcendent morality can also be personified as God, or not; but that he's not making an argument for God. It's that the radical atheists (New Atheists like Dawkins and Harris) take this morality for granted, believing that they can take God out of the picture and that what remains is pure rationality -- and he questions how they can think how doing so could possibly work.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Sam Vara
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by Sam Vara » Tue May 22, 2018 11:46 am

binocular wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 11:36 am
DooDoot wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 9:28 am
In addition:
5. The speaker often speaks of a "transcendent god" however, apart from some lip-service (e.g. Matthew 5:45), the god generally has remained a "tribal god". A real transcendent god is described as follows:
Listen esp. from 4.18 onward.

Petersen says, "The proposition that underlies Western culture is that there is a transcendent morality." He says that this transcendent morality can also be personified as God, or not; but that he's not making an argument for God. It's that the radical atheists (New Atheists like Dawkins and Harris) take this morality for granted, believing that they can take God out of the picture and that what remains is pure rationality -- and he questions how they can think how doing so could possibly work.
Yes, exactly so, and well put.

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Karma Dondrup Tashi
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by Karma Dondrup Tashi » Tue May 22, 2018 8:03 pm

binocular wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 11:36 am
Petersen says, "The proposition that underlies Western culture is that there is a transcendent morality." He says that this transcendent morality can also be personified as God, or not; but that he's not making an argument for God. It's that the radical atheists (New Atheists like Dawkins and Harris) take this morality for granted, believing that they can take God out of the picture and that what remains is pure rationality -- and he questions how they can think how doing so could possibly work.
I wonder if he has ever spoken on the topic of Spinoza.

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DooDoot
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by DooDoot » Wed May 23, 2018 6:50 am

binocular wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 11:36 am
Petersen says, "The proposition that underlies Western culture is that there is a transcendent morality." He says that this transcendent morality can also be personified as God, or not; but that he's not making an argument for God. It's that the radical atheists (New Atheists like Dawkins and Harris) take this morality for granted, believing that they can take God out of the picture and that what remains is pure rationality -- and he questions how they can think how doing so could possibly work.
Thanks B but I struggle to follow; just as I struggle to follow JP. For example, I don't understand how Western culture has a transcendent morality; let alone understand what is meant by the term "transcendent morality". :shrug:

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Bundokji
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Re: Jordan Peterson - The Problem With Atheism

Post by Bundokji » Wed May 23, 2018 8:28 am

DooDoot wrote:
Wed May 23, 2018 6:50 am
binocular wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 11:36 am
Petersen says, "The proposition that underlies Western culture is that there is a transcendent morality." He says that this transcendent morality can also be personified as God, or not; but that he's not making an argument for God. It's that the radical atheists (New Atheists like Dawkins and Harris) take this morality for granted, believing that they can take God out of the picture and that what remains is pure rationality -- and he questions how they can think how doing so could possibly work.
Thanks B but I struggle to follow; just as I struggle to follow JP. For example, I don't understand how Western culture has a transcendent morality; let alone understand what is meant by the term "transcendent morality". :shrug:
From my understanding of JP, our knowledge of what is right and wrong would eventually require some kind of belief (metaphysics).

Maybe binocular has a different understanding of what JP means.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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