Jordan B Peterson – Harvard Talk Postmodernism & the Mask of Compassion – 1 error

Jordan B Peterson – Harvard Talk Postmodernism & the Mask of Compassion

Great talk, and as you explicitly asked to identify error, there does seem to be one at about 1:14:00 into the talk – you say “The fundamental dilemma of faith is whether or not you should live by the truth.
You determine to live by the truth when you make the decision that if you tell the truth the outcome is the best possible outcome.
You see that is an existential decision.
It is predicated on something like faith in the fundamental nature of being.
Because if you align yourself, to the degree that you can, with the truth, then what you are doing is acting out the proposition that being is structured in the best possible manner. Because otherwise you wouldn’t align yourself with the truth.
… Maybe you don’t want to compromise your self because your self is what you have to stave off the catastrophe of being, and if you compromise that you have nothing, except perhaps what other people will give you.”

I am trying to find levels that I can align with that statement, and it is difficult.
It seems to me that at one level we cannot know what truth is, and we can have some reasonable confidence about things that are not true, and we can avoid those (as you have often said – and I concur).
Thus avoiding saying anything we are reasonably confident is untrue, and using our best endeavours to create the most accurate model possible with our words, will (on average, over time) have the property of improving the models generally in use.

That then leads into a very complex investigation of the nature of values, the nature of valence, the idea of discount rates one applies to future verse present outcomes and values, the nature and value of personal existence and perhaps even existence itself (in as much as we might have any beginnings of a conception of what that might be), the roles and responsibilities of a self in social and ecological contexts as balanced against individual freedom and self expression.

And we seem to largely align on many of those dimensions of investigation, and in a rejection of nihilism, and an acceptance of the necessity of limits on freedom in the sense of necessary boundary conditions required to maintain form at any and all levels of existence (biological, cultural, spiritual, and whatever might emerge and transcend those).
Form requires boundaries.
Without boundaries, all is without form (and void in a sense).
It is the field boundaries that give atoms form.
It is cell walls that allow cells to exist.
It is our internal sense of morality that allows complex society to function, far more so than any set of laws or rules.

And all boundaries must be flexible. Hard boundaries become brittle and break. A cell wall that was not selectively permeable would lead to starvation from lack of food, and a build up of waste products.
Flexibility and permeability are important aspects of effective boundaries in complex systems, and they do not detract from the fundamental requirement for boundaries, they are an integral aspect of it.

So searching for something that is overly simplistic clearly is not going to work.
We must accept complexity, and the many levels of complex boundaries required to maintain it.
And within the set of boundary conditions that are actually required, exists the infinite set of freedoms that are possible.
And saying that the set of freedoms is infinite, is not at all the same as saying that one has the freedom to do anything – it is something very different (in that I align with your rejection of nihilism and post modernism, as simply not understanding the necessary conditions for complexity to exist).

And it seems that this reality within which we find ourselves has many levels of fundamental balance between order and chaos, between confidence and uncertainty, and there is no escaping that to any sort of childish notion of absolute confidence about anything.

And we all have to have useful heuristics that we use in practice.
And living life, being responsible in social and ecological contexts, speaking the best approximation to truth that we can in a way that optimises the probability of others understanding that for what it is, and not misinterpreting it as something else, does in fact seem to be one of the best heuristics available.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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