LIVE from OCON: Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, Yaron Brook, Greg Salmieri

Jmaurone's picture
Submitted by Jmaurone on Mon, 2018-07-02 17:19

"difficult" is not an argument

Bruno's picture

I have noticed this trend in Bwook, which was now very clearly exemplified by Ghated and Salieri as well.

If any subject does not conform to their personal gusto, either in method or in findings, they will labor to produce a word salad which contains numerous occurrences of the word 'difficult' and its synonims.

Reaching conclusions in psychology is "difficult", thus don't trust their findings. Evolutionary explanations are "difficult", thus dismiss those as well. And so on and so forth. This is a clear trend you can notice for yourself.

Calling something "difficult", "complex", (...) , is not an argument.

Don't take diet lessons from fat people

Bruno's picture

The distaste for evolutionary investigation is so great among these three that they dismiss the well established low carb diets that go under various denominations (paleo, primal, keto) and that all have as starting point 'what is the proper food for man?'

If you buy a new esotic pet, let's say a parrot bird, the first thing you will usually ask is 'what should I feed this animal?', meaning that the nature of the animal is set, and that includes a certain specific diet which is optimal for its flourishing.

The same goes for us, as human beings, we have evolved to best thrive by eating specific foods and not others. Salieri, who is in no condition to give diet advice, begs to differ and dismisses the approach as pseudo-scientific.

Against evo-psych

Bruno's picture

Bwook, Ghated and Salieri all dismiss evolutionary psychology as a 'pseudo-science'. They go so far as to question if there are truly any differences between a male and female brain, which I found somewhat surprising since Yawon had acknowledged these differences previously. Yawon seems to defer to the other two, especially Ghated, on any 'philosophical' issue.

The discussion I posted below is thus interesting and arguably 'objectivist'/objective, up to when they speak of said subjects, where they sound like the classic 'orthojectivists' who dismiss entire areas of knowledge a priori, even though they move from a position of ignorance.

The only instance of pseudo-science here of course is 'philosophy' intruding into empirical and scientific issues without knowledge of the object. To make things worse is the 'pre-scientific' evidence, i.e. history and experience, which is overwhelmingly at the opposite side to the one taken by the ObLeftivists.

Post-debate roundup

Bruno's picture

Brook and Ghate invite Salmieri on the show to discuss the Jordan Peterson live event.

Live From OCON: Free Speech In The UK

Neil Parille's picture


Neil Parille's picture

"Remember he has a vested interest in the perpetuation of misery. Where would his grim profession be without it?!"

In other words he's a Humanity Diminisher (TM). Wonder where he got that from?!?

Corrected link to COMPANION TO AYN RAND

Jmaurone's picture

Don't know what I did to the link in the original post. This should be the correct one.
A Companion to Ayn Rand (Blackwell Companions to Philosophy)

Salmieri and Gotthelf: Companion to Ayn Rand (My Amazon Review)

Neil Parille's picture

Ayn Rand was a novelist and philosopher who has never gotten her due. Perhaps it is because of her unfashionable ideas (laissez-faire capitalism and rational selfishness) or perhaps it is because of her polemical style. Nonetheless, her ideas are often unique and well worth studying. So it’s good to see a study of her work in the prestigious Blackwell Companions series. I haven’t read the entire book, but have a few preliminary comments.

1. The book is edited by Greg Salmieri and the late Allen Gotthelf. Both Salmieri and Gotthelf are/were associated with the Ayn Rand Institution as are most of the contributors. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that: scholars associated with the ARI often do fine work, but you would have to be blind not to see that almost unqualified praise for Rand (and her heir Leonard Peikoff) seems to be mandatory. From what I can tell, that’s pretty much par for the course here. I don’t think this seriously detracts from the work because what it offers are moderately in-depth overviews of Rand’s views on various topics.

2. This book does mark a new path in ARI scholarship because the essays often include mention of Nathaniel Branden as a source on Objectivism and also interacts with non-ARI Objectivists (such as David Kelley and Steven Hicks), critics of Objectivism (such as Scott Ryan) and even the once forbidden Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (which I have written a couple of minor pieces for). In years past, anyone not in the line of Apostolic Succession would pretty much have been ignored.

3. The introductory essay by Greg Salmieri is quite good. He comments on several of the various works published posthumously under the editorship of various ARI wtiters. It had long been suspected (and shown by Jenniffer Burns in 2009) that these works have been heavily edited for ideological purposes (to make Rand more consistent and omit embarrassing material). This was further confirmed by Robert Campbell a few years ago in his analysis of the changes that Robert Mayhew made in editing Rand’s question and answers (Ayn Rand Answers). Salmieri acknowledges that much editing has taken place and that there editorial decisions that “I wish had been made differently [but] these books serve their purpose well . . . .” I find this shocking. A half dozen of Rand’s books have been so heavily edited as to be worthless for scholars and almost worthless for the casual admirer and Salmieri can’t get worked up over this? These books should be removed from publication immediately and replaced with accurate versions. Rand worked hard to protect the integrity of her material and the ARI should do the same.

4. Anyone who has followed the ongoing controversy over Rand’s life and the biographies of her will be interested in what Salmieri and Shoshana Milgram (who is writing an authorized biography of Ayn Rand) say. In 1986, Barbara Braden wrote the first full-length biography of Rand (The Passion of Ayn Rand). Shortly after the publication of Passion, Leonard Peikoff denounced the book as an “arbitrary assertion” and in 2005 James Valliant (who had access to Rand’s diaries thanks to Leonard Peikoff) claimed that everything in Passion was arbitrary (even, I imagine, that Rand was born in Russia) but also “dishonest” and that Branden made stuff up out of whole cloth. (I critiqued Valliant’s moronic book in 2008, which you can find on the web.) Well, in 2009 Jennifer Burns and Anne Heller published biographies of Rand which more or less followed Branden’s take on Rand. And what’s more, they often used Branden’s book as a source. These books were not viewed with favor by the ARI establishment. Now, Salmieri and Milgram don’t appear to have a high regard for these three biographies either, but gone are the days when everything Barbara Branden said should be dismissed out of hand. Milgram, unfortunately quotes Burns out of context when she reports Burns as saying that Branden’s biography is “marred by serious inaccuracies.” (page 87 in the Wylie edition). Burns goes on to say “too often Branden takes Rand’s stories about herself at face value, reporting as fact information contradicted by the historical record.” Milgram does make some good points about the three biographies and I think they all have their strengths and weaknesses. She is correct that Passion (and the memoirs of Nathaniel Branden) should be used with caution, in particular when reporting something for which they are the only source (private communications, for example). I would be curious what Milgram thinks about those who have said things equally critical of Rand and who never broke with her or, if they did, their breaks did not involve dishonesty. I assume Milgram has interviewed such people or consulted the interviews that others have done of them.

5. I’ve read only a few of the essays beginning to end, but they were both informative albeit not particularly critical. The essays all appear to be polished and Salmieri and Gotthelf are to be commended for what must have been a lengthy editing process.

Thank You

Luke Setzer's picture

Thanks, Joe, this one must have slipped under my radar.

I hope Jordan Peterson at least reads these books and chews on them for a while.

A Companion to Ayn Rand (Blackwell Companions to Philosophy)

Jmaurone's picture

The post didn't specify, but I'm assuming it's this: 

A Companion to Ayn Rand (Blackwell Companions to Philosophy) by
Allan Gotthelf (Editor), Gregory Salmieri (Editor)

What Is "Greg's Companion"?

Luke Setzer's picture

I could not find a companion to ITOE on Amazon.

or...A Hint of Curiousity...

Jmaurone's picture

Someone on Facebook made the following claim, re Peterson post-OCON:

"When the session ended, the audience was on its feet clapping and shouting. Peterson was smiling broadly, as were all the others. Privately, the new CEO, Tal Tsfany, said that Peterson wanted to know if there were anything he could read on this idea of concept formation, and Tal said that he would send Peterson Rand's "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" and Greg's Companion."

Very encouraging, if true...

Peterson & Sam Harris

Olivia's picture

Later on he again uses phenomenological terminology when he speaks of existence 'revealing' itself. He says: "the set of facts that reveal themselves to you, are dependent on your values". Again, this is both a metaphysical and ethical statement. Think of it this way: 'form is given to chaos according to my values'.

This is exactly where Harris & Peterson came unstuck in their conversations on Sam's podcast. Peterson's use of the term "true" depended on the value of the facts in question. Harris just wouldn't let that go, repetitively, laboriously trying to make the point that assessing the objective facts of a situation or the truth of a piece of knowledge is a different question than assessing whether it has value or not.

In the second podcast where they tried to get beyond this sticking point, which they didn't manage to do, Peterson goes off on a big tedious rant whittering on and on about the anecdotes and archetypes found in some biblical myth, while Harris tries unsuccessfully to contain his boredom. Harris eventually pointed out that one could take any story or myth and ply it this way and that to draw from it any number of subjective analogies on human "truths." Peterson disagreed saying that the real myths which are useful to human knowledge are actually quite rigorous... bla bla bla. He does this Jungian thing to death and it bores me senseless. He's at his best when he's attacking the loopy cultural Marxists in our midst. Therein lies his value.

ITOE and Occam's Razor

Jmaurone's picture

" JP lost me with the algorithm crap, they should throw him a copy of ITOE so he can shake of the blinders."

Not only ITOE, but give him a set of Gillette Occam's razors for Father's Day. He started on about infinite possibilities regarding this and that...I thought he was going to start next with Schrodinger's Cat and the uncertainty principle. You could see, there, where Peterson's pseudo-religious quantum-woo side started to hit a wall against the Objectivist metaphysics.

(Oh, and back to ITOE: When Peterson started to talk about the dual uses of a chair, etc, vs. inherent values and all that, the first thing I thought was: "that's an example already addressed in ITOE." It's great that he's on the same side, regarding individualism, free speech, etc, but it became really clear, then, that Peterson would be out of his depth discussing epistemology, here. And that really highlighted the main question in this presentation, about if/how (or to what extent) two different schools of thought, with different foundations, came come to the same conclusions and work together without too many variations to trip each other up. (In this case, how O'ists and religious conservatives can work together against the tyranny of the Left.)

Lack of curiousity

Jmaurone's picture

"Note how little interested he was in solutions. Complete lack of intellectual curiosity."

Yes, and he fell back on his practiced talking points of reified suffering, and how life is too complicated for reason, etc, with his common refrain of "all religions confirm this,", and "there's no denying it." Except that there IS denying it, and I was glad to see the panel challenge him on that, explicitly.

When solutions were offered, his refrain was "yes, but..."

When Peterson speaks of suffering, he universalizes it and minimizes success. When Objectivism speaks of suffering, it's not denied, but placed in context.

To go with the Kant discussion, below...there may be controversy over Rand's understanding of Kant: was he mistranslated, did he mean what she claimed, is he an Enlightenment or anti-Enlightenment figure, etc...and people more knowledgeable than I have been trying to sort that mess out for some time, me, there's something ambiguous in Kant's ideas that makes trying to pin them down like tilting at windmills. For my own purposes, I have to "cut the Gordian Knot" when it comes to all that; look past all that, and look at the results. And if Kant DIDN'T say what Rand argues against, well, there are a lot of people who also think he did. (As Sciabbara points out, Rand's interpretation wasn't original to her, but most likely came from Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.) So I look at the results of taking those ideas of his seriously, either for or against.

On the pro-side, you get the likes of Jung and Peterson. In opposition, you get Rand. I think the OCON discussion was a good demonstration of that, in microcosm (at the least inepistemologically and in "sense of life.")

No 72 virgins, no paradise...

Jmaurone's picture

" Remember he has a vested interest in the perpetuation of misery. Where would his grim profession be without it?! Note how little interested he was in solutions. Complete lack of intellectual curiosity."

Wellllll...he DOES offer solutions, elsewhere...but it's like pulling teeth to get them from him. And they're mostly of the pseudo-religious variety, though he DOES tip his hat to free trade and individualism.

(But interestingly enough, regarding religion...he rails against hedonism, in the same way that Objectivism does (hell, he even rails against the maxim of Joseph Campbell to "follow your bliss") and talks of sacrifice now, to get something later, as a great concept. But then, he says that happiness, is fleeting, and it's more important to have purpose than happiness.

But then, what I've never heard Peterson speak about is the promises of the afterlife (as opposed to the "promise of an afterlife", which he plays coy about. At least Christianity offer eternal bliss in heaven. The Norse has Valhalla with all the mead you can drink. Even Islam promises 72 virgins! So, for Peterson, then, if life is suffering, and happiness on earth fleeting, and if the purpose of life as happiness is a concept for fools, then what is the purpose of purpose? What does he offer us as a reward? What does Jordan Peterson offer as reward in the afterlife for a life of purpose well-played?

A grim undertaker, indeed....


Jmaurone's picture

Gregter: Yup, you're right, I meant "Undertaker!"

Grim Undertaker

gregster's picture

Joe, I thought Alan was known as the Undertaker.

Thanks for the post. JP lost me with the algorithm crap, they should throw him a copy of ITOE so he can shake of the blinders.


Lindsay Perigo's picture

Remember he has a vested interest in the perpetuation of misery. Where would his grim profession be without it?! Note how little interested he was in solutions. Complete lack of intellectual curiosity.

Grim Reaper

Jmaurone's picture

"And doesn't JP seem to inhabit a rather grim universe?"

He can replace ol' Alan Greenspan as the "Grim Reaper"...

I did like their answers to his grimness, too. That having a firm sense of reality, and of self, enables one to withstand betrayals and the chaos that ensues. His rebuttal about the biological tolls of having to repair to first principles to do so was interesting, but even then, he seemed to concede their point.


Lindsay Perigo's picture

As did the live audience I stood up and cheered at the end of this. Whoever made the point that there is starvation for this kind of intelligent in-depth debate and discussion was so right, and the instant popularity of this on YT (150,000 views and 1500 comments already) shows how badly we get short-changed by the MSM.

Regardless of my objections to Obleftivism (which was mercifully absent here) I thought the Objectivists did exceedingly well, aided and abetted by JP's obvious unfamiliarity with Rand's theory of concepts. And doesn't JP seem to inhabit a rather grim universe?

Fantastic television. More please!

Oh, and doesn't the popularity of Mark Levin's show also illustrate the thirst that is seldom being quenched?

Peterson, Kant and Phenomenology, George Walsh, and Sciabarra

Jmaurone's picture

Bruno, thanks for the explanation.

" J, I've seen you refer to Peterson as having Kantian stylings. This is true in the most general sense, meaning that his basic fundamentals, analyzed through the Plato-Aristotle-Kant metaphysical/epistemological division, are Kantian."

Personally, and admittedly, my interest in Kantian is limited to a general sense. (My preferred area of interest is actually music; my interest in Kant, outside of Rand's claims about him, is tangential to my my previous interest in Carl Jung, which was itself, tangent [or, rather, an imposition] in my life, at the time...). And I don't know the details of Peterson's direct knowledge of Kantian ideas, except that I'm assuming that much of it is related to the influence of Carl Jung, and perhaps, Nietzsche, (both favorites of Peterson, though I think Nietzsche was anti-Kant? Also, I don't know how WELL Peterson understands Kant, but I have seen critics call into question his understanding of Jung.) So my own personal interest in Peterson and Kant is going to be more general. But in the context of my discussions of Peterson and Objectivism, I'm mainly focused on presenting the Objectivist objections to Peterson's Kantian influence as Rand understood it. Of course, I'm aware about the debate over if Rand/Objectivism got Kant right or wrong. And that's important, even if I am sympathetic towards Rand's claims, based on my own research beyond just her claims. But that's beyond the scope of what I've personally been doing, which is opening to the door to the conversation by presenting the situation "as is", not as it "might or ought to be"...I'll have to leave that to those more educated on Kant than I. (You're more than welcome to it! I'd rather be writing music. Though, tangentially, I have enjoyed reading the debates, elsewhere, about the Objectivist understanding of the Kantian sublime, as it relates to art...)

"I am surprised nobody else seems to have picked this up, but I am in the position of having studied phenomenology first hand at the University of Milan, so the recognition has been fairly obvious to me after having listened to this panel."

Not sure who you are expecting to pick up on it...but are you familiar with Sciabarra's AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL? Even though the term "phenomenology" didn't jump out at me, it sounded very familiar to his discussion on Kant, in that book. (That's the second time Sciabarra came to mind in regards to this video, the first being when Salmieri mentioned dialectics and Aristotle.)

Petey the Phenomelogist

Bruno's picture

J, I've seen you refer to Peterson as having Kantian stylings. This is true in the most general sense, meaning that his basic fundamentals, analyzed through the Plato-Aristotle-Kant metaphysical/epistemological division, are Kantian.

What Peterson's approach ultimately is though, more specifically, is something called phenomenology, a philosophic method created by the psychologist/philosopher Edmund Husserl. His influence has been profound on all 'Continental' philosophy, in primis on the 'Existentialist' school of philosophy, and on the 'Gestalt' school of psychology.

I am surprised nobody else seems to have picked this up, but I am in the position of having studied phenomenology first hand at the University of Milan, so the recognition has been fairly obvious to me after having listened to this panel.

Phenomenology is first and foremost a metaphysical/epistemological method as developed by Husserl, and he himself never really labored to discover its ethical applications. However, Heidegger first and Sartre second have used the method to reach ethical conclusions.

I hear echoes of primarily the Existentialism of Sartre in Peterson, which in turn echo the proto-Existentialism of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. The primary objects in questions I see are what we would call 'the nature of Man', 'the nature of existence', and 'the nature of knowledge'.

I will now sketch a brief picture of what that means, but keep in mind I will be simplifying the material into broad essentials. I will try keeping to Kantian and Aristotelian terminology, when possible, in order to make it intelligible, which I assume most of us here are acquainted to.

First of all, the phenomenological method can be thought of as an investigation into the a-priori structures of consciousness.
What is found is an axiom familiar to us, namely that consciousness is always consciousness-of 'something'. Reality is thus always given to us in this form of a something-for.

What this brings us to is the concept of 'transcendental phenomenology', namely how reality 'takes form' in its manifestation to our consciousness. This fundamental assumption gives rise to the erroneous view that it is consciousness that 'gives form' to reality, and not the other way around.

You can think of it this way. The phenomenologist/existentialist can come to recognize that existence exists and that consciousness exists, but what he lacks is the brilliant realization from Rand that existence is identity and consciousness is identification.

For the phenomenologist/existentialist existence is an unknowable indefinite or, as Peterson might call it, a 'chaos' to be ordered. Thus consciousness creates its very own 'ontological niche' (or metaphysical backyard) based both on its a-priori structures and its structural 'freedom' or 'will'.

For the Aristotelian/Objectivist, existents possess form which consciousness identifies, hence consciousness is identification. On the other hand, for the Kantian/Phenomenologist, consciousness by recognizing reality gives it form which in-itself it does not possess, hence consciousness is a 'form-giver'.

Peterson almost ad litteram fuses Husserl and Sartre when he speaks of a 'landscape of possibility' which manifests itself in front of consciousness. A something-for filled with possibilities-for, and when the for-itself (consciousness) acts, Peterson says: "the action of our soul determines the actuality of existence". This is to be taken both as an ethical and metaphysical statement, the two are intertwined within this framework.

Later on he again uses phenomenological terminology when he speaks of existence 'revealing' itself. He says: "the set of facts that reveal themselves to you, are dependent on your values". Again, this is both a metaphysical and ethical statement. Think of it this way: 'form is given to chaos according to my values'.

Another object of relevant discussion is Peterson's view of the 'narratives' driving the subconscious, and the metaphysical 'superficiality' of consciousness as opposed to it. He says, echoing Nietzsche in this case, that consciousness is a 'thin layer', and that what lies underneath it is fundamentally unknowable. I'll leave this topic for another time.

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