Tag: Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson Manipulates Language to Appear Smarter

Ellie McFarland | United States

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson rose to prominence after a video of him defending free speech against the Canadian human rights bill C-16 surfaced online. This bill, among other things, would make it a crime to misgender a trans person. Dr. Peterson’s assertions in the original video were clear and admirable, but further, it was a direct deviation from the current common discourse. He was rocketed into public intellectual stardom after the episode at The University of Toronto; booking speaking event after guest lecture after television appearance. He was, and still very much is, the freshest philosopher in the free marketplace of ideas.

However, with closer examination, it seems his transparency and edge are inconsistent in his current work. Specifically, in the now infamous Cathy Newman interview, Dr. Peterson jumped from hard-hitting clear claims about the nature of political correctness to vague and meaningless facts about lobster dominance hierarchies.

The Bridge Between Lobsters and Humans

Dr. Peterson’s constant metaphors involving lobsters are actually very important to the way he manipulates language. For instance, he might say something about how dominance hierarchies are inherent in human beings and then go on a tirade about shellfish serotonin levels. While both statements are correct, but they don’t inform each other in any relevant way. This is called a non sequitur and means “it does not follow” in Latin. When someone uses a non sequitur, the premises do not logically inform the conclusion, even though all parts of the argument may be correct. Even though it is true that humans naturally fall into hierarchies, and lobsters do have very similar endocrine systems to humans, those facts do nothing to prop each other up, or to prop up his point, which usually amounts the differences between men and women being biological rather than social.

All of these declarations are technically correct according to everything we know about both human and lobster biology. However, neither of them does anything to prove whether or not there are actual differences between men and women beyond the social sphere. There is astounding evidence that he does frequently bring up to prove men and women, our masculine and feminine strengths and weaknesses, are biological. But he very rarely brings them up alongside that specific issue. Instead, he uses them in conversations surrounding crime and antisocial behavior. When these facts, however rarely, are brought up in the context of the conversation they actually belong in, they are cheapened and sandwiched between lobster-talk and dominance hierarchies.

This is actually a spin-off of a well-known debate technique called Gish Galloping, where a debater will try and overwhelm their opponents with as many arguments as possible in the shortest time possible. Dr. Peterson tweaks this idea. Instead of overwhelming his opponent with a lot of arguments all at once, he opens into an explanation of something that has very little to do with his real point in hopes that his opponent won’t bother to address it. The truth is, lobsters have nothing to do masculinity or femininity. But that sort of niche diatribe does impress people even though, critically, it carries no real value.

Redefining the Words We Know

The second way Dr. Peterson manipulates language is through the changing of definitions. The most atrocious example of this definition hopscotch is when he speaks on the topic of religion. He has said consistently that he believes all people are religious because religion is “what you act out.” This is just an unhelpful shifting of meaning. According to this definition, prayer, martyrdom, and communion are all religious acts in the same way driving, making a salad, watching TV, or participating in Punk Rock are religious acts. After all, “you can’t be a disbeliever in your actions”. This is an intentionally blunt definition that detracts from conversational productivity. Sam Harris explained this best when he said,

“People have traditionally believed in ghosts, it’s an archetype you might say– the ghost: survival of death is certainly an archetype. And we know what most people most of the time mean when they say they believe in ghosts. And I say I don’t believe in ghosts, and you say ‘No no, you do believe in ghosts. Ghosts are your relationship to the unseen. That’s a ghost.’ So you have a new definition of ghost that you’re putting in the place provided, to which I have to say of course I have a relationship to the unseen. So yeah I guess I do believe in ghosts. You win that argument. But that simply isn’t what most people mean by a ghost.”

Peterson Manipulates Words for Conclusions

Redefining words is not always such a slimy debate strategy. In many instances, it can be very helpful in coming to a conclusion about rather nebulous words such as “good”, “evil”, or even “god” in order to further some sort of discourse and continue the conversation. Dr. Peterson’s redefinition of religion, though, is all-encompassing by design. This basically boils down to an equivocation fallacy. Dr. Peterson’s definition of religion is clearly not the same as the average religious person’s definition. Therefore, it’s meaningless within any conversation about its impact.

This is not to say that Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is not intelligent, that he doesn’t have anything important to say, or that his philosophies outlined in 12 Rules for Life are immoral or fundamentally wrong. This is to say that not all of his proclamations are valid and we shouldn’t ignore his metaphorical talk-arounds of legitimate criticism. It is fine, even good, to admire Jordan Peterson. It is intellectually dishonest, however, to pretend he is flawless or doesn’t use manipulative language. In doing so, he makes himself seem more intelligent and convinces good-hearted people of positions with little merit.


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Slavoj Žižek Fails to Fully Understand Hierarchies

Daniel Szewc | Poland

One must understand the realities of Eastern Europe from 1945-1989 to understand Slavoj Žižek’s mentality. His embracement of the Marxist way of being is completely the result of his comparatively strong societal position in Slovenia before the fall of the Eastern Block. This was exemplified by the fact that this hierarchal position, created on the basis of being closer to the Marxist view of a perfected human than the average man, got even stronger after the acceptance of capitalism in his native country (for all intents and purposes, Slavoj Žižek is a celebrity in Slovenia). Of course, this brought to his subconscious the notion that being closer to Marx makes you a more efficient human in general, whilst in reality, it was just the manifestation of parts of the old, synthetic establishment, Žižek included, surviving into the new era, and adapting to the new circumstances.

As for his support of leftism, contrasted by his dislike of societal decay, it is comparable to liking uranium, yet disliking the particles that it emits. No matter how hard you try to keep society stable, without the philosophical absolute, you are unable to do so.

The Maintenence of the Hierarchy

Any hierarchy without an unreachable entity, whether it be a value or a being, that cannot be toppled from the bottom is doomed to fluctuate drastically, as well as to crash in a time proportionately short to the number of active members in the said structure. For example, the morally unthinkable happened in France, the regicide of the revolution, and the hierarchy’s immovable peak was shattered.

Soon after, the bloodshed flooded over to the initial instigators of the crime, causing the whole megastructure to topple. In the end, a new hierarchy arose, with Napoleon rising to its peak. He was able to justify his role sufficiently enough not to be toppled by power-hungry contestants for his position only because of his idealization and even stronger emancipation of the traditional role of emperor.

For such processes to not happen, equality, not hierarchy, would have to dominate throughout life forms- something that is mathematically ridiculous. To assume that the total sum capability of creatures as complex as us to have equal chances at maintaining our positions at a zero level hierarchy is simply improbable. Too many variables influence our lives on the daily for this to happen naturally, and for any individual even remotely knowledgeable about cybernetics, it is obvious that no circuit can encompass a circuit equally or more complicated than themselves, therefore the human mind may never manage to understand it’s own secrets (…and variables that make us so different in outcome).

Of course, #MeToo became dominated by empty media icons, because it’s the natural consequence of having a promiscuous society, something one can earn money off, and human nature. The last of the three implies inequality in intelligence and ability, whilst the first is implied by leftism. You cannot have all three and not get the result that #MeToo got.

In general, however, I personally like Žižek’s look on Buddhism, as well as I think that his views on love can be put to good use by any thoughtful person on any side of the political arena. Alas, 90%+ of what he says is based on some ridiculous imaginary plasticity of the human condition. For example, Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist, if anyone, knows the most about empirically proving the aforementioned rationalist perspective of it being improbable.

Who will win the debate between the two? Well, the better question is whether the side that in fact loses will be able to comprehend it’s fallibility, or will it stay in its shell of Marxist presumptions.


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Steven Crowder Fans Should Change Their Minds

Glenn Verasco | United States

I have dedicated an absurd portion of the past week of my life to understanding, discussing, debating, and writing about the recent Lincoln Memorial confrontation between Nathan Philips and a group of students from Covington Catholic High School. While there is much to take interest in regarding the matter, nothing is as captivating as the hallucinations people have had and, amazingly, continue to experience when watching videos of the incident. The human mind is a baffling device.

The other day, I opened YouTube and clicked on the latest episode of Steven Crowder’s “Change My Mind,” a segment of his show Louder with Crowder. “Change My Mind” involves Crowder and some of his crew members setting up a table in a public location and displaying a large sign that espouses a provocative political statement followed by the words “change my mind.” If you are social media savvy at all, you’ve probably come across the meme “Change My Mind” has inspired:

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The stated goal of this experiment is to attract dissenters of the displayed statement then invite them to sit down and have a rational and healthy dialogue to express their disagreement. I am not exactly a fan of his, but watch Crowder’s videos on occasion.

As productive political discourse in America, particularly the online variety, seems to have taken a turn for the worse over the past few years, Crowder’s project is noble on the surface. But Steven Crowder is not the man for this job.

In his most recent video titled “PROTESTER SCREAMS Then Rethinks: Change My Mind,” which takes place at UT Dallas, Crowder has his table set up with a banner that reads “Build the Wall: Change My Mind.” But rather than a typical “Change My Mind” video in which guests are sitting down at the table with the host, the video begins with Steven approaching a group of students demonstrating against him a few yards away.

Throughout the rest of the video, Steven either hallucinates or lies on myriad occasions and acts as anything but an authority on rational discourse.

Free Speech Bullying

I’m often told that while free speech is a right, some speech has consequences. This is a fair legal argument but can be an awful human argument when applied too broadly.

First off, what is and what is not legal does not determine what is right and what is wrong. Driving through a red light is illegal, but driving through a red light at a completely empty intersection where the driver has the field of view to determine with certainty that no cars are coming from any direction is not wrong.

Saying “nigger” in front of a black stranger or screaming “fire” in a movie theater are not criminal acts, but they are examples of wrongful behavior because they are liable to cause problems without reason. This is to say that just because you have Constitutional protections that allow you to do something without government interference does not mean you should do it.

While some speech is reasonably treated as wrongful behavior that has consequences regardless of legality, some speech or expression currently deemed offensive does not deserve the consequences it elicits. For example, James Damore was fired from his job at Google for writing an internal memo that mentioned scientifically observed differences between male and female psychologies. Additionally, early critics of the Covington Catholic School boys whose initial perceptions have been proven invalid are moving the goal posts to argue that the boys were asking for trouble by wearing red Make America Great Again hats. Both of these instances illustrate active consequence assignment, as opposed to consequences coming about naturally. The people who bemoan evolutionary biology and the sitting president’s signature merchandise are being intolerant bullies, and third parties must stick their necks out and stand up to these bullies to preserve an environment of liberal expression.

About a minute into Crowder’s video, he decides to abuse his First Amendment rights to the detriment of others. Crowder, camera crew in tow, approaches the demonstrators, and says “I understand there’s a protest going on here.” A white girl (WG) says they are not protesting, but “representing our views.” She says this calmly and politely and, in my opinion, in a way that attempts to communicate to Crowder that they are not trying to dehumanize or demonize him, but simply express their countering views.

Crowder then engages a guy holding a rainbow umbrella (GHU) and questions his group’s decision to demonstrate instead of joining him at the discussion table. He, as calmly and politely as WG, explains as follows:

For one, there is a fear for our safety. We don’t want to be put online where people that have similar beliefs to yours potentially would dox us and come at us and harass us. We feel that our point of view standing here was enough to be said. But now you’ve all come here and essentially forced us into this interview.

When those critical of identity politics and modern left-wing activism here the word “safety” in the context of political and social discourse, it may ring bells of the “safe space” culture eviscerated by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in their groundbreaking essay  “The Coddling of the American Mind.” But what GHU and his group are afraid of is not encountering opposing views; they fear the same internet mob tactics that have upended the lives of the Covington Catholic students among so many others.

A black girl (BG) then makes another valiant point by explaining that her lacking public speaking skills could cause her to misrepresent her own views. Although I think she is underestimating herself, it’s a perfectly fair point. But none of this dissuades Crowder, and he continues to disregard their wishes.

By bringing these demonstrators into his YouTube channel and its 3.3 million subscribers, Crowder is not violating anyone’s First Amendment rights, but he is being a jerk and a bully and potentially subjecting them to undeserved consequences. And that kind of behavior is the exact opposite of what is needed to reestablish an environment for rational discourse in America.

Who called Steven a racist?

About half a minute into the video, Crowder’s voice, dubbed over the video, alludes to nasty accusations being hurled in his direction. We then see BG and a Muslim girl (MG) for the first time. Both girls are filmed saying “I don’t engage with racists” and “at the very least xenophobic.” No other context is provided at any point in the video.

After rejecting the students’ requests not to film them, about three and a half minutes into the video, Crowder confronts MG, who is a holding a sign that says “Immigrants are welcome here: change my mind.” Crowder invites her to his table, so he can take her up on the request implied by her sign. MG refuses by saying, “I’m good.” From behind Crowder, a female’s voice can be heard saying something along the lines of MG is the one who didn’t want to speak to “the racist,” which, at least in Crowder’s video, she did not say. Crowder continues his attempt to persuade her to speak with him, and she denies.

What’s important to take notice of here is that Crowder towers over MG. She is petite as can be, and he is a fairly hefty and tall man. Crowder also has a camera crew behind him, and spectators surround the entire scene.

I do not abide by the #MeToo principle that imbalance in stature, race, gender, or position of power should have legal ramifications. Adult female secretaries should not receive special legal treatment if they choose to sexually interact with their bosses. Adults are adults.

However, as I said earlier, legality does not determine right and wrong, and Crowder’s behavior here is bullying.

BG interjects and says to Crowder that the situation he is creating might be “intimidating” for some people. Crowder all but ignores her, and stupidly explains that it’s intimidating for him to be in a crowd like this too.

About twenty seconds before the five-minute mark, Crowder says to the group “I’ve heard rumors here that Crowder is a racist.” BG denies having said that. Crowder then turns to MG and asks if she called him a racist. MG says “I said I wouldn’t engage with racists, and I don’t feel comfortable engaging with you right now.” Crowder asks if this is because she thinks he is a racist, and she says “it’s because you’re crowding me and you’ve brought a crowd of people and multiple cameras, so I really don’t appreciate how you’re crowding me like this.” Some people in the crowd jeer her response petulantly. Crowder says he isn’t crowding her, which directly contradicts the mass of people and cameras that have encircled MG and her friends.

If Crowder were decent, he would have apologized at this point and walked away. He doesn’t.

MG calmly and clearly explains that she prefers to engage in smaller groups, not in crowds. Crowder essentially admonishes her for another minute until a bearded demonstrator (BD) raises two fingers, signaling he would like to chime in. More on BD in a moment…

I recommend watching this entire exchange carefully and listening to some of the things Crowder says. Then reconsider whether or not this is the type of person you should be listening to, let alone leading a pro-discourse movement.

Protester screams?

Regardless of his views on immigration or anything else, BD, who arrives on the scene during the interaction between Crowder and MG, is the hero in this story.

Growing increasingly visibly annoyed during the exchange, BD raises two fingers and asks “Can I speak?” He then explains that he believes Crowder is doing something under-handed by basically exploiting a girl with possible anxiety issues in order to cast all of the demonstrators in a light of intellectual weakness.

Crowder then does something fascinating. In a near mirror image of the dishonest leftists he would destroy for throwing out accusations of racism when defeated in an argument, Crowder’s red herring response is that it’s “kind of like how calling someone a racist might be underhanded.” BD, who is quite eccentric and emotive, looks as though his brain has been twisted into a knot by Crowder’s non-sequitur rebuttal.

BD goes on for a minute or so explaining that coming to this campus, which is multi-cultural with a large immigrant population, with such an inflammatory debate topic is “shady” and that Crowder is exploiting the students for their emotional labor among other things.

Crowder, the self-anointed standard bearer for rational discourse, interrupts and responds by saying “everything you just said is inaccurate.”

I do not agree with Crowder that a wall should be built on the southern border, and I’m sure I would disagree with BD on a plethora of political and social issues (including the phrase “emotional labor” itself). But I would never make a comment as disrespectful, absolutist, or myopic as Crowder’s to either of them. This is because I actually want to change people’s minds, and can understand that their experiences and knowledge sets may be different from mine. I am almost willing to change my own mind and understand that every person I meet knows something I don’t, the 9th of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, which Crowder is evidently not heeding.

Around thirteen minutes into the video, BD (who tells Crowder his name is Nicholas) agrees to sit down with Crowder at his table. One of Crowder’s first comments is suggesting that sitting at the table “breeds more friendly, productive conversation” and that he doesn’t want to “shout out there.” Nicholas explains that he didn’t think that was an issue, and I agree with him. In contrast to the video’s title, no one had been shouting at each other. Yet, Crowder accuses him of “shouting” and “yelling” during the first few minutes of their conversation, which Nicholas says he doesn’t remember but is sorry for if he did (I like Nicholas).

At this point, Nicholas has remained polite and practiced active listening despite being smeared, mocked, and lied to. Add all of this to what I interpret to be standing up to the bullying Crowder on MG’s behalf, and it seems that Crowder should be taking notes from Nicholas, not the other way around.

Adding Insults to Injury

Crowder is both a political commentator and humorist with roots in stand up. While I love both and am a sycophant for political satire, the blending of politics and comedy can have mixed results. A benefit of political comedy is that satire and ridicule can be used to show people that they may need to reconsider their views. Another benefit is the inherent value of making people laugh, regardless of whether or not it’s constructive. Jokes are great in and of themselves.

One downside of political comedy is that people like Crowder, Bill Maher, and Stephen Colbert can hide behind their comic identity to avoid taking responsibility for flubs and mistakes while continuing to pose as legitimate voices when convenient. Another downside is that laughs, which should be elicited by a joke’s cleverness, timing, or absurdity, can also be generated via hate and confirmation bias. This has been on full display since Trump became a contender for president as jokes about him tend to forgo wit and instead capitalize on telling people what they want to hear. We the Internet has satirized this phenomenon as well as anyone.

Throughout the video, Crowder sinks to the comedic depths of Colbert and the rest of the late night clones with hackneyed and insulting quips about the oft-ridiculed terminology used by Social Justice Warriors. He refers to a reasonable and well-spoken argument made by Nicholas an “emotional reaction.” When Nicholas tries to defend himself from Crowder’s blatant misrepresentation of his arguments, Crowder sarcastically accuses him of “mansplaining.” After an exchange with BG, Crowder asks for a “bro-hug” then amends it to a “gender-neutral bro-hug.” When prodding Nicholas to tell him what an acceptable argument from a supporter of Trump’s wall would sound like, he asks “what, to you, would be the acceptable way for someone who disagrees with you to express himself, or herself… or xeself.”

Forget how disrespectful it is to presume that the people Crowder is speaking to actually abide by these concepts, and forget how dishonest it is to mock them without first knowing what their views are.

The real offense is his assault on the institution of comedy. By throwing these catchphrases in at such inopportune times, Crowder is playing to the lowest comedic common denominator. These jokes are about as original and as funny as calling Trump Orange.

Steven Crowder is not actually in the business of promoting civil discussion. He is in the businesses of promoting his own views and making his opponents seem worse than they actually are. While there are many on the left who are deserving of harsh criticism and denunciation, the students he bullied in his video did not appear to be the right targets at all. The students did not deserve to be treated the way they were by Crowder, and Crowder did not deserve the time of day from them.

***

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Don’t Be a Jordan Peterson NPC

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

Jordan Peterson is attempting to use Jungian psychoanalysis to make your life better. His position in society is somewhat akin to that of a rockstar. His book, 12 Rules for Life, is an international bestseller. And it’s a pretty good book, too. I find it both enjoyable and helpful. It fills itself with practical steps that the reader can apply to his or her life and make it one worth living. I regard myself as a fan of Jordan Peterson because of this. But the problem comes in when one takes Peterson as the arbiter of truth. This is particularly problematic in the case of Postmodernism.

Peterson identifies the problem with Postmodernism as its apparent cover-up for Marxist philosophy. He explains that once Marxism became taboo because of the failure of the Soviet project, postmodernists swept in to save the day. They hid Marxism behind a complicated and convoluted veil that meant it would be able to further progress. But this is an incorrect proposition. Postmodernism centers itself around the idea that grand narratives are incorrect and critique them.

Marxism teaches us that history is somewhat determined and that historical forces are pushing forward so as to bring forth a new epoch of the worker. The forces of historical materialism drive this trend. This is obviously a grand narrative that many postmodernists would reject. And many Marxists reject facets of Postmodernism as well.

One of my favorite Postmodern thinkers, Todd McGowan, explains in his book Enjoying What We Don’t Have some of the problems with the Marxist goal. The idea of progress is inherently problematic to him. As an adherent to Lacanian Psychoanalysis, he realizes that moves towards a beneficial end goal will only be frustrated because they don’t embrace what Freud called the Death Drive. McGowan’s critique of Marxism is one of the many Postmodernist critiques.

Postmodernism is not even an inherently leftist way of thought. Some, if only a few, right-wingers I know have begun to adopt this Postmodernist philosophy for their own individual ends. In my interview with Cody Wilson, he explains that his primary influence for creating the ghost gun was the French thinker Jean Baudrillard. Cody Wilson is not a left winger at all.

In addition, the Youtube creator Truediltom has made many videos concerning various postmodernists, primarily focusing on Deleuze. In his video titled “The Metaphysics of War“, he explains his reasoning for looking into authors that are very far out of the mainstream. He does this because even though we may disagree with their conclusions, they are usually capable of identifying problems that are more difficult to spot through a mainstream lens.

Jordan Peterson groups all Postmodern thinkers together, usually only referring to Foucault and Derrida. This is dangerous because it takes away our ability to judge each thinker on his or her own individual merits. Peterson realizes that when we analyze race or class in this way, it leads to negative societal consequences. But he has no problem grouping all Postmodernists together and using Foucault and Derrida as a representative sample.

I was a Jordan Peterson NPC. I let him dictate the code in my mind. One code that I let him implant was “POSTMODERNISM = BAD”. But this isn’t necessarily true. I think Peterson would agree with me that we shouldn’t accept everything someone says as true just because we like some of the things that they say. I was doing this with Peterson, but thankfully I have stopped and begun reading many Postmodern books. Don’t be a Jordan Peterson NPC because there is a lot of valuable knowledge to be gained from those we disagree with.


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Dr. Steven Pinker and Enlightenment Now

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

On Wednesday, October 17th, 2018, in Irvine, California, Dr. Steven Pinker gave a presentation along with a Q&A for his latest book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.

Here is a very similar presentation to that of which I saw, for your viewing pleasure:

Dr. Steven Pinker presenting at the Cato Institute.

Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. He has also taught at both Stanford and MIT. He earned a bachelor’s degree in experimental psychology at McGill University and his doctorate at Harvard in 1979. Pinker also earned a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT, and a one-year stint as an assistant professor at Harvard. “He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Humanist of the Year, a recipient of nine honorary doctorates, and one of Foreign Policy’s ‘World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals’ and Time’s ‘100 Most Influential People in the World Today.’ Lastly, Steven Pinker is Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and writes frequently for The New York Times, The Guardian, and other publications.

I was excited to see Steven Pinker speak after reading an intriguing interview that Nick Gillespie conducted in the June 2018 issue of Reason Magazine. As Dr. Pinker was walking up to the event hall, I was able to get an autograph in that issue. He seemed delighted to know it was a Reason Magazine he was signing.

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Image of autographed Reason Magazine

Dr. Pinker on Reason TV.

The Presentation of Steven Pinker

As Pinker’s presentation began, he broke the ice by first showing images of extremism such as both neo-Nazis and AntiFa, along with a couple more humorous images of President Trump. The crowd laughed at the images, and I believe all sides of the political spectrum received his humor well.

Although there is no explicit evidence of Pinker’s political ideology that I could find, he has however been noted as saying that he is “more libertarian than authoritarian,” in a New York Times interview. Perhaps, his success are in part due to not directly affiliating with a political ideology. Instead, he pursues reason with a free market of ideas in light of the Enlightenment period.

As his PowerPoint continued after his initial introduction, he provided the major points he would eventually cover, which were straight from his book, i.e. reason, science, humanism, and progress.

With reason, he pointed out that knowledge has enhanced human flourishing. Because of our ability to reason, we are in a much better world today than ever before.

Major World Improvements

Dr. Pinker provided graphs and charts that many different organizations have since used as evidence. The cited information suggested a strong, direct correlation between improvement in knowledge and quality of life. Pinker did not specify capitalism. However, his wording does advocate for freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas. This is especially so when he mentions how people around the world have escaped extreme poverty in East Asia and other areas. He referred to the world’s growing escape of abject poverty as “The Great Escape,” while noting that “this is the greatest accomplishment in human history, and sadly nobody knows about it.”

Dr. Pinker also touched on humanism, with philosophical and anthropological wording and studies similar to that of Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, who wrote Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over the acceptance of dogma or superstition. Pinker also noted that “identity politics is an enemy of reason and Enlightenment values.”

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Image of books for sale at the Dr. Steven Pinker presentation.

Reason, Humanism, and Happiness

His presentation progressed, providing some evidence that indicated with the increase of reason, science, and humanism, happiness also increased. However, this chart and part of the presentation lost some of the scholarly crowd. Of course, it is possibly dubious to assert a subjective claim, such as happiness, and objectively declare an increase. I do believe that people are happier today, but that is only a belief: testing that and providing a solid answer would be next to impossible. Nevertheless, with the increase of medicine, technology, life expectancy, food, clean water, less disease, less physical labor, better living conditions, lessening of dictatorships, and more, one can see how Pinker’s argument has good standing.

As Dr. Pinker’s presentation closed, he stressed that progress is not magic and there is no utopia. Much like that of the philosopher and former fellow Harvard professor, Dr. Robert Nozick, Pinker was quick to point out that there is no perfect place in the world and it is not possible.

As more popular scholars begin speaking up in defense of these core values, I can only hope that liberty will also return to the center of these tenets. If so, society and the world may progress more than ever before.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson interviews Dr. Steven Pinker.


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