I’ve been hoping without hope that Peterson would wind down his bizarre mischaracterizations of “Postmodernism”. It just IS the case that the early Enlightenment project began with the rational turning away from the Church as absolute arbiter of truth but also turning toward Science as a better source of absolute truth. A few hundred years later, we know a lot more, and one of the failed ideas that we’ve had to abandon is absolute truth, in particular when it comes to the bigger, arguably more important questions. There is no objective moral truth, and I can say that despite never having been a Marxist. I’m not a closet Communist, and it is actually bearing false witness to apply that fundamental attribution of motivation to me, and I am no unicorn.
I can say there is no objective moral truth in the world because look around you – you are not alone in really, really wanting to believe there is such a thing, and no one even has any idea how to propose to begin measuring it (don’t even say the Australian sophist’s name). Nothing. There is no morality detector except a subjective human judgment. That just is the case. It doesn’t bother me at all, because admitting it doesn’t change anything. Nothing changes at all. Everything that was true before is still true, only we have less justification for use of force or coercion than we’d like to admit, and that is because we are pitifully insecure. It just is the case, and it is self-evident. That’s what we lose when we admit the truth. Power over others. Undue power over others, and a plausible shared narrative to cover it.
It is the case that there is truth in the world, but scientific truth is always provisional, and ontological commitments are only ever political, and extraneous to proximate truth. We know there is no objective morality, and that our condition is deeply subjective, and thus how we appraise our shared future together and how much we intend to respect one another and ourselves in the face of the truth of our condition is necessarily going to lead to disagreement. Jordan, consciously or otherwise, is dog-whistling that it may become necessary to deny this condition in favor of a “better truth” that just happens to be his own. That, I am here to tell you, is not how this is going to go.
Jordan has also made some statements to the tune of “truth is what I can get away with”, which is, I am sure, not how he would frame it, but close enough. He can’t have it both ways, unless he means to say that he and his political allies intend to agree to pretend there is an objective morality, even if they know better, as long as they think they can get away with it. Surely he doesn’t mean that. But he might. That seems to be the logical consequence of his declarative.
Because face it, things have life spans and novelty is increasing in the world, along with the human population. Multiplicity of opinion is not optional. Indeed, we need to be actively developing social mechanisms for increasing our tolerance of actual intellectual diversity, because it is coming. And yes, that means changes are coming, and I am not going to need a “thought leader”, which is another problem I have with Peterson and his kind, generally, when they become activists. The moment they enter that ecosystem, they’re participating in the marketplace of neurosis and fear-mongering or problem-solution peddlers. An economic and social role-enhancing opportunity comes their way and the carny barker in them pops out. The primary programming thing, again.
Oh, by the way, here is a related criticism: https://71republic.com/2019/01/24/jordan-peterson-npc-postmodernism/
Finally, let me add that Jordan Peterson is a legitimate hero, and I am in violent agreement with many things that he has said, in particular I am resonant with his position on the freedom of speech vis a vis compelled speech. I remain grateful, above all, to Dr. Peterson for sticking his neck out, but look, his efforts have led to good fortune, and good on him. My rebuke is still sincere.