Friday, June 22, 2018

Jordan Peterson is going to OCON

Yaron Brook has announced that Jordan Peterson will involved in a debate/discussion entitled "Philosophy and Man's Soul" at an Objectivist conference (i.e., OCON) on July 1. Peterson will be joined by Yaron Brook, Onkar Ghate, Greg Salmieri and Dave Rubin. The event will be live-streamed on The Rubin Report:



This is something Brook has been angling after in recent months: to have a "discussion" with a major figure of the so-called "intellectual dark web." Brook's motive is the desire for exposure. The video of this discussion will likely be seen by hundreds of thousands of people; snippets from it may be heard by millions. Without Peterson, a typical OCON video might be watched by a few thousand people. Brook is chasing after views, and with Peterson's help, he'll get them.

However, as the old cliche has it, be careful what you wish for. Brook is playing a dangerous game. Peterson's background as an academic and clinical psychologist makes him a deadly antagonist. He has loads of evidence at his fingertips that can be used against the Objectivist view of human nature. This discussion could easily end badly for Brook. Against Peterson, Brook is way out of his depth.

In her philosophy, Rand denied the existence of innate predispositions of character. This blank slate view essentially renders human nature homogeneous. Human beings, in the Randian view, are, at bottom, more or less alike. If they are in fact different it's because they've chosen different philosophical premises. Since there's no innate predispositions biasing the choice of these premises, there's nothing that would rule out most people choosing Objectivist premises.

Now in his podcast with Gad Saad, Brook took a view that challenges this orthodox position. He admitted the reality of innate predispositions --- possibly a fatal admission (although Brook is too shallow to understand why it's fatal). Brook tried to reconcile this admission to Objectivist orthodoxy by insisting that human beings could get around these predispositions by using "reason." This view of the matter, besides being vague and not terribly compelling, suffers from an enormous defect. Because the question is not whether people can in fact side-step their predispositions by applying "reason," but whether they actually will do such a thing. While it's true that predispositions are not completely deterministic (people can act against them), in practice, many people won't act against them; so that if, as I strongly suspect, the vast majority people are predisposed against many of Objectivism's core views about human nature, ethics, and politics, then it follows that Objectivism will never be accepted by more than a small minority of people.

Despite or perhaps because of the risks Brook is taking by inviting Peterson to OCON, he deserves credit for at least being willing to talk to the Canada's most famous intellectual. When Peikoff was the dominant force at ARI, no one like Peterson would have ever been invited to an Objectivist conference. This suggests a greater openness; but it also betrays a sense of desperation. Objectivism is being crowded out of the public square by people like Peterson, Sam Harris, and Joe Rogan. Having discussions with figures from the "intellectual dark web" is a last-ditch effort to give Objectivism a modicum of exposure and relevance.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Objectivists have debated others in the past. Ghate debated Heumer in ethics and Peikoff debated a socialist years ago. Brook has debated about inequality. But these are more abstract issues which aren't likely to change someone's mind. So this debate/discussion is quite different.

Brook has refused to debate anyone over immigration, which is also a fact-based topic so he is going out on a limb here for the sake of eyeballs.

Just a few months ago Brook said "IQ tests are bullshit." Unless he's been reading up on the issues Peterson is an expert on this might not end well.


gregnyquist said...

Objectivists have debated others in the past. Ghate debated Heumer in ethics and Peikoff debated a socialist years ago.

The Objectivist old guard (Peikoff, Binswanger, Schwartz et al) would have debates with "socialists" — i.e., people on the left, mostly academics, but also people like the late Christopher Hitchens. However, they would carefully vet who they were willing to debate, and tended to avoid debates with libertarians and conservatives. I know for a fact that back in the late eighties some students at UCI tried to arrange a debate between conservative talk show host Dennis Prager and a prominent Objectivist. They actually contacted Prager, who agreed to do the debate. But when they asked ARI to find for them an Objectivist to debate Prager, they were rebuffed. Michael Berliner, the head of ARI at the time, told these students that the only Objectivist who was qualified to debate Prager was Leonard Peikoff, but that since preparation for such a debate would take Peikoff months, he just couldn't do it (Peikoff was busy finishing OPAR at the time). I've always appreciated Berliner's candor on this issue, because I think he was right. Prager would have been a significantly more dangerous adversary than the far left socialists Objectivists normally debated back in those days.

I'm willing to give Brook credit for willing to talk with Peterson. That's something the old guard Objectivists would never have done. But it should also be kept in mind that Peterson is not coming to OCON because of Brook or anyone at ARI; he's coming there because of Dave Rubin. Rubin's a super nice guy; but the problem with super nice people is that they're sometimes naive and easily taken in. I doubt that Rubin knows anything of Brook's crazier beliefs, or the darker aspects of orthodox Objectivism.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally this debate was approved by the "intellectual oversight committee" of the ARI which is made up of Yaron Brook, Robert Mayhew*, Harry Binswanger and Tara Smith.

Brook said this on a recent podcast.

Neil

_____________

*Mayhew is the guy who thinks it's okay to rewrite Rand's posthoumous material. Where is the oversight?

Anonymous said...

It's funny, most people like to debate ideas and respond to their critics. But for Objectivists it is seldom the case.

I offered to debate James Valliant on his books Creating Christ and The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics on Amy Peikoff's show and pick up the tab. Valliant put so many restrictions on this (eg, I couldn't call him "Jim") that no self respecting person would agree.

NP

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, here is my review of Valliant's Creating Christ on Amazon (be sure to check out my extensive comments):

https://www.amazon.com/Creating-Christ-Emperors-Invented-Christianity-ebook/product-reviews/B01LRP3EDG/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar

NP

gregnyquist said...

What little reaction that has so far come from Objectivist is largely hostile. Somebody calling themselves Charles Tew has criticized Peterson's invitation to OCON quite harshly. Tew regards Peterson as, in essence, a Nazi, and according to Tew, so does Harry Binswanger. If Tew's video is characteristic of the intellectual character of the typical orthodox Objectivist (I'm not saying he is: I don't know really know), then things become even darker in ARI-land than I had previously imagined. Tews video can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5Ce45H7ojU

Anonymous said...

I listened to a little bit of this. Mr. Tew says the only intellectual he respects is Harry Binswanger. Binswanger is the most dogmatic of Objectivists, probably worse than Peikoff was.

It's funny, the guy doesn't have a problem with Yaron debating Peterson, it's just the forum (OCONN). OCONN should be a time for "fellowship" with like minded believers, to use religious terminology.

Neil

Anonymous said...

I see his point - for example the ARI initial email said "Jordan Peterson to speak at OCONN." But when you've lost a big donor and had to lay off a third of your staff, you need to increase the pool of potential donors.

Still no idea who the big donor was.

Neil

Anonymous said...

It's here (3:30 PST, 6:30 EST) July 1:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIdWAa-0oOw

gregnyquist said...

It's funny, the guy doesn't have a problem with Yaron debating Peterson, it's just the forum (OCONN

I don't know how sincere Tew is being here. The fact is, it's likely that the only way Brook could arrange a discussion with Peterson would be to invite him to OCONN. The back story of this is Peterson happens to be in SoCal this weekend, having done several events in the area. Let's face it. Peterson's very busy and Brook is not an important person. If Brook insisted on debating Peterson at a neutral site, it's probably not happening. So Tew's position basically amounts to, in practical terms, no discussion likely ever happening with Peterson.

One other oddity with Tew deserves mention. He claims to know more about Peterson than Brook, Binswanger, or Amy Peikoff (who read Peterson's "12 Rules"). This suggests that Tew has been absorbing a lot of Peterson material. Apparently, he's not alone in having done this. At least some Objectivists (I have no idea how many) have become kind of obsessed with Peterson, even while realizing and perhaps being deeply annoyed by the fact that many of Peterson's notions challenge core Randian and Peikoffian principles. It's like there's an attraction/repulsion dynamic going on, and the most likely explanation for this is that, at some very deep level, these Objectivists are not satisfied with their lives. There are parts of their nature, as human beings, that are being trampled on, distorted, mauled by adherence to Randian ideology and what that involves in practice. Tew comes off as an arrogant, absurdly opinionated, fanatical, even hateful ideologue. Is this the kind of person he really wants to be? Is isolating himself from all normal people really the best way for him to achieve his goals or find fulfillment in life? At some level, deep within the inner recesses of his adaptive unconscious, there has to be a sense, a repressed awareness, that he's in a dark place, and that Jordan Peterson's psychology may potentially provide a way out of this madness.

Anonymous said...

I think you are a very insightful person. What you outlined above describes (in a smaller way) what occurred with myself regarding be hardline stance of ARI and objectivism generally. When I first heard Peterson talk, I was annoyed at the religious nature of mph is arguments. Slowly he (Peterson) moved me. I think the hardline, atheistic stance of Objectivism makes a person miss out on a big part of life.

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