Individuality, Truth and Freedom

John 8:32 …the truth shall make you free.

“I’m not a free speech advocate, let’s say, i’m a true speech advocate. which is to say that I believe people should say what they believe to be true” Jordon Peterson

Following Peterson’s advice, I write below what I believe to be true.

Our existence provides us with the potential to become free spirits. Nature has taken us up to the point where we then become responsible for our future development as individuals.
Individual animals are constrained to follow the nature of the species to which they belong. Humans have moved beyond this restriction, over and above the species nature, we have formed tribes and societies which establish laws and custome designed to govern the behaviour of the individuals within. Modern societies make it possible for each person to express their individuality. They allow more freedom and give more rights to their individuals than are bestowed upon them by being members of the species.

Steiner spoke of a path towards ethical individualism

Steiner

The standpoint of free morality, then, does not declare the free spirit to be the only form in which a man can exist. It sees in the free spirit only the last stage of man’s evolution. This is not to deny that conduct according to standards has its justification as one stage in evolution. Only we cannot acknowledge it as the absolute standpoint in morality. For the free spirit overcomes the standards in the sense that he does not just accept commandments as his motives but orders his action according to his own impulses (intuitions)

The future is in our hands. Evolution continues regardless.

173 thoughts on “Individuality, Truth and Freedom

  1. Individual animals are constrained to follow the nature of the species to which they belong.

    Does that mean that it is a dog’s nature to be subservient to humans and to retrieve sticks?

    Everything is constrained by its nature, whatever the hell that means. I can’t breath water but my brain allowed me to invent scuba gear that allows me to survive under water (OK, I didn’t actually invent the aqualung).

  2. Acartia: Does that mean that it is a dog’s nature to be subservient to humans and to retrieve sticks?

    What do you think? Do you think that this is in their nature?

    Everything is constrained by its nature, whatever the hell that means. I can’t breath water but my brain allowed me to invent scuba gear that allows me to survive under water (OK, I didn’t actually invent the aqualung).

    You have answered your own query. Humans as a species are not built to breath under water, but due to the inventiveness of individual humans we can survive for long periods under water. This ability is not in the general nature of terrestrial mammals.

    Individual inventiveness allows us to surpass the limits set by our physical bodies.

  3. petrushka:
    Dogs beat humans into space.

    Are you trying to argue against anything I’ve said or are you just making a general comment?

  4. “I’m not a free speech advocate, let’s say, i’m a true speech advocate. which is to say that I believe people should say what they believe to be true.” Jordon Peterson

    “I believe it to be true that Jordan Peterson is an intellectual fraud and snake-oil salesman.” Kantian Naturalist

  5. Kantian Naturalist:
    “I’m not a free speech advocate, let’s say, i’m a true speech advocate. which is to say that I believe people should say what they believe to be true.” Jordon Peterson

    “I believe it to be true that Jordan Peterson is an intellectual fraud and snake-oil salesman.”Kantian Naturalist

    I believe Peterson would defend your right to say so, although he might very well ask you to back it up.

  6. Peterson is far more insightful and truth-telling than bitter, confused leftists would ever allow themselves to believe possible. He has helped expose the dire imbalance in many N. American universities in terms of social sciences and humanities departments, which are dominated by ideological leftists. That ‘Kantian Naturalist’ wishes to expose his woolly leftist, Marxist, scientistic views here takes nothing away from Peterson’s empowering, psychological, responsibility-based message.

    That Kantian Naturalist doesn’t believe he should say what he believes to be true is a telling symbol of the truth-emptying & distorting philosophistry that flies around among atheists, agnostics & ‘skeptics’ here.

    The OP comparison with Steiner isn’t too far-fetched. Peterson is also an outside the mainstream non-denominational ‘spiritualist’ who doesn’t openly call himself a ‘Christian.’ Peterson, however, seems to be rather ok with people believing he is a Christian or referring to him as one. Like Peterson, Steiner was also protested against, though he was never as popular or in demand as Peterson is now. Peterson happened to time the technology right with his refusal to accept what he viewed as enforced speech. His motivational message of taking self-responsibility in suffering along with the motif of mythology & seeking greater meaning sails well, similar to Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.

  7. Is he an all-purpose expert or a rather over-stretched public intellectual? How’d a Canadian academic from Alberta, via Harvard & UToronto get such an audience? Sure, he’s better when speaking about psychology, peoples’ behaviors & emotions than about ‘pure science.’ Clinical work counts for something.

    Steiner. Yeah, that’s CharlieM. “Really?” – That’s just a hand wave. But are you really anti-spiritual in addition to being an atheist, Joe? Kinda dry, if so. Not thirsty for anything non-physical?

    About ‘evolution’ (which kind?), Peterson quite promotes it: “Evolutionary theory – it’s a killer theory. It’s not a complete theory; there’s lots of things we don’t know about evolution, but … trying to hand-wave that away, that’s not going to work without dispensing with most of biology. So that’s a big problem.” / “It’s as if there’s a spirit at the bottom of things that’s involved in the bringing to being of everything. People talk about evolution as a random process, but that’s not true. The mutations are random. [but] The selection mechanisms are not random.” / “from an evolutionary psychology perspective, ‘God’ is the idea of the abstract ideal … separate from the actual ruler.”

    You fit in the stubborn <10% or so Joe, if you can't/won't allow any 'spiritual' foot in the door, let alone a Creator. Peterson is hated by some left-wing thinkers simply because he leaves that door open & says, 'c'mon in folks, let's talk about it maturely.' Yet they don't *want* to talk about it, so they stamp their feet.

  8. Gregory,

    You probably know more about Peterson than I do. He seems to be a very interesting character and I totally agree that everyone should say what he or she believes to be true. Surely anything else would be a deliberate lie.

  9. Joe Felsenstein:
    Curious what Jordan Peterson, the all-purpose expert on everything, says about evolution.

    Also:Rudolf Steiner? Rudolf Steiner? Really?

    Have you ever read The Philosophy of Freedom?

    Do you have any thoughts on what Steiner says here? (although it should be read in context).

    Ethical individualism, then, is not in opposition to a rightly understood theory of evolution, but follows directly from it. Haeckel’s genealogical tree, from protozoa up to man as an organic being, ought to be capable of being continued without an interruption of natural law and without a break in the uniformity of evolution, up to the individual as a being that is moral in a definite sense. But on no account could the nature of a descendant species be deduced from the nature of an ancestral one. However true it is that the moral ideas of the individual have perceptibly developed out of those of his ancestors, it is equally true that the individual is morally barren unless he has moral ideas of his own.

    The same ethical individualism that I have developed on the basis of views already given could also be derived from the theory of evolution. The final conviction would be the same; only the path by which it was reached would be different.

    The appearance of completely new moral ideas through moral imagination is, for the theory of evolution, no more miraculous than the development of a new animal species out of an old one ; only, as a monistic view of the world, this theory must reject, in morality as in science, every transcendental (metaphysical) influence, every influence that is merely inferred and cannot be experienced ideally.

    Stating Steiner’s name with a question mark does not give me much of an idea of your views (if any) on his philosophical works.

  10. Gregory:
    Peterson is far more insightful and truth-telling than bitter, confused leftists would ever allow themselves to believe possible.

    I have no idea what you might mean by a “leftist” here, other than someone who is bitter and confused. Far as I can tell, there is no place on the political spectrum over or under represented by those who are bitter or those who are confused. Confusion seems rampant from end to end.

    He has helped expose the dire imbalance in many N. American universities in terms of social sciences and humanities departments, which are dominated by ideological leftists.

    I have noticed that different schools (or different departments within schools) tend to exhibit intolerance toward different groups. Perhaps the groups least tolerated in the academic community suffer less than the groups least tolerated by police departments. There is a small but significant correlation between education level and both political ideology and religious fervor, for some reason. Who can say whether education corrupts the intellect more than lack of education.

    That Kantian Naturalist doesn’t believe he should say what he believes to be true is a telling symbol of the truth-emptying & distorting philosophistry that flies around among atheists, agnostics & ‘skeptics’ here.

    Ah, the light begins to dawn. KN said nothing of the sort, so I presume your mendacious misrepresentation of his position is a real-life example of the sort of distortion you find so prevalent here. Physician heal thyself.

  11. Flint:

    GregoryThat Kantian Naturalist doesn’t believe he should say what he believes to be true is a telling symbol of the truth-emptying & distorting philosophistry that flies around among atheists, agnostics & ‘skeptics’ here.

    Ah, the light begins to dawn. KN said nothing of the sort, so I presume your mendacious misrepresentation of his position is a real-life example of the sort of distortion you find so prevalent here. Physician heal thyself.

    The question for me is: how sincere were you KN when you wrote, ““I believe it to be true that Jordan Peterson is an intellectual fraud and snake-oil salesman.”

    If you (KN) were sincere then you (Flint) make a good point.

    If you (KN) weren’t sincere then you (Gregory) are right in what you say.

    Either way I think it would be worth discussing what brings you (KN) to write what you did. You obviously don’t have much time for Peterson.

  12. Why go through the same nonsense with Peterson that we’ve gone through with your love for Steiner several dozen times. You’ve been shown the snake oil along with certification of their contents over and over but don’t care. You love the guy and that’s enough for you.

    Now you want to have the same sort of discussion with respect to some other fave of yours. Why? Go ahead and love all your crackpots. Nobody cares.

  13. walto:
    Why go through the same nonsense with Peterson that we’ve gone through with your love for Steiner several dozen times. You’ve been shown the snake oil along with certification of their contents over and over but don’t care. You love the guy and that’s enough for you.

    Now you want to have the same sort of discussion with respect to some other fave of yours. Why? Go ahead and love all your crackpots. Nobody cares.

    I don’t know enough about Peterson for him to be a favourite of mine or for me to judge him as a crackpot.

    Peterson believes people should say what they believe to be true, do you agree with this statement?

    Even crackpots can say some pretty profound things. Imagine if politicians only said what they believe to be true?

    Rather than just labelling him a snake oil salesman, a crackpot or whatever would it not be more effective if people argued against what he actually says.

  14. Peterson believes people should say what they believe to be true, do you agree with this statement?

    Not necessarily, no. I mean I believe a lot of stuff that would be TMI to go around saying.

    I think we should (generally–i.e., with some exceptions) say ONLY that which is true, but that’s not the same thing.

  15. CharlieM: The question for me is: how sincere were you KN when you wrote, ““I believe it to be true that Jordan Peterson is an intellectual fraud and snake-oil salesman.”

    If you (KN) were sincere then you (Flint) make a good point.

    If you (KN) weren’t sincere then you (Gregory) are right in what you say.

    I was being completely sincere in saying what I did about Peterson.

    Either way I think it would be worth discussing what brings you (KN) to write what you did. You obviously don’t have much time for Peterson.

    I really don’t have the time to get bogged down in yet another tedious discussion about Jordan Peterson. I’ve had too many of those on Facebook and Twitter already, including several discussions about the Peterson-Zizek debate last month. I can post some links to articles about Peterson that convey my attitude but I’ve already devoted far more hours of my life to talking about Jordan Peterson than he deserves.

  16. By the way, let’s be clear that what made Peterson famous on the Internet is that he refused to use the preferred pronouns for transgendered individuals and then lied when he claimed that a new policy would force him to do so. This made him the media darling of the alt-right and the pet intellectual of incels. His fulminations about “cultural Marxism” is anti-Semitic dog-whistling and he’s loved by Islamophobes.

    My attitude towards Peterson here has nothing to do with whether or not one ought to say things that are true. Generally speaking, one ought to say things that one believes to be true. But sincerity in itself is no guarantee of truth: one can sincerely believe something and be wrong.

  17. “Cultural Marxism” has the remarkable property of not even existing. Unless you count Groucho. If Peterson uses that phrase as if it meant something, that is one big reason to pay less attention to him.

  18. Joe Felsenstein:
    “Cultural Marxism” has the remarkable property of not even existing. Unless you count Groucho. If Peterson uses that phrase as if it meant something, that is one big reason to pay less attention to him.

    Indeed, it is one big reason to think that Peterson doesn’t understand what he’s talking about.

    For additional reading:

    Jordan Peterson’s Idea of Cultural Marxism Is Totally Intellectually Empty is pretty good at explaining why “cultural Marxism” doesn’t exist, and why Peterson is fundamentally confused when he conflates Marxism with postmodernism.

    The Alt-Right’s Favorite Meme Is 100 Years Old is a solid take on the long, toxic history of “cultural Marxism” as an updated twist on the old myth of a Jewish conspiracy to subvert Western morality and decency.

    This is not to say that I think Peterson himself holds any deeply noxious political views. I take him at his word when he says that he’s a classical liberal. But I think he packages ideas in ways that Islamophobes, anti-Semitics, and misogynists (aka incels) find extremely attractive, and that’s part of what accounts for his massive, almost cult-like online following.

  19. Peterson knows where his money is coming from, and he knows how to rile up that audience. I don’t blame the guy for trying to make a buck, but I still fail to see anything worth celebrating in any of his work. If anything, he seems gifted in the area of saying nothing. “People should say what they believe”? As if we needed someone to come along and tell us that we should do that.

  20. walto: Not necessarily, no. I mean I believe a lot of stuff that would be TMI to go around saying.

    I think we should (generally–i.e., with some exceptions) say ONLY that which is true, but that’s not the same thing.

    Peterson does not mean that we should go around giving out information because we have decided that it’s true. All he means is that if we are speaking about something then we should ensure that what we are saying is true in our opinion. You don’t have to spout unnecessary information,you just have to be sincere in what you do say and to think about what you are about to say.

    It is the only way that leads to freedom. If you lie about something then you are chained to the consequences of that lie and are unfree.

  21. Kantian Naturalist: I was being completely sincere in saying what I did about Peterson.

    That is excellent,because you are saying what you believe to be true.

    Either way I think it would be worth discussing what brings you (KN) to write what you did. You obviously don’t have much time for Peterson.

    I really don’t have the time to get bogged down in yet another tedious discussion about Jordan Peterson. I’ve had too many of those on Facebook and Twitter already, including several discussions about the Peterson-Zizek debate last month. I can post some links to articles about Peterson that convey my attitude but I’ve already devoted far more hours of my life to talking about Jordan Peterson than he deserves.

    And neither would I like to get bogged down in a tedious discussion about Jordan Peterson. I would prefer to talk about individuality and freedom rather than the personality of Peterson.

  22. Kantian Naturalist:
    By the way, let’s be clear that what made Peterson famous on the Internet is that he refused to use the preferred pronouns for transgendered individuals and then lied when he claimed that a new policy would force him to do so. This made him the media darling of the alt-right and the pet intellectual of incels. His fulminations about “cultural Marxism” is anti-Semitic dog-whistling and he’s loved by Islamophobes.

    My attitude towards Peterson here has nothing to do with whether or not one ought to say things that are true. Generally speaking, one ought to say things that one believes to be true. But sincerity in itself is no guarantee of truth: one can sincerely believe something and be wrong.

    Peterson not only acknowledges, but says that it is inevitable that quite often we will be wrong in what we say. The point is not that we should just say what is objectively true, it is that we should say only what we think is true and thus practice free thinking. Then we are not acting out of compulsion or a sense of duty, but we are performing a self-generated free deed.

    His problem with the pronoun issue is that he is being told that he must use certain words. He has no problem with conforming to rules which state that he should not use certain words, he does have a problem with rules which state that he must use certain words. being told what to say goes against what he is trying to achieve regarding free speech.

    I don’t really care about Peterson’s personal motives and his goals in general, whether or not he is just seeking fame, but I do care about the freedom of individuals in society.

  23. T_aquaticus:
    Peterson knows where his money is coming from, and he knows how to rile up that audience.I don’t blame the guy for trying to make a buck, but I still fail to see anything worth celebrating in any of his work.If anything, he seems gifted in the area of saying nothing.“People should say what they believe”?As if we needed someone to come along and tell us that we should do that.

    Well his gift of saying nothing has stimulated an awful lot of discussion and debate in the media from what I can see.

    I would not say that recommending people say what they believe to be true is a trivial piece of advice.

  24. CharlieM: we should ensure that what we are saying is true in our opinion.

    Seems like we don’t need to do anything to “ensure” that what we are saying is what we believe. How would do we do that, exactly, anyhow? (I mean, Freudian therapy seems necessary in your case, but…what about the rest of us?)

  25. CharlieM: That is excellent,because you are saying what you believe to be true.

    You are hilarious. (Honestly. Sincerely. Truly.)

  26. CharlieM: would not say that recommending people say what they believe to be true is a trivial piece of advice.

    Of course it is. Worse than trivial, actually.

  27. CharlieM: It is the only way that leads to freedom. If you lie about something then you are chained to the consequences of that lie and are unfree.

    You fail to notice that if you tell the truth about something then you are chained to the consequences of that statement and are are equally unfree.

  28. walto: Of course it is. Worse than trivial, actually.

    I think pretty much everything that Jordan Peterson has ever said is worse than trivial. I honestly believe that to be true.

    I think this is precisely why he is popular. Because there are a whole pack of right wing nuts who think anything that even has the faintest ring of intellectual underpinning must be so true, that they don’t even have to think, because heck its right wing and it sounds smart-boy that saves time and effort for intellectual nitwits.

    There is 36% of the US population that can’t think for themselves, and who need a prophet. If he can talk about groups he hates, and make it sound palatable to both the violent and the flabby basement dwellers scared of their own shadow, hallelujah!

  29. walto: Seems like we don’t need to do anything to “ensure” that what we are saying is what we believe. How would do we do that, exactly, anyhow? (I mean, Freudian therapy seems necessary in your case, but…what about the rest of us?)

    If a woman asks a man, “does my bum look big in this?”, do you think that a man will always give an answer that he really believes to be true?

    It’s a matter of “knowing yourself” and trying to understand your motives. It’s quite easy to fool ourselves.

    “Know thyself” is another phrase that may seem trivial, but in trying to put it into practice we realise that it is far from so.

  30. walto: You are hilarious. (Honestly. Sincerely. Truly.)

    Honestly!? Do you think I could make a career as a comedian? 🙂

  31. CharlieM: Honestly!? Do you think I could make a career as a comedian? 🙂

    If you can keep coming up with lines like that, I’d say you have a shot.

  32. CharlieM: If a woman asks a man, “does my bum look big in this?”, do you think that a man will always give an answer that he really believes to be true?

    As I earlier indicated IMO it’s actually not the case that we ought to say whatever we think is true. That’s a good example of why. And of why Peterson and you are mistaken. So thanks.

  33. walto: You fail to notice that if you tell the truth about something then you are chained to the consequences of that statement and are are equally unfree.

    We tell the truth taking responsibility for the consequences. We disregard the consequences (which we know are of our own making), and thus we free ourselves from these consequences. When we lie, as may be the case in the example I gave above, we let external circumstances dictate our action. Our conception of the reaction of the woman determines our answer. We are being controlled from without.

  34. CharlieM: We tell the truth taking responsibility for the consequences. We disregard the consequences (which we know are of our own making), and thus we free ourselves from these consequences. When we lie, as may be the case in the example I gave above, we let external circumstances dictate our action. Our conception of the reaction of the woman determines our answer. We are being controlled from without.

    It is just as possible to lie taking responsibility for the consequences. And when we tell the truth, we may also be letting external circumstances dictate our action. Our conception of the reaction of the woman can also determine our answer when we are telling the truth. And, it could be argued, we are always controlled from without, whether we are telling the truth or not.

    Look Charlie. You get your rocks off from this guy, go enjoy yourself. But it’s kind of sad that you seem to need others to be ok with this nonsense. If you were really so interested in not being controlled by external factors, I think you could enjoy your orgasmic relations with these bad thinkers in the internet-free comfort of your bedroom.

  35. phoodoo: I think pretty much everything that Jordan Peterson has ever said is worse than trivial.I honestly believe that to be true.

    I think this is precisely why he is popular.Because there are a whole pack of right wing nuts who think anything that even has the faintest ring of intellectual underpinning must be so true, that they don’t even have to think, because heck its right wing and it sounds smart-boy that saves time and effort for intellectual nitwits.

    There is 36% of the US population that can’t think for themselves, and who need a prophet.If he can talk about groups he hates, and make it sound palatable to both the violent and the flabby basement dwellers scared of their own shadow, hallelujah!

    Judging from the responses here he seems to have his share of critics as well as supporters. But that doesn’t interest me. I am interested in one or two of the statements that he ha made and think they are worth discussing further..

  36. walto: You fail to notice that if you tell the truth about something then you are chained to the consequences of that statement and are are equally unfree.

    That seems odd to me. There’s a difference between rational constraint by shared norms that govern the expression of assertions and merely causal constraint by physical forces, right? I mean, the Kant-Hegel tradition is right about at least that much?

  37. walto: If you can keep coming up with lines like that, I’d say you have a shot.

    I might have to the rate we are spending our pension. I could do a double act with my wife. She could ask me a load of difficult questions, I would have to answer honestly. The resulting exchange might be amusing to see.

  38. walto: As I earlier indicated IMO it’s actually not the case that we ought to say whatever we think is true. That’s a good example of why. And of why Peterson and you are mistaken. So thanks.

    So rather than be truthful you would tell someone what they want to hear?

  39. Kantian Naturalist: That seems odd to me. There’s a difference between rational constraint by shared norms that govern the expression of assertions and merely causal constraint by physical forces, right?

    I don’e see why there couldn’t be both kinds of constraints involved in both cases (i.e., a lie and a truth-tell).

  40. CharlieM: So rather than be truthful you would tell someone what they want to hear?

    Sometimes, sure. Civility may require it. Or someone’s life or health. Truth-telling is a virtue, but it’s not the only virtue.

  41. CharlieM: I am pleased to see you and Phoodoo agreeing 🙂

    I agree with phoodoo about many things. You haven’t been paying attention again.

  42. walto: I don’e see why there couldn’t be both kinds of constraints involved in both cases (i.e., a lie and a truth-tell).

    That’s surely right, but it seems odd to say that rational constraint by norms is a restriction on our freedom. I mean, in order to say that one would have to have some really weird (and I think badly false) views about what freedom is.

  43. walto: Suppose you ask me if I like Tulsi Gabbard. Will I be more or less free if I tell you the truth?

    Obviously you wouldn’t be any more or less free whether one lies or tells the truth. That’s a different point than the one I was making, which is this: regardless of whether one lies or tells the truth, one is still governed by rational norms, but governance by norms is not a restriction on freedom.

    Perhaps you weren’t saying that it is, in which case we’re just addressing different issues.

    I do think that CharlieM was trying to say that telling the truth is freedom-enhancing or freedom-preserving in a way that lying is not, and that does seem quite wrong to me — as I believe it does to you?

    I think that CharlieM is trying to establish a connection between sincerity and what might be called authenticity — so expressing what one believes to be true is expressive of one’s character, and it’s a way of making public (since utterances are public acts) what is private or internal to oneself.

    That seems OK to me, though I have qualms about whether there’s sufficient stability to character to ground authenticity as a virtue. (See skepticism about character.)

    Be that as it may, you’re quite right that sincerity is to be balanced against other considerations, such as tactfulness or kindness. Sincerity is one thing; bluntness or tactlessness is another. It’s not a virtue to be a sincere in expressing one’s beliefs if doing so means being cruel to another person.

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