With Professor Peterson’s recent return to Dublin, we’re given an opportunity to re-examine some of the ideas he put forth during his last visit.
The Peterson/Harris debate on the 14th of July cost me roughly €70. Not a small sum for a college student striving for full economic independence. Still, I feel it was well worth the spend. Why? Because I now finally realise Jordan Peterson is fundamentally wrong.
How’s that for a hot take? Peterson is indeed mistaken in his view of the political world, and his centrist philosophical views are so completely contradictory that they can’t really be seen as a valid opinion at all. I’m not saying that Peterson’s views shouldn’t be heard, just that they really aren’t the most coherent once you get down to the detail.
I would point out that I am only discussing Peterson’s views as articulated in the 3Arena debate, so I’m not getting into his theological views. I’m simply discussing his refutation of the far-left and far-right that he put forward at the even.
One of his main arguments is that there is a huge difference within the Left between those who call for equality of opportunity compared to those who argue for equality of outcome. He suggests that the latter are the equivalent of the Right-wing’s ‘Nazi bloc’ and, as such, he argues, these leftists should be cut off from the rest of the left-wing political spectrum in the same way Nazism is from the rest of the Right.
Why though? Peterson’s justification for this seems to be that there is some unspeakable horror in regards to equality of outcome while there is not with equality of opportunity. He supports the latter and detests the former.
However, I would argue that the former is clearly a prerequisite for the latter.
Let’s take two children raised by two different families. Their childhood environments are going to be different, meaning they are inevitably going to be predisposed towards different outcomes in later life.
If we want equality of opportunity, then we would either need to strip these children from their families (assuming no genetic differences, which is an insane premise to begin with), or ensure that the parents raised the children in the exact same way.
However, this is only possible if both pairs of parents are identical, which requires militant practices to ensure Equality of Outcome in the lives of the parents. For Equality to work at all, no deviation must occur. To ensure no deviations occur, you must control for them from the very start of the experiment.
Unless Peterson is suggesting we open state run orphanages for genetically identical children, then I do not believe he is in favour of controlling for these deviations, meaning his support for Equality of Opportunity is nonsensical.
But that’s not the only thing he needs to make his mind up on. Peterson spent a whole lot of time going over the problem of borders, and how we can justify them and our ‘privilege.’
After spending some time trying to steelman the opponent’s position, Peterson came to the conclusion that the only way we can justify our borders and our privilege is by “keeping our house in order,” so that we can prove more beneficial to the world with the borders in place than without them.
There’s just one problem though: Peterson has invented a problem that does not exist.
Peterson is dead-set on justifying his ‘privilege’ in order to keep his personal, social, and state borders intact. However, if someone merely looks at the concept of borders, especially in regards to the concept of privilege, it soon becomes clear that they need no such justification. To demonstrate this, let us look to the nature of the family and of freedom.
As human beings, it seems clear that we are naturally entitled to the works of our toil, and that we are endowed with the right to do with our possessions whatever we so desire, as long as in doing so we do not impinge on the natural rights of others.
With this established, let’s look at the natural family. Consisting of parents and their children, the members of this kind of family frequently share resources amongst each other. The primary exchange of resources is that from the parents to the children. These resources can take the form of food, toys and items, but can also be of a metaphysical nature – the language, religion, and culture to which the parents belong.
Furthermore, these resources were often not obtained by the parents themselves, but were in fact inherited from their respective parents, who inherited it in turn from their parents in turn from theirs and so on and so forth.
What is of note here is that the parents are naturally entitled to pass on their possessions, both physical and metaphysical, to their children. One of these possessions that are often passed on are the natural borders of the family.
These familial borders, over long periods of time, become the borders of kingdoms and eventually; nation-states. We can conclude that the inheriting of the border needs no justifying, because it is merely one more inheritance in a long and ancient line. In return, the inheritor is expected to pass it on once more to his children, as was expected of his ancestors.
Peterson however, doesn’t seem to have realised these fairly self-evident facts. What’s more, he seems not only to have problems with justifying his own borders, but with justifying his ‘privilege’ in general.
I find this utterly baffling.
Privilege is justified by its very definition. Everyone has privilege, since privilege is simply the amalgamation of both the physical and metaphysical resources of one’s ancestors, which, as has already been established, is something one is naturally entitled to.
Once we realise that privilege is a natural constant, it becomes clear that the modern Left are on morally dubious grounds when they decide to crusade against it. Even ignoring this aforementioned discussion of moral questions, it is clear that Peterson shouldn’t be legitimising the Left’s crusade against privilege given that he doesn’t really seem to know what it is.
Ultimately, Peterson is a great psychologist with an outdated worldview and a flawed understanding of certain philosophical issues. That being said, his contribution to this philosophical conversation is not without merit.
Had it not been for that event, I would probably still be struggling with a number of these concepts to this day. Peterson is wrong regarding the philosophical issues discussed above – but his involvement in the discussion of them is immensely valuable.