That Jordan Peterson Is a Crank: A Handy Guide

Jordan Peterson has already become a joke in most circles. But enough remain mesmerized by his shtick to warrant a survey of why he’s just another pseudoscientific guru running a con. He is, essentially, the Deepak Chopra of the Nones; and his books, akin to The Secret for incels, angry men, and disaffected conservatives. A comparison I’ve since found others have made. Repeated inquiries converge on a common truth.

Peterson’s woo is his own peculiar variety—but no less ridiculous; and no less baloney. To be fair, like many a crackpot making money off his madness, he might believe his own con. And not everything every critic says about him is correct. And like every religious demagogue and guru, not everything he says is malarkey. But there is enough to find among his critics that is, nevertheless, spot on. I shall zero in here on the stuff that sticks—and illustrate why.

Avatar of Moral Panic

Some things said about Peterson by his defenders are false. I’ve seen people claim he was fired for his views; but in fact he still holds his professorship at the University of Toronto. I’ve seen people claim he was arrested, or threatened to be arrested, for his views; but neither has ever happened, and nothing he has said or done is against any actual law in Canada. In truth, Peterson, being a crap philosopher, doesn’t know how to read a statute, and doesn’t believe in consulting actual experts in anything he pontificates on but has zero qualifications in. Everything he said about Canadian human rights law is false.

But some things said by his critics miss the mark a bit too. I’ve seen people claim he’s come out against gay rights and gay marriage; he hasn’t—though he’s come close, and one can infer it should follow from what he has argued: his rhetoric plays right into a secular homophobic narrative about the uselessness of those who “won’t reproduce.” It thus might be telling that Peterson’s wife emailed pleas to sign a petition against gay parental rights in Canada, using language that sounded a lot like Peterson.

I’ve also seen people claim Peterson “refuses” to use the preferred pronouns of his trans students and coworkers; but I’m not aware of any documented case, and he’s said himself he does use their preferred pronouns, as long as he thinks they deserve it. “If the standard transsexual person wants to be regarded as he or she,” Peterson said, “my sense is I’ll address you according to the part that you appear to be playing.” So, if you don’t look girly or manly enough, he gets to insult you. Or at least…so he says. There’s no evidence he’s ever exercised this “right” he claims to have. Which may be why he still keeps his job.

And yet for all that, it’s true: the bizarre event that skyrocketed Peterson from obscurity into fame was his insistence upon the right to insult his students and colleagues and not be fired for it. Which is not a rational or moral position to hold. “But, free speech,” does not authorize you to violate your profession’s code of ethics and insult your bosses and coworkers and their customers and expect to keep your job. Deliberately misgendering someone is no different than deliberately refusing to call them by their actual name. It’s disrespect. The University of Toronto has been incredibly lenient with the man. So his martyrdom legend is definitely fiction—although quite possibly because he doesn’t really do the insulting thing he’s threatened to.

But Peterson went beyond his unprofessional defense of incivility and raised such a moral panic over trans people being treated like people that he even falsely claimed he would be in danger of being jailed for misgendering them if they were given the same status as gay people in Canadian human rights law. Unanimously lawyers and legal experts explained to him he wouldn’t be (and lo: he hasn’t been). But facts are not his thing. Exhibit one.

However, because Peterson started a moral panic over non-existent laws against intentionally being a dick to trans people, he became rich and famous almost overnight. Thanks to all the people in a moral panic over non-existent laws against intentionally being a dick to trans people—who are evidently easily conned out of their money. And he has deliberately milked that cash cow ever since. Here is how…

Con Man of the People

Even hard-core anti-feminist philosopher James A. Lindsay has seen through Peterson’s con and called out the shallow philosophy he’s shilling, boiling it down to what it really is, which is, first, a salve for men’s egos who can’t adjust to social progress, and, second, an elaborate guide to “securing a woman.” Or as Lindsay puts it:

[His] view of manliness appeals to the downtrodden young man by helping him ‘straighten his back’, as Peterson puts it, so that he can make something more of himself. At least to a few layers down, this sounds great, but there’s more to it than that for our lost boys. As Peterson admonishes Cathy Newman, ‘Women deeply want men who are competent and powerful’. This is telling, isn’t it? Peterson’s message reaches these young men not only for the higher purposes at the end of his sentence, but also for the usual ones at the start of it—so they can become what women really want, which is to say so that they can get laid.

This ties in to everything Peterson argues, from his whole philosophy of Darwinian survivalism that defines even his epistemology, his abhorrence of female dominance and sexual liberation, his desperate need to correctly “sex” people, his rules-for-making-a-man-of-you. Peterson is selling a reformed PUA culture under the veneer of a sophistical, room-cleaning, tweed-wearing intellectualism. It’s basically the philosophy of Fight Club without the fight club. You’ll see some examples shortly.

Although to be clear, what Peterson really wants is everyone to undertake traditional gender roles and commit to traditional lifelong marriages committed to having as many kids as a woman can survive bearing. Seriously. He’s even floated the idea of “forced monogamy” and said women who don’t like being housewives should “just get a hobby already.” For him it’s about survival of the fittest, and going back to archetypal ways of life. Whenever queried on it, he has very harsh words for “playing the field.” Almost as harsh as he’s expressed for celibacy. What he’s selling, in other words, is the 1950s. Or rather, what everyone thinks (or wishes) the 1950s were. Right down even to the clothes he wears.

Indeed, Peterson’s first tell is that after he became famous, he now puts on an act, complete with a fake costume. As keen observers have noted (such as Nellie Bowles, writing for the New York Times), he dresses the part now, a polished 1950s professorial style, conspicuously not how he used to. Nor acts as he once did. He adds in emotional play acting (complete with, often, histrionics and tears), and populist self-help rhetoric. All to spew Deepak-Chopra-style nonsense and rigmarole, in defense of a popular hunger to feel good about a biased, shallow, reactionary take on recent social changes that are leaving certain people—with a certain mindset—behind.

Pretty much exactly like Christian churches do. In fact, there is hardly a difference between Peterson and any half-assed, over-confident preacher in a church. Other than that for sales he is purposefully vague about whether God needs to be real or Jesus really rose from the dead. Because for a living he sells his garbled ideological snake oil to the 21st century market of nones—both religious and non. His evasiveness on such points is another deep tell. This is the behavior of a marketer, not a philosopher.

Of course you can find an extensive, thoroughly-cited, snarky critique of Peterson on RationalWiki. There are also the alarming observations of his once colleague and personal friend Bernard Schiff that pretty much reveal Peterson to be, indeed, half grifter, half crazy cult leader. There’s also a decently composed critical book by competing masculinist Jamie Wrate. And even Alexander Blum, an ex-fan who even still buys a lot of Peterson’s woo, has made some disturbingly on-point observations about his flawed philosophy.

But in no way do I rely on those for anything to follow. Though a really good critique I will cite, that lists several markers for grifting that Peterson nails point-for-point, is Nathan Robinson’s article for Current Affairs, “The Intellectual We Deserve.” Second most useful you’ll find is Zach Beauchamp’s article for Vox, “Jordan Peterson, the Obscure Canadian Psychologist Turned Right-Wing Celebrity, Explained.” I also highly recommend this Field Guide by Aaron Huertas. I’ll link to others as we go.

Bad at Science

When it comes to his ideas, the first reason we know Jordan Peterson is a crank is because he spews pseudoscience, and made up nonsense he claims is science, and too often gets relevant science wrong. And never corrects any of it.

Let’s start with Peterson’s now-iconic woo about lobsters.

First, Peterson infamously claims in his most famous book, Twelve Rules for Life, that lobster brains dissolve when socially dominated, and then they regrow new “subordinate” brains. But…lobsters don’t have brains—they have no central nervous system, only a nerve cluster called a central ganglion; and they don’t dissolve and regrow; and the paper Peterson cites as saying otherwise, doesn’t. Peterson couldn’t even comprehend a basic paper on neural plasticity, which is shocking for a supposed psychology Ph.D. It demonstrates a rather profound level of incompetence that should lead us to doubt his reliability altogether. (See Brains in Dissolution.)

Second, there is no scientifically credible connection between lobsters’ social hierarchism or its neural substrates and human social psychology. Yet Peterson famously tries to argue we’re just like lobsters. To be fair, he means, only in respect to this one feature. But he never presents any scientific research on humans to back his argument. That the same chemicals mediate the same behaviors is a trivial observation that indicates nothing about the neural systems that employ those chemicals, which differ radically between lobsters and people. Humans (and their behaviors) are vastly more complex, and have undergone enormous evolutionary change. So why can’t he find any research showing what he wants to show about humans?

You can’t study humans by studying lobsters. That’s as dumb as thinking we can study mountains by studying my pet rock. As any credible intellectual would agree. You might instead want to read what an actual scientist who studies lobsters has to say about that:

In the case of humans and lobsters, our most recent common ancestor [or]…the living animal that probably most closely resembles this ancestor is the acoel, a mostly harmless marine worm no bigger than a grain of rice. Acoels’ social interactions are limited to mating—they’re typically hermaphroditic, so each individual acts as both “male” and “female”—or sometimes to cannibalism, if a hungry acoel encounters another small enough to fit in its mouth.

I suppose cannibalism is a sort of dominance hierarchy, but acoels don’t engage in the complex displays of aggression seen in lobsters or form social hierarchies like primates. If the common ancestor of humans and lobsters lacked dominance hierarchies (which seems likely, based on what we know about living animals), then our two species’ social behavior evolved independently, and the one can’t inform us about the other.

Bailey Steinworth, “Jordan Peterson Needs to Reconsider the Lobster,” The Washington Post

In case you missed the point: humans did not evolve from lobsters. We each evolved from worms that possessed none of the features Peterson is talking about.

Worse:

[F]or a lot of animals, social interaction can be divided into ‘mating’ or ‘existing near each other without a problem’. As Peterson points out, lobsters’ aggressive displays arise from their need to fight for access to quality shelters and territory where they can scavenge for food. 

Ibid.

Whereas humans are a cooperative species who do exactly the opposite: they need to congregate and work together to secure shelter and food. Humans as a species are dependent on social cooperation; they do very poorly as loners, and individual self-sufficiency is exhausting to impossible. So there isn’t even a behavioral analogy to work with here. Yes, humans, as primates, do have latent features related to dominance hierarchies, but those features evolved very differently, are more complex, and in many respects maladaptive in modern civilization. Not something to be nourished or to organize society around.

More importantly, there is a lot of science out there on human social structure (in psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, and sociology) and its primate analogs (which are diverse, not singular, e.g. Bonobo society is very different from Chimpanzee society which is very different from Great Ape society, and we evolved from a common ancestor of all three and therefore cannot assume we are “just like” any one of them). A competent psychologist would survey and distill this research into a coherent, science-based understanding of the relevant human behavior he wants to talk about. Peterson instead skips all that and just finds a random article on lobsters he doesn’t understand and makes up a bunch of shit about it. This is F-grade freshman work here.

Ironically, for such a rabid anti-Marxist as Peterson, what Peterson fabricates out of this is essentially the same as a Marxist-inspired, now-falsified idea called Social Dominance Theory. The actual science of human social dominance behaviors is more complex. And its neurochemistry is actually incidental. Knowing the chemicals involved in information processing tells you nothing about how that information is being processed. A thousand different social systems are processed across millions of species using the same chemistry, just as all species’ brains are assembled out of neurons, yet their arrangement produces radically different behaviors. Bonobos and sea hares behave nothing like lobsters; yet their behavior is mediated by exactly the same chemicals. A psychologist is supposed to know this.

As Steinworth puts it, “Peterson tells his readers to draw inspiration from an animal that can’t stand interacting with its own species outside of sex,” which “illustrates far more about his own worldview than it does about human behavior.” Indeed.

A more thorough debunking of Peterson’s incompetent use of his lobster analogy was also written up by a neuroscientist, Leonor Gonçalves. But I’ve given you examples enough on the point.

It’s not just the pseudoscience he spins out of lobsters. Peterson has embraced even what is full-on pseudoscience in his own field of psychology: the totally woo nonsense of Jungian psychoanalysis. This is wholly akin to a modern Ph.D. in astronomy promoting astrology. As Phil Christman observes:

Canadian academic Jordan Peterson…bangs the table for logic and reason while basing much of his thought on the ideas of a discredited occultist. Peterson’s reliance on the work of Carl Jung is revealing: If you want to defend traditional masculinity as a kind of slaying-dragons-for-its-own-sake, but you can’t offer a rational analysis of why this behavior is necessary, or why it is good, or why you need a penis to do it, the archetype theory offers you a pretentious and grandiose way of saying “It is what it is.” It dignifies tautology.

Indeed. This is pseudoscience. Compare it to real science on masculinity—you know, the kind based on evidence and standards—and you should be laughing.

As Benjamin Goggin wrote for Digg:

Peterson’s ideas are grounded in the notion that men and women contain essential, separate and immutable personality characteristics. [But r]ecent studies have found that the idea of a consistent male personality and female personality is not grounded in reality. A 2005 analysis of 46 meta-analyses, backed by the American Psychological Association, found that men and women were alike in “personality, cognitive ability and leadership,” and that “gender differences had either no or a very small effect on most of the psychological variables examined. Only a few main differences appeared: Compared with women, men could throw farther, were more physically aggressive, masturbated more, and held more positive attitudes about sex in uncommitted relationships.” 

Similarly, as Googin notes, Peterson’s claims about things like the gender pay gap are simplistic, governed more by sexist mythology than careful reflection, and show no sign of his actually studying the issue. Like most right-wing pundits, Peterson simply pounces from the armchair on the most naive and uninformed leftist ideas, as if there were no sophisticated and informed leftist ideas about the same things he should be looking at instead. As I wrote before:

[W]hen you check the science and find that even in comparable one-to-one situations, on average women get paid about 6 cents less on the dollar than men, and then dismiss that as a trivial amount we shouldn’t care about. Switch out men for women in that sentence and see how quickly your blood boils—when because now you are suddenly concerned, you actually do the math and realize that’s equivalent to an annual tax of several thousand dollars…on being a woman. If there were a tax on men of several thousand dollars, you’d be raging about it too.

So don’t get all in a huff when women, the ones actually suffering this hidden gender tax, are all in a huff about it. Even if you exclude the sexist treatment of mothers between the ages of 27-33, in which small slice of the demographic the wage gap is at its lowest, after controlling for all other factors, it’s still 98 cents on the dollar (single women to single men). An average “tax” of nearly a thousand dollars a year. I suspect the libertarians who rail against wage gap claims would flip their lid at a gendered tax of a thousand dollars a year. And that’s in the most privileged demographic. I don’t think complaining about a thousand dollars is silly. And I don’t think using possibiliter fallacies to deny this is rational.

This is even before we get to how industry rewards fathers and punishes mothers, how schools and parents pipeline their kids toward certain professions merely perceived to be “suitable to their gender,” all the science demonstrating that bias affects promotions, and so on. This puts Peterson squarely in the right-wing of cultural commentary: ignoring reality in order to deny injustice exists, by tearing down overly simplistic straw men instead, and replacing it with a conservative fiction of how you merely think the world works. That’s pretty much all things Peterson. For example, just compare Peterson’s nonsense about gender pronouns with this well-reasoned, fact-based critique.

Then there’s Peterson’s “ancient aliens” woo. I put that in scare quotes because Peterson of course never explicitly mentions aliens. When pressed, he always evades the point; “it’s a mystery,” or something. What I’m talking about here is his totally whackadoo theory that ancient humans across the earth had advanced knowledge of the double-helix structure of DNA. Which requires either electron microscopes or extraordinarily advanced biochemical theories to discover. So just, um, “how” does he think ancient humans acquired this knowledge? He’ll hem and haw, even walk back his assertions a tad, but never say.

Of course this is bullshit. And it’s bullshit born of the same error of arrogance as the rest of Peterson’s mistakes: he never actually checks with experts or researches facts; he just makes shit up, and is so certain he cannot be wrong, he just insists he is. Sometimes, when cornered, he’ll rephrase his certainty as, at least, that no one else knows it’s not what he says (another tell for running a con: changing your story every time it’s convenient). Either way, he “feels” he must be right; experts and research be damned. After all, who needs evidence, when you have in your heart the properly basic knowledge of the Great Pumpkin?

For this one, you just have to watch Genetically Modified Skeptic go to town on it, in Jordan Peterson’s Most Pseudoscientific Claim Ever. Spoiler alert: all coiled snake imagery more likely just replicates snakes mating, which all humans would have seen and readily used as a symbol of fertility and harmony. He hems and haws when challenged, but it’s clear Peterson thinks (or wants his fans to think he thinks) what his crank source said, that psychedelic drugs gave ancient humans psychic knowledge of the fundamental structure of the universe. Like I said. Woo.

Peterson often does this: he makes a ridiculous claim, but adds a citation so it looks like he has an authority, one that he expects no one will read. Because when they do, this happens. Or this. Or the examples we just saw above. That’s a super big tell for running a con. It’s a filter: anyone who doesn’t read his citations but are merely impressed by them, are exactly the people he wants to gull. Everyone else he can ignore, because he can dismiss them as angry critics trying to suppress his free speech and keep you from hearing his brilliant ideas, and thus he can play on the anger of his marks, who then clamor to fund him, resulting in cash.

Bad at Facts

Peterson’s tendency to just make shit up and claim it’s a fact is not as rampant and pathological as Donald Trump’s, but it’s definitely a species of the same genus. Nathan Robinson lists as just two random examples:

He is an unreliable guide to the facts (e.g. “there are far more female physicians than there are male physicians,” which is false for the U.S.Canadaand the U.K., or his promotion of a bizarre conspiracy theory that Google is manipulating the search results for “bikini” to include plus-sized models for politically-correct reasons, which they aren’t.) 

Peterson’s dishonesty extends even to books he claims to have read, indeed even claims were fundamentally influential to him. Nathan Robinson catches him at this when Peterson claims he “learned” from George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier that socialism is a bad philosophy because socialists were bad people. Robinson actually quotes the relevant passage (which actually is a defense of socialism), demonstrating it said exactly the opposite. As Robinson concludes:

Orwell flat-out says that anybody who evaluates the merits of socialist policies by the personal qualities of socialists themselves is an idiot. Peterson concludes that Orwell thought socialist policies [were] flawed because socialists themselves were bad people. I don’t think there is a way of reading Peterson other than as extremely stupid or extremely dishonest, but one can be charitable and assume he simply didn’t read the book that supposedly gave him his grand revelation about socialism.

Once again, Peterson’s fans won’t have read Orwell. They’ll just believe Peterson. The rest of us read Orwell. Or listen to those who actually did.

This tendency to fake his life story in order to craft the image Peterson wants to sell is the biggest red flag of all. Peterson even exposed himself as a dishonest bully when seriously confronted on his fake claims about himself. When a critic questioned Peterson’s repeated boast that he’d been inducted into a Native American tribe, Peterson thundered him with rage and vitriol and threats of violence. Then it was revealed the critic was right: Peterson had been lying. Peterson was named a friend of a tribe, not a member; and that tribe wasn’t pleased by his misrepresenting that. Of course all such claims have now been scrupulously scrubbed from all his books and bios. Swept under the rug. “Nothing to see here.”

Peterson also tends to misrepresent his credentials.

For instance, Peterson once said, “Consciousness plays a central role in being itself. Modern people think the world is simply made out of objects…let me tell you, as a neuroscientist, that is wrong…there’s no debate about it; it’s just wrong” (in this video at 22:14). Peterson has no publications or degrees in neuroscience. Or chemistry for that matter—his only advanced degree is in clinical psychology. He is not an M.D. and thus can’t even prescribe pharmaceuticals. And here he is presumably referring to the qualia problem, but far from there being “no debate about it,” real neuroscientists are actually not so sure qualia don’t reduce to physical systems. Meanwhile everything else he says when claiming to “be” a neuroscientist is woo malarkey not accepted by hardly any neuroscientists the world over.

On another occasion Peterson said “I’m an evolutionary biologist by the way, not a political philosopher” and therefore he thinks only in timescales of “thousands of years,” not hundreds (in this interview at 11:42). And he says that immediately after boasting of his being a “scientist” with “many publications,” thus implying he means in evolutionary biology. Again, Peterson has no publications or degrees in biology at all, much less evolutionary biology. Yet he does have a B.A. in political science! And most of what he talks about is recent socio-political change. So it’s extremely disingenuous of him to trot out this bogus claim that he only thinks in scales of thousands and not hundreds of years—much less to imply the smaller scale doesn’t matter to the evolution of ideas. Which gets us to his next area of failure…

Bad at History

Peterson’s books depend fundamentally on false claims not just about science, but also about history. Which he rarely treats competently. For him, it appears, “history” is whatever Peterson thinks happened in the past. Not what we can actually say happened in the past. (And when we get to his failure at philosophy next, we’ll see why he keeps making this mistake: his shitty epistemology.)

This extends even to what Peterson is most beloved for: his crank, neo-Jungian archetypal theory of mythology, which depends on making numerous claims about ancient texts and cultures and the beliefs of ancient peoples. But as real philosopher Alexander Douglas points out:

There is no evidence even of Peterson having learnt the relevant languages, let alone made any comparative study of the uses of various words and patterns of symbols in general use. 

Instead of actually doing history (much less anthropology), “Peterson scans the great literature of history until he finds his own thoughts. Anyone can do that.” Peterson doesn’t demonstrate the stories he talks about had the meanings or purposes he assumes. Instead, he just imports his own anachronistic assumptions, in relative ignorance of what things meant in ancient times and places. That’s shit history.

By contrast with Peterson, Douglas behaves like a competent philosopher: when he wants to know what the likely mythic meaning of the Enuma Elish was to its authors and transmitters, he consults an actual Assyriologist. Not his own mind. Real history. Not shit he made up.

Another example is how Peterson doesn’t really know anything about Marxism, yet pontificates on it repeatedly as if an authority, even though he admits he has only read a single Marxist text, the Manifesto, which was just a revolutionary pamphlet, not Marx’s actual articulation of his economic vision, which was laid out in Das Kapital. Moreover, Marxism has evolved since Marx. One cannot understand contemporary capitalism by merely reading John Stuart Mill. So why would any honest intellectual think they can understand contemporary Marxism by merely reading Karl Marx? Well, an honest intellectual wouldn’t. (For an excellent survey of this failure, see the amusing commentary of Ryan Mallett-Outtrim. Incidentally, Peterson also doesn’t understand postmodern philosophy, yet constantly conflates it with Marxism, which is a modernist, realist philosophical system.)

Another example is how Peterson doesn’t bother to really understand Nazism and the holocaust, despite those being two of his favorite working examples he builds a lot of conclusions from. His ignorance and errors here are expertly illustrated by Dan Arrows. Of course Arrows points out that Peterson does not follow sound historical methodology—like, trying to understand historical actors in their actual context, or recognizing outcomes do not always match those actors’ expectations (therefore we can’t, as Peterson often insists, reliably infer an actor’s intensions from the consequences). But more importantly, Arrows notes how Peterson’s use of his bogus understanding of the holocaust to criticize liberals comes dangerously close to exactly how Nazis justified their atrocities. Arrows illustrates how Peterson’s alarmist, absolutist, and ahistorical reasoning is literally dangerous, and is exactly the sort of thing we need a sound understanding of history to warn us against.

Peterson also repeats over and over again (for example in his debate with psychologist Susan Blackmore) all that “revisionist history” nonsense about Christianity and the Bible bringing to the world all the West’s greatest values, such as rights, democracy, science, and individualism. Total bullshit. All those things came from Greco-Roman pagan philosophy and counter-Christian iconoclasm and were very specifically opposed by Biblical Christianity, which we’ve continually had to fight against to even bring them back into sway. The Old Testament is horrid. The New Testament is misogynistic and Stalinist. Jesus is an asshole. Anyone who doesn’t notice this isn’t actually reading this stuff. Much less hip to the history of the last two thousand years.

Yet another example, perhaps the most telling, is how Peterson doesn’t even know rudimentary facts about the history of American protest movements, yet bases his political philosophy on what he mistakenly thinks that history was. As Robinson deftly points out, after quoting Peterson’s disdain for student activism that Peterson complains all started in the 60s (just privileged kids “shaking sticks” at people):

Activism, then, is arrogant brats holding “paper on sticks,” a peculiar and appalling phenomenon he believes started in the 60s. Nevermind that what he is talking about is more commonly known as the Civil Rights Movement, and the “paper on sticks” said “We shall overcome” and “End segregated schools” on them. And nevermind that it worked, and was one of the most morally important events of the 20th century.

Peterson, who is apparently an alien to whom political action is an unfathomable mystery, thinks it’s been nothing but fifty years of childish virtue-signaling. The activists against the Vietnam War spent years trying to stop a horrific atrocity that killed a million people, and had a very significant effect in drawing attention to that atrocity and finally bringing it to a close. But the students are the ones who “don’t know anything about history.”

Clearly, it’s Peterson who doesn’t know anything about history. And then “Dunning-Krugers” his way into being sure he does. And builds a whole worldview on it. Crank.

Bad at Philosophy

Giving him every honest chance, I’ve still reached the conclusion that Jordan Peterson is a crap philosopher. Even apart from the lack of sophistication or originality or plausibility of anything he offers in the subject (and trust me, I’ve listened to many of his defenders who insist otherwise, and researched the hell of this and tried to find any defensible example), I can confirm this even by just watching Peterson’s interactions with Sam Harris. I know Sam isn’t everyone’s favorite guy—even I think he’s a lousy philosopher, but he’s a damn sight smarter, sharper, and more informed on the subject than Peterson is. So if even Harris can run rings around this guy, that’s a red flag.

In their first podcast together Harris does an excellent job exposing Peterson’s language games and poor epistemology. What we discover is that Peterson is actually, in fact, a postmodernist. Which is deeply ironic given Peterson’s known polemics against “postmodernism.” But alas, Peterson literally thinks that truth doesn’t exist except as what’s convenient to believe. That which serves the aims of power (survival, triumph, reproduction) is “true.” Objective reality? Not relevant. Probably not even existent. That’s literally what postmodernists have been most maligned for claiming these last hundred years. They were as wrong then as Peterson is now. But he needs to hold up a postmodern theory of truth to defend his baloney worldview.

If you don’t believe me, check out the Harris interviews (particularly his first one). And also review the critical videos on Peterson completed by Rationality Rules (especially Jordan Peterson’s Truth – Debunked). Again, I think Rationality Rules is wrong about lots of stuff. He, like Peterson, confuses sex with gender; and, like Peterson, is too seduced by antiquated Jungian pseudoscience (rejected by all actual scientists today—you won’t find any of this in legitimate peer reviewed journals anymore), mistaking convergent cultural evolution as evidence of genetic inheritance, and confusing phenotype with genotype—also the common defects of Evolutionary Psychology. But sharing these errors with Peterson makes his critique of Peterson all the more persuasive. And he uses actual footage of Peterson, correctly contexted, to demonstrate his every point.

Peterson’s epistemology is uninformed, incoherent garbage. It does not interact with and shows no knowledge of any actual philosophical work in epistemology in the last eighty years. He uses words strangely, relies on equivocation fallacies repeatedly, and evades any rational critique of his bizarre idea of “truth” as that which merely conduces to differential reproductive success—and not, you know, anything that is actually the case. The rest of his philosophy is built on top of this nonsense, combined with crank ideas about science and history such as we just surveyed, to produce as ridiculous a metaphysics as anything you’ll find from the actual Deepak Chopra. Up to and including quantum panpsychism.

That’s right. Peterson is a quantum panspychist who believes in a bizarre form of Platonic idealism. Remember the cave men discovering DNA with magic mushrooms thing? Peterson even thinks his mind might live forever, because ‘physicists don’t know everything’. I’m not kidding. That’s basically his argument:

I don’t know that I even believe in death! I’m not sure we understand anything about the role of consciousness in space and time. I don’t think the world is the way we think it is. I’m not a materialist. Whatever is going on down there at the subatomic level of matter is so weird that the people who understand it don’t understand it.

Therefore we can conclude materialism is false and consciousness is eternal. This is what passes for genius.

And an Awful Writer

Peterson’s prose is also dismally bad. He writes very much like a self-important emo tween. Many have noted his writing sounds like some cute kid’s heartfelt essay in Junior High; verbose, unoriginal, pretentious, often void of anything actually significant being said but sounding like it has been. I concur. As we already saw, he conflates his own wild imaginings and scientific facts over and over again, without distinction, and asserts everything with pompous confidence. But he doesn’t even do it well.

The best example of this, illustrating every point with examples, is provided by Rachel Oates, who doesn’t pretend to being anything other than an average person expressing her colloquial thoughts and reactions to a sample of his writing. Yet I have to concur with her every observation. You can pick almost any page at random from his books and get the same florid, pretentious, barely informative sap. As Nathan Robinson put it, the most “important reason why Peterson is ‘misinterpreted’ is that he is so consistently vague and vacillating that it’s impossible to tell what he is ‘actually saying’.” A textbook description of a bad writer. 

Peterson’s literary analysis at least reaches college level, but not much beyond. And despite the subject of his Ph.D. and professorship at Toronto, even his psychological science is basic, immature, shallow, and often inaccurate. Just compare it to, say, the writings or lectures of Damasio or Tarico, or any other expert writer on the psychology of emotions, happiness, or social hierarchies (see, for instance, Tarico’s chapters on that subject in The Christian Delusion and The End of Christianity); he does not sound at all like anyone who actually had a graduate degree in the subject. But because his fans don’t read other experts, they don’t notice this enormous disparity.

I have to concur with Rachel Oates, who concluded that what he writes sounds like a porridge of “half-baked, half-thought-out, not-fully-formed ideas,” light on real science, and heavy on bad metaphors and crap analogies. Just like every other woo celebrity in history. My own impression is that he has no real understanding of philosophy and doesn’t even grasp philosophical concepts very deeply. He just makes up words and apes naive folk wisdom, without any coherent or informed epistemic or metaphysical foundation. His incompetence at science and history I’ve already illustrated. Those failings just add more chunks to the whole bowl of swill he sells with such passion that many buy it.

But in the domain of philosophy, Peterson plays semantic games about what words and stories mean—even, as we saw, with what the word “truth” means—that are divorced from all actual context and evidence, and pretty much the entire actual history of philosophy and all the progress it’s made on these very issues. He reminds me a lot of Ayn Rand in that respect: a mesmerizing speaker, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, out of touch with the actual advances around them in the very fields they pontificate on. His epistemology is postmodern garbage. His metaphysics unintelligible. His metaethics undefined. His politics deliberately obscure. His aesthetics an uninformed Jungian nonsense wholly disconnected from neuroscience or any competent cross-cultural study.

Conclusion

Not everything from Peterson is awful. For a rational, informed positive review of his Twelve Rules, for instance, see what Scott Alexander at SlateStarCodex has to say. But the reason he’s able to isolate what’s worthwhile is that Alexander is, like Peterson, a clinical psychologist. They are both therapists. And that’s where they see eye-to-eye. Peterson by all accounts is an okay therapist—albeit crackpot, pushing all sorts of woo on his clients, and as Schiff reported, even once pretending to be a shaman. Even with regard to the therapeutic philosophy he sells, another psychotherapist who read Peterson’s book was much less impressed. Indeed, much of what Alexander notes is worthwhile is, as even he concedes, extremely simplistic stuff—maybe its precisely this simplistic stuff that many patients who end up in therapy need, at least as a stepladder out of their woes, and toward building a more sophisticated worldview. But this is also what all gurus and grifters build on: obvious, basic stuff.

If that’s all it were, I wouldn’t have much to criticize in Peterson’s work. I don’t think Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is the height of science or philosophy, either. But it’s all pretty much decent advice, well written and of use to many. It doesn’t frame its advice inside a ridiculous, toxically traditional, pseudoscientific worldview loaded with false understandings of reality, history, or epistemology. It doesn’t claim more than it honestly can. It isn’t arrogant. It isn’t flawless, either. But it’s still better than anything Peterson has written. Prose, content, everything. And its author—Stephen Covey, who came under a lot of the same criticism as Peterson—wasn’t running a con. He didn’t even evangelize in Seven Habits for his Mormon faith, or any of its awkward beliefs. His approach was universal and secular. He wasn’t trying to recreate a nonexistent 1950s white man’s paradise and selling that toxic dream for money. He wasn’t claiming to have expert knowledge in things he didn’t. He wasn’t a crank.

So why does anyone idealize Jordan Peterson? Why is he rolling in cash? He is far below par as a philosopher, scientist, and writer; evasive and obscurantist; with whackadoo theories and a simplistic worldview. He has no original theories he can support with evidence. He has no new advice for anyone; no respect for objective truth. Any reasonable skeptic would have seen through his shit and laughed him off the stage by now.

Peterson’s claims are manufactured. His citations barely relevant. His apologetics disingenuous. Even his origin story has an air of the false about it. Peterson capitalized even from the beginning on anti-left fear-mongering, positioning himself as challenging the Baalrog of Leftist Extremists on gender pronouns. Yet, as Robinson puts it, no such monster existed. We lefties actually “share the belief that government legislation requiring people to use particular pronouns would be an infringement on civil liberties,” and “since that’s a position shared by Noam Chomsky and the ACLU, it’s not a particularly devastating criticism of the left.” That controversy was fake from day one.

Even when someone later raised alarm at the Peterson controversy being taught at the University of Toronto, its completely liberal administration stood by him. Yet instead of acknowledging the political left had his back, and explaining to the world it’s not “left vs. center” but extremists vs. everyone—including almost every actual person on the left—Peterson constructs an elaborate conspiracy theory about liberal progressivism destroying the world, conflating every liberal together without distinction, playing both the apocalyptic prophet and martyr. And just rakes in the dough.

Of course, Peterson fans, like Trump fans, will fabricate any narrative to tell themselves that all these critiques are a conspiracy against the common people. Even just my conclusion, here well demonstrated by facts, that Peterson is a crank, is used as an argument that he can’t be a crank, lest we wouldn’t claim he was merely to “punish” people for hearing him out (yes, they actually claim this). They’ll say we’ve “misrepresented” him (we haven’t); that we need to read every word he’s written and watch every lecture he’s given to “really” understand him (we don’t). Why are they this irrational? Why are they so devoted to an obvious conman? What’s going on here?

I can only speculate, of course, but many others have come to the same conclusion. Robinson, for example:

Peterson is popular partly because he criticizes social justice activists in a way many people find satisfying, and some of those criticisms have merit. He is popular partly because he offers adrift young men a sense of heroic purpose, and offers angry young men rationalizations for their hatreds. And he is popular partly because academia and the left have failed spectacularly at helping make the world intelligible to ordinary people, and giving them a clear and compelling political vision.

Akin to Robinson, who correctly criticizes the left as partly to blame for this, the first hypothesis I’d try testing is that Peterson is a symptom of the same phenomenon that gave us Donald Trump as President, another incompetent loony (and vastly more dishonest and childish than Peterson could ever honestly be accused of being) whom millions worship as the nearest thing to a secular god one can conceive: these guys are the avatars of a beleaguered “identity,” predominately but not exclusively white male or pro-white-male; traditionalists and reactionaries, whether forcefully or mildly.

Such demagogues boldly and charismatically say what bigoted and misguided people are thinking; so those seduced by this feel like these avatars of their panic are “speaking truth to power.” And they feel this because they and their biased and simplistic worldviews are losing power, and the people in this beleaguered state have never done the hard work of contemplating the complexities of reality, they never seriously challenge their own beliefs and assumptions, and are easily taken in by their own certainty that their biased and simplistic point of view must be flawless and correct—a biased point of view the likes of Peterson and Trump embody in their entire message and persona.

I can’t prove it. But I do suspect—metaphorically speaking—that these guys are the id of an overly-ignorant public too overconfident even to see their own ignorance, much less recognize it as a problem they need to solve. These guys’ fans and worshipers are essentially the secular replacement for their predecessors, the Creationists and Fundamentalists. The mindset, the epistemology, the moral and existential panic, the rationalizing, the persecution complex, the outrage at being questioned or criticized, is all exactly the same. These are literally the same people…or would have been.

Lately, ancient superstitions about devils and blood magic and angelic armies raining down from the sky have become an increasingly harder sell, so Creationism and Fundamentalism are declining. Those who would have been seduced by their cool-aide twenty years ago, are instead seduced by this new, more modern brew. This is where they went. And because it’s “secular,” atheists are being roped in by it, every bit as much as disaffected Christians are.

-:-

Special Rule: I do not have an open comments policy. But I actually want Peterson defenders to post comments here, and I intend to revise the text above if any errors are shown me. But if you want your comment to be published here you have to meet two rules: (1) you need to cite specific evidence of any point you make (hyperlinked article or video, or book or article title; with either timestamp or an exact quote sufficient to be found by digital search of the named text) and (2) you need to be responding to a point I actually made. Mere gainsaying will be ignored. Assertions without evidence will be ignored. Arguing against things I didn’t claim will be ignored.

97 comments

  1. Cud Petersen sue u for defamasn/libl?
    wotch President Trump getting re-ilectid in 2020.
    and the librals can scream at the sky and blame russia, ukraine etc.

    Reply
      1. Thanks for the induljuns. But it seems arbitruri – disidid by the corts:
        ‘x is protectid free speech; ‘y is not protectid’ ‘z is protectid’ etc it’s limitid.

        wun pursun’s research cunclusiuns cud be anuthr’s libel/hate speech, I suppose.

        Reply
        1. Your English is unintelligible again. I have no idea what you are saying.

          But as best I can tell, you aren’t saying anything legally relevant here. Perhaps you mean that people can ‘call’ well-researched, factually-accurate critiques of themselves ‘libel’ if they want to. But it won’t be legally or even philosophically accurate of them to do so. It will, in fact, simply be a self-rationalizing fallacy deployed to ignore all evidence their ideas are false or bad.

    1. Thanks for the wonderful takedown of this charlatan. Just fyi. J. S. Mill’s middle named is spelled: Stuart.

      John Stuart Mill

      Reply
  2. Could it be that society is becoming too complex for the average inhabitant, explaining the growing number of followers of these -possibly unknowing–charlatans?

    If so, is there a remedy or are we at the height of average-human civilization?

    Reply
    1. //Peterson also doesn’t understand postmodern philosophy, yet constantly conflates it with Marxism, which is a modernist, realist philosophical system.)// Peterson’s point is that once classical Marxism was seen as bankrupt and not usable the Marxists became post-Marxists and used postmodernism to get their totalitarian ideology in through the back door. This is one of Peterson’s more brilliant points : Postmodernism ” end of the grand narrative” functions to re-enliven the Marxist Grand narrative.

      Reply
      1. Alan Glauber: No such people exist. That’s the point. Marxists aren’t postmodernists (go look: there are tons of them around, writing tons of stuff). And postmodernists never promote Marxism (go look: there are tons of postmodern thinkers talking economics and politics).

        Yuo are buying into something as made up as secret lizard people running the world. This is not a brilliant point. It’s out-of-touch, paranoid fantasy. And if you don’t believe me, go find some writings of these people Peterson is talking about, who have combined Marxism and postmodern philosophy, and link or cite them here. Warning: make sure they actually advocate those two things. “But I think they do” won’t hold water unless you will also be proving it with cited quotations.

        In other words, please do some honest work, before believing alarming things.

        Reply
        1. There are plenty of people who call themselves “postmodern Marxists.” Fredric Jameson was the first Marxist political theorist to combine postmodernism and Marxist theory to bring us postmodern Marxism. Read this:

          “Fredric Jameson is at the forefront of attempts to engage Marxist literary and cultural criticism with the postmodern debates. A professor of literature and humanities, his work has been a sustained effort not only to critically confront poststructuralism
          and postmodernism, but to assimilate their contributions to an enriched Marxian cultural theory. Jameson’s most systematic and influential study, ‘Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of LateCapitalism’ (1984a), is a panoramic sweep of the postmodern cultural scene and a provocative attempt to relativize postmodernism as a stage in the development of capitalism, thereby asserting
          the supremacy of Marxist theory over all competitors. Of the major postmodern theorists, Jameson is one of the few to theorize postmodernism as a broad cultural logic and to connect it to the economic system of late capitalism. He sees ‘the whole global, yet
          American postmodern culture [as] the internal and superstructural expression of a whole new wave of American military and economic domination throughout the world’ (1984a: p.57) and insists that ‘every position on postmodernism in culture … is … an implicitly or explicitly political stance on the nature of multinational capital today’ (1984a: p. 55). Following Marx’s analysis of modernity, Jameson wants to grasp postmodernism and late capitalism dialectically, ‘as catastrophe and progress altogether’
          (1984a: p. 86).

          […]

          Jameson’s postmodern Marxism is the first attempt to combine Marxian and postmodern positions, contextualizing postmodernism within the development of capitalism, while engaging postmodern positions in order to rethink Marxist theory and politics in the contemporary era. While this is a highly original and interesting merger, we will ask if Jameson’s commitments to postmodernism and Marxism are compatible and what advantages and disadvantages result (6.1.2).”

        2. I’m getting this from pg. 182 of Steve Best’s Postmodern Theory:

          https://books.google.ca/books?id=PkhdDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

          He explicitly refers to Jameson combining postmodernism and Marxism into “postmodern Marxism.”

          Jameson admits to being both a postmodernist and a Marxist:

          “Marxism and postmodernism: people often seem to find this combination peculiar or paradoxical, and somehow intensely unstable, so that some of them are led to conclude that, in my own case, having ‘become’ a postmodernist, I must have ceased to be a Marxist in any meaningful (or in other words stereotypical) sense. For the two terms (in full postmodernism) carry with them a whole freight of pop nostalgia images, ‘Marxism’ perhaps distilling itself into yellowing period photographs of Lenin and the Soviet revolution, and ‘postmodernism’ quickly yielding a vista of the gaudiest new hotels.”

          He even acknowledges the existence of postmodern Marxism in his own writings:

          “For Marxism is the very science of capitalism; its epistemological vocation lies in its unmatched capacity to describe capitalism’s historical originality, whose fundamental structural contradictions endow it with its political and its prophetic vocation, which can scarcely be distinguished from the analytic ones. This is why, whatever its other vicissitudes, a postmodern capitalism necessarily calls a postmodern Marxism into existence over against itself.”

          There are entire books on postmodern Marxism:

          https://read.dukeupress.edu/books/book/2031/Re-presenting-ClassEssays-in-Postmodern-Marxism

          Just admit it. Postmodern Marxism is a thing.

        3. That section of the wiki article you linked is poorly sourced btw.

          It isn’t just a critique, Jameson combines postmodernism with his own Marxist belief system by portraying postmodernism as the logic of late capitalism.

          “Late capitalism:

          A term used in Marxism since the 1930s, but brought into prominence in critical theory by the work of economic historian Ernest Mandel with the publication of Der Spätkapitalismus (1972), translated as Late Capitalism (1975). By late capitalism Mandel meant simply the latest or most current stage of capitalism’s development, namely the transformations that had taken place in the capitalist mode of production since the end of World War II, particularly the explosive growth experienced in the USA, Germany, and Japan. Fredric Jameson adopts this term and Mandel’s analysis in his account of postmodernism as the most appropriate description of the present epoch.

          https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100052793

          Postmodernity is a distinct stage of capitalism, one unforeseen by Marx.

          He even says:

          “Postmodernism is not the cultural dominant of a wholly new social order […] but only the reflex and the concomitant of yet another systemic modification of capitalism itself.”

          Isn’t this what you asked for? Someone who has combined Marxism with postmodern philosophy?

        4. No. Jameson did not “combine” postmodern philosophy with Marxism. He “combined” it with capitalism, the enemy of Marxism. He is anti-postmodern philosophy. Read his own words: he is saying one of the evils of capitalism is postmodern thought. He’s condemning postmodern philosophy, not taking it up. Thus illustrating my point: Marxists are not friends to postmodernists, nor vice versa. They hate each other and see each other as part of the problems plaguing society. There is no unified “Marxist postmodernism.”

        5. Are you sure that’s what Jameson is saying?

          Then how do you explain this quote from Jameson:

          “This is why, whatever its other vicissitudes, a postmodern capitalism necessarily calls a postmodern Marxism into existence over against itself.”

          Isn’t he acknowledging the existence of postmodern Marxism in this passage? Not everything postmodern is bad, apparently.

          Also, how do you explain all of the essays and books discussing “postmodern Marxism” as a real thing (some of them linked here) if Marxists and postmodernists are implacable enemies, as you indicate?

        6. “Over against itself” i.e. postmodernism is destructive of Marxism. He is saying capitalists use postmodern thought as a tool to destroy and dismantle Marxism. “Postmodern Marxism” is what he means by capitalists misrepresenting Marxism to destroy it. Read what he is saying. In context. Pay attention to the words he uses.

        7. Where is Jameson saying that “capitalists use postmodern thought as a tool to destroy and dismantle Marxism”? Tbh, Jameson never says that postmodern is a “tool” anywhere in his writings, but he does identify it as “a systemic modification of capitalism.” If I’m wrong, please show me where Jameson calls postmodernism a “tool.”

          I’m not following your interpretation, so let’s look at the quote again, in its entirety:

          “For Marxism is the very science of capitalism; its epistemological vocation lies in its unmatched capacity to describe capitalism’s historical originality, whose fundamental structural contradictions endow it with its political and its prophetic vocation, which can scarcely be distinguished from the analytic ones. This is why, whatever its other vicissitudes, a postmodern capitalism necessarily calls a postmodern Marxism into existence over against itself.”

          This passage is really an argument.

          P.1: If Marxism has an “unmatched capacity to describe capitalism’s historical originality, whose fundamental structural contradictions endow it with its political and its prophetic vocation,” capitalism would necessarily call Marxism into existence.

          This is true for all forms of Marxism and capitalism, including their postmodern versions.

          P.2: Marxism has an “unmatched capacity to describe capitalism’s historical originality, whose fundamental structural contradictions endow it with its political and its prophetic vocation.”

          Ergo, “a postmodern capitalism necessarily calls a postmodern Marxism into existence.”

          The reason why Jameson concludes that “a postmodern capitalism necessarily calls a postmodern Marxism into existence” is because of Marxism’s “unmatched capacity to describe capitalism’s historical originality, whose fundamental structural contradictions endow it with its political and its prophetic vocation.” In other words, you can’t have one without the other. If there is going to be a post-modern capitalism, there will be a postmodern Marxism.

          He’s practically calling himself a postmodern Marxist in this passage, since we already know he identifies postmodernity with late capitalism.

          Now explain to me where you’re getting your interpretation from based on analysis of the passage in question.

        8. Btw, I just had to point out that the phrase “over against itself” in the passage refers to the opposition between postmodern Marxism and postmodern capitalism. It’s not referring to postmodern thought because Marxism and capitalism (and their postmodern versions) are the only subjects under discussion.

          Look at the quote again:

          “For Marxism is the very science of capitalism; its epistemological vocation lies in its unmatched capacity to describe capitalism’s historical originality, whose fundamental structural contradictions endow it with its political and its prophetic vocation, which can scarcely be distinguished from the analytic ones. This is why, whatever its other vicissitudes, a postmodern capitalism necessarily calls a postmodern Marxism into existence over against itself.”

          Where does it mention postmodern thought?

        9. …refers to the opposition between postmodern Marxism and postmodern capitalism

          No, it doesn’t. Good lord man. He says capitalism calls into existence a postmodern distortion of Marxism that it then uses against it. Aren’t you actually reading him? He’s talking about postmodern Marxism being a bastardization created by capitalists to discredit Marxism. If you can’t grasp this, you either aren’t reading his works, or you aren’t capable of the requisite reading comprehension to understand what he’s saying. Here’s an example of what he’s talking about. That’s not him, that’s his enemies. This is him. Read it. Later in that same text he says:

          Utopia, however, poses its own specific problems for any theory of the postmodern and any periodization of it. For according to one conventional view, Postmodernism is also at one with the definitive “end of ideologies,” a development announced (along with “postindustrial society”) by the conservative ideologues of the fifties ( Daniel Bell, Lipset, etc.), “disproven” dramatically by the sixties, only to “come true” in the seventies and eighties. “Ideology” in this sense meant Marxism, and its “end” went hand in hand with the end of Utopia,” already secured by the great postwar anti-Stalinist dystopias, such as 1984. But “Utopia” in that period was also a code word that simply meant “socialism” or any revolutionary attempt to create a radically different society, which the ex-radicals of that time identified almost exclusively with Stalin and Soviet communism. This generalized “end of ideology and of Utopia,” celebrated by the conservatives in the fifties, was also the burden of Marcuse One -Dimensional Man, which deplored it from a radical perspective. Meanwhile, in our own period virtually all the significant manifestos of Postmodernism celebrate a similar development — from Venturi’s “irony” to Achille Bonito-Oliva’s “deideologization,” which now comes to mean the eclipse of “belief” and of the twofold Absolutes of high modernism proper and the “political” (which is to say, of Marxism).

          Hence, he explains, postmodern thought is fundamentally anti-Marxist. He goes on to say he can still appreciate the aesthetics of postmodernism (its art and music, for example, though he hates what it’s done to novels), but he rejects its influence on ideology, as being destructive of Marxism and the Marxist project. He calls postmodern ideology essentially a cultural “schizophrenia.”

          And as he says:

          since I have been particularly interested in the formal matter of the new “theoretical discourse,” and also because the paradoxical combination of global decentralization and small-group institutionalization has come to seem an important feature of the postmodern tendential structure, I have mainly singled out intellectual and social phenomena like “poststructuralism” and the “new social movements,” thus giving the impression, against my own deepest political convictions, that all the “enemies” were on the left.

          In other words, his enemies are on the left because of their excessive embrace of postmodern thought.

          He concludes:

          I occasionally get just as tired of the slogan “postmodern” as anyone else, but when I am tempted to regret my complicity with it, to deplore its misuses and its notoriety, and to conclude with some reluctance that it raises more problems than it solves, I find myself pausing to wonder whether any other concept can dramatize the issues in quite so effective and economical a fashion. The rhetorical strategy of the preceding pages has involved an experiment, namely, the attempt to see whether by systematizing something that is resolutely unsystematic, and historicizing something that is resolutely ahistorical, one couldn’t outflank it and force a historical way at least of thinking about that. “We have to name the system”: this high point of the sixties finds an unexpected revival in the Postmodernism debate.

          Outflank it. In other words, he is acknowledging the world has become postmodernist in its thinking and that this poses a problem for Marxism that Marxists must find a way to overcome. And they can only do so by acknowledging it and understanding it, and taking from it what might be worthwhile (e.g. its democratization of art) and abandoning what it has that is destructive of social progress (e.g. its rejection of objective history and science, its obsession with identity politics other than simply that of class, and so on).

        10. Read the words. Who “calls a postmodern Marxism into existence”? Marxism? Or Capitalisn? He says Capitalism does. It’s a Capitalist constrict. Not a Marxist one. And Capitalism calls this bastardization of “postmodern Marxism” into existence “over against” what? Itself—i.e. against Marxism.

          You would understand this if you would stop quote mining and read the actual writings of Jameson.

        11. So why does every source I come across refer to something called “postmodern Marxism”? Where are they getting this from? Every book I’ve seen so far discusses postmodern Marxism as a real ideology and identifies Jameson’s version of Marxism as a form of postmodern Marxism.

          For example, in this book, under a section entitled “Postmodern Marxism”:

          “However, it is the American literary and cultural theorist Fredric Jameson, whose reading and mapping of the dialectical tradition has produced the most interesting and stimulating results. Jameson, it can be said, has developed a postmodern Marxism
          which is capable of conceptually confronting a
          globalized or multinational capitalism and its
          cultural logic.”

          The book also identifies him as “one of
          the foremost theorists of postmodernism and postmodernity.”

          https://books.google.ca/books?id=Y8TeDAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

          And there’s more where that came from. There are numerous references to postmodern Marxism online. How could this be if there’s no such thing postmodern Marxism? Are you saying these people are all idiots?

        12. Jameson was a renowned critic of postmodernism. That’s what they mean by a theorist of. He coined the phrase “postmodern Marxism” to refer to characterizations of Marxism formulated by postmodernists that are destructive of Marxism. He described postmodernism as a particular disease of capitalism, and likewise its bastardization of Marxism.

          Try reading the actual book you are now quoting: it is discussing Jameson’s book titled “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.” Capitalism. Not Marxism. Jameson writes about how postmodernism has affected art and the discourse between Marxism and Capitalism, and is now a defining feature of Capitalism. He is thus an important critic and historian of postmodern thought. But he himself condemns it and only writes about it to critique and explain it and give Marxists tools to overcome or outflank it.

          Which you will understand if you would just read Jameson. Instead of quote mining random things out of context.

    2. Eelko de Vos: As this has been a phenomenon in every generation since time began (only the ideas sold by the process changes), I don’t see any increase in the matter to explain. We’re perfectly capable of being smarter as a people. We just don’t make any effort to be. And we, as a people, evidently aren’t ashamed of that enough to do anything about it.

      Until we feel the requisite shame, we will lack the requisite motive. We already know how to be better at this. But without the motive to be, we simply won’t be. As far as I can tell, there is nothing else left to discuss.

      Reply
      1. I’ve encountered my share of people who either show a total disinterest into looking complex political, social, or scientific subjects or feel burnt out from doing so. Creating a kind of default opinion whether it fits the facts or not. Kind of the equivalent to, screw this I’m choosing answer B mentality.

        Reply
        1. Imo Jordan Peterson does good work. His opinions aren’t politically correct, but he does get people thinking by challenging their assumptions. What’s the point of believing in anything – rights, equality, feminism – if you don’t understand the reasons for believing it? People shouldn’t get so defensive when their most cherished beliefs are questioned.

          Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We shouldn’t be afraid to leave our comfort zones and safe spaces when truth is at stake.

  3. I’ve only seen Jordan Peterson in action when he was interviewed by Channel 4 (UK).

    He was a brilliant performer. The female interviewer was left floundering.

    I see Jordan as a classical Socratic philosopher chiselling away at our contemporary beliefs. Confounding us with our inadequate and superficial assumptions.

    I think he and Richard Carrier have a great deal in common.

    Reply
    1. There is a decent critique of that interview from a Peterson supporter at Quillette. I bookmark this for anyone who wants to explore this from both points of view. Although I don’t agree with all his conclusions, I think that critic does a fair job representing his point of view.

      For my own piece, I found nothing useful in that interview so had no need of referencing it. It’s typical for television journalists to suck at really getting at what weird thinkers think and why. Indeed I’ve almost never seen any television interview of anyone by anyone that was actually worth watching. That one is no different. At best, you can mine it for quotes to verify Peterson’s ideas by. But we’ll all have to critique those ideas ourselves. Television interviewers won’t be of any help.

      Peterson’s dialogues with Harris, Dillahunty, Blackmore, and others who actually have a relevantly skilled and informed perspective to deploy are more worthwhile. Television journalists don’t usually have narrow enough skills for this kind of thing.

      Reply
      1. I’ve come to the same conclusion with most live debates. In my view, the majority of debates are determined by who had better charisma over who had the better facts on the table.

        Reply
      2. I’ve got mixed feelings about Jordan Peterson. On the one hand, I appreciate his push back against radical left-wing propaganda. In that regard, he’s a very logical and a breath of fresh air. Look how he exposed that interviewer’s intellectual incompetence (but to be fair, it wasn’t that hard a task).

        However, when talking about Christianity and religion, he shifts into bullshit mode. And I’m 99.9% sure that he’s being dishonest in that regard – he’s main objective is to keep his Christian audience happy. He doesn’t believe that Jesus literary rose from the dead, it’s obvious. He believes that the Bible is essentially metaphorical. But when he was asked if he believed that Jesus rose from the dead, he said he was agnostic about that. The reason I believe he gave that answer is that, on the hand, he didn’t want to upset his Christian audience, but on the other hand, he was too embarrassed to say that he believed in the resurrection – he knew that would hurt his credibility as an intellectual and a scientist. In another interview he was asked if he believed in god, and his answer was “it depends on what you mean by believe”. REALLY?!

        But he says a lot of things which make him look like a pseudo intellectual, such as “no one is really an atheist”, “metaphorical truth supersedes literal truth”, etc.

        Moreover, I watched his latest debate on the show Unbelievable and the issue of whether there’s a correlation between a country’s religiosity and its economy came up, and his opponent pointed out that the evidence shows that the poorest countries tend to be the most religious, something which he dishonestly refused to acknowledge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syP-OtdCIho. But to be honest, I don’t know if he’s opponent was right. The US is very religious and yet a super power. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians were very advanced civilizations but they were also very religious. So I don’t know the answer to this question.

        Reply
        1. I appreciate his push back against radical left-wing propaganda.

          I should note I agree more of this should happen, and I do it myself (example, example, example, example, example, example).

          But when people like Peterson do it, with crankery and straw manning and conartistry, he is actually making things worse, by actually convincing people he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and therefore there must be nothing to talk about. Both sides do this: liberals get right-wing ideas wrong, convincing the right-wingers their ideas must be right (a non sequitur). It’s not only not productive, it’s counter-productive. He is destroying his own cause by convincing liberals there are no real problems to solve in their communities of ideas. Just as liberals who get conservatives wrong keep convincing conservatives there are no real problems to solve in their communities of ideas.

          All the examples of problems you list in his treatment of atheism and religion, all correct observations indeed, are the same things he does to fuck up his critique of left-wing ideas. And indeed that interview you mention is a prime example: he was wrong about the gender wage gap issue (just as I explain in my article above), but merely faced a straw man opponent (someone who hadn’t researched it). That’s con artistry; sophistry. Not intellectualism. Saying “I can pwn a television interviewer” does not make you smart. It just tells us you don’t take understanding the truth of things seriously, that you care more about gameplaying and appearances. Which is precisely what’s wrong with guys like Peterson. We shouldn’t be revering them. We should be laughing them off the public stage, and asking for far better intellectuals than this.

          I don’t know if he’s opponent was right. The US is very religious and yet a super power. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians were very advanced civilizations but they were also very religious. So I don’t know the answer to this question.

          The U.S. is actually an outlier. And the model is not regarding ancient but modern civilizations.

          Even in antiquity though, as Greece and Rome rose in wealth and achievement, their elite declined in religious fanaticism (with a noted rise in religious rationalism and secularism). But that’s not the model that was being discussed there. That’s instead the Secularization Thesis, further supported by Gregory Paul’s studies of societal dysfunction, which holds that as nations become wealthier and more free (it must be both: wealth and increase in democratic liberties), they become more secular, as religion becomes more useless or even maladaptive.

          But what that model actually shows is that this wealth must be distributed (concentrated-wealth societies, i.e. with high income disparities—and social welfare systems, like national healthcare, public roads, etc., count as wealth distribution in this respect). The U.S. is one of the most unequal Western societies with very poor social welfare systems compared to the rest of the first world; thus explaining why it remains more religious. Thus the model actually predicts the U.S. would be an outlier. We have too much poverty and economic hardship, worse public health, and so on. And we do nothing about it.

          What Paul added was the observation that there is in fact a consistent correlation between societal religiosity (measured by both mere belief and fanaticism, i.e. amount of populace committed to fundamentalist religion) and a whole array of markers of social dysfunction including poverty, crime, STDs and teen pregnancies, and several other things. And this correlation holds up not only nation-to-nation, but even state-to-state within the United States. It’s quite robust.

        2. Thank you for the examples. I wasn’t aware that you’ve criticized the far Left. I appreciate very much your objectivity and honesty. Sadly, such qualities are becoming increasingly rare these days. This reminds me of a statement that George Carlin said: “It’s not just the politicians who suck! Everyone sucks”! Bullshit is everywhere!”

          But you are right, fighting bad ideas with crankery is counterproductive, especially in this day and age where people can fact-check you in minutes and even though most people won’t, many of your opponents will. If you keep on repeating something that’s been proven to be factually incorrect, your opponents will call you out. If you want to make the claim that Trump is a racist, don’t use the media’s favorite “example” – that he called Mexicans (in general) rapists. Because that’s verifiably false, it’s right there on YT. If you want to criticize the economic system that the Left is advocating, stop using the Soviet Union and Venezuela to discredit them. That’s straw man. All these outlets and activists need to be held accountable for the social consequences their narrative has.

          I believe the fanaticism we see with Jordan Petersen fans is a symptom of a larger problem. Corrupt left-wingers control 99% of the media and they are using it to push their propaganda. But what’s worse is they want to take away your freedom speech and if you dare disagree with them, you are likely to be stigmatized as a racist, sexist, Nazi, some kind of phobic, bigot, or who knows what the hell else. And when people like Jordan Petersen stands up to them, he is revered (most of his followers won’t even care that he got the lobsters wrong or whether his dishonest about his religious beliefs). So when Leftists complain about the “Jordan Petersen cult” or why many liberals are turning to Trump, they need to think a bit deeper as to what’s causing all this.

          Moreover, thank you for the explanation of why the US actually supports the model. I find the notion that the more religious a country is the less economically successful it is, interesting. I’ll research it.

        3. Trump definitely is a racist, and markets himself to racist voters. This is extensively documented (see this survey, this survey, this survey, this survey, etc.). Even in the one example you reference, Trump said:

          When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

          Here he is vilifying an entire class of people (Mexican immigrants) as criminals and rapists, and allowing only “some” might not be. This is an inhuman and bigoted thing to say. It’s definitely racist. Not least because it’s false: the rate of criminality among Mexicans immigrants is no greater and by some measures lower than the natural born population of the United States. Just as almost no Americans are rapists, almost no Mexican immigrants are, too. But playing up racist fears that they’re mostly rapists to get votes, is itself racist. And consciously so.

          “Corrupt left-wingers control 99% of the media” is also completely false. To make such an absurd claim you’d have to be ignoring whole television and radio stations and numerous leading periodicals, and half the internet. Moreover, none of the most-consumed left-wing media does or wants to do any of the bizarre extremist things you claimed. You are doing what Peterson does: conflating a few extremists with everyone on the left. That’s irrational. Stop doing it.

        4. I don’t dispute that he’s a racist. That’s not the point I’m making. If he refused housing to people based on their race, then he is a racist and there’s no way around it. The point I’m making is that his comments about the Mexicans were not racist but the media has convinced everyone that they were. Here’s why I’m saying that his comments were not racist. He was referring specifically to the group of Mexicans who were crossing the border illegally (i.e. a small percentage of the population). He wasn’t referring to Mexicans in general as rapists. Racism is assigning characteristics to an entire race of people – it’s about the Race. So if he had said “Mexicans are rapists”, that would be typical racism. What he said instead was that Mexico has both good and bad people (which is true of all ethnicities), and the ones who are crossing the border illegally are the bad ones. Again the bad ones are a minority, his comments weren’t directed at the majority of Mexicans, so by definition the comments were not racist.

        5. No, Trump’s comments about mexican immigrants were indeed racist. Racism is not restricted to Jim Crowe style legalism. One can be a racist and at the same time have given up trying to break the law or get away with legislating racial discrimination. Trump said most immigrants are rapists and criminals, which they aren’t (not even the ones crossing “illegally,” see the link I presented you), and he deliberately did so to fear-monger about the “invasion” of “another race” to gain votes from racists. That’s consciously and deliberately racist. And mainstream media covered this fairly an accurately (the link I just gave you is a prime example). That he allowed that Mexicans who stay in their own “shithole” country might not be mostly criminals doesn’t absolve him of racism. It doesn’t absolve anyone of racism. If you think most hispanics around you are criminals, you are a racist.

        6. I accept that I made an over-generalization when I said “corrupt left-wingers control 99% of the media”. But aren’t those the ones with the most viewership and influence? You can have 100 news networks in total but 5 of those get most of the viewership and consequently will have most of the influence.

          The only way I’m using the term “racism” is as it is defined by the Oxford Dictionary of Sociology:

          “Racialism is the unequal treatment of a population group purely because of its possession of physical or other characteristics socially defined as denoting to a particular race. Racism is the deterministic belief system that sustains racialism, linking these characteristics with negatively valued social, psychological, or physical traits”

          So according to the official definition, racism is about characteristics that apply to the race on the whole, not a small percentage of the race.

          The following is everything Trump said about the Mexicans in the link you sent me:

          “Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”

          “But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people”

          “It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably — probably — from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.”

          It seems that he’s referring to the ones that are crossing the border illegally. I’m not seeing how he’s directing this at Mexicans that are coming over legally, and I definitely don’t see this being directed at Mexicans in general. This is what would make racist according to the official definition.

          And you are right about the evidence showing that most immigrants (even the illegal ones) don’t engage in criminal behavior. But that still wouldn’t make his comments racist just because he got that wrong. BUT if you are the president of a country and you make such a false statement, it’s your responsibility to publicly correct it, which he didn’t as far as I know.

          Moreover, you say that he deliberately said those things to get votes from racists. He probably did. But can’t the same be said for the left-wing media and politicians? When they spew anti-white rhetoric, aren’t they doing that do gain votes from people who hate whites? Racists in other words? When the media present whites as being responsible for most violent crimes, when the evidence clearly shows that by rate they don’t commit most of the violent crimes https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/tables/table-43. What about when they present whites as being the most racist group of people? When by rate, whites are not responsible for most of the hate crimes https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2018/tables/table-9.xls. They also say that whites receive shorter sentences than blacks for the same crimes, why don’t they also mention that that only applies to males? Since black females receive shorter sentences than white males? https://www.ussc.gov/research/research-reports/demographic-differences-sentencing.

          There’s a constant bombardment of anti-white rhetoric by the left-wing media and politicians, but because it’s anti-white, it’s not considered racist. Replace “anti-white” with anti any other race, and everyone would have been calling it racist. What’s even worse, people who are anti-white are getting fired up and are attacking on social media non-american whites as well. These xxxxx are going to start a racial “war”.

        7. You are wrong about grammar here. The ODS did not say it isn’t racism “unless” it applies to all members of a race. You are committing the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Because “I mistreat the Mexicans I meet because of their racial characteristics” does not entail “I mistreat all Mexicans.” Assuming a Mexican is a criminal because they are Mexican is racism. “But I’m okay with the good ones” is still racist. It does not get you off the hook that you believe that somewhere in the world there are “good” Mexicans. Thinking that any Mexican you meet here is a criminal constitutes making decisions about them based on their racial characteristics. That’s racism. Even by the ODS. And if you are unsure about that, write the editors of the ODS and have them explain this to you.

        8. Your grammar is invalid. The ODS does not say you have to be be racist toward all members of a race to be racist. Only that you judge any person by their race. That you believe somewhere in the world far away from you there are “good ones” does not get you off the hook from racism.

          You are committing here the fallacy of affirming the consequent. All that the ODS says racism requires is that you judge someone by their racial characteristics. Not by their geographic location or anything else. If you think most of the Mexicans around you are criminals because they look Mexican, you are a racist. Even if you think there are some hypothetical Mexicans somewhere who aren’t criminals. And if you don’t understand this, please write the editors of the ODS and have them explain it to you.

          Meanwhile, there is no “anti-white” rhetoric that is like this coming from any mainstream media source. Facts are not racist. I challenge you to find me any mainstream media source that has said anything factually untrue about white people. And do it correctly. Please.

          For example:

          (1) Find me a mainstream media source that said “white people commit most violent crimes.” Violent crimes. Not “crimes.”

          (2) Likewise get your facts right. Don’t confuse “racist” with “hate crimes.” Most racists don’t commit hate crimes. But your own FBI link shows most hate crimes are caused by white people. So I fail to see your point here.

          (3) And don’t misstate what the media says. Black women get longer sentences than white women; and black men, than white men. Thus being black leads to longer sentences regardless of gender. Comparing white men with black women is a false comparison here, as it disregards the intersection of race and gender. When only talking about race, the only comparison that matters is black women to white women. This is a basic principle of the controlled variable.

          That you make all these mistakes is telling. There is something wrong with your epistemology. You should be disturbed by that. You should be keen to fix it. So get that done. Please.

          Meanwhile, that racists are gunning for a race war is not our fault. It’s theirs. Non-racist white people aren’t driven to violence by being told a lot of white people are racist. Only racists are driven to violence by hearing such facts.

        9. I accept that my epistemology needs improving, and I am keen to fix it. But I believe that my biggest problem is my poor communication skills. Sometimes when I have thought, only half of it is expressed on paper/verbally and the rest is expressed in my head. I will do self-criticism where I believe I went wrong.

          First off, I don’t believe that I’ve misunderstood the definition of the ODS. Of course you can be racist toward a specific ethnicity/race and still believe that a small percentage of that group is good. And I agree that if you assume that a Mexican is a criminal merely because they are Mexican, it is indeed racism. But for something to be considered racist it must be applicable to most of the racial/ethnical group. So if he had said “Mexicans are rapists”, although that would be a racist comment, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is saying that every single Mexican is a rapist (saying that men are taller than women doesn’t necessarily mean you are saying the every man is taller than every woman). It’s a generic statement and these statements always allow for exceptions. So, the statement “Mexicans are rapists” usually means that “Most Mexicans are rapists” or “Mexicans in general are rapists”. In fact, the media lied that Trump said that “Mexicans are rapists”, i.e. most Mexicans are racist. This is not a matter of opinion. I remember when one of the white dudes on TYT said this and so did Whoopi Goldberg on the View say it. I will look for the videos.

          Here are Trumps comments again:

          “Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”

          What he is saying here is that Mexico has both good and bad people (this is true of all ethnicities) and the ones who are coming over are the bad ones, or some of the bad ones. He’s not saying that the bad ones are representative of most Mexicans.

          “But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people”

          Here he is clarifying that he is referring to Mexicans that are crossing the border illegally.

          “It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably — probably — from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.”

          Trump’s comments seem to be directed at illegal immigrants specifically. So on this specific point, I will have to respectfully disagree with you.

          The following are my responses to your examples:

          Even if the media accused whites of most “crimes” and not “violent crimes” my point still stands. Whites constitute 60% of the population whereas Blacks constitute 13%. You would expect whites to commit most of the crimes. But social scientists will look at “per capita”. If populations X and Y are both 50,000 each, and both are equally criminal in terms of behavior, you should expect them to commit roughly the same number of crimes. However, If population X is 100,000 and population Y is 50,000 and, they are both equally criminal in terms of their behavior, you should expect population X to commit twice the number of crimes as population Y. I think this is common sense. What I’m saying is that the media is presenting whites as the most criminal in terms of behavior while ignoring the huge population differences. I will run YB search and find videos that show this.
          Actually, here I did commit a fallacy, since racism isn’t only expressed through hate crimes, even though hate crimes driven by racial bias is one of the worst forms of racism. And the hate crimes data I presented were specifically driven by racial/ethnic bias. So what you were implying with your statement of “don’t confuse “racist” with “hate crimes”, is incorrect. And yes, the FBI link does show that whites commit most violent crimes, but again, the concept of “per capita” is always conveniently ignored by the mainstream media. But I don’t think I communicated this very well in my previous reply. Maybe I should have said “per capita” instead of “by rate”?
          I’m definitely guilty of miscommunication here. What I meant to say was that the media claims that the legal system is racist since white men receive shorter sentences than black men for the exact same crimes, but doesn’t claim that the legal system is sexist toward men since black women receive shorter sentences than white men for the exact same crime. They sweep this under the rag,

          Let me give you a blatant example of open racism against whites by AOC. She said that the greatest global polluters are whites https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhV8Mx2YVOI. In fact, the greatest polluter of the planet, is China, and per capita, it’s Saudi Arabia https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/each-countrys-share-co2-emissions. Why did she leave them out, Richard? Should the number one polluter be left out of this conversation? Or is it because they’re not white? Of course, whites as a single race are responsible for more pollution compared to any other single race, but relative to the other races in total, whites account for less then half of the world’s pollution. If your main concern is pollution and not bashing whites, do you leave that part out? Why did she leave out China, Japan, South Korea? Also, doesn’t being technologically advanced have anything to do with how much pollution you produce? Even though she didn’t say it, she’s implying a correlation between being “white” and being a “polluter”, instead of being “technologically advanced” (or any other factor) and “being a polluter”. That is implicit racism, unless she can prove the correlation she’s suggesting. These racist and divisive comments are creating a negative environment where racism thrives. So, if we’re going to criticize Trump for making divisive comments, let’s be consistent and criticize AOC as well.

          Moreover, I assume you are referring to “liberals” when you say “It’s not “our” fault that the mainstream media is gunning for a race war”. I wouldn’t make such a generalization, but many liberals are covering up for them and sadly many are even supporting them. That’s why I appreciate it when liberals such as yourself criticize the far left and I’ve acknowledged that. And this may come as a surprise to you, I’m a liberal and left leaning myself.

          Regarding your last statement of “non-racist white people aren’t driven to violence by being told a lot of white people are racist”. Maybe the process of becoming a racist isn’t as simple as that, but non-racists can become racists if they are exposed to a racist environment. And the mainstream media are creating a racist environment. The irony is that they love to preach diversity.

        10. I’m still waiting for you to present me an example of what I asked for. Blathering on about things I already refuted is not progress. It’s just an excuse not to learn anything.

        11. I will have to respectfully disagree that you’ve refuted my points. But I don’t want this to become repetitive and I’m eager to move on from this hateful subject.

          You’ve issued a challenge that I find one media source that said, “whites commit most violent crimes”. Some of the sources I will provide imply that, others state it explicitly.

          In fact, I did the minimum amount of research necessary. I could have spend a few hours and would find a lot more. Especially on TYT’s channel.

          I focused on “mass shootings” since that seems to be the type of violent crime the racist left-wing media loves to associate with white people.

          1) This is an article by CNN from 2017 https://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/03/opinions/mass-shootings-white-male-rage-modan-opinion/index.html

          This is an excerpt from their article:” But this is a white man’s problem. According to an analysis by Mother Jones, out of 62 cases between 1982 and 2012 (a time period that would not include the actions of Dylann Roof or Stephen Paddock, among others), 44 of the killers were white men and only one was a woman”.

          (Apparently they made mistake here, the time frame according to their source is 1982-2019)

          According to the source they are citing, from 1982 to 2019, 64 out of the 115 recorded mass shootings were committed by whites, 18 were committed by blacks, 10 by Latinos, 8 by Latinos, and 4 were unknown. They are not taking into account the huge populations differences between the racial groups. And yet they are presenting mass shootings as “while male” problem. To ignore the population differences is either a sing of extreme bias or lack of basic common sense.

          Here is the data in a spreadsheet from their source https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1adqcoPURQ5HNUUviKBUlyg61mSAht-hRSzFtzUr9PMI/edit?usp=sharing

          The following population numbers are based on the census. There is no direct link to these data, you would need run a search to find them (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/RHI525218):

          European Whites: 60.4 %
          Asian: 5.9%
          Hispanic: 18.3%
          Black: 13.4%
          American Indian: 1.3%
          Native Hawaiian: 0.2%

          I don’t know how to work out mathematically what percentage of the mass shootings each racial group accounts for, but with the naked eye, it seems that whites and blacks are pretty close.

          Another interesting point is that since 1982 the population disparities between whites and the rest of the racial groups were larger – the white population has been shrinking. So that also needs to be taken into account. Again, there is no direct link to these data on the census. But you can run a search. However, even if you only use today’s population differences to look at racial groups and mass shootings’ rate from 1982-2019, this still wouldn’t be a “white problem” specifically.

          2) This video was published by CNN in 2014, presenting mass shootings as a “white male with mental health problems” issue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1SrN2mBWD8&list=LLKmDgQoOc_3Vh4LUYKh1ShA&index=4&t=0s

          3) This is an article published in 2017 by Huffpost citing the exact same study. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/read-cole-sprouses-powerful-take-on-whiteness-and-mass-shootings_n_59d27a4be4b048a443242dbc?guccounter=1

          This is an excerpt from their article: “White men, in particular, have committed the majority of mass shootings in the United States ― hovering around 54 percent, according to a Mother Jones study ― even though many continue to point the finger at foreigners or religious extremists.”

          Notice how they give they the mass shootings rate that whites account for but don’t do the same for any other racial group. And again, the population differences are completely ignored.

          4) And this is a TYT video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-XDaUCvwao&list=LLKmDgQoOc_3Vh4LUYKh1ShA&index=3&t=0s.

          Notice how Chenk is using the white governments’ and white militaries’ violent past to assign the “violent” trait to white people in general. This is by definition racism. Moreover, at the very end he says, “look at the record of who is doing most of the (mass) killings”, he is referring to whites. Again, the concept of per capita is conveniently ignored.

        12. You’ve issued a challenge that I find one media source that said, “whites commit most violent crimes”. Some of the sources I will provide imply that, others state it explicitly.

          I focused on “mass shootings” since that seems to be the type of violent crime the racist left-wing media loves to associate with white people.

          1) This is an article by CNN from 2017 https://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/03/opinions/mass-shootings-white-male-rage-modan-opinion/index.html

          This is an excerpt from their article: ”But this is a white man’s problem. According to an analysis by Mother Jones, out of 62 cases between 1982 and 2012 (a time period that would not include the actions of Dylann Roof or Stephen Paddock, among others), 44 of the killers were white men and only one was a woman”.

          This is not a statement that “whites commit most violent crimes.” It is a statement about mass shootings. And it’s true.

          It says “between 1982 and 2012” not “between 1982 and 2019,” indeed the CNN article dates to 2017; so what the CNN article actually said is true (it stated dates, and correctly described the data). How you think an article in 2017 could reference data in 2019 astounds me. You somehow didn’t even notice the statement in their source that says they updated their data in years after the CNN article.

          So you screwed up three times here. “Mass shootings” are a subset of “violent crime” yet you conflated them. Mistake number one. Then you used data from years after the CNN article was written, which cannot convict what they said in 2017. Then you cite data that only confirms what they said: most mass shootings are by white men (by your own data: 64 out of 115; the ratio is even starker when you count mass shootings with the highest body counts).

          The rest of your stuff is likewise a non sequitur. You not only failed to find any examples of the statement I asked you to find, like here above you delusionally gave me examples of completely different statements—that were true!

          You clearly have no functioning epistemology. And until you fix that, nothing you believe can be trusted to be logical or sound. So you’d better get worried about how you failed here, and fix it, and then adjust your beliefs with your new, fixed epistemology, one that won’t make glaring mistakes like this.

          Come back when you’ve done that.

  4. // the bizarre event that skyrocketed Peterson from obscurity into fame was his insistence upon the right to insult his students and colleagues and not be fired for it.// This is such a misrepresentation of the situation it’s hard to know whether you are just being disingenuous or actually don’t have much of a clue as to how it all unfolded..

    Reply
    1. You were asked to provide evidence of any point you make. I am clearing your comment for publication just to illustrate who I will be ignoring: people who just gainsay things but present no evidence they are right and make no effort to. You can do better than this. That you didn’t, should worry you.

      Reply
  5. “But Peterson went beyond his unprofessional defense of incivility and raised such a moral panic over trans people being treated like people that he even falsely claimed he would be in danger of being jailed for misgendering them if they were given the same status as gay people in Canadian human rights law. Unanimously lawyers and legal experts explained to him he wouldn’t be (and lo: he hasn’t been).”

    I feel as though there may be some subtleties here and some room for argument. He says “If I am fined I will refuse to pay it” which he then says could send him to jail. Not that he would go directly to jail for misusing pronouns. The one legal scholar I’ve read discuss the topic seemed to admit this as a possibility.

    Or perhaps he really did mean that he would go directly to jail. Hard to say really, but I’ll try and be charitable.

    Reply
    1. He did say that. But it’s twice false.

      First, fines can be garnished; refusal to pay does not require incarceration and there is no evidence it ever would or ever has. This is what I mean by him not even bothering to find out whether anything he is saying is true. He not only doesn’t check facts, he ardently refuses to listen even when the real experts point these facts out to him.

      Second, he cannot be fined under that Canadian human rights law for merely refusing to gender people the way they want. Follow the links I provided. The law does not cover such things. And never has. Lawyers and legislators have explained this at length.

      The worst that can happen is that his employer can legally fire him if they deem his behavior contrary to the requirements of his employment—as insulting customers and coworkers definitely would be. But that has nothing to do with the Canadian human rights law in. It’s just standard commercial rights law.

      Reply
  6. What a garbage article. Pushing idiocy like “Peterson is already a joke in most circles” and “Everything he said about Canadian human rights law is false“ at the outset inform the reader that the article is going nowhere fast. Take Peterson seriously making a worthwhile critique would be a wonderful endeavor that Peterson himself would appreciate. Don’t waste your time with this superficial tripe.

    Reply
    1. You cite two statements that are factually true, and are actually demonstrated to be true in the article itself with authoritative links, as evidence the article is bad. You make no attempt to present any evidence they are false or deserve any correction, despite being instructed to.

      Ladies and gentlemen, this is what’s wrong with Peterson fans. You can never have a reliable grasp of reality if you act like this.

      Reply
  7. Footnote: I didn’t discuss Peterson’s actual peer reviewed scientific work because it never significantly features in any of his public writings, lectures, or philosophy. But I did recommend reading Beauchamp, who discusses this point. For convenience, I’ll here quote him on it:

    Peterson’s research specialty is personality traits; one of his most prominent papers is a study of what makes people more or less creative, where he argues that people who pay more attention to seemingly “irrelevant” details actually tend to be more creative. According to Google Scholar, he has been cited more than 10,000 times in academic publications and is one of the 70 most cited researchers in his subfield. I spoke to eight academic psychologists before writing this piece; the feedback I received on his published work was uniformly positive.

    “His work in personality assessment … is very solid and well respected,” says David Watson, a psychology professor at Notre Dame.

    But this work, respected as it may be, has little to do with Peterson’s fame. His most influential research was published in the late ’90s and early to mid-2000s; of his 20 most cited papers, only one came out after 2010.

    Reply
  8. He is just an ordinary guy. The fact that people expect so much from him, both his followers and those that think he is a Wacko, says more about them than it does about Peterson. He was fortunate to be able to get to the position he rose to. Publishing his book and it becoming a bestseller – who doesn’t dream of that? His life has not been easy over the last few years and he has handled himself amazingly well in my opinion. He has projected outward and helped others when he himself was feeling so much pain…instead of harming he has healed…and he is just an ordinary guy.

    Reply
    1. He is not an “ordinary guy.” He promulgates his toxic and false views with authority and commands a following in the tens of millions. He is the one who sets expectations high by declaring nonsense with rage and conviction. He is the one failing us. Not the other way around.

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  9. I rather like Jordan Peterson, though I am not sure I like the impression I have gathered, superficially, of his followers. Yet the article is just a smear, rather repetitive, about ‘Peterson’s woo’, and ‘Jordan Peterson has already become a joke in most circles’, and ‘He is, essentially, the Deepak Chopra of the Nones’, and I’m just starting out here, there is much more to wade through about ‘Peterson’s con’, and ‘his whole philosophy of Darwinian survivalism that defines even his epistemology’, which has the virtue of sounding interesting, I’m not sure where I could find disagreement with that, but I’m sure that Peterson could, especially if he is supposedly also doing ‘pretty much exactly like Christian churches do’. And also, Peterson ‘he now puts on an act, complete with a fake costume’. I don’t know what we pine for him to wear instead, but his costume is given as being ‘a polished 1950s professorial style’. I bet this really means simply fall menswear’s professorial style. Because, is Jordan Peterson really taking me through the 1950s men’s fashion? And if he is dressing the professor, then this is hardly inauthentic anyways. Unless it would be more authentic to be dressing in a flashy manner as a professor. Meanwhile, I’m just sayin’, today’s college students often come to class wearing flip-flops, band tees, and pajama pants, right? The whole issue seems a distraction anyways.

    Let’s slow down to consider whether ‘the first reason we know Jordan Peterson is a crank is because he spews pseudoscience, and made up nonsense he claims is science, and too often gets relevant science wrong’.

    Well, hooray for science, and even for just being interested in it, but the level of discourse here seems pretty irrelevant to Jordan Peterson, when I read that ‘You can’t study humans by studying lobsters. That’s as dumb as thinking we can study mountains by studying my pet rock.’ I guess that’s dumb, and I guess confidently. The problem here is given as being that ‘Peterson infamously claims in his most famous book, Twelve Rules for Life, that lobster brains dissolve when socially dominated, and then they regrow new “subordinate” brains.’ Does Peterson infamously claim that? The idea here, as I recall off the cuff, was that the higher up a hierarchy a lobster climbs, the more serotonin its brain produces. The more defeat it suffers, the more restricted the serotonin supply. Well, I’ll stick my neck out, again off the cuff, and reply that actually, as I have gathered about the issue, it is true that serotonin is present in crustaceans (like the lobster) and that it is highly connected to dominance and aggressive social behaviour. Indeed, when free moving lobsters are given injections of serotonin they adopt aggressive postures similar to the ones displayed by dominant animals when they approach subordinates. None of this is, I take it, remotely controversial. Now, one might take an interest in emphasizing the nuances here, like maybe that the same neurotransmitter can have contrasting effects in different organisms. Heck, maybe even say that lobsters and humans are just not a great comparison. But it is, a comparison. I don’t think Peterson is obviously out of his depth here.

    Is it true that ‘what Peterson fabricates .. is essentially a Marxist-inspired, now-falsified idea called Social Dominance Theory’? No, actually, social dominance theory was first formulated in 1999, by psychology professors and researchers. I don’t think it terribly relevant to crow that this is influenced by Marxist and socio-biological ideas, but at least it is true. I am not so clear on why social dominance theory has been falsified. And no fundamental criticisms are actually given, here. Although this guy claims to be giving Peterson ‘every honest chance’. Well, but is it even controversial to emphasize that the reason that social hierarchies exist in human societies is that they were necessary for survival of inter-group competition during conflict over resources? The point is nowhere under dispute. Correct me if it is somewhere under dispute, even, because the point I am making is not that I have an opinion about it. My point is that I think it fair to assume that on this particular matter, your considered opinion is the same as Peterson’s opinion about it. You tell me.

    I’ll wrap this up prematurely, with ‘Jordan Peterson is a crap philosopher’. Really, now? If that is true, then okay, hooray for the truth, but I would have tried harder not to juxtapose the point that ‘Jordan Peterson is a crap philosopher’, to the point that ‘Peterson’s prose is also dismally bad.’

    Reply
    1. The article is just a smear, rather repetitive, about ‘Peterson’s woo’, and ‘Jordan Peterson has already become a joke in most circles’, and ‘He is, essentially, the Deepak Chopra of the Nones’

      It’s not a smear when it’s true. I demonstrate each of those things is true, wirth examples. You were asked to do the same, if you wished to contest anything I said. So why didn’t you? Why do you offer no examples or evidence any of those things I said was wrong? Care to try again?

      Likewise, the relevance of changing dress and demeanor is that his doing it precisely when he needed to match an image he wanted to convey is evidence of conscious manipulation of the public. You offer no evidence it served any other purpose or resulted from any other cause.

      You then ignore every point I made about why everything he says about lobsters is wrong and cannot correlate to humans. You even specifically ignore my detailed point about how talking about the chemistry (“serotonin”) is likewise completely inept and inapplicable. This is shit science. And a scientist should know that. Pease try again: find a specific claim I made and present evidence it is incorrect. Don’t just gainsay or ignore what I said. You want to talk about brain chemistry? Address what I said about brain chemistry.

      Or else explain why you refuse to do that.

      Ditto every other assertion you make with no evidence or even acknowledgement of my arguments and evidence on the point. Address what I actually said. Present evidence for what you say.

      Either fix your gross epistemic misconduct here, or explain why you won’t.

      Reply
  10. Just for context, I am a clinical psychologist, specializing in traumatized children. While Peterson’s legit scientific work was fine, his general conception of wellness is nonsense and disconnected from the consensus within psychology. Alas, my field is plagued by crackpots who approach therapy built atop anti-scientific hogwash. I am not a Peterson expert, but I’ve read nothing by him that points to any understanding about what we know leads to greater psychological functioning or well-being. Jung is a perfect avatar for Peterson—unconcerned with facts or evidence and committed to building up slippery word salad defenses around a core of mystical hogwash. I would never refer a patient to him under any circumstances.

    Reply
  11. “As keen observers have noted (such as Nellie Bowles, writing for the New York Times), he dresses the part now, a polished 1950s professorial style, conspicuously not how he used to. Nor acts as he once did.”

    Isn’t that completely irrelevant? And it’s also indicative of the general approach and tone of your article, mainly because you cite mostly second and third hand sources. You might get a different perspective by actually listening to at least one of his speeches and some of his UoT lectures (there pretty much all on line).

    Richard, I find your analysis useful in some ways, but also very flawed. You refer to him as equivalent to Deepak Chopra, a crank and conman appealing to incels, angry men and disaffected conservatives. You imply that he is against gay marriage when one of his business partners on his speaking tours is openly gay and in a gay marriage (Dave Rubin). Moreover, you consistently portray many open scientific and philosophical questions as slam-dunks when they are at least open to further investigation and questioning. Peterson consistently presents his work as questioning many of our supposedly foundational questions and beliefs.

    You ha

    His main messages are as follows:

    All actions and beliefs have consequences, even those we think are initially harmless and only personal. Unless I’m mistaken, I believe that is the essence of consequentialism, i.e. considering what may occur as a result of one’s actions, words, decisions, etc.
    Meaning in life comes from taking on responsibility, specifically, the biggest responsibility one can shoulder. This may resonate more with young men than with older men and women in general. So what? Is that a bad thing? I happen to know a lot of young men, as I have three daughters who all have boyfriends in the early to late 20s. They’re tradesmen or learning trades, not academic scholars. I also know many of their male friends, in total at least a dozen. I was also an army officer and a sessional lecturer (undergrad and graduate), so I have contact with many of the young men in this target group. I think his work, specifically on YT, appeals to many of them and attracts them to long-form discussions and introduces them to deep philosophical ideas. How can any of it be bad when he tells them to shoulder responsibility, “clean their room,” etc.
    He’s consistently criticized totalitarianism and totalizing solutions. He’s also consistently come out against violence, including that perpetrated by so-called incels and other resentful and vengeful perpetrators of evil acts (e.g. Columbine killers).

    I could write more, but that’s probably enough for now. I also refer you to 2 of my own blog posts I wrote about a year ago.

    In short, do I agree with everything Peterson says? No. Do I think much of what he says is part of valid discourse, open for discussion, debate, and further investigation? Yes.

    https://exploitingchange.com/2018/12/17/why-jordan-peterson-is-a-thought-leader/

    https://exploitingchange.com/2018/12/18/jordan-petersons-underlying-philosophy-maps-of-meaning/

    Regards,

    Richard Martin

    Reply
    1. Isn’t that completely irrelevant?

      Not. It isn’t.

      As I remarked elsewhere in comments (and as Bowles herself explains):

      The relevance of changing dress and demeanor is that his doing it precisely when he needed to match an image he wanted to convey is evidence of conscious manipulation of the public. You offer no evidence it served any other purpose or resulted from any other cause.

      And it’s also indicative of the general approach and tone of your article, mainly because you cite mostly second and third hand sources.

      If you can find evidence any statement I make is false, present it. Otherwise, admit you can’t find any. To instead use this excuse (“you relied on the widespread research of other observers who document everything they say, therefore I should ignore you”) indicates an extreme epistemic failure on your part. This should worry you. That it doesn’t, is disturbing.

      Do what you were told: present evidence that something, anything, I said is false.

      I’ll wait.

      How can any of it be bad when he tells them to shoulder responsibility, “clean their room,” etc.

      Every guru and demagogue, even Hitler and Jim Jones, advocated shouldering responsibility and increasing one’s personal industry. Does that mean nothing else they said “can be bad”? Is your non sequitur evident to you yet?

      I actually said in my article that Peterson says some useful or correct things. That cannot compensate for all the toxic and false things he does say. And the fact that you didn’t even think of this is really, really worrying. What will become of a world if people think like you do? It didn’t go well when that same exact thinking led people to follow and revere Hitler and Jim Jones. We should be opposing such reasoning, not advocating it.

      And no, I am not saying Peterson is “just like” Hitler or Jim Jones. That’s not the point of the analogy. And if you can’t tell what the actual point of the analogy is, your epistemology is broken and you need to fix it before you can reach reliable conclusions about this.

      As for the links you provided: can you give us any quotes here, from any of those links, that contradict any statement I made in my article? Do the work, please. Quote me, quote those articles, and thus show something I said was false. If you can’t do that, admit it.

      Reply
  12. “. [But r]ecent studies have found that the idea of a consistent male personality and female personality is not grounded in reality.”

    I don’t agree with Peterson on most part, but this claim seems to be false. Read “The Truth About Sex Differences” on Psychology Today, where David P Schmitt Ph.D wrote that “It’s an elemental fact that people increasingly don’t want to hear: Sex differences in personality and behavior are real. And they have a profound effect on many aspects of health.”

    Reply
    1. Both statements are correct as written. It’s true that there are population-level differences between men and women in the various domains outlined by Dr. Schmitt. It is also true that there are no consistent male and female personalities. The differentiation matters…

      Nothing in what we reliably know regarding sex differences results in a rational justification for inequitable treatment, whether in terms of law, economics, education, or any other social domain. But if one believes that men and women are fundamentally different (as Jordan and his followers appear to claim), then it follows that how we treat any given man or woman should be different as well. And this fantasy is all you need to justify misogyny.

      I will say that the social justice left is doing itself no favors by claiming that there are no differences between average male and female bodies. This is a blatant error of fact that opens the door for asshats like the GoogleBro to twist what is indeed true into an excuse for, at the very least, doing nothing about the obvious discrimination that women continue to face or, at worst, justifying it.

      Reply
      1. Indeed.

        Moreover, except for the examples given (e.g. throwing distance, masturbation frequency, propensity to violence), the variances between men and women that do exist (and many that are claimed don’t) never span more than ten percentiles, with wide overlapping distributions, and so are, as noted in the research, largely irrelevant, in fact barely even visible without large statistical samples. In short, using that tiny, moot difference in any instance to assess “all” women or “any” man is always pseudoscience. Men differ from each other more than they do from women on every one of those measurable traits; likewise women, with respect to men.

        By contrast, the variance in propensity to violence is so enormous it does warrant different treatment, at least at the level of precaution. Men are by most measures five to ten times more prone to violence and physical aggression than women, not a mere ten percentiles more. Thus treating men with greater physical caution than women is a legitimate reaction. Even men agree there is more to worry about a group of unknown men approaching on a city street than a group of unknown women.

        A more scientific approach to why that is and how we could change it is what we need. What Peterson is selling doesn’t cut it. If anything, his philosophy aims to justify it and organize society around it, rather than recognizing it as the root of most evils in civilized society today.

        Reply
    2. Read what I actually wrote. I didn’t say differences didn’t exist. I wrote a whole paragraph on this. With hyperlink. Please respond to what I actually claimed.

      Moreover, Schmitt isn’t talking about just biologically innate differences; he is including culturally enforced differences as well. Which can be changed. This is not what Peterson is claiming. Schmitt is also talking about things like height and body fat index, not just personality. Again, not what Peterson is talking about. And Schmitt says nothing about cognitive competencies. So do please actually read his article and get right what he is saying.

      And do also read what I linked to, as it gives context and qualifications to Schmitt’s points, e.g. noting many of the differences he claims are “strong” are actually too small and variable to allow a reliable prediction of differences individuals by gender or sex, thus refuting everything Peterson attempts to do with this information. Likewise read this article in Nature for the same point even made more prestigiously.

      Reply
  13. Call me uninformed but I’ve never even heard of Jordan Peterson until this article. Had to look him up. Don’t plan on reading anything by him.

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  14. When Peterson says “enforced monogamy,” he means socially enforced, not legally enforced. He wants societies and cultures to promote standards that are based on “monogamous social norms.” (He clarifies his position here, starting from the beginning of the video; he uses the phrase I quote at 2’48: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsMqSBB3ZTY).

    If you watch the clip, you will see that his actual aim is not, as some people think, to get women coupled with unappealing men, but instead to have society foster the kinds of relationships among adults that are best for children (he says so at 8’54). In fact, the word “enforced” is too strong for what he is really talking about. He means something more like “encouragement” or “admonishment”: his example of “enforced monogamy” is a father telling a philandering son that he is not acting the way he is supposed to (12’28). All this might be poor communication on Peterson’s part, but it’s nothing sinister. The New York Times profile was uncharitable and misleading. Readers interested in an opposing view on it can find one here: https://www.dailywire.com/news/new-york-times-runs-comprehensive-hit-piece-jordan-ben-shapiro.

    The decline of marriage—and the corresponding rise in illegitimacy—is a serious problem for children and for society. I encourage open-minded readers to consult this speech for demonstrations: https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-william-p-barr-delivers-remarks-law-school-and-de-nicola-center-ethics. (Peterson doesn’t make exactly this argument, but the examples illustrate beautifully why concerns about monogamous norms are well-founded). See especially the parts that show how “every measure of social pathology” has accompanied America’s increasing secularization, including the ever-rising out-of-wedlock birthrate, which is astounding evidence by itself. The more disadvantaged the community, the more pronounced the statistic, and the worse things are for American society.

    The quotation from John Adams is powerful: “We have no government armed with the power which is capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

    Reply
    1. He’s talking about 1950s-style social pressure to suppress human liberty toward a model of life he wants everyone to obey so men will have more sexual access to women. In other words, he specifically wants to deploy social pressure to take away women’s current freedom to have sex with whoever they want so they will be compelled by that pressure instead to marry a man for life so more men can get laid. That’s what we mean by forced monogamy. I didn’t say anything about legislation.

      And his ideas about this are politically, socially, and scientifically false. We don’t need monogamy to take care of children (nor gendered hierarchies either). In fact, it’s the worst model for doing so in practice, as all evidence proves. Even if Peterson thinks he can somehow fix this by outlawing divorce, for example, forcing people who hate each other to raise kids together is not a boon to the kids.

      You also shouldn’t be quoting 18th century politicians on points of scientific fact. The data show Adams was wrong: among free democratic societies, the least religious are the least criminal and the least immoral. See discussion elsewhere in comments here. But see also That Christian Nation Nonsense for what Adams really thought about this.

      Reply
  15. Typo: “Though a really good critique I will cite, that lists several markers for gifting that Peterson nails point-for-point,”

    I’m pretty sure you meant ‘grifting’ not ‘gifting’.

    Also, did you intentionally use ‘cool-aide’ to avoid the brand name ‘Kool-Ade’ (the original reference even though I’m told Jim Jones didn’t use Kool Ade brand drink).

    Otherwise, thank you for the article. Gonna take a while to go through your links!

    Stay awesome, doc.

    Reply
      1. Gud. Non brandid spelling is betr. A superiur othografi can’t possibli mean unintellijibiliti. Just read aloud. In whot possibl wurld is ‘det’ mor unintellijibl than debt? webster/oed et al belong in the bin and shud be pulpt forthwith.

        Reply
  16. Jordan Peterson has always such an oddity to me. His videos were first shared to me by fellow atheists before I was more active in learning about philosophy and history of religions (I didn’t really know many atheists and so just picked up ideas from forums and comment threads). This was before his rise to fame, but when he already had a decent collection of his lectures on Youtube (so maybe late 2014). I’d love to say I simply saw through the BS and turned away, but I was more circumstance.

    Listening to his lectures was just… boring. Maybe it’s because I already had a good job and wasn’t struggling with adult responsibilities. But his message seemed pointless. And where it diverged into his philosophical/psychological leanings, it seemed to go straight over my head. At the time, I just assumed I didn’t have the requisite knowledge to understand what he was saying. But if he couldn’t explain in a way that made sense, I didn’t see the point in listening.

    I basically ignored him since. I was aware of his stance on the Canadian law (months after it started though), but it seemed like less than a day before I could read the actual law and thought he just happened to be wrong. That he blew up from all that was honestly confusing.

    Reading this takedown was very interesting. I won’t pretend that it’s suddenly woken me up from my views on Peterson (as I didn’t have much of a view to work from), but I think it’s an excellent primer on woo-peddlers in general. This article does an excellent job of breaking down how woo-peddlers tend to act, tend to evolve, and tend to present themselves. It hammers home the importance of questioning the people who present themselves as authorities, and doing the research yourself.

    Reply
  17. Dr. Carrier writes:

    “Deliberately misgendering someone is no different than deliberately refusing to call them by their actual name. It’s disrespect.”

    It’s different.

    For one, if a person “misgenders” another person, he refers to that person with an identity that he or she does not hold. But refusing to call a person by their name does not refer to a person with an identity that he or she does not hold. It does not ascribe any identity to that person. You might find both disrespectful, but they’re different with respect to what they involve.

    Second, proper names (e.g., Richard or Michael) do not imply or suggest recognition of gender ideology or trans-identity. But those pronouns (xir or they, or even he or she in a trans-inclusive sense) do. That might seem like a trivial difference to you, but for people who do not want to recognize trans-ideology or identity because they fundamentally disagree with its conception of the person, it matters. But in any case, there’s some difference; and hence, it’s false that there’s no difference.

    I also suspect that a person who finds trans-identity senseless or incoherent can also refuse to use trans-inclusive language or language that recognizes trans-identities on the basis that he does not want to legitimate the identity through his language use. This is not necessarily disrespectful – a person respects himself and truth itself by refusing to use language that aims to serve or legitimate ideas he finds to be senseless, or even false.

    Judging from my own familiarity with the literature, it’s far from clear what it means to refer to a trans-woman as a woman, or a trans-man as a man. It’s also far from clear what it is that makes them the women or men they claim to be. I suspect that it part of what some “gender critical feminists” are trying to get at (e.g., Kathleen Stock and Rebecca Reilly-Cooper). But if it is far from clear what it means, then why impose an obligation of recognition? Indeed, how can a person be obliged to recognize an identity that he does not understand, or even one that he refuses to legitimize (think of a Republican who is told that he must recognize Elizabeth as “Your Royal Highness”).

    Reply
    1. It’s different. For one, if a person “misgenders” another person, he refers to that person with an identity that he or she does not hold. But refusing to call a person by their name does not refer to a person with an identity that he or she does not hold. It does not ascribe any identity to that person. You might find both disrespectful, but they’re different with respect to what they involve.

      If my name is Xinhua and you insist on calling me Ashley because you can’t be bothered to learn how to pronounce my name (a thing that actually happened to a Chinese graduate student I knew of), you were definitely referring to me with an identity I do not hold. This is what I am talking about. Not refusing to use names at all. But misnaming someone. Exactly the same thing as misgendering someone.

      Second, proper names (e.g., Richard or Michael) do not imply or suggest recognition of gender ideology or trans-identity. But those pronouns (xir or they, or even he or she in a trans-inclusive sense) do.

      This isn’t a relevant difference. Deliberately misnaming a Chinese student is the same as misgendering someone in every respect relevant to the comparison. If it was identical, it wouldn’t be a comparison. Maybe you don’t know how comparisons work?

      I also suspect that a person who finds trans-identity senseless or incoherent can also refuse to use trans-inclusive language or language that recognizes trans-identities on the basis that he does not want to legitimate the identity through his language use. This is not necessarily disrespectful – a person respects himself and truth itself by refusing to use language that aims to serve or legitimate ideas he finds to be senseless, or even false.

      Respecting “oneself” by insulting your customers and coworkers is not defensible. It is still disrespecting them. Your excuse for doing so is irrelevant to that outcome. If you cannot perform the duties required of your job, “why” you can’t is irrelevant. We get to fire you.

      It does not matter that a homophobe is “just being true to themselves” when they call their gay colleagues “fags.” It’s still an insult to them and thus disrespecting them. Likewise it does not matter that “it is true” that a professor finds pronouncing Chinese names “hard.” It is still disrespecting a Chinese student to make no effort to call them by their actual name but make up another name instead, one that isn’t theirs and insults their heritage and ethnicity.

      So, no. Peterson is not treating his students and colleagues “with respect” if he refuses to even learn why gendering them correctly matters to their dignity. Refusing to care about how it matters to their dignity is precisely what is disrespectful about that behavior. And being incapable of understanding how it matters would be indicative of incompetence or insanity rendering him incapable of doing his job, even surer grounds for his being fired than deliberate disrespect would be.

      Judging from my own familiarity with the literature, it’s far from clear what it means to refer to a trans-woman as a woman, or a trans-man as a man.

      Then you are either incompetent, insane, or a bigot. Because it’s pretty easy to find this out and understand it. So if you can’t, it’s either because you are too incompetent to do so, too insane to do so, or refuse to make the requisite effort to do so.

      Indeed, how can a person be obliged to recognize an identity that he does not understand, or even one that he refuses to legitimize?

      The latter is bigotry. The former is incompetence. It’s easy to understand how gender identity works. If you make even minimal effort to do so. The question is why you haven’t; or how you failed to after so much inquiry you claim to have made.

      If you need help, read my article on it.

      Reply
      1. Dr. Carrier,

        Thank you for posting my response and your rejoinder. I’ve been following your writings since your days at Secular Web, and though I am myself a Roman Catholic, I appreciate much of what you write. My hope is that as we continue our discussion, we remain civil and that we do not reflect the animosity that now poisons political affairs in our countries (Canada and the US). I also hope that, as our areas of disagreement become sharper, we do not villainize each other and that we see each other as two people who are sincerely committed to the pursuit of truth, however different we might see it.

        You write:

        “If my name is Xinhua and you insist on calling me Ashley because you can’t be bothered to learn how to pronounce my name (a thing that actually happened to a Chinese graduate student I knew of), you were definitely referring to me with an identity I do not hold. This is what I am talking about. Not refusing to use names at all. But misnaming someone. Exactly the same thing as misgendering someone.”

        I don’t see why referring to Xinhau as Ashley necessarily refers to that person with an identity that she/he does not hold, especially if the motivation is just to use a name that is easier to pronounce. I mean, it’s still a dick thing to do, but I don’t necessarily see it as an imposition of an identity. It’s just, as you say, laziness. However, if the intention of the name substitution is an extension of the will to erase an identity, in a way similar to what Euro-Canadians did to Native Americans, then I can see your point. But that’s just not the case here. I can also see your point if Xinhau saw her/his name as integral to his/her cultural identity. Prima facie, in such a case, Xinhau should not be referred to with some other name.

        Regarding the later sentences, you claim that you’re not talking about refusing to use names, but, instead, you are talking about misnaming someone. That’s fine. But the claim that I originally responded to said this:

        “Deliberately misgendering someone is no different than deliberately refusing to call them by their actual name. It’s disrespect.”

        You’ll notice that the text does not mention misnaming. Instead, the text says that refusing to call them by their actual name is no different than misgendering. But refusals to call them by their actual name does not imply any act of misnaming. I will readily grant that you meant to say something different, but that is what the text says. In saying this, I hope that you don’t think that I am being pedantic – I am trying to explain why I responded as I did.

        You write:

        “This isn’t a relevant difference. Deliberately misnaming a Chinese student is the same as misgendering someone in every respect relevant to the comparison. If it was identical, it wouldn’t be a comparison. Maybe you don’t know how comparisons work?”

        That last sentence is an example of something I hope to avoid. In any case, what you respond to here is only part of what I said- it has a greater context. Here’s what I else said:

        “That might seem like a trivial difference to you, but for people who do not want to recognize trans-ideology or identity because they fundamentally disagree with its conception of the person, it matters. But in any case, there’s some difference; and hence, it’s false that there’s no difference.”

        I suspect that I could have better explained myself here. I want to say that there’s a difference in what’s at stake. Those pronouns suggest recognition of ideologies or ideas that some people find false, harmful or incoherent. Names don’t do that. They also tend not to suggest recognition of any ideology or idea that people find false, harmful or incoherent – they’re rather innocuous. Hence, that typically constitutes a difference in consequence and action. That’s a relevant difference with respect to your comparison.

        “Respecting “oneself” by insulting your customers and coworkers is not defensible. It is still disrespecting them. Your excuse for doing so is irrelevant to that outcome. If you cannot perform the duties required of your job, “why” you can’t is irrelevant. We get to fire you.”

        Keep in mind that I am here talking about refusing to use language that recognizes trans-identity, not “misgendering” someone. That is what my text says and that is what I meant. I don’t mean to sound rude here – I am just making it clear what I actually said. And why am I talking about this? Because I am replying to what your text said earlier.

        We respect ourselves by not using language that recognizes ideas or ideologies we believe to be false or incoherent because do not betray our reason, our commitment to truth and true speak. You might claim this to be an insult and disrespect, but I don’t see any argument for it. I tried to reflect on what argument you could offer, but I can think of no good argument to think that respect for persons requires a person to use language that recognizes trans-identities.

        “It does not matter that a homophobe is “just being true to themselves” when they call their gay colleagues “fags.” It’s still an insult to them and thus disrespecting them. Likewise it does not matter that “it is true” that a professor finds pronouncing Chinese names “hard.” It is still disrespecting a Chinese student to make no effort to call them by their actual name but make up another name instead, one that isn’t theirs and insults their heritage and ethnicity.”

        Prima facie, I agree on both accounts. There’s no argument from me here.

        You write:

        “So, no. Peterson is not treating his students and colleagues “with respect” if he refuses to even learn why gendering them correctly matters to their dignity. Refusing to care about how it matters to their dignity is precisely what is disrespectful about that behavior. And being incapable of understanding how it matters would be indicative of incompetence or insanity rendering him incapable of doing his job, even surer grounds for his being fired than deliberate disrespect would be.”

        If the “so” here is conclusion indicator, then I don’t see the basis for the inference that follows. We’ve thus far been talking about names, but you neither established why “correctly” gendering them matters to their dignity nor why names and gender identity are similar. In fact, it seems as though you haven’t attempted that. So far as I can see, this alleged similarity has been presumed. The authors of the Talon article you cited made the same presumption. Check it out (1):

        “For example: An argument can be made that respecting pronouns is synonymous with respecting someone’s name, whether their name is familiar to someone in a particular cultural setting or not. To claim that one has the “right” or “freedom from compelled speech” to address someone by a gender-negating pronoun is equivalent to not recognizing the legitimacy of an ethnic name we aren’t familiar with (lest we again consider the implications of denying this to Indigenous people and many of their names). Consider how ludicrous and inappropriate it would be for a professor to say to a student “You can’t force me to call you Li Wei because I don’t recognize that as a legitimate name; I am going to call you Bob.” Respecting a person’s name is similar to respecting their pronouns.”

        You’ll notice that there is no argument here. The “synonymity” or “similarity” has been presumed. Sure, the authors claimed that there is synonymity or similarity between the act of refusing to use names and “misgendering”, but they did not try to justify it. Neither did you.

        In saying this, I hope you don’t read my tone as rude. I’m offering a critique aimed toward discovering truth, not to be a dick or denigrate you in any way. If I am wrong on this point, I’ll gladly retract.

        I wrote:

        “Judging from my own familiarity with the literature, it’s far from clear what it means to refer to a trans-woman as a woman, or a trans-man as a man.”

        and then you replied:

        “Then you are either incompetent, insane, or a bigot. Because it’s pretty easy to find this out and understand it. So if you can’t, it’s either because you are too incompetent to do so, too insane to do so, or refuse to make the requisite effort to do so.”

        Again, this is the sort of language I hope to avoid.

        I don’t think that I am insane or a bigot, though I might be under informed. But I doubt that, too. The literature on what it means to be a woman in philosophy, particularly trans-philosophy and feminism is considerably large, active and contentious.

        For example, there’s an ongoing and hot debate between trans-inclusive feminists and gender critical feminists on this same question. This debate has been described as an “full-scale ideological war” within academic feminism. (2) I’ve also been following the semantic accounts of “gendered terms” man and woman, or some other identity, by trans-inclusive authors, finding them to be different in what they propose. (3) Yet, if they are different, then which meaning am I supposed to accept as orthodoxy? What should I presume a trans-woman means when this person claims to be a woman? It’s unclear. Instead, I learn that, according to leading theorists, there just is no orthodoxy on the matter. (4) In fact, according to Talia Mae Bettcher, a philosopher and trans-woman, as soon as we ask what it means to be a woman, matters get philosophically complicated. But don’t take my word for it, here’s Bettcher (5):

        “Once we ask the question of what a woman is, things immediately become more complicated philosophically. Are we supposed to be proving we’re women according to the ordinary meaning of the term ‘woman’? Or are we defining ‘woman’ amelioratively? That is, rather than giving an analysis of the concept attached to the ordinary meaning of ‘woman,’ are we trying to get clear on what concept we should use—for the purposes of promoting a feminist project? A third way of approaching the question is to recognize that dominant meanings of political terms are contested “on the ground” through practices that give them different, resistant meanings. For example, given that the ordinary meaning of ‘woman’ includes sexist content, feminists have tried to redeploy the term in resistant, empowering ways. (This is similar to the idea that the originally pejorative ‘queer’ has been taken up with a new, resistant significance.) Indeed, one of Janice Raymond’s most interesting arguments is precisely that trans women can’t take up the term ‘woman’ or ‘feminist’ or ‘lesbian’ in any way that would be resistant to sexism (1979, 116).”

        There’s also a debate about what makes someone a woman and why trans-women fall under this scope (if at all). This debate involves trans-inclusive philosophers, gender critical feminists plus various conservative philosophers such as Robert P George, Ryan T Anderson, Spencer Case, Celina Durgin, Prudence Allen, and many more. There are many positions that a person can take, but again, don’t take my word for it – check out what Bettcher says:

        For example, with respect to analyzing the ordinary meaning of ‘woman’, there are different positions to consider. One is that ‘woman’ is a cluster (family-resemblance) concept (for discussion see Hale 1996, Heyes 2000, McKitrick 2007, for critique see Kapusta 2016, Bettcher 2012, 2017, etc.). Another is “semantic contextualism”—the view that the extension of ‘woman’ changes according to context in a rule-governed way (see Saul 2012, Diaz-Leon 2016, see Bettcher 2017ab, for critique). If Stock’s interested in the ameliorative approach, then she had better read Sally Haslanger (2012). She should also read Jennifer Saul (2012), and Katharine Jenkins (2016). If she’s interested in the third option, I would propose that she read some of my work (Bettcher 2016, 2017ab). And I would strongly recommend that she read Lori Watson’s excellent “The Woman-Question” (2016).

        And that is just some of the scholarly commentary. There’s also popular understandings of trans-identities and gender identity, those that have been criticized by some philosophers as circular (6), or as false/unintelligible/inaccessible (7). Given this criticism, should I accept the popular understanding? If not, then which scholarly conception should I accept? Which one do trans-men and trans-women mean? It’s unclear.

        So I don’t know what to think, but that isn’t because I am incompetent. It’s precisely because I am aware of the complexity and criticism, at least within academic philosophy.

        If you’d like further evidence that there’s a considerable debate within philosophy, I can present you additional readings, some of which I have found to be useful. I include them below.

        Regarding your own article, I scanned it (sorry it’s late and it’s long), but I didn’t see any formal and strictly gendered definition of woman/man. Again, I could be wrong. But I scanned it twice. If you think that you’ve provided that, can you do me a favor and quote it? The closest I’ve seen was when you said this:

        “No, what Lana probably feels is that her personality and style and manner and preferences, the way she really would be comfortable living and being, align better with what our culture just happens to call female…. In other words, she’d be happier living and acting as a woman. And now she is. And by our actual standards of gender expression (the only standards that really matter culturally, since you almost never get to check someone’s DNA or genitals or blood hormone levels when you “gender” them), she is a woman, …”

        We also use secondary sexual characteristics to help us determine whether a person is a man, or a woman. That’s primarily what is responsible for making some trans-women non-passable.

        In any case, we share the same culture, though I am not aware of any standards of gender expression sufficient to make someone a woman. Up until this transgender revolution, the general understanding within our culture (and what is still dominant today) is that whatever else women are, they are sexual females. That is likely why many English dictionaries define the term “woman” that way. It’s also partially why there is a lot of resistance to trans-identities within our culture. Of course we might be wrong about woman-ness, but that is nevertheless the dominant understanding of woman within our culture and the use of the word “woman”.

        I could say more, but I don’t know for certain whether you mean to define the concept woman this way, so I don’t want to waste your time. Plus, it’s getting late and this post is getting long.

        Thanks for engagement, Dr. Carrier.

        Here are those links I spoke about:

        https://quillette.com/2019/09/06/beyond-the-hypatia-affair-philosophers-blocking-the-way-of-inquiry/

        https://www.heritage.org/gender/report/sex-gender-and-the-origin-the-culture-wars-intellectual-history

        https://medium.com/@kathleenstock/doing-better-in-arguments-about-sex-and-gender-3bec3fc4bdb6

        https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/12/gnostic-liberalism

        https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5893630_What_Many_Transgender_Activists_Don't_Want_You_to_Know_and_why_you_should_know_it_anyway

        https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2019/03/trans-men-erase-women

        https://aeon.co/essays/do-analytic-and-continental-philosophy-agree-what-woman-is

        https://aeon.co/essays/transgender-identities-a-conversation-between-two-philosophers

        https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/07/19/divide-over-scholarly-debate-over-gender-identity-rages

        https://www.feministcurrent.com/2019/02/21/podcast-kathleen-stock-and-natasha-chart-discuss-the-issue-of-feminists-allying-with-the-right/

        https://arcdigital.media/what-is-gender-identity-10ce0da71999

        https://quillette.com/2019/09/20/how-the-trans-rights-movement-is-turning-academic-philosophers-into-sloganeering-activists/

        https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/10/27/who-decides-your-gender

        https://medium.com/@aytchellis/a-philosophical-perspective-on-gender-identity-9fac2dccb6fb

        References:

        (1) https://thetalon.ca/the-post-truth-politics-of-jordan-petersons-gender-nonbinary-pronoun-debate/

        (2) Lori Watson, “The Woman-Question” (2016).

        (3) Robin Dembroff, “Real Talk on the Metaphysics of Gender” and Talia Mae Bettcher, Trans Women and the Meaning of ‘Woman”.

        (4) https://blog.apaonline.org/2019/08/07/on-philosophical-scholarship-of-gender-a-response-to-12-leading-scholars/

        (5) http://dailynous.com/2018/05/30/tables-speak-existence-trans-philosophy-guest-talia-mae-bettcher/

        (6) https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0fe6/61e7f3ee28f05b1cb0f2b112606e3129d115.pdf

        (7) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPVNxYkawao

        Reply
        1. You are here continuing to confuse sex with gender and to confuse subsets with supersets. Woman is a superset. Transwoman and ciswoman are subsets. And “woman” refers in most common use to gender not sex (because you almost never observe someone’s sex when you gender them—you have and deserve no access to their DNA or genitals and rarely use either to gender someone). Every trans advocate writing on this says this. So you have no excuse to not know this by now.

          The bottom line is: you don’t get to keep calling a ciswoman a man because you think she looks manly; so you don’t get to keep calling a transwoman a man because you think she looks manly either. The one is as disrespectful as the other. And caused by identical assumptions (such as that certain physical features “entail” a cisman, when in fact they don’t, not even in ciswomen, many of whom will have those same features). You would know this if you had really read any of the literature you claim to.

  18. Dr. Carrier,

    In the Talon article you cited as “fact based”, the author claims this:

    “Consider how ludicrous and inappropriate it would be for a professor to say to a student “You can’t force me to call you Li Wei because I don’t recognize that as a legitimate name; I am going to call you Bob.” Respecting a person’s name is similar to respecting their pronouns.”

    I won’t ascribe that view to you (since you didn’t say it), but you did claim that there’s no difference between refusing to use someone’s name and personal pronoun (or something along those lines).

    Personal names are what we use to designate an individual person. These tend not to be contentious, since there’s often very little contentious ideology involved in saying them. Of course some people might still rightfully refuse a request to refer to someone with a specific name if that name suggests false family or clan allegiance, or if that saying that name or title suggests ideas that a person finds contentious. For example, a republican can refuse, with good conscience, to refer to the queen as Queen Elizabeth. Other times, a person might refuse to call a person “Mom” even if woman is her biological mother. Why? Because perhaps that name suggests a social role that the speaker does not want to own.

    Likewise for transgender pronouns, though here the contentious issue is transgender identities. If a person does not recognize such identities, seeing them as false or incoherent, or perhaps is just confused about what they are, it does not seem “inappropriate” or “lubricious” to refuse to use language that recognizes such identities. Of course you might disagree, but if you make this your argument, you’ll have to argue for it.

    Reply
    1. Not calling your mother “mom” when she wants you to would be disrespecting her. That you can have a reason to disrespect her does not change that fact. That a homophobe has a reason to be disrespectful to his gay students and colleagues does not immunize them from being fired for it. Likewise misgendering someone deliberately. There is indeed thus no difference here. None that matters to the point.

      Even the Queen example is relevant: if you were employed at the American embassy and then refused to call a political head of state by their formal title, we have every right to fire you—as much right as you have to go on disrespecting a foreign head of state. Both are the case. It does not become “respectful” simply because you have “reasons” to do it.

      Not recognizing someone’s gender identity is the same as not recognizing their sexuality or marital status or refusing to call someone a Doctor who has a Ph.D. or Jewish who is a convert and so on. It’s simply disrespectful. It makes you an asshole. And employers get to fire you for that. What your “reasons” are for being an asshole and getting fired for it makes no difference to that.

      Having a homophobic ideology does not make your disrespect of gay people okay. Having a transphobic ideology does not make your disrespect of trans people okay. Much less immunize you from being fired from a job that requires you to treat your colleagues and customers with respect.

      Reply
      1. Regarding the mom subject, I disagree. If a mother abandons and neglects her child, and then later asks to be called mother by her adult child, I’d say it’s within the bounds of reason and good conscience for the adult child to refuse. Why?

        Because, for some people, being a mom involves a social relationship and commitment, something that the mother gave up. For that child, if there is no social relationship, and worse if the mother is culpable for that relationship loss, then the basis to refer to her as Mom is absent. Hence, for that child, there’s no reason to refer to her as Mom and this child rather not use language that suggests there is a mother-son/daughter relationship.

        In this context, it strikes me as unreasonable, insensitive and callus to say that the adult child is being disrespectful in choosing not to refer to her birth mother with the name Mom. The mother, with her negligence, has surrendered any right to be called Mom.

        You write:

        “Even the Queen example is relevant: if you were employed at the American embassy and then refused to call a political head of state by their formal title, we have every right to fire you—as much right as you have to go on disrespecting a foreign head of state.”

        I’m unsure why this would be a case of disrespect. You can’t presume that. If the pope asked you to refer to him as His Holiness, I’d say that, as an atheist, you are within your rights to refuse and that it wouldn’t be disrespectful (and he’s the head of state to boot).

        In any case, whether the person or JP should be fired is irrelevant. That passage of the Talon article didn’t even mention firing.

        “Not recognizing someone’s gender identity is the same as not recognizing their sexuality or marital status or refusing to call someone a Doctor who has a Ph.D. or Jewish who is a convert and so on. It’s simply disrespectful. It makes you an asshole. ”

        This is a bald assertion.

        In any case, why think it makes someone an asshole? Consider me. I am Roman Catholic. I am devoutly so. In doing so, I strive to be a good person and follow God’s law, both natural and revealed as well as Church teachings. The Church views men and women in terms of their sexual bodies and identity, refusing to accept contrary conceptions or ideas of the human person. As a Catholic, I follow this.I’m oblige to follow it. But considering what you said above, then, if you’re right, I’m an asshole. But why? Because I hold a different metaphysic about the human person and refuse to recognize ideologies/ideas inconsistent with Church teaching? Are we not allowed to view the human person differently than you without being an asshole ? Is your idea really something like, “Recognize trans-dentity and the metaphysics that undergird it, or you’re an asshole!” That’s a bit extreme.

        You write:

        “Having a homophobic ideology does not make your disrespect of gay people okay. Having a transphobic ideology does not make your disrespect of trans people okay. Much less immunize you from being fired from a job that requires you to treat your colleagues and customers with respect.”

        You beg the question with respect to what respect involves.

        People cannot simply profess an identity that are contrary someone else’s metaphysics and broader understandings of the world and then expect recognition. It’s not as if Calityn Jenner can profess to be a woman and that settles deep metaphysic disputes about the human person and identity, Dr. Carrier. That’s not how truth is pursued. It’s not truth conducive. It’s simply a bloated sense of political entitlement, some sort of radical sense of autonomy gone wild.

        Reply
        1. If a mother abandons and neglects her child, and then later asks to be called mother by her adult child, I’d say it’s within the bounds of reason and good conscience for the adult child to refuse. Why?

          Please pay attention to what I said. This is still disrespecting her. That you have a reason to do so does not change that fact. Any more than justifiably killing someone does not change the fact that you did indeed kill someone. “Disrespect in this case is okay” does not make it not disrespect. It merely justifies the disrespect. Please recognize the difference. Because it is precisely why disrespecting trans people is bigotry—because it is not justified, because they haven’t done anything wrong (trans people are not “bad moms” or abusers or whatever excuse you might want to conjure to disrespect them).

          You do the same with every other example: you merely present excuses for disrespecting people; that does not change the fact that it is disrespect. And there is no comparably valid reason to disrespect trans people. You do this again with homosexuality. “But my ideology compels me to disrespect homosexuals” simply rationalizes your homophobia. It does not take it away. “But I have a bigoted ideology” does not excuse you from the valid charge of being a bigot.

          The rest shows me you have lied to me. You claimed to have read a lot of literature on trans issues. But now you reveal you don’t even know the difference between gender and sex, or how even trans-sexuality differs from cis-sexuality. Transsexuality and transgenderism, and cissexuality and cisgenderism, are specifically not identical—that’s why they have different names! You don’t even know that Jenner is a trans-woman, not a cis-woman or that these are different sub-categories of the generalization “woman”. Which means you lack even rudimentary knowledge of this issue.

          You have two choices here: admit you don’t know what you are talking about and make an effort to get up to speed on what you clearly don’t know before commenting further; or admit you don’t care to because you are too bigoted to care to be informed about the principles of other people’s dignity or the actual factual reality that underlies it.

          Start, if you must, again, with my article.

  19. Last point about the Talon article, it says:

    ” Furthermore, those who state they should resist “compelled” speech around pronouns conveniently ignore how they are compelled to behave and speak in certain ways on a daily basis. At UBC, for example, a student is required to write their papers and exams in English. There is no denying this is a form of compelled speech.”

    I don’t know why that would be an instance of compelled speech in any robust and politically important sense. The requirement does not force them to utter or recognize ideas, ideologies or identities with which they disagree. They can express their own perspectives, but they need to do it in English. Said differently, the imperative to write in English only intends to restrict the language that a proposition is expressed – it does not try to regulate that which the proposition expresses.

    Why do this at all? For practical purposes, of course. Graders and teachers at UBC (the farthest province from Quebec) do not have academic competency in many other languages, not even in French (the other official language of Canada). Instead, their competency is in English; and so, that is the required language to express ideas. If this is compelled speech, and I don’t see why it is, I can’t see why it is the sort that we Canadians find so disagreeable.

    Reply
    1. Compelling you to write in only one language is compelled speech. The only way it couldn’t be is if you weren’t compelled to write in English. Likewise compelling you to write essays is compelled speech. The only way it couldn’t be is if you could graduate without ever writing any essays.

      Nevertheless, I did not use this argument myself, for a reason (and note, only what I vetted from my sources, is repeated in my article): because it is only relevant to half the issue at hand (whether one can be compelled to do things to hold a job, for example; obviously one can; freedom is not absolute). However, Peterson’s argument is that he is being compelled to endorse an ideology with gendering his pronouns as students and colleagues require. Which as you note is not analogous to English and essays, in which you are still allowed to express any ideas you want.

      A closer analogy is creationism or flat earthism: you can’t “refuse” to write an essay correctly describing the facts of evolution or a spherical earth and still get a degree in biology or astronomy, or teach either. You are compelled to understand and acknowledge, in speech, the scientific consensus in these matters. Or else we get to dismiss you from a degree-granting program, or fire you if you are a professor in it.

      That is still an imperfect analogy because one can say in such essays that one doesn’t believe these things but still pass or teach if you at least correctly describe the consensus as the consensus and the facts on which it is held, thus proving you have the requisite knowledge, and can teach it, whether you accept the consequences of that knowledge personally or not.

      A better analogy is the one I used: if you refuse to call a Chinese student by their actual name, and use a name you made up instead, you can be compelled to stop that and act respectfully instead. But only so far as being required to do that to hold a job that requires you to treat your customers and coworkers respectfully. Remember, Peterson’s claim that it would be illegal of him to do it was and is bullshit and always has been. He has never been and will never be legally compelled to gender people the way they ask. It’s just a requirement of keeping his job. Because it’s a requirement of his job.

      Likewise, we get to morally condemn him for being a bigot. He is not “free” of that assessment if he chooses to act like a bigot and deliberately disrespect transpeople. Any more than he would if he chose to insult gay people or pregnant people or any other innocent group. If he respects them, he should treat them with respect, which means respecting their names and chosen memberships. If he doesn’t respect them, he should be treated exactly as a person who disrespects innocent people. Because that’s what he is. By choice.

      Reply
      1. You write:

        “Compelling you to write in only one language is compelled speech. The only way it couldn’t be is if you weren’t compelled to write in English. Likewise compelling you to write essays is compelled speech. The only way it couldn’t be is if you could graduate without ever writing any essays.”

        When JP talks about compelled speech, he is talking about the imposition to say, suggest or communicate certain ideas. The imposition to write in English doesn’t do that, since propositions are language neutral. The imposition to write or talk is not an imposition to say, suggest or communicate specific ideas. At its strongest, it’s an imposition to say something about a particular topic – it’s not an imposition to say some specific idea. So if this is compelled speech, then it’s a different sort. You seem to concede that much here:

        “However, Peterson’s argument is that he is being compelled to endorse an ideology with gendering his pronouns as students and colleagues require. Which as you note is not analogous to English and essays, in which you are still allowed to express any ideas you want.”

        We agree on something. Woot!

        You write:

        “A closer analogy is creationism or flat earthism: you can’t “refuse” to write an essay correctly describing the facts of evolution or a spherical earth and still get a degree in biology or astronomy, or teach either. You are compelled to understand and acknowledge, in speech, the scientific consensus in these matters. Or else we get to dismiss you from a degree-granting program, or fire you if you are a professor in it.

        That is still an imperfect analogy because one can say in such essays that one doesn’t believe these things but still pass or teach if you at least correctly describe the consensus as the consensus and the facts on which it is held, thus proving you have the requisite knowledge, and can teach it, whether you accept the consequences of that knowledge personally or not.”

        No argument from me.

        You write:

        “A better analogy is the one I used: if you refuse to call a Chinese student by their actual name, and use a name you made up instead, you can be compelled to stop that and act respectfully instead.”

        Prima facie, I agree. I certainly think the professor would have some explaining to do.

        You write:

        “But only so far as being required to do that to hold a job that requires you to treat your customers and coworkers respectfully.”

        What it means or should mean to treat students respectfully is part at what’s at stake here. JP’s point is that the imposition for him to use pronouns of a student’s choice, whatever they might be, extends beyond the requirements of respect, because it requires him to suggest or communicate ideas with which he disagrees. In reply to this argument, you can’t simply reiterate the legal requirements in keeping his job – that’s not the issue. The issue is this: if there such requirements, then should there be? In answering this question, I caution you not to beg the question by simply presuming that respects demands it or that names and gender identities are similar.

        “Remember, Peterson’s claim that it would be illegal of him to do it was and is bullshit and always has been. He has never been and will never be legally compelled to gender people the way they ask. It’s just a requirement of keeping his job. Because it’s a requirement of his job.”

        I don’t know what “illegal” means here. JP might face punitive legal consequences if he refuses to use those pronouns or “misgenders”. In addition to termination, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (what is relevant in this case, not the federal tribunal, as JP keeps talking about) can impose fines that are mandatory to pay and order training. His point is that if he refuses to pay those fines and attend that training, and he does says that he would refuse, then a possible consequence is imprisonment. Of course, in such a case, he wouldn’t be imprisoned for his refusal to use such pronouns, but, instead, for his refusal to pay fines or attend such training. I take it is that his point is that imprisonment would therein stem from the law and the legal means to enforce it.

        You can question his understanding of the law, but it does have some support from professional legal council, from whom he developed his interpretation. That interpretation is offered by lawyer D. Jared Brow. It can be in the sources below:

        https://litigationguy.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/bill-c-16-whats-the-big-deal/

        Your analysis above did not mention this support, which is likely a point to the detriment of your analysis.

        You write:

        “Likewise, we get to morally condemn him for being a bigot. He is not “free” of that assessment if he chooses to act like a bigot and deliberately disrespect transpeople. Any more than he would if he chose to insult gay people or pregnant people or any other innocent group. If he respects them, he should treat them with respect, which means respecting their names and chosen memberships.”

        You beg important questions with respect to what respect involves and with your frame that JP’s position insults trans-people. Recognition respect (see Stephen Darwall’s work linked below (1)) is likely the sort of respect that you are presuming trans-people are entitled to, something alleged to be different and independent from appraisal recognition. But, of course, like in many any other matters of philosophy, it can and has been doubted. For example, it can be said that recognition respect implies that people have the authority to define themselves however they wish and that other people are thus obliged to be complicit in that identity. But whether people have that broad authority of self-definition is an open question (many theists would likely judge that to be self-idolatrous and an example of autonomy run wild and apart from fidelity to truth). We can also deny that recognition respect can and should be held independent of appraisal recognition, believing that our complicity toward identity constructions must always conform with our commitment to truth, creating room for resistance if one’s proposed identity is inconsistent, false, overly vague, etc. In fact, in the case of trans-identity, one can even argue that the preconditions of recognition respect have not been met on grounds that the professed identity is incoherent or unintelligible (Jensen attacks one account of trans-identity claims in this way (2)). We can hardly offer recognition for a person’s identity if his description is unintelligible – we cannot recognize that which we do not understand, nor can we recognize that which cannot be understood.

        (1) https://www.jstor.org/stable/2379993?seq=1
        (2) https://www.feministcurrent.com/2018/04/16/art-avoiding-definitions-review-trans-quick-quirky-account-gender-variability/

        Reply
        1. If Peterson doesn’t know that gender is an expressed preference (and is not the same thing as sex), he is incompetent and should be fired. If he refuses to allow students and coworkers the freedom to express themselves as they wish and as his employer allows, he is a bigot and should be fired. If he refuses to call them by the names they ask him to, he is disrespecting them and should be fired.

          There is no way out of this conundrum. He either treats people with the respect they are due, or gets to be fired. He either treats people with the respect they are due, or we get to call him a transphobic douchebag. His choice. Anything else is just complaining about the consequences of fairness to one’s bigotries. “But it’s unfair everyone is treating me like a bigot” does not take away the fact that you are a bigot. If you don’t like being called a bigot, stop being one. Peterson hasn’t learned that lesson. And that alone, IMO, is reason enough to fire him.

  20. Thanks again for the reply, Dr. Carrier. I wrote a larger reply to you, with plenty of extra links and such in regards to our first dispute. I hope that you respond, though I know that I wrote a lot. Please don’t feel as though you need to respond immediately. I’m sure that we are both busy in life (I myself have a two-week old baby to care for).

    Allow me to respond to some of what you said:

    “Please pay attention to what I said. This is still disrespecting her. That you have a reason to do so does not change that fact. Any more than justifiably killing someone does not change the fact that you did indeed kill someone. “Disrespect in this case is okay” does not make it not disrespect. ”

    I will do my best to pay attention to what you say. If you think that I have failed to understand you, please understand I do not do that intentionally or carelessly.

    Given what you say here, it seems as though we have an implicit disagreement (though now explicit) about what disrespect involves. As far as I see it, disrespect is something bad, something we are obliged not to do. For that reason, I’d say that there is no disrespectful but morally justifiable action, especially if we are talking about what philosophers call respect for persons. For that reason, I’d say that if it is permissible, then it is not disrespectful; and so, if it is disrespectful not to refer to her birth mother as Mom, then it is not permissible; but, as I explained earlier, it is permissible; and thus, it is not disrespectful.

    You then say:

    “You do the same with every other example: you merely present excuses for disrespecting people; that does not change the fact that it is disrespect. And there is no comparably valid reason to disrespect trans people. You do this again with homosexuality. “But my ideology compels me to disrespect homosexuals” simply rationalizes your homophobia. It does not take it away. “But I have a bigoted ideology” does not excuse you from the valid charge of being a bigot.”

    Given what I just said, I deny that I do that with every example. In fact, I deny that I did it with any example.

    Secondly, I don’t know who you are quoting or paraphrasing, but it isn’t from any writing that I recognize. I do not say and I explicitly deny that there is disrespect on my part, and I also deny that there is any bigotry (Bigotry is about tolerance. What, exactly, am I not tolerating?).

    “The rest shows me you have lied to me. You claimed to have read a lot of literature on trans issues. But now you reveal you don’t even know the difference between gender and sex, or how even trans-sexuality differs from cis-sexuality. Transsexuality and transgenderism, and cissexuality and cisgenderism, are specifically not identical—that’s why they have different names! You don’t even know that Jenner is a trans-woman, not a cis-woman or that these are different sub-categories of the generalization “woman”. Which means you lack even rudimentary knowledge of this issue.”

    I’m puzzled by this response. Part of the debate between trans-advocates and gender critical feminists as well as social conservatives pertains to the question of whether trans-women are women. Trans-advocates typically claim that Jenner is a woman, full stop. And any other trans-woman (hence, the slogan “trans-women are women”) . You can further distinguish the types of women (cis and trans), but nevertheless, it is alleged that trans-women are women. Others disagree (hence, the debate, Dr. Carrier).

    I didn’t suggest that Jenner is a cis-woman. Im well aware of the distinction between trans-women and cis-women. I haven’t got a clue where you’re getting this charge from. Despite your allegation that I am lying (Seriously? Do you think that’s charitable?), I have read lots of literature on it, though mostly isolated to philosophy. I am conversant in the philosophical debate (largely because I followed Bettcher’s advice that I quoted earlier – and so should you).

    Be honest: Were you aware of the different projects and disputes that one can take about the definition of woman, those perspectives and papers offered by Bettcher?

    “You have two choices here: admit you don’t know what you are talking about and make an effort to get up to speed on what you clearly don’t know before commenting further; or admit you don’t care to because you are too bigoted to care to be informed about the principles of other people’s dignity or the actual factual reality that underlies it.”

    Dr. Carrier, please stop talking like this.

    Reply
    1. Semantics can’t escape reality. You can try to redefine disrespect. The behavior still exists no matter what you call it. So renaming things doesn’t help you. All that matters is whether your behavior is due them or not, whether you are therefore demeaning someone who does not deserve it. And none of your examples track the case of what to call trans people. They do not deserve to be demeaned in this way. And your claiming their demands are contrary to reality tells me you don’t understand what their demands are or what a trans person even is. Read my article on transgenderism. That’s the third time now I’ve told you to do that. Please do it.

      When trans advocates say Jenner is a woman, they mean a trans-woman. They do not mean a cis-woman. They are telling you that there are two kinds of women. Therefore the word “woman” does not specify which kind someone is. Therefore for you to insist that it does specify only cis-women is false and bigoted. It is not linguistically correct. It is not factually correct. And if you refuse to learn and understand this, you are a bigot. Otherwise, you can learn, understand what people are actually saying, tender respect to those who deserve it, and thus stop being a bigot. Your call.

      Reply
      1. “Semantics can’t escape reality. You can try to redefine disrespect. The behavior still exists no matter what you call it. ”

        I don’t know if I tried to “redefine” anything, but in any case, if you grant that it is permissible for that adult child to refuse to call his birth mother Mom, then, what is the moral problem with the refusal to use this name? There is none. So what’s my point? Well, take a look at the reasons behind what makes it justifiable: The adult child does not want to use language that suggests and recognizes ideas that he sincerely believes are false. Yet, if that is what makes his refusal justifiable (even though you might see it as disrespectful), then a similar argument can be made for JP. It will be argued that, just like the adult child, JP does not want to suggest ideas that he believes are false. You might want to insist that this is still disrespectful, but whether it’s a moral problem remains an open question.

        “And your claiming their demands are contrary to reality tells me you don’t understand what their demands are or what a trans person even is. Read my article on transgenderism. That’s the third time now I’ve told you to do that. Please do it.”

        I’m unsure if I’ve ever read or heard about any authoritative document about trans-people’s demands, so I suspect you’re right about that. But that’s only because it doesn’t exist. The trans-community has a lot of different opinions and ideas about what they expect (some trans-people are frank in their admission that they’re not women, for example). I’m sure you’re aware of that, so I don’t know why you’d speak so confidently about their demands. Regarding your latter claim, if trans-identity is grounded in gender identity, then you’d be right to think that I don’t know what trans-people are, simply because I find the idea of gender identity to be far too vague and illy define. I also find that that the popular accounts of what makes trans-women women seem circular or just false (see the article and video I cited earlier). You might claim that this is ignorance – but it’s not. It’s precisely because I am familiar with the criticism of gender identity (that is, the philosophical criticism) that I confess befuddlement about trans-identity. In contrast, I suspect that your cocksure confidence is grounded precisely in your ignorance about the depths of these philosophical disputes (your article doesn’t focus on these issues and the criticisms offered by real philosophers, btw).

        Reply
        1. If you grant that it is permissible for that adult child to refuse to call his birth mother Mom, then, what is the moral problem with the refusal to use this name? There is none.

          Holy balls. Seriously?

          If is permissible to not call your actual mother your mother because of her misbehavior that warrants disrespecting her, it is not permissible to call a transwoman a man, because no misbehavior has occurred to justify that disrespect.

          Otherwise they are factually a particular kind of woman, just as your mother would factually be your mother. Your own analogy thus proves my point: you are equating transwomen with transgressors who deserve to be disrespected because of their misbehavior. That’s your analogy. So either your analogy is a false analogy, or you are advocating bigotry: mistreating the innocent, because it is okay to mistreat the guilty.

          Read my article on what transwomen are actually saying and what they are actually asking of you. Learn. Get out of this bigoted mindset. And stop using excuses to not learn and thus not escape it. Read. Learn. Understand. No more excuses.

  21. You write in reply to my post about compelled speech:

    “If Peterson doesn’t know that gender is an expressed preference (and is not the same thing as sex), he is incompetent and should be fired. If he refuses to allow students and coworkers the freedom to express themselves as they wish and as his employer allows, he is a bigot and should be fired. If he refuses to call them by the names they ask him to, he is disrespecting them and should be fired.

    There is no way out of this conundrum. He either treats people with the respect they are due, or gets to be fired. He either treats people with the respect they are due, or we get to call him a transphobic douchebag. His choice. Anything else is just complaining about the consequences of fairness to one’s bigotries. “But it’s unfair everyone is treating me like a bigot” does not take away the fact that you are a bigot. If you don’t like being called a bigot, stop being one. Peterson hasn’t learned that lesson. And that alone, IMO, is reason enough to fire him.”

    I don’t know what to say other than that this doesn’t address what I said. We can drop this as an impasse, if you like.

    Will you publish and respond to my longer rejoinder, the one I first offered, with Bettcher and a multitude of other links? I hope so. That is where the meat of our disagreement is.

    Reply
    1. No. Your verbose response was irrelevant to what I’m saying. So there is nothing in that to respond to. (It did get published; your links threw it into spam, so I had to recover it.)

      Transwomen and ciswomen are both women the same way tigers and tabbies are both cats, cops and firefighters are both public servants, sergeants and privates are both soldiers, and so on. So none of your claims that this isn’t true are correct. “Woman” simply does not mean ciswoman. Only ciswoman means ciswoman. Learn how language works. Please.

      And once you get to that point of understanding your continued mistake here, nothing you are saying about rationalizing the demeaning of transwomen does anything but establish your rationalization for demeaning people who don’t deserve it. That makes you a bigot and an asshole. If you don’t want to be a bigot and an asshole, if you don’t want to demean innocent people, then you will call them by their actual names. You will treat them with the respect they deserve. Not make up bogus excuses to disrespect them.

      Reply
  22. Regarding this,

    “When trans advocates say Jenner is a woman, they mean a trans-woman. They do not mean a cis-woman. They are telling you that there are two kinds of women. Therefore the word “woman” does not specify which kind someone is. Therefore for you to insist that it does specify only cis-women is false and bigoted. It is not linguistically correct. It is not factually correct. And if you refuse to learn and understand this, you are a bigot. Otherwise, you can learn, understand what people are actually saying, tender respect to those who deserve it, and thus stop being a bigot. Your call.”

    No, that’s often wrong. They will grant that Jenner is a trans-woman, but they insist that trans-women are women. Hence, the slogan “trans-women are women”. You can google it, Dr. Carrier. If by “woman” they only meant trans-women, then you’d have a tautology (trans-women are trans-women), which is dumb. Heck, the main debate between trans-advocates and gender critical feminists/social conservatives is with whether trans-women are women (read the links, man).

    I readily grant the trans-advocates will say that there are two kinds of women – that’s not in dispute. What is in dispute is whether they are right with respect to their classification (whether trans-women are, in fact, women).

    I won’t respond to the rest. You are being rude and you’re out of line. Please stop.

    Reply
    1. Please read the article I keep telling you to read. You don’t know what your are talking about. And seem stalwartly disinterested in learning.

      Transwomen and ciswomen are both women the same way tigers and tabbies are both cats. You are like someone who wants to insist tabbies can’t be cats, because only tigers are cats. Factually and linguistically false. When will you realize this?

      Reply
      1. Whether transwomen are women depends on the definition of womanhood being used. If defined biologically (in terms of the female reproductive system) or genetically (XX chromosomes), transwomen are definitely not women. So no, transwomen and ciswomen are not biologically or genetically women the same way tigers and tabbies are biologically and genetically cats. But if womanhood is defined socially, as being able to mimic stereotypical female behaviors, they are women. In this case, transwomen and ciswomen are socially female in the same way tigers and tabbies are, in terms of social behavior, cats.

        What do you think of TERFs? Would you consider them feminists?

        Do you think transwomen should be allowed to use the womens’ washroom or attend women only gyms?

        Reply
        1. Mario, you seem confused here.

          Biology is sex, not gender. Transwomen is a gender category, not a biological one. And indeed, its very meaning is “not a woman with respect to gametes.” That’s what the “trans-” is doing in front of “-woman” in that word.

          So you have confused different things. When I say “women” is a non-specific category that includes trans- and cis- women the way “cats” is a non-specific category that includes tigers and tabbies I am not saying “biologically.” If I were, I’d have to say “transwomen” are biologically women, but that’s the exact opposite of what I am saying and what everyone is saying. By definition a transwoman is usually not a biological woman. That’s what “trans-” means! If we thought otherwise we wouldn’t need the “trans-” prefix. Nor would we use the “cis-” prefix to designate what are usually biologically women.

          (Not always, I should remind you: “cis-” refers to gender assigned at birth, and biologically intersex people often get designated a gender at birth contrary to or in disregard of their actual chromosomal or genital or gamete status; so it is possible for someone to be a “ciswoman” who does not biologically track any exact definition of woman in respect to sex. For instance, there are XY women, due to Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome; there are women with both XX and XY chromosome pairs; there are hermaphrodites with both sets of genitals and even both sets of gametes and reproductive organs; and so on.)

          The tabby and cat analogy is solely linguistic, not biological. It is not a reference to how cats behave socially. It is simply that the word “cat” includes different kinds of cat. Just as the word “woman” includes different kinds of women. Wholly regardless of anything whatever to do with biology. Even with respect to social behavior, that is mostly a gender phenomenon that is culturally constructed, not a biological phenomenon decided before birth (biological variances in behavioral characteristics and personality between men and women almost never exceed ten percentiles, which entails tremendous overlap, leaving few significant differences at that level of analysis—indeed, behaviorally, women differ from other women more than women differ from men; and men differ from other men more than men differ from women).

          TERFs (Trans Exclusive Radical Feminists) are penis-fearing bigots. They are feminists as much as Hitler was a socialist. Which is to say, barely, and pretty much in name only.

          As for socialization, yes. Transwomen should be allowed to use the facilities of their preferred gender. Just as no one cares when transmen do so, no one should care when transwomen do so. Fearing the company of transwomen is transphobia by definition.

        2. If “gender” identity is largely socially constructed, how do you explain the David Reimer case and the failure of sex reassignment surgery in general? Theoretically, you should be able to take any young boy, socialize him into being a female, give him phalloplasty and female hormones, and end up with a transwoman. But in the real world, this doesn’t seem to work.

  23. Dr. Carrier,

    I don’t think you responded duly to my longer post.

    My guess is that you were unaware of just how complicated and hotly disputed the woman question is. I have a hunch that you were surprised to hear from Bettcher (a trans-woman, philosopher and specialist in this area – unlike you) that the woman question is far more complicated than it might seem to trans-advocates and their critics who aren’t immersed in the philosophical scholarship (and let’s face it, that includes you). I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. Truth be told: I don’t think you are prepared to debate the philosophical issues on this matter for at lest two reasons:(1) you don’t seem aware of the philosophical scholarship and (2) you emote and scream bigot rather than thinking seriously about this issue and without begging questions. In this way, and on this issue, you’re more of an activist than a philosopher. I think that readers will see this, too.

    You write:

    “Transwomen and ciswomen are both women the same way tigers and tabbies are both cats. You are like someone who wants to insist tabbies can’t be cats, because only tigers are cats. Factually and linguistically false. When will you realize this?”

    For Pete’s sake, Dr. Carrier. I understand that you see it this way, but many people do not. Much the scholarship on this issue disputes whether trans-women are, in fact, women. Said differently, your statement here affirms the trans-inclusive understanding of the concept woman, something that is in dispute. If you don’t believe me, read the articles, man. Read Bettcher. Read Stock. Hell, read anything I linked.

    You also write:

    “And “woman” refers in most common use to gender not sex (because you almost never observe someone’s sex when you gender them—you have and deserve no access to their DNA or genitals and rarely use either to gender someone). Every trans advocate writing on this says this. So you have no excuse to not know this by now”

    This is wrong. The pronouns he and she are assigned based upon the sex of the referent (typically). We can see in English grammar books dated from 1857 until the modern time. You’ll see that on page 17 of this book (1); page 113 of this book (2). With respect to the word woman,

    (1) https://books.google.ca/books?id=h28CAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA17&dq=English+grammar++pronoun+sex&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj80eTpy53mAhWHVN8KHdW1AooQ6AEIQDAD#v=onepage&q&f=false page

    (2) https://books.google.ca/books?id=HKISAAAAIAAJ&dq=English+grammar++pronoun+sex&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=+sex

    The word “woman” typically refers to a human, adult female, where “female” is cashed out in terms of sex. You can check old and modern dictionaries to confirm that. This is a meaning that Bettcher recognized as the standard within the public, which is why it’s the primary meaning cited in English dictionaries ( see Bettcher’s “Trans Women and the Meaning of “Woman”- an article that I’m sure you’ve read eye roll)

    Lastly, regarding what else you said, you commit two errors. First, while you’re right that we don’t have direct access to DNA and genitals, human beings are sexually dimorphic species – we have reliable secondary sexual characteristics to induce a person’s sex, and hence determine whether we shall refer to that person as a man, or woman. We are also helped with what you call gender expression, but nevertheless secondary sexual characteristics are visible and something we have direct access to. I already said that to you in earlier posts, but you ignored it. Second, even if it were true that we rely on gender to refer to people as men or women, that does not imply that the words men and women mean some concept of womanhood apart from sex. You’re confusing two issues: Which data we use to attribute a word and what the word actually means in English.

    If you want to know what the word means in English, check out a dictionary: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/woman
    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/female

    Reply
    1. No, I’m not surprised by any of that.

      You are simply continually ignoring what I said. For example, far from my not knowing “the woman question is complicated,” I actually directed you to my own article about this which extensively explains that it is complicated. You clearly are not reading what I told you to read.

      “It’s complicated” is precisely why you are wrong. Gender differs from sex. You keep ignoring this. And in actual regular practice (not always, but most of the time) “woman” is used to refer to gender, not sex. You keep ignoring this. And in the context of gender it is always the superset of the two subsets. Woman is a generic word inclusive of both. Ciswoman is the specific word that specifies at-birth assignment of gender and sex; transwoman is the specific word that distinguishes all other women from those. You keep ignoring this. And even with respect to sex there is variability (including both chemical and surgical intervention; and various kinds of naturally occurring intersex biology). You keep ignoring this.

      Since you keep ignoring everything I say, why are we even bothering to have a conversation? You refuse to listen. You refuse to learn. That’s on you.

      Meanwhile, since you seem to believe in listening to dictionaries, maybe you will listen to Merriam-Webster. Read this entire section on gender.

      Reply

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