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Episode · 1 year ago

Lecture 31 THE MEANING OF LIFE

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Based on a conversation between Susan Blackmore and Jordan Peterson, this lecture opposes the secular to the religious path, as contrasted answers to the search for meaning.

Meditation Time. Lecture thirty one the meaning of life in a conversation between Susan blackmore and Jordan Peterson, both respected academics and published authors. The interviewer and moderator, Justin briarly asked Miss Blackmore the following question. Do we need God, i. e. The Judeo Christian idea of God, to make sense of life? Her answer, decidedly brief and unsatisfying as she was granted virtually no time to explain herself near the end of the conversation, was an emphatic absolutely not. I shall attempt to expand on her answer against the relentless claim by Jordan Peterson that the cornerstone of all meaningful and moral discourse in the Western...

...world as primarily the holy book as an alleged repository of divine truth. Let me say for a start that my viewed chimes with that of Sam Harris, another respected academic and published author, who reckons that everything in the Bible could have originated from human observation, introspection, intellection and imagination. I must add, however, that I remain somewhat critical of Sam Harris and other detractors of religion, like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens, regardless of their merit as brilliant and scholarly intellectuals, who visibly delight in calling attention to the most indefensible aspects of scripture, deemed archaic and replete with such delusions and barbarisms as creationism, transubstantiation, genocide and slavery. I contend that Jordan Peterson, at the other end of the philosophical spectrum, brings a welcome balance in the...

...debate between these men and the Faithful, by teasing out, with insightful profundity, the many gems of wisdom that have earned scripture a special place in the development of Western culture. The concept of collective unconscious from the famous psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung permeates the philosophy of Jordan Peterson. According to the latter, such archatypal themes as the mother, child and Father Child relationships define the innate structure of meaning peculiar to the Human Psyche, akin to the categories of understanding, for example existence, non existence and cause effect in the philosophy of Emmanuel cant that provide an inborn cons sextual framework for apprehending reality. They are gateways of intuitive understanding that God employs in the sacred texts, the culmination of which...

...is the New Testament, through the agency of select human intermediaries, dubbed profits, to enlighten and edify us, and therewith inspire us with a steadfast willingness to embody the spirit of divine love. Firstly, the idea that over time, the human brain has evolved to embed in the deeper stratum of its constitution basic structures of meaning and understanding that reflect equally basic structures of reality, thus facilitating their apprehension, makes intuitive sense, although this would suggest a form of Lamarckian evolution that can transfer acquired traits of the phenotype at the level of experience and knowledge into the genotype at the level of heredity and instincts. Such a transfer has never been demonstrated empirically and remains controversial and evolutionary biology. Secondly, if indeed such basic structures of meaning and understanding are innate, notwithstanding the difficulty...

...of explaining how they came to be imprinted in our genome, instead of relying exclusively on cultural modes of transmission, they must remain sufficiently vague to allow change engine creativity. The reverse would run counter to the plasticity and adaptability of the human brain that constitute the high point of its evolution. Having said this, perhaps the most poignant aspect of Jordan Peterson's philosophy is the criticism he levels a postmodern relativism in the matter of belief and values. He bemoans the loss of religious traditions, initially called into question by the enlightenment and later dismissed by postmodernism, as subjective human constructs, to the extent that they supplied an accessible archive of metaphysical and moral truths that was intellectually grounding, socially rallying and spiritually uplifting.

From this perspective, the excesses of materialism and consumerism, which often operate in tandem with nihilism or cynicism, are a pathetically vain attempt at filling the gaping whole that is now the postmodern placeholder of the soul. Likewise, through this Philosophical Lens, fascism and totalitarianism appear as forms of spiritual wastelands that brandish political dogmatism as contemptible Air Zots of Divine Truths. What is Peterson's remedy against these evils, contentiously attributed to the death of God, shockingly proclaimed by Friedrich Nietzsche? It is nothing short of individual heroism and carrying the burden of meaning with due diligence, under a new covenant, with religious traditions profoundly revisited and critically re evaluated, together with the courage to act, virtuously striking the right...

...balance between human rights and social duties. Now, at this time in history, when secular thought has gained enough maturity to provide rational underpinnings for a good life and a good society, at least in principle, while in practice humanity fumbles for these ideals with limited success. When it doesn't simply fail because of laziness, greed, stupidity or ignorance, why should we turn our gaze to religious traditions as staple foods for thought instead of homing it on science and Western or eastern philosophies from ancient times onwards? Examples of philosophies are those of Plato, Aristotle and Zeno of Cedium, the founder of Stoicism, or those of Confucius and Buddha, together with those of John Locke or John Stuart Mill and his predecessor Jeremy Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism, and more recently those of...

John Rawls, a champion of liberalism striving to reconcile individual freedom and distributive justice, and Sam Harris. It is worth noting that the latter's essay the moral landscape argues, against David Hume, that effective facts of consciousness, such as desire and aversion or joy and suffering, hold implicit values that have normative force relative to ethics. Actually, Jordan Peterson is not opposed to any soul searching individual parsing such a vast corpus of philosophical meanderings, quite the contrary, but his insistence on restoring faith in the ideological relevance and narrative potency of Scriptures relates to a point made earlier. In contrast to the exceedingly dry, intricate and abstract distillations of philosophy that interest a small subgroup of sophisticated thinkers, biblical stories,...

...which give expression to archetypal maps of meaning as the subconscious bedrock of intuitive understanding, enjoy mass appeal. They speak directly to the heart and are therefore considerably more engaging than the brainy indulgences of reason often lost in convoluted and bewildering expositions. In response to such an earnest effort to rehabilitate religious traditions, Sam Harris and like intellectuals are Adam and in maintaining that these traditions are better tossed in the dust bin of history by reason of the tedious necessity to separate the weed of universal truths they admittedly contain from their massive amount of chaff, which here symbolizes an exasperating array of delusions and barbarisms. While this may be too harsh a stance in comparison to a more forgiving disposition to approach these antiquated traditions...

...with a mix of open mindedness and critical thinking, the question remains as follows. How can the largely unpopular wares of science and philosophy compete with the drawing power of creation myths and other profoundly inspired stories, as they leverage deep seated structures of meaning, regardless of their genetic or experiential nature, not to mention the concomitant habits they induce? Truth is one thing, receptiveness to truth is another. The effectiveness of honesty hinges on a clear grasp of this important distinction, and the same can be said of education that strives to elicit the fundamental realities of the world. So where do we go from there? My answer to this question should be taken with a grain of salt, as should any other answer for that matter, given our human condition of imperfection. While I have dedicated my entire adult life of approximately forty years to such philosophical investigations,...

I remain an amateur, not an academic or so called expert. I offer my listeners this self deprecating caveat to sharpen their critical sense, but I also invite them to give my answer enough benefit of the doubt to take it seriously as an opportunity to think for themselves about the way forward and reach an answer of their own. I am of the opinion that the scourge of dogmatism and bigotry is the deadliest enemy of civilization. To begin with, judging from the increasing number of atheists and agnostics who proclaim that they enjoy a personal form of spirituality that is distinct from religiosity and yet affords them a fulfilling sense of order and direction along with a reliable moral compass, it appears safe to conclude the following a meaningful life that is respectful of others in the environment is entirely conceivable...

...without God, the latter understood in the context of the Judeo Christian tradition. The fact remains, however, that the exacting discourses of science and philosophy trail far behind religion and its fantastical narratives in in terms of intuitive intelligibility and seductive power. There is clearly a trend in trying to bridge this gap by creating scientific and philosophical content that is accessible and appealing to the masses, but this effort is relatively new. Historically, there is still a long way to go before science and philosophy joined forces and succeed in putting forth a compelling world view that is both grounded in reality and intimately habitable, to wit, amenable to human concerns and aspirations. In the end, have sent any general consensus as...

...to what this compelling world view consists of. The onus is on US individually to pursue our own brand of wisdom, with the help of luminaries who radiate with penetrating insights which should be pondered at length, questioned at every turn and adopted or altered according to our inner sense of truth. To that effect, social life must be characterized by tolerance, a balanced combination of freedom for all and mutual respect that favors this individual pursuit, with nothing but the law imposing constraints. These constraints are the necessary requirements of civilization as a bulwork against a jungle like or doggydog form of pandemonium.

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