Title: Jordan Peterson @ Lafayette, A Conversation and Q&A, Full Event
Published: Apr 10, 2018
Channel: The Mill Series
Lots of times when you talk to people who think, or when you talk to people who write, they have an idea and it's right and then they write whatever they're writing to justify the idea. That's how they look at it. But it's not a good way to write. A good way to write, and think, is to have a problem, and then try to solve it, to actually solve it, not to demonstrate that your a priori commitment is true.
You're one of the great heroes of the past, are you? That's why you're standing up and waving your flag. No you're not, you're identifying with your group because you don't have anything of your own to offer.
Everything you act out is predicated on your implicit axioms, and the system of implicit axioms that you hold as primary is your religious belief system. It doesn't matter whether you're an atheist or not. That's just surface noise.
Q: I just wanted to ask you, although it may be a very broad question, what is the place of the "religious" in stories?
A: "Religious" is something like the grammatical structure of stories. If you go down and you look at what makes a story a story, that's religious. Yeah. It's not a story otherwise. A story is a particular sort of thing. In its simplest sense, a story is an account of how to get from point A to point B. It's like a map. But there's a value structure inherent in that, obviously, because otherwise you wouldn't go from point A to point B. So just to make the map means to adopt a value structure. But the story's actually more complicated than that, because as you move from point A to point B, processes of radical transformation are often necessary. And the deep stories about the processes of radical transformation that occur as you move from point A to B are basically - they're indistinguishable from religious stories. Now, I think the reason they tend to become religious, let's say, is because it has something to do with the gap between the finite and comprehensible and the infinite and uncomprehensible. We live in the finite and comprehensible but we're surrounded by the infinite and incomprehensible, and there has to be a border between those, of some s-, like a mediating border, that's poetry and art, that's narrative, that's religion, and it's that strange metaphorical reality, let's say, that's not factual, and it's not comprehensible, but that's not infinitely incomprehensible, either. It's a bridge between the two. And as you move closer to the infinite and incomprehensible across that bridge, you get farther and farther away from what you understand, but how could it be otherwise? Given that you're finite, you are a finite being, surrounded by what's infinite and incomprehensible.
Jung's idea was that rationality is embedded in a dream. There's the infinite unknowable, and then there's the dream, and then inside the dream is the rational domain. And I believe that to be the case. Why else would we dream? We have to dream. If we don't dream, we go insane. It doesn't take very long. And so there's an element of poetic conceptualisation that grounds us, and it has to be taken seriously. You know, the rational critics of dreams think about them as random neuroactivity. It's like, there's nothing ra- when you look at a TV screen that's not on a channel, that's random. When you dream something complex and sophisticated, that's not random. So... yeah. So the metaphor surrounds us, let's say. And we can critique it rationally, and we can undermine it, but there's real danger in that.
This is the whole point of a liberal education: There isn't anything that you can possibly do that makes you more competent, in everything you do, than to learn how to communicate.
Jung really regarded what he was doing as an answer to Nietzche's question. And the question is something like: Well, the inquiring Western rational mind has murdered the metaphysical presuppositions of Western society. Now what? Now Nietzche's idea was, well, we would have to invent our own values, we would have to become a new type of being. But Jung's response to that, especially after World War 2 (and after encountering Freud), was something like: Well, what makes you think we can invent our own values? So Jung's idea was to rediscover the values of the past, to go within, that was his Hero's Journey, to go within, in the landscape of the imagination, and to rekindle the archetypes. That isn't necessarily something that has to be done as an internal voyage. But, that made the process something that was more akin to an archetypal transformation. So, if it's the Father that's dead, then you go into the belly of the beast to revitalise the Father. That's the pathway forward. And that's been the pathway forward for human beings for as long back as we know, for tens of thousands of years.
Mircea Eliade talked about the Death of God as a recurring phenomena. I mean, that's what he realised when he did his large-scale surveys of religious belief systems, is that God dies very frequently. And then, that's part of what you might describe as a developmental process. It's very much akin to what happens to you when your dreams die. You know, you put forward a hypothesis about a mode of being that you would like to embody. You have a dream, a vision, an ambition, maybe a love affair or something like that, and it collapses on you. Well, there's a period of death that follows that. You could call it psychological death. But then there's a reconstruction of the value system and a rebirth, and that's, that's the eternal human story. It really is the h- Now, Jung's contribution to Nietzche's body of thought, and this is where I think also Dostoyevsky surpassed Nietzche, was that Jung realised that we didn't invent our own values. We rediscovered those values that we always harboured within us. They still have to be given new form though. You see this in an old story, the Egyptian, there's an old story of Horus and Osirus, and Horus goes to rescue his father Osirus, who's basically living like a dead ghost in the underworld. He goes to rescue him, after defeating his evil uncle, he goes to rescue his dead father, and when he goes down into the underworld, he has an eye in his hand, that Seth, the evil one, tore from his head during their combat. And instead of putting the eye back in his head he gives it to his father, and then his father can see again, and then they both go back up to the surface of the world, and it's their union that constitutes the spirit of the Pharaoh. It's an absolutely unbelievably remarkable story, because the idea is, well, you will be damaged in your confrontation with life, particularly if you confront malevolence, because the confrontation with malevolence damages people, it will damage your vision. But if you take that damaged part of you and you reunite it with the dead spirit of your father, then you can revitalise that, that will strengthen you and that will enable you to move forward into the future. It's like, that's just exactly right. And it's one of the deepest religious presuppositions of humanity. You see it everywhere, that idea. That's what you're doing in university if you take a liberal arts degree. It's like you're, you're resurrecting your dead ancestors so that they can live again in your form. But in conjoined union with you. You're the vision that gives the dead past its vitality and spirit. And that's the purpose of being educated.
The more radical the necessary change, the more pain that accompanies it. The more opportunity as well, but - a lot of we learn we learn painfully, and so it's not surprising that people shrink away from learning. We learn in pain and anxiety, very frequently. Everyone knows that, like the things that you really learned in life, it's like, it was no joy, man, like it took you out. And so the fact that people flee from that is hardly surprising. But it doesn't help, that's the thing. It just stores up the catastrophe for later, and so the better idea is to eat a little poison every day so that you don't have to overdose in a month - it's something like that. And, it is the case that, I think, because you don't, you aren't forced to - first of all, you don't learn unless you're forced to learn - I know there's alternatives to that, there's the voluntary search for knowledge, and that's a fine thing, and that is an antidote to this, but apart from that, speaking more practically, you tend not to learn unless you're forced to learn - and what you tend to learn by force are difficult lessons. And so people are very prone to not seek that out. It's not surprising. But it's because they don't understand the consequences very well. You know, maybe it's because they're convinced that there's some way of forestalling the necessary learning. And there isn't - any way of forestalling it. All you do is make it worse in the future. You make yourself smaller and you make the lesson harder. And so that's why in so many religious doctrines there's emphasis on humility, you know, and humility isn't to debase yourself, it's to understand that you don't know enough so that your life isn't going to be miserable, and so every chance you get to grab something new that will help you along your way, you should take it as fast as you can. But you have to have a very... tragic, I would say, view of reality, and also a harsh one, because it's not just tragedy, it's also malevolence. You have to understand that those are waiting for you. And that makes you desperate enough to learn. And that might make you desperate enough to fall out of your ideology. But that's a hard way of looking at the world. It beats living through it though.
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In these transcripts, I haven't included all stutters, repetitions, hesitations, filler words, false starts, or word fragments.
I have expanded some words back to their formal form e.g. transcribing "cos" as "because".
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