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Libertarian Postmodernism: A Reply to Jordan Peterson and the Intellectual Dark Web

Reason's Nick Gillespie defends Foucault, Hayek, and an "incredulity towards metanarratives."

People of many political persuasions have identified postmodernism as a major threat to civilization. The most notable recent attacks have come from Jordan Peterson and other members of the so-called "Intellectual Dark Web."

Reason Editor-at-Large Nick Gillespie has a problem with that. He sat down with Zach Weissmueller, video journalist for Reason TV, to discuss and defend postmodernism—a term he says has been widely mischaracterized by its most vociferous critics—from a libertarian perspective.

Watch the full interview above. Transcript is below.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Lorenz Lo.

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INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT: This is a rush transcript. Check against video for accuracy.

Zach Weissmueller: [0:48] Postmodernism has been identified as a threat to civilization by people of all sorts of political persuasions over the years. Recently, most prominently, by Jordan Peterson and other members of what's become known as the Intellectual Dark Web. But you, Nick Gillespie, think that postmodernism might be useful and is not all bad from a libertarian perspective. First, what exactly is your understanding of postmodernism?

Nick Gillespie: [1:18] Yeah, famously in the 1979 book, The Postmodern Condition by Jean-François Lyotard, he defined postmodernism as "incredulity toward metanarratives," which means that, you don't take knowledge, or assertions of knowledge, as a given, but rather you understand that knowledge and wisdom, and even scientific understanding of things, is not something that you're walking around and you discover in the backyard that you stumble across like you stumble across the Grand Canyon, or a mountain, or something. Rather it's something that produced by humans, and, as a result, it's contingent, it's limited.

Incredulity toward metanarratives means that you are skeptical of these big stories that we tell about, "Well this is the why the world is the way it is. This is why it's always been that way. This is why it always will be that way." Or, alternatively, "This is why the world should be this way, which just happens to comport with what I want." I see that phrase, incredulity toward meta narrative, as very simpatico with libertarianism, and it's very simpatico with something like public choice economics, which James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, the founders of it, called "politics without romance." What it does is it looks at what is being said, why it is being said, who benefits, and whether or not it actually holds up to scrutiny from a kind of 360-degree angle.

Excerpt of Michel Foucault: [2:38] It seems to be that the real political task in our contemporary society is to criticize the workings of insitutions--particularly the ones that appear to be neutral and independent--and to attack them in such a way that the political violence, which has always exercised itself obscurely through them, will finally be unmasked so one can fight against them.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Just Say'n||

    Man, Peterson has really triggered the shit out of the writers here.

    But, be better to socialists everyone

  • Kivlor||

    I haven't listened to the Podcast. Are they serious about their defense of postmodernism?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    A distrust of universalism? I say that's a healthy attitude. But not if you believe in some top-down "objective" morality, like adherents of organized religion do.

  • Just Say'n||

    So you don't believe liberalism is rooted in universal principles?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    What universal principles would those be? Those are some very abstract words you are throwing around.

  • Kivlor||

    So, who is exempt from the NAP when libertarians talk about how it is wrong to violate it?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Interpretations of the NAP will differ. There is no universally correct interpretation for all the words that make up the NAP.

  • rocks||

    Where were the Libertarians? I only saw a bunch of Reason hacks.

  • Kivlor||

    I think you must be using terms that you don't really understand. You distrust the concept that principles are universal? You think that is a libertarian concept?

    Also, I'd be interested in having you explain exactly where you think rights come from, since you have such a disdain for "organized religion".

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Rights come from agreements people make between themselves based on their values.

  • Kivlor||

    Okay, so why do you have rights? What agreement have you entered into to obtain them, and with whom?

  • ThomasD||

    "Rights come from agreements people make ..."

    All of which must necessarily flow from a right to make agreements.

    And just where did that come from?

  • Hrimnir||

    So i don't have a right to defend myself from a violent physical attacker unless said violent attacker and i come to a predetermined agreement that i have a right to defend myself from their violent attack?

  • John||

    Yeah because Libertarians totally reject top down moral principles like the NAP. You need to think a little harder about what you are saying. If you reject the entire concept of objective morality, then how exactly is it wrong for me to oppress or harm you? Your morality says it is wrong. Well my morality says that it is right. Without an objective higher morality, there is no way to say which is right.

  • Juice||

    Yeah because Libertarians totally reject top down moral principles like the NAP.

    Is it top down though? Couldn't you say that it's organic and arises out of natural human interaction? Not everyone has the exact same idea of what they consider to be aggression.

  • John||

    Not at all. There is no way you can look at the history of humanity with all of its war and conflict and think that the NAP arises organically from human interaction. It is a completely artificial way of existing. It is nothing but a restatement of the Golden Rule and it is absolutely a top down moral principle.

  • Juice||

    Hate and violence are natural human tendencies therefore love and respect are not?

    Alruism, for lack of a better term, has been demonstrated to be a product of natural selection even in lower animals like insects, so I would tend to think that it's not some artificial construct, whatever the term artificial may mean in this context.

    It's also difficult to seriously argue that humans respect each others' boundaries only because their supernatural creator threatened them with eternal punishment if they didn't behave.

  • ||

    Hate and violence are natural human tendencies therefore love and respect are not?

    One might even argue that the ability to rise above violence is uniquely human. There is certainly nothing uniquely human about hate and violence.

  • BYODB||


    One might even argue that the ability to rise above violence is uniquely human. There is certainly nothing uniquely human about hate and violence.

    That would be my view, lord knows the founders thought that way. Not that long ago, it seems, a whole lot of people thought that way.

    We're truly in the middle of some bizarre New Puritanism, par for the course I suppose.

  • Just Say'n||

    You don't know that he's saying that. Postmodernism could mean any number of things because the definition is varied.

  • Just Say'n||

    I didn't listen yet. I saw that Jeffrey Tucker had an article praising Peterson, particularly his opposition to Canadian speech codes (which Reason ignores when discussing him). Woketarians got pissed at Tucker and so he had to write another article defending the mere concept of not abiding by groupthink.

    But, be better to socialists

  • Kivlor||

    Huh. I never listen to the podcasts, but I may listen to this one. I am really interested in hearing someone attempt to put together a defense of postmodernism from a libertarian perspective. That's going to be a riot. Or it's going to be sad--like watching a kid hit their own head against the cement repeatedly sad.

  • mtrueman||

    "I am really interested in hearing someone attempt to put together a defense of postmodernism from a libertarian perspective. "

    It's not so difficult. Modernism is the attempt to wed Marx with Freud. Postmodernists like Foucault reject both Marx and Freud. Libertarians should be able to agree with some of this, at least. Maybe you disagree with the 100 genders that websites have identified, but that whole fluid identity thing is part of post modernism, too.

  • Hrimnir||

    Unfortunately this was one of Reason's weak points, and more specifically Leather Jacket Guy's worst showings.

    I'm no fan of peterson, i like his defense of free speech but i think he leans way too heavily on jungian theories.

    Never the less, the podcast started out with a gross misrepresentation of jordan peterson's contentions, then followed that up with a big fat straw man built upon an excessively broad interpretation of post modernism, essentially that they equated post modernism with the ability to critique modernism.

    I got about 2/3 of the way through it before i just gave up. It really disappointed me, a lot.

  • Hrimnir||

    Unfortunately this was one of Reason's weak points, and more specifically Leather Jacket Guy's worst showings.

    I'm no fan of peterson, i like his defense of free speech but i think he leans way too heavily on jungian theories.

    Never the less, the podcast started out with a gross misrepresentation of jordan peterson's contentions, then followed that up with a big fat straw man built upon an excessively broad interpretation of post modernism, essentially that they equated post modernism with the ability to critique modernism.

    I got about 2/3 of the way through it before i just gave up. It really disappointed me, a lot.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    So I just listened to this. It is quite good. My respect for Nick has increased.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    My favorite part is where he quotes Peterson espousing postmodern principles.

  • Nyarlarrythotep||

    I wasn't lacking in respect for Nick, but yes, this is really good stuff. It articulates what I think is most important about the art of a humane and dynamic society - pluralism and individualism and voluntarism - and relates these concepts to libertarianism and post-modernism.

    Really, it's inspiring; it's giving me new ideas on how I can illustrate to my progressive friends the importance of libertarian principles.

  • ||

    Are they serious about their defense of postmodernism?

    I don't have time to listen to this right now, but I would think in order to answer any question like "what is the relationship between libertarianism and post-modernism" you would have to start with a definition of "post-modernism."

    When I was in grad school 15 years ago, the lack of said definition was still a major embarrassment for "post-modernists."

    If we're talking Foucault, specifically, I think there's a lot in Foucault for libertarians to get behind, particularly in his analyses of power and persecution in the modern state. But I don't believe Foucault ever described himself as a "post-modernist."

    In fact, it's been a long-standing joke since the 90s that people who call themselves "post-modernists" don't understand the debates that led to the rise of the amorphous thing that wound up getting called "Post-Modernism."

  • Just Say'n||

    Agreed. Postmodernism is an ever changing definition to many. But, Foucault, despite what he was saying, was historically inaccurate in his analysis which undercuts a lot of his conclusions

  • ||

    Foucault, despite what he was saying, was historically inaccurate in his analysis which undercuts a lot of his conclusions

    This is literally the first time I have ever heard anyone make such a claim. I'm not saying you're wrong, but do you have examples?

  • Just Say'n||

    Even Foucault admitted that he exaggerated his historical analysis. I can't provide you links right now. There was an essay called Forget Foucault, I think that covered some of this.

    To be fair, I've only read a few things by Foucault, so I'm not defending his critics

  • ||

    Title sounds vaguely familiar, but if I read it it's been probably 25-30 years. I'll check it out again, but honestly, though, all things being equal, just based on my past experience reading and studying both, my tendency is to take Foucault over Baudrillard. I've always considered Baudrillard a bit of a hack.

  • John||

    Post Modernism is just a catch all phrase to describe whatever the speaker wants it to. I think there are points in Foucault that Libertarians would find useful. But, I don't see how Libertarians could really get behind Foucault.

  • ||

    I don't see how Libertarians could really get behind Foucault.

    I don't see why not. Books like Discipline and Punish, Madness and Civilization and

  • ||

    *sigh*

    . . . Birth of the Clinic, not to mention earlier essays about power and subjectivity, critique various brands of authoritarianism (prison system, healthcare system, etc.) that libertarians are still all over to this day.

    Honestly, off the top of my head I can't think of anything objectionable in Foucault from a libertarian perspective, but maybe it's been too long and I memory-holed the things I didn't like.

  • Juice||

    Post Modernism is just a catch all phrase to describe whatever the speaker wants it to.

    I think it's just a revival of ancient Greek Skepticism.

  • ||

    Derrida even openly said that he saw a connection between Deconstruction and the Sophists, and opined that the Socratic/Platonic rejection of the Sophists was their error, not the Sophists'.

  • Juice||

    Did the sophists have an overarching philosophy? I thought it was just a term for anyone who touted themselves as a philosopher and wanted to make money from it or something like that. Socrates/Plato may have considered sophists to be bullshit artists and maybe that's what postmodernists are too. (Most philosophy is bullshit artistry, IMO.)

    Instead of a skeptic hearing bullshit and saying, "you're probably wrong" a postmodernist hears bullshit and says, "you could be right."

    So maybe I was wrong to characterize it as a skeptical philosophy. Maybe it's meta-skeptical. Or, like you said, it can't be pinned down, because once you pin it down it becomes a meta-narrative and ceases to be postmodernism.

  • ||

    Did the sophists have an overarching philosophy?

    No - the essence of Derrida's point, IIRC, was that they shared a post-modern skepticism of Socratic/Platonic certainty, and Derrida split much ink showing that Plato wasn't nearly as logically consistent as he claimed to be.

  • ||

    I thought it was just a term for anyone who touted themselves as a philosopher and wanted to make money from it or something like that.

    That's how Plato presented it - "these are guys are just full of shit and are trying to con you out of your money. Don't pay attention to them. Come to our school where we'll show you how to find Truth and show these assholes what morons they are!"

    Derrida pointed out that that position may have been motivated, and that the Sophists were at least partly correct that Plato, too, was full of shit.

    I think "meta-skeptical" is a pretty good term, since as you say, many who call themselves "post-modernists" can reject or accept narratives pretty much arbitrarily.

    In no small part this is people not understanding the process of Deconstruction. You start by "flipping the script" - i.e. showing that you can flip the terms of a narrative to their opposites and still retain logical consistency. Ultimately, you're looking to show that the narrative didn't say anything despite its claims to the contrary.

    Many, however, simply decide that the "flipped script" is Truth - that the "dominant narrative" is to be rejected out of hand, and that the narratives of the marginalized are to be believed without skepticism.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    IIRC, the overarching philosophy of the solphists was supposed to be, "here's how to win arguments even if you're wrong. Now, pay me!"

  • ||

    IIRC, the overarching philosophy of the solphists was supposed to be, "here's how to win arguments even if you're wrong. Now, pay me!"

    And the reason we think of them that way is "Because Plato said so."

  • Juice||

    Well, Gillespie is using a definition by Lyotard, which is "incredulity towards metanarratives". So it could be simply defined to mean a skepticism toward any "theory" or philosophy that claims to be able to explain everything. That's pretty broad, but I guess that works. *shrug*

  • ||

    Lyotard is one I have considerably less respect for, but I do recall his being the attempt-at-definition that was most successful at resembling something like a definition. Which at the time a lot of "deconstructers" saw as the death of "post-modernism," since the rejection of truth and meta-narrative also would necessitate rejecting any firm definition of "post-modernism."

    But if "post-modernism" is just going to be "rejection of the idea that any single theory can explain everything," yeah - not hard to get behind it, for what it is.

  • Juice||

    Yeah, one time someone I know was railing against postmodernism and so I asked him what it really was so I could see what he was so upset about, because I really didn't know anything about it, and he said it was Marxism and communism and hedonism and "if it feels good, do it" etc. So something tells me a pastor in his church had a sermon about postmodernism and this is how it was explained to him. Later I looked it up and read a bit about and and thought, well any drunk on a barstool can tell you his philosophy of life and I guess that's postmodernism, but I don't think it really has anything to do with Marxism or hedonism, which have nothing to do with each other.

  • zeroDay||

    Without getting into the mess postmodernism makes of epistemology, from whence comes the knowledge required to reject the idea that any single theory can explain everything?

  • Juice||

    "From whence" is redundant. Anyway...

    Being skeptical of something does not mean that you simply reject it out of hand.

    But yeah, if someone says that it's simply impossible for a metanarrative to be correct, that sounds kind of absolute and might be considered a metanarrative itself. So it would be a paradox, wouldn't it?

    There are no absolute truths! ;-)

  • zeroDay||

    "From whence" is redundant. Anyway...

    While technically true, it's been used this way for several hundreds of years. If it's good enough for Shakespeare and Hobbes, it's good enough for me.

    So it would be a paradox, wouldn't it?

    I would go with logically self-defeating.

    There are no absolute truths!

    Exactly!

  • ||

    from whence comes the knowledge required to reject the idea that any single theory can explain everything?

    I think it requires a stance that puts the burden of proof on the theory that claims it can explain everything.

    At root, I don't think you have to go all the way to "knowledge is impossible" to get "no one theory completely explains all phenomena." Some "post-modernists" do go all the way to "knowledge is impossible," at which point I have to agree with your basic critique, i.e. "how do you know that knowledge is impossible?"

    But any explanation of Reality is necessarily a reduction of Reality to a simpler model that is itself contained within Reality and will never, by its very nature, totalize its representation of Reality. I.e, Logic, but as a basic first premise you have to accept that logic has a relationship with "knowledge" and "truth."

  • zeroDay||

    I think it requires a stance that puts the burden of proof on the theory that claims it can explain everything.

    I don't think this version of postmodernism has anything distinguishing it from other philosophies that value skepticism. I'm not even sure what the point of arguing for or against it is.

    At root, I don't think you have to go all the way to "knowledge is impossible" to get "no one theory completely explains all phenomena.

    My point was that you have to know enough about all phenomena to have the knowledge that no one theory completely explains all phenomena, even if we don't know the explicit out-workings of first principles. How can one have that level of knowledge without a working theory of everything? This holds no matter how one views epistemology.

    But any explanation of Reality is necessarily a reduction of Reality to a simpler model that is itself contained within Reality and will never, by its very nature, totalize its representation of Reality.

    I'm honestly not sure what you mean here. Do you mean that observed reality isn't actually reality?

  • ||

    My point was that you have to know enough about all phenomena to have the knowledge that no one theory completely explains all phenomena

    Exactly - and you can't know enough about all phenomena to have the knowledge that no one theory completely explains all phenomena, therefore it's not possible, even theoretically, for any theory to account for all phenomena. This is what I was getting at in my comment that the theory itself is part of the Reality that is coming-to-be-known through the theory, and thus you have an infinite regression where the Thing you are trying to Totally Explain is constantly outgrowing your attempts to explain it.

  • zeroDay||

    Exactly - and you can't know enough about all phenomena to have the knowledge that no one theory completely explains all phenomena, therefore it's not possible, even theoretically, for any theory to account for all phenomena.

    It doesn't work the other way around. Not having ultimate knowledge doesn't preclude a philosophical worldview from being true, but it does logically preclude the assertion that no theory of everything is true, especially without itself being a theory of everything.

  • ||

    Not having ultimate knowledge doesn't preclude a philosophical worldview from being true, but it does logically preclude the assertion that no theory of everything is true, especially without itself being a theory of everything.

    We may be working with different values of "theory of everything."

    But you can't have an ultimate knowledge of everything for the exact same reason that you can't prove that you can't have a theory of everything.

    IOW, "ultimate knowledge" is not even a theoretical possibility - it requires a knowledge of the knower that the knower can't have, unless you believe in a Supreme Knower, to whom we all stand as puddles to the Sea ; ).

  • zeroDay||

    We may be working with different values of "theory of everything.

    Would you mind defining it for us?

    But you can't have an ultimate knowledge of everything for the exact same reason that you can't prove that you can't have a theory of everything.

    I think the "theory of everything approach" maybe isn't the right one. If a philosophical worldview offers a coherent answer to the questions of origin, identity, meaning, morality and destiny it can be logically posited (evidence is a different issue). Postmodernism, even the version that simply rejects overarching meta-narratives, is itself a meta-narrative (and so logically self-defeating) and requires access to a comprehensive objective reality in order to reject the first principles of another worldview.

    On the other hand, other philosophies can argue that they are true based on first principles even if those first principles cannot explain every phenomena in the universe. Postmodernism does not have the logical footing to even argue against the first principles.

  • ||

    I think you think I'm arguing something I'm not. Above, you agree with the assertion that "there are no absolute truths," yet you now seem to be taking issue with the notion that "no statement is absolutely true."

    You then concede that statements can have truth-value based on first principles while lacking the power to explain all phenomena, which would seem to agree with my suggestion that "no one theory explains everything."

    All through this thread there is an important distinction between the logic of "post-modernism," which you seem to largely agree with, and those I would call "post-modern Marxist reactionaries" who concluded that logic must be rejected if logic says we should reject Marxism.

    That latter group are, at best, delusional, at worst, evil.

  • zeroDay||

    think you think I'm arguing something I'm not. Above, you agree with the assertion that "there are no absolute truths," yet you now seem to be taking issue with the notion that "no statement is absolutely true."

    We're definitely talking past each other. "There are no absolute truths" is logically self-defeating. I you want clarification on something said, please refer to it explicitly.

    You then concede that statements can have truth-value based on first principles while lacking the power to explain all phenomena, which would seem to agree with my suggestion that "no one theory explains everything."

    I understand what you're getting at here, which is why I suggested this approach is not useful. That a theory can't explain everything doesn't make it systemically false or that it never will. Postmodernism is systemically false.

  • zeroDay||

    Correction to formatting:

    think you think I'm arguing something I'm not. Above, you agree with the assertion that "there are no absolute truths," yet you now seem to be taking issue with the notion that "no statement is absolutely true."

    We're definitely talking past each other. "There are no absolute truths" is logically self-defeating. I you want clarification on something said, please refer to it explicitly.

    You then concede that statements can have truth-value based on first principles while lacking the power to explain all phenomena, which would seem to agree with my suggestion that "no one theory explains everything."

    I understand what you're getting at here, which is why I suggested this approach is not useful. That a theory can't explain everything doesn't make it systemically false or that it never will. Postmodernism is systemically false.

  • zeroDay||

    All through this thread there is an important distinction between the logic of "post-modernism," which you seem to largely agree with, and those I would call "post-modern Marxist reactionaries" who concluded that logic must be rejected if logic says we should reject Marxism.

    Again, we're talking past each other. I agree there is a range of interpretations about what postmodernism is and that the Marxist flavor is a terrible idea. But I don't degree with postmodernism unless it's qualified to the point that it's simply a rational skepticism of meta-narratives. At that point, it's not really a stand-alone philosophy. Anything beyond that systemically false and a non-starter since it's self-defeating.

  • zeroDay||

    Logic, but as a basic first premise you have to accept that logic has a relationship with "knowledge" and "truth."

    Yes, there are axioms that are implicitly accepted to reason about anything. So as we are discussing this, we are assuming, for example, the law of non-contradiction. If our understanding of reality isn't complete, does that somehow mean that our assumption of the law of non-contradiction and logic might be incorrect?

  • ||

    If our understanding of reality isn't complete, does that somehow mean that our assumption of the law of non-contradiction and logic might be incorrect?

    Yes.

  • zeroDay||

    Ok. Make a statement about reality that is both true and false in the same sense at the same time. Better yet, make a polygon that is both a square and not a square. A circle would be good.

  • ||

    Make a statement about reality that is both true and false in the same sense at the same time.

    "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

    You're conflating "statements" with "reality." Therein lies the error, leading into the second point:

    make a polygon that is both a square and not a square. A circle would be good.

    Well, it can be done, but only with exactly one square and its corresponding circle, which both exist only theoretically.

    But I do personally agree that in geometry we find some fundamental truths that aren't so easily waived away - that was basically the central argument of my thesis, which I intended as a critique of post-modernism.

  • zeroDay||

    "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

    You gave me two different statements that (ad arguendo) are both true. What I asked for was a single statement that is both true and false.

    You're conflating "statements" with "reality."

    No, that's why I specifically said "statements about reality."

    Well, it can be done

    It cannot. Do you not see the difference between (1) turning a square into a circle and (2) creating a square that is a circle (not square)?

    "Squaring the circle is a problem proposed by ancient geometers. It is the challenge of constructing a square with the same area as a given circle by using only a finite number of steps with compass and straightedge."

  • ||

    You gave me two different statements that (ad arguendo) are both true. What I asked for was a single statement that is both true and false.

    What I gave you is the reason why "truth of statements" has no necessary relationship with "referring to reality."

    "A = A" is a statement that, from a certain perspective, is unassailably true. It also has only a tangential relationship with "Reality," at best.

    On squaring the circle, you missed my point, which was again about the rubber meeting the road in "Reality," as well as a semi-cheeky reference to my handle. Our ability to measure space is limited by the vagaries of space and its refusal to line up with our metrics perfectly, which is nicely demonstrated by the fact that you can square a circle only by eliminating both of their essential natures as shapes in space.

  • zeroDay||

    What I gave you is the reason why "truth of statements" has no necessary relationship with "referring to reality."

    You were unable to provide provide a statement about reality that is both true and false.


    A = A is unassailably true from the perspective of reality. It's not just a mathematical relationship - it's the law of identity, an axiom that we assume anytime we make an argument. As with the law of non-contradiction (which I referenced earlier) and the law of the excluded middle, logic doesn't exist without them. To deny them is to affirm them.

    On squaring the circle, you missed my point, which was again about the rubber meeting the road in "Reality,"

    I understand what you were trying to show. If anything, you missed the point of your own reference. All of your efforts are not going to overturn the law of non-contradiction, they will simply affirm it. That's the point. You cannot make a square that is also a non-square.

    as well as a semi-cheeky reference to my handle.

    Heheh, I'm afraid I beat you to the punch on that one.

    by eliminating both of their essential natures

    Here you explain exactly why you did not show that A /= A. You showed that when A becomes something else, it is no longer A. Specifically, you showed that A can be changed to B and B = B.

  • zeroDay||

    But I do personally agree that in geometry we find some fundamental truths that aren't so easily waived away - that was basically the central argument of my thesis, which I intended as a critique of post-modernism.

    It's not just geometry, but yeah. Mostly we agree. Your description of postmodernism is a minority one. My overall point is that even the most mild formulation removes the very foundation on which it stands. It's systemically false . That doesn't mean that all of its claims are false or that it has no value.

  • ||

    Your description of postmodernism is a minority one.

    Yes - which is no small part of why I left academia in disgust 15 years ago.

  • ThomasD||

    "But any explanation of Reality is necessarily a reduction of Reality to a simpler model that is itself contained within Reality and will never, by its very nature, totalize its representation of Reality. I.e, Logic, but as a basic first premise you have to accept that logic has a relationship with "knowledge" and "truth."

    That largely summarizes my problem with post modernism. We've been over this before, going back to the pre-Socratics, but somehow this time it's going to go somewhere different.

    Nagel caught a raft of shit from the post modernists for his attempted take down of the materialist reductionist view of reality. Yet all he was doing is taking them at their word.

  • ||

    Nagel caught a raft of shit from the post modernists for his attempted take down of the materialist reductionist view of reality. Yet all he was doing is taking them at their word.

    And these "post modernists" are those that I would call "post-modern Marxist reactionaries," like Frederic Jameson or Terry Eagleton. Their view is always to take the Marxist project as the primary driver, and to make any new ideas subservient to the Marxist meta-narrative, because only the Marxist meta-narrative is not "Ideology."

  • Nyarlarrythotep||

    That seems like a very reduced and somewhat farcically simplified, in "rejection" and "everything", particularly.

    If you wanted to define it better...I'll take a stab; how about "skepticism towards grand overarching theories of humanity and human behavior"?

  • Shinbanger||

    Yes, Square, without having watched the video, you managed to get right to the heart of this discussion. Nick would rather engage in a semantics debate, parsing the meaning of a very slippery term that has admittedly changed and been hijacked over the years, than find common ground with Peterson in his disdain for people who currently describe themselves as postmodernists, as they go about their business of destroying Western civilization. The video is full of self-serving softball questions from Zach designed to give the appearance of extemporaneous thought in Nick's responses. I suspect from some of the earlier Reason pieces (Jordan Peterson is Not God), that Gillespie is grappling with Jordan Peterson's massive (and quite recent) popularity relative to the meager dozen or so Reason readers that show up for these exchanges. What we really learn here is why Libertarians are not effective as a political force. Namely, because they would rather look for minor differences in ideology with other Libertarians, in order to assert their intellectual superiority, than to grab one end of the rope or the other and help in the struggle.

  • Shinbanger||

    Nick has appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher a number of times in which he gladly discussed his views on immigration at length, leaving the audience with the understanding that libertarians are perfectly aligned with Hollywood elites on major political issues. At no time would he challenge Maher on the myriad issues that mainstream libertarians would consider him (Maher) to be batshit crazy. Peterson, by contrast, has elected to swing the sword of his intellect at those who are working feverishly to push America toward socialism. In the process, he has deflected the slings and arrows of thousands who have had their ideas challenged at their core. And he has changed minds. Potentially hundreds of thousands of them. Maybe Nick should have picked up the phone and explained to Jordan why he should use another term for these cretins. And then he could use his platform at Reason to try to convince tens of millions of self-described postmodernists that their definition of the term differs from the one he learned in grad school.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    This is actually a great thread. Thanks everyone. I learned things. Nice break from all the partisan bickering.

  • Dillinger||

    agreed on the learning

  • ThomasD||

    Libertarian postmodernism is throwing out the baby and keeping the bathwater.

  • thorsmjollnir||

    I think they're annoyed they aren't considered the intellectual dark web.

  • ||

    Know what I hate about Reason with regards to Peterson?

    Rather than talk to each other about him they can, you know, just fricken interview him. What you say Zach and Nick? You can tag team him if you want but why not talk face to face?

    They seem content to scoff him off from afar. Well, guess what? You're not impressing me.

    At least Nick acknowledged Peterson's enormous work on fighting for free speech - which I might add I don't believe Reason even dedicated an article to.

    Lemme watch the rest of this video.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    That's a great idea, Rufus.

  • I can't even||

    The problem is that Peterson is a lot smarter than Gillespie and the rest here - so they'll lose badly, look stupid, and have the embarrassing videos posted all over youtube. At least they are smart enough to recognize their own limitations.

  • ||

    So....passive-aggressive critiquing it is?

    It's not a question of who is smarter but rather having a honest discussion about arriving at the truth. It need not be hostile. That can turn out bad for anyone.

    Instead, Nick is literate enough to potentially contribute a really useful interview with Peterson.

    I expect this from a publication called 'Reason'.

    Peterson is reasoned. He will engage you and he won't argue in bad faith. It's a good match between the two.

  • John||

    The Reason staff are basically a bunch of overgrown high school kids whose school is the DC area media. Peterson is someone the cool kids hate, so the reason staff sitting over at the nerd table come up with reasons why they don't like him either.

    That is really all there is to it. They are actually that shallow.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "but rather having a honest discussion about arriving at the truth"

    Which Postmodernists reject.

    All discourse is manipulation to gain power. There is no truth to arrive at.

  • pro bonobo||

    Peterson has also flat out claimed to be a "classic liberal"... Gillespie's rejection of that calling him a conservative strikes me as more of the same-old Libertarian swinging dick comparison that has kept us from filling the libertarian tent from the left and the right.

    Peterson is Canadian. By their standards, libertarians/classic liberals are indistinguishable from conservatives. Let's not get hung up on labels. Yes, I think Reason should interview Peterson rather than have Gillespie try to describe him.

  • Just Say'n||

    I don't know enough about Peterson. All I know is I saw a video with him and he seemed to just be promoting liberal values. I have no idea why Fonzie, Patzi, and Ralph Malph dislike him so much, but their criticisms seem more centered on defending status quo attitudes more than anything else, which is typical for them

  • ||

    You know, I just realized they never took their girlfriends any where other than Arnold's.

    Pretty weenie.

    Patzi? lol. Spell check problems?

  • Rebel Scum||

    Know what I hate about Reason with regards to Peterson?

    Lobsters?

  • ||

    "Let me get this straight. You're saying we should organize our society along the lines of the lobsters?"

  • ||

    Oof. That's another thing that grates me about smart-alec rebuttals to Peterson. The analogy was an interesting one and doesn't deserve anywhere near the hate it gets from the 'cool kids'. It was a small part of the fricken book but they make it sound 'ha, ha! He talked about how, like, humans are like, you know lobsters!'

    ROCK LOBSTER!

  • ||

    Yeah - it's the moment where you make it obvious that you're commitment to dismissing him with snark is much, much greater than your commitment to understanding what he's actually saying.

  • Echospinner||

    If you give ecstasy to octopuses they act like teenagers on...ecstasy.

  • Dillinger||

    next time i drop it's totes gonna be with octopi

  • Rock Lobster||

    Yes? You woke me for this?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I agree with this. Nick, get Jordan Peterson on. Seriously. I suspect you'd agree far more than you'd disagree.

  • ThomasD||

    " I suspect you'd agree far more than you'd disagree."

    You just touched on their biggest fear.

    If that happened they'd never live it down

  • MasterThief||

    They won't do that. It'd be another Cathy Newman interview/debate. They've already shown no interest in understanding his arguments and repeatedly use the completely inaccurate characterization of his detractors.
    Postmodernism is really just an idea that a person's subjective view is the most valid interpretation of truth if "truth" is even a concept. It's a denial of past and present in order to forward what seems to be a Marxist vision for society.

  • OverWandersTelcon-tarian||

    Speaking as Reason's One True postmodernist OBL parody account: postmodernism is stupid.

  • Eddy||

    OK, I didn't hear Gillespie's full talk, but I heard him saying the Enlightenment had both good and bad parts. Which sounds true enough.

  • ||

    There was enlightenment and there was unenlightenment.

  • chipper me timbers||

    I'm trying to figure out why there is so much outrage at Peterson.

    As far as I can tell, he pretty much repeats the same few OBVIOUS truths over and over.

    take care of your self, don't be lazy, make yourself into something valuable, sometimes men and women make different career choices, men and women are often different in general but individuals of course can land anywhere on any spectrum, respect others, respect free speech, compelled speech is dumb.

    I worry that I'm pretty out of touch because this all seems pretty bland to me, yet I see and hear and read about people getting purple with rage over this stuff.

  • damikesc||

    I can get progs getting pissy.

    But Libertarians? Fucking seriously?

  • ||

    Same here. I'm half-way through his book and there's literally nothing to get riled up about.

    It's strange.

  • ||

    I would imagine, given Nick's background in modern American lit and critical theory, that he gets ruffled by Peterson's seeming acceptance of the notion of "Objective Truth" as being symptomatic of someone who operates in an older Enlightenment paradigm of achieving Certainty through Science without showing much awareness of how narrative paradigms shape scientific inquiries.

  • John||

    If there is no such thing as objective truth or morality, then where does Nick get off claiming that anyone is wrong about anything or any particular form of government is better than another? How anyone could claim any political ideology while at the same time denying objective truth and morality is beyond me. What the fuck is wrong with these people ?

  • Juice||

    How anyone could claim any political ideology while at the same time denying objective truth and morality is beyond me.

    Yes, you repeatedly demonstrate that it's beyond you.

  • ||

    where does Nick get off claiming that anyone is wrong about anything or any particular form of government is better than another?

    It is a paradox that has infected the Campus Self-Righteous for a couple of decades, now. Derrida faced criticism for decades for never turning the lens of Deconstruction onto Marx and Marxist narratives, and when he finally did, he still couldn't help asserting that there were certain absolute truths in Marx.

    But the "absolute truths" that Derrida found in Marx start to sound a lot like libertarianism - i.e. that authoritarianism must always be resisted, that "exploitation" (which we might rephrase as "involuntary and lopsided economic transaction") is always wrong.

    Which comes to my personal belief that the NAP, possibly alone among guiding principles, is at the very least the closest thing we have to a universal principle of morality, which in combination with "post-modernism/deconstruction" = decentralized government and maximization of individual rights.

    There was a time, in fact, up until the early 2000s, when there was a significant faction of the "post-modernist Left" that was very into decentralization and localization. Such notions were central to the Green Party platform right up until its implosion in 2004.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    But the "absolute truths" that Derrida found in Marx start to sound a lot like libertarianism - i.e. that authoritarianism must always be resisted, that "exploitation" (which we might rephrase as "involuntary and lopsided economic transaction") is always wrong.

    This cuts directly to the heart of why in this day and age, I have found myself having great agreement with various old world "Marxist anarchists" or "cultural Marxists" (note, these are labels they place upon themselves).

    Unfortunately, they themselves have become disgruntled with the left, feeling abandoned by them for a kind of rigid progressivism which is neither progressive, nor liberal.

  • ||

    Yeah - while there's a lot in Marx of great value, for whatever reason most people who engage him, especially in academia, cling to his hair-brained economic ideas and ignore the rest.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    One side note, Peterson in his extended talks has repeatedly said, in clear language that the "left" end of the political spectrum is necessary, because those on the left preternaturally "speak for the dispossessed" and "someone needs to speak for the dispossessed." '

    Peterson is merely skeptical of enforced outcomes... something Reason has historically railed against.

  • ||

    To be fair, I know next to nothing about Peterson, which is why I stick to saying I think he evokes a particular type of "Enlightenment Objectivist" to someone who studied American Lit in the 1980s, the way Nick did.

    What I do know of Peterson, he does seem to defy a lot of the stereotypes people seem determined to make him fit into.

  • ||

    "What I do know of Peterson, he does seem to defy a lot of the stereotypes people seem determined to make him fit into."

    Yup.

  • ThomasD||

    "...involuntary and lopsided economic transaction..."

    Wait, what if it's merely involuntary?

    Or involuntary but lopsided in your favor?

    What if it's merely lopsided (in either direction) buy you freely accept it?

    And from exactly what platform does any outside observer render such judgments?

    ...

    Your formulation doesn't sound libertarian at all, but it does still sound quite Marxist.

  • ||

    Wait, what if it's merely involuntary?

    Are you asking me, or Marx?

    Your formulation doesn't sound libertarian at all, but it does still sound quite Marxist.

    I don't think you actually thought about what I said.

  • Kivlor||

    Honestly, I dont think anyone spouting that kind of nonsense believes what they say. It's meant to make people confused and lose track of what is even going on.

  • ||

    In my experience, most of them* do believe what they are saying, and are deeply confused themselves. They themselves lose track of what is going on, but take that as a sign that they are deep thinkers who are penetrating dominant cultural narratives and tearing them apart. They'll then put as much effort into rationalizing why their narratives are not subject to the same skepticism-of-authority they champion toward ideas they disagree with.

    *by "them" I mean those who call themselves "Post-Modernists" without really understanding the underlying philosophical issues.

  • Kivlor||

    I can certainly see why you would think that of such people. it's my alternative theory, and I'm sure a very few are like that, but as a general rule it seems to me that these folks are really just attempting to confuse their opposition so they can reach for the reigns of power without objection.

    Either way, it is bad.

  • ||

    Either way, it is bad.

    When it comes to those particular people, yes - whether they are evil or simply confused, it is still bad.

  • mtrueman||

    'I worry that I'm pretty out of touch because this all seems pretty bland to me, yet I see and hear and read about people getting purple with rage over this stuff.'

    He's pretty antagonistic to feminism, isn't he? Don't know much about Peterson, but many of his fellow travellers claim that feminism is a threat to western civilization.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    He's pretty antagonistic to feminism, isn't he?

    As is Brendan O'Neill, someone who has repeatedly lauded feminism and includes many feminist icons as his personal heroes.

  • mtrueman||

    ONeill is an ex-Trotskyite and identifies now, I suppose, as a Libertarian. Peterson can make neither claim.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I suppose, as a Libertarian. Peterson can make neither claim.

    I've never heard Peterson make such a claim. And I've listened to hours of his lectures, debates and speeches.

  • mtrueman||

    So ONeill, the ex-Trot and current Libertarian, is not a good counter example. That's the point I was trying to make. O'Neill is not antagonistic towards Feminism but Peterson is. You've had hours of exposure to his lectures, would you say that's broadly correct?

  • Qsl||

    Antagonistic is a bit extreme. Untried is closer to the truth. He makes a point that integrating women into what were male only spaces is going to have a degree of unease and misunderstandings (and maybe too much focus is given to women), but I'd hardly call that anti-feminist.

  • mtrueman||

    As I said, Don't know much about Peterson, but many of his fellow travellers claim that feminism is a threat to western civilization. That's pretty antagnonistic.

  • Trollificus||

    And a hearty "SO THE FUCK WHAT?" to that. It's not only not a crime to be antagonistic to certain aspects of what is called "feminism" nowadays, it may not even be wrong.

    MOST women I know are very suspicious of the term anyway. "If you mean, x, y, and z, then sure, it's great. If you mean I'm supposed to hate my father, my husband, my brothers, my sons...then no, it sucks."

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    He attacks what was called (clear back in the 1980s!!!) the "white noise of academia" which is the race/class/gender narrative.

    That's why he's reviled.

  • I can't even||

    All the cool kids who aren't SJWs are supposed to follow Fonzi around - not some geeky Canadian.

  • Qsl||

    Outrage is probably overstating it (at least from folks who don't identify with the political left) inasmuch as a critique of Peterson's repackaged traditionalism and the squishy explanations he gives, especial as some use that to vaunt conservatism as True and Right (or at least mortify anything that colors outside of the lines).

    I find the fretting over ideological purity tiresome, especially decrying arguments as "post-modernist" or "socialist". It is intellectually lazy, and, specific to Peterson, unless there is a new twist to traditional values, it leads back here anyway.

    In a different time, I would be critiquing David Foster Wallace's admonishment that that post-modernism was corrosive to the soul.

  • ||

    Yeah - I would expect for Nick that there are a lot of echoes of the 1980s "theory wars" here, where Peterson even uses a lot of the same talking points that classicists used to use to attack deconstructionists, couching "traditional values" in the language of science and Objectivity.

  • ||

    There's a classic Northern Exposure episode featuring this very debate.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I wish I were better read in the post-modernist giants, I've read a little when I was young, and I found myself getting annoyed, and much of the prose impenetrable.

    I have no doubt I've got my preconceived biases against post modernism-- especially because I had a few friends which latched onto it and tended to thrum on about how nothing was knowable, there was no truth, everything was relative- so discussions tended to end up in a pointless morass.

    So I admit I rely on the critiques of people who've actually read the post modernists. For me, it is what it is.

  • ||

    I would still highly recommend Foucault. The rest, meh.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "I'm trying to figure out why there is so much outrage at Peterson."

    Cognitive dissonance

    Leftist outrage is always proportional to how much they are losing. Peterson knows his shit and with years of clinical experience, knows how to listen. He hears their propaganda and calls them on it.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>People of many political persuasions have identified postmodernism as a major threat to civilization.

    thought or lack thereof is a major threat?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The most notable recent attacks have come from Jordan Peterson and other members of the so-called "Intellectual Dark Web."

    Yes, the most notable recent attacks. But as I have linked before, this is a discussion and idea that has been around since at least the early 80s, and it's backed up with a decent amount of... credible evidence.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I can understand why there would be a libertarian strand that took a shine to post-modernism. They're not necessarily incompatible. I think what Peterson is getting at is a more ideological post modernism-- and I would argue he's articulating it well. He's also connecting the dots between the historical roots of postmodernist thinkers and where the line of study has ended up.

    I happen to agree with him, because I've seen the evidence and I find it... credible and convincing.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Wait, wait! I have to say it since this is a thread about Post Modernism...

    *clears throat*

    For a magazine called Reason...

  • zeroDay||

    Glad I'm not the only one who noticed this absurdity.

  • MasterThief||

    That is the most frustrating part of it. My understanding of post-modernism is that universal truth is unknowable so subjectivity should reign. A magazine called "Reason" should suggest that while the full truth is unknowable that we can use perceived reality and rational evaluation to arrive at serviceable truths. There's also the whole issue that post-modernist thought has been used to push hard for collectivism.

  • ||

    I don't know why but the term 'post-knowledge' kept swirling around my head listening to this.

  • ||

    Sometimes I wonder if we over think things like, for example, The Simpsons.

    I remember years ago Chuck Jones visiting the Rialto theatre here in Montreal. They were screening unedited Bugs Bunny cartoons (including a scene where a naked Bugs shows his penis) and he was a guest speaker afterwards.

    One guy asked about whether there was any social commentary - or any cultural sub-text or something - behind Bugs being depicted in drag.

    Jones gave a perplexed look and replied, 'No. We just though he looked funny that way.' He later added to another question that a few gags were more inside jokes to piss off their bosses.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I still get the paper magazine, and they do still have some good articles. But damn, has Reason gone downhill in a relatively short time.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Trump is making them this way.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yeah, they definitely seem to have a bad case of TDS.

    Good talking to you again, Paul. Been awhile.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    You and... you know who don't make it back here much these days. Both of you are missed.

  • ||

    I think it's Trump + clickbait culture. Every publication, especially online, has gone downhill over the last 5-10 years. When I compare Reason to, say, Jezebel or Breitbart, Reason is still doing okay. Reason was a lot better 10 years ago, but compared to what's around right now, I think Reason is still clearing the admittedly very low bar.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Very true.

  • buybuydandavis||

    They were getting Woke before Trump. The invasion had already started.

    One doesn't just happen to come up with postmodernism in a spittle spraying rage as a TDS reaction. Reason got converged by the Woke.

  • thorsmjollnir||

    They seem to be pandering to millennials that tend to the left.

  • Mickey Rat||

    I don't think that Gillespie is really addressing the criticism of postmodernism, or at least what post modernism has been turned into that people like Peterson have been making. I am also trying to figure out where he got the idea Peterson self-identifies as a conservative outside the classical liberal tradition. From my own experience I read a book that purported to be a postmodernist deconstruction of Star Trek: The Next Generation that seemed to me to be silly putty logic to reach the conclusions that the author had already determined. It was self-contradictory from one critique to the other and there was no way to be right if the critic was determined to savage your work.

    "...the cynical could afford the luxury of their cynicism because of the stability of the system they mocked." - John Scalzi

  • buybuydandavis||

    Peterson self identified on the Left. Worked for the New Democratic Party in Canada as a teenager. Got disillusioned when he increasingly found that the Left didn't love the poor, they hated the rich.

  • Mickey Rat||

    It makes one think that Gillespie's knowledge of Peterson is very superficial or he is deliberately misrepresenting what Peterson says. As others have pointed out, the hate Peterson gets from the staff here and at National Review for that matter is weird. The visceral look of annoyance that passes over Gillespie's face when Peterson's name is first mentioned hints at something deep that is not fully articulated.

  • buybuydandavis||

    He's smarter than they are and they know it.

  • JWatts||

    Perterson is also way richer than anyone on the Reason staff, because he's better at articulating his ideas.

  • MasterThief||

    I'd say he is more or less a conservative who is able to clearly articulate the reasons behind his positions. Of course he is more left wing than your typical American conservative, but much of what he says is similar. He himself does describe more as classically liberal and has a slight affinity toward the left. Truth be told, he is the sort of person Reason SHOULD be cheerleading for. Peterson gets flack for his defense of Christianity and tradition from a secular Jungian critique. I guess it's taboo to defend religion even while disregarding dogma

  • Mickey Rat||

    I suspect that a lot of it is that Peterson believes gender differences and such are more than social constructs, which the writers here want to believe in a blank slate notion of human nature.

  • mtrueman||

    "I'd say he is more or less a conservative who is able to clearly articulate the reasons behind his positions."

    He's anti-feminist, isn't he? Why would you expect a Libertarian magazine to take his side?

  • MasterThief||

    Ideological consistency, perhaps. Modern feminism does not align with libertarianism even if the dictionary definition of feminism does. It's a point that Peterson himself makes.

  • mtrueman||

    Isn't feminism about not letting one's sex/gender dictate one's role in life? That seems pretty Libertarian to me. It's hardly surprising that the writers here who identify as Libertarians are broadly sympathetic to feminism and antagonistic to anti-feminist thinkers like Peterson.

  • JWatts||

    "Isn't feminism about not letting one's sex/gender dictate one's role in life? "

    That's the dictionary definitions that MasterThief referred to, but that's pretty much the overwhelming view of most 1st worlders at this point.

  • Rockabilly||

    You're saying that...

    What you're saying...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mufh9oKYf5Y

  • MasterThief||

    It's funny because Peterson would probably be happy to sit down for an interview with Reason. What is sad is that outside of Stossel and Tuccile there aren't many writers here that I would trust to avoid doing the same as Cathy Newman.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Ed would have been good, so naturally they gave him the boot.

    Too honest. Not Woke enough. Didn't stick to The Narrative.

  • Sam Grove||

    Peterson does not criticize Post-Moedernism, per se, rather, he criticizes it as adopted by the left in its construction of society as defined only by power, the patriarchy, and group identity.
    That's how I see it.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Given the preceding post on what France is doing with LePen, I suppose France is no longer part of our open society.

  • buybuydandavis||

    We see the brain rot in Nick explained, and thereby the Woketarian turn of Reason.

    Nick goes Pomo. Sad.

    I was appalled when Nick went full "No True Communism", and with Stalin, no less.
    "Totalitarians professing communism killed millions of people, but this analogy is flawed. Hitler was the leader of Nazism, Stalin the leader of...Stalinism, not communism."
    https://goo.gl/xnJ8CT

    We see that wasn't a momentary brain fart.

    See this kids? This is what happens when your dreams of admittance to the Woke cocktail parties come true. It's through your desire for their approval that you are turned.

  • Mark22||

    You can "interrogate" all you want. Meditate. Take drugs. Believe in postmodernism. Become a socialist. Whatever. It's a free country. But just because classical liberalism gives you the freedom to pursue crap doesn't make the crap itself classically liberal or rational.

    Postmodernism is an illiberal, irrational movement; pursue it if you like, but don't try to pretend that you are a libertarian if you do.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Postmodernism seems to fit in with Lefty death wishes.

    Communism has never been fully achieved... blah blah blah, the World will end because of that Sad.

  • mtrueman||

    "Postmodernism is an illiberal, irrational movement"

    It's anti-humanist, too, according to Foucault. But he's nevertheless identified as a Libertarian/Anarchist by most, I imagine. If you want liberalism and rationalism, stick with Modernism, which might be more your style - scientific socialism.

  • Mark22||

    But he's nevertheless identified as a Libertarian/Anarchist by most, I imagine.

    Foucault was a French intellectual; to the degree that the drivel he wrote had any consistent meaning, he was a leftist.

    If you want liberalism and rationalism, stick with Modernism, which might be more your style - scientific socialism.

    Why don't you read up a little on the history of intellectual and political thought before trying to chime in on such discussions? You evidently know nothing about any of this stuff.

  • mtrueman||

    "ou evidently know nothing about any of this stuff."

    I know a bit about it, though maybe you know more. About Foucault's politics, we both know it centred around his prison activism. We also both know that this is not an issue that the left or right engage in. It's traditionally been the turf of anarchists and libertarians.

  • Wrath0fKahn||

    Post-modernism cannot account for any of the intellectual principles that libertarianism is predicated upon, and historically post-modernism is militantly aligned against both logic and ethics (in any useful meaning of the words).

    I am astounded anyone would be so committed to opposing Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, and others that they would defend post-modernism and anti-rationalism just to make sure they have nothing in common with classical liberals, Christians, and Jungians. That's an ugly, envious sort of tribalism we can all do without.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Woketarians gonna Woke

  • AndrewJJ||

    Interesting Video guys--I like it--stuff to think about and debate.

    NICK--CAN YOU GUYS SPEND $5 to buy an SSL cert!
    Geez its a small price--you can still run ads-

  • Diversionary Maenad||

    on gratitude: Peterson isn't saying you can't "interrogate your own culture" at all. Even if he is incorrectly attributing what's going on to post-modernists, he is clearly taking issue with a failure, particularly in academia, to contextualize the bad, breeding lunacy, neurosis and students unable to see a meaningful difference between 1765, 1865 and 1965, between Nazis and Trump supporters, between offense and violence.

  • Diversionary Maenad||

    on pope vs unmediated access: We didn't decide to stop killing one another because of a commitment to pluralism. We don't kill one another anymore over these things because other shared values that transcend religious ones emerged: The pope's not such a big deal after all, just stay off my lawn and we're good. Large differences became small ones and the space was filled by large shared values that primarily have more to do with fulfiling our own selfish desires and less to do with wanting to play well with others.

  • Diversionary Maenad||

    on identity politics and intersectionality: This is precisely where the progressive identity stack comes from. It's not surprising that in attempting to recognize a multiplicity of identities people get entirely fixated on those identities and erect hierarchical classes around them. Just as easily as we might use this appreciation as a means to get along, we can use them to define the size of the club we use to whomp one another over the head with. This latter outcome may not be a post-modernist's intention but it is clearly a result and it's not surprising that this would appeal to marxists.

  • Diversionary Maenad||

    on constructing meaning: This is a point that Peterson makes pretty regularly and isn't addressed in this interview. No, there are not infinite ways of interpreting things in a practical sense; not all interpretations are useful or constructive. He and Greg Salmieri had a debate during which they talked about this.

  • M.L.||

    1/2

    Gillespie's explanation of postmodernism, which I assume is descriptively accurate, sets forth a rather extreme concept and suggests that the criticism of postmodernism is justified. For example, Gillespie seems to think that postmodernism necessitates atheism.

    Gillespie makes some lower order statements which make a lot of sense, of course: the value and validity of epistemological humility, an approach of healthy skepticism toward "metanarratives" -- particularly when they manifest as an attempt to forcibly control others.

    But postmodernism as explained by Gillespie goes beyond this common sense, and seems to amount to a sort of a priori rejection of any "metanarrative" or significant truth, discounting at the outset any evidence, facts, history, or experience that may exist or arise. It veers into the self-refuting proposition along the lines of "the absolute truth is there is no absolute truth."

    With this sort of nihilist foundation in place, Gillespie elides the difficult issues on his key point of "pluralism." He quickly dismisses moral disagreements such as murder and rape by saying "there are large broad moral absolutes that virtually everybody agrees with" -- yes, virtually everybody -- but not everybody. And what the morality of the rest of liberty??

  • M.L.||

    2/2
    What about free speech rights? What about capital punishment for apostasy, which is supported by large majorities in many countries? What about the morality of lying, cheating and stealing? What about absolute totalitarian theocratic political ideologies?

    What does it mean to "live peacefully" with those who hold different views on these issues? Just not killing each other? Or, does it mean we must politely acquiesce to demands and infringements on our freedom of speech or other liberties? Does it mean that we must open our borders to the migration of millions who hold these opinions -- and then let them vote?

    Overall, this was an enjoyable discussion and Gillespie is interesting, but I am reminded that these debates over various "-isms" generally involve a lot of pin-head-dancing and intellectual masturbation. Also, I was unimpressed with the vague aspersions cast on the likes of Peterson. I agree that Gillespie should interview Peterson directly. To the extent that any points of disagreement are clarified, they would not be what Gillespie has represented them to be here. Maybe Gillespie is intimidated by the prospect.

  • Diversionary Maenad||

    "What does it mean to "live peacefully" with those who hold different views on these issues?" Good points.

    I didn't get the sense that NG was saying postmodernism necessitates atheism, but in the context of the enlightenment, it might follow that rejecting unflinching respect for authority would accompany rejecting superstition.

    I can also see where one could take away "the absolute truth is there is no absolute truth", but I think his point was more palatable- that we can't simply know the truth in its entirety because we exhume it piecemeal, extracting meaning is partly subjective as a consequence and we should be wary of drawing grand conclusions given partial knowledge. There are some problems with this, though, because it seems to take an axe to reason.

  • M.L.||

    Good points here, and above, too. NG's position may be more moderate, as you describe. Although, I understand "superstition" as a pejorative term for something that is unreasonable by definition, so it is a bit circular to say that superstition should be rejected. Some people label any type of belief in a god or gods as superstition, which is just another way of saying that they're atheists.

    It is certainly palatable to claim that we can't know the truth in its entirety. A bit too palatable, perhaps, since that is thoroughly supported by the Christian Bible. And again, being "wary of drawing grand conclusions" sounds eminently reasonable. But in my experience and opinion, and I say this as someone who thinks belief in God is or can be warranted, I have found that people often use this as a smokescreen for dismissing a priori things that they refuse to actually contend with.

    Anyway, interesting. I'm not a philosophy buff so I'm not at all fluent in terms of the existing treatises and terms on this stuff.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Sometimes, you can put several parrots together and they will, on occasion, appear to converse. They can chatter in a most endearing and amusing way.

  • thorsmjollnir||

    This video is kind of strange. Instead of just having Nick interview Jordan, Nick is interviewed and speaks for Jordan while at the same time critiquing what he says.

  • JWatts||

    I think the phrase you are looking for is Nick Strawmans Jordan Peterson.

  • xgxgxgxfsfsfwttwts||

    Finally somebody has actually read some postmodernism before concluding it is somehow socialist, or authoritarian. It is the exact opposite. It critiques any sort of totalizing worldview, in which someone creates a system, and says it answers every question, is above questioning itself, and this system must be imposed on everyone.

    It is a perfect libertarian tool.

    I'm sorry, truth as we experience it is relative. Certainly some "truths" are very useful in this time and place, and that is not to be denied. But "truths" are true to us because they are useful, not because we can prove them absolutely or that they will not be superseded in the future. There might be absolute truth, but with our limited sensory and cognitive abilities, how would we recognize it among all the competing and contradictory absolute truths people put forth? No, I am not taking your word for it. (continued...)

  • xgxgxgxfsfsfwttwts||

    (continuing) If you know nothing about science you will use the "gravity" example. But our view of gravity has changed massively since Aristotle and then Newton. In the 20th century the General Theory of Relativity revamped the theory of gravity totally. This century we verified the existence of the Higgs Boson, which creates mass, and therefore allows for gravity. There is little gravity in the middle of space. Who knows what we will find out next about how gravity works? Our concept of gravity is true in so far as it is useful, and allows us to built skyscrapers and fly planes and spaceships and such things. But there is no absolute statement about gravity that is likely not to require revision in the next centuries. (And for those people who do not understand logic: The prev statement is a statement about "statements about gravity" not about gravity itself.)

    Sorry, capitalism and property rights are not absolutes. We stand by them because no one as yet has found a system that seems to work better.

    Peterson uses religious concepts, but he is not a deist. He uses religious concepts because they work. If he knew as much about postmodernism as he does psychology he would not be against it. Primarily, he confuses identity politics with postmodernism. It is true that identity politics is a bastard offshoot of postmodernism. But it is a totalizing system, and as such is the opposite of postmodernism. It is a later development and it is not the same thing.

  • M.L.||

    The problem with your view is that if you can't know any shred of truth, then how is that you are "certain" that some "truths" have been "useful", or that a certain system "works better"? It is a self-defeating claim to say that your cognitive faculties are so unreliable that you have no idea whether your belief is true or not.

  • xgxgxgxfsfsfwttwts||

    (continuing) The "laws of physics" you say? Certainly they are absolute truth. But no, they have been changing constantly. Newtonian physics was found to be inaccurate, and has been replaced by Relativity and Quantum physics that look at reality in a totally different ways. And these later theories are constantly evolving.

    We didn't notice the inaccuracy of Newtonian physics because for objects about our size that move the speeds we normally move, Newtonian physics and relativity and quantum physics give almost the same answer. So Newtonian physics works well enough for everyday uses and is still being used to do things like building buildings and bridges. But theoretically its equations (the metanarrative that is created based on all the individual facts we experience) is way off.

    I didn't say we were "certain" of anything in absolute. I said in a specific time and place we conclude that a metanarrative works well enough to use because our bridges stay up, our planes fly, our money retains its value well enough to be usable and nobody is yet demonstrating another system that reaches such goals even more consistently.

  • xgxgxgxfsfsfwttwts||

    I screwed up. The complete response is below.

  • xgxgxgxfsfsfwttwts||

    Who says you can't know any shred of truth? What postmodernism questions is metanarratives, not individual truths. For example, if a plane crashes, that is a fact that postmodernism is not going to question. If an an economic system results in inflation, or recession, that is a truth that does not need to be questioned. It is the explanation for these truths that postmodernism questions. That explanation is a metanarrative.

    Somebody might have a theory that the plane crashes because of the laws of physics, another because the plane wasn't blessed by a priest. Some might say that the economy crashed because it wasn't sufficiently free market, others because of the greed of the rich. These are examples of metanarratives that postmodernism may question, although a lot of the main ones are more squishy, like metanarratives of what is good or bad, or how to interpret gender differences. If the metanarratives lead to results that you want, like air safety, a stable economy, behavior that allows people to work together with minimal discord, or peaceful relationships, then it is sensible to use these metanarratives/theories even though they are not absolutely true. They work for us, or some group of us at least. But we should be aware that we are working with approximations that will probably be adjusted in the future for even better results. (continued...)

  • xgxgxgxfsfsfwttwts||

    The "laws of physics" you say? Certainly they are absolute truth. But no, they have been changing constantly. Newtonian physics was found to be inaccurate, and has been replaced by Relativity and Quantum physics that look at reality in a totally different ways. And these later theories are constantly evolving.

    We didn't notice the inaccuracy of Newtonian physics because for objects about our size that move the speeds we normally move, Newtonian physics and relativity and quantum physics give almost the same answer. So Newtonian physics works well enough for everyday uses and is still being used to do things like building buildings and bridges. But theoretically its equations (the metanarrative that is created based on all the individual facts we experience) is way off.

    I didn't say we were "certain" of anything in absolute. I said in a specific time and place we conclude that a metanarrative works well enough to use because our bridges stay up, our planes fly, our money retains its value well enough to be usable and nobody is yet demonstrating another system that reaches such goals even more consistently.

  • xgxgxgxfsfsfwttwts||

    ML, I see above your discussion of religion. From a postmodern perspective I'd say if your religion works for you then it is a useful metanarrative. We can't avoid metanarratives totally. They are a summary of our experience. They let us make predictions about the results of our actions. They encode our values.

    Postmodernism just cautions us to recognize that we have no reason to think they are absolute truth rather than an expression of our current best understanding of how life works. A lot of power hungry people hide their desire for control behind metanarratives.

    Therefore we should not jam our metanarratives down other peoples throats or allow them to impose their metanarratives on others. We should seek common metanarratives with people we want to work productively with. The Bill of Rights is an example of a useful metanarrative that allows a lot of people to live and work together with something approaching maximal liberty.

  • JIbba||

    I really like this video format, and encourage more of it. The reasontv efforts to promote longer form content is moving in the right direction. There are a lot of people who would take libertarian philosophy more seriously if it could be articulated more thoroughly, as well as how it intersects with other enlightenment ideas.

    As a philosophy student from a different era of a long 15 years ago, I am extremely hungry for this sort of thing, as I cannot get this kind of discussion with seemingly anyone these days. It is rare to even find someone who knows who Karl Popper, Foucault, or Hayak are, let alone can articulate any of their intellectual contributions to our current society. I now must live vicariously through long-form video online.

    I find it encouraging to see Reason continue a great philosophical tradition - to explore social and political issues through civil discussion.

  • Trollificus||

    I'd find it a lot more 'encouraging' if they'd just interview Peterson rather than beat up a Straw Man Peterson with an imaginary Unassailable Version of Postmodernism Not EVEN The Version That Peterson Takes Exception With.

  • Trollificus||

    Jebus, Gillespie "...you are merely saying, "I refuse to take anything bad and associate it with postmodernism."

    So, basically postmodernism is some idealized version of what you think it should mean and all these criticisms of postmodernisms don't apply to THAT, so they must be invalid.

    Also, real slippery dealing with Marxism there. Has NOTHING to do with any postmodern thought. Or maybe it does but look over here! Something else to talk about!

    Disappointing.

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