Moral foundations - Objective, Subjective & etc: The forever topic

(Mervin Bitikofer) #121

This is an important point. I think Peterson is a bit two-minded (in a personal struggle sort of way) about this. He seems to admire (even push) for the personal struggle for survival / and beyond that a flourishing life – the classical conservative ‘get out there and pull yourself together, man!’ tagline – much of it being ‘no-brainer’ self-help stuff. But he also feels the pull toward ‘other-centered’ concern that is the more Christian tagline and what the left would like to be seen wearing as its benevolent cloak (even if Peterson will seemingly have none of that). He also seems two-minded about systemic injustice. On the one hand (according to Peterson), white privilege doesn’t even exist. On the other hand he will rail against Islamic countries for how they treat women – which looks like systemic injustice to me! So I’m far from endorsing everything Peterson might stand for.

But regarding morality I think he endorses a kind of “Christian approach” by seeing it exactly in your terms (as socially internalized and to be prized and cultivated as such but without necessarily having to really believe in any God behind it). If I had to guess on the strength of this and a couple of other short clips on this subject, I’d say he’s essentially an atheist who wants to believe. But neither does he want to be in anyone’s box on either side of this, and his views may be presently evolving. He doesn’t trust the flimsy categories people manufacture around all these terms (and probably rightly so!) – hence the refusal to crawl into any easy label box.


I’ve seem some of his material, but the way he talks about Freud all the time gets me a little bit concerned…isn’t psychoanalysis completely discredited these days? (I’m not in the area of psychology, though, so I could be wrong).


Like I said before, I don’t want to get too far in the weeds on this example and have the discussion turn into a “God is EVIL!!!” thread, so your explanation is certainly good enough for me.


Peterson seems to be quite popular amongst angry young white men for the reasons that you would suspect.

I will check out the video when I have a chance.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #125

Yeah – and as much as I think he has some good ideas, I dislike the idea (or am ambivalent at best) of becoming an unwitting advertiser for him, which I’ve already done by bringing it up here. I’ll justify it by saying that I do think he has some interesting or potentially worthy ideas to explore. But any time rich white men talk about how they have no more privilege than anybody else, … well … it would sound a lot more convincing if it was coming from a minority person who has / is living a life of suffering and/or in prison. I don’t think he has the facts on his side on that. There are real systemic injustices that do need to be fought against (which is the focus of the left) The other side of the coin is that we shouldn’t all just look to “the system” to take care of us and should take and teach personal responsibility to the fullest extent we can (the focus of the right). Those are both good truths to keep in tension with each other at all times. Even if he can only seemingly pound on the latter drum, he would probably say it’s a corrective to what he sees as an oppressive left only pounding on the former in various educational systems.

What I think he does have that needs to be heard is his call that peoples across these divides had better learn how to talk to and listen to each other for the sake of universities, and society generally. If that part of his message can penetrate (to all of us) it would be a good thing.

[clarity edits]


Well, compared to other popular “mentors” I’ve seen being popular with this group, I think he is the lesser evil in the worst case scenario. I’ve even recomended him to a friend who was starting to dive into some really crackpot “lifestyle advice for men” (MGTOW stuff) as an more reasonable alternative.


If you let pigs into an apple orchard you will get a lot of manure with a few worthy seeds found here and there. That’s the impression I get from hearing Peterson’s views. It’s a mix of borderline misogyny, failed libertarian ideologies, and a few kernels of folksy wisdom repackaged in nearly impenetrable verbage.

According to Peterson, there is an inherent physical threat of violence when men disagree with each other, and that is what guides our national discourse . . . men talking and threatening to hit each other. Hence the appeal to angry young white men.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #128

You may be right, but since it did not happen we don’t know. On the other hand I think that personal experiences with God do not happen “out of the blue.” In other words they happen when we are looking for an answer, such as forgiveness or the meaning of life. This means that our minds should be open to another point of view besides our own. On which case we should accept that experience if it solves our problem and not reject it out of hand.

As far as I am concerned God and morality are interdependent. There is no God if there is no morality, and there is no morality if there is no God. Now people try to limit morality to legalism which is false. Morality is relational as Jesus said when He commanded us to Love God and Love others as ourselves.

Relational Morality is objective in that it is true. It is also objectively true in that it is spiritually true. God is objectively real and true because God is relationally real and true. Both God and Morality ar4e rational because rationality is relational.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #129

[scrambles to Google]

[comes away glad he lives such a sheltered, geezerly life, blissfully unaware of such movements]


Hahahahahahahahaha, my exact same reaction when he showed me that!

(John Dalton) #131

He claims to no longer be an atheist. He seems to think that the idea of God is so important that he should believe it. It’s similar to his ideas on truth, which he talked to Sam Harris about. It seems like a pretty weird way of thinking about things to me, but he’s a pretty weird guy. There doesn’t quite seem to be a simple explanation for anything :slight_smile: That being said, he does seem to have a certain consistency in his views.


Honestly, the feeling I get from his interviews is a sort of “I don’t want people to think I’m irrational” closet theist like Kurt Godel, but I could be wrong.


One of the hardest parts about this discussion is getting a handle on what we mean by subjective and objective. In my own view, objectivity and subjectivity are methods for how we determine if something is true. They aren’t truth in and of themselves. It is true that I prefer chocolate ice cream over vanilla, but that preference is still subjective. It would seem to me that objective and subjective are questions of where that truth comes from, not whether it is true. If the truth of morality comes from the fundamental nature of being human, then that truth comes from a subjective source. If morality comes from a relationship between two moral agents (be it two humans or humans and God), I would still call that subjective since it is based on the subject of morality.

If anything, I would hope that we could all walk away from this discussion agreeing that subjective is not the same thing as false. Perhaps we will never agree on the subjective or objective nature of morality, but at least we could see that those who think morality is subjective still hold morality as being as important and fundamental to being human as anyone else does.

(John Dalton) #134

I’m not sure he cares about that. He seems to relish taking contrarian positions if anything. He says he was an atheist, but is no longer one. If that’s to be believed, he must believe in some kind of God in some sense. I guess it would make the most sense to call him a theist and leave it there. I’m not sure if he’s ever really said anything more concrete. He’s having a talk with Matt Dillahunty on April 13th which should be interesting. I suspect he’ll try to pin him down on a number of points :slight_smile: Matt’s pretty left-wing.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #135

You are using this concept of objective and subjective, which to me is irrelevant. Your example is that subjective is a preference, which does make a difference. Very few care as to whether I prefer chocolate to vanilla, including me. So what?

But we are talking about tastes. We are talking about morality. It does make a difference if I prefer to tell a lie rather than tell the truth. It does make a difference is I prefer to cheat and steal rather than honest work. It makes a difference to me, it makes a difference to those who come into contact with me, and it makes a difference to those who care a the well being of the social system.

Morality is not about preference. Morality is about good and evil. Goodness is that which harms people and evil is what harms people. We know that murder is wrong because it hurts people, however here is where the subjective and the objective do play a role.

We think we know what murder is, but it is not simply the killing of someone else. We know that there are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree murder. There is man slaughter and there is self defense. This does not mean that killing is good, but some killing is worse than others.

We need courts and trials to “objectively” determine the causes of killing, if those who are accused are guilty, and how serious the punishment should be. We might prefer that some one be found guilty, but we are a nation of objective laws that need to be enforced rather than our preferences, but our preferences are not at the heart of morality, but right and wrong. David was the clear favorite of God, but he committed adultery with Bathsheba and tried to cover it up by murdering her husband.


It is the fact that our preferences have an affect on others that makes subjective morality important. You prefer not to have your stuff stolen. You prefer that we have a culture where people work. You share those preferences with other people, and that is what we have used to form the laws and morality of our culture.

I would argue that good and evil are based on preference. What harms people is based on their preferences of how they want to be treated.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #137

That is absurd. Who else agrees with the position that not being cheated is a preference and not a need? Saying something does not make it so.


Giving drugs to a drug addict is arguably “treating him the way he wants”, but does that mean that it is good or moral to do so?

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #139

…or, not dissimilarly, giving kids unlimited screen time…


What’s the difference between a preference and a need?

Then calling something absurd does not make it absurd.