Gentlemen, you can’t say that here!

This is the free speech society!*

Trans row: Man who said ‘women don’t have penises’ banned from free speech society panel

The dogma is settled.

Later, he was removed from his assistant editorship at Durham University’s philosophy journal.
Student editor who retweeted “women don’t have penises” story fired from university journal

Then the Merseyside Police and mayor of Liverpool started looking into the transgression**:
Is it a crime to say ‘women don’t have penises’?

The counter argument to “women don’t have penises” can be summarized with this contemporaneous example from Newsweek:

“Well, since gender identity is not determined by what kind of genitals someone has, a person with a female gender identity might well have a penis. In other words, yes, some women do have penises.”

This is true – if you use the same definition for “person with a female gender identity” and “woman.” And, therefore, it is boringly trivial.

Since the question under consideration is whether women can have penises, simply substituting the word “women” in your conclusion for the phrase “people with a female gender identity” in your premises dishonestly enlists tautology as a defense.

Assuming your conclusion through poorly executed semantic trickery – ‘gender identity’ is exactly the same as ‘sex’ – does not advance your cause. Just because you think (“feel” in the parlance) that your wife is a hat doesn’t mean you can wear her on your head.

Let me clarify Newsweek‘s defense of calling penises female genitalia (changes emphasized): “Well, since gender identity is not determined by what kind of genitals someone has, a person with a female gender identity might well have a penis. In other words, yes, some people with a female gender identity do have penises.

There are women who are objecting to this conflation of ‘gender identity’ with ‘sex.’ I welcome them to the club of those who’ve been objecting since the ’60s, to the idea that sex roles are totally socially constructed. I celebrate the fact we’re all now subject to deplorableness.

I don’t expect the editors at Newsweek to understand logical thinking most of us learned in grade school, but it’s worse than that. That meaningless syllogism emanates from the Ivory Towers of the University of Nottingham, where its author is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy. It’s likely, therefore, she is familiar with the logical requirements of a syllogism. It’s equally likely she rejects logic itself as patriarchal, heteronormative, colonialist, and misogynist; or some combination of all of those.

How did universities worldwide come to be hotbeds of this delusion? I’m working on a post to explain that, which will be published in a day or three.

—–
*With credit to President Merkin Muffley who said, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”

**How long before the word transgression is banned?

Meaning and Millennials

“I think that often people come to the conclusion that life is meaningless because that is a better conclusion to come to than the reverse, because if life is meaningless, well then who cares what you do. But if life is meaningful, if what you do matters, then everything you do matters, and that puts a terrible responsibility on the individual. And I think that people are generally unwilling to bear that.”

-Jordan Peterson

Professors Jordan Peterson and John Vervaeke are colleagues in the University of Toronto Department of Psychology. They share an interest in the study of life’s meaning and reject moral relativism as nihilistic. They’re students of science and metaphysics.

Vervaeke, psychology specialties: Perception, Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience
PhD 1997 University of Toronto, Philosophy
BSc 1991 University of Toronto, Specialist in Cognitive Science
MA 1985 University of Toronto, Philosophy
HBA 1984 McMaster University, Philosophy, Summa Cum Laude

Peterson, psychology specialties: Social, Personality and Abnormal
PhD 1991 McGill University, Clinical Psychology
BSc 1984 University of Alberta, Psychology
BSc 1982 University of Alberta, Political Science

Their voices are sorely needed as the Humanities move ever deeper into postmodern despair, absurdity and self-deception; and Science faces political pressure to abandon scientific method as sexist and/or racist.

Our educational system has gone to a lot of trouble to replace such sources of meaning as family, competence and merit by deconstructing individual responsibility into a collectivist competition for victimhood participation trophies. Reason is similarly challenged: There are no truths, only interpretations.

This has negative consequences, especially for those who grew up during this cultural shift. To be sure, much of what follows doesn’t apply to most Millennials, but we see evidence daily that there’s a problem.

One example: We’re told Millennials in the workplace desire “purpose over paycheck.”

Purpose should be easy: “You do this. We pay you.”

Instead, it seems likely “purpose” in that phrase substitutes for “precisely aligned with my life values and goals,” or “meaningful.” There’s nothing wrong with such an aspiration, but it isn’t realistic. For one thing, your colleagues would all have to be of one mind. That’s one reason jobs that provide life meaning are not common. Even self-employed I couldn’t be sure my job would always fulfill a particular “purpose,” including meeting payroll. And who could make sure the customers would co-operate? But, some people expect job “purpose” to be supplied by others.

In any case, as we’ll see, Millennials don’t appear to be finding deep meaning through their employment. That might indicate they are incapable of finding it in themselves.

And why would they be? They’ve been conditioned by effusive praise to expect meaning to find them. Meaning becomes external. Like a job. Or ‘Likes’ on Facebook.

A Millennial meaning deficit is strongly suggested by the fact that Millennial suicide rates are soaring: They experience high rates of depression: And they may be the “quintessential postmodern generation.”

They’ve been cut adrift in a sea of narcissism by their parents and their professors, who should have taught them moral values and how to think, but handed them participation trophies and moral nihilism instead. Many Millennials have come to expect constant and instantaneous validation of their merit, whether they’ve displayed any or not. That applies to their opinions too, many of them are convinced that simply taking offense grants them some sort of moral authority.

They’ve been misled about their capabilities. They’ve been lied to about their prospects. They’ve been suckered into huge student debt by what amounts to academic fraud.

A growing cultural anomie should not be surprising. Nor should we wonder why Millennials flock to hear Jordan Peterson, and increasingly John Vervaeke, speak for two hours about how to find meaning. For a dozen lectures.

Reason and meaning are under siege because of guilt by association with Western Civilization. Peterson and Vervaeke are playing defense. Some examples:

I’d say watch the whole thing, but this link will start at 2:04. Watch until you want to stop. TWT is 20:49.
Jordan Peterson *NEW* The Meaning of Life

Here’s an interview about meaning: John Vervaeke: The Meaning Crisis (39 minutes) Again, the whole thing is worthwhile, but the link starts at 18:32. There, Vervaeke puts his finger on the epistemological question raised by Postmodernism. It’s a serious question.

Vervaeke has recently started a series of lectures on YouTube: ‘Awakening From the Meaning Crisis.

Little did I know…

…when I wrote Victimhood competence hierarchies that the College Board would so quickly compound the difficulty of picking the most oppressed group by applying “adversity scoring” modifiers to Scholastic Aptitude Test results.

The College Board’s adversity score will give students a boost for coming from a high-crime, high-poverty school and neighborhood, according to the Wall Street Journal. Being raised by a single parent will also be a plus factor. Such a scheme penalizes the bourgeois values that make for individual and community success.

In my defense, the Board’s attempt isn’t nearly as comprehensive as my proposal, though it suffers the same difficulties even for the subset of the victim/oppressor ratio it purports to capture by shifting racial preferences to a large set of highly correlated demographic, economic, and other cherry-picked factors that retain the ‘advantage’ of disadvantaging East Asians:

Adversity Index

College Board’s new tool seeks to provide environmental context behind students’ test scores by measuring adversity in their neighborhoods, families and schools.

Neighborhood environment
Crime rate
Poverty rate
Housing values
Vacancy rate

Family environment
Median income
Single parent
Adversity score
Education level
ESL

High school environment
Undermatching
Curricular rigor
Free lunch rate
AP opportunity
Source: College Board.

I do wonder about the inclusion of “Adversity score” in the calculation of Adversity score. If it’s the same thing both cases it’s a formula Excel would refuse to calculate as a ‘circular reference.’ Using the result of your calculation as input to your calculation is… well, interesting. It does give the College Board a chance to to iterate the calculation until a specific numeric condition is met.

“Adversity scoring” is a good example of a problem I pointed out in my victims’ hierarchy post: Just as a prejudicial firmament gets well established – race based preferences for college admissions, for example – someone comes along and adds more grievance factors you neglected to consider. That’s a feature to the SocJus folks, not a bug. It lets them make up rules to fit the currently fashionable oppression narrative.

I think Heather Mac Donald’s phrase “Grievance Proxies” is catchier than my “Victim competence hierarchies,” though it does not capture the amusing proliferation of victim-group supremacy competitions.

They is wrong

It could have come from almost any campus, but this is from the College of Natural Science at Michigan State University:

“No science is needed to support transgender and non-binary identities,” the email stated. “It is simply a matter of affirming their experiences.”

No science is possible “to support transgender and non-binary identities” as a replacement for biological, binary sex classifications.  Assuming the conclusion that science-based sex classifications are secondary to each person’s internal mind-state at any given moment is baked into the MSU memo.

As to “affirming their experiences,” isn’t that their job? How can another person do that? Doesn’t that require identity appropriation? How else can one know the experiences are worthy of affirmation?

Clicking on the pronoun link brings up a colorful and interactive web page titled “I [love] the singular they,” which maps out benefits and tools to using the pronoun to refer to a person. The page argues that the singular “they” is “neutral,” “easy,” “inclusive,” and “classy.”

And wrong.

“Writing with non-gender-neutral pronouns is a serious pain,” the site linked by MSU says. “Some prefer the Frankenword ‘s/he,’ while others rack their brain. Some stick with a particular pronoun for one paragraph or chapter, then swap out the one they’re using; others alternate ‘he’ and ‘she’ by sentence, or use a plural adapter, but that all sounds confusing.”

Alternating he/she wouldn’t satisfy ze, in any case. And using “they” as singular isn’t confusing? Why do we even have a plural? So that we can understand a sentence like “Chris thought they were late to the party.” Unless we want to make people say, “Chris thought they was late to the party,” “they” is a non-starter.

The suggestion of the singular “they” is an effort to overcome objections to the plethora of neologisms like “ze, ne, xe,” etc.. Those who want a neo-pronoun need to vote on the one they’ll all use and stick to it. That is, if they actually want it eventually generally adopted, rather than just using the issue to harass others who don’t want to start every conversation with a negotiation about pronouns.

I have a suggestion. If avoiding “misgendering” is so important – use the person’s name.  Now, “Chris thought Chris was late to the party,” is still confusing and certainly stilted.  It still requires you to know Chris’s mind, and whether there’s another Chris, to sort it out.  Maybe “thou” and “thee?”  can be appropriated.

Any of this still requires you to deploy two modes of speech based on another person’s current perception of themselves.  But it’s a “good cause:”

MSU physiology student Shad Soldano … admitted the email “did take me by surprise,” he told Campus Reform, “I feel that the email (in my understanding) portrays a good cause in bringing awareness and hopefully eliminating remaining prejudices towards the transgender community.”

He feels elevating a tiny minorities’ attempted appropriation of culture by a set of prejudices against anyone who objects to compelled speech “portrays a good cause.”

When did feeling replace thinking? When something portrays sensitivity, compassion, and diversity – even if the result is 180 degrees out of phase with the stated intention. The real intention, the one you have to think about, is not benign.

If I must “affirm your experiences,” what’s to stop that at your “identity?”

Where neopronouns lead

The word “science” is being made into a joke; the word “fair,” a travesty.

This is the hill on which the transgenderist attack on women must die, lest sports, science and fairness become meaningless words, and academiot unreality escapes into the wild.

Canadian sports “experts” embrace misogynist practices to please trans activists­

See also:
Not the ‘fairest’ sex, if the powerful logical and emotional arguments against men competing, at their whim, with women in sports does not galvanize resistance to the SJW idea of “equity,” then nothing will.

Here’s just one implication, Free Speech: People are being kicked off social media for “misgendering” men who think they are women. Let them think it, but don’t put them in the 100 yard dash with chromosomal women.

Governments are beginning to compel use of made up pronouns on University Campuses. If the transgenderists are allowed to destroy sports, they’ll force that on the rest of us.

Victor Davis Hanson, call your office

It seems that the plan is to reduce University course selection to just one subject:
Victim Group Studies.

How I was Kicked Out of the Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting

Mary Frances Williams is a courageous person.  Reading about her experience tells us much about the modern Academy. Here is a long quote about the heart of the matter, but I recommend reading the whole thing to understand why Williams felt any need to make these common sense points.

I only wanted to make four very brief points, but I felt compelled to state at the beginning that we could not abandon the ancient languages because then we would have nothing left of our field—of all the egregiously shocking things I had just heard, that seemed to be the one that most cried out to be challenged. I then attempted to say the following:

1) It is important to stand up for Classics as a discipline, and promote it as the political, literary, historical, philosophical, rhetorical, and artistic foundation of Western Civilization, and the basis of European history, tradition, culture, and religion. It gave us the concepts of liberty, equality, and democracy, which we should teach and promote. We should not apologize for our field;

2) It is important to go back to teaching undergraduates about the great classical authors—Cicero, the Athenian dramatists, Homer, Demosthenes, the Greek and Roman historians, Plato, and Aristotle—in English translation in introductory courses;

3) One way of promoting Classics is to offer more survey courses that cover many subject areas (epic, tragedy, comedy, rhetoric, philosophy, history, political theory, and art history), or to concentrate on one area such as in Freshmen seminars, or through western civilization classes;

4) It should help with securing funding from administrators to argue that such survey courses are highly cost-effective: a student could learn a tremendous amount even if such a survey were the only Classics course taken. On the other hand, a seminar that concentrated on the close reading of a few texts would prove beneficial for all students.

Unfortunately, I was interrupted in the middle of my first point by Sarah Bond, who forcefully insisted: “We are not Western Civilization!”

What can one say to that? I didn’t respond; but as I then attempted to move on and make my second point, I was interrupted by her and others, and not permitted to finish what I had hoped would be four very brief statements. A member of the audience with no connection to the panel, Michael Gagarin (University of Texas Emeritus) rose, came over to me, and told me I wasn’t allowed to speak.

I had never been at an academic conference where a member of an audience had the power to forbid another audience member from speaking. I continued: “We don’t teach Homer. We don’t teach Cicero… Why don’t we teach Thucydides and Herodotus?… So I’m saying: Cicero has value. Homer has value. Demosthenes has value, because it will teach you about defending Democracy.” (Sarah Bond pointed out that these writers were “all men” and seemed to think she’d scored a devastating point at my expense.)

I then went on to say that I believe the journals publish articles on the basis of merit, not because of the race or ethnicity of the authors. Padilla then challenged me since I was clearly disagreeing with his argument, namely, that only black people and Hispanics should be able to publish in academic journals.

In the hope of making my position clearer—that race should not be a determining factor when it comes to assessing the value of scholarship—I said to Padilla, “You may have got your job because you’re black, but I’d prefer to think you got your job because of merit.” Admittedly, I was under stress and did not express myself as clearly as I might have done, but what I was trying to convey is that the principle he was advocating clearly didn’t apply to hiring decisions—and nor should it—because he had got his job on merit, not because he’s black. Indeed, if I thought the opposite, and I imagined there was a chance of him saying, “You’re right, I was only hired because I’m black,” that would have contradicted the point I was trying to make, which is that it would have been wrong to hire him based only on his race, just as it would be wrong for an academic journal to publish an article based on the race of its author.

Williams was attacked for her ideas in a supposedly academic discussion, and told to shut up. There’s lots of offensiveness to go around.

She quotes her offending phrase.  We can assume, since it is not flattering, that it is accurate; and can see why it could cause offense. But, as we’ll also see, Professor Peralta thinks he should have been hired simply because of his melanin content. A white person is not allowed to infelicitously agree with that, though.

And Williams is right, it would have contradicted her argument.  So, I think she didn’t mean it the way she said it.

From the comments: “There is nothing political in learning how to conjugate a Latin verb, for example.”  That’s actually the point Williams was trying to make.  But, there something political in it now.

In fact, that’s the whole point: Latin speakers were patriarchal, white, colonialists. Further, conjugation is simply a way to ‘otherize’ minorities by suggesting rigorous study is required for Classics students.

See, critical-theory intersectionality is easy. If you can write plainly.

For a Masters degree in the single University study SJWs are promoting, however, you have to be able to translate this (which is about STEM syllabi, though that’s irrelevant):

“…the curricular inclusion of Indigenous perspectives is differentially problematic if we cannot also attend to the taken-for-granted and naturalized epistemological, ontological, and axiological commitments and enactments of what we are including perspectives into.”

Finally, let’s let Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta, confirm that he hopes his perception of what Mary Frances Williams meant is true. Italics in original.  I think we can reasonably ask if he might have been more offended if Williams had said, “You didn’t get your job because you’re black.”

Seeing as no one in that room or in the conference corridors afterwards rallied to the defense of blackness as a cornerstone of my merit, I will now have to repeat an argument that will be familiar to critical race scholars of higher education but that is barely legible to the denizens of #classicssowhite. I should have been hired because I was black: because my Afro-Latinity is the rock-solid foundation upon which the edifice of what I have accomplished and everything I hope to accomplish rests; because my black body’s vulnerability challenges and chastizes the universalizing pretensions of color-blind classics; because my black being-in-the-world makes it possible for me to ask new and different questions within the field, to inhabit new and different approaches to answering them, and to forge alliances with other scholars past and present whose black being-in-the-world has cleared the way for my leap into the breach.

“Into the breach” is cultural appropriation.

“Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’”

Self-disfiguration

At Quillette:
Motivated Reasoning Is Disfiguring Social Science

A good criticism of the state of social science, a field closely engaged in tarnishing the meaning of the word “science.”

I will make 3 points. First, an excerpt:

The second is the culture of institutions. From my experience and perspective, these tend to function on a corporate structure… they do not appear to foster an appropriate level of critical thinking, skepticism, caution, or solicitation of opposing views… This is a recipe for conformity and groupthink. (… APA policy appears to forbid scholarly special interest groups under its fold from taking public positions that differ from its own central stated positions…consistent with a business but not an academic or scholarly model.)

The classic model of a capitalist business actually forces critical, creative thinking, or the business dies. The academic model has baked in incentives and protections for the groupthink we observe. “The University,” could only survive as a respectable institutional concept so long as diversity of thought was critically valued. It isn’t anymore. In fact, the opposite is true.

Groupthink came before the abandonment of “critical thinking, skepticism, caution, or solicitation of opposing views,” and was necessary for that abandonment.

I think the parallel here is better described by the words “corporatist” and “bureaucratic” than by “business.” Academia displays, on average, less “critical thinking, skepticism, caution, or solicitation of opposing views,” than “business.”

Now, you may accurately point to Google’s treatment of James Damore as a business exemplifying advanced hardening of the categories, but this is also only possible where diversity of thought is suppressed – and where amoral business practices are hidden from customers. That may be business, but it will not be good business in the long run.

IAC, I’ll posit that even Google fosters a higher level of freedom of conscience than your average sociology department.

As to “ignoring entire fields of research,” and “task force[s] appear[ing] … stacked with people who had taken prior … views,” we can see this rot in the social sciences penetrating the hard sciences. The IPCC folks serve as a clear example.

Emoticon debate

I asked some questions in my post of February 17th about a suggestion that conservative political philosophy needs emotional appeals rather than rational arguments:

The writer [Gorka] makes a vital point that most people who support capitalism miss: we will never win the argument about capitalism being superior to socialism because many voters are only interested in emotions, not arguments. Accordingly they feel that capitalists are mean and socialists are compassionate, concerned about people. The only way to be compassionate is to take from the capitalists and give to them since capitalists got rich by making them poor. Unless and until conservatives can make a compassion appeal they will lose politically more and more. Forget trying to reason with people for whom reason is never a part of their feelings. So far Democrats have won the compassion battle. Republicans have always been out-compassioned. A completely different approach is needed. I think it can be done. Republicans can start by stopping trying to win rational arguments. They don’t win with apolitical voters who vote based on feelings.

I said, “[So,] We should take the Ocasio-Cortez Green New Deal as she suggests… “aspirational”; and respond with our own surreal proposals because we can’t win otherwise? What would that argument look like?

I was facetious (unicorns and fairy wings were featured) in answer to my own question, but the suggestion we should go full compassion mode is still knocking about in my head, so I will attempt to provide some more serious answers.

Let’s start with defining “emotional argument.”

Politically, propaganda is the first definition that pops into my head.  But let me suggest a more neutral definition: Emotional ‘argument’ appeals to deeply held moral intuitions. What those intuitions are matters.

For example, the Left often succeeds by touching instinctive feelings about fairness versus cheating and exploitation. They are successful with this in part by inflaming class envy. “Tax cuts for the rich must be stopped!”

Take the current MSM attack on the Republican tax cuts, “REFUNDS ARE DOWN!”. Well, yes. And that’s to be expected isn’t it?

If you make $30,000 at a tax rate of 10%, your annual taxes would project to be $3,000. Since there are many vagaries in the tax code and life circumstances, you decide to withhold an extra 10% per month, or $25.

If your tax rate is cut to 9%, your taxes would be $2,700, and your contingency 10% extra withholding becomes $22.50 per month.

At the end of the year everything works out perfectly and all your extra withholding – the money you loaned the government – is refunded. In the first case your refund is $300. In the second case it’s $270. Your refund is lower. But you paid $300 less in taxes.

Some people are disappointed that the government let them keep an extra $300 because their refund (money they gave the government they didn’t have to, and irrelevant to the concept of ‘tax cut’) is $30 lower. They could have just given the government an extra $100 a month if the higher refund was so important.

What ‘compassionate’ explanation can be given to people who use payroll taxes as a savings account on which no interest is paid? What ‘conservative’ emotional appeal could possibly apply? Only a rational argument will do.

One compassionate meme we would need is an appeal to individual responsibility – which the Left overwhelmingly ignores because it would blunt their class envy rhetoric. Leftists see fairness as equality of outcome. Anything else is prima facie evidence of oppression.

The Left continually insists the ‘rights’ of this or that victim group are being violated by a dominant group of ‘oppressors,’ and they never talk about their own responsibilities. They’re too busy telling you what your responsibility is to ‘victims.’

I contend the root problem isn’t a perception that conservatives lack compassion. It’s education.

The Millennials can’t remember very much – and they don’t learn very much either. It’s easy being hot for socialism or communism when you actually have a very little idea of what it is and what it did throughout the 20th century. And the Ys have that ignorance in spades; one third of them think that George W Bush killed more people than Stalin and 42 per cent have never heard of Mao – but over 70 per cent agree with Bernie Sanders. Some research suggests that only 15 per cent actually have a correct understanding of socialism… To be fair, that’s not strictly their fault; that attaches itself again to their Boomer grandparents who have been in charge of our failing education systems during this time. Combine the modern indoctrination-cum-dumbification taking place in schools and universities with the attention span-killing impact of information technology and social media, and you have a barely literate cohort, which is simply not equipped with the necessary mental tools to learn about the real world even if they wanted to.

Any surprises that socialism is now nearly synonymous with Gen Y?…

Millennials… are said to be unrealistic and have both the inflated expectations of life and the inflated perceptions of selves. They think the world owes them a living – a good one too – though without necessary too much effort. Things came very easily to them when they were growing up; when that suddenly stops – when the reality finally intrudes – they get angry, frustrated, lost: the world is deeply unfair and is conspiring against them… Having been told their whole lives how special they are, they tend to be over-sensitive and find it difficult to cope with criticism or obstacles…

Socialism is the response of a spoiled child when faced with the world that does not genuflect to its every wish the way their parents did – the world as it is must therefore be evil and has to be changed to something radically different. Gen Y, of course, did not just magically became [sic] the way they are – they were brought up like that…

For a rational approach, I’m going to turn to an educator whose message is attractive to many angry, frustrated, and lost millennials: Professor Jordan Peterson. If Peterson has a single main point, it might be that personal responsibility is the root of meaning in life, lack of which I think is the millennials’ angst.

We’ll take a brief look at his common sense (at least it used to be) insight into the benefits of individual responsibility and a peek at the biological basis for moral intuitions of fairness.

This clip starts at 32:25. Be sure to watch until at least 35:06, but just after that there a Q&A which starts with a question about rights.

Now, you’ve got something to sell to young people. You can sell them freedom of speech, and you can sell them responsibility.” We could try. We could start in our educational system by eliminating participation trophies in Kindergarten, and ‘Identity Studies’ and safe spaces in Universities.

I do not know how these ideas can be turned into 30 second ‘branding messages,’ but you could start with (from the Q&A at about 40:39) “Your capacity for speech is divine. It’s the thing that generates order from chaos… Nothing brings a better world into being than the stated truth.” It’s worth it to just keep watching after that.

That isn’t an empirical defense of free speech. It might even be called an emotional appeal, but here is Peterson’s rational defense of free speech:

Interviewer (Cathy Newman, hostile): Why should your right to freedom of speech trump a trans person’s right not to be offended?

Peterson: Because in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive. I mean, look at the conversation we’re having right now. You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that? It’s been rather uncomfortable. […] You’re doing what you should do, which is digging a bit to see what the hell is going on. And that is what you should do. But you’re exercising your freedom of speech to certainly risk offending me, and that’s fine. More power to you, as far as I’m concerned.

… a few seconds pass…

Peterson: (chuckling kindly): Ha. Gotcha.

Interviewer: You have got me. You have got me. I’m trying to work that through my head. It took awhile. It took awhile. It took awhile.

 

It will take awhile to fix academia. It took a long time to break it.

That excerpt is from a highly recommended interview which ran on Britain’s Channel 4, which I will describe as a half hour tour de force of rational argumentation demolishing Leftwing knee-jerk compassion. If you haven’t seen it, go here. Fourteen million people already have. I think the vast majority of those were interested in the rational points about fairness.

Now, what can the origins of the moral intuition of fairness tell us? The clip below starts with Peterson describing experiments observing rats at play. Watch at least up to about 20:20, where he begins to talk about chimpanzees and then postmodernism. (That is well worth a listen, too, and it relates to this post, but the rats segment is sufficient to the question of human moral intuition about fair play.)

Rules across the set of all games,” is a vital observation. People who know children will have observed how a 2 or 3 year old reacts to losing a game, or even a roll of dice; anger, tears, withdrawal. If a child hasn’t internalized the concept of “the set of games” by the time they’re 4, it’s likely they never will. Other children will not want to play with them, because they are poor sports. And adults will find them unpleasant to be around, because such children have never abandoned the idea of zero-sum interactions. I suspect this is at least a partial explanation for the existence of SJW’s, because their brand includes participation trophies, safe spaces, and unearned self esteem.

It is, therefore, a yuge problem for Donald Trump that he brands things as zero-sum: He wins; “They” lose. His trade policy is perhaps the best example, but hardly the only one. This doesn’t excuse his opponents’ excesses, but it makes it far easier for them to portray him as an ‘evil’ conservative. And to portray conservatism as compassionless. (One could argue the emotional appeal we really need is that “compassionless” is what we should want from government, but that’s another post.) Trump’s default emotional appeal is to something other than fairness, and his past business conduct simply cements the meme.

For social animals, success is more about being invited to play than winning every game. This deeply held moral intuition starts with biology and spreads to culturally enforced norms. It is not, as postmodernists would have it, solely about dominance and submission carving us into identity groups. The idea that power is everything informs much of the Left’s claims that they’re compassionate, even though when put into practice their ideas inevitably result in misery. They have seized the high ground on “good intentions.” Compassion and good intentions are not at all the same thing.

Jordan Peterson’s ideas are very popular among millions of young people immersed in the nihilist orthodoxy spewing from our institutions of higher education. They have excellent attention spans for solutions to their angst. They like Peterson precisely because his dozens of academic online lectures each offer a couple of hours of rational arguments about pursuing meaning in life, in spite of the suffering inherent in being alive. The Left cannot compete.

Maybe it isn’t overtly emotional appeals we need to enable rational discussion, maybe it’s rational discussion we need to rouse appropriate emotion. There is an audience.

Peterson’s rational ideas are emotionally compelling for those seeking meaningful lives. You only have to read a few of the letters he’s received to understand the desperate need for substance, not branding. This is not to say he’s convincing the committed Leftists (far from it, they despise him), or that he’s reached universal pop-cultural awareness, but people are bringing their own need for meaning to him. In droves. Maybe a way to combat the fantasies of Ocasio-Cortez is to support Peterson.

To close, another source for an appeal to moral intuition comes from a man considered of the left while he lived. How much times have changed will be clear if you read Kurt Vonnegut’s quite short story Harrison Bergeron.

This story examines what happens when everyone is MADE to be equal in the cause of ‘fairness’. Maybe the Koch brothers can be persuaded to finance re-releasing the 1995 movie based on the story. Some of our budding socialists might get a clue that good intentions have to be aligned with good results.