Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

What is True?


So let me follow up on my last post on Sam Harris vs. Jordan Peterson, and what constitutes a solid epistemology. The podcast itself is quite painful to listen to, and Jordan Peterson doesn´t do much of an argument there. I think the guy doesn’t do debates well. He’s best when you let him speak for hours. Just give him a mike and let him ramble. He’ll get somewhere. You’ll notice he doesn’t use notes when he speaks, he improvises all the time.

That’s impressive, but there’s a reason why most good intellectual output, like for example this blog, is done on writing. We’re kinda losing that, now with the popularity of podcasts and Youtube videos with men speaking in pseudoprofound voice tones. You can get away with being incoherent and contradicting yourself in speech if you push the appropriate emotional buttons frequently enough. But in writing you have to make logical sense, else people will stop reading. The Greeks realized that pretty soon; they’d go in the Agora and make some sophist speech, and they’d get famous, because even if people don’t like what you’re saying, they can’t help hearing you blabber, and odds are you’ll say some good line sooner or later, and people can’t help remembering that one line that made sense.

Anyway, the reason I like Jordan Peterson is, besides because he has balls of steel and refuses to bow down to the latest bout of the leftist singularity, where a law has been passed in Ontario saying that self-styled transexuals can demand you to refer to them with whatever pronoun they wish, on punishment of a $100,000 fine or something. Now, I’ve been against leftists since way before this; if I were a Interview with the Vampire character I would have started opposing leftism around 1880 or so. But as a linguist, playing with language is a 是可忍孰不可忍 moment. You don’t play with words. And you especially don’t fucking play with closed-class words. That’s evil. But I digress.

The reason I respect Prof. Peterson intellectually is because he understands evolutionary psychology, he understands pragmatic philosophy, and he’s even read his Wittgenstein. Now that is quite something. Ever since he completely demolished traditional philosophy and linguistics in 1953, poor Wittgenstein has been totally ignored by the intellectual establishment. That’s no wonder, philosophers like having a job, as do linguists, and understanding Wittgenstein basically means you should go home, shut up, and take a job in the private sector. It’s much more lucrative to just keep going with the bullshit and pretending nobody has noticed that it’s precisely that: misunderstanding how language works and sounding arcane so that nobody actually notices what you’re blabbering about. Nobody besides your fellow philosophers who, of course, have a vested interest in keeping the racket going.

The key insight of Wittgenstein is that speech is a kind of a game. You agree on a set of rules, e.g. that the word “apple” stands for a certain kind of fruit, and you agree to use that word to refer to that fruit. But games, like most human social interactions, are a local thing. There’s no universal set of rules, and you can come up with a different set of rules with other people. Kinda like good friends sometimes may modify the rules of their card games just went playing among themselves. So you can use the word “apple” to refer to apples, but with some other group you can use the word “apple” to refer to the breasts of women, or whatever. The thing often gets out of hand, as in things like Cockney rhyming slang. The point being that words don’t have “meaning”, they only have patterns of use in certain contexts, governed by local sets of rules. Understanding those rules is a form of sociology.

If you can only watch one clip by Jordan Peterson, it should be this one. I’ll say more: just watch this one clip, you can skip the others. Sorry Jordan, no disrespect, but you’re making enough money. This video is by far the most insightful. Here he explains how human society is in fact just a collection of overlapping games, and what we call morality is just the rules of the game(s). This is not a new idea. Confucius didn’t call it “game”, he called it “ritual”. Plenty of people, most infamously communists, have seized upon this idea to argue that political power can change the rules of the social game in order to change people’s behavior. To some extent that is true, but game rules aren’t completely arbitrary. A game to be a game has to be playable. And that puts severe limits in what kind of rules it can have. The game has to be playable. It has to work. There are natural limits to that. Which brings us back to Gnon’s law. But do listen to him.


From 30:00 there’s a fairly good, if rather unfocused, exposition of pragmatic philosophy. Humans have brains; brains have evolved in order to survive and reproduce. It follows that while your brain has to perceive external reality, it only has to do so to the extent that it allows you to survive and reproduce. Once it has gone to that level it’s quite free to evolve in ways that make you completely oblivious of it. Or at least unaware of reality’s details. Humans being a social species, survival and reproduction depends on your social status inside the group. So if for some reason the group has decided that that animal isn’t edible, even though all evidence tells you it is, you better believe it’s not edible, else the group is going to murder you, skin you and put your head in a pike. Hence groupthink.

That’s one part. The other part, which necessarily follows, is that you can never be sure of your knowledge. You have some ideas in your brain, how do you know which are true and which aren’t? David Hume said it well, you never know what’s going to happen. All you have is some confidence that things that happened before with some frequency are going to happen again. What Hume missed is that there’s a reason why habit makes you have that confidence. Kant kinda got halfway there, but the very reason why “custom” basically stands as knowledge is that, well, humans have evolved over millions of years that propensity to take habit of perception to stand for the laws of nature. And they have evolved that because it pretty much works like that. To put it in other words, you don’t really “have ideas in your brain”. Your brain is not a hard-disk. What your brain has is a proclivity to modify its behavior in order to expect that things that happened before on a certain sequence will happen again, which is a good approximation of causality.

Being skeptical of knowledge at this level is just being an ass (David Hume had good reasons for being an ass). All living beings understand causality at the behavioral level because causality is real. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t have survived and reproduced. Causality is true because it works. That’s what “true” means, as Jordan Peterson wants to put it.

But again, your human brain has also evolved so that if your tribe says you gotta put a lip-plate  or some ghost is going to snatch your husband’s penis, well you’re gonna put a lip-plate and make sure every single friend of yours does so too. So we’re back to square one. Epistemology is hard. What is true? Is causality true, contra Hume? Well you bet it is. Is true the fact that failing to put a lip-plate will make your husband lose his penis? Well many Nilotic tribesmen say it is. Passionately so. Why? It works for them. By Jordan Peterson’s argument, it is true. I don’t think it’s true.

Again, epistemology is hard. Given how brains work, and how the brains of social species work, there is just no way to set up a complete set of axioms. You can propose a One God that does that for you; but we don’t have that, and even if we did, social factions would soon start to twist the definitions of things to fuck with their enemies. So we don’t only need a One God, we need a One God which is constantly coming down to earth to make sure that we don’t change the agreements we had on what is real. That we don’t have. All we can do is make an agreement among ourselves, fallen humans, on what is true, what is not, and how to go find it. That’s what we have right now, actually, with most scientific minded people agreeing that the best standard of truth is predictive power. You’ll notice that is similar to the animal instinct of assuming causality after confirmation of predictive validity. It works pretty well.

So we non-Sudanese lip-plate wearers, have this rule among ourselves, to assume an objective reality independent of subjective hangups, and to test the truth of theories according to experimentation, observability and predictive power. This rule is, again, a kind of game. It is a good game. A playable game. A very productive game.

So when Jordan Peterson says that the concept of “truth” shouldn’t be just applied to objective reality, but should be modified so to aid the flourishing of human existence, whatever that means, he’s proposing we change the rules of the game. Of this particular game, which we call the English language, in which the word “truth” is generally used to mean conformity to external reality. He makes it sound as if some cabal of scientists conspire together to change the meaning of the word so that it excluded subjectivity and religion and whatnot. Well, no, it wasn’t like that. The word “truth” has always excluded subjectivity. In English and in all languages I’m aware of, which are quite a few. That doesn’t mean some groups of people, like say Christian theologians, didn’t have their local rules where they used the word to refer to unfalsifiable and honestly quite bizarre claims. But that wasn’t about claiming a new sense for the word. They really meant that their stuff was also objective reality. If only to signal that they had the power to get away with any sort of absurd claim.

Even the Sudanese lip-plate guys actually think that ghosts are objectively real and they actually snatch the penises of dissenters. They don’t think it’s “true enough” for the purposes of tribal cohesion. So you can’t change the rules of the “truth” game even if you wanted to. I get it that he wants to stop Communist scientists from crossing Ebola with Smallpox. But the way to do that is not by changing the rules of the language and epistemology game. To the extent that that’s even possible; you can’t mess with one word and expect the others to stay the same. Language is a self-referential network. You change one node and the other nodes shift too. Often in unpredictable ways.

Now, I’m a friend of Jordan Peterson. I agree with his dislike of modern society. I agree there’s lots of problems. Lots of nihilism and mental illness and despair. Society is going to hell. Sure enough. But that’s not because of the overzealous objectivism of the scientific establishment. Again, Prof. Peterson is being attacked by Gender Scholars. The problem with science is not that it insists in analyzing objective reality. The problem is that the scientific method only works when observation is reliable. Which worked well in earlier physics and biology. But the prestige of science made us come up with things which just can’t be measured with any reliability. Economics. Psychology. Climate science. Much of medical science. It’s just too complicated to take any reliable data on much of it. And we refuse to admit that we don’t know much about it, and that we can’t know much about it. It is not possible. There is only one ancient intellectual discipline which hasn’t been made into a science: history. It can’t be done. The data just isn’t there. And historians always understood that. There was this healthy skepticism about “history is written by the victors”. You had to take it with a grain of salt. But it has its value nonetheless.

Instead of understanding Economics, or Climate Science any other intellectual disciplines as being the same sort of intellectually dubious and politically charged discipline as history is, we have deluded ourselves into thinking they are epistemologically sound sciences such as physics or chemistry. No, they are not. And they can’t be. And it’s ok. We just have to stop spending billions on them and using them to justify public policy. Yet again history is used to justify public policy all the time.

That half, or 80%, or 90% of modern science is bullshit that doesn’t replicate, and obfuscates more than reveals, is a problem of our modern scientific establishment, not of the scientific method itself. And most certainly not of the idea of “truth”, which again, predates science by millennia, and is a very important foundation of human sociability. Even if Prof. Peterson were to get his way and change the definition; which would require Stalinist levels of social influence; people would soon invent another word to refer that stuff to that stuff out there which doesn’t depend on our subjectivity: the Truth. That’s a good game.

Let me finish with some Chinese history. I wrote about this before. During the last stages of the Jurchen-Chinese war, in the 1140s. General Yue Fei, the most successful Chinese general, was arrested for plotting a coup against the emperor. One of his fellow generals, Han Shizhong, run towards the prime minister, Qin Hui, at court. He then asked him: “What is this thing about Yue Fei plotting a coup? Is any of this true?”.

The prime minister, laconically answered: “It doesn’t have to be”.

By which he meant, the emperor wants him dead, so the hell cares anyway. Note that he didn’t say “it’s true enough”.

Now after reading all this, you can listen to Prof. Peterson make his truth argument at length. Tell me what you think of it now.


66 responses to “What is True?

  1. Pingback: What is True? | @the_arv

  2. Alfred Woenselaer January 28, 2017 at 04:23

    If Jordan were really into truth he would pay homage to Moldbug and Jim. He does not pay homage, does not seem to even know them, therefore not into truth. It is closer to the truth to say he is a good hypnotist, which explains why the Sam Harris debate was a fluke – Sam refuses being hypnotised.

    Which is to say I agree with everything you say, fellow philosopher.

  3. Steel T Post January 28, 2017 at 04:57

    Some years ago, my study of Wittgenstein led me to this:

    “It’s not by chance that the word spell has this double meaning – to cast a spell, or to arrange the letters in the correct order to spell out a word. … to be able to arrange the letters in the right order, to actually conjure, as it were, that thing that you just spelled—it was experienced by oral peoples, who had not met the written word before, as magic, as a very powerful form of magic.”

    The Spell of Literacy
    Dr. David Abram

    So what is truth, it it can be conveyed only by casting a spell?

    • Alfred January 28, 2017 at 11:56

      That makes sense and is pretty cool.

    • iFruit January 28, 2017 at 16:06

      Yes, looking at words’ roots and etymology will uncover a lot.

      Like the different meanings of “order” in “to give an order”, “to set in order”, “to be in working order” ;)…

      Enough to tell you that society is based on enforcement, slavery, power. Or it becomes anarchy.


      “Old English word; related to Old High German wort, Old Norse orth, Gothic waurd, Latin verbum, Sanskrit vratá command”

      Every word was an order. (And in the Bible, the Word of God is always an order too).

    • spandrell January 28, 2017 at 16:48

      David Abram? Please. Etymology isn’t hard. Just go to .

  4. Pingback: What is True? | Reaction Times

  5. false January 28, 2017 at 08:25

    “most good intellectual output, like for example this blog”


    “But in writing you have to make logical sense, else people will stop reading.”

    Blatantly false.

  6. Candide III January 28, 2017 at 09:27

    I’m probably the only regular here who can understand 是可忍孰不可忍. You might want to decipher for non-readers of Classical Chinese.

    • iFruit January 28, 2017 at 15:26

      This you point out + “most good intellectual output, like for example this blog” are there to remind us Spandrell’s strongest suit isn’t humility.


      Easy to pass over it.
      When everywhere it’s full of egomanic status-maximizers ranging from unhinged narcissism to high sociopathy to psychopathy, all of whom make sure to constantly exhibit humbleness (it works with their court of adoring blockheads), even simple outspoken vanity can be seen as, comparatively, humbleness.

      Differently said: when you see somebody boast their skills this way, at least it’s not narcissistic maniacs who live to manipulate you.

    • Steel T Post January 28, 2017 at 15:55

      Probably not.

      “If this can be tolerated, what cannot?”

  7. Frank January 28, 2017 at 12:34

    Peterson intuits, like our host Spandrel, that religion is sine qua non of a people, culture, civilization. Christianity being West’s official religion for a millennium and a half, and given the fact that religions don’t come out ex-nihilo (so we don’t get to choose a designer religion) he deduces that West won’t survive without Christianity.

    Peterson sees that people need to believe in a memeplex that makes them functional (i.e. have families, reproduce), and that provides moral license to defend their culture with certitude. You only get certitude when you think your belief is true as much as the theory of gravity is true. In other words, Peterson wants to be able to proclaim that Christianity is true, with as much certitude as when Sam Harris declares Christianity untrue–based, of course, on ¡Science!–with his well paced and unwarrantedly self-assured manner of speech.

    Since God is dead, and Christianity is obviously not true–at least in the usual sense of the word ‘true’–his solution is to modify the meaning of the word ‘true’. He won’t give up this strategy, because saving dead fathers from the underworld (Christianity being West’s dead father) is at the core of his central narrative, which narrative he’s been presumably crafting for a very, very long time, and thus now partially constitutes the foundation of his identity. So he won’t change his mind about this language strategy any time sooner than Nick Land defects against Skynet.

    Maybe he should use a more benign word, like, ‘real’. “God is as real as money.” Much more defendable imo.

    Peterson would make a tremendous prophet of Gnon, alas, the memes that narrate his life seem to have locked him in on a different quest.

    • spandrell January 28, 2017 at 13:11

      Yes, that’s likely it. But the way to revive Christianity is to do what the few remaining Christians do and insist in the literal truth of the Bible. Just say it’s true, the way your lunch is true.

      Or at least go mildly agnostic. I always find that’s the best way to counter people atheists like Sam Harris. How do you know there’s no God? You never know, do you?

      • Steel T Post January 28, 2017 at 15:41

        Insist in the literal truth of the Bible? Only if one insists on creating more Atheists.

        “Indeed I think that every Christian sect gives a great handle to Atheism by their general dogma that, without a revelation, there would not be sufficient proof of the being of a god.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823

        The invasive middle-eastern cult of Christianity worked as a cultural glue in Europe only when the Catholic Church heavily suppressed reading of the Bible. For Christianity to work well again, which requires ignoring much of the Jewish Bible and elevating our own European cultural Tradition above it, you’ll have to smash the printing press.

        Why not stubbornly insist that the old European Gods—whom are still on our lips today every Teus’-day, Woden’s-day, Thor’s-day, and Frīge’s-day—are all as figuratively real as Santa Claus? Nobody believes in a literal Santa, yet we spend almost four weeks a year and billions of dollars celebrating Santa Claus and Reindeer as a culture.

        How we “believe in” and create a weeks-long Holy-Day season around Santa and Reindeer is our path forward. So be good for goodness sake!

      • iFruit January 28, 2017 at 15:56

        “Just say it’s true, the way your lunch is true.”

        This is gonna end up in my “citations” text file.

        Because it’s so spot-on.

        However, what I don’t like is conflation of social/political/public/pragmatic/you-choose-the-name epistemology with philosophical epistemology.
        “Truth” hasn’t the same meaning for the girl who, soon as the alpha that had given her some hope unmistakably kicked her ass “fell again in love” with the beta she had super-quickly left when the alpha had courted her a little and I.

        There are these people, who are born with defective social modules in their brains, and live to explore, discover, and go after another “truth”. They are artists, philosophers.
        When I say philosophers, this includes people like William Shockley and James Watson (who can easily be mistaken for menbots and technicians, but are radically diverse deep down).

        There is a % of people who isn’t socially healthy: in their minds, what’s socially true and “works” and what’s sensibly true and observable remain parted. They live in two worlds.
        They are likely to become artists, to depict or shoot or recount in words their own world and their own truth or non-analytic philosophers.
        When you watch serious films or read serious novels, each of these authors and sometimes each of their works is a world. Since no-body else was telling their truth, they felt the need, and decided to do that on their own.

        In the introduction to a biography of Shockley, somebody writes that it remains sheltered in mystery what led the man to make the claims he made, thus facing devastating social retribution and being degraded to pariah.

        See, the author of that comment (a journalist, no wonder) has ONE truth, like (we presume) all those lip-plate wearers.
        But some have two truths.
        And some, like Ted Kaz… how on earth was Unabomber named, have one, the OTHER ONE, the one that doesn’t work.

        Different types of minds have different sorts of hunger, and need different meals. I wrote “different” but I should have written “diverse”.
        Philosophy and epistemology strictu sensu have nothing to do with society politics and what works, just like free minds have nothing to do with “the community” and groupthink (and Nobel Prizes, and jobs in the mainstream media, …).

        The idea of truth as observable reality borne by science in last 2 thousand years has nothing to do with our day’s political and social scene.

        Now I’ll go watch that video, hoping it carries subtitles, lol.

      • Candide III January 29, 2017 at 21:13

        But the way to revive Christianity is to do what the few remaining Christians do and insist in the literal truth of the Bible.

        There’s tens of millions of people insisting on the literal truth of the Bible in America, rejecting “evil-lution”, geology and maybe even the heliocentric model of the solar system. Doesn’t exactly make young people flock to their faith, nor does it stop them from torturing the Bible to conform to feminist dogma. Dalrock has a post about this every month or so.

      • Max January 30, 2017 at 08:43

        I believe atheists can be attacked with simulated universe concept.

        General relativity and quantum mechanic paradoxes can be explained in one unified theory.

        The basic idea behind it is that we live in a digital universe with digital physics. Nothing in science contradicts this to date .

        And next point is obvious- if universe is a simulation, who are we to declare that there is absolutely nothing behind it?

        • Candide III January 30, 2017 at 11:40

          The problem with the simulated universe concept is that it is epistemologically barren, even worse than multiverse and string theory. The latter at least leave our observable universe alone, but if we admit simulation all bets are off. What if we’re simulated by machines as in the “Matrix”? What if we’re simulated by coked-up teenagers in their parents’ basement on a XXX-century home media center? What if we’re a supercomputer computing what is the question to 42? There are as many possibilities as we care to imagine, and no grounds whatsoever for choosing one or another.

          • Max January 31, 2017 at 07:58

            Universe as rocks floating in space us is just us epistemologically barren. And you can attack it with science ( quantum mechanics and general relativity paradoxes)

            Now whetheer its simulatoon run by student, side effect of 42 computation is teleological and theological discussion

            Once the basic foundation of atheist epistemology is shaken with their own methodolgy arguments its hard to defend scientific atheism position

            P.s. maybe i am just projecting, but that was the rubicon for me. Once you study quantum physics and dark matter relant theories it becoming impossible to accept naive materialistic assumptions

            • Candide III January 31, 2017 at 09:58

              Universe as rocks floating in space us is just us epistemologically barren. And you can attack it with science ( quantum mechanics and general relativity paradoxes)

              No, you can’t. You can attack some scientific theories with other scientific theories, observations and experimental data. I have studied quantum mechanics and general relativity — and I mean studied, as in with calculus — in college, though I admit I haven’t studied the latest fads like string theory. I’d like to know what do you call “paradoxes” and how do you attack the scientific worldview with them, but in my experience what laypeople usually call “paradoxes” come in two kinds: perfectly valid, experimentally proven results that violate our naive instinctual understanding of the physical world (ex: two-slit experiment, Einstein’s trains), and open scientific problems (ex: galaxy rotation curves, origin of cosmic microwave background, nature of quantum measurement). With the former, your only sane choice is to lump it: that’s the way the world works, and we know how to demonstrate it. With the latter, you might recall the “paradoxes” of black-body radiation, photoelectric effect etc., that were roiling physics some hundred years ago. Eventually physicists will figure them out, unless our civilization crashes first.

              Now whether its simulation run by student, side effect of 42 computation is teleological and theological discussion

              So it is. Pretty soon you find yourself arguing what color is the student’s hair, how to propitiate the machines so they don’t terminate the simulation (hello MIRI!), whether Jesus’ human nature is subsumed by His divine nature or just subordinate to it, and whether the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father alone. Some purportedly scientific theories in the “latest fads” category are firmly of this sort, the multiverse being the prime example. Still, Kepler was motivated by theology, and Newton did more alchemy and Bible numerology than what we’d now call physics. If there is any physical “there” there, eventually we’ll figure it out.

              • Max February 1, 2017 at 06:24

                I really appreciate not calling me on my typos and horrible English grammar . Unfortunately I cannot fit quantum physics in a blog comment. And I would be plagiarizing anyway. So here is the link to the coherent theory of Universe as Simulation, addressing most(all?) of quantum/general relativity paradoxes.

                I would also mention that the questioning of current mainstream physics should really begin with questioning math models . God created integer numbers – rest is human hubris. Calculus is largely make believe magic – as infinity does not exist and cannot be done in our universe. While digital computation work exactly like they do. I came from computer science background and it suddenly clicked why floating point modeling sucks so much. And why it can be avoided altogether without loss of fidelity. – Universe is digital (and this is not very new concept- Von Neuman, Zusse and a few other smart people entertained the idea) . Newton was a Genius far more ahead of his time than most people are aware of.

                So it is. Pretty soon you find yourself arguing what color is the student’s hair, how to propitiate the machines so they don’t terminate the simulation 

                Well at least we moved on from “random rocks in space” model. With newage epicycles (dark matter, strings, multiverse etc) trying to fit in current models through mathematical massaging.

                • Steve Johnson February 1, 2017 at 06:36

                  “God created integer numbers – rest is human hubris.”

                  What’s the area of a circle?

                  • Max February 1, 2017 at 06:39

                    God also created Pi and E. and maybe Phi.
                    Where does Sqrt(2) comes from and what it really tells us about irrational numbers? And the path we would take if we follow the infinite approximation models?

                  • Frank February 1, 2017 at 13:17

                    Area of a circle is an approximation algorithm. There are no circles in nature. There’s no continuum. π is an approximation algorithm that lets you calculate with arbitrary precision (up to memory constraints). sqrt(2) can be seen as an approximation algorithm or an algebraic object (i.e. a discrete extension of discrete morphisms like rings or fields (think sqrt(-1))).

                    Infinities exist to the same extent that gods exist, i.e. they don’t. You can define ‘infinite’ as an adjective denoting a never ending process (like a program that doesn’t terminate), but you have to be careful not to treat the output of a nonterminating process as if it’s a ‘complete’ object that exists, commensurable with finite (i.e. real) objects.

            • Candide III January 31, 2017 at 13:07

              As for your references to “scientific atheism” and “atheist epistemology”, the first is a contradiction in terms (the question of existence or non-existence of God is not scientific) and the second is misleading. There is what I might loosely call scientific epistemology, which gains its powers from limiting itself to questions of what Peterson calls “factual correctness” and is thereby rendered unable to pronounce on questions of theology as such. Professed atheists have used it (or rather its fruits) to undermine revealed religion, which was, for historical reasons, amalgamated with statements about the natural world that turned out to be factually incorrect. I do not dispute that this has had some unfortunate consequences, but the religion in question had been evolving in that direction long before e.g. geologists assembled and systematized enough material to make the stories of the creation of the earth and Noah’s flood untenable as factual descriptions (I’d say in the first half of the XIX century).

              • Max February 1, 2017 at 06:37

                To be brief I called it “atheist epistemology” because the worldview that proclaims God cannot exist is basically using science as its weapon. If the universe are random particles spread in space, where interaction is limited by speed of light and all this is just “is” then all effects we observe is because of “laws of physics” and “randomness”. “Laws of physics” is science. And randomness can be mastered with “Statistics” (hence the sect of Bayesian Rationalizers from LessWrong )
                I believe as soon as one runs into quantum entanglement experiment he cannot assume the purely materialistic worldview without finding adequate explanation first (and mainstream physics still looking). Atheist assume this nevertheless. And I did too . After all quantum physics might only for exalted priest of science and mere mortals cannot hope to understand it. Or maybe cannot dare to understand what the experiment really tells us about universe.

                • Candide III February 1, 2017 at 23:42

                  Apparently you have an erroneous understanding of what scientific understanding is. It emphatically doesn’t mean that you make what you are trying to understand jibe with your ordinary common-sense intuitions (often it’s impossible). You are constructing new intuitions that apply to what you are studying. Sometimes good analogies to ordinary experience can be found, sometimes not, but analogies are intended to help develop new intuitions rather than substitute for them. Quantum entanglement (I might add many less exotic phenomena, e.g. the Arago spot or gyroscopes) doesn’t “make sense” the way a brick falling on your foot “makes sense”, but it’s no less real for that. In fact, this process of constructing intuitions is not specific to science: for example, you won’t get good results with modern shear-thinning paints until you develop an intuition of their behavior, which feels “unnatural” for a liquid when you encounter it for the first time.

                  Frank: the force is strong with you.

        • Frank February 1, 2017 at 13:31

          Is there a way to tell if we live in a simulated universe or a non-simulated universe? If no (i.e. if it’s unknowable by definition), then it’s literally nonsense.

          • Max February 1, 2017 at 15:57

            There is a way to tell if our universe could be simulated. – if we find any physical law which cannot be digitally simulated then its not. Or maybe we find bugs :)

            • Frank February 1, 2017 at 21:37

              By definition, we can’t observe non-finite things. So everything we *could* ever observe can be digitally simulated, insofar as we presently simulate our observations.

              What would a bug look like? What’s the difference between a novel observation and a bug?

        • kevembuangga February 1, 2017 at 17:37

          “I believe atheists can be attacked …”

          LOL, yes it’s a belief, and some atheists cannot be “attacked” with either the simulated universe or the God concept.
          Both are dormitive explanations:
          What/who created God?
          In which “universe” does the simulation run?
          Is it “turtles all the way down”?
          For short, all this is just empty blather or colloquially plain bullshit!

    • Cavalier February 1, 2017 at 04:26

      We won’t get a designer religion ex nihilo, but we can get a synthesis of the things that preceded Christianity and the things that killed Christianity. We might worship the sun, revere the scientific method, and praise Darwin for our understanding of our place in the world, and Nietzsche for showing us the way.

      Come to think of it, it might look a little bit like something from a century ago, revised and updated for a new age, equipped with the science of genetics, a reinforced underpinning of patriarchy, and armed with a shiny new “leadership-principle”. Oops, did I give it away?

      • Max February 1, 2017 at 06:54

        Worship Information . Revere computation. And welcome the Singularity .

      • Frank February 1, 2017 at 14:06

        Yeah, it basically has to start with “the only morality is civilization”. The rest follows. I’m not a religion manufacturing expert though, so I don’t know if it’ll stick. Kant couldn’t do it. Nietzsche couldn’t do. Jung couldn’t do it. Marx did it, but the exact opposite of what we need.

        Human fear of inadequacy is probably too great a hurdle to overcome (egalitarianism in one form or another rules). I hope we can seed a self-sustaining and self-reproducing AI civilization before we become too dim to afford it.

  8. Lalit January 28, 2017 at 15:00

    It is time for you to be added to the list of serious reactionary thinkers. If that is not already the case, that is.

  9. kevembuangga January 28, 2017 at 15:07

    Sounds like a “sex of angels” problem.
    Meanwhile in the “real world” (?) more effective trouble is heating up…
    View story at

    • iFruit January 28, 2017 at 15:28

      the new elected place for egomaniacal status-maximizers and arch-spiralling signalers.

      No thankz.

      • kevembuangga January 28, 2017 at 18:46

        Fully agree, for the little I know about Greenhall he fits perfectly and is probably in the process of “turning” to the new opportunities he see rising after having previously placed his bets on globalist NWO, he is/was (?) CEO of DIVX.
        But THIS is the very reason he is worth the read.

    • Daniel Chieh January 28, 2017 at 22:36

      Seems overtly optimistic of the Right. Maybe its an excuse to keep us from kicking them further, as the Cathedral must burn.

  10. Howard J. Harrison January 28, 2017 at 18:04

    The comment you are reading does not express an opinion of my own re Wittenstein. Rather, it gives information. Relevant reading on Wittgenstein: Stanford Encyclopedia on Philosophy [1]; Edward Feser [2][3].


    Sample from Feser: “Notoriously, Wittgenstein acknowledged, without shame, that he had never read a word of Aristotle…. All the same, Wittgenstein is brilliant and full of insights, and does not deserve the dismissive treatment he afforded his predecessors.”

    Feser (a towering apologist of the old religion) is an acerbic and fairly harsh critic generally, so the above quoted words represent pretty high praise, coming from him.

  11. Robert Brockman II January 28, 2017 at 22:54

    What Peterson wants is for his definition of Truth to square with the notion of Truth as a fundamental Virtue — an ancient notion that people really like. Improving the commie smallpox researchers understanding of how smallpox works is clearly not virtuous. The solution is to define possession of Truth as having correct beliefs at *all* of the levels of abstraction.

    Sam Harris wants clean labels for accuracy at each of these levels of abstraction so he can debug errors efficiently. “Smallpox is caused by an evil spirit” is a “Level 1” Truth error, while “Weaponizing smallpox is a great idea” may be more of a “Level 3” Truth error.

    Errors at different levels interact in interesting ways. Cultures with very silly Level 1 errors can route around them and still be okay, while cultures with an iron grip on Level 1 physics facts can be in big trouble because of problems higher up in the stack. This is why Peterson doesn’t want Harris to assign the word True to accurate Level 1 facts.

    IMAO, the solution is to recognize that there are many levels of abstraction to Truth, we want to get *all* of them right, and we need to be clear about which level we are working on at any given time.

  12. Seth Largo (@SethLargo) January 29, 2017 at 22:27

    Somehow, I feel like this Twitter account is relevant to the discussion:

    A description of the progressive “truth game” might be worth writing. The rules are internally self-contradictory (as they are in many games, to be fair).

    • Seth Largo (@SethLargo) January 29, 2017 at 22:29

      Also, I feel like the post is attempting to answer “What is truth?”, which is a very different and more interesting question than “What is true?”

      • spandrell January 29, 2017 at 22:44

        It isn’t. Some languages don’t have adjectives, you see.
        Obsessing about the “meaning” of words in abstract is exactly the category error which Wittgenstein warns against.

        • Seth Largo (@SethLargo) January 31, 2017 at 00:06

          No, but English does, and we’re speaking in English, so given the rules of this particular language and context, there is a legit and important difference between true and truth. But I won’t debate the point further (which is not the same as debating the meaning of these words), because I agree with the gist of the post.

          • spandrell January 31, 2017 at 00:45

            Point being that many languages don’t have them, because they aren’t necessary and don’t reflect any real distinction. English has them as part of the heritage of the complex indo-european grammar, one idiosyncrasy among many. The more particular a grammatical point is the most likely it’s just moot.

            Then again, if you have an argument about why true and truth are different and important, by all means let me hear it.

            • Jefferson February 1, 2017 at 22:01

              Spandrell says, “people play games with words.” Commenter says, “but let’s play games with words!”

              Pretty sure I did the same thing last week…

            • Candide III February 5, 2017 at 11:05

              Come on, the denotations of the adjective “true” and the noun “truth” do have a rather large difference. When one says “true friend” or “true love” or “true to his oath”, the meaning of the adjective is closer to “loyal” or “faithful” than to “factually correct”, and these expressions can’t be reworded using “truth”. If you don’t care for modern dictionaries, here’s Webster 1913. Of course this doesn’t make JP-SH beating around the bush of the meaning of “true” any less silly.

              • spandrell February 5, 2017 at 11:10

                If “true” means “loyal”, then “truth” means “loyalty”. And, voila, the Webster 1913 agrees.

                I really insist we shouldn’t talk of words in isolation.

                • Candide III February 5, 2017 at 18:56

                  Yeah, I saw that this meaning is listed, but dictionaries don’t usually list the frequency of meanings. I’ll maintain, with no evidence whatsoever except my reading experience, that “true” is much more often used to mean “loyal/faithful” relative to all uses of “true” than “truth” is used for “loyalty/(good) faith” relative to all uses of “truth”. You should be the first to admit that language isn’t a neat Chomskian grammatical operator thing where Meaning(Adj(X))=Adj(Meaning(X)) etc. Anyway as I said JP-SH wrapping themselves around this axle (I lol’ed at that bit) is silly, and so is this. I’m all for puppy₁ and puppy₂.

  13. Alrenous January 30, 2017 at 04:03

    Jordan’s definition of true is truer than the common definition of true.

    If external reality exists, it is ‘noumenon,’ we can’t actually perceive it. As per Newton’s third law, to perceive is to be perceived. If we cannot touch it, it cannot touch us. ‘External reality’ exists if at all in an eternal realm beyond us mere mortals. Epistemology impinges upon ontology.

    Predictive truth is necessarily about relations between subjective phenomena. Having perceived a bright orange light and a perception of warmth, if I make the decision to move my hand too close, I predict I’ll perceive the sensation of burning.

    Especially if I don’t make that decision, although I can’t ever prove I was right, even to myself…I was in fact right. I would have in fact burned my hand. This does not mean there was a fire ‘out there.’ It just means my subjective perceptions have certain regularities in their relationships.

    Folk who believe less true things routinely get their ass whupped by societies who believe more true things.

  14. rcglinski January 30, 2017 at 17:53

    “Instead of understanding Economics, or Climate Science any other intellectual disciplines as being the same sort of intellectually dubious and politically charged discipline as history is, we have deluded ourselves into thinking they are epistemologically sound sciences such as physics or chemistry.”

    William Briggs has delved into the nuts and bolts of how this mistake is made on a day to day basis at universities. Here’s a representative sample, “The Cult of the Parameter.”

  15. John February 4, 2017 at 20:44

    I’ve been thinking about the gap between rationality and evolutionary psychology after reading your posts here on Jordan Peterson and wanted to spit it out here.

    We are not machines who were programmed to be rational. The human brain is not a rationality device.
    We evolved not to be rational but to survive and reproduce, which requires some elements of rationality but is distinctly different from it. Because of this we have millions of years worth of cognitive bias built into our brains, which cause us to think and act in sometimes irrational ways.

    The problem then is how do we map the science of rationality, based on the laws of the universe, onto the human mind, which is based also on those same laws but has a lot of heuristics and biases built in as coping devices.

    You can explain to someone why having a fear of the dark is no longer always rational, for example when you get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and the lights are off, you know there isn’t a wild animal waiting in the darkness to attack you, but even the most rational person might walk just a little quicker into the light because of the ingrained fear based on what was reality many generations ago.

    We need to incorporate into rationality some sort of system of acknowledged irrationality, where we take into account all the craziness of our brains, all the heuristics and biases that have evolved over time to help us survive.

    The irrationality of the brain explains why myths and religions have arisen, but instead of trying to dismiss them as irrational, we should accept them as being the gap between the logical rules the universe runs on, and the sometimes screwy rules that have helped us survive and thrive until now.

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