Sunday, May 26, 2019

Dr. Jordan Peterson and the primacy of free speech

Below are partial transcripts from Dr. Jordan Peterson's talk at the Public Library in Ottawa, March 11, 2017.

The signs Fr. Tony's wears to protest the attack on our free speech rights, uses these words from Dr. Peterson's talk:
"The primacy of free speech - cornerstone of western civilization - without free speech the state is a corpse"
Jordan Peterson is a professor and clinical psychologist at Toronto University. He stressed the primacy of free speech for a society to survive, in his talk. Below are the links to his talk and some excerpts from his talk. Emphasis are Fr. Tony's.

I love the way Dr. Peterson posits how free speech goes back to Genesis and God's Word. (Q&A Part II, 23:05) (Q&A Part II: final, 2738)

“So here’s the idea that lurks at the beginning of Genesis. So, there’s three elements that are involved in the creation of habitable order, from chaos, at the beginning of time. One of them is, whatever is represented by God the Father, and one of them is whatever is represented by the chaos that exists at the same time, and the other is whatever is represented by the idea of God’s Word. That’s the Logos from a Christian perspective which is a very, very strange idea. So there’s this idea that developed over the course of thousands of years, that the redeeming Saviour was also the thing that God used to extract habitable order out of chaos at the beginning of time. It’s a very strange idea and to assimilate an idea of that preposterousness and magnitude to mere pre-rational superstition is foolish. First of all because we don’t even understand what it means. But it means something utterly profound and it means something that we cannot forget. We forget it at our peril. The story at the beginning of Genesis means that structure, that’s the Father, that’s the patriarchy, if you will, structure extracts habitable order from chaos through speech, and that’s what we do. …

“[W]e partake in the capacity to extract habitable order from chaos with our consciousness, with our speech and with our capacity to communicate. …You understand that in that communication between people something of inestimable value emerges that you have to pursue, and you live for that.… It’s the core of meaning in life, and it’s not an illusion. In fact it’s a manifestation of the highest functions of your nervous system … your nervous system which has evolved over billions of years has learned to tell you when you’re standing on the border between chaos and order and keeping them in balance, and that’s what manifests itself as meaningful and that’s the same phenomena that’s referred to in the creation stories in Genesis and it’s the same idea that’s reflected in this strange Christian insistence that the thing that saves mankind is the same thing that draws order from chaos at the beginning of time. It’s unbelievably brilliant and we’ve been trying to figure it out for, who knows how long, forever, and have never been able fully to articulate it because it’s so complicated. It’s such a complicated idea, but there’s nothing in the least illusory about it” (40:28-44:53).
“[R]espect for the Logos and respect for free speech are the same thing, and that without that respect our societies cannot maintain their structure, differentiate and progress. They cannot do it. We use our free speech to face the chaotic potential of the world and its horrors, to structure it, to understand it, to communicate about it and to reach consensus. It’s the mechanism by which we adapt. There can be no restrictions put upon that unless you want to sacrifice adaptation, and I wouldn’t recommend that. Things get stale, old, decayed, dead and dangerous, with extraordinary rapidity...if living people don’t maintain their responsibility to update the state...It’s an ancient, ancient idea, and the reason that we haven’t forgotten it was because everyone who forgot it, died, so unless that’s where we want to go we better stop forgetting about it. … (47:50-49:02).

“And because we are constantly being presented with new things we need to keep that individual variability paramount because it’s upon that variability that the very state depends and that’s actually what the West discoveredThat’s why we have always subordinated the state to the divinity of the individual, and that’s expressed, as I already said, in the primacy of free speech in our civilization. It’s the cornerstone, the primacy of free speech, and it’s because the individual has something to offer the state, and so state identity is something that can only, it can structure, and it can reassure, but it also constrains to too great a degree, and so societies that become only state, immediately become old, and blind, malevolent, and collapse, and that’s an ancient story... But that’s the relationship that has to obtain between the individual and the state. The state is a corpse. The state is dead, but it’s a gift that the dead have given to you, and you have to provide it with vision, and with speech, because otherwise it can only blunder around like a zombie. You go to university, you become educated, so that you can serve as the eye, and the mouth of the rejuvenated state. … But that’s the purpose of that education, to turn you into the thing that ensures that the entire ship doesn’t founder and sink, and that’s your responsibility. And if you’re looking for a meaning in your life, that’s the meaning. Keep the state afloat. Why? Well, because it’s better for us all to be in a ship than drowning in the icy water, and that’s the alternative” (54:21-57:36).

“So I would say, you support free speech because it’s the mechanism that maintains the sanity of the individual and society, and you live in relationship with the spoken truth to the best of your ability because the alternative is Hell, and if Hell is what you want, then you can remain arrogant, and resentful, and deceitful, but if you want to work to better the world, to bring it up to what it might be, then you speak forthrightly, you clarify yourself, and you act properly in the world and then you see what happens (1:09:37-1:10:21)”.

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