30 Jun 2020

Jordan Peterson Asked About the Resurrection

Jordan Peterson, Religious 10 Comments

I thought this was very interesting:

10 Responses to “Jordan Peterson Asked About the Resurrection”

  1. Harold says:

    My interpretation is that he does not believe in the physical resurrection. He could easily just say so if he did. He says the sticking point is the bodily resurrection of Christ. He fails to say what he believes about this, but obfuscates. To him the message seems crucial, but the truth (in the usual sense of aligning with reality) does not matter.

    He does not know what to make of the idea of the physical resurrection. He does not know what it means metaphysically. This is clearly not a problem for most Christians. They know what to make of it. Christ died and was resurrected to rise again. What is there to make of this? Either it did or it did not happen.

    This is a classic example of Peterson waffling about what things mean to avoid saying what he believes.

    My interpretation is that he does not beieve in the physical resurrection. He believes that there is some important archetypal message in the resurrection that we can learn from, but it did not actually happen. To say so would alienate much of his following. He therefore obfuscates and dissembles so nobody can understand with any confidence what he really thinks about it.

    Peterson has said that (among other things) God is your highest value. Since we all have a highest value, nobody is an atheist. Therefore, he denies that professed atheists are actually atheists, because they act acccording to their values. Belief in God is not required for one to be a theist, apparently. He has his own definition of truth, which does not line up with most peoples’ use of the term. A general definition is something like “that which aligns with reality”, whereas his is along the lines of “that which is succesful”

    It is fine for him to use the term any way he wants, as long as he makes it clear what he means. What he does is use terms according to his special defiitions and rely on the audience intepreting those terms according to the more general interpretation. A sort of smuggled equivocation fallacy. So is it true that the resurrection happened? By Peterson’s defiition it could be “true” without it actually happening in what we usually refer to as “reality”.

    Somewhat complicated, but if you want to understand what Peterson says, this is what you have deal with.

    I have spent more time than I probably should have to figure this out, but I do now think I have a reasonable insight into his apparently non-commital and contradictory statements.

    • skylien says:

      Well, or he knows, that he just doesn’t know if he should or can believe in the phyiscal resurrection. So he can’t say what you think he should say. When I hear him talk about this, I hear a man wrestling with god.

      • Harold says:

        He could just say “I don’t know” if that were the case.

    • Mark says:

      Harold, you are exactly right. Peterson is a weasel and certainly not a Christian. I have been pointing this out for years in places like this blog, I think Tom Woods’, and the Bionic Mosquito.iirc, Peterson once said of the subject of the Resurrection that he would need about three years to consider and come to some sort of conclusion. So many Christians have been duped by this goon.

      • Harold says:

        It is nice to agree about something 🙂

      • scineram says:

        When did he say he was Christian?

        • Harold says:

          August 2017.


          Q “Are you a Christian?”

          JP ” I suppose the most straightforward answer to that is yes, although I think it’s … it’s … let’s leave it at ‘yes’.”

          The rest of the video backs up what I said above – if you watch it with my interpretation in mind.

          He goes on to say “there are truths other than the literal, perhaps even more truthful than literal truth.”

          In a classic Peterson quote, when asked did Jesus rise from the dead, he responds, after a pause for thought: “the first answer would be “it depends on what you mean by Jesus.”

          He explains he is agnostic about the actual bodily resurrection.

          The terms atheist and agnostic are fraught with confusion. These days, most prominent atheists use the term to mean “I am not convinced there are gods.” That is fine, as long as it is made clear what is meant and everyone does not talk past one-another.

          Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy maintains that, at least in a philosophical sense, atheism is the proposition that gods do not exist. This is because theism is the proposition that god exists, rather than the state of mind of believing god exists. If it were the state of mind it would make no sense to argue for the truth or otherwise of theism. You cannot argue against the state of another’s mind.

          When we oppose thesim with atheism, we must again be referring to the propositional content, not he state of mind. Atheism cannot be the state of mind of not believing (of not being convinced) if theism is not the state of mind of believing. According to Stanford, atheism, in Philosophy at least is the proposition that gods do not exist.

          Agnosticism has similar problems. In philosophy “-isms” refer to propositions not states of mind since only the former can be tested by argument. T.H Huxley coined the term “agnostic” to describe a person who is not convinced of the god proposition.. It has essentially the same meaning as “atheist” used by the hypothetical atheist in my example above. We the have a problem with the term “agnosticism” because -isms should describe propositions, not states of mind. To be consistent, agnosticism should not be referring to the phsycholocial state of mind of someone who is agnostic..

          This leads to pointless exchanges where an atheist explains what he means (not convinced) and the interlocutor says “but that is not atheism! That is a belief no gods exist!” The only thing that is important is that both parties understand what they mean by terms. If one party says they mean this, it makes no sense for the other to say “you are wrong.”

          Arguments from etymology are not valid -“a” means “not” and “theist” means believe in god, therefore “atheist” only means you do not believe in god. This is an awful argument – using the current rather than etymological meaning of “awful” (full of awe).

          This is why it is important to define terms for a discussion. Absolutely not to establish the “correct” meaning, but just so the parties understand each other. Words should be an aid to communication, not a barrier.

          Some say theism is about belief and agnosticism is about knowledge. These may describe themselves as as agnostic atheist – meaning they are not convinced of the god proposition but they cannot claim this is true knowledge. Whilst the philosophers have genuine problems with this meaning, I think it does well enough for public discourse. the point is, spend a few minutes understanding what the person you are talking to means by the terms so you can discuss ideas rather than definitions.

          So when Peterson uses Truth with a different meaning to “that which comports with reality” or something similar, it is not wrong per se. But he must explain what he means if communication is to be effective. I think he does attempt to do this, but his explanations often leave the audience confused. If it requires 6 hours to explain what you mean by a common term, I think there is something wrong with your explanation or your ideas.

          • Tel says:

            An atheist is an agnostic who has thought about it a bit harder.

            These days, most prominent atheists use the term to mean “I am not convinced there are gods.” That is fine, as long as it is made clear what is meant and everyone does not talk past one-another.

            No there’s two parts and you have stopped at the first one. I am not convinced there are gods AND it’s healthy practice to default to disbelieving in those things which cannot be convincingly demonstrated with evidence.

            The first part is based on what kind of evidence exists for God (which is one long and involved argument) and the second part is a very important philosophical outlook on life, in as much as if you play “Pascal’s Wager” you end up needing to not only believe in one God but in every possible God. Atheism is really a statement of efficiency … while agnostics are so efficient they don’t even worry about the problem to begin with.

            It is an interesting mathematical puzzle how much of your limited life resources you should devote to relatively unlikely scenarios, and how to sort those based on quite limited information. Should I worry at all about what happens after I die? Maybe I should devote 5% of my life to investigating the possibility, but how much balance between the Christian notion of Heaven, and the Buddhist notion of Enlightenment? Suppose somehow I conclude that the Christians are right after all, how much of my life is worth devoting to doing the things that might get me into Heaven, vs doing other things that are more useful in the short term? Maybe a giant meteor will hit just moments before I finally achieve salvation, so I end up wasting that effort and not get into Heaven anyhow because I really should have been investigating where that meteor was going to come down. That’s the thing: there’s a very large number of entirely possible but highly unlikely outcomes.

            If there were a very large proportion of the Earth’s population who are total atheists, then the single agnostic person could reason, “Look at all those people who searched hard for life after death and came back empty handed … I’m already empty handed but I have not wasted any time searching, but if I did search I’m not likely to do any better than all the atheists did … so don’t bother.”

            • Harold says:

              I may have over-stated the “most” atheists, maybe “many” is a better term.

              I think you are right about the second part, but it becomes a bit circular.

              What is disbelief? Is it not believing, or is it believing the thing does not exist?

              Standing by a quiet road, I am asked “do you believe a truck is going to come round that corner in the next few seconds?” I would answer “no”, because most of the time there will not be a truck coming. However, I check before crossing the road anyway. I have a lot of confidence in the absence of the truck, but also some confidence in the proposition that there is a truck coming. Trucks exist and they do travel on roads, even quiet ones.

              If I was being chased by distant wolves, I would not check if I believed crossing would offer a better chance of escape.

              Do I believe in the truck?

              It only really matters if it affects one’s actions. I think this is what the rest of your comment is about.

              Many atheists divide the question into belief and knowledge. Do I believe God does not exist? Yes. Do I know God does not exist? No. Hence the “agnostic atheist” position. It works fine for me, but there are philosophical reasons to reject the term on technical grounds – these need not concern us too much, I think.

              It all gets fuzzy, because we have no logical refutation of hard solipsism – that I am the only thing that exists, or the brain in a vat argument, or everything created 5 seconds ago with all memories etc. We must accept something without true knowledge. I think most people accept that there is an external reality and other minds exist. It is necessary to function. I use that as my basis.

              So in one sense, we don’t know anything. We must have a starting position of things we just accept. The atheist position is to have a few of these as possible. Once we have accepted these starting positions, we can reasonable talk of knowledge, often described as justified true belief.

              In the truck example, before checking I believe the truck does not exist, but I do not know it. After checking, I know it does not exist.

              Many contemporary atheists think that the level of evidence is sufficient for them to claim that they know God does not exist, others do not. It is much simpler to adopt the agnostic atheist position in arguments, because the burden of proof is on the theist and we can avoid lengthy discussion of when belief becomes knowledge. If the level of confidence in the God proposition is very low, it makes no practical difference as it does not affect one’s actions anyway.

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