2016 Personality Lecture 09: Phenomenology: Heidegger, Binswanger, Boss

2016 Personality Lecture 09: Phenomenology: Heidegger, Binswanger, Boss


So last time, we talked a little bit about
the state of the world of belief, I suppose, by the end of the nineteenth century and I
talked to you a little about Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky, and Kierkegaard. Um, a very large number of the clinical theories
that we’re going to be discussing for another two lectures after this one have been influenced
by philosophers, and that’s partly why I’m also talking to you about the philosophers. It’s almost as if in some sense the great
philosophers have – are tapped directly into the lower strata of our cultural systems of
meaning as they move forward in time, and they can outline what those structures are
and also describe their weaknesses, and their strengths, and their likely transformations
moving forward. You know, I mean obviously people can be behind
the times, and it’s just as probable that some people are ahead of the times and we
would assume, if you’re thinking about it, say, from a Big Five trait perspective that
the people who are ahead of the times often are very, very intelligent and very, very
open, and of course that’s a pretty good definition of a philosopher. So, Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, more than any
other two thinkers had their finger on the pulse of the transmutation of cultural systems
of meaning at the end of the nineteenth century, and they were both concerned about the fact
that the systems of meaning within which Western civilization at least had taken shape, had
been fragmented for a variety of reasons, the most important of which was likely the
rise of the scientific worldview, and as I detailed to you in the last lecture, both
Dostoevsky and Nietzsche believed that that had left modern people because I think in
the early twentieth century, it was Western people but I now think it’s reasonable to
say that it’s modern people in a state of – they’re – of cultural discontinuity. The things – belief systems but also technological
systems now have transformed the world so radically that the conflict between modernism
and traditional forms of belief is acutely felt everywhere. It’s certainly, I think, one of the forces
that have given rise to the battle between Islamic fundamentalism and modernism because
it’s more than a battle of Islamic fundamentalism against the Western world, and the problem,
fundamentally, is that people typically exist within cultural constructs that are very,
very ancient, and that have – that are grounded in evolved systems of meaning that are even
deeper than the ones that are articulated and explicit, and when there’s a period of
very, very rapid cognitive and technological change, then the integrity of those systems
starts to… it starts to become questionable from an explicit perspective but it also starts
to become insufficient from a practical perspective. So, one example that you might give some consideration
to is the fact of the introduction of the birth control pill, for example. If you listen to politically minded people,
they make the case that the emancipation of women was essentially a political matter,
but I don’t think that’s a very reasonable way of looking at it at all. Of course, everything feeds back onto itself
and there are multiple causal pathways to any end. The radical element in the emancipation of
women was of course the development of efficient forms of contraception, most particularly
the birth control pill, and it’s the case that as soon as you educate women anywhere
in the world, not only does economic productivity arise dramatically, in fact it’s actually
the best predictor of increasing economic productivity in a modernizing state is the
granting of rights to women. Now whether it’s directly because of the
granting of rights to women or because of the existence of an underlying belief structure
that allows the concept of right to expand quite rapidly is a very difficult to be sure
of, but in any case that exists, and then of course the other thing that happens is
that women stop having children unbelievably rapidly. So for example, I think – I believe it’s
Iran where this has been most marked over the last two generations, so from family sizes
far greater than replacement to family sizes well below replacement in basically one or
two generations. It’s a massive transformation, and it’s
not necessarily something that anyone expected. It’s part of the sequence of forces that
are rapidly allowing our population to reach a peak and either stabilize or decline. Now I don’t know how many of you know this,
but the projections are there’ll be nine billion people on the Earth within thirty
to fifty years, and that’ll be our peak population. After that it will fall rapidly, and you know,
you can see that sort of thing happening right now all over the Western world, and it’s
happening a lot in China, and it’s happening a lot in Japan where, you know, there are
more older people than there are younger people because the younger people aren’t having enough
children to actually replace the population. So the probability that we’ll peak at about
nine billion and then start to fall, it’s not certain but that’s what the best projections
seem to indicate now. So what happens anyways with in periods of
very rapid technological and cognitive transformation because those things go together that the
certainties upon which people base their interpretation of the world and even more importantly, base
their judgements about how to act start to become uncertain. So for example, if you introduce the birth
control pill into a population, and you put women’s reproductive faculties under their
own voluntary choice, then you radically transform virtually all of society’s fundamental social
structures, not least marriage, and marriage of course has been regarded classically as
the foundation of civilization, and of course, increasingly there are more people who aren’t
married than there are people who are married. Now, it’s very difficult to know what to
make of that because of course there’s no setting the clock back, and it’s not even
clear that you would want to set back the clock if you could, but expecting cultural
constructs, which take centuries or maybe even thousands or maybe even tens of thousands
of years to develop, to keep up with change of that magnitude is…it’s not possible. You know, I mean and you guys face technological
transformations that are earth-shattering on an almost yearly basis, and you hardly
even notice it. I mean, Tinder is a good example of that,
you know. I don’t know if you know, but Tinder has
produced quite a spike in sexually transmitted diseases, but you know, it’s a radical technology
because it’s the first technology that’s ever been invented that enables men to find
partners with no fear – with virtually no fear of rejection, and of course that’s been
a limiting factor for… that’s been a defining feature between the interactions between men
and women ever since history began, and so these things are occurring at an extraordinary
rate, and of course it’s not reasonable to expect our more slower moving cultural
constructs to keep up with them, and that’s partly because as well that, you know, people
talk for example about the divisive nature of religion. You often hear people who are critics of formal
religion in particular talk about the fact that religion underlies a tremendous amount
of destruction and warfare and conflict, and you know, first of all it isn’t religion that
does that by the way, it’s tribalism, and tribalism characterizes even chimpanzees,
and I don’t think chimpanzees go to war with each other for religious reasons. So, you know, the religious groupings of mankind
are large-scale manifestations of the same phenomena that produce dominance hierarchies
in the wild, and of course, large-scale religions unite people within the religion just as much
as they divide people on the outside of it, so part of the accumulation of religious tradition
across time is a process that allows thousands, and ten thousands, and even millions of people
to exist within the same hierarchy of values and exist relatively peacefully as a consequence. Now I’m saying relatively peacefully. You know, a hundred years ago, it was thought
that pre, let’s say archaic people, so those would be people who are still living a fairly
isolated tribal life in small groups – pre – you know, basically operating at the level
of stone age technology, let’s say. The idea was – there was a very popular idea
for a long time that those cultures were communistic and violence free, and that’s wrong. They’re not violence free at all. If you track the homicide rates in stone-age
cultures, they’re way, way higher than they are in civilized cultures, like orders of
magnitudes higher, and there’s a variety of reasons for that, but I’m just telling you
that because you want to dispense with the idea that along with complex civilizations
and the spread, say, of unifying religious beliefs, there was an increase in baseline
violence because there’s just no evidence for that at all. Now, the problem with these large-scale belief
systems is they’re not very fast, and part of the reason for that is that in order for
a large-scale belief system to manifest itself in any reasonable form, it has to be predicated
on the mutual agreement of the people within who…within – who operate within its embrace,
you know. So, for Toronto to exist as city, as a peaceful
city, basically what has to happen is that the vast majority of us have to agree that
the rules that govern the city, and the social interactions within the city are useful and
just, and because if you don’t agree with that, then splinter movements of all sorts
start to occur and people become more revolutionary in their modes of action and then they become
more violent and the whole system starts to break down. So it’s not easy to establish a collective
norm because people have to agree to it, and you can imagine that hammering out agreement
with anything, with even a small agreement that affects many, many people, is a process
that takes a tremendous amount of time. People can argue forever about the smallest
alterations in the systems that regulate our behavior. Now, you know, some of you might be familiar
with the terror management theories. How many of you have heard of terror management
theory? Okay, well the terror management theories
are predicated on the idea that our belief systems protect us from our fear of death. Now exactly how they do that isn’t specified
particularly well in the terror management theories but the originator of the theory
– his name was Ernest Becker who was a sociologist, by the way, and a Freudian – believed that
cultural systems enabled us to attribute beliefs to our actions, finite and infinite, so that
we could consider ourselves in relationship to mortality and in some sense, hide from
the truth of the finitude of our existence. Now, one of the things that terror management
theorists don’t really give any credence to is the fact that belief systems are not only
systems of beliefs, they’re systems of action regulation, right. So we talked about the Piagetian notion of
a game. I mean, the game exists first as something
that everyone can play and only later as something that people represent, and a social culture’s
the same way. A cultural… A culture regulates the way that you interact
with each other, and what you expect from each, and how you can fulfill your mutual
– your needs in relationship to one another and then it’s represented, and the representation
might help you find meaning in your life, but the fact of the initial social contract,
which is the phenomena that regulates your interpersonal behavior, doesn’t protect you
from the fear of death, it protects you from dying, and that’s a very important thing to
note. I mean, you know, all of you know, of course,
that it’s very cold out today, and yet here you are in this classroom where it’s, you
know, ridiculously comfortable, you know, by classroom standards and of course by standards
around the world. You’re not freezing to death in here, and
that’s not your belief that’s protecting you. It’s the fact that you’re embedded in this
insanely complicated system of cultural interactions and it just so happens that you get to sit
here and listen to a lecture while there’s thousands of people beetling around, many
of them outside in the cold, making sure that the power grid, for example, that keeps this
place warm is properly maintained and functional which takes a tremendous amount of work. So, in during periods of rapid transformation,
it’s hard for the social contract to adjust itself so that everyone knows how to behave
in relationship to one another, but then it’s also very difficult for the description of
that, so the articulated norms that constitute a society; it’s very difficult of them to
transform rapidly enough so that they can keep track of the changes and help people
decide what they should do, so let me give you an example. So, I had a client a while back who had been
raised as a fundamentalist Christian, and she was very… she had been socialized and
had come to believe that sex before marriage was wrong, but the probability that she was
going to get married before she was 27, or 28, was low for a whole variety of reasons. So then she faced this conundrum, and it was
an interesting conundrum from my perspective because, you know, I think that in a well-regulated
psyche, sexuality is integrated into the personality so that it plays its role in the – what would
you call – in the polity of the self. It’s integrated properly inside, and so
it’s under moral control, roughly speaking because it serves its own function plus the
function of keeping the person well situated in the present and developing properly in
the future, and maintaining proper relationships with everyone around them, but it was quite
obvious to me that a lot of the constraints that had been placed on her behavior, as a
consequence of her relatively rigid belief were actually interfering with her development
as a person, you know, and so one of the things we had to puzzle out was well, exactly what
are the moral guidelines that you should use to regulate your sexual behavior outside of
marriage if you’re not planning to be married for, you know, maybe until your late twenties. Well, you know good luck trying to figure
that out. Like it’s a really – it’s a really, really,
really, really complicated question, and it’s certainly not obvious that any one person
can figure out the answer to that in a single lifetime, you know, even if they thought of
nothing else especially because the landscape itself is transforming as you’re attempting
to adjust to it, and you know, we eventually concluded – although it was a very individual
solution – we eventually concluded that there were things that she had forbidden herself
to do that were stopping her from establishing any kind of long term relationship at all,
and that was interfering with her development, you know, as a mature person, and that the
morality that she had used to structure her behavior appeared to be counterproductive
at least in, you know, some – in some areas. So, it’s one thing to, you know, to regulate
sexuality in the hopes of marriage when you get married when you’re, you know, 19 or 20
or 21. It’s a completely different thing, perhaps,
when it’s not going to happen until you’re in your late twenties. So now, Nietzsche talked a lot, and Dostoevsky
talked a lot about the collapse of meaning systems in the late nineteenth century, and
you know, that was followed by a very, very rapid period of technological transformation,
like that really kicked in in the late 1800’s, which was the, you know, well it was the height
of the industrial revolution, particularly in England, and there were modern technologies
being thrust out of the industrial revolution like mad, like the automobile, and the airplane,
and the electrical light, and the recording devices, and all the things that we’re still
elaborating on now, and then of course, apart from the collapse of classic, say, Christian
belief, and the introduction of all these new technologies, when World War I hit, the
entire monarchical structure of the Western world collapsed and that also occurred, say,
with regards to the Ottoman Empire, and that was partly what led to the creation of the
modern Middle East, and of course, that still hasn’t been sorted out to any greater degree
at all. So the monarchical structures collapsed, these
ancient civilizations. The Russians underwent their revolution, and
were transformed into Communists, and then after World War I, the stress between the
potential different ways of structuring societies after the monarchical societies had collapsed
was almost unbearable, and people didn’t really know what to do. Now, what happened at the end of Nietzsche’s
period and Dostoevsky’s period was that the question that both of those people…what? The most important question both of those
people asked became the central focus of the development of philosophical idea of ethics
in the twentieth century. So you could think about those – about that
as a post-religious ethic. Now, the reason I’m telling you this is
because, among other things, is because a lot of what psychoanalytic, or psychotherapeutic
treatment is about, is about ethics, and that can’t be stretched too much because ethics
is about how you see the world and how you behave, and so even behaviorists who are technically
embedded in the scientific world are still practical ethicists because what they’re consistently
doing with their clients is breaking down whatever the problems are that are causing
them misery, breaking them down into subproblems and trying to figure out solutions that improve
their quality of life, like practical, implementable solutions that improve their quality of life
not only now, but as they propagate into the future, and that is not a scientific issue. It’s a how to live issue. So, the entire history of the twentieth century,
in some sense, political, economic, psychological, was a sequence of attempts to answer the question
“When your fundamental systems of ethics collapse, how is is that you should live?” Now, Nietzsche said, very clearly, that there’d
be two consequences to the collapse of these systems, and one would be nihilism, the belief
in nothing at all, which also regarded as a form of escape from responsibility, so it’s
a logical consequence of the breakdown of classical belief systems, but it’s also
a cop-out and it’s the kind of cop-out that Dostoevsky explored very deeply in his small,
brilliant novel, “Notes from Underground” which describes a person who’s basically
slipped — an intelligent person, and an irresponsible person, who has basically slipped into a pit
of meaninglessness where he experiences hatred and resentment and the desire for revenge,
and all of the sorts of things that would — that afflict someone in the underworld
who’s got nothing to hold them together, and then of course, Nietzsche also talked
about the likelihood that people would turn to totalitarian belief systems, and he particularly
discussed Communism as a replacement for religious belief. I can give you a Canadian example of that. So, I heard a Gallup pollster one time. I was at a conference in Ottawa. It’s the only time I’ve ever heard this,
and I think it’s an amazing — it’s an amazing fact. They were looking at the probability that
people would be separatists in Quebec, and if you were a lapsed Catholic, the probability
that you would be a Separatist was increased ten times, and the reason for that is, you
know, Catholicism fell apart in Quebec in the late 1950s. It was one of the last places in the Western
world, roughly speaking, where the feudal, in some sense, structures of Catholicism had
maintained themselves right up to that point, right up to the 1950s, the late 1950s, and
that collapsed precipitously just like belief in Christianity had in Russia, you know, in
the late, say, 1880s, and what happened in Quebec was, well first of all, the birth rate
plummeted. I mean, I did genetic research in Quebec,
and in the 1950s and before that, it was very typical to see families of nine to thirteen
children, and of course – but now Quebec has the lowest birth rate, I believe, in the Western
world. It’s way below replacement. Everybody bailed out of the church. Nobody gets married, and if you were a separatist
– if you were a lapsed Catholic, you were ten times more likely to be a separatist. All that meant was that when Catholicism fell
apart, you know, people who still needed to have very structured belief systems just turned
to Nationalism as a natural alternative, and that’s part of what a — that’s part of
what accounted for the rigidity and utopian… the utopian nature of the Quebec movement
towards independence. You know, I remember talking to one of my
colleagues, very, very intelligent person, and you know, I asked him because at that
point, they were predicting that if Quebec separated, the Canadian dollar would fall
to forty cents, forty-five cents US, something like that. It’d be a complete economic catastrophe. I said, well you know the predictions are
that if Canada separates, or Quebec separates and no one would know how to do that, is that
the Canadian economy will collapse, and of course, that’ll collapse the Quebec economy
too, and he didn’t deny that. He said, yeah but it would be worth it. And I thought, well there’s just no way of
having a conversation under those circumstances because from my perspective, total, you know,
severe economic collapse is a good reason not to do something, but if you believed that
the future potential is such that that’s justified, then well there’s no arguing with
you. It’s just something that decided, and that’s
the end of that. When I lived in Quebec, as I did for a long
time, I learned very quickly never to have a discussion about politics with anyone who
was a separatist because it was just absolutely counterproductive, you know. They had axioms of belief that weren’t movable,
like the future will be good enough so that no matter what price we pay in the present,
that will be justified. It’s like, well that’s not an idea right. It’s a statement of faith, and you saw exactly
the same thing happening, not with the same principles, I’m not saying that, but you
saw the same thing happening from a psychological perspective in Russia when the Communists
really started to become active in the 1920s when any matter of horror whatsoever was fully
justifiable because it was going to bring about some future state that was basically
equivalent to paradise. So anyways, and then you know, Dostoevsky
pursued the idea of nihilism even farther because Dostoevsky was certainly someone who
was willing to go to the ends of an argument, and one of the things he proclaimed was that
if there was no god, then anything was permitted, and his basic hypothesis was well if there’s
no ultimate arbiter of values, if there’s no transcendent arbiter of values, then you’re
radically free. Now, you know, the existentialists would say
you could use that radical freedom to find meaning in your life, but one of the things
Dostoevsky realized was that you could use that radical freedom for anything that you
wanted. So in his book “Crime and Punishment,”
for example, he explores the actions and beliefs of a student who was named Raskolnikov, and
Raskolnikov is a starving student. He’s a law student, and he doesn’t have
enough to eat so of course his cognition is a little bit on the addled side because he’s
going through periods of starvation and drunkenness, so it’s not like he’s thinking that clearly. He wants to become a law student so that he
can help society, and he finds out that his sister is basically willing to enter into
a loveless marriage and more or less prostitute herself so that she can generate enough money
to share with her mother so that they can fund his continuation through law school,
and he thinks that wouldn’t be a very good deal. At the same time, he’s indebted to a pawnbroker
who everyone hates, who’s an absolutely miserable person in every possible way, and
Dostoevsky sets up the situation like that, so the pawnbroker has a niece, if I remember
correctly who she basically enslaves and mistreats, and she squirrels away all sorts of money
but never does anything with it, lives in absolute poverty, and anyways, he considers
her the sort of person without whom the world would be a better place. So having all these things co-occurring in
his imagination, he decides that because there are no ultimate arbiters of value, that all
morality is essentially cowardice which is kind of the reverse of what nietzsche concluded. He said most people were cowardly and justified
that with their morality, but Raskolnikov took the other idea which is “Well why do
I have to obey any rules at all. If there’s no ultimate source for all of
these rules, it’s just convention and cowardice, and if I have enough strength then I could
leap outside of that framework and I can do whatever I want.” So he decides to kill the pawnbroker which
he does, and quite successfully, and not only that, he gets away with it, and that’s about
the first third of “Crime and Punishment,” and the rest of the book is the discussion
of the manner in which he comes unglued as a consequence of having performed this act,
and it’s a brilliant – it’s an absolutely brilliant study of the way that a value system
holds you together even in ways that you don’t know, and then if you step outside of that
and violate your relationship to it in some really intense way, then there’s going to
be catastrophic psychological consequences that’ll echo through your whole being. We know that this is more than theory because
many people, soldiers in particular who develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, develop Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder when they observe themselves doing something that they regard
as tremendously cruel, or vicious, or immoral, you know, and they’re in this situation where,
you know, acting in that manner is highly probable. It’s a war situation. It’s usually very intense, and you know,
they don’t have a lot of time to make decisions, and god only knows, you know, what the specifics
are of the particular event, but many, many people come to be so shattered by observing
themselves do things they can’t believe that a human being would be capable of doing that
they never recover, and it’s partly because, you know, that they violate their ethical
— the ethical structure that holds them together, holds all their ideas, and their plans, and
their perceptions, and their interactions with other people. That’s a unifying field in some sense, and
if you violate it and it fragments, then you’re left absolutely fragmented and that’s not
— that’s not even a psychological observation, it’s a psychophysiological observation. You can stress yourself so badly, raise your
stress levels so high that your brain starts to become damaged by the stress hormone and,
you know, so it’s not just a psychological state, it’s damage to the core of your being
in some sense. Now, the collapse of these belief systems
and their destabilization was well thought through by these thinkers by the end of the
nineteenth century, and then we have the technological transformations, and the sociological and
political transformations of the early part of the twentieth century that leaves everyone
in a state of confusion, in some sense, like in Germany in the 1920’s. Of course, the Germans had gone through this
terrible period of trench warfare, so all their men were brutalized. Some of them had been on the front for months,
and that was in the trenches, and then, you know, their political system had collapsed
and they put a weakly rooted democracy in place, and the economic system collapsed and
Germany went through a period of hyperinflation so that the value of their money basically
dropped to zero. So that meant if you were 65 years old, and
saved up your whole life to have enough money to retire, and you were a good citizen, you
know, and prudent and careful, every single thing you ever owned disappeared, and so at
the same time, you know, the Communist revolution had taken place in Soviet Russia, and there
was great concern within Germany that the same thing was likely to happen there, and
certainly the Communists were always pushing for that because they had the common term,
which is the international Communist movement which was devoted to destabilizing, you know,
non-Communist governments and producing the preconditions for the revolution, so it wasn’t
like it was just paranoia, it was a real threat, and it was out of all that mess that came
the emergence of the fascists, and the Nazis, and it’s not that, you know, it’s not
that surprising because chaos breeds the desire for order. So that was one direction that people could
go, you know, instead of following some abstract Messiah, let’s say, the sort of idea that
was embedded in classical Christianity, they realized a new Messiah, and that was Hitler,
and that certainly didn’t seem to be any improvement, you know, because Hitler was really a messiah
of destruction and fire, and you know, the World War II killed about a hundred and twenty
million people, and of course, it left Germany in absolute ruins, and Hitler killed himself
in his bunker underneath Berlin while it was burning and the Russians were advancing into,
you know, into Germany, and they were not happy. You didn’t want to be a German national while
the Soviets were advancing towards you after your country had invaded theirs, pushed them
back halfway across the Soviet Union, you know, and produced a tremendous amount of
damage and distress. It was an awful situation, you know, and the
messiahs that the Russians turned to: Lenin, and Stalin were barbaric and brutal beyond
comprehension, and you know it’s a strange thing, you know, we’re not very well educated
in what happened in the Soviet Union in the twentieth century. We know far more about what happened in Germany,
say with the Holocaust, and you know, it’s very important that people should know about
that, but there were tens of millions of people brutally destroyed in the Soviet Union, and
you know, partly because they were murdered by people who were, at least in principle,
motivated by left-wing utopian visions. We seem to… our education system seems to
regard that as somehow more forgivable which it certainly isn’t. So, you know, the whole generate secular alternatives
to religious belief issue didn’t seem to work out very well, and then the nihilism alternative
— well that has its own problems, you know. One problem is the sort that Dostoevsky talked
about, you know, and you see the kids who go up and shoot up high schools and explode
in rage, you know. They’re often people who feel that they have
no meaning in their life, that life itself is contemptible and that suffering is too
extreme and that they bear the brunt of unfair reality, and you know, they develop unbelievably
dark and destructive theories of revenge and mayhem over, sometimes over the period of
years and then they go out in the world and lay those things out, and it’s not like
their thinking is irrational, you know. It’s coherent. It’s just predicated on principles that
you might not agree with, such as, you know, the principle that “everyone I don’t like
deserves to die,” but you know, in the absence of a really formal way of demonstrating that
such thoughts are not only immoral, but wrong, you know, in some absolute sense, it’s very
difficult to come up with ways of defending ourselves against those two extremes, you
know. The extreme of destructive nihilism, and the
extremes of ideological possession. Now, Nietzsche started to work out some solutions
to this, and I just started to touch on those at the end of the last lecture. You know, Dostoevsky’s solution was a return
to Christianity, fundamentally, and its revivification, and that was the same tact that Alexander
Solzhenitsyn attempted to lay out, and also Tolstoy in Russia, you know, and I’ll talk
to you about that a little bit more in the next lecture. Dostoevsky — or Nietzsche’s idea was that
people would have to… he said, you know, in his quote about the death of God, that
people would have to become like gods just to be able to tolerate the consequences of
this dismemberment of the previous civilization, and he believed, well his thinking on this,
I would say, is somewhat fragmentary. I mean, Nietzsche was a great critic of Christianity,
institutionalized Christianity, and a great diagnostician. He could say what was rotten at the core of
Western civilization, we’ll say modern civilization, but when it came to actually describing what
to do about it, well he didn’t live that long, you know. He died a fairly young man. There’s actually a video of Nietzsche in the
mental hospital online. I just found it the other night. I had no idea that he was ever captured on
video, but there’s video from — movie from about 1899 showing him in a mental hospital
where he ended up in his early forties. So he talked about the development of the
being he called the overman, which is often translated as superman, and his idea was that
people would have to take onto themselves the burden of creating new systems of meaning
and new moralities that were suited to them, that they would have to create new values. Now, Jung took Nietzsche’s diagnosis very,
very seriously, and you can certainly say that Jung was as much influenced by Nietzsche
as he was by Freud, and I would say in some ways, he was influenced more because one of
the things that Jung was trying to do was to identify where the loss values had gone. So the Nietzschean idea is that it’s possible
for human beings to create their own values. Now, there’s a problem with that, and there’s
a variety of problems with that, and one is that it doesn’t seem exactly true in that,
you know, and a lot of the existentialists who followed Nietzsche, like Jean-Paul Sartre
for example, believed in the radical freedom of human beings, that we were doomed to be
free, in a sense, and it was absolutely necessary for us to conjure up our own meanings and
values because fundamentally, we face the void and, you know, life was nasty, and brutish,
and short, to use Hobbes’s terms, and that we had to be able to confront that and live
despite it, and well, there’s a variety of problems with that solution. The first one is, well, if you come up with
your systems of values, there’s no reason — and I come up with mine, there’s no reason
to assume that they’re going to be sufficiently integrable so that we don’t have to fight
each other to the death. That’s a big problem. So, you know, you have every single person
with their own system of beliefs. Well, fine, except how do — in a sense, that’s
a structured, kind of philosophical anarchy. Well, okay, maybe that’s good if you happen
to live alone on an island, but if you’re stuck with all these other people, then that
becomes a very difficult thing to manage, and I think it’s partly for that reason
that Sartre famously said, “Hell is other people,” you know, because he thought of
the other, in some sense, that which was not him, as a suppressive force that stopped him
from manifesting his destiny in the way that would have been best for him. Well, you know, hell might be other people,
but that doesn’t mean that — first of all that’s a very one-sided way of looking at
things because, of course, hell is other people. Hell is you too, and you know, hell is nature. There’s lots of places that you can find hell,
but by the same token, you know, the most meaningful elements of people’s lives are
often in their social relationships, and you can’t lay everything at the door of pathological
society, you know, and we shouldn’t forget as well that Sartre didn’t… what — come up with any reasonable critique
of the Communists until the late 1960s, and you know, that was a little late. People with any sense, like George Orwell,
had figured out that the whole Soviet experiment had become radically murderous by the early
1940s, and so Sartre, you know, proposed radical freedom as a… as the existential response
to the unveiling of no meaning, but when it came right down to it, he couldn’t resist
identification with a totalitarian structure, so I don’t see any reason why we should really
pay any attention to what he had to say. So… and now there’s another problem with
the idea that people should create their own values, and that is that it’s not so simple,
you know, and the problem seemed to be that you don’t obey yourself very well. You know, you can say, “Well here’s my
code. I’m going to live by it.” So, and let’s do that simply to begin with. You say, “Well I’m going to study very
hard and do well at my classes,” just for the sake of argument, you know, but you don’t,
you know. You procrastinate, and you have a paper you’re
supposed to read, and you know you’re supposed to read it, and you need to read it for reasons
that are hypothetically important to you, but there’s no damn way you can get yourself
to sit down and read it. Your attention wanders, and you go to do three
or four stupid things, and you feel terrible about it, like you feel like you’re betraying
yourself, and maybe this is a continual pattern in your life, but one of the things you find
out is that you don’t get to create your own damn values because, for some reason, you’re
not in charge of yourself, and of course that’s where the psychoanalytic idea started to come
from, you know, Freud notices — this is in the aftermath of Nietzsche — that you’re
not the master of your own psyche, you know, that there’s many sub-yous inside of you and
that they don’t all want the same thing, and so the idea that you can generate your own
meaning is very — it’s an insufficiently developed idea because there’s a lot of meaning-making
generators residing within you, and not only do they not all point in the same direction
which is a huge problem, but they don’t even necessarily — they don’t necessarily lay
themselves out in some integrated fashion across time, and they don’t necessarily operate
together in a way that’s going to enable you to find your place with other people and in
society. So, you know, make your own meaning. Well, which part of you, you know? You’re not a unified thing. So that’s a big problem, and then well these
other problems just remain unaddressed completely. Well, one answer to that, and this is the
answer that the more radical existentialists took is that well, society has to be reconfigured,
but you know, we kind of know where that leads too. When people are doing radical societal reconfiguration,
at least as far as we’ve been able to tell, most of the time that’s an absolute, murderous,
catastrophe. So, you know, it’s reasonable — it seems
reasonable to me to presume that those experiments have already been run. Alright so, now Jung, like Dostoevsky, was
very interested in returning to sources of meaning from which he believed that our original
religious ideas had emerged, and this is partly his notion of the collective unconscious. So, you know, part of the radical critique
of religious systems is predicated on the idea that there’s something like conscious
beliefs, you know, there are articulated beliefs that you could lay out in a credo, but that’s
not right. It doesn’t seem to be correct at all, and
Nietzsche actually knew this, you know. He knew that a lot of our social institutions
had emerged from the bottom up and had only become articulated after they had been embodied
and danced out essentially, you know. You — a tribal group learns how to organize
itself over thousands and thousands of years of trial and error and pushing against each
other, and so forth, and they come into that tribal grouping with a biological substrate,
and their sociological and political interactions are constrained by all of those things, and
then maybe they come up with a description of that, over time, a self-description, and
an articulated representation, and that’s the religious system. It’s not that the religious system is thought
out first, as a system of metaphysical presuppositions, images, and dreams, then turned into rules,
then imposed on the population who then obeys it, and generally speaking, when people criticize
formal religion, they criticized it assuming that that’s how it developed, you know, and
that’s kind of a Marxist idea, for example, that religion is the opiate of the masses,
and that you know, the religious structures were laid out so that a small elite could
control the population. Now, you know, in virtually every domain,
a small elite emerges that dominates the population. I don’t care what domain you look at. So Marx is accurate in that way, in that,
you know, there’s always a power imbalance between elite minority and a non-elite majority,
but to say that that’s the cause of all the systems that people interact within is, well
it’s unsophisticated beyond belief. What it does is that it takes phenomena that
are complex beyond comprehension and reduce them to one thing. It’s not helpful, like you know, here’s
an example. If you sampled popular songs on YouTube, let’s
say you made a graph of how popular songs were. What you find is that about ten songs, at
any given time, are played — half of all the songs played at any given time are going
to be one of ten songs. Well, and then what the other thing you’d
find is that half of all songs played are played by one or more of ten musicians, and
that’s true no matter if you look all the from the 1930s to now, if you look at popular
music, you see the same thing. Almost everything that almost everyone listens
to is created by very few people, and then there’s millions of musicians, but you’ve
never heard of most of them and you’ll never hear a song from most of them. It’s a small minority, and what you see
is in any field of creative production, this happens. A small elite emerges, and dominates the entire
landscape. Now, you know, it would be kind of ridiculous
to assume that the ten most popular singers and musicians that are currently operative
were those who gave rise to the system that allowed them to thrive. I mean, obviously that’s a dopey idea, and
it’s no more an intelligent idea when you look at any other domain where there’s tremendous
variation, and the emergence of an elite. It’s a very common phenomena. It happens, as I said, it happens anywhere
there’s creative production, and so that’s why one percent of the people, you know, roughly
have fifty percent of the money. It’s no different in other creative domains. Now, we’ll talk later in the course about
why that happens, but to think it’s because those people set up the system so that they
could thrive is — well there’s an element of that, obviously, because once you’re rich,
you’re going to prefer political policies that help you stay rich, but that doesn’t
mean you set up the whole damn system that made you rich to begin with, plus it’s not
the same people over any reasonable span of time. So, the one percent of people who have most
of the money, it’s always one percent, but it’s not the same people, you know. Each individuals tend to hold on to money
for very short periods of time, and big companies don’t last very long, you know. They last on average about 30, 35, 40 years,
and that’s it, then they disappear. So, and it’s because, you know, the economic
landscape is just churning like mad. It’s very difficult for a company to — you
know, there’s not that many big steam coach companies anymore, you know, and nobody make
zeppelins, and nobody makes typewriters. You know what I mean, it’s things move quick,
and just because you dominated the landscape at one particular moment doesn’t mean you’re
going to be able to do it at the next. Alright, so the create your own meaning thing
is a rough one, and then there’s another problem too which is “What makes you think you have
enough time?” You know, lots of times people come to me
and they have relationship problems, and part of the problem is that they’ve set their relationships
up outside of social norms, and they do that, so they’ll say something to me like well we’re
not going to get married because marriage is just a piece of paper, which is really
a stupid thing to say, like it’s an incredibly stupid thing to say, but underneath that,
there’s this idea that they want to remain free of social constraints so that they can
negotiate their own way, like if you’re giving them credit, for you know, wanting freedom
instead of just escaping responsibility, but the problem with that is, it’s like okay,
good luck. Try it. I don’t know why you would assume that you
have enough time in the thirty or forty years that you’re going to be pursuing relationships
to actually figure out how they should run. You don’t have a hope of that, and it’s
worse too because very, very few people can negotiate, you know, because here’s the way
it works. You either adhere to the social order, or
you stand outside it. As soon as you stand outside of it, you’re
in a chaotic place because there’s no guidelines, and then you either live chaotically because
there’s no guidelines or you start to formulate order, but to do that, you have to know what
you want, and you have to know how to express it, and then you have to figure out what your
partner wants, and then help them express it and then you have to negotiate a solution. Well, I would say one in twenty people know
how to negotiate. It’s really, really difficult. I mean, just think of the steps. First of all, you have to know what you want,
and then you have to admit it to yourself. Well, yeah right, like you’re not even gonna
get to the first one in all likelihood. What do you want? A lot of what you want can’t be articulated
even, you know. I’ll give you an example. So, there’s a great study done awhile back
on prediction of relationship longevity. Okay, so here was the question. “How many negative interactions do you have
to have, per set of positive” — sorry. “How many positive interactions, per negative
interaction, do you have to have with your partner in order for the relationship to remain
stable?” Okay, so let’s say you have one negative interaction
to every one positive interaction. Okay, or maybe you have ten negatives to every
positive, then you can imagine a different situation where you have a hundred positives
to one negative, right, spanning the whole potential continuum, and you use that to predict
relationship satisfaction and longevity. Well, you might think, well god obviously,
a hundred positive to one negative is where the preferable ratio and so it’s those people
who, you know, their relationship is nothing but constant compliments and bliss. They’re the ones who last. It’s not true. What you see is that there’s an optimal…
an optimal ratio domain. If it falls below five to one positive to
negative, then your relationship falls apart. It’s too negative, and it’s partly because
people feel negative emotion more than they feel positive emotion because you can be hurt
more than you can be pleased, and so one that’s only five to one is too punishing, and people
won’t stay in it, but if you get above to eleven to one, it gets not punishing enough,
and then you think well what does that mean exactly? Well, what do you want in a relationship? Well you think, bliss. It’s like, that isn’t what you want, as
it turns out. It’s more like you want someone to contend
with, you know. You don’t want a pushover. You don’t want everything just to be easy,
you know, and this is the sort of… the sort of phenomena that Kierkegaard was talking
about when he talked about deciding to make things more difficult for people because that’s
what they need. You know, you know this perfectly well because
if you go outside with someone and they worship you, and they dolt on your every word, and
there’s nothing but positive feedback coming from them, you lose respect for them almost
instantly, and you go wander off and find someone whos more interesting, and part of
the reason for that, I think, is that you want the person that you’re with to challenge
you so that not only do you do reasonably well day to day together, you know, so that
you can co-exist in the same space with a reasonable amount of peace, but you also want
there to be enough tension in the relationship so that you’re both involved in a process
of mutual transformation. Well, try specifying that in an articulated
way, you know. Good luck. You know, and it also explains strange things
about people like the fact that they’ll stay in pretty negative relationships, like what
the hell are you doing there? If you’d articulated it two years ago, and
you said, “Well I want to be with someone I’m miserable with half the time,” of
course, you’re never going to say that, but it could easily be that that’s what you’re
after. So well…so alright now, Heidegger is another
philosopher who was attempting in some sense to solve the problems that were laid out by
Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, and the way that Heidegger began to resolve them was by taking
a radically new look at philosophy itself, and he was one of the prime phenomenologists,
and I told you awhile back that the phenomenologists decided to reconstitute Western philosophy
so that it was focusing on being instead of knowledge, and so the hardest thing to grasp
about the phenomenologists is what exactly they meant by being, and — so I’ll give
you a… I’ll give you an overview of that. So that’s where the term “da sein” comes
from, and that’s a German term, and it means “being there.” So right now, you’re encapsulated in a da
sein, and the da sein is the totality of your experience, and that experience would be an
experience of an extended world, the natural world, and then the social world, and then
inside that, the world of your subjective experience, and that constitutes being, and
the phenomenologists make the case — they’re not playing the subject-object game, they’re
standing outside the division between subject and object that’s part of the scientific worldview. So it’s a real paradigm shift in that you
can’t use the rules from the old way of looking at things inside the new way of looking at
things. You have to start with new presuppositions. So we might say, well, one of the things that
you’re going to do if you look at things phenomenologically is to assume that everything that you experience
is real. So then, we would say that there’s no attempt,
in a phenomenological world, to reduce pain to something material. Pain stands as — stands itself as a phenomena. So does anxiety. So does joy. All the things that the scientists of consciousness
call qualia, which are viewed by them as qualities of the objective world, aren’t viewed that
way by the phenomenologists. They just say those are primary elements of
being. So — and it’s a very interesting way of
looking at things because it kind of allows you to reclaim the validity of your own experience. You can no longer say, “well that only subjective.” Now that doesn’t mean that everything you
claim subjectively is true, objectively or for other people. What it does mean is that everything that
you experience subjectively is real. Now that doesn’t mean you have to not think
about it or take it apart or categorize it properly, you still have to do all of those
things, but you’re put into a place where there’s no need to deny the reality of your
own experience, or to subordinate it to something else. So, for example, if I’m doing dream analysis
with someone, which I do often, if people dream, because dreams, as Jung pointed out,
are… they’re manifestations of being. You don’t come up with them. They appear to you. They sort of appear out of nowhere, in some
sense. They manifest themselves. They do it strangely, and I think the reason
for that is that they contain unarticulated thought, but if you can get a handle on them
and assess them, then sometimes they can tell you things that there’s no other way you can
figure out, and what’s really cool about them is that they’re — they have the same personality
as phenomena in the, like the broader world of experience have, you know. You don’t ever think about the truth of a
chair. It’s just there, and dreams are like that. They’re just there, and if you can untangle
what they have to — what they indicate, then you can get a take on your own experience
that’s not altered by any of your local subjective wishes and desires. I hate to use the word subjective in this
sort of context. So, phenomenology is the study of being. Now, and — in being, there are variety of
aspects, and so one aspect — I’ve never remembered the names of these, but I’ll
get it here right away. Oh yes. Heidegger broke the world of experience, being,
into three basic categories. There was the umwelt, which I think is basically
the world beyond culture and the individual. There’s the mitwelt, and that’s the world
that we share with everyone else, so that’s roughly the social world and the social structures,
and then there’s the eigenwelt which is that domain of experience that’s unique to you,
that other people can’t partake in. So those are the elements of being, as far
as the phenomenologists were concerned, and in those domains of being, different experiences
manifest themselves. We talked about some of the ones that would
be manifestations of the eigenwelt. Scientists would call those things emotional
or motivational states. Normally, people think of them as feelings. I would say, “I feel thus. I feel such and such,” and those are experiences
that manifest themselves to you or that you have, depending on how you look at it, that
are indicative of the manner in which you act in relationship to being. Now, one of — part of the reason that this
is relevant to psychotherapy in particular is because the phenomenologists were very
interested in the manifestation of meaning. So you could say, well, nihilism is the absence
of meaning, and totalitarianism is the fixedness of meaning, right, if you’re a totalitarian,
what you do is say, “All meanings exist in relationship to this structure.” It’s almost as if — the phenomenologists
would say you’re trying to reduce the umwelt, which is the natural world, the mitwelt, which
is the social world, and the eigenwelt, which is your own world, you’re trying to reduce
all of that to the mitwelt so that everything falls under an explanation that’s granted
to you by some higher authority, and then of course, the nihilists are having none of
that. They see — they use their eigenwelt, I would
say, their own world to invalidate meaning in any domain. Now the phenomenologists would say, well it’s
a mistake to use your rationality to undermine the sense, the manifestation of meaning, and
I can give you an example of that. So let’s say you’re a good nihilist, and
you think maybe you’re going to go do something difficult like put yourself through university,
and then you think in a relatively depressed state of mind, maybe you encounter some obstacles
of one form or another, and you think, “Oh to hell with this. Who’s — What difference does it make anyways? Who cares if I go and get my degree, you know. None of this knowledge is particularly relevant
or meaningful and who the hell’s gonna know the difference in a million years?” And so you think, well that’s a perfectly
rational dismissal because who is gonna know in a million years or let’s say, well even
if you can make case that someone might know, there might be some effects left of you in
a million years, then we’ll just multiply it by a hundred thousand and go to a trillion
years. So here you are, you’re this little tiny speck
on a slightly bigger speck in the middle of a galaxy that has god only knows how many
billion stars, and then there’s a billion of those galaxies, although there’s way more
than that, and they’re spread across this tremendous expanse of time, and in the face
of all that, who cares what you do? Well, what a phenomenologist would say is,
okay, let’s look at how meaning manifests itself when you alter your own private world
in a variety of manners. So let’s say, you’re trying to do something
— maybe you’re working in a — maybe you’re working as a volunteer in a hospital helping
sick kids, you know. You’re reading to them so that they’re distracted
from their pain, and you say well, in a trillion years, who’s gonna know the difference and
so you think, well it’s meaningless to do this, and the phenomenologists would say,
if the frame of reference that you’re using, like if you’re imposing — if you’re transforming
the way your being manifests itself so that it becomes meaningless and absurd, then you
should try experiencing it in a different manner. So, it’s a — see, because a rationalist
in some sense, the phenomenologists would say, a rationalist can’t deal with the argument
“What difference is it going to make in a trillion years, and here you are, a little
dust speck among all these other dust specks. It’s ultimately meaningless.”A phenomenologist
would say, “Maximize the meaning. That’s the marker of truth.” It’s a completely different way of thinking
about it. So he would say, for example, that if you’re
going to a hospital and you’re reading to sick children, that the frame of reference
that you should use, the way that you allow that experience to manifest itself, should
be such that the experience manifests itself so that it’s as meaningful as possible rather
than as meaningless. The idea being that just because you can twist
your own experience so that certain elements of your being become meaningless does not
mean that that’s right. The fact that it becomes meaningless actually
means that it’s wrong because you think, you see, it all depends on what you allow
to be primary, and this is the phenomenologist point. If you allow your strict rationality to be
primary, then if it can attack something and destroy it, then that thing is worthy of being
attacked and destroyed. But if you flip it around and say, well what
you should be doing is allowing — is interacting with your experience or allowing your experience
to manifest itself in a manner that situates you most meaningfully in the here and now,
whatever framework you’re using to do that that works is right. Well it’s a completely different way of
looking at things and it’s a real — it’s a real escape from the pathology of rationalism,
you know, because it isn’t obvious that what you think should take priority. Now, the phenomenologists would go farther
than that. They would say that — and this is something…
so here’s a way of thinking about it. So Binswanger said, “What we perceive are
first and foremost” — Binswanger was a psychiatrist who was very much influenced
— Binswanger and Boss are the people we’re going to talk about mostly — were very much
influenced by Heideggerian ideas. They say, “What we perceive are first and
foremost not impressions of taste, tone, smell, or touch, not even things or objects, but
meanings.” Okay, so the idea for the phenomenologists
is that what being is made out of is meaning. It isn’t that the objective world is made
out of things, it’s that being is made out of meaning. Now some of those meanings can be positive,
and some of them can be negative, and some of them can be neutral, but the fundamental
constituent elements of being — the fundamental constituent element of being is meaning, and
then there is an argument between Binswanger and Boss about how that meaning manifests
itself. So Binswanger would say that, “You endow
meaning on the world.” So that’s kind of a Nietzschean idea, that
you create your own values so that you have within you something that he called an a priori
ontological structure. It’s a world designer, a matrix of meaning,
that determines how the world manifests itself to you. Now, the easiest way to think about that is
that, you know, you’re thrown into a particular time and place — that’s another existential
idea and that’s part of the absurdity of your life, is that you’re here, now, in this particular
context and situation. It’s something you have to contend with,
and that’s true for everyone. There are arbitrary preconditions to everyone’s
being, and one of those arbitrary preconditions is the structure through which you look at
the world, and that structure enables some things to be highlights and some things to
be ignored, and so, the way that meaning manifests itself is a reflection of this a priori ontological
structure, the a priori mode of being. So, there can’t be being, which is to say
your experience, for the sake of argument, without the structure that consists of — that
you consist of, and so that’s a given, and it’s the action of that structure that determines
the meaning of things. Now, Boss would say exactly the opposite. He would say, that’s the wrong way of looking
at it. You should look at the totality of your existence,
which is partly the broad natural world, the cultural world, and your own world, and you
should note that meaning arises in different places of its own accord. You can’t — you can’t reduce it to the action,
say, of this ontological a priori, ontological structure, and so one example would be, well
what about the meaning of things you don’t understand? Well it’s hard to understand how the meaning
of things you don’t understand can be attributed to what you understand. The meaning seems to be there, to begin with. So here’s an example. You’re – you have a relationship with someone,
and you discover that they have an affair. Well, the discovery of the affair is going
to be something that’s going to be meaningful. Now, you don’t know what the meaning is. You’re going to interpret it to begin with,
likely very negatively, except to the degree that part of you would like to escape out
of the relationship, right, because sometimes if you’re betrayed, you’re happy about it
because it’s time for that to be over with. In any case, there are things that you can
encounter that you don’t understand that are meaningful in and of themselves. So, I think that you actually can’t separate
your structure from the structure of everything. They’re always interacting, and meaning
emerges out of the interplay of them. So, here’s another way of thinking about
it. You’re reading a book. The book is meaningful. Where is the meaning? Is it in your head? Is it in the book? Well, it’s very difficult to say, right,
because obviously there’s a subjective element to it. There’s an element that’s unique to you, but
just as obviously, that meaning wouldn’t manifest itself if it wasn’t for the book, and of course
the book wouldn’t be meaningful if you and the book weren’t embedded in this complex
structure, and so the meaning is an emergent property — the meaning is an emergent property
of the interplay of all of the elements of being. That’s a very interesting way of looking at
things, so you have all these elements of being, and their dance produces meaning of
one form or another. Now, you might say, if you were a phenomenologist,
that some of that meaning is going to be life sustaining, and some of it is going to be
life destroying, and the phenomenologist would say from a clinical perspective, that you’re
— if you’re… if you exist in a system of meaning revelations that are life destroying,
that you should turn your attention away from them towards meanings that are life affirming,
and you know, one of the things that’s quite interesting about the phenomenological perspective
is that you could experiment with it quite easily. So I could say to you, for example, a couple
of phenomenological experiments, one would be, for the next two weeks, you want to detach
yourself in some sense, so that you’re a curious observer of your being. You’re not necessarily trying to direct it,
you know, you’re just trying to let it unfold, and then what you might want to watch for
is when the meaning that manifests itself as things flow around you is clearly meaning
of the life affirming type. Now you’ll see that, you know, it depends
on how well situated you are in some sense because if you’re — if you’re surrounded
by — if your experiential field is primarily negative, these are going to be relatively
rare events, but they will still not be non-existent. That might only happen for a few seconds,
or a few minutes everyday, or every two days, but so say, okay you notice all of a sudden
that you’re in a place where things are the way you would like them to be. So you could say you’re in a place where being
is manifesting itself as acceptable. Okay, so that’s a place where nihilism is
not appropriate. It doesn’t apply because the quality of the
experience is such that it’s life affirming. You have to notice that. It’s something that happens, and then you
might ask yourself, well okay, what are the preconditions that enable that — what are
the preconditions that enabled all of the different subelements of being to work harmoniously
together at that time and place so that that was the meaning that emerged? And then the next question might be, how would
it be possible for me to allow that to happen more frequently? And so you can tilt yourself towards life
affirming meanings and away from… from, say, meanings that are associated with despair
and nihilism, but you do that partly — it’s almost like you’re navigating in a boat. In fact, I think you are. I think you’re navigating to find the line
between order and chaos because that’s where the meaning is. That’s exactly where the meaning is, and you
could feel it like it’s a place, and that’s the other thing that phenomenologists are
trying to get across. These things are real. They’re not secondary manifestations of some
deeper reality. They are reality itself. I also think, and we’ll talk about this
more when we get to the neuropsychological portion of the course, that your brain is
actually set up first and foremost to detect meaning. You detect meaning before you detect object,
and it’s partly because you have to detect meaning so that you know what to do when something
happens very rapidly, and there are times when you have to figure out what to do before
you have enough time to even see what’s there. You just don’t have the time, and so you know,
part of the question is well, what exactly do you mean by meaning, you know. I think meaning is significance for behavior
or significance for the structure that governs behavior, but those are very, very basic fundamental
perceptions. They’re not — you see the object, and then
you derive the meaning. It’s exactly the opposite in many cases. You perceive the meaning and derive the object,
and there’s plenty of neurophysiological evidence for that. For example, you have lots of, you know, your
retina is a pattern detector, and the retinal information is transmitted to your brain along
the optic nerve, but the optic nerve branches and it goes lots of places in your body. Some of it maps right onto your spinal cord,
so that your eyes can make your body move. Some of it maps onto your amygdala so that
what you perceive are the meanings of facial expressions, without even perceiving the face. So you can have people who have blindsight,
a damaged visual cortex, you can show them angry faces which they say they can’t see,
but they’ll respond to them electrophysiologically as if they’re being exposed to something negative,
and it’s because the retinal pattern is manifesting itself right onto the system that
maps one form of meaning. So you can clearly have meaning without object
perception, and so the idea that you derive the meaning from the object — you see the
thing, and then you attribute meaning to the thing — that’s right at some levels of analysis,
but it’s wrong at many other levels of analysis. And so, the other thing that I think that
you can try that’s phenomenologically informed. This is quite an interesting trick. It’s really hard on you though, so be careful
if you try this. So, one other thing that you can try for two
weeks is to watch what you say. You got to detach yourself again. You have to remove the belief that your thoughts
and you are the same thing, and then you have to watch mostly what you say, and then you
have to see — and this is something that Rogers would also be an advocate of — you
have to see if what you say makes you feel — you have to see if what you say improves
the quality of your being or makes it worse, and you know, if you stop believing in what
you say and watch what the consequences are instead, how it manifests itself in terms
of a transformation of being, then you can also learn how to only say things that improve
the quality of being. Well, that’s a good thing if you can manage
it, but it’s terrifying in some sense because one of the things that you’ll find is that
hardly anything that you say does that. Most of it is neutral, but a fair bit of it
has exactly the opposite consequence. It makes things worse. So, I think I mentioned that the word phenomena
— that’s where the phenomenology, the term phenomenology comes from, obviously. The term phenomena means — it’s from the
Greek word, “phainesthai,” and phainesthai means “to shine forth.” And so, the phenomenologists’ argument is
that being is made up of meanings that shine forth for you and that those different meanings
attract you. They’re like — they’re like guideposts that
you can follow. So you know, one of the — I’ve noticed
this, for example, in relationship to reading. So I’ll be reading a complex text, and some
passage will really strike me. So it manifests itself as meaningful. Why is that? Well, you know, one of the phenomenologists,
which would be Binswanger, would say, well it’s because of the way that I’m structured,
but Boss would say, well no, it’s a dance that’s occurring within the structure of everything
and the consequence of that is the manifestation of this meaning. Well, what I found is that I can follow threads
of meaning through books, you know, that it’s like it’s something that’s guiding me, that
sense of meaning, and often if I find something within a book that’s meaningful, then I’ll
read the other things that that person wrote, and I’ll see that some of the people that
they read have meaningful things to say, and then I can branch out that network, and it’s
following a pathway that’s laid out for you, in some sense it’s laid out for you in the
world, and you know, the phenomenological idea is that if you follow that pathway, then
what happens is being becomes more and more integrated around you, and those experiences
of intrinsic meaning start to multiply and increase in intensity, and you know, if you’re
able to do that over a long period of time, then you can get more and more of the totality
of your being revealing the kind of meanings that’s stopped you from being either nihilistic
or totalitarian. And so, well, that’s the basic — that’s the
fundamental theory of phenomenological psychotherapy, you know. You might first say, well you know, you’re
depressed and anxious and your life isn’t going very well. What keeps you afloat? It’s something to observe, and then we might
say, well are there ways that we can expand that small area that’s keeping you afloat
so that it starts to occupy more and more of your experience and push back the parts
that are either neutral or negative, and you know, it’s a — it’s in large part a consequence
of attention, and willingness to first of all, treat things as if their meaning is real,
and then second, to allow that reality to transform the way that you experience the
things in the future. See you Thursday.

78 Comments on "2016 Personality Lecture 09: Phenomenology: Heidegger, Binswanger, Boss"


  1. Dear professor Peterson,
    Is it wise for an easily impressionable college student to read books that are radically different from his original opinion? Is it better to wait until one first cultivates his or her own cohesive thought (i.e. religion or politics) then read books that are actively trying to destroy one's presuppositions? Or is fear (of becoming a monster) something I need to face and conquer like the knight who slays the dragon? Is being content with oneself a form hubris or should I wait until I feel I'm able to confront the beast?

    Thank you Professor Peterson for allowing us to watch your invaluable lectures. It has been such a joy to hear your message.

    Reply

  2. it's funny that people who come from the former soviet society are more in touch with their values, morality, culture and traditions than the people in the west who are so blinded by technological advancement and living a nihilistic and often degenerate lifestyles, completely ignorant of destruction of nature and most importantly slowly "dying" by living outside the traditional structures that took so long to construct (like you say in the beginning).

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  3. Prof. Jordan, in your example of Quebec separatist groups saying "it's worth it" even if it is complete economic collapse, would you say other movements which did or would cause that sort of collapse would be worth it, like the typical example of abolishing slavery causing many economic or social drastic changes, in this case is it worth it having a discussion with anyone of those affected even if it is/was difficult, it would be worthwhile to try to change their minds? The price of stability can be too high for some, in Mexico the peonage system of the 1800 was like that, it cause many difficulties but in the end was worth getting rid it. Is it a judgement call? sure, but how else do we DECIDE… I guess it threw me off when you said "there was no way to have a conversation with a person like that, with those sets of beliefs…" i don't know and it is not clear what to make of that. I mean they ARE axioms of belief, but what are you saying with that? Isn't that the case with EVERYTHING?

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  4. I have a question about the following comment:

    "It all depends wat you ALLOW to be primary and meaningful, just because you can intellectually destroy it doesn't mean it is right, in fact if it destroys it it is wrong"

    Is this very thing not what what all systems of belief do, social systems, religion systems… and the flip side of it If we give meaning to anything by making it positive or meaningful that DOESNT make it so either?? This is why Nietzsche is so damn hard to come to terms with.
    Any comments on this will be appreciated, this is something I have spent years dealing with, without a clear answer.

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  5. Why is rationalism any more pathological than any other form of being, of living?? I agree there is a danger in rationalizing everything, but how to choose what we rationalize? We do rationalize many things as necessary or good in our daily lives don't we? If reason takes precedence, where and what areas does it help to NOT let it be primary? remember, Nietzsche again saying Why truth and not Untruth, given that deception and untruth is so useful?? so why is one more pathological than any other, are we basing that on RESULTS, or what?

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  6. I agree that any way of meaning or being which turns on itself, which destroys itself is and cannot be good even if it is rational… that is what his issue, his critique, was with Socrates, I think… That his philosophy wouldn't allow him to save himself?? But this is true of any way of thinking and being… this thing about assigning meaning for oneself is problematic, because to be able to do that we must have some beliefs to start with to base what follows on it, so that people have assigned meaning to whatever perpetrates their own way of life if they're ok with their way of living, so when life forces them to change or the social system changes, they turn on their own way of thinking to survive?? anything to be able to survive??

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  7. Are nihilism and totalitarianism dimorphic like gender, where the presence of one in an individual necessitates a shadow of the other?

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  8. On meaning or making things meaningful to avoid Nihilism: There is such a thing also where if your frame of reference is too narrow then EVERYTHING is meaningful and you stop being able to act. If everything is too meaningful you are overwhelmed by it all, and that becomes a clinical condition, a psychosis…. am I right?? Doing this also seems like a mental trick designed to override reason because as you said there is no way to fight a rationalist when he or she says that in the scheme of things all we do is meaningless, seems to be a trick to ignore reality (as meaninglessness is a reality in as far as it is true) to be able to function in any given society; if any given action in a society is meaningless in another or another set of beliefs, we can use this tool to still function within that society, a religious practice for example is meaningless to a nonbeliever, etc…. men as the measure of all things, things don't have meaning or value unless we….. (??)

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  9. On meaning: Prof., most of what you said about meaning and attributed it to those other two psychologists, Nietzsche had already said it, so why not just stick with Nietzsche, why go to others if what they're saying or discovering is not their ideas or a furthering of those ideas…. it puzzled me a bit. I acknowledge that it may be interesting to read these other writers, maybe even clarify those ideas, but they're not playing with original material of their own. If I read a psychoanalyst's book and learn some things about it I wouldn't say it is their idea, or say what they said as if its their idea, it is important to give credit where is due, after all it was Nietzsche who paid the 'price' for those ideas in many ways, not those other thinkers.

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  10. Just one insignificant correction: Nietzsche was not captured on video as such was an invention of the 1950s. Neitzsche was captured on film.

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  11. "He who has nothing to die for has nothing to live for; he does not know what life is."

    –A.W. Tozer

    There are a great many paradoxes in life, but one of the most profound and significant is the fact that a person's reason for living is often also their reason for dying. Although life and death seem diametrically opposed, you can't justify the one without justifying the other, and people are often killed by the very thing that made their life seem worth living.

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  12. I feel that letting Nietzsche 'off the hook', so to speak, for parts of his philosophy that are easily applicable to totalitarian culture is a cherry-picking view of his commentary. You discuss his idea of value-creating, but we shouldn't forget that he said quite clearly that the value-creating was a function of very rare "higher men". He also said that lesser men [which comprise the vast majority of us] didn't just NEED to be dominated by man with the strength and will to dominate, but that they WANTED to be. With that axiom in place, it isn't stretch at all for the rationalization and application of the dark deeds that came not long after.

    I think a more effective argument against his idea of value-creating [if you agree that such a thing is possible in the first place] is that most people aren't able or willing to do it – a view that is congruent with his actual work and a more practical real-world counterpoint. I think that – even if one can't create truly new values – that Nietzsche's 'higher men' are capable of adopting a set of values that sometimes will discard parts of the social contract. This can be valuable and positive for an actualized person, but can also be an effective tool and downright dangerous in the hands of extremists.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say that Nietzsche is to blame for the rise of totalitarian culture, but pretending that his message was merely warped, or misinterpreted by the 20th century idealouges isn't a fair analysis of the work. He had a lot dangerous ideas; he said so himself.

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  13. That's not what Sartre meant by "Hell is other people"! That's also not what Marx meant by "religion is the opiate of the masses"! Marx didn't write that religion "laid out so that a small elite could control the population." This guy is a professor at one of the most respected universities in the world. Wow. It's kind of amazing that a professor can get away with cherry picking quotes, giving them the interpretation that accords with his ideology.
    Where is the rigor?

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  14. This guy, an academic, has a 1950s popular understanding of Marx: Base is the cause of superstructure. But Marx had a much more complicated "dialectical" understanding of the relationship between ideas and practices. Read and think before you spew your ideas, professor!

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  15. Wow, it gets worse. He explains Heidegger (whom he says is avoiding the "subject-object game") using the language of Western metaphysics! In other words, he explains Heidegger falsely. He's so confused. I'm sure his students must be, too. This is unbelievable to me. How can this guy be teaching such falsities to undergraduates!

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  16. The analysis of how power relations form is pretty bad and he takes what Marx said out of context, along with implying that Marx explained capitalism as a moral system of entitlement, which he didn't.

    I would suggest going through Marx's earlier writings (from his critique of Hegel's theory of the state to the German Ideology).

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  17. If you listen to this man's lectures, it is obvious that he has a beautiful mind and his critics conequently deserve a swift spanking -metaphorically speaking.

    http://flogha.com/justis/

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  18. If tribalism is the root of most mass violence, would the Internet be a place where the whole world can unite as one tribe and end this kind of violence?

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  19. This teacher says that Dasein is the "totality of experiencing" in which everyone is "encapsulated". This statement makes no sense to me. Heideggers term Dasein simply refers to humans, in what makes humans human, which is that they relate to their being. "Dasein versteht sich in irgendeiner Weise in seinem Sein" – Dasein comprehends itself in some manner in its being and makes it amenable in the sense of "I am". On top of that reasoning may or may not appear (animal rationale / zoon logon echon). That is a very central element in his philosophy and it doesn't seem adequately grasped in this strange lecture that claims to be about phenomenology while consisting of one hour of anecdotal insights and twenty minutes of phenomenology. And some of his statements are downright outrageous. Marx certainly never argued that the people who gained a status of elite in a system created the system. That's paradoxical. And the proposition of this teacher that music business being dominated by few musicians and one percent of the world population owning more than half of the worlds wealth would be basically the same and sort of an inevitable natural development makes me utterly speechless. BTW the "film footage" of Nietzsche is an animated collage of photographies by Hans Olde.

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  20. It was mentioned, that radical reconfiguration of society is almost always a catastrophe, however it may be the only option for people placed at the bottom of hierarchy, especially if establishment is set to exploit. It may be the only way to move forward and sometimes it works. For instance, French revolution brought human rights, overthrow absolute monarchy and allowed to establish republics. It may be the case, that revolution is inevitable unless the system gradually delegates power and allows climbing hierarchy.

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  21. Speaking of dreams I'm going to randomly describe one from my early teens that has just stuck with me. (Feel free to interpret this if you want)

    Now before we start let me explain my dream neighborhoods. Whenever I am outside in a dream and can see the surrounding structures it's always a blur of houses or buildings I have seen or been too. I understand that, the dream is filling in the blanks with familiar buildings. The buildings should be along this sidewalk otherwise the world is broken, let's just check the files on buildings and copy/paste. Originally it was houses and the like but more recently businesses and video game/media buildings, so things from movies and such.

    Basically any place I actually document as special I could dream of in this neighborhood. Well in this dream it was a collection of houses, my mothers work, and my church (Which is across the street from my mothers business) This neighborhood actual consisted mostly actual houses from the block around my mothers business, just one or two were different.

    I don't remember half the dream, only the part that terrified me and the parts before that. For some reason a tiger was sleeping on a swing in front of one of the houses that actually exists next to my mothers work. I did everything I could to sneak past that big bengal tiger. I reached a house that didn't belong there and tried to enter thinking it the house of my mothers current secretary. Surely she would help me. Problem is the concrete porch was missing up close to the door and I fell making a loud noise and waking the tiger.

    I turned and ran a distance before it caught me, tackled me, and bit into my stomach. The whole thing woke me up screaming because my blanket bunched around my stomach making it feel like something was actually biting down on my stomach. I threw my blanket off and went running.

    This dream disturbs me to this day and I don't know why.

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  22. These lectures have reignited my desire to learn as an adult. I wish everyone would watch these at least once.

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  23. I think a good way to introduce Heidegger is through the metaphysical reversal he undertakes. Rather than knowledge or meaning being an object "out there" to be grasped ex post facto by a rational subject "in here," the "subject" (Dasein) always already "possesses" meaning to the extent that prior to any rational thought or contemplation of things, things must appear in the first place. So to say that the world is meaningless is contradictory because the world IS meaning. Now you could still say that there is no ULTIMATE meaning, but the mere fact that things manifest themselves at all indicates that there is meaning.

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  24. Jordan P.
    I´m still unsure of what you exactly define by meaning. If we constantly and naturally give meaning to all we live, then what do you understand by something being meaningless?

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  25. Argh! You just crushed my ubermenchian dreams!

    But is your work not it's own revaluation of values? You have spent your life (so far) doing so, but perhaps creation of new values and convincing others to hold them to be sacred is a project that can progressed toward, passed down and eventually completed and protected? This of course would include of a method of adapting the value system to changes in the environment. I don't see what other choice we have.

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  26. Your argument about meaning arising from the interplay between subject and object sounds very similar to the argument Phaedrus outlines for quality in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Are 'quality' and 'meaning' essentially synonymous in the way you both use them?

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  27. I like how you describe phenomenology as almost a particular strand of "Pragmatism". As William James said, a belief or choice should be adopted based on its fruits, not its roots. In other words, choose the beliefs and lens which bring the most meaning to your life and world.
    I have loved your videos and you work, being myself a JD and MA in Philosophy. I wish I had access to a teacher like you in undergrad, or anytime 🙂 Keep up "the great work"!

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  28. 47:30, mmmm… sure wealth comes and goes but I don't think that applies to a cabal of central bankers printing money and breaking any contract if they like at any time.

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  29. the person who bounces against anything is a energy yoga type person, whereas the asking asif it were in substitute to what was religion (and mmmordern mordern people are not sufficiently innocculated against it, their highers have abdergated it completely so making there future adults children essentially), they are applying emotional yoga to what is an intellectual yoga domain. Meaning making generators?…in some sense some of these may be the major subpersonality denominators as definiable from psychology. i.e. ailment telling, a virgoian satisfaction end, and then advanced energy methods are needed to tellperceive and move against. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aOJ_sTWgBA ….22-25 minutes here for the thinking logic

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  30. You can very easily tell the difference between 60hz and 144hz. Hell even 100hz and 144hz is a massive difference.

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  31. Love it, especially at 1:00:18, and beyond. It's like philosophy porn, where the great money shot comes at the end.

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  32. In Qubec, "when Catholicism fell apart, people, who still needed structured belief systems just turned to nationalism as a structured alternative, and that's part of what accounted for the regidity and utopianism of the Quebec movement towards independence". Any Scots watching? (I say this as a Yes voter)

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  33. lol, how many of you commenting here have more credentials on this subject than Jordan Peterson? If you do I'll watch your lectures instead. Links, please. XD

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  34. I thought there are lots of gay people that want to get married now while the heterosexuals are less inclined to do so. Guess they are late to get the memo about marriage not being so desirable.

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  35. Yeah and Catholics feel totally absolved after confession every week so what does belief in afterlife matter? The truth is that one can have strong moral values without organized religion and many people do. Just because you have to believe in a supernatural being to be a moral person doesn't mean others do.

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  36. Interesting how in the 2017 lecture he introduces Dasein pretty much right away but in this lecture he waits till 54:00 to introduce Dasein.

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  37. I've seen projections that predict we will reach a population size of 11 billion worldwide and we will level out there the birth rate will equal death rate… but i am not sire how accurate this is.

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  38. I blame all the evils of the world on contraception (contraceptive mentality). Yup. Let that marinate for a while.

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  39. I found Professor Peterson as he was a guest on Joe Roman’s podcast.
    Who knew the cohost of the imbecilic manshow could be the gateway
    to such great knowledge.

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  40. Meaning collapses without a "model" to which a given topic or dialog can refer. Without a "reality model", science is dogma, plain and simple. The scientific model of reality is "Cognitive-Theoretic", meaning the CTMU, but it's not "PC" enough for academics. As with the past, the "laymen" will force the issue and "authorities" will find some way to water-down the truth, but the game is not at the "make or break" point in history. In the near future, we either side with humanity and therefore America, or else follow the Communist dogma towards an automated technocratic totalitarianism. Elites will control the Earth and masses of illiterates, via self-building robots, and without the possibility of human rebellion since literacy will be forever controlled by a tiny class of overlords. Btw Jordan, Canada may need to be leveled and rebuilt, if you hose heads can't get rid of Justin Castro.

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  41. So those people from the cartels that cut off heads and torsos and burn them upload them to the media… I wounder how they are messed up in the head !!! ? 🤔🤔

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  42. give them Buddhism where you don't need super being. there are people who think like that but still sane and normal.

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  43. I can relate these lectures to Islam/Islam literature easily, and some of problems which neithceze and other western thinkers were grappling with are presented very well by JP and it makes easy for me to understand the western thought and it's evolution and where it stands currently..
    It is amazing and I am looking forward to learn more and analyse the solutions from Isalmic view point and viewing Truth as a universal force which can bring all together and mitigating the pain and suffering. And those who get closer and closer to Truth transform their own personality and impact others in most profound way which can't even be completely imagined

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  44. Lets see you sustain yourself on memes alone… A man's got to eat 😀

    Canadians deserve economic collapse. Its because you asshole are putting off and externalizing paying for the consequences of your actions now, that were edging towards a complete breakdown.

    Stalin was an ANGEL! Its beyond your perfidious comprehension mon frere.

    Stick to talking about what you actually know, instead of beating the whole "USSR was a totalitarian state" horse… You don't know what you're talking about.

    Canada is a TOTALITARIAN state!

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  45. I would love to sit down and bounce ideas off of you, I'm enjoying the little bit that's on YouTube so far.

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  46. 25:00 So we shouldn’t do away with evil so long as we’re satiated and numb? Don’t rock the boat? The separatists aren’t saying “we just FEEL it would be better”. They have concrete reasons why it would be better, and those are well-founded in the history of economics and culture prior to State intervention AND the evils of the current system. Canada has only gotten worse since this video was recorded, too. That’s one of the few times I’ve heard JBP actually make a straw man argument to ‘shut down’ someone he disagreed with. But he still believes in politics so…well using his logic I could say it’s not worth having a discussion with someone like that (even though I think it IS worth it). Not that separatists are anarchists, but if you think an anarchist is anything close to a utopian I suggest questioning the utopian belief that some benevolent government that can point a gun at whomever they choose will magically restore order, rather than allowing people to voluntarily choose who they want to interact with. Anarchy is not Utopianism. Belief in politics is, and JBP sounded like far more of a utopian here than that ‘separatist’ he was talking to.

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  47. This discourse from Peterson is remarkably coherent and well developed over a good span of time – not the case in most of his extended lectures. This is not to say that his ideas here are properly extrapolated and vigorously argued – but he does maintain a line of inquiry that is logically reasonable.

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  48. jordan is a great thinker, love his content, but jordan you are dead wrong about the elite being different at any given time, every single u.s. president can be bloodline traced back to the royal family, countless supposed opponents running for office were distant cousins, how is that possible in a supposed open and free society, the answer is it is not possible, because it is by design, wake up jordan.

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  49. Phenomenology: glad to have learned this term since it’s been such a big benefit in my life, in large part thanks to Peterson’s 12 rules.

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