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On Jordan Peterson, Religion, & Atheism – Part 4, The Deuteronomistic Paradigm

The Deuteronomistic Paradigm

<< Previous, Part 3 – The Logos-Trinity Ideation

In BS1, Jordan stated:

On the basis of law:

“…you get some sense of the principles that bring peace. One day it blasts into your consciousness, like a revelation: ‘here’s the rules that we’re already acting out…’

The body of law is something that you act out. That’s why it’s a body of law. That’s why, if you’re a good citizen, you act out the body of law. The body of law has principles…

We’re trying to figure out what the guiding principle is. We’re trying to extract out the core of the guiding principles, and we turn that into a representation of a pattern of being. That’s God. It’s an abstracted ideal, and it manifests itself in personified form. ” (Gnostic!)

On Deuteronomy:

“The final one is the Deuteronomist Code. It contains the bulk of the law…”

On the basis of the Judeo-Christian Ethic

Once again, Jordan made a passing reference to an extremely critical piece of the puzzle, but then skipped over its relevance to the topic of discussion; and he does not make any statement on the importance of Deuteronomy in other lectures, as far as my text searches of the transcripts have revealed. How and why Deuteronomy was so important deserves its own explanation here, and the documentary, The Bible Unearthed, explains it in detail. In this segment, note how Deuteronomy was purposefully aligned to fit the political agenda of King Josiah, and how it just happened to be discovered by his priests as a lost book of Moses:

“The book of Deuteronomy perpetrates one of the great reformations in history…

Deuteronomy was hugely important for Western civilization because for the first time the individual was singled out from the crowd as the focus of moral responsibility and duties

That is the mindset, the self-conscious mindset, on which science, and monotheism, and Western civilization have been found.”

Deuteronomy is the foundation of the Judeo-Christian ethic that Jordan warns: “Man, I tell you, we dispense with that idea at our serious peril.” Yet, as he has done in several other places of his talks, he failed to point us to the origin of this precious ethic; which, he fears, will doom us to a totalitarian dystopia if we forget. Freud might, once again, wonder why Jordan does not connect the dots to the Jewish keystone, especially given the dire consequences that await societies which abandon Christian values… I digress.

Russell - Virtuous Men

Considering that Jordan repeatedly stresses throughout the whole series just how important it is that these values became enshrined in the biblical texts, it is strange that he does not acknowledge the social changes that led up to their codification in Deuteronomy. Though, perhaps it is this very inconvenient truth which prompted him to skip over the significance of this book, to avoid going into precisely this contextual basis. There is that pesky Freud popping up, again. As noted in The Bible Unearthed:

“Many elements of the reform actually precede the reform… Effectively what you see in the 7th century BC is the development of individuality. These social changes were reflected in radical new laws in Deuteronomy, an ideological change of great enduring consequence…

What it testifies to is a new consciousness at the end of the seventh century… The power of the governor was subject to some greater laws, some greater morality, and it’s here on this broken piece of pottery, as archaeological evidence from the time of Josiah, that what we now still believe as biblical tradition and biblical morality, was born among the people.”

Supporting Jordan’s claims that core humanist values developed over tens of thousands of years, emerging into consciousness as the collective way for civilizations to act, we can see that this idea of individual sovereignty was formulated by a group of henotheistic field workers in the era before the Josianic monotheistic reforms. Inquiring minds, then, might wonder why we need “religious” values at all, if said values emerge entirely separately from religion; and, in this case, were only codified into the state religion as a tool of political convenience?

Voltaire

On Individual Sovereignty

Jordan stated…

BS1: “… ‘never confuse the specific sovereign with the principle of sovereignty itself.’ It’s brilliant. You can see how difficult it is to come up with an idea like that, so that even the person who has the power is actually subordinate to a divine principle, for lack of a better word. Even the king himself is subordinate to the principle…

Whatever the body of law, there’s a principle inside that even the leader is subordinate to… You’re supposed to be subordinate to God. What does that mean? We’re going to tear that idea apart, but partly what that means is that you’re subordinate—even if you’re sovereign—to the principles of sovereignty itself.”

BS2: “… if you confuse the notion of sovereignty with the current sovereign, then your culture immediately degenerates into a totalitarian state and turns to stone… The thing was going to collapse…as soon as the ruler became the concrete incarnation of the ideal, there was no distinction between the man and the divine notion of the ideal. Then the society was doomed… When the ruler becomes the ideal, the state turns into…archetypal tyranny.”

For three-quarters of the past two thousand years, Christian Europe—the one supposedly existing harmoniously under this Judeo-Christian ethic of respect for individual human rights—was dominated by popes and kings who operated far and above the law. It is very Freudian (damn it, that keeps happening!) that Jordan ignores a wide swathe of evidence that points away from his wishful thinking of kings being subordinate to a higher power. This is especially troubling, given his penchant for repeatedly citing the common theist delusion about Stalin’s atheism, or his abandonment of a Judeo-Christian ethic, which led to his atrocities, while simultaneously overlooking the vast number of historic examples of sickening bloodshed done by noble Christian rulers.

Russell - Christian History

A casual glance at a history book reveals a number of shining examples of (not) Christian decency, which refute Jordan’s staggeringly blinded assertion of “not confusing the notion of sovereignty with the current sovereign”: the Inquisition, Henry VIII’s disregard for the yearning of his subjects to keep their heads attached to their necks, and a number of popes who used the office to line their pockets. It has only been the last quarter of Christian history, since the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment, that monarchs who believed in the Divine Right of Kings have been kept in check by the rule of law, starting with the execution of Charles I of England.

That the Enlightenment established the premise of separation of church and state, which has led to the proliferation of secular humanist values, and consequently given the West—but, only in modern times—a foundation of individual sovereignty with rulers held to account, seems lost on Jordan. As to the collapse of Judeo-Christian morality in the West and our forthcoming slide into an existential nightmare, in a webcast with fellow Canadian psychologist, Steven Pinker, Jordan, contradicting his own doomsday predictions, stated:

“I started to read extremely widely, and I found that on measure after measure, with some notable exceptions, like ocean oceanic over-fishing, we have been doing so staggeringly much better in the last 150 years that you can’t believe it on almost every measure you can imagine.”

Further, Steven refuted Jordan’s pessimistic claims in Enlightenment Now:

“Whatever the reasons, the history and geography of secularization belie the fear that in the absence of religion, societies are doomed to anomie, nihilism, and a “total eclipse of all values.”…

As for the lamentation among editorialists that the Enlightenment is a “brief interlude,” that epitaph is likelier to mark the resting place of neo-fascism, neo-reaction, and related backlashes of the early 21st century.”

Next, Part 5 – The Dostoevsky Distraction >>

Video References:

Biblical Series I (BS1): Introduction to the Idea of God, (transcript)

Biblical Series II (BS2): Genesis 1: Chaos & Order, (transcript)

Pangburn Philosophy (PP): An Evening With Matt Dillahunty & Jordan Peterson

Unbelievable (U): Jordan Peterson vs Susan Blackmore • Do we need God to make sense of life?

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