Earlier this evening I was watching Tucker Carlson. He had a psychology professor on whose YouTube videos had been blocked by Google but then later unblocked. His name is Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto. I had never heard of him, and his performance on Carlson's show was not particularly impressive. Having viewed his The Problem with Atheism, however, I am now impressed!
My finding of this video is serendipitous in that it ties in with a discussion I was having yesterday with Malcolm Pollack. Malcolm is a naturalist and atheist in the Dennett-Dawkins-Harris camp. He seems to think that an objective, agreed-upon, and life-enhancing morality has no need of a transcendent foundation, and perhaps also that there is no need that the majority believe in any such transcendent foundation. In an earlier thread Malcolm wrote:
. . . one can accept the principle of equality before the law, based on a fundamental sense of shared humanity and liberty, merely as a stipulation, a premise one accepts because one thinks it leads to a just society, without belief in a transcendent foundation in God. It is simply a choice that a person, or a society, can make; we do that with all sorts of other premises and conventions.
Can someone who emphasizes the biologically-based differences between groups and sees cultural differences percolating up out of those differences [justifiably] appeal to a "sense of shared humanity" sufficiently robust to support equality before the law?
It may be that the West is running on fumes, the last vapors of the Judeo-Christian worldview and that your sense of equal justice for all is but a vestige of that dying worldview. Can belief in that moral code survive when belief in a transcendent Ground thereof is lost? The death of God has consequences, as Nietzsche appreciated.
This is the question that Professor Peterson addresses with passion and skill and with a slam or two at Sam Harris. (3:03) Peterson's point is essentially the one that Nietzsche made: belief in and respect for the authority of Christian morality stands and falls with belief in the Christian God. The death of God-belief in the West among the educated classes leads inevitably to moral nihilism.
Malcolm thinks we needn't drag the Transcendent into it; we can just agree on some set of moral conventions that will guide us. Sounds utopian to me. We don't agree on anything anymore: so how can we agree on this? Because it would be the rational thing to do to insure human flourishing?
But why should one care about the flourishing of anyone outside of oneself and one's tribe? Peterson raises the question of why it would be irrational, say, to exploit others for one's use and enjoyment. Why is it irrational for the strong to enslave the weak? How is pure naked self-interest irrational, Peterson asks. (3:53)
Your move, Malcolm.