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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A foundation of intellectual sand

This is the sort of basic historical error that Jordan Peterson commits with a surprising degree of regularity. From Maps of Meaning:
Prior to the time of Descartes, Bacon and Newton, man lived in an animated, spiritual world, saturated with meaning, imbued with moral purpose. The nature of this purpose was revealed in the stories people told each other—stories about the structure of the cosmos and the place of man. But now we think empirically (at least we think we think empirically), and the spirits that once inhabited the universe have vanished. The forces released by the advent of the experiment have wreaked havoc within the mythic world. Jung states:

How totally different did the world appear to medieval man! For him the earth was eternally fixed and at rest in the center of the universe, encircled by the course of a sun that solicitously bestowed its warmth. Men were all children of God under the loving care of the Most High, who prepared them for eternal blessedness; and all knew exactly what they should do and how they should conduct themselves in order to rise from a corruptible world to an incorruptible and joyous existence. Such a life no longer seems real to us, even in our dreams. Natural science has long ago torn this lovely veil to shreds.

Even if the medieval individual was not in all cases tenderly and completely enraptured by his religious beliefs (he was a great believer in hell, for example), he was certainly not plagued by the plethora of rational doubts and moral uncertainties that beset his modern counterpart. Religion for the pre-experimental mind was not so much a matter of faith as a matter of fact—which means that the prevailing religious viewpoint was not merely one compelling theory among many....

Medieval people, unused to rhetorical speech, were easily seized emotionally or inspired to action by passionate words.
This is little more than a mystic's poetic version of the false science-religion polarity put forth by historically ignorant atheists. Infogalactic:
After the breakup of the western Roman Empire, the study of rhetoric continued to be central to the study of the verbal arts; but the study of the verbal arts went into decline for several centuries, followed eventually by a gradual rise in formal education, culminating in the rise of medieval universities. But rhetoric transmuted during this period into the arts of letter writing (ars dictaminis) and sermon writing (ars praedicandi). As part of the trivium, rhetoric was secondary to the study of logic, and its study was highly scholastic: students were given repetitive exercises in the creation of discourses on historical subjects (suasoriae) or on classic legal questions (controversiae).

Although he is not commonly regarded as a rhetorician, St. Augustine (354-430) was trained in rhetoric and was at one time a professor of Latin rhetoric in Milan. After his conversion to Christianity, he became interested in using these "pagan" arts for spreading his religion. This new use of rhetoric is explored in the Fourth Book of his De Doctrina Christiana, which laid the foundation of what would become homiletics, the rhetoric of the sermon. Augustine begins the book by asking why "the power of eloquence, which is so efficacious in pleading either for the erroneous cause or the right", should not be used for righteous purposes (IV.3).

One early concern of the medieval Christian church was its attitude to classical rhetoric itself. Jerome (d. 420) complained, "What has Horace to do with the Psalms, Virgil with the Gospels, Cicero with the Apostles?" Augustine is also remembered for arguing for the preservation of pagan works and fostering a church tradition that led to conservation of numerous pre-Christian rhetorical writings.

Rhetoric would not regain its classical heights until the renaissance, but new writings did advance rhetorical thought. Boethius, in his brief Overview of the Structure of Rhetoric, continues Aristotle's taxonomy by placing rhetoric in subordination to philosophical argument or dialectic. The introduction of Arab scholarship from European relations with the Muslim empire renewed interest in Aristotle and Classical thought in general, leading to what some historians call the 12th century renaissance. A number of medieval grammars and studies of poetry and rhetoric appeared.

Late medieval rhetorical writings include those of St. Thomas Aquinas, Matthew of Vendome (Ars Versificatoria, 1175), and Geoffrey of Vinsauf (Poetria Nova, 1200–1216). Another interesting record of medieval rhetorical thought can be seen in the many animal debate poems popular in England and the continent during the Middle Ages, such as The Owl and the Nightingale (13th century) and Geoffrey Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls (1382).
The historical truth is that the average medieval man was probably more cognizant of the distinction between rhetorical speech and dialectical speech than postmodern man is, and the average educated medieval man almost certainly had a far more sophisticated technical understanding of rhetoric than the average modern or postmodern academic. Including Dr. Jordan Peterson himself.

Moreover, note that while Jung's erroneous assertion is limited to the medievals, Peterson's is not, as he extends Jung's false claim to includes all men prior to Descartes, Bacon and Newton. Anyone even remotely familiar with classical or Eastern philosophy will immediately recognize the absurdity of the statement. How could anyone who has read Outlines of Pyrrhonism possibly accept the idea that no one before Descartes thought empirically? Even if one hasn't, the fact that the author's name is Sextus Empiricus should provide at least a hint that something is seriously wrong with the notion.

Does Peterson genuinely believe people today do not respond emotionally to charges of racism, sexism, antisemitism, homophobia, and now transphobia? Does he truly believe they are not "easily seized emotionally or inspired to action by passionate words"? As for the idea that Man today thinks empirically, one has only to review a few of the furious responses of Jordan Peterson's fans to the revelations concerning his genuine beliefs and philosophy to wholly disprove that notion.

The chief problem, as near as I can tell, is that Peterson seldom bothers reading much actual source material, preferring to rely instead on what academics have written about it. In the case of his absurd claim concerning the unfamiliarity of medieval people with rhetorical speech, he refers to a 1967 study by Huizenga, while his failure to cite Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustine or Cicero even once while discussing the subject strongly suggests that at the time he wrote Maps of Meaning, he had never read any of them.

From a review of Thomas Aquinas on Persuasion: Action, Ends, and Natural Rhetoric by Jeffrey J.Maciejewski.
Much has been written about the early Church Fathers and their efforts to adapt Classical rhetorical theory to Christian thought. The greatest focus here has been on the philosopher and theologian Augustine of Hippo (345-430), whose contributions to a uniquely Christian rhetoric have been described by George Kennedy and Calvin Troup to name but a few. The focus on Augustine has perhaps overshadowed another influential Christian thinker, Thomas Aquinas. He also adapted Classical precepts, namely, Aristotelianism - and his impact on the development of the (Catholic) Christian CHurch has been as formidable as Augustine's, if not more so.
What sort of architecture of belief can any man hope to construct without Aristotle, let alone Augustine and Aquinas? And what sort of belief system can be expected to stand when constructed upon on a foundation of such shoddy intellectual sand?

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70 Comments:

Blogger Sensei May 15, 2018 6:08 AM  

The book of Job alone, one of the oldest stories of which we have record, utterly overthrows his untenable premise.

Blogger Stilicho May 15, 2018 6:14 AM  

Here's some Latin for the less than erudite Dr. Jordan: ad fontes. Try it sometime. As for empiricism, what the hell does Peterson think the alchemists were if not constantly experimenting empiricists? Many may have been chasing pipe dreams, but they did so via experimentation and empirical observation. Comparable to a physicist chasing string theory today.

Vox is too kind to Peterson: his view of the middle ages was lifted straight from Monty Python's Holy Grail.

OpenID Überdeplorable Psychedelic Cat Grass May 15, 2018 6:24 AM  

I hadn't even gotten to Vox's comment on Peterson and thought, "He hasn't heard of Aquinas????? What a dumbass!"

For anyone wanting read Aquinas in the vernacular, there's a concise translation of the Summa available.

Vox, you were right: he dazzles with bs and is an intellectual midget.

Blogger Looking Glass May 15, 2018 6:28 AM  

The stuff from the first quoted part is a deep error (or intentional one) you see a lot. Have people never read any Middle Ages or older works, properly translated?

I know at the heart of Enlightenment thought is, "we're better than those people before us", but it's really stupid to ever commit that sentiment to paper. Give me some St. Augustine over the modern idiots any day of the week.

Blogger Looking Glass May 15, 2018 6:31 AM  

@2 Stilicho

No, the peasants clearly could see the issues. "Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government."

Blogger Wanderer May 15, 2018 6:50 AM  

I don't think leftists like Peterson are stupid. Their apparent retardedness seems too calculated and deliberate to be accident. For example, there is significantly less evidence to suggest that Alexander the Great ever existed than compared to Jesus Christ, but no leftist would ever suggest that Alexander the Great is just a King Arthur-like myth of various pagan stories. If these leftists really were genuinely stupid people then they would be making their stupid statements all over the place without any obvious overarching agenda. Instead, it always comes back to rewriting history in order to push anti-Christianity, Satanism, and the NWO. I think guys like Peterson are consciously evil.

Blogger Skyler the Weird May 15, 2018 7:16 AM  

There were no Dark Ages in Constantinople at least until the 1450's.

Blogger JuliusEvola.co May 15, 2018 7:39 AM  

Who needs to read stuff when you have esoteric psycho mind powers like Peterson? As psychologists know, everything is relative and all can be explained with the power of psychology. Peterson IS God!

Blogger Rick May 15, 2018 7:42 AM  

JP’s trying to sell us a vacuum cleaner.

Blogger JuliusEvola.co May 15, 2018 7:44 AM  

@9

A vacuum cleaner for the dirty room of the soul.

Blogger Rick May 15, 2018 7:45 AM  

You know the old gag about if you could invent a time machine, what would you do with it — the punch line being, go back and stop Hitler before he left University?

Now’s our chance, with this fella.

Blogger Kieran Gordon May 15, 2018 7:50 AM  

VD, in Professor Peterson's defense, his view on the supposed gulf between the Medieval mind and our own seems pretty standard within academia from my (admittedly limited) personal experience as a History undergrad. Huizinga is considered one of the founders of modern "cultural history" and one of the giants of Medieval and "Early Modern" (post Medieval) history and he and others influenced by him push this viewpoint pretty heavily in their works, from what I remember.

I think perhaps they are confusing (perhaps intentionally) popular understanding of rhetoric versus educated understanding at the time. For example, if some huckster went to some podunk village in the middle of Medieval France, yes, he might convince them the common people of something illogical, but the same thing could obviously happen in the 19th century (like that con artist from "Huckleberry Finn") or now.

Blogger VD May 15, 2018 7:57 AM  

Huizinga is considered one of the founders of modern "cultural history" and one of the giants of Medieval and "Early Modern" (post Medieval) history and he and others influenced by him push this viewpoint pretty heavily in their works, from what I remember.

Which is entirely consistent with my hypothesis that Peterson doesn't actually know very much about any of this stuff, he just knows what the modern academics say about it.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan May 15, 2018 7:58 AM  

So pretty much the Moderns are con artists.

So in reference to Huck Finn this would be the third night of the Duke and Dauphin show, bring your tomatoes.

Blogger Looking Glass May 15, 2018 8:03 AM  

Mr.MantraMan wrote:So pretty much the Moderns are con artists.

So in reference to Huck Finn this would be the third night of the Duke and Dauphin show, bring your tomatoes.


Pretty much, though the Con tends to not be what it seems like, at the first or second layer. Their primary goal is always to fool themselves of their own evil, everything else flows from that. They're also the intellectual face of other forces.

In that regard, they're little more than heralds singing the praises of their master. In these cases, their master is a little less physical in nature.

Blogger Johnny May 15, 2018 8:06 AM  

People confuse operating on a false assumption with being illogical. The principle problem people had in pre modern societies was not a lack of logic so much has operating on a base of information that was limited and embodied beliefs that simply were not true.

Blogger Uncle John's Band May 15, 2018 8:09 AM  

The Moderns prefer their theories to facts.

Peterson is doing what shifty academics do, and that's pass secondary source or summary knowledge off as erudition. Who cares? It's all just 'discourse". He's weaponized academic performance rhetoric as part of his world's greatest intellectual persona. The problem for him is that it's a lot easier to check public writing or statements than a passing comment in a class.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelpia May 15, 2018 8:15 AM  

There are ideas that shape minds, and there are ideas that shape both minds and cultures.

The Aristotelian triad of Logos,Pathos,Ethos belongs to the latter category. Without it, Western culture, such as it is today, would not be here. There should be a stature or bust of some monument to Aristotle at every school and university on the planet.

Blogger Solaire Of Astora May 15, 2018 8:20 AM  

Peterson's idea that man once lived in a world entirely set by stories and not empirical reality allows him to idealize the past in whatever way fits his own fantasies. And this notion they didn't need faith in the past is absurd. It was a lack of faith that caused the people following Moses so much trouble in the wilderness. It was lack of faith that gave people trouble in not following foreign and wicked gods. In fact, the popular stories of those days, of the men of renown, would have drawn people away from God.

Blogger dienw May 15, 2018 8:23 AM  

Rick wrote:You know the old gag about if you could invent a time machine, what would you do with it — the punch line being, go back and stop Hitler before he left University?

I've come to think that if I had a time machine, I'd go back and get him admitted into the art academy to which he applied: I have started to think that the art faculty was as converged as the universities are today.

Blogger Peter Gent May 15, 2018 8:26 AM  

One needs to go no further than Matthew 7:25-27 to see that biblically the rock of truth is what enables one's belief to stand the test. "25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

Blogger dienw May 15, 2018 8:29 AM  

The principle problem people had in pre modern societies was not a lack of logic so much has operating on a base of information that was limited and embodied beliefs that simply were not true.

Welcome! to the Current Year traveler from the future. Do you have flying cars yet?

Blogger Stilicho May 15, 2018 8:54 AM  

@19 ironically enough, Peterson's entire schtick is just a twisted, self-referential projection of his personal "just so" story. He's a Boomer psychologist, so naturally the world revolves around him and operates according to the lies he tells himself!

Blogger Sam Spade May 15, 2018 8:57 AM  

I have been checked videos from this guy and he is great. Orthodox Christian that seems knowledgeable about Philosophy and Theology.

He was critizicing Peterson months ago:

"Jordan Peterson Critiqued: Classical Liberal Incoherence - Jay Dyer (Half)"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXduQlaU-Mg&t=665s

Blogger Johnny May 15, 2018 8:58 AM  

The dichotomy that I am familiar with is to suppose that science is conclusions drawn from observation and philosophy is conclusions drawn from thinking about things. Thus science based on observation is fact and philosophy is opinion.

The problem with the dichotomy is that it isn't really true. Science has ideas that impact the understanding of the observations, and philosophers are perfectly capable of observation. It is actually a matter of stress. Science stresses observation, philosophy logic.

Blogger Shamgar May 15, 2018 9:32 AM  

I think he went with what Jung and Freud thought about the Middle Ages and accepted as settled fact. This is common in academia. I had a friend once who tore apart this undergrad dude who asserted that Aristotle was the main reason the Middle Ages did not develop science.

Blogger OGRE May 15, 2018 9:34 AM  

This is willful ignorance on JPs part. Hes revising history to fit his narrative.

Even the pre-Socratics looked at the world logically and empirically, many of them coming very close to describing the world in ways we understand it now. For example, Democritus and his ilk posited an atomic theory that wasn't too far off the mark. Aristarchus theorized that the Earth revolves around the sun and that the stars were distant suns themselves. Aristotle himself labelled them as "physicists," from which we get the term. So clearly JP is ignorant on Aristotle.

Much more surprisingly though is that JP is ignorant on Nietzsche's own writings on the matter. Nietzsche wrote a rather short book titled "Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks" (which can be read in an hour or two tops, and is actually rather insightful and informative) in which he looks to the brilliance of some of the earliest Greek philosophers. He states his purpose in writing this is "to bring to light what we must ever love and honor and what no subsequent enlightenment can take away." Although hes referencing the greatness of the individual men and not necessarily their actual scientific and philosophical contributions, his main point is that these early Greeks were able to construct sophisticated scientific and philosophical theories when they lacked the benefit of history and technology to aid them.

So its rather striking for someone so wound up in Nietzsche worship as Peterson is to either ignore or be ignorant as to what one of his philosophical idols wrote about scientific study in classical antiquity.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine May 15, 2018 9:34 AM  

Science is an outgrowth of (natural) philosophy.

Blogger Krul May 15, 2018 9:41 AM  

"at least we think we think empirically"

I don't think he really thinks he thinks empirically.

Blogger Ron Winkleheimer May 15, 2018 9:46 AM  

I think he went with what Jung and Freud thought about the Middle Ages and accepted as settled fact.

I saw a couple of videos of him arguing with some trans activists about being forced to utilize preferred pronouns and then the Cathy Newman interview and thought he would be worth checking out, but then when I started watching other videos and he kept referencing Jung and Nietzsche. My thought about that was so much for that and I lost any interest in what he had to say. I was unaware, until Vox pointed it out, that he thinks the Virgin Birth and Jesus' resurrection are absurd and impossible, and thus Christianity is a false religion. You've got to be pretty oblivious to voice that opinion. Of course its "impossible." That's the whole point.

"but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles"

1 Corinthians 1:23

Blogger Ron Winkleheimer May 15, 2018 9:52 AM  

Aristarchus theorized that the Earth revolves around the sun and that the stars were distant suns themselves.

Eratosthenes, along with a lot of other accomplishments, calculated the circumference of the Earth. As I'm sure everyone who frequents this blog knows, the idea that everyone thought the Earth was flat until the enlightenment is simply nonsense.

Blogger OGRE May 15, 2018 10:18 AM  

@31 Ron Winkleheimer

Its really amazing what those guys accomplished back then. Many of us even with our sophisticated technology and years of education couldn't come up with their hypotheses and means to test them.

If anyone is interested in being more learned on the subject than Peterson is I've provided a link to a pdf version of the book I mentioned above. I hope I'm not violating any rules here by doing so...

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1AWwvRg74FRNnhRg9-4ZIP_VKsXs4UJCP/view?usp=sharing

OpenID Rusty May 15, 2018 10:21 AM  

The apostle Paul knew the source of his rhetorical skills.

"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power"

1Cor 2:4

Blogger Brick Hardslab May 15, 2018 10:21 AM  

So people forgot how to use rhetoric after the classical age, that's his assertion? I can imagine people forgetting the classical name for it or perhaps dialectic speech but rhetoric, BS, blarney? People have never forgotten that.

Blogger ÆtherCzar May 15, 2018 10:28 AM  

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods Jr. and Cardinal Antonio Cañizares does a great job illustrating the philosophical and scientific sophistication of the early medieval period.

Blogger S'mon May 15, 2018 10:50 AM  

"The chief problem, as near as I can tell, is that Peterson seldom bothers reading much actual source material, preferring to rely instead on what academics have written about it. In the case of his absurd claim concerning the unfamiliarity of medieval people with rhetorical speech, he refers to a 1967 study by Huizenga, while his failure to cite Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustine or Cicero even once while discussing the subject strongly suggests that at the time he wrote Maps of Meaning, he had never read any of them."

IME this ignorance of primary sources is a big problem in modern academia. It allows for garbage to be built atop garbage. The citation culture is partly to blame - Aristotle doesn't care if you cite him, and can't return the favour. Replacement of belief in objective truth with Narrative - which Peterson both attacks (cultural Marxists, Postmodernists) and advocates ("Truth is whatever works best") also seems significant.

Blogger Bill Halsey May 15, 2018 10:56 AM  


Given that Medieval university students were required to study the Trivium as a basic foundation, they were far more knowledgable about the nature of rhetoric, logic and grammar(and how they interact) than modern "university" students are - who for the most part aren't even aware of the distinctions.


"For the medieval student, the trivium was the curricular beginning of the acquisition of the seven liberal arts; as such, it was the principal undergraduate course of study."

"The Trivium is a systematic method of critical thinking used to derive factual certainty from information perceived with the traditional five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. *In the medieval university* the trivium was the lower division of the seven liberal arts, and comprised grammar, logic, and rhetoric (input, process, and output)."


"The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric (2002), Sister Miriam Joseph thus described the Trivium:

Grammar is the art of inventing symbols and combining them to express thought; logic is the art of thinking; and rhetoric is the art of communicating thought from one mind to another; the adaptation of language to circumstance.

Grammar is concerned with the thing as-it-is-symbolized. Logic is concerned with the thing as-it-is-known. Rhetoric is concerned with the thing as-it-is-communicated.[4]"


https://infogalactic.com/info/Trivium




Blogger Amy May 15, 2018 11:06 AM  

Academics and intellectuals whom cannot read. It is an epidemic, but also endemic to the current state of affairs.

I’ve tried to read Aristotle. It is difficult. Not impossible, but difficult. I’ve read St. Augustine as well; less difficult. Aquinas was difficult but accessible. The historians of Rome, and medieval Europe, all rendered accessible by translation. But still very few want to read them, or understand them. It’s part and parcel of the low bar set for college admission and the notion that a degree connotes intelligence and thoughts that never reach Jack Handy plumbs of depth.

It no longer surprises me that popular public intellectuals like Peterson are ignorant of the source materials. The training of the mind in the disciplines of dialectic and rhetoric has been a blurry field for years, long before I even landed in grammar school. They speak what people wish to hear, and follow the fashions of their day, while proclaiming they are unique individuals. This is Snowflake 2.7.1, the improved intelligent Snowflake with an education and an opinion.

In accordance with his own philosophy and exhortations, though, Peterson is consistent. The past is not yours in which to revel or draw pride. The traditions of the past, the history and culture and knowledge, are to be eschewed and so we enter a golden age of knowledge cut from whole cloth. We reinvent the wheel, because it wasn’t us who did it, and we want to lay claim to the process.

Blogger Isaac Miller May 15, 2018 11:13 AM  

Peterson assigns far greater weight to Jung than he should.

Blogger Ceasar May 15, 2018 11:40 AM  

Modern man is filled with anxiety. This puts him in a state that is easily manipulated by businesses and politicians. They like it that way since people just react to what ever stimuli with out thinking. It would be hard to convince me that modern man is somehow more aware of or able to identify truth than those in earlier history.

Anxiety in high forms takes away the very thing that you need to think clearly: patience and self awareness

Blogger Azure Amaranthine May 15, 2018 11:55 AM  

No one in power actually just wants to watch the world burn.

Rather, a chaotic state is much more exploitable than a stratified, applied state.

The world isn't providing the necessary chaos and redistribution to fill your coffers as full as you'd like? Stimulate war. Let's you and him fight so I can vacuum up all the pieces that break off and keep them.

Blogger Farinata May 15, 2018 12:09 PM  

Peterson is wrong to state the thing so blatantly, but there is a major difference between the relative status of the rhetorical arts (as against logic) in the medieval and renaissance ages. Look at the Italians. Guys like Brunetto Latini, Albertino Mussato and the other early humanists (to say nothing of the age of Petrarch) certainly wrote as if their renewed attention to Latin eloquence is a re-birth of something that had vanished. Were they mistaken? If not, then let's call out Peterson for the things he actually gets wrong, rather than nit-picking at slight hyperbole.

Of course he is exaggerating to say that Medievals were "unused to rhetoric" - the ars dictamini was most notably retained by popular preachers, of which there were not few (although their heyday is really at the start of the second millennium). On the other hand, who can deny that when the Humanists came along, they faced tremendous resistance from scholastic theologians? In any case, in my view it's really not so much a question of knowing what rhetoric is as recognizing its social function - Renaissance oratory came to serve a politics of mass culture that really does seem absent during most of the middle ages, but is all over the history of Rome.

Blogger Nobody of Consequence May 15, 2018 12:17 PM  

Mark Twain in Letters from Earth remarked that not 1 in 5000 thinks. In 1988, I observed not 1 in 10000. To believe that the vast majority of humans thinks about anything other than self is a foolishness. Human are greedy, vain, selfish, and for the most part useless. When Asked If I was a thinker, I remarked that I would hope so. WTF do modern people think that folks today are "better" than those in the past? SPLDM.

Blogger Chesapean May 15, 2018 12:30 PM  

RE: "What sort of architecture of belief can any man hope to construct without Aristotle, let alone Augustine and Aquinas?"

Perhaps none, but why should one wish to possess an "architecture of belief" in the first place? Surely certainty of knowledge, particularly direct knowledge of God, is the superior objective.

I don't know how well Jungian psychology works as pure science, but I see no reason to claim that Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas are necessary to Christianity.

Blogger VD May 15, 2018 12:48 PM  

Peterson is wrong to state the thing so blatantly, but there is a major difference between the relative status of the rhetorical arts (as against logic) in the medieval and renaissance ages. Look at the Italians. Guys like Brunetto Latini, Albertino Mussato and the other early humanists (to say nothing of the age of Petrarch) certainly wrote as if their renewed attention to Latin eloquence is a re-birth of something that had vanished. Were they mistaken? If not, then let's call out Peterson for the things he actually gets wrong, rather than nit-picking at slight hyperbole.

No. You're confusing Jung's statemente with Peterson's. Jung - as I pointed out - limits his claim to the medievals. He's still wrong, he's still ignoring the vast panoply of Byzantine history, but he's less wrong than Peterson, who claims that the ancients, too, were innocent of empirical thought.

Blogger Nate73 May 15, 2018 12:50 PM  

Would it be good enough to read those authors in translation or do you have to learn latin/japanese/greek to truly understand them?

Blogger Snidely Whiplash May 15, 2018 12:51 PM  

VD wrote:who claims that the ancients, too, were innocent of empirical thought.
C'mon Vox, he was just "emphasizing for effect"*, and "reaching the listeners where they are at"*. Of course he knows that the actual facts are the diametric opposite of what he's saying, but that's not lying*.

*these statements are lies

Blogger VD May 15, 2018 1:10 PM  

Would it be good enough to read those authors in translation or do you have to learn latin/japanese/greek to truly understand them?

Translation is fine.

Blogger Marcus Marcellus May 15, 2018 3:03 PM  

Regarding Peterson's advice to young men, he is a clear and present danger. His family looks sickly, and his wife is more of a mother-wife-therapist figure. I hope someone with a wide audience addresses this.

https://theoldcontinent.eu/peterson-family/

https://stellapictures.photoshelter.com/image/I00006CESwA1SomA

https://img.4plebs.org/boards/pol/image/1516/24/1516248017699.jpg

Blogger Farinata May 15, 2018 3:26 PM  

There are two related questions here: one concerns rhetoric and the other empiricism. I didn't say anything about the latter.

Bringing in the Byzantines is a false move - of course there were a lot of cultures with vastly different attitudes about many things in the first thirteen centuries after Christ. But although the Byzantines existed, as far as the intellectual history of Western Europe was concerned they were functionally out of the loop for most of what we think of when we say "the Middle Ages". This is why Aquinas, one of the most educated men of his day, read Aristotle in translation - even if he had had Greek texts to work from, they wouldn't have done him any good. It's perfectly reasonable to describe the medieval frame of mind in ways specific to Western Europe.

As to whether the ancients were not empiricists - yeah, okay, that's obviously exaggerated. But as a description of a general cast of mind it doesn't seem that crazy. Aristotle didn't think the earth was eternal because he measured anything.

Blogger VD May 15, 2018 3:56 PM  

Bringing in the Byzantines is a false move - of course there were a lot of cultures with vastly different attitudes about many things in the first thirteen centuries after Christ. But although the Byzantines existed, as far as the intellectual history of Western Europe was concerned they were functionally out of the loop for most of what we think of when we say "the Middle Ages".

No, it's not. Peterson was not merely talking about "the intellectual history of Western Europe". He was talking about the intellectual history of Man, more than that, the very mental framework of Man.

As to whether the ancients were not empiricists - yeah, okay, that's obviously exaggerated. But as a description of a general cast of mind it doesn't seem that crazy.

What is it about Peterson that inevitably turns his defenders into shameless liars? That alone should suffice to condemn the man.

Blogger SirHamster May 15, 2018 4:54 PM  

VD wrote:What is it about Peterson that inevitably turns his defenders into shameless liars? That alone should suffice to condemn the man.

Imitating their adoptive father. Rotten fruit falls not far from the tree.

Blogger James May 15, 2018 6:16 PM  

Peterson's assumption about an anti-science, anti-empiricist mindset that supposedly dominated the medieval period and all periods before it is, generally speaking, based on an evolutionary perspective of man's development. According to this view, early man and historical man couldn't possibly have been as intellectually sophisticated as modern man. The medieval man was dominated by religion and myth, according to the modern intellectual. Since the modern intelligentsia is largely anti-Christian, academics like Peterson are predisposed to dismiss the medieval period as one of ignorance. More specifically, August Comte's theory about the three stages of society may also be a factor behind Peterson's bias and misrepresentation of the medieval man as being anti-scientific. According to Comte, society goes through three stages in its evolution: the theological stage, the metaphysical stage, and the positivity stage. The theological stage is the realm of religion/myth, the metaphysical stage is the realm of abstract thought (not as religious, but still concerned with philosophical meaning and reason), and the positivity stage is the realm of empirical science. Modern academia holds to this paradigm as flagrantly unhistorical as it may be. Hence, People like Peterson who cloud their view of history with evolutionary sociology and psychology, are clearly not concerned with being accurate. They are going to interpret history through their paradigm, the facts be damned (or ignored).

Blogger tublecane May 15, 2018 6:45 PM  

"Medieval people, unused to rhetorical speech, were easily seized emotionally or inspired to action by passionate words"

Whether or not they were used to rhetoric--the educated ones certainly were--this whole line of thought is wrong. Because it's not as if people accustomed to the art of persuasion don't get carried away by persuasion. They may be a bit more on guard against "passionate words," but modern man is about as susceptible to word-feelz as other humans.

If anything, people are far more likely to be carried away by rhetoric these days considering the fact that they are submerged in media all day.

A simple plowman could be carried away at church on Sunday or as he walked through the village square, but it's not as if he listened to podcasts on headphones out in the fields.

Blogger tublecane May 15, 2018 6:55 PM  

@Kieran Gordon- For what it's worth, I read Huizinga's Autumn of the Middle Ages, and it was at least entertaining. I'm no expert on that period of history, so I can't speak to its scholarship.

I am suapisuspi of authors credited as "founders of so-and-so academic buzzword" like "cultural history." But I didn't catch the whiff of sulfur.

Blogger Brandon May 15, 2018 6:57 PM  

While it's a bit difficult to get, James J. Murphy's Rhetoric in the Middle Ages is a good study of how robust medieval rhetorical theory was even outside the more technical discussions of the scholastics -- he notes that a lot of the classical tradition survived, but, for obvious reasons, it survived in discussions of rhetorical situations that were particularly important to the medievals -- preaching and letter-writing, primarily, the former because of the Church and the latter because the political networks of Europe were based almost entirely on correspondence. It was a very practical focus, but significant portions of the classical rhetorical tradition were adapted to these contexts. The shift in the Renaissance was not a matter of people rediscovering rhetoric, but a matter of scholars LARPing as classical rhetors, adapting practice to theory rather than theory to practice.

Blogger tublecane May 15, 2018 7:08 PM  

About Huizinga, Peterson goes on and on about games and play in one of his lectures on Maps of Meaning. Huizinga of course wrote a famous book titled Homo Ludens (Playing Man or Man at Play), which is a work of sociology/cultural history suggesting culture derives from people horsing around.

Huizinga may be a touchstone for Peterson's system of thought (such as it is). I dunno.

This was the same lecture in which I remember Peterson asking whether "work" within the computer game World of Warcraft could be more real than a "real life" job.

"Whoa, Prof. You just, like, blew my mind?"

Blogger tublecane May 15, 2018 7:56 PM  

I saw that video, and Dyer makes a similar point about the change in mindset to a empiricist/Newtonian worldview in the modern era. Not Peterson's idiotic point that no one thought in empirical terms before Descartes or whomever, but the idea that modern minds, or rather modern Enlightened, liberal minds, are hamstrung by testing all truth against experience. Disallowing metaphysics from the get-go.

That's not true of all post-Enlightenment thought, obviously. But I think it's what Peterson's trying to get at, expressed again in an idiotic manner.

Dyer lumps Peterson into this modern liberal empirical worldview, despite his pragmatism, idealism, whatever it is. Because Western philosophy has been stuck in Kantian perspectivism for a couple centuries, and it really isn't any sort of grand compromise between mind and body. It's just gross materialism crossed with psychology.

Blogger Vaughan Williams May 15, 2018 7:59 PM  

Vox said, "What sort of architecture of belief can any man hope to construct without Aristotle, let alone Augustine and Aquinas?"

Is not the Bible sufficient?

OpenID Sidehill Dodger May 15, 2018 8:04 PM  

Ron Winkleheimer wrote:Eratosthenes, along with a lot of other accomplishments, calculated the circumference of the Earth. As I'm sure everyone who frequents this blog knows, the idea that everyone thought the Earth was flat until the enlightenment is simply nonsense.

Agreed. In fact, I'm of the opinion that the whole notion of a "flat Earth" is an exclusively modern invention designed to make ancient thinkers look "unscientific" and stupid. Does anyone know of a pre-Renaissance thinker who concerned himself with the shape of the Earth, and who constructed a systematic "flat Earth" cosmology? I haven't heard of any.

The only systematic flat Earth cosmology I know of is the modern one. Take a look at their web page--it's a hoot.

Blogger tublecane May 15, 2018 8:05 PM  

@Amy- "rhetoric has been a blurry field for years"

Like mist humanities, which has been made trash in our trash culture.

I don't know whether this is the work of deconstructionists or what, but I have noticed the wird "rhetoric" go the way of "discourse" and so forth. Which is to say, into meaninglessness.

You crack open an essay titled "the Rhetoric of This" or "the Rhetoric of That," (or you don't, because such writings seldom reach more than a couple pairs of human eyes). Rhetorical analysis therein you discover consists of nothing more than the author blabbing on about whatever pops into his head.

Blogger VD May 15, 2018 8:21 PM  

Is not the Bible sufficient?

Sufficient for what? It won't tell you how to play football, for one thing.

Blogger tublecane May 15, 2018 9:01 PM  

@42- Did you not read the original post? It says, quoting Infogalactic, "Rhetoric would not regain its classical heights until the renaissance." Yes, we're aware the renaissance happened.

So what's your point? Peterson was spicing up the mild claim that medievals weren't as rhetorically-knowledgeable as ancients or moderns by pretending some intellectual revolution took place radically reorientating the mind after the Enlightenment?

And that's supposed to be hyperbolizing for a good cause as opposed to lying or simply not knowing what he's talking about?

Blogger Snidely Whiplash May 15, 2018 9:11 PM  

tublecane wrote:Peterson was spicing up the mild claim that medievals weren't as rhetorically-knowledgeable as ancients or moderns by pretending some intellectual revolution took place radically reorientating the mind after the Enlightenment?


That wasn't his claim. His claim is that about 400 years ago, the human mind underwent some kind of an evolution, or an enlightenment, and prior to that, man was incapable of understanding rhetoric or thinking empirically.

Blogger Vaughan Williams May 15, 2018 9:17 PM  

VD: the topic was "architecture of belief". Augustine and Aquinas taught against literal understanding of the Bible. Aristotle had some good ideas, but this effort to integrate the Hebrew scriptures with Greek philosophy has been the Achilles heel of the West. And will continue to be. Man is a limited creature, and much must be taken on faith, without going full Muslim fatalist.

Blogger tuberman May 15, 2018 9:20 PM  

Claiming the Medieval minds were almost paleolithic is a bit of a stretch, well, more than a bit. Even the "story telling" in very early Greek culture was miles in advance of tribal oral cultures. Homer's poetics were a great advance over the mythic oral stories of even neolithic tribes.

Blogger tublecane May 15, 2018 9:38 PM  

@64- Yes, but I'm trying to figure out Farinata's point, which may bear little or no relation to Peterson's actual point.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash May 15, 2018 10:55 PM  

His point? "You're so stupid Dad!"

You're way over-thinking this.

Blogger Farinata May 16, 2018 10:59 AM  

@63

my original point was that Vox should limit his attacks on Peterson to things that Peterson actually gets wrong, rather than picking nits and blowing them out of proportion. I make no comment about Peterson's motives or cause, because I don't care very much about that. I stand for accurate pedantry.

@64

"[Peterson's] claim is that about 400 years ago, the human mind underwent some kind of an evolution, or an enlightenment, and prior to that, man was incapable of understanding rhetoric or thinking empirically."

And my point is that this may be imprecise or exaggerated, but it isn't wrong. Insert whatever caveats you like, the fact is that our age really does have a very different relationship with both rhetoric and empiricism than what was typical of the Middle Ages. Two brief examples: the enormous influence of advertising; our general suspicion of tradition.

Blogger Farinata May 16, 2018 11:05 AM  

the problem is that if you want to be intellectually consistent, to rule out rhetorical exaggeration (like saying "medievals were incapable of understanding rhetoric" when the fact is that they were simply much less accustomed to it in everyday life) means you also have to toss out Chesterton, whose historical work is full of howlers. I am arguing for charity in reading so as to distinguish minor inaccuracies from actual lies. Assuming, of course, that we think that is a meaningful distinction.

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