Monday, November 21, 2016

An Open Letter to Professor Peterson from a Former Student

Dear Professor Peterson,

I am a former of student of yours – I took the “Personality and its Transformations” and “Maps of Meaning” courses that you taught at the University of Toronto during my undergraduate years, where I double majored in psychology and philosophy.

I am writing this letter to you directly, but also publishing it publicly in the hopes that it furthers the advancement of the current conversation/controversy that you are surrounded in at this time. I am doing this for three reasons: 
  1. I hope to provide you with some thoughts for self-reflection about the issues at hand, not because I am sure that you need assistance in your process of self-reflection or because I am sure that reading this letter will benefit you, but because I genuinely want to be helpful;
  2. I want to aid in my own process of reflection and to help contextualize my own thoughts and feelings on these matters (and I thank you for validating my proclivity for using the written word for such purposes during my time as your student); and
  3. I hope to provide some food for thought for others who are currently following the recent controversy (especially those who seem to follow you unquestioningly with the passion of zealots).
I distinctly remember a moment during one of your Maps of Meaning lectures years ago wherein a student raised his hand and asked a question: “Why are you teaching us all of this?” Your answer rings loud and clear to me in my memory: “I want you to be free of ideological possession.” Your thesis has stuck with me to this day because I find it cogently and concisely sums up a major reason why seemingly rational and normal human beings can seem to become the embodiments of evil, something we have seen (and continue to see) far too often throughout the course of history. It helped me to make a little more sense out of the unfathomability of my own ancestry: my grandparents were survivors of Nazi concentration camps. It has helped me to more clearly recognize and appreciate the strength with which underlying assumptions about the world – call them ideologies, schemas, or unconscious beliefs – shape the realities of individuals, families, communities, and societies as a whole. I say all of this because I want to be clear that I value and largely agree with your cautions about the dangers of being “ideologically possessed”; I hold you in high regard as one of the more insightful and thought-provoking professors I had during my undergraduate years at U of T.

I appreciate the extent to which you acknowledge the fallibility of human beings, particularly their blind-spots: their biases, their emotional reasoning, and their logical fallacies. It was a point you made again at the debate this past Saturday morning as you were pitted against (what seemed to be) two interlocutors who did not share your fears and concerns about the insidious motives lurking behind bill C-16 and the “social justice warrior” agenda to silence those whose views do not conform with theirs. To some who have been following this unfolding drama, you have been painted as a hate-monger, an ignorant bigot, and the prototypical “privileged white male professor sitting in his ivory tower.” To others, you are seen as a courageous martyr, a warrior for truth and freedom, and a brilliant psychologist/professor who is being fundamentally misunderstood by a naïve world. I would argue that those who view you at either end of such an extreme spectrum are, to borrow your phrase, ideologically possessed by polarized, overly simplified perspectives, the origins of which and the reasons for I will not begin to speculate here.

As for myself, in accordance with my own humanistic beliefs, I view you as a man who is striving to stand up for what he believes is right. I see a man who earnestly believes that there is danger lurking in the shadows and is trying his best to shine light on it in order to prevent its influence and reach from growing. And I see a man who feels that he has his back against the wall, who is afraid of what is happening in the world around him, and even more afraid of what may be coming down the road. 

As I think back at all of the knowledge I gleaned from you in your lectures and writing, all of the insights and perspectives you shared with myself and my fellow class-mates, I also recall certain off-hand comments you made to us at times. Some that I can still hear echoing in my memory include: “If you believe that, then you’re an idiot!” and “If you think that, then you’re just plain wrong.” I recall these comments now not simply for their (perhaps?) inadvertent crassness and their (unintentionally?) entertaining shock-value. I recall them because within the tone and the very nature of the content of these statements, I can’t help but find an inherent arrogance – a definitive, dismissive quality of cocksureness that is, I think, unbecoming of a man who claims to recognize the uncertainty, fallibility, and tenuous nature of the human mind’s grasp on reality. I recall these statements because I have seen/heard them again in some of your recent statements, lectures, and debates regarding the issues surrounding Bill C-16. I point them out to you now because I think they may be symptomatic of one of the reasons that you find yourself in the position that you’re currently in.

Rather than make psychoanalytic assumptions about you, I would like to pose you a series of questions – ones that I have been wondering in light of recent events:

Is it possible for any human being, including yourself, to be fully free of biases, mental blind-spots, and underlying assumptions that may be erroneous? Is it possible for any human being, including yourself, to be completely “free of ideological possession” of one sort or another? Is there such a thing as a “completely analyzed analyst,” one who can view certain phenomena which such a degree of objectivity that he/she/they/[insert preferred gender pronoun here] are free of the grips of the unconscious? Can anyone truly see so clearly that they have broken free of the inherently subjective nature of human consciousness itself? If I had to venture a guess, I imagine that your answer to these questions would be: “probably not.”

I implore you then, Dr. Peterson, to ask yourself how you can justify presenting yourself as being so sure as to the rightness of the stance you have taken recently regarding Bill C-16 and the issue of transgender rights? Is it not possible that the decades you have spent researching totalitarian regimes and their ideological underpinnings, your own education and theoretical orientations as a psychologist, your own personal upbringing, history, and life experiences have led you to see things in a certain way? Is it not possible that given your own beliefs, your own findings based on your extensive study of various texts and academic research, that you have nurtured in yourself a bias to assimilate your perceptions of events and personal experiences to fit a particular worldview? Is it not possible that in your attempts to make sense of what seems to be an often dangerous and unpredictable world composed largely of irrational and idiotic human beings, you have oversimplified your views on the nature of good and evil, right and wrong, freedom and oppression?

I ask you these questions not because I am sure that you’re wrong about what you believe to be the truth in these matters. I ask, rather, in the hopes that you will not take your sense of rightness as proof that you are, in fact, right – no matter how logical, rational, intuitive, or well-informed your arguments seem to be. I remember you cautioning myself and my fellow students against putting too much stock the in veracity of rationalization – the most valid of arguments does not guarantee its soundness. The human faculty of reason can justify just about any position, provided that certain premises remain beyond the reach of scrutiny and thorough questioning.

For what it’s worth, here are some of my brief reflections on recent events:

            I think that you’ve made some harmful overgeneralizations about the people who are advocating for the rights of transgendered people. In labelling the entire cause of transgender rights as a front for “PC authoritarians,” “Marxists,” and the “radical/fringe left,” you have also (perhaps inadvertently) called into question the validity of the cause itself. This sort of “guilt by association” reasoning, which you may or may not actually espouse, is communicated to those who look up to you: students who listen to your lectures, watch your videos, and hang on to your every word. I do not doubt the existence of the “radical leftist” people of whom you speak (I encountered my fair share of them during my undergraduate years), and I agree when you say that they are likely not representative of the trans-rights movement as a whole. However, by focusing so exclusively on them and what you imagine their motives and influence to be regarding bill C-16, you have framed the issue of transgender rights in a very particular way – one that I believe suits your own motives, beliefs, and worldviews much more than the actual spirit and letter of the law itself. 
You, yourself, have been accused of fostering intolerance and fomenting aggression towards transgendered people on campus, largely because certain ill-informed, neo-Nazi types seem to gravitate toward your messages and use them as fuel for their own intolerance. Would it be fair to say that because such people have been drawn to your rallies, people who wave the banner of “free speech” over their heads as justification for their own transphobia and hatred, that your motives must secretly be steeped in neo-Nazi ideologies? Of course not. But when you frame issues a certain way based on your own preconceptions about the world (which we all inherently do), you are likely to start mistaking shadows for actual monsters. 
            
            There is much more I could write, but I realize that this letter has already become quite lengthy and that both time and attention are precious, limited resources in our world. I would like to end with one final point: I don’t believe that there is such a thing as absolute freedom. The freedom of speech that we enjoy must be tempered by our own sense of responsibility for what we say. As a psychologist sworn to a code of ethics which includes a responsibility to society at large and as a professor at a prominent academic institution, this responsibility is amplified for you. If the way in which you frame your arguments and exercise your right to free speech does, in fact, lead to ostracism from your colleagues, anger from minority communities, and the increased boldness of racists, misogynists, and bigots, then you have a duty to very seriously examine the impact of your words and actions. 

I would be happy to discuss these matters further with you, if that is something you would like to do.

Best wishes,

Daniel Farb


86 comments:

  1. Dribel

    http://ahabit.com/peterson

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read, comment, and then post your own "dribel" (whatever the fuck that is).

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  2. Ok.. so he is isn't perfect, and he should remember that? Horseshit. Go away.

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    1. Yes, I think he should. We all should. None of us should proclaim to know "the truth" or "the way things really are" with a conviction that leaves little to no room for scrutiny.

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    2. So what is your suggestion? He should remain quiet because he might not be taking every single variable of his psyche into account?
      That he should doubt himself in his own arguments and therefore drastically limiting the effect of his words?

      You need to believe in what you say if you wish to convince anyone, and I strongly believe that the professor has analyzed all of his assumptions in great detail. He does explain in some of his interviews how he, in collaboration with other people who don't share all his views, examined his own videos and arguments to maximise the objectivity of the argument at hand.

      Ofcourse he will never reach total objectivity, but guess what, it's up to us to listen to his arguments and take them with a grain of salt, examine them in their entirety and so on...

      And while we are questioning the ethics and validity of peoples arguments regarding this controversy, is Dr. Peterson really the first person who's objectivity we should question and who's bias we should call out?

      We should question him yes, but we should question the others so much more (for example the other two professors who debated with Peterson in the recent forum on bill C-16).

      Besides, his general argument is that debate should not be stifled by laws (whether this law stifles debate and/or sets a dangerous precedent is up for questioning aswell ofcourse). And his arguments are part of a debate, not an ultimate truth, an unbiased holy scripture.

      To sum up my actual dribble (excuse my inorganised response): Our task is firstly to challenge his arguments with other arguments and not simply dismiss them because they might be biased in some way.

      Matej Gartner

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    3. Matej, thanks for your input. My main point in this letter was that I object to Dr. Peterson presenting his arguments with the conviction of one who presents himself as passionately, absolutely sure of himself, as if he possesses actual objective, indisputable proof for some of his assertions, when in fact he does not and cannot possess such proof.

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    4. do you really believe that everyone needs to cover every possible side to any debate all the time?

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    5. No, but I think there needs to be a certain degree of nuance in one's claims. The entire social justice movement is not just a bunch of "radical leftist Marxist PC authoritarians" and Peterson seems to often assert/imply. Much of the social justice movement comes out of a history of oppression of many marginalized groups who are fighting for equity - the problem is that some who are engaged in this fight for social justice are quite extreme in their views and take things way too far.

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    6. I appreciate what you are saying, and don't disagree, (except for the idea that he ought to temper his speech because of censure or adulation) I'm sure it would be healthy as a person to note his own biases, but that is almost irrelevant to the discussion.

      Noting that he is biased towards seeing totalitarian trends does not affect the validity of his claim, as you have said.


      -Olivebirdy

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  3. Self righteous much there daniel?

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    1. I don't know...am I? Care to explain further?

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  4. I don't think anybody wants to discuss anything with you.

    http://flogha.com/justis

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and post :)

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  5. I wonder how you, having asked all those questions in the beginning, later demonstrated your indoctrination.

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    1. Where is my "indoctrination" Eugene? What doctrine is it? Who taught it to me? Please enlighten me.

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  6. This is a reply from someone you described as a zealot:

    I think it’s fortunate Dr. Peterson got embroiled in the PC argument because otherwise I would have never found out about him and had the opportunity to watch his lectures.

    If you think he’s wrong about the whole sjw phenomenon, then I suggest you meditate on why it is that this case brought him so much fame when nothing he has said is radical in anyway and has never, in the history of the world, been considered radical.

    He hasn’t said Transexuals should not exist. He hasn’t said they should be cured of their mental illness. he hasn’t said that what they’re doing is a sin is against God.
    The thing he continually goes back to is the issue of compelled speech, and how the government forcing you to say something encroaches on the fundamental human process of dialogue toward a greater understanding.


    I would describe myself as an admirer of his now. An admirer of the way he has committed himself to learning, to speaking clearly and to education. I selfishly wish he wouldn’t continue to discuss this whole PC business because I think it’s beneath him. I wish he would concentrate his energy on writing or on making videos, or even making art. I think it’s pretty obvious that that’s your reason for this letter also.

    But I still watched the debate, if you can call it that. I’ve watched the interviews. And you know what Peterson still does every time? He surprises me. He shows more subtlety than I expect, more patience to find the right word, and more desire to understand the other side than anyone I’ve ever seen debate.

    I sometimes have to ask myself if it’s all an act. If it just happens to be the case that he’s practiced the art of rhetoric to the point that he hits every point I expect him to hit, and then goes beyond. Ultimately it doesn’t matter.

    It’s difficult to admire living intellectual figures because they learn to love the sound of their echo. Is Peterson in danger of doing so? I don’t think so because he developed a method, for himself, to know when he’s being true to himself and when he isn’t.

    But even if he does, so what? He spend so much energy telling anyone who will listen him that the key to greater understanding is paying attention to that feeling of centeredness, and anyone who learns from him, really learns from him, will recognize it immediately and move on with their own path if they see Peterson deviated from it.

    There are a few more things I would like to say:

    Peterson shared the link to this blog on his twitter account.

    I consider myself an ally to any person, no matter their skin color, orientation, or sexual identification, and I would fight to protect the rights I think are the essential to the human being.

    Communism erased my culture, and the culture of my ancestors. Peterson speaks for me, and people like me, in a way no one else does.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. It's honestly refreshing among the plethora of internet trolls and talking heads that follow these stories around echoing other people's words.

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  7. Although I disagree with you in that I think you hold Dr. Peterson to an impossibly high standard, I commend your efforts in articulating your thoughts and posting them as an open letter online.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I am holding him to the impossibly high standard he sets for himself by virtue of the high degree of self-assured conviction with which he speaks his version of "the truth."

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    2. May I ask what is the ultimate Truth to you?

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    3. You are are certainly welcome to ask, but I doubt I can supply you with a simple answer, Fiona. I think that there are many different truths, depending on how we frame our worldviews, arguments, and at what levels of analysis we look. One of my "truths" is that reality is far more complicated than we would like it to be, so we create constructs to understand our world, to simplify and make sense of it because we have to, and in doing so we sometimes become blind to other ways of seeing things.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. There is no 0% margin of error, and Peterson himself obviously realises this. He has never stated that, for instance, bill C-16 could not possibly help transpeople, just that it would be unlikely in his view. His point rests entirely on the issue of free speech and the fact the roundabout and imprecise details of the law would make it a potential weapon against free speech. The law could have been about anything, it just happened to be related to gender issues.

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  9. This is a very compelling and nuanced response in the issue of Bill C-16 and Jordan Peterson's controversy. However, I must disagree with your final statement, that there is no such thing as absolute freedom. Not that there isn't, but that you believe Peterson is arguing for absolute freedom, he isn't. In fact, he is very open to using the proper pronouns, and even acknowledges reasonable limits on speech such as holocaust denial. His fundamental disagreement is with compelled speech, being forced by the government to use certain words.

    If someone were to disagree with the idea of a gender spectrum, why should they have to entertain someone who they perceive to be deluded? It's not about compassion or respect. It is in fact an unreasonable intervention into our basic freedom of expression - to question the veracity of controversial claims. And surely the claim that gender is completely separate from biological sex, and that it is somehow a spectrum of many different genders, is controversial?

    Dr. Peterson is far from a perfect individual. And from what I've seen, he is of course highly partial to harbouring a strong skepticism toward authority, no doubt as a result of his exhaustive study of totalitarian regimes. But what he's fighting for, in a sense, is the right to be skeptical, to voice dissent. And this is why he labels the proponents of Bill C-16 as "PC Authoritarians", because they don't want people to legally be able to voice doubt towards this controversial doctrine of gender identity, which is far from settled science. On a broader scale, PC authoritatians don't want individuals to be able to argue against anything that they believe. This is the idea of safe spaces, of media censorship, and trigger warnings, to prevent alternative perspectives from challenging the views held in their closed minds

    Thanks again for your thoughtful letter, I'm jealous you were able to take Dr Peterson's Maps Of Meaning course!

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    1. Hey Coltin, thanks for taking the time to read and respond.

      I think that there is convincing empirical literature to indicate that transgender people exist and that they are not "deluded" in that their gender identity differs from their biological sex. Gender identity has been shown quite clearly to be determined by particular structures in the brain, which can in some cases vary from biological sex. To say that this evidence is "controversial" is to say either that one is ignorant of the empirical evidence, or that when one says "controversial" one actually means "offensive to my worldview/sensibilities/makes me feel upset to consider this possibility."

      Let's take an analogous example: let's say a person exists (we will call him Mr. Racist) who believes that people of African decent (i.e. what we would commonly call "black people") are actually subhuman primates. Mr. Racist goes around telling other people that black people are subhuman and therefore should not be afforded the same rights as other human beings. Mr. Racist is entitled to his racist/ignorant beliefs, we may argue that he's even entitled to articulate his beliefs through his right to freedom of speech. If Mr. Racist actually commits a crime proven to be motivated by his racist beliefs, then he could be prosecuted under the Human Rights Act. If Mr. Racist discriminates against a black person under the purview of domains covered by, let's say, the Ontario Human Rights Code, then he could be punished for discriminating based on his racist beliefs under the Code. It really wouldn't matter how "controversial" Mr. Racist (or a group of 10 thousand Mr. and Mrs. Racists) found the assertion that black people = human beings to be, because the law would recognize this as true and therefore protect the rights of black people accordingly.

      Bill C-16 exists particularly because transgender people have and (and continue to be) subject to discrimination in the domains of housing, education, health care, etc. It exists 1. to acknowledge, validate, and legitimize their existence in the eyes of the law and 2. to provide some measure of protection from them being unjustly discriminated against by virtue of their transgender identities.

      I agree that "PC authoritarians" exist and are a problem. I just don't believe that they are the reason why Bill C-16 exists, nor do I see any proof that this Bill forwards a PC authoritarian agenda. It simply adds protection for transgeder people under the same umbrella of protected rights and freedoms that we afford to all citizens, regardless of "race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability."

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    2. Thanks for your response, but you actually misinterpreted my point. When I talked about transgender people being viewed as "deluded", I was speaking only to those who adhere to a fantasy gender, in between male and female. As far as the evidence goes, the vast majority of actual transgender people identify as either man of woman, not in between. So when I speak of the controversial claim, I speak only of the claim that gender is a spectrum, that it is not binary, and that people can identify as some fabricated in between gender. The fact is that there are two scientifically, biologically, and culturally accepted genders, not 3, not 31. I would definitely say that the claim is controversial, and much more evidence must be collected before adding this kind of social constructivism to the criminal code.

      My general point is, I'm open to discussing the idea of a gender spectrum. I'm not closed minded to it. But I don't want to be forced to have to adhere to a controversial claim of non-binary gender identity. We should be having open discussion on the merits of these claims, not shutting this down as bigoted. It's not bigoted to question scientifically questionable claims, and it's definitely not analagour to your "racism" example. In fact, your example is likely more applicable to the proponents of a non-binary gender spectrum, with the racist akin to the PC Authoritarian trans-activists. But in fact, I sound say that the trans-activist is the more dangerous to society than the racist.

      Why do I make this claim? Well, the PC Authoritarian's goal is to force society to adhere to his or her (or xi's) belief that gender is non-binary. This person is willing to restrict freedom of speech to achieve this goal. The racist who believes that black people are subhuman, as despicable as this belief is, at least is not attempting to force this onto society, censoring any kind of dissenting opinion. I hold freedom as a higher societal value than social justice. So even the freedom to be wrong, to believe in racist things, is something worth preserving. Social justice, on the other hand, is not even provably beneficial to society as a whole. We have almost 250 years of Liberal Democracy as evidence for the benefit of unrestricted freedom of expression. This freedom in fact, can be identified as one of the most important causal mechanism for societal change. Social justice has more in common with the Marxist death camps of the Soviet Uniom, where equality of outcome was the primary goal. Not at all dissimilar to the current goals of the progressive left.

      Connecting this back to Bill C-16, I have no issue with the first provision of preventing housing or workplace discrimination based on their transgender identity. However, the second provision, adding misgendering to the hate speech provision, is wholly unnecessary, and very dangerous. It does not need to exist, and this is what Dr. Peterson and most opponents of the bill are protesting. The hate speech provision would make it illegal to refuse to adhere to the idea of non-binary gender identity. And that, as I've laid out in this comment, is unacceptable to me. We must protect freedom of expression, the freedom to question, and ultimately the freedom to be wrong, rather than the enforcement of what one group claims is right.

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    3. Could you direct me to where exactly in the criminal code you could be charged with not accepting non-binary gender identity as fact?

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    4. Under the OHC, it would constitute discrimination and be subject to punishment. As Dr Peterson has been warned by UofT, his mere action of stating that he refuses to accept mom binary-gender identity, is illegal in Ontario.

      Here's the actual wording of the document:
      http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-preventing-discrimination-because-gender-identity-and-gender-expression

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    5. Thanks for the link, Coltin. I think that to say that not using a person's chosen/desired pronoun would automatically equal discrimination and be subject to punishment is really a far-fetched scenario that would stretch the law as it is written to a preposterous extent. It also assumes that the codification of trans-peoples' rights in law means that the right to free speech, for example, codified in other Canadian laws, would automatically be over-ruled, which is simply untrue. For example, this part of the Policy exists:

      10.2 Balancing competing rights

      Generally, when a person makes an accommodation request, the organization or institution responsible for accommodation will be able to provide the accommodation without it affecting the legal rights of other people.

      Sometimes, however, a request for accommodation may result in a “competing human rights” situation if the rights of another person or group are also affected.

      Organizations have a legal duty to take steps to prevent and respond to situations involving competing rights. The OHRC’s Policy on competing human rights sets out a framework for dealing with competing human rights situations as well as preventing conflicts from happening.[86] Part of the analysis involves considering whether there is a legislative exemption for the situation, or whether the interference with the rights of another person or group is significant or substantial.

      Example: In a case that went to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, the Vancouver Rape Relief Society decided not to train a trans woman as a volunteer because she had lived part of her life as a man. They argued the restriction was a legitimate requirement for the position because they provide services specifically to women who have experienced violence from men.

      The Court discussed the impact on both sides (the volunteer and the clients) and found that while the organization had appeared to discriminate against the trans woman, an exemption in the BC Human Rights Code, which is designed to address competing rights, protected the organization from liability in this situation.[87]

      Each competing rights situation must be examined and decided on its own merits giving serious consideration to the specific context. A different set of facts could mean a different outcome in another situation.

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  10. Poor and naive assesment of how his comments are arrogant and that is why he is in his current position. Anyone who says boo in opposition to bill C-16 no matter how diplomatic they say it gets shouted down. Not to mention Peterson has been superbly consistent and respectful. Not once has he gone for a low blow or insult like his opposition frequently does. His arguments ultilize principles, logic and emperical facts of observation. Do your homework.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. If you read what I wrote a bit more carefully, I did not claim that his comments being arrogant are "the reason" why he is in his current situation. I wrote that the way he speaks at times "may be symptomatic of one of the reasons" he is in the situation he's in.

      I'll keep doing my homework - you work on your reading comprehension.

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  11. I found this letter thought provoking and I would be interested in Dr Peterson's reply, if he replys. As for the people that have insulted this man, I believe they should wait to see what his response is, they may be surprised and may end up wearing egg on their face.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and reply. I very much like your use of the phrase "wearing egg on their face" - made me grin :)

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  12. I found myself nodding along to certain parts of your criticism of Peterson because I, too, see something a bit too sure of himself in the way he presents his arguments in such stark terms.

    But when I think about it, such quibbles seem trivial against the background of what this really is: a man being hounded by a hate mob of ostensible "activists" who claim to stand for transgender people (even though Peterson has not expressed any animus towards transgender people per se), reprimanded by the university which in a sane world would be protecting his academic freedom, allowed a "debate" which at times matched the tenor of a trial (though not of the fair and just sort), whose body language betrays that he's obviously very stressed and pushed to a point where he genuinely worries about his livelihood and/or getting entangled in legal trouble.

    And for what? What is he actually culpable of?

    Not being, as you say here, quite temperate enough in his dissent from a censorious ideology that has an iron grip on university administrations and campus discourse, and has insinuated itself into public policy, whence it spreads a stifling cloud of paranoia, casting a pall over discourse and social interactions?

    Or the mere expression of that dissent, period?

    Because it looks an awful lot like it's the latter. And if it seems that way -- well, I can only think that that's because it fucking IS.

    The man has his back to a wall and is surrounded by enemies who'd like nothing more than to close in for the kill. Under the circumstances, to criticize his tone as he pleads his case is not merely a niggling complaint. It's to join the very enemies who seek to harm him, when he more than anything needs allies to come to his aid.

    As you said, the man was your teacher, and your life and thought were enriched by what he imparted to you. I am partly socialized in an Asian culture where one would never, ever talk to their teacher this way. It would be simply unthinkable. So this seems to me like a strange way to show your gratitude when your teacher is in need.

    Actually, I won't mince words. It's a rotten, detestable betrayal.

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    1. Talk of betrayal etc. is exactly the sort of thing that Peterson would not support. What happens when you start to accuse someone of betrayal or joining the enemy camp or creating a new enemy is that you very easily take part in creating said enemy. Peterson himself seems to believe that one should always try to find a way for discussion, and criticism, even in tough times, is essential for that. Particularly when you consider that this blog post wasn't even really that critical, just somebody concerned about Peterson possibly getting on a high horse due to all the attention he is getting, and trying to help him retain perspective.

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    2. I intentionally chose very strong language because that's what Peterson is doing, and because I wanted my words to sting the author a bit, to hurt his feelings.

      I should clarify what I am NOT saying. I'm NOT saying that Daniel Farb is betraying an ideological position or something like that. I'm saying he's betraying an individual who was kind to him and who, by Farb's own admission, added tremendous value to his life.

      I think that, if someone who did a lot to help you and benefit you finds themselves surrounded by adversity and in such a precarious situation as Dr. Peterson's, and the best you can come up with is some waffling intellectual posturing that takes issue with their tone as the wolves are circling round them, then you're hurting them. If you can't help your friends in their time of need, at least don't hurt them.

      Look, if we think about the value that teachers add to our lives, especially those "life-changing" teachers like many say Peterson is, then we have to acknowledge there's a lot of red in that karmic ledger. (Contrast this to the attitude of the SJW students at UofT, who insist that they're paying the salary of their teachers and therefore get to censor them.) And that red's not going to go away with some wishy-washy piffle about "Sometimes you express yourself too arrogantly." For god's sake. There is actually a serious moral crisis going on here that gets at the root of liberal democracy and even the bedrock of modern Western civilization, so let's just say Farb's observations seem exceedingly trivial, even if I try to see them in the best light.

      Which of course I can't, because I have this strange idea that when your friends are in trouble, you ought to help them.

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    3. Sometimes help comes disguised in strange forms.

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    4. Believe it or not, I wrote this letter to try to be helpful to Dr. Peterson and everyone who is following the current debates (or lack thereof) - thanks to the other two people who commented for their responses.

      For me to have "betrayed" the man I wrote this letter to would mean that I have some particular allegiance to him because I learned from him or value the contributions he has made to my life and to the lives of others. You seem to be arguing that if someone helps you or you respect/admire them, then you should put them on a pedestal and overlook any/all of their shortcomings, and I just don't agree with that argument. I think that if you bullshit someone and act a cheer-leader when you see potentially see something about them that they aren't seeing, then you are actually doing that person a disservice. It's not a sign of respect - I'd say that would be the opposite.

      P.S. If you wanted your words to "sting" and "hurt my feelings," you're going to need to sharpen your talons a bit.

      P.P.S. Do you really think you are going to change someone's point of view by attacking them and/or hurting their feelings?

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  13. I see that the mention of "Freedom" has been used a lot in the line of comments. I often think of what freedom is, and I often conclude that freedom is not the right to do wrong, but the right to be wrong. Dr. Peterson knows this well, which is why he has examined himself repeatedly and continuously. He has given ample opportunity for his opponents to show him and illustrate to him that he could be wrong. I guarantee that every comment that is made against his statements is examined closely with an opened mind. I see things in a way that most others do not see things. I see opportunities for me to be wrong, or incorrect or mistaken as chances for me to expand my viewpoints and to see things more clearly than I have previously or than I do now. However, every time that someone makes a comment in an attempt to belittle me or my statements with some information that is assumed to be correct, I find that these comments are easy to find fault with. However, when someone says to me "What do you think about this information, or this study, or this research?" My answer is "Let me look into it and see if I can gain some perspective on this information". I will let you know my opinion once I have examined it and whether I would like to evolve my current opinions and knowledge. This is what Dr. Peterson is doing all the time. However, this is not what his opponents seem to be doing. If it was, they would talk about "Biological Sex" instead of making grandiose claims that there is no such thing. They would talk about why other mammals do not suddenly make decisions to reverse gender rolls, or perform gender specific duties on a spectrum or share gender duties with other like animals who do not pair up with them. We are walking a dangerous line when we are dictating that we are in complete control of who we are instead of accepting the fact that we cannot change a lot of who we are, but can only change our behaviours and our behaviours are not the best indication of who we are. Our clothing choices do not define who we are, and when we begin to expect everyone to believe that we are in complete control of our gender, gender identity and biological sex then we have failed to accept ourselves for who we are, so how can we reasonably expect others to accept who we claim to be as well?

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to post your reflection. I think there is a major difference between someone who has a gender identity (and by this I mean brain structures that indicate to them what their identity is) inconsistent with their biological sex and a person who "decides" their gender identity doesn't suit them anymore. The point of acknowledging transgender rights is to acknowledge that there actually are people who's gender identity is not consistent with their biological sex, and that they aren't "just confused" or mentally ill or making a "lifestyle choice."

      Of course other animals aren't able to alter their gender roles - they aren't even capable of fathoming the concept of "gender roles"! Animals also don't clothe themselves. They don't farm their food. They can't examine the ways in which they live like humans do because they lack the cognitive abilities to do so.

      I agree that we aren't in absolute control of who/what we are, which is one of the reasons I wrote that I don' believe in absolute freedom.

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  14. I am also a former U of T student - unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to attend Dr. Peterson's lectures; back then, in the 1990s, I sometimes saw students distributing socialist pamphlets, and I remember reflecting on how lucky they were to know so little about socialism and communism to be able to support such ideals. I do believe that Dr. Peterson is defending what he perceives as "the universal truth"; as a graduate of applied social sciences (my studies combined sociology with psychology and anthropology), I also believe that he is right. There are certain "universal truths", which simply allow us to function and survive as a society. And I believe there are also certain "universal values", freedom being one of them. It is obvious that there is no such thing as absolute freedom; it is obvious that our freedom is limited by the rights of others. However, you are referring to "responsibility" - and this is precisely what Dr. Peterson talks about: let us be free to take individual responsibility for our actions. When our laws regulate what we can, or even must say, this freedom - and responsibility - is taken away from us. Since the beginning of Dr. Peterson's struggle, I've been thinking often about a certain Polish movie - a story of a Catholic priest, who was killed by communists in Poland in the 1980s pretty much for defending the same "universal values" that Dr. Peterson is now referring to. The title of the movie was: "Freedom is within us".

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    1. Thanks for your reply. I don't see any evidence that the law indicates one could be prosecuted for using the wrong gender pronouns.

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  15. "I don’t believe that there is such a thing as absolute freedom."

    You skipped The Stoics, huh?

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    1. I don't really know what you mean by this...I'm some years removed from my undergraduate philosophy classes so you'll have to pardon me if I don't understand your cryptic message.

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  16. Thoughtful and interesting response, but here is the key. In a profound sense, it doesn't matter whether Peterson is right or wrong. What matters is that Peterson retains the right to be wrong.

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    1. I agree that he has the right to be wrong. He also has a responsibility to deal with the backlash/impact of what he says and how he expressed himself.

      If I stand in front of a captive audience and emphatically proclaim something like: "all Muslims are terrorists", I have every right to be wrong about that. I should also expect to make quite a few people very upset.

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    2. I didn't expect your reply to come from that direction. If there is one thing JBP seems to be doing exceptionally well it is taking responsibility for his words, facing the backlash head on, predicting the consequences, and still articulating what he believes to be the truth. I really can't fault him on those grounds.

      In terms of the way he expresses himself, well, it works for me. I want the strongest possible advocate for each position, and I love the rhetorical flourishes ('And that's that!!') - he has passion. The most important part, for me, has been the response from the PC authoritarians. JBP's style and substance have allowed much light to fall on people who, in my opinion, have weak arguments and almost no accountability.

      It is a healthy, good and much needed conversation.

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    3. I agree the conversations are needed - I agree for the need to be wary of extreme movements in society, whether they seem to come from the left or the right.

      I think a major issue in this whole thing for me is the way the issue has been framed and the particular piece of legislation it's been framed around. Bill C-16 and the Ontario Human Rights Code, for example, are not about restricting people's freedom of speech, and it's a huge stretch to suggest they are. I think the supposed danger being highlighted is looking at a worst-case possible scenario of imagining an evil force behind the law, twisting and bending it to persecute people for malevolent purposes (such as shutting them up, taking away their basic rights, etc.), and frankly I just don't buy it.

      Criticize the radical left/"PC authoritarians" all you want - I think we need to be critical of such movements. But to stake your claim at the expense of going against the need for recognition of trans people's rights and history of social marginalization and oppression that seems in bad taste to me (I know he doesn't intend this, but that seems to be the way his stance has been received by many).

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    4. I understand that you don't think the law restricts freedom of speech. Well, some lawyers do and some don't, so we can take our pick. I believe there is enough there to cause serious concern and I don't think it is a stretch at all. Importantly, the UT in writing two warning letters to JBP demonstrably are requiring a restriction upon his freedom to speak and they are basing this requirement very clearly upon their (expensive!) lawyers' interpretation of the law. This is not some theoretical problem. It is a real (though perhaps false) application of the law by a major institution against at least one person to the potential detriment of his livelihood. It isn't a 'supposed danger' and a more junior or less independent professor might just receive such a letter and back down - which would be a restriction upon his or her freedom of speech and on academic enquiry.

      Re the particular issue. Well, you either believe in and stick to your principles or you don't. I don't think JBP defined the particular territory. A small unelected and vociferous minority of small minority decided to make a big deal of a small part of his thesis using violence and intimidation to try to impose their will and JBP stood his ground. If there are some who see that as bad taste then that is unfortunate but, in my opinion, beside the point.

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    5. I think the university is just covering their asses in case of lawsuits that come out of this. As Peterson noted, by distancing themselves, they protect themselves.

      I also wonder how much of what has happened re: U of T's response to Peterson is part of a self-fulfilling Prophecy of Peterson's making. How much have his words and actions shaped the very circumstances in which he finds himself?

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    6. There is a depressing and clear aspect of ass covering, undoubtedly. But you don't cover your ass for no reason!

      The immediate position JBP finds himself in stems from a threatening, demanding and abusive letter sent to the University by a small number of SJWs followed by the absurd reactions since. I have no time whatsoever for the writers of that letter, nor for the activists who tried to disrupt JBP on campus using violence and I think it is uncharitable, to say the least, to place that particular focus on JBP. If people choose (falsely in my opinion) to view JBP as attacking trans people, or if others see it, like you, as bad taste, then that is a price well worth paying. That said, I appreciate your letter and the time you have taken to reply. It is a refreshing change to the nonsense JBP has had to endure from most quarters and it has certainly given me pause for thought.

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  17. Look, I appreciate the thoughtfulness. However, I have to add a comment, is this useful?

    As much as I enjoy the ideas in certain schools of thought, I think there is often an over-fixation on "truth," and a lack of appreciation for "usefulness." While it's difficult to dispute the "truth-claims" of this article, they are also for the most part rather mundane. Basically you're saying Peterson hasn't gone through apotheosis, but who exactly disagreed with that?

    I've seen the debate and spent far too much time watching his interviews and speeches (And lectures), and can't think of a single time when he insulted the person he was speaking with. I would have. I would have a shitload of times. He honestly doesn't even defend himself most of the time- the second chick who spoke at the "Debate" (who in my mind is a thoughtless lunatic) more or less called him a Nazi. She compared him to a racist repeatedly, insulted his ideas, insulted his scientific credentials, and said he was promulgating hate speech.

    If anything, her dangerous, ill-informed rhetoric needed to be swiftly and expertly demolished. He didn't even bother to acknowledge it.

    Likewise, the first chick who spoke (While far more reasonable) seemed to present things in a very disingenuous manner. "No you can't go to jail, they'll just take away all your shit and garnish your wages. And then if you have no money left they'll send you to jail." Is this really helpful discourse?

    Furthermore, the entire point Peterson is making is that freedom of speech is the foundation of western civilization, and undermining freedom of speech has catastrophic consequences, 1984 etc. Is freedom of speech under attack? Yes! That is a fact. Peterson's job is in danger- I would be shocked if he retains his post as a professor, and wouldn't be at all surprised if he was stripped of his clinical license. So it's not an exaggeration, it's a fact- freedom of speech is under attack.

    This response you've penned seems to me like the most flaccid of argumentative rhetoric- The kind of criticism that could be levied at anyone, any time, about any topic. You seem to be ignoring the very real danger of which he speaks. He's just trying to say it as quickly as possible, before he has his job and livelihood taken away from him. You'd rather he make art than fight the good fight? You'd rather he do something aside from stand up for what is, to him, the most important values and the core of his very being?

    If anything he's been too tempered. He should be calling many of these people ill-informed lunatics, because they are. If you make the claim that there is no biological distinction between genders then you ARE an ill-informed lunatic, and by not saying so directly he's making it easier for impressionable young people to be converted to their side. Is that really better?

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    1. I don't think Peterson (or anyone) needs to have "gone through apotheosis" to speak their mind - that would be an impossibly high standard for any human being. My point is that he presents himself as though there are certain things about which he cannot be questioned because he is the infallible expert, and this is what I take objection to. Even if he is right about much of what he says, that doesn't mean he has taken all perspectives into account and that he isn't missing vital parts of the picture. In fact, it would be impossible for him or anyone to know all the relevant perspectives on any given issue. That being the case, I take objection to him (or anyone) acting like they are privy to a scope and depth of insight which is actually impossible to possess.

      You say that your assertion that "freedom of speech is under attack" is a "fact." How can this "fact" be verified empirically? Is your claim even in the realm of empirical facts? I think that it's actually a metaphorical claim, because there is no physical entity called "free speech" that can be attacked. Free speech is a concept. Your statement frames the issues being discussed in a way that makes things seem absolutely urgent and in need of a swift, extreme response. So what do you do if you're under attack? You defend yourself. You close yourself off to considering new ideas and really listening - because you're in survival mode. All else is secondary when your survival is at stake, and certainly other people's survival and well-being becomes more periphery.

      I don't think that name-calling, angry outbursts, hostility, or anything that resembles aggression is going to be able to be listened to by a large portion of the population. Nor do I think that referring to women as "chicks" to be a particularly respectful way to refer to women, even if they are women you find morally reprehensible, stupid, or disagree with vehemently.

      Helpful discourse moves conversations along further. It encourages self-reflection and the open sharing of ideas. This can't happen when people feel attacked or unsafe. Let's assume you're right and these people you are describing are delusional - now what? Yell at them? Tell them their idiots? Does that actually move anything forward or solve anything? Or does it just create enemies?

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  18. Congratulations, Daniel! You've completely missed the point.
    Please, go back to rapping and don't shine your ugly head in this, Dr. Peterson has enough of PC-authoritarians trying to rip his soul out.

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    1. I don't think I've missed his point at all.

      I think I'll continue to rap AND to post, speak, write letters, etc.

      I am not a "PC Authoritarian" and I am not trying to "rip his soul out." I don't know that I could perform such a magical act if I tried.

      P.S. How do you know my head is ugly? Does it really shine as well?

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  19. Well said. Thanks for publishing this!

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  20. Thank you for well thought through comments. I have followed professor Peterson's lectures for quite some time before this whole thing started and he has truly been an inspiration, challanging some of my views of the world and opened a lot of doors. When I first saw that he got involved in these PC discussions I thought something like "oh no, he is a right wing lunatic". I have now seen most of the interviews and debates on the subject and I have changed my opinions on a lot of issues. But it is sad to see the hatred and bigotries swarming some of the comment sections of the youtube videos and facebook posts. I totally agree when you state that he has "made some harmful overgeneralizations about the people who are advocating for the rights of transgendered people" and from that unnessecarily drawn attention from people I hope he don't want to be associated with. He puts far too many people in the marxist PC authoritarian catagory. But of course he should not stop speak, what he thinks, is the truth just because some people might use it in "the wrong" way.

    These discussions are to me very complicated and sometimes painful. The statements from Peterson can be very harsh and condesending. Is this necessary? In the end I agree with most of what Dr Peterson says. I think he is a true, fearless, brilliant thinker. But I can't help feeling unease towards some of his comments. Perhaps it is the "truth" that hurts. Perhaps it is "weakness" on my part. Perhaps it just makes people more defensive and unwilling to listen to him. It would probably (wrongly, of course) been very difficult for me to listen to him with an open mind had I not seen his lectures before this whole thing started. I would probably have been one of the people he would have accused of being a bloody neo-marxist and I might have been very quick to put questionable labels on him.

    I see that he is under tremendous pressure and that the stakes for him are extremely high. Among other things regarding the risk of loosing his livleyhood and the true fear of a society turning authoritarian. I see that "the other side" is guilty of using appaling tactics in this debate. But it seems like a lot of his followers are also close to being ideological possessesed. I would like the debate to be more nuanced. An impossible ideal perhaps when regarding the stakes.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I'm glad to hear that you have been open-minded enough to challenge your own assumptions in all of this, as I think it's important for us all to be strive to be that open. I strongly agree with what you said about the tone/manner of Peterson's statements risking digging the wedge deeper and driving people away - this is in light with one of the reasons why I wrote this letter.

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  22. Peterson linked to this, because he's willing to be "tapped into alignment". Something we have to constantly be willing to do to live properly. What finally solidified me in deciding to follow Peterson (after trying to find someone, anyone on youtube to help me figure out Jung) was his assertion that The Tao really is the "Way", (for what asserting anything about Tao is worth). Tao de Ching - 2 hours to read, an infinity to follow. No concept gets more to the substrate of experience than this. Peterson is one of the truly rare birds that knows it.

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  23. "Some that I can still hear echoing in my memory include: “If you believe that, then you’re an idiot!” and “If you think that, then you’re just plain wrong.” I recall these comments now not simply for their (perhaps?) inadvertent crassness and their (unintentionally?) entertaining shock-value. I recall them because within the tone and the very nature of the content of these statements, I can’t help but find an inherent arrogance – a definitive, dismissive quality of cocksureness that is, I think, unbecoming of a man who claims to recognize the uncertainty, fallibility, and tenuous nature of the human mind’s grasp on reality."

    Having studied psychology apparently, you may want to take a refresher on A) public persona, and effective public persona B) The psychodynamic effect of absolute statements. Your welcome.

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    1. I'm not sure why you're saying "you're welcome" (I added the appropriate spelling of "you're" for you in this context). I didn't thank you, and I don't thank you because your vague references to some psychodynamic concepts doesn't actually give me much information or "enlighten" me in any way. If you'd care to actually articulate your point, I'd be willing to read what you have to say.

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  24. Thanks Daniel, it's great to see an inquiring mind grappling with the debate. I believe your points will be quite helpful to Dr. Peterson. We are at a pivot point where Progressives, and Progressive Conservatives can establish a middle-ground and clarify the boundary between freedom & social justice. However, there is every risk they/we will fail to do so adequately; and ill-willed right wing warriors will sweep in to do battle with ill-willed social justice warriors.

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    1. Thanks for reading and for your comments. I hope violence and bloodshed can be avoided, but I'm not optimistic about it given the track of the human race.

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  26. The key point here seems to be that if someone will misuse what is said for their own purposes e.g. bigots and racists, then free speech should be curtailed. I wonder whether we should apply that principle a little wider. Should we stop talking about science, if someone will misuse it for instance to create weapons? Should we stop talking about medicine, if someone might use it to cause harm? Where do we draw the line of what might cause harm? Who decides what is harmful? Or in other words who is going to be mum to the general population who is considered too infantile to protect itself?

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    1. These are the questions that closed communities such as the orthodox Jewish and Amish grapple with on a daily basis. The difference being that they do draw boundaries, and guard them vigilantly. 'Mum' in their case would, first and foremost, be God; then, presumably, the clergy.

      I think the issue of limits - how and where we draw them - is going to be absulutely vital over the coming years.

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  27. I think this is a very considerate and well-balanced article, thanks for sharing it Daniel.

    It has been a tempering influence on me, reminding me that there are no heroes, or villains; only human beings with their various virtues and flaws. Its always tempting to raise someone on a pedestal, or to confine them to the depths; to grasp at certainties whenever they seem to appear.

    It seems you've provoked some emotional responses! I would say ignore the haters but I guess that would be missing the point. Besides, I think they go some way towards proving your theory ; )

    PS. By a stroke of serendipity I also published a piece yesterday that goes some way towards echoing your thoughts: http://www.foreverbecoming.com/2016/11/from-one-extreme-to-another.html

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    1. Thanks so much for reading, for taking it in, and for your response. I will read your work when I get a chance.

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  28. Oh, if only it were possible to find understanding," Joseph exclaimed.

    "If only there were a dogma to believe in. Everything is contradictory, everything tangential; there are no certainties anywhere.

    Everything can be interpreted one way and then again interpreted in the opposite sense. The whole of world history can be explained as development and progress and can also be seen as nothing but decadence and meaninglessness.

    Isn't there any truth? Is there no real and valid doctrine?"

    The master had never heard him speak so fervently. He walked on in silence for a little, then said: "There is truth, my boy. But the doctrine you desire, absolute, perfect dogma that alone provides wisdom, does not exist.

    Nor should you long for a perfect doctrine, my friend. Rather, you should long for the perfection of yourself. The diety is within you, not in ideas and books. Truth is lived, not taught. Be prepared for conflicts, Joseph Knecht - I can see that they already have begun.

    [Herman Hesse]
    The Glass Bead Game

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  29. I thought I'd put in my 2 cents.

    I think of things in terms of probabilities. Maybe I'm 75% likely to be right, 25% likely to be wrong. In that case, I would use a lot of what might be called "weasel words". "I might be wrong about this, but this is my opinion." But if it's like 99%, I'll just outright say it.

    Then there's also the matter of the consequences of being right or wrong. If being wrong doesn't cause horrible consequences, but being right and not speaking out against it could be potentially much worse, I'm more likely to say it more strongly. On the flip side, if being wrong would cause dire consequences, I'll either weasel word away, or make sure I'm even more certain than normal, and even then not say it as strongly as I otherwise would.

    In the case of Jordan Peterson: The consequences of him being right (and this is a *very* high probability, as he is already feeling consequences for wrongspeak) is mandatory speech being encoded into law, and a fairly high probability of worse to come. Note than he hasn't said bad things *will* come, just that they have the potential.

    On the other side, if he is wrong, the only harm to come is the possibility that people at large might refuse to use nonbinary pronouns. Nonbinary identities are recently created and strictly political to begin with (I'm not talking about actual trans people - MtF/FtM - here, as they still use he/she), so refusing to use them is effectively a political opinion. That being said, language will evolve in its natural way that it always has. If nonbinary becomes mainstream, people will adopt those terms. The potential for harm is negligible.

    So here we have a situation where he's all but certainly right, and the consequences of not speaking out are many many orders of magnitudes worse than the possible consequences of speaking out and being wrong. I think he's justified in using absolutes in this situation.

    Oh, and I'd like to add that telling the truth and being wrong is not the same thing as deliberately lying. Perpetrating a hoax is in that same category of lying. More importantly, defending hoaxers even after it's proven to be a hoax is in the same category of deliberate lying, and that is the type of person I'm most interested in. SJWs and anti-SJWs both have hoaxers, but it's only the SJWs that widely defend them after the fact, under such flimsy pretenses as "starting a conversation", which really means the facts are inconvenient to the ideology. This is the thing IMO that Jordan Peterson is talking about when he emphasizes telling the truth.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful response. I appreciate your probabilistic perspective, however I'm not sure how you can calculate probabilities or anticipate all outcomes in a situation like this. I'll just comment on a few things you said:

      "Note than he hasn't said bad things *will* come, just that they have the potential." I disagree with this, as he's pretty ominous about how sure he is when he says things like "just remember, after me, YOU'RE NEXT."

      "On the other side, if he is wrong, the only harm to come is the possibility that people at large might refuse to use nonbinary pronouns." I disagree with this, because of the unintended but very real danger of galvanizing trans-phobic people and emboldening them to become more brazenly violent, and because of the risk of inadvertently de-legitimizing the legitimate plight and cause of trans people.

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  30. There's a humility in the way Dr Peterson prefaces much of his speech which is conspicuously absent in the responses of his most vocal opponents. Far from an arrogant cocksureness, Peterson showed a self-deprecating vulnerability when during the UofT debate he described his initial videos concerning Bill C-16 as “amateurish.” This admission was seized upon by Mary Bryson to discredit Peterson and his contributions to scholarship. Indeed, Peterson goes out of his way to point out that he doesn't always speak perfectly formulated thoughts; that he is open to correction in the sometimes messy business called 'the free exchange of ideas.' How many dogmatists would make such an admission? The contrast could not have been made more stark when Bryson declared with unequivocal certainty that questions relating to the rights of transgender people were not up for debate.

    Another of your quibbles with Dr Peterson could be condensed down to an insinuation that he is being hyperbolic when he describes the malevolent nature of the motivations and goals that drive the PC Authoritarian luminaries and their acolytes. I don't think it is at all hyperbolic to point out the tragic historic consequences that came from the promulgation of such authoritarian ideas or to warn people of the threat that the post-modernist/social constructionist model poses to society. Particularly when you take into consideration the clear capitulation of so many institutions in allowing the advancement of pseudo-scientific ideas with wholly inadequate scrutiny. Instead, allowing themselves to be manipulated by fraudulent emotional appeals to human decency. Coupled with the threat of being professionally denounced, personally outcast and legally punished should you step out of line, ideologically speaking.

    In my estimation, nothing that Dr Peterson has said or done falls outside the tradition of an academics role or responsibilities. Anyone who has been following closely and is not burdened by rigid ideological preconceptions would see that his words do not undermine the efforts of reasonable transgender folk who simply seek to have the same rights accorded to them as any other member of society. Nor do his words give succour to neo-Nazis and the like. It is the responsibility of reasonable people in a free society to not allow measured criticism to be hijacked and twisted by miscreant radicals and extremists. If every time we spoke we had to be sure that our words could not be misconstrued by others, we would rarely say anything of any real substance at all.

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    1. Thanks for your response. I agree with much of what you said, but I'd like to add on some of your final points.

      It is not just the content of his words or arguments per se that I am objecting to (and I'm not sure he's entirely right about everything he is saying). I am objecting to the tone, emotional valence, way of being - whatever you want to call it - in what he says. While at some times, I agree, he can be self-deprecating and articulate humility, there are other times when he is quite the opposite.

      Let me say this another way: what motivates people driven by hatred, for example, is not rational argumentation. It is aggressive emotion that seems to be directed against those that the perceive as their enemies.

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  31. For some reason I'm reminded of an old Theodore Roosevelt quote that's been more recently re-popularized by Brene Brown:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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    1. I really like this quote too, but to extend the analogy, if you're in the arena stomping over other people to prove your point/fight your fight, others (like myself) may feel compelled to jump into the arena (or speak out or send a letter) and say something about it.

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  32. I've been watching lots of Professor Peterson's videos. I think he is very much en point with his ideas about psychology. I have also been very supportive of his criticisms of bill C-16. BUT, there was always a little voice telling me in the back of my mind that Professor Peterson is also sounding like an ideologue and is being rather extreme in his stance. Someone made reference to a good Nietzsche quote that Professor Peterson will be very familiar with:

    "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you."

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    1. That's one of my favourite quotes too. Thanks for sharing.

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  33. Daveinelwood. JBP recognises this and addresses exactly that point in the video below. From 56:13 onwards. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxs7C-30TLQ

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  34. Thanks Struan, I truly love listening to Professor Peterson talk. He stated one thing that bothered me "I'm the type of person that has himself under control." But how is it possible to have oneself under one's control? One is oneself. We cannot escape our own shadow.

    I think Professor Peterson has become so traumatized by his study of the holocaust that he cannot see that he has himself become and extremist ideologue even if he is a free speech ideologue.

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  35. Beautifully written. I'm frankly shocked that you've received so many negative comments as this is precisely Peterson's approach to honesty. Clearly his fame has reached those who don't care to delve deeper into his work.

    I more or less agree with your assessment. But Peterson always says to find your Truth and align yourself with it vigorously, which is exactly what he's doing. Perhaps his Truth has become inflexible, but he's sincerely embodying the best version of his ideals. To respond to Bill C-16 any differently would require either compromising or fundamentally revising his ethics.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Jimmy. I have no doubt that Peterson is standing by what his ideals/truths are, and I agree with his critiques of the "radical left" to a large extent. I wrote this particularly to engage in public discourse in order to advance the progress of ideas and help move conversations forward, something both Peterson and other great profs I had at U of T instilled in me.

      Many on the "alt-right"/"far-right" (some would label them "neo-Nazis") have resonated with Peterson not because of his rational arguments, but because they imagine him to represent something he is not (i.e. someone against "those weird/crazy trans people" or those "soft, emotional, self-entitled bleeding heart lefties"). I don't think this is necessarily Peterson's fault, but I can see why his public persona/way of being would attract those types. The anger/irritation under the surface, the dismissiveness, etc. I am going to write another letter sometime soon to articulate what I mean further.

      Thanks again for reading and posting.

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