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  • I'm here today with Ben Shapiro.

  • Ben and I met about eight months ago, eh? He came up to Toronto and gave a rousing talk and...

  • Talk about political correctness at that point, quite a politically appointed political talk, and I got a couple of questions for you.

  • One is what are you planning to do in 2018?

  • What do you want to see happen in 2018, personally?

  • And what are you aiming at, and why?

  • So I'm aiming at broadening the reach of the the political messages that I espouse and the messages of,

  • I think, personal responsibility and virtue that I try to espouse.

  • I'm also working on a book that I'm really interested in right now about the roots of Western civilization.

  • What is that makes for a happier and more fulfilled Western civilization?

  • What generates purpose for a civilization and for individuals?

  • And why it is that we seem to have lost purpose.

  • Because my general theory is that the reason that we're trying to murder each other

  • politically and the reason that we hate each other so much is that there is a

  • purpose-shaped hole in our heart that we are now filling with anger, a tribal anger at each other.

  • And I'm trying to trace back, kind of backtrack, and say okay, where did where did we go wrong?

  • Where was purpose at, sort of, its high-water mark and why are we now at low ebb?

  • Okay, one of the things that I've found in the discussions that I've had over the last year, especially the public discussions,

  • public lectures, let's say, is that it seems perfectly possible to

  • make a room go silent by speaking to, especially if it's a room full of young men,

  • by speaking to them about responsibility and truth.

  • This has really staggered me because those are not obviously saleable messages.

  • You know, especially for someone who's rather cynical about the fundamental nature of human beings.

  • I'm not saying that I am, but if you launched a business plan to the typical observers and said,

  • "Well, I'm going to base a public movement on the adoption of excess responsibility and the requirement to speak the truth,

  • and that's going to become hyper popular," the probability that people would agree that that's a possibility is pretty much zero.

  • So I've been thinking that

  • we've spoken about rights for so long and spoken about freedoms for so long, let's say since the early 60s,

  • just essentially speaking, that we've actually left a conceptual hole in our culture.

  • And that seems to be akin to the point that you're making with regards to this book.

  • And now, you mentioned responsibility, and why that specifically?

  • Well, I think that what you're talking about is exactly right.

  • People in the West have seemed to pose rights in direct opposition to duties.

  • So the American founding, particularly, was obsessed with this idea of rights and individual rights.

  • But there was also this corresponding idea of duties that's very clear in founding thinking.

  • George Washington talks about duty. Benjamin Franklin talks about duty.

  • The idea was that duty was to be socially generated, not by government, but by society itself.

  • By small communities, by churches, by your family.

  • And that that would fill the gap that allowed you to actually have a functioning society of rights.

  • But we seem to have left duty completely behind.

  • Now it's just all about the rights and not about the duty.

  • And what's happened is that that's collapsed in on itself because the society of only rights and no duties ends up generating duties masquerading as rights.

  • Positive rights that are actually not rights at all, that are actually me imposing a duty on you in order to further

  • my own perception of my rights.

  • And that's I think where we've been going and it's a dark place.

  • And it creates an enormous amount of opposition.

  • When you say, Jordan, when you talk about the fact that people would not have thought of building a movement on notions of truth and responsibility,

  • that's because, I think, for a long time, people just took it for granted that we all agreed on these things.

  • But there's been an actual forcible counter movement for

  • generations now, against both truth and responsibility.

  • The idea is there's no objective truth.

  • It's socially defined. We can make it up as we go along.

  • There's no telos. I talk a lot in the new book about a teleological way of thinking.

  • This idea that you actually have a purpose for which you were created.

  • And that it's your job to fulfill that purpose.

  • And that's completely been left by the wayside, so there's no truth.

  • There's no capacity, even the scientific materialist worldview actually robs you of the capacity to even change yourself.

  • The studies that I've seen suggest that if you believe in a certain form of determinism,

  • if you believe in hard determinism, you're less likely to go out and actually change your life and make it better

  • because you buy into your own philosophy.

  • And I think that as a society, we've sort of bought into that,

  • that we're all victims of our own biology, victims of our own race, victims of our own ethnicity or our situation,

  • and there's no way for us to get out of that.

  • And so we may as well throw up our hands or at least give the power to the only thing that can change things,

  • which is this massive collective that comes in and is the boot stomping on the human face forever.

  • Well, there's also the strange misapprehension,

  • I think, with regards to the nature of rights, because as far as I can tell, rights are a multi-faceted phenomena.

  • But I think the least metaphysical claim that you can make about rights

  • is that if I have a right, then that brings with it a parallel responsibility,

  • not only to myself, to act in a manner that is in accordance with that right, whatever that happens to be,

  • but I also have a responsibility,

  • if the right is universal, to act in a certain manner towards you.

  • Because there is no difference between rights and responsibilities, fundamentally.

  • They're just the mirror image of one another.

  • Now that's to say nothing about their potential metaphysical origin.

  • I don't want to talk about that.

  • But it doesn't seem to me to be logically tenable to have an infinite conversation about rights without having a parallel conversation about responsibility.

  • So there's a logical flaw in it that leaves that gap that needs to be filled.

  • And then the other thing that's occurred to me

  • is that

  • the genuine meaning in life, and I do believe that life has a genuine meaning,

  • I think I could make that claim without even making it metaphysical,

  • although I don't mind the metaphysical addition to it

  • It seems to me that almost all the things that people find meaningful in life that aren't merely impulsive pleasures, which, of course,

  • create their own entanglements, have to do with the voluntary adoption of responsibility.

  • So families are like that, okay. So then here's the next question.

  • What do you think it is that's driven our loss of that half of the conversation? What's happened?

  • So I think that this has been

  • basically a 200-year movement that first manifested itself in Europe and is finally reaching American shores about a hundred years later.

  • Which seems to be the pattern. All the bad stuff from Europe

  • hits Europe about 50 to 100 years before it hits here, and now it comes here.

  • I think that what happened here is that the enlightenment mentality was built on certain fundamental premises, including the use of human reason, the capacity for free will.

  • And all of that in turn rested on assumptions about the universe including the idea that the universe has a

  • discoverable design that we can actually find and pursue and that in doing so we will find happiness.

  • The Aristotelian idea of happiness is very much bound up with the idea of you fulfilling your telos.

  • The Judeo-Christian idea of happiness is you fulfilling God's purpose for you.

  • There is always this idea of a higher purpose that you were seeking and I think what happened is that

  • the enlightenment project, which started off in an attempt really in the 13th century by people like Aquinas and Maimonides to unite religion and science,

  • fell apart when they started to divide the two.

  • We're seeking the same thing. Religion and science are both seeking universal truths that can be applicable to our own lives and make us more fulfilled.

  • The project of science became to destroy one pole, to destroy religion.

  • And then by doing that, science almost turned in on itself. Reason almost ate itself.

  • So I think reason basically turned into, okay, we're going to follow to the logical end point all of the non-religious bases of human thought.

  • And once you do that, it's very difficult not to fall into a sort of self-refuting trap about human thought.

  • You're just a set of neurons that are firing. Neurons don't have responsibility.Your dog doesn't have responsibility.

  • Do you have responsibility? You are a product of your environment, your biology.

  • Does that carry with it any sort of moral responsibility? You don't have the capacity to choose.

  • If you don't have the capacity to choose, how do you have moral responsibility?

  • I debated Sam Harris on particularly, this issue, and I thought that actually the most telling point of the debate and discussion was not anything the two of us said.

  • It was a woman who got up at the very end and said to Sam, "I totally agree with you.

  • "There's no free will in the hard sense.

  • "You can't make any... see, there's no choice other than TO, right? You will have to do this,

  • "just driven by your biology and environment. But I have a five year old son, what do you want--

  • "What should I say to him?" and Sam basically said, "Lie."

  • Right? He basically said, "Well, tell him that he's capable of making a choice and that that's the truth about civilization."

  • Either you believe that's a lie and you're actively engaging in plato's good lie, basically,

  • or you have to believe in free will. And I don't think the capacity to choose in the capacity to self better is a lie.

  • I think that people do have the capacity to do that.

  • I think even Sam believes that, but he refuses to acknowledge it because otherwise I don't think it would be in the educational position that he is, right?

  • He spends his life trying to people, so that it's all weird.

  • I mean, I actually said in the in the discussion,

  • "Why are we all in this auditorium? We were just sort of predestined by the universe to be in this auditorium at a certain time?

  • "Do you bring the feel fulfilled by that? If so, you really have no choice in the matter."

  • Well one of the things that's always bothered me about the new atheist types and the hyper-rationalists

  • is that, as far as I can tell, their conduct is full of performative contradictions

  • They say they believe certain things,

  • but they don't act that way.

  • And in my sense because I'm an existentialist at heart, is that what you believe is what you act out.

  • What you say might be in accordance with that and it might not.

  • But there's no reason to assume that your beliefs are transparent to yourself, regardless of your claims.

  • And so I also don't see any evidence whatsoever that a society can exist that functions over any reasonable period of time, in any reasonable manner,

  • without predicating itself on the belief that people are both capable of free will and that they're responsible.

  • And so, the fact that it seems to be impossible to build a functioning society, or even functioning dyadic relationships for that matter,

  • in the absence of the presupposition of free will and the capacity for voluntary change,

  • indicates to me some evidence for the existence of those capacities.

  • And you have to be a staggeringly cynical person to think that no, we just have to believe that that's true even though it's a lie,

  • and predicate our cultures on that. First of all I don't...

  • I think it's a weak claim. I don't think that--it's also not the rock upon which you want to found your culture.

  • So one of the things that struck me about the mythological stories that I've immersed myself in, is that there's always three,

  • there's always three prime characters in a mythological story.

  • There's culture, right? So that's the Great Father,

  • let's say, in his many mythological guises. And there's nature. That's the Great Mother.

  • And so you could say that that's the biology and society of the modern scientists.

  • But then there's the independent individual as a causal force,

  • who has a nature that enables choice and free will and all of those things.

  • And that independent third factor is something like the Logos that gives rise to being at the beginning of time, right?

  • That calls order forth out of chaos.

  • And the fact that we can't account for that scientifically, although, I don't think we can deny it either, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

  • Yeah, I totally agree with that.

  • And, of course, I enjoy Maps of Meaning, so I'm pretty familiar with the terminology that you use, because I've read your book.

  • But I think that you know there's

  • this idea that you can find meaning in a meaningless universe.

  • That we're just meatballs wandering through space with a little bit of sentience.

  • Understanding that we're meatballs wandering through space.

  • I have a hard time building any sort of system on that.

  • And the refusal of the new atheist to even recognize that the morality that they promulgate, right, the rip that they have on religion typically

  • is that religion is barbaric and backwards and promulgates all sorts of horrible moral values with which they disagree.

  • And what they refuse to acknowledge is that their moral values are predicated within that system.

  • For the vast majority of human time, the values that they are espousing are not only not universal,

  • they're not even minority values. They didn't exist for the vast majority of human time.

  • They are absolute creations of a Judeo-Christian system that is combined with Greek reason to come up with what we have today.

  • And this is essentially the theory that I have come up with, is that,

  • and this is the thesis of the book that I'm writing right now,

  • which is that in order for in order for a society or an individual to feel fulfilled,

  • you basically have to have four things.

  • You have to have an individual purpose, you have to feel like you have a purpose in the world.

  • You personally have a purpose in the world.

  • You have to feel like you have an individual capacity. You have to feel like you are capable of pursuing that with alacrity.

  • You have to have a communal purpose. You have to feel like you along with others are pursuing a higher goal that means something.

  • And you have to have communal capacity, so a system that has been built that allows that community to activate when it needs to activate

  • and back off so that the individual can exist in that vacuum.

  • And we have torn away at all the roots of those things because of all of those things

  • that, I think the apotheosis of--I think the apex of modern thought was basically the unfulfilled

  • but universal theories of the the American Founding Fathers.

  • I think it's about as good as it got in terms governmental theory.

  • I don't think it's gotten better since then. I think that it's been extended more broadly.

  • I think the Universalism that they were implying has now been applied in many ways, and that's a great thing, right?

  • The founders, obviously, still held slaves, many of them.

  • But their principles were not in favor of slavery.

  • So the principles that they espoused were based on, again, these two competing poles

  • that are constantly in tension with one another in this sort of Leo Strauss-ian tension with one another.

  • Between reason and revelation, the Judeo-Christian tradition and the Greek tradition of reason.

  • And the tug and back and forth is what allows you to have one foot in right and one foot in duties.

  • So it'd be really good to have a lengthy conversation about this at some point,

  • because there's some things in here that really have to be dealt in deeply.

  • The "you have to find your own purpose" argument was one that was put forth very strongly by Nietzsche after he announced the death of God.

  • He said that people would have to revalue good and evil and to come up with their own definitions of what constituted morality.

  • The Nietzschian criticism of Christianity is about as deep as it got, with the possible exception of Dostoyevsky.

  • But there's one of the things I really liked about Carl Jung, and that's really struck me as irrefutable, is

  • Jung's fundamental response to Nietzsche was that, well,

  • let's take the argument of the death of God to its logical conclusion.

  • And then let's investigate the idea that human beings have to be the creators of their own systems of meaning.

  • Jung's idea, and this was also the case for the other psychoanalysts, was that's just palpably false

  • Because it turns out that you're not the sort of creature that can create your own meaning.

  • You're the sort of creature that has to discover the meaning that already exists encoded within you.

  • And part of that is that you're not your own slave.

  • And so it's a critique, not only of the idea that you can will your own destiny in its entirety,

  • while completely ignoring the fact that you have a nature.

  • But it's also a profound critique of the socialist utopian ideas that human beings can be molded in any way that they see fit.

  • And so Jung's objection was something like,

  • well, try to generate a meaning on your own, out of nothing.

  • And then try to force yourself to follow it and see how far you get.

  • What you'll find is that you rebel.

  • Your own nature rebels in every possible way

  • against the arbitrary imposition of a certain--of just any old moral framework on the manner in which you're going to conduct yourself.

  • Yeah, I think this is such a deep critique.

  • And I think that it's so telling because what we've come up with is,

  • the substitute for what you're talking about,

  • which is this acknowledgement that there is a universal purpose that we ought to be aspiring to discover.

  • That it's actually out there.

  • There's a purpose out there, and it's our job to uncover it, as opposed to self creating it.

  • Then that is a really deep divide in America, I think in the West generally, because what people have said is,

  • okay, we finally realized that we do need this thing called purpose, right?