Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 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?