-On C-16 and Lindsay Shepherd: The legislation was explicitly cited as reason to reprimand a TA from showing a short clip from a public TV interview. I would reject your point that their criticism is not valid because they are not certified experts. It should come as a shock that the TA at a public research university was reprimanded for encouraging debate and inquiry in a communications class. If you listen to the audio (Shepherd secretly recorded the meeting between her and administrators), you will hear the condescending and infantilizing tone of illiberal bureaucratic types reprimanding her. Your statement that neither one got in trouble is not accurate. Moreover, the fact that C-16 is cited as evidence to stultify intellectual discourse is proof that something is wrong. Was the legislation misinterpreted? If so, there is a clarity problem. If not, then the legislation is illiberal. I actually think that C-16 and surrounding legislation is questionable. At the very least, clarifications must be added to prevent such cases where Canadian law is used to silence people. Yes, the university apologized to Shepherd (and she is actually now suing Wilfrid Laurier for damages).
As a side note, the university administrators claimed that there was a complaint against Shepherd. It turned out that there was no real complaint. The administrators lied.
-On Peterson and C-16: Jordan Peterson never said he would disrespect his students. He has stated that he has no problem using the standard pronouns for transgender students. Your previous statements about the non-standard pronouns (such as ‘zhe’) is making a mountain out of a spec of dust. I have never heard of a single person in the world who seriously insists upon the usage of any pronouns other than ‘he,’ ‘she,’ and (on extremely rare occasions) ‘they.’
-On Peterson and political motives: Peterson did not say he would disrespect his students. If he did, I would agree with you that such behavior would be unacceptable. Peterson opposes political overreach and legislative backing of contrived terminologies.
-Once again on pronouns: There is a MASSIVE difference between using ‘he,’ ‘she,’ and even ‘they’ and using non-standard pronouns such as ‘zhe,’ ‘zher,’ and the like all the way down to otherkin pronouns (such as ‘wormself’). The pronoun argument gets ridiculous at this point. Indeed, I think it is almost entirely theoretical as I have not heard of a single case in which someone insisted that Peterson refer to someone with any pronoun other than the standard two plus ‘they.’ In my own experience, I have only ever heard of people wanting to be referred to as ‘he’ or ‘she.’ The one exception was someone at Rutgers who preferred ‘they.’ That’s it. Your ‘contradiction’ is largely, if not entirely, irrelevant. Furthermore, should society really accommodate for a seemingly endless number of pronouns (the vast majority of which were invented in recent years and did not develop organically).
-On misgendering and jail: Misgendering is not explicitly an action that will directly lead to jail (at least from my understanding of Canadian law as it now stands). However, the question still remains as to whether someone can go to jail for not paying a fine related to misgendering or refusing to use concocted pronouns. I am not interested in whether the idea is particularly far-fetched. I am interested, from the point of view of a lawyer, as to whether someone can legally end of in jail for no other crime than refusing to pay a fine related to misgendering someone or refusing to use a concocted pronoun.
-On pronouns generally: I get the feeling that we are talking past each other to a great extent. Bill C-16 and surrounding legislation allows for putting concocted pronouns into the law and employs contentious terminology regarding sex and gender. Whether you agree with Peterson or not, he is presenting a significant perspective. The terminology related to sex and gender employed in this legislation is influenced by social constructivism. There is a great deal of contention about that in the scientific community. While I strongly support the right of all individuals to be treated equally and live their lives as they see fit, legislative intervention on behalf of specific groups of people, using contentious terminology, and expanding the power of the central government under the guise of compassion open the doors for grave errors. Furthermore, the use of concocted pronouns will do nothing to help individuals navigate in the complexities of social networks in the workplace, among other contexts.
-On Peterson and ‘immature behavior’: I make no claims that anyone is above behavior which can be interpreted (and often is) immature behavior. Peterson made a few comments on Twitter expressing anger toward Mishra’s piece. In retrospect, perhaps they were not the best things to say. I say perhaps because we are all human. Southy is entitled to her opinion. My problem with her article is that it lacks much in terms of intellectual depth. I should also emphasize that Peterson’s comments were comments on Twitter whereas Southy’s piece is an article. I do have my biases but I also judge different platforms in different ways. If Southy said what she said in the form of comments on social media, I would not have given them a second of my time.
I should also mention that I really don’t have problems admitting and recognizing the utility of bias. Again, I would argue that dialogue between genuine individuals is a greater way at getting to the truth than some source which claims to be objective. You and I are arguing about many topics related to Jordan Peterson and the Schiff piece. I disagree with you in many key areas but respect your opinion and enjoy the back and forth. My desire to engage with contrary opinions on this and other platforms is based on an interest in ideas as well as a recognition that all human perspectives are limited.
-On freedoms and limits: Yes, there are limits but such limits must be clearly defined and the result of skeptical enquiry. And yes, any thinking person would oppose unlimited freedom for each individual. This is actually a core argument of Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan. I think you and I differ as to the philosophy which best promotes the greatest freedom with the least amount of constraints. My argument is that an individual-centric model would work best. Adam Smith was not only a brilliant economist, he was also a moral philosopher. Top-down planning, represented in Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, is often disastrous and counterproductive: “The man of system (representing top-down planning), on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it” (Smith, p.121-122). My point here is this, a bottom-up local approach, coupled with skepticism and a deep knowledge of human nature would go a long way to ameliorating the great ills of contemporary society. A bottom-up approach would also allow for human error and limits to each person’s perspective to be checked and balanced to a greater degree. I should also mention that, with regard to free speech, an absolutist position is probably the least objectionable. Libel and direct threats of violence should not be protected under free speech but nearly everything else should.
-On human nature: The fact is human nature has changed to an incredibly limited degree (one that is heavily accentuated by massive advances in science and technological innovation). The progress cited in Steven Pinker’s works (and those of other scholars) reveals changes in attitudes based on socialization but not on changes to fundamental aspects of human nature. Culture, or the packets of social information passed down through custom and tradition rather than genetics) is dynamic and reflects the ingenuity of the human spirit for expressing itself in an endless variety of ways in an unlimited number of contexts. With that being said, there are many aspects of human nature that do not change (the overwhelming amount). These include the following: desire to reproduce, desire for sex, curiosity, DNA, political maneuvering, desire for food, desire for shelter, aversion to disease, desire for a healthy mate, desire for status, death, propensity for organizing into groups, love, and hate. Innovation is the result of exposure to new ideas and often different people. These are not changes in human nature so much as the creative interplay of ideas used by people. Law is not part of human nature itself but emerges from deeper questions about how people should conduct and organize themselves. Law also reflects the desire of those with money and influence to a much greater degree. Religions are packets of social information passed down from generation to generation. Your response to my statement about human nature addresses the façade, not the core.
Dictionary definitions have their strengths and weaknesses but, as they are of great utility, I’ll end with one for human nature: “the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans.”
-The WP poll and article you cite has little to do with the alt-right and shows that the overwhelming majority of the American public thinks it is not okay to hold racist views. I would attribute the massive difference between Democrats and Republicans in the first graph largely (though certainly not entirely) to political tribalism. Tribalism is characteristic of human nature and was explored famously in the Robber Cave Experiment (https://www.simplypsychology.org/robbers-cave.html ). What the alt-right is is not defined in the article, nor is the methodology of the poll mentioned. I find it very difficult to believe that 1 in 6 Americans supports the alt-right. I went to the actual ABC News article to get more info. The methodology is laid out at the bottom of the piece but no where is there a definition of what is meant by alt-right. The 9 percent who think it is acceptable to hold various racist views represent a shadow of the percentage a few decades ago. I would argue that this all shows an old way of thinking which is in terminal decline rather than a resurgent racist movement. As I have probably said before, there appear to be two alt-rights: one is the actual group of people who hold reprehensible ethno-nationalist views and the other is a conspiracy theory which seeks to inflate the power and influence of a handful of pathetic losers such as Spenser. I would like to see the ages of those called in this survey. The statement on methodology says that both cell phones and landline phones were called. I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the 9 percent who think it is acceptable to hold racist views are over the age of 65.