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Peterson’s Logos Argument, or why Atheists aren’t Atheists

Many months ago, “logos” was re-popularized by Jordan Peterson, who has used it as a weapon against atheists. To Peterson, “logos” proves that atheists only think they are atheists – they are just fooling themselves. In a debate he had with Susan Blackmore, Peterson said that “secularsocieties are built on top of Christian foundations like true speech and the sovereignty of the individual.

Peterson argued that most people who think they are atheists don’t act out their atheism. Writing a book is acting out the logos (Susan is an author). Writing is an attempt to illuminate the world, and that is based on the Judeo-Christian tradition – it is based on the culture of the word, the revelation of the true mode of being through written form.

Susan Blackmore is contributing to the Christian mission despite what she says. Indeed, what one says and what one acts out are often entirely different, and the latter is much more telling of a person’s true beliefs according to Peterson.

Is this another instance where Peterson is playing language games with people the same way he did with Sam Harris when they got stuck on the notion of truth for two hours?

I decided to find out more about “logos.” Where did it come from? And why does Peterson claim that Christianity has a monopoly over the written word? Wasn’t there a democracy in ancient Greece? What about Plato? Surely, Plato was not a Christian, and yet he tried to illuminate the world, and he did so through the written word. Was he unknowingly a Christian?

The Origin of Logos

 ‘Logos’ translates to ‘reason’ in Greek. The term originated in ancient Greece in the sixth century B.C with Heraclitus, who linked the logic of the cosmos with human reason. The Stoics defined the logos as an “active rational and spiritual principle that permeated all of reality.” To them, the logos was providence, god, nature, and the soul of the universe. But this term has permeated many traditions, with ideas about it found in Indian, Egyptian, and Persian philosophical systems.

In the Biblical Gospel of John, Jesus Christ is identified as “the Word” (logos) incarnated or made flesh. This idea has its origins in the Old Testament. The frequently used phrase “the Word of the Lord” symbolizes God’s activity and power, and the Jewish idea that wisdom is the “divine agent that draws man to God and is identified with the word of God… In the same way that the Jews saw the Torah (the Law) as preexistent with God, so also the author of John viewed Jesus, but Jesus came to be regarded as the personified source of life and illumination of mankind.”

Early Christian theologians and apologists tried to express the Christian faith in terms that were familiar to the Hellenistic world and to convince them that Christianity was superior to the best of pagan philosophy.

“Thus, in their apologies and polemical works, the early Christian Fathers stated that Christ as the pre-existent logos (1) reveals the Father to mankind and is the subject of the Old Testament manifestations of God; (2) is the divine reason in which the whole human race, so that the 6th-century-BC philosopher and others who lived with reason were Christians before Christ; and (3) is the divine will and word by which the worlds were framed.”

Reference: https://www.britannica.com/topic/logos

That is the basis for Peterson’s argument – the presupposition that anyone who has ever engaged in logic was a Christian, because there is no difference between reason and the incarnation of Christ since Christ was the logos.

But Harris, Blackmore, and other atheists probably don’t believe that Christ is the eternal logos, and yet they probably see themselves as logical.

John Gray, author of Straw Dogs would agree with Peterson. He has even accused Nietzsche and Heidegger for being post-theists, atheists who could not shake off their hidden Christian beliefs.

Atheism is a late bloom of a Christian passion for truth. – John Gray

It is clear to Gray that Christianity initiated mankind’s obsession with truth. A pagan does not sacrifice the pleasure of life for the sake of mere truth, for it was not unadorned reality, but artful illusion that they are after.

And among the Greeks, the goal of philosophy was happiness, not truth. The worship of truth is a Christian cult.

Christianity lashed out against the pagan tolerance of illusion, by claiming that there is only one true faith. They gave truth a supreme value it did not have before. And it made disbelief in the divine possible.

The long-delayed consequence of Christian faith was an idolatry of truth that found its most complete expression in atheism. If we live in a world without gods, we have Christianity to thank for it – John Gray

It would seem that Peterson’s argument would work only if you had Christian presuppositions. That is, if you did believe that Christ was one with the logos. This would lead many to suspect that Peterson wasn’t trying to convince Harris or Blackmore that they were wrong but was trying to appeal to Christian listeners.

But could Peterson be accused of such a dishonest tactic? And even if he did, could he be blamed? In the words of comedian Ricky Gervais, when asked about his controversial behavior as a host during the Oscar ceremonies “Why would I pander to audience of 200 wealthy celebrities in a room when there are 200 million people at home watching?”

If Peterson himself was not pursuing truth, such a tactic would be ingenious.

But this accusation is an unfair one – it is wrong to assume that these arguments have been constructed to pander only to Christians. John Gray, as he makes quite clear in Straw Dogs, is an atheist himself, and he agrees with Peterson.

The idea of Logos is old, and no particular belief system or ideology has a monopoly on the natural capacity human beings have for reason and language. But it may be true that Christianity deserves credit for the spread of literacy, because of its obsession with the truth.

When Thomas Paine released “Common Sense” in 1776, much of the reading culture comprised of Protestants – a time that Neil Postman has called the “Age of Exposition.”

And a frequently cited idea of Nietzsche is that Christianity was responsible for the disciplining of the Western mind.

To make the leap and say that Christ is the incarnation of the Logos, and to say that atheists or other religious groups are secretly Christians because they read and write is a radical argument, but not a completely unfounded one.

There is no compelling reason for rational people to pursue truth as the highest value, at the expense of their well being. For most people today, it still makes no practical sense.

But Peterson’s mistake is in the way he spins the idea. There may be truth to the idea that atheism is historically contingent on Christianity, but that does not mean that atheists are not atheists.

19 replies on “Peterson’s Logos Argument, or why Atheists aren’t Atheists”

“Peterson was raised in the West, and he has a much deeper familiarity with Christianity than he does with Buddhism. His statement is highly subjective and is in no way self-evident.” – You fail to understand that Eastern thought, generally, does not really put a premium on Logos. Hinduism for example, value the mystical and mystical experience more than the logical or intellectual (one reason for eastern meditation is to transcend the logical and rational). This is consistent with their view about ultimate reality, Brahman, a nonpersonal, indescribable, indefinable what-ness that nobody really knows what.

Even in Buddhism, with is its doctrine of Anatta – Not-self. This individual, self-conscious, personal, intellectual–capable of logo–self is a myth. There is no enduring self. And what’s Buddhism’s goal? Nirvana, the absence of all states (the Sanskrit literally means “to blow out, to extinguish,” i.e., the extinguishing of this personal self).

Zen Buddhism is more radical in its anti-logos nature; the pursuit of life’s “meaning” thru direct experience, bypassing the intellect, logic and language (which often acts as impediments).

Peterson is correct; it is in Judeo-Christian thought that Logos, truthful speech, is given maximum prominence.

“C.S Lewis Quote… the same can be said about any teacher who claims to be divine in some way, and this is not unique to Christianity.” – You fail to grasp the radical nature of the self-knowledge and claims of Christ about himself. There’s nothing like it in the world of religions!

Note that he uttered those words before a people who he knew would only consider his claims utterly blasphemous and worthy of death. This is due to the radical nature of Yehovah Elohim (the God the Jews knew in their traditions). Hebrew monotheism (Yehovah) was unique among all the surrounding deities of the nations (the animism and polytheism of the nations where the gods were in one way or another still part of “the system” of the world). Yehovah was utterly Transcendent, outside of everything in the world of nature and creation, speaking creation into existence thru his Logos. And then this Jesus from an obscure town called Nazareth comes along and claims he is THAT Logos! This is unparalleled in other world religions.

Managed to give the following quick responses–

“Why not think of logos as mechanism by which a species can move towards more accurate representations of the world… an arbitrary trait that happened to be the most useful?” – Nagel argues that standard evolutionary thesis is sorely inept to give a satisfying and coherent account of human cognitive capacities (Logos) in both its historical (how it came about) and its constitutive (its nature) aspects. In fact, evolutionary epistemology suffers from self-referential absurdity. This is illustrated by philosopher John Gray. He said,

“Modern humanism is the faith that through science humankind can know the truth – and so be free. But if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true this is impossible. The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth. To think otherwise is to resurrect the pre-Darwinian error that humans are different from all other animals.”

Gray does not seem aware that he is falling on his own sword, for “if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true” then what confidence do we have that what Gray said serves the truth and not mere “evolutionary success”? In fact, “if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true” what confidence do we have that Darwin’s theory itself is actually true? If Darwin’s theory is true, then it’s not.

“Everyone else is given to us by nature” – Hmm. There was no “nature” prior to the beginning of the universe. So, what (Who?) gave nature itself? I listened to the exchange between Sean Carroll and Luke Barnes on this and in the end, Carroll’s argument dissolved into “brute fact” as the origin of all things. He abandons reason—ironic because aggressive atheists claim that they are the ones that depend all on reason to explain things.

“What is illogical about extending the domain of the natural to “reason”? – As Lewis argued, naturalism must eventually explain the world as a totally closed interlocked system of material causes and effects (think inner mechanics of a clock)—from the singularity to this moment that I’m typing on my computer—with no remainder. We have to trace “reason” then to the level of non-rational, even irrational. If reason ultimately rests on the non-rational or even irrational, then this destroys the credibility of our cognitive capacities (of Logos).

“Why, suddenly, when you invoke reason, do we have the need to enter into the realm of the supernatural?” – You misconstrue the nature of the argument. When it comes to explaining things, no stone is to be left unturned. To dogmatically limit explanation to epistemological naturalism is not really consistent with the spirit of true science and philosophy—the search for truth, to follow the evidence where it may lead. Philosophical naturalism as plausibility structure is too restrictive in the quest for truth.

“But if you accept that higher complexity can emerge from lower complexity over time (evolution)” – Naturalism of the gaps? You can only stretch this too far (emergence theory? Sheldrake’s panpsychism?).

“there is no reason why logos or telos, which are highly complex phenomena, could have emerged from lower complex phenomena” – Lewis, Nagel, Plantinga demand that the assertion be cashed out. Conjectures are ok, but hardly convincing.

“why is the theistic explanation any less strange?” – No it’s not. It’s just more logically coherent.

“Are speaking serpents and water-walking, water-to-wine turning, god-humans not strange to you?” – Sigh. You really need to go beyond typical anti-theist mantra.

“speaking serpents” – the Genesis creation account is more literary than literal, actual detailed history.

“water-walking, water to wine” – Once you allow for a “haunted universe” miracles are real possibilities (if you have the energy, go check Craig Keener’s massive 2 vol. Miracles, more accessible is Eric Metaxas’ Miracles, or a finely argued book by Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World).

The problem I have with dogmatic naturalists is exemplified by this professor who told his class, “Even if a limb grows right before my very eyes I will still not believe in miracles; I will have to find a natural explanation.” That’s idiocy, not rationality.

Do check out atheist Michael Shermer’s haunted experience in this short article https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/anomalous-events-that-can-shake-one-s-skepticism-to-the-core/

Managed to give the following quick responses–
Gray does not seem aware that he is falling on his own sword, for “if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true” then what confidence do we have that what Gray said serves the truth and not mere “evolutionary success”? In fact, “if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true” what confidence do we have that Darwin’s theory itself is actually true? If Darwin’s theory is true, then it’s not.

Well, I don’t see why they need to be mutually exclusive. Science may be the pursuit of further evolutionary success (or will to power), and the by-product of which is objective truth, that we sometimes discover.


“Everyone else is given to us by nature” – Hmm. There was no “nature” prior to the beginning of the universe. So, what (Who?) gave nature itself? I listened to the exchange between Sean Carroll and Luke Barnes on this and in the end, Carroll’s argument dissolved into “brute fact” as the origin of all things. He abandons reason—ironic because aggressive atheists claim that they are the ones that depend all on reason to explain things.

It is a question worth thinking about, and Spencer made a good point in the debate you mentioned against Pinker when he pointed out that the Big Bang Theory would have swung the pendulum towards the theistic side had it been invoked in debates between atheists and theists in the past.
“What is illogical about extending the domain of the natural to “reason”? – As Lewis argued, naturalism must eventually explain the world as a totally closed interlocked system of material causes and effects (think inner mechanics of a clock)—from the singularity to this moment that I’m typing on my computer—with no remainder. We have to trace “reason” then to the level of non-rational, even irrational. If reason ultimately rests on the non-rational or even irrational, then this destroys the credibility of our cognitive capacities (of Logos).

I wouldn’t say “destroys”, I would say “weakens”, and in which case, I would agree with that, and I don’t think anything about the nature of the world points away from that truth.


-“Why, suddenly, when you invoke reason, do we have the need to enter into the realm of the supernatural?” – You misconstrue the nature of the argument. When it comes to explaining things, no stone is to be left unturned. To dogmatically limit explanation to epistemological naturalism is not really consistent with the spirit of true science and philosophy—the search for truth, to follow the evidence where it may lead. Philosophical naturalism as plausibility structure is too restrictive in the quest for truth.

There is no limiting going on here. Anything is plausible if we have good grounds to believe in it. No one is saying that there is only one explanation for why things are the way they are, but in the spirit of reason, we should at the very least set high standards for what we decide to include as a candidate explanation, and not reach for supernatural explanations whenever we hit a wall.

“But if you accept that higher complexity can emerge from lower complexity over time (evolution)” – Naturalism of the gaps? You can only stretch this too far (emergence theory? Sheldrake’s panpsychism?).

Can you clarify this point?
—-

“there is no reason why logos or telos, which are highly complex phenomena, could have emerged from lower complex phenomena” – Lewis, Nagel, Plantinga demand that the assertion be cashed out. Conjectures are ok, but hardly convincing.
I also don’t understand this.

“why is the theistic explanation any less strange?” – No it’s not. It’s just more logically coherent.
Hardly. There is a lot of incoherence when it comes to invoking a supernatural order that none of us understand, or even have the ability to articulate to each other.

“water-walking, water to wine” – Once you allow for a “haunted universe” miracles are real possibilities (if you have the energy, go check Craig Keener’s massive 2 vol. Miracles, more accessible is Eric Metaxas’ Miracles, or a finely argued book by Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World).

I don’t know what this means, I will have to read up more on this.

Still here. Just got busy. Will address your points asap. I think there’s progress in the dialogue, but from your latest comments, i see that some things still require untangling. ‘I’ll be back’.

Hey, great to hear from you again. On my part, I am looking into the links you have provide me, I’m very interested in the debate between Pinker and Spencer and I’m also curious about the ideas of John gray.. You will see some posts on these and more soon…

>”an indication of confusion rather than understanding, you have done a very poor job of explaining to me what exactly I have missed here”– Ok, i’ll try again.

>”when Peterson makes the argument that Christianity is responsible for the logos” — No, he is not saying that. In fact, he acknowledges that the Logos was operative prior to Christianity–right back to the very dawning of reality itself (as we know it)! Which he does say, is anticipated by Judeo-Christian thought, ‘In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” (Jn 1:1) For Peterson, there is something transcendent about Logos. Even as an agnostic, he is fascinated with how Logos has operated in the most ancient traditions. But sees that it is in Christianity where it is deeply and more consistently articulated.

>”The ancient Greeks and the Babylonians used creative, truthful speech and reason…” — Of course, and Peterson (and Christian thought) fully affirms that, though again, he’s saying that it is in biblical thought that the Logos idea takes fuller, articulated form (from the creative Word speaking creation into existence, to Yehovah Elohim known only through the spoken Word, to the Word in Sapiential literature, and lastly thru the Word incarnate in Christ–a central theme in all these threads of traditions is the Logos, transcendent Truthful creative speech).

>”Peterson seems to be saying that Christ was the perfect embodiment of the logos…need some standard by which to judge… and not some other historic figure.” — C. S. Lewis’ thought come to mind. Line them all up; all those that wielded the Logos in history–Socrates, Buddha, Confucius et al–not one of them ever made this claim, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” This is what deeply disturbed Lewis as an atheist looking seriously at the evidence concerning Christ. Later he would give the following reflections,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

“But to say that a writer who claims to be an atheist is really Christian” — Of course Harris, Dawkins, Blackmore are not truly Christians. And Peterson knows that. What he is saying though–and the point you keep missing–is that they take Logos as axiomatic, a priori; they trust, rely, depend on the operations of the Logos. And they take it for granted that it’s simply the fruit of a long natural–material evolutionary–process. They take Logos as an undefended, unarticulated assumption. But Peterson, even as an agnostic at best, sees in the Logos something transcendent (he says “I’m not a materialist anymore; i don’t think the world is made out of ‘matter’ (material, physica stuff of things), i think it’s made out of what matters; it’s made out of meaning (Logos!).” [clip here https://youtu.be/f6ofbiWBv-8). And he is attracted at the way Christian thought articulates the Logos.

And I am extending Peterson’s argument here by bringing in the severe criticisms of a naturalistic take on reason (as in Harris et al), critiques from Lewis (theist), Nagel (atheist), Plantinga (theist). Even as an atheist Nagel admits that theism (Judeo-Christian in particular) is a better fit as an explanation of human cognitive capacity (to the human capacity for Logos). But as an atheist, he does not want to go there and so opt for a ‘teleological naturalism’, a strange view that posit nature itself and by itself purposely aims towards the development of consciousness and ultimately reason/Logos.

So, Harris et al operates with the Logos that is very inadequately explained by their reductive naturalistic worldview (and in the extended argument i’m making, not just inadequately explained, but even contrary to Logos–do watch the videos that explain this nicely, or even read the more detailed arguments). And they go about in their merry ways as if there’s no problem. Peterson et al are challenging these naturalists by saying, ‘Wait a minute, explain the ontology and origins and justifications for your Logos, your morality. You can’t just assume that they’re given to you by nature and natural reason.’

“For Peterson, there is something transcendent about Logos. Even as an agnostic, he is fascinated with how Logos has operated in the most ancient traditions. But sees that it is in Christianity where it is deeply and more consistently articulated.”

Yes, I understand that, but Peterson was raised in the West, and he has a much deeper familiarity with Christianity than he does with Buddhism. His statement is highly subjective and is in no way self-evident.

C.S Lewis Quote – I have read this before, and yes, this is a profound point, but again, the same can be said about any teacher who claims to be divine in some way, and this is not unique to Christianity.

“Of course Harris, Dawkins, Blackmore are not truly Christians. And Peterson knows that. What he is saying though–and the point you keep missing–is that they take Logos as axiomatic, a priori; they trust, rely, depend on the operations of the Logos. And they take it for granted that it’s simply the fruit of a long natural–material evolutionary–process. They take Logos as an undefended, unarticulated assumption.”

Why not think of logos as mechanism by which a species can move towards more accurate representations of the world, and thus increase its chances of survival and replication. In other words, why can’t “logos” be an arbitrary trait that happened to be the most useful?

‘Wait a minute, explain the ontology and origins and justifications for your Logos, your morality. You can’t just assume that they’re given to you by nature and natural reason.’

yes, and why not? Everyone else is given to us by nature, so why not logos? What is illogical about extending the domain of the natural to “reason”? Why, suddenly, when you invoke reason, do we have the need to enter into the realm of the supernatural?

I understand your argument better now, and I will read the resources you cited, but I am still unconvinced.

The argument you’re defending seems to be: ‘Since the world has so much order, and the spoken truth is so important to the functioning of human life, it is unlikely that telos and Logos can emerge from randomness – it must be the case that order brought forth order, and that goal-seeking and truth-speaking creatures were created by a goal-seeking and truth-speaking God.’

But if you accept that higher complexity can emerge from lower complexity over time (evolution), there is no reason why logos or telos, which are highly complex phenomena, could have emerged from lower complex phenomena. And if you think that the naturalistic explanation is ‘strange’, that’s fine and understandable. It’s really all very strange, but why is the theistic explanation any less strange? Are speaking serpents and water-walking, water-to-wine turning, god-humans not strange to you?

“framing ‘reason’ so blatantly as a religious construct is not justified” — You really need to pay more careful attention to the actual argument. You keep missing it. Remove “religious construct” completely, and the argument stands re the ontology and origin of reason as logos ie, TRUTHFUL, creative speech.

Think of “logos” as something like truthful, creative speech, which is also the prerequisite to reason.. So far, so good. I have no objections to this..

Now, when Peterson makes the argument that Christianity is responsible for the logos in some capacity, I must take objection, because I do not see on what grounds this argument stands..

The ancient Greeks and the Babylonians used creative, truthful speech and reason to build their societies, to create their laws, and to manage their lives.

Peterson seems to be saying that Christ was the perfect embodiment of the logos, and that’s an argument he can make. At this point, we would need some standard by which to judge how and why it is Christ and not some other historic figure.

But to say that a writer who claims to be an atheist is really Christian because they engage in Logos presupposes that Christ is the ONLY embodiment of the Logos.

This is the logical error that is hard to let slip by… I don’t think I’ve misunderstood the argument, and if I have, short of the many links you have posted, which really are an indication of confusion rather than understanding, you have done a very poor job of explaining to me what exactly I have missed here.

Since the links I provided didn’t work, let me follow it up with this–

Here’s how JP explains the Logos (in conversation with Jordan Levine ‘Ideology, Logos & Belief, A Discussion with Transliminal Media, available in youtube)

JL – ‘The concept of logos… How would the everyday person experience that in their day-to-day life? and how is that a focus of the crisis?’
JP – ‘You could think about it as the power of speech to transform reality. But even more importantly, more fundamentally, it’s the power of TRUTHFUL speech to transform reality in a positive direction (my emphasis). We have this magical ability to change the future, and we do that through action, obviously. But action is oriented by thought, and thought is mediated by dialog. And so it’s speech, in particular, that’s of critical importance to this logos process. The logos is symbolically represented in the figure of Christ, who’s the word that was there at the beginning of time. So that’s a very complicated topic, but what it essentially means is that the West has formulated a symbolic representation of the ideal human being, and that ideal human being is the person who speaks the truth to change the world.
JL – ‘I’m really curious about this. In your opinion, is this an especially Western concept? or is it just simply a matter of you having studied mainly Western mythology?’
JP – ‘No, I think it’s—I mean, there is emphasis in other belief systems. I think it’s more explicit in Christianity. I would say Christianity has done two things: it’s developed the most explicit doctrine of good versus evil, and it’s developed the most explicit and articulated doctrine of the logos. And so I would say, in many traditions, it’s implicit. It’s implicit in hero mythology, for example. I think what happens is that, if you aggregate enough hero myths and extract out the central theme, you end up with the logos. It’s the thing that’s common to all heroes. That’s a good way of thinking about it.’

So, for JP “logos” is basically the power of TRUTHFUL creative/transformative speech that speaks reality—good or benevolent reality—to come to be. And in Peterson’s perspective, the ideal instantiation of that is Jesus Christ, the Logos embodied.

Of course, Harris, Balckmore et al do demonstrate a very high degree of capacity for ‘logos’. And looking at human history, we’ve certainly demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the human species is powerfully gifted with this capacity for ‘logos’.

Here’s the crux of the matter; What explains this?

Harris et al says that it’s a gift from the Enlightenment, it’s human rationality pure and simple, a la Descartes’ cogito ergo sum, fully explained in the materialist-naturalist worldview. But this is problematic, VERY problematic.
Lewis, Nagel and Plantinga et al argues that naturalism is not ‘logos-friendly’, in fact, is an enemy to logos.
Searching for simple and straightforward explanations of the argument, I found these YouTube sources helpful at an introductory level.
–Descartes, Hume, and Darwin on the Argument from Reason at https://youtu.be/S0FIGXuy3jw
–Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (An Introduction) at https://youtu.be/vpQ1-AGPysM
–Or a short PDF paper THE ARGUMENT FROM REASON at https://www.reasonsforgod.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/DePoe-The-Argument-from-Reason.pdf
–For a more technical argument see Angus Menuge Libertarian Free Will and the Argument from Reason at https://www.reasonsforgod.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Libertarian-Free-Will-and-The-Argument-From-Reason1.pdf (this is particularly relevant today, since Harris and others that hold to materialist/naturalist axioms are now reduced to denying genuine freewill, as Harris said, we’re puppets that love our strings. This destroys reason, though Harris keeps on arguing that it does not—here’s Plantinga’s critique of Harris, Bait and Switch: Sam Harris on free will at https://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2013/janfeb/bait-and-switch.html).

Here’s the article by Nick Spencer ‘Atheist Fairytales: Exposing secularism’s major myths’ (presenting a summary of his arguments in his conversation with Steven Pinker, on the enormous contributions of the Judeo-Christian worldview on Western thought and culture) at https://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2018/September-2018/Atheist-Fairytales-Exposing-secularism-s-major-myths

If you want to offer a serious critique of Peterson’s argument for the Logos, you need to address this one.

Shalom.

True speech by a hero seeking to transform the world is an archetypal motif that Peterson finds most explicit in Christianity, but he says that other belief systems contain this archetype implicitly, which makes it hard to explain why he would call non-Christians Christians. It’s difficult to argue that Buddha or Mohammed or Moses are not to their adherents manifestations of the logos, of a transformative hero, who utters true speech.

I will check your other resources and see if I can find a more pointed argument for Peterson’s central claim…

Links didn’t work. Correction: ‘The better way of framing the debate is, ‘Which worldview better explains the human capacity for genuine reason—atheistic naturalism/materialism OR THEISM?’

Yes, in which case the answer is complicated. Both are conducive to rationality and irrationality – depends on the context. Either way, framing ‘reason’ so blatantly as a religious construct is not justified.

>“the fact is that the only group that can appreciate his logic (because they accept his presupposition) are Christians.” – Not entirely true.

>“The idea of Logos is old, and no particular belief system or ideology has a monopoly on the natural capacity human beings have for reason and language.” – The better way of framing the debate is, ‘Which worldview better explains the human capacity for genuine reason—atheistic naturalism/materialism? Or, is the human capacity for genuine rational thought a better fit in a naturalist-materialist worldview, or in a theistic worldview (that posits a creative Mind/Intelligence behind the universe and the creation of human beings)?

Philosophically, I’m persuaded by the argument that a theistic worldview wins the day. The axioms of Judeo-Christian thought fits hand-in-glove to the phenomenon of our capacity of authentic reason. See CS Lewis’ (theist) full argument in the 3rd chapter of his book, Miracles. Also Thomas Nagel’s (atheist) Mind & Cosmos, 4th chapter. Alvin Plantinga extended and formulated his own approach with his EAAN, see his book Where the Conflict Really Lies.
A simple presentations is Jay Richards here
A detailed argument is by Angus Menuge here

>“And a frequently cited idea of Nietzsche that we have heard Peterson cite, is that Christianity was responsible for the disciplining of the Western mind.” – That Western thought was birthed in the nursery of both “Athens” (Greek rational thought) and “Jerusalem” (Judeo-Christian worldview) is pretty much established. See–
–The Evolution of the West by Nick Spencer (see his summary on his debate with Pinker here)
–Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization by Samuel Gregg
–Right Side of History Ben Shapiro

Though guys like Harris et al will not even give an inch for it will cast serious doubt on the narrative they’re pushing–“Enlightenment only” and “Christianity is evil and stupid” narrative. They expose themselves as blind dogmatists who are not as “open-minded” as they would like to think themselves to be. That’s why I admire atheist such as the eminent atheist German philosopher Jurgen Habermas (a ‘methodological atheist’ by his own admission) who openly admits the following historical fact,

“Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk.” (“Time of Transitions”)

>“Yet, to make the leap and say that Christ is the incarnation of the Logos, and to say that atheists or other religious groups are secretly Christians…” – You misunderstand Peterson’s point. Ben Shapiro responded to Harris’ deconstruction of Judeo-Christian thought to prop up his “Enlightenment” rationality by saying something like this, ‘Sam, you’re destroying my house, but then you take my bricks and use them to build yours. You can’t do that.’
We live in a cut-flower society in the West. Nietzsche saw this with crystal clarity (unlike Harris, Pinker, et. al, who romanticizes Enlightenment rationality).

It was in the Victorian era that saw the rise of “agnostics”, referring to themselves “freethinkers” or “secularists”. They advanced the argument that anyone can live the moral life without believing in the God of Christianity. Nietzsche characterized the “origin of English morality” as the attempt of the “agnostics” of the day to do away with Christianity but keep its morality. God is not the source of morality; the source is within oneself. And he pointed to George Eliot as a prime example of this.

“G. Eliot. — They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. That is an English consistency; we do not wish to hold it against little moralistic females à la Eliot. In England one must rehabilitate oneself after every little emancipation from theology by showing in a veritably awe-inspiring manner what a moral fanatic one is. That is the penance they pay there.”

He continued,
“We others hold otherwise. When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know, what is good for him, what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows it. Christian morality is a command; its origin is transcendent; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticism; it has truth only if God has truth—it stands or falls with faith in God.” Friedrich Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols,” The Portable Nietzsche, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufman

This is what Peterson is saying. But I say, an exercise in futility for guys like Harris and the so-called New Atheists.

Thanks for the links. I will look into them all, the quotes by Eliot and Nietzsche were interesting.

“And a frequently cited idea of Nietzsche that we have heard Peterson cite, is that Christianity was responsible for the disciplining of the Western mind.”

Please read what I wrote carefully. It does not state that Peterson was wrong in saying that Christianity played a role in disciplining the Western mind – to what extent it did so is a different question, and one that I am not educated enough to answer.

I was making the point that this an argument that is in line with the Logos argument, but they are NOT the same argument. There is no question that Christianity played a role in disciplining the Western mind, as did all religious texts, anywhere in the world. Even atheists, like Harris, have admitted that religion are our first attempts at understanding the world.

Religions of all forms have succeeded (by disciplining its followers), in pulling them away from their animalistic nature. This may have been a precursor to man’s advancement in other things, like science, but to speak of religion in the West as an isolated variable, is simplistic.

Politics and commerce, in Christian society in the past, as in today’s society, have been powerful forces in shaping the Western mind, It is the interaction between religion, politics, and commerce that have shaped the West’s legal systems and its ethics. Societies did not adopt systems of ethics without shaping them. Moral systems were slowly emergent, and they were dynamic (because they have multiple influences).

To emphasize my point in another way, when Nietzsche (or Shapiro) say that you strip yourself of the ability to use reason to shape your morality, if you don’t adhere to Christianity or Judaism, I am not convinced. It is plausible that a functional system of ethics emerged from religion, but it is not necessary that this system of ethics was a result of religion. It was (more likely) a result of human reason. When Christian thinkers construct a moral system, they use their innate capacity for reason, one that is universally shared. So, if an atheist agrees with these “rules” or “principles”, this does not mean that he is forced to accept the creed or dogma of Christian thinkers, only that he accept the products of their reasoning.

In sum, reason did not shape morality through Christianity, but also through politics, commerce, etc… Thus, it cannot be that a religion has a monopoly on reason, because reason is independent of religion, and is the most influential variable in shaping our moral codes.

As a final point, when you say that it isn’t “entirely true” that only Christians can accept the presupposition of Peterson’s argument, what do you mean exactly?

Are you saying that atheists will agree that Christ is the manifestation of the logos, that ‘reason’ has been monopolized by one religion – or that no human being that has been unaffected by Christianity at any point in history, has had access to reason?

I appreciate your comment, but one, you have only managed to show me that your sense of sarcasm needs some work, probably.

And two, you have said nothing to mitigate for the problem i outlined above, which is that Peterson has hijacked an idea that predates Christianity, for the benefit of Christianity, without really showing his work.

Ugh! Disappointing.

After a brief but fine survey of the ‘logos’ concept, you concluded your article with a bunch of very bad logic. Seriously disappointing!

“But Harris, Blackmore, and other atheists probably don’t believe that Christ is the eternal logos.” Wrong. “Probably”? They EXPLICITLY reject even the very thought of Christ as having an iota of reality in their belief system. Harris is a rabid anti-theist for crying out loud!

“Jordan Peterson’s argument would work only if you had Christian presuppositions.” Wrong. To illustrate, what Peterson is arguing is akin to saying this; ‘You may not believe in gravity, but your entire existence is lived in the reality of gravity. Gravity works whether you are aware of it or not, or believe in it or not. Gravity’s just there, period.’

“This leads me to suspect that Peterson wasn’t trying to convince Harris or Blackmore that they were wrong…” Correct! Bravo!!!

“but was trying to appeal to Christian listeners.” Wrong. Good grief! This has been in Peterson’s system of ideas even before any Christian ever heard of his name. He wasn’t trying to “appeal to Christian listeners,” he was simply articulating ideas he has developed through his own research of the issues.

“A dishonest tactic”? Sigh. Either this is a terribly dishonest, sorry-excuse-for-a-review, or, simply a very bad, ill-informed, logically flawed piece. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and opt for the second.

Articles like this just generate more heat than light. You can do better.

"A gilded No is more satisfactory than a dry yes" - Gracian

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