A University of Toronto professor spoke on Thursday about “the problem” in society, or the idea that there’s no shortage of suffering and oppression in the world.
The lecture hosted by Young Americans for Liberty in association with the Center for Study of Liberal Democracy brought Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, a Canadian psychologist and professor specializing in the psychology of religious and ideological belief.
Peterson spoke about the imbalance of suffering due to inherent moral flaws in humans.
German philosopher Martin Heidegger proposed the idea of “thrownness,” or an arbitrary nature of human beings, Peterson said. He explained arbitrary nature argues certain things in life are out of a person’s control, such as the time they were born, their race and their culture.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that there is oppression and that there’s no shortage of suffering in the world, and I do think that’s not only a fundamental problem but also the fundamental reality of the world,” Peterson said.
Peterson brought forth two main theories explaining why life presents problems, which he calls the Genesis theory of suffering and the Marxist theory of suffering.
In the Genesis theory, people suffer because they are self-conscious due to their awareness of their own vulnerability, Peterson said.
“Everybody has an inbuilt sense of shame about their fundamental inadequacy in relation to the difficulties of life,” Peterson said.
This theory leads to humans being self-aware and self-sufficient, Peterson said. He believes this is ultimately beneficial to humankind and leads to a more productive society.
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Alternatively, the Marxist theory of suffering, Peterson proposed, blames materialist social order for human suffering.
However, people still do things that could put them through suffering and pain that aren’t materialistic, Peterson said. Even if people had everything they needed from a material perspective, that wouldn’t eliminate suffering in the world.
“We’re the kind of insane creatures that would blow that apart and fragment that sort of static utopian perfection just so something strange and interesting might happen,” Peterson said.
Another reason for suffering under Marxist theory is that it creates the idea of victimhood, leading to resentment which can be “toxic,” Peterson said.
Another problem with the Marxist theory, Peterson proposed, is it leads to “radical left student types.” This is especially prevalent at top-tier universities such as Yale.
“[Students] come out and advocate as a consequence of their own oppression, when by any reasonable standard, current or historical, they’re probably in the top one-hundredth of a percent of all the people who have ever lived,” Peterson said.