Episode 34 – Jonathan Haidt

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I recently traveled to New York University to talk with Dr. Jonathan Haidt about, among other things, disgust, purity, fear and belief; the perilous state of the modern university; and his work with Heterodox Academy (https://heterodoxacademy.org/) an organization designed to draw attention to the lack of diversity of political belief in the humanities and the social sciences. Dr. Haidt is Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a social psychologist. He studies the psychology of morality and the moral emotions. He has been described as a top global thinker by both Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines. Dr. Haidt is the author of three books: The newest is The Coddling of the American Mind: How Bad Ideas and Good Intentions are Setting up a Generation for Failure (http://amzn.to/2AN87a6). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (http://amzn.to/2yOOQnU) The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (http://amzn.to/2hJ0TzT) His writings on diversity viewpoint for the Heterodox Academy are at (http://righteousmind.com/viewpoint-diversity/)

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  • David Schwankle

    What a drag. I took a BA in English and MA in English Literature in the years 1993-97. At that time, postmodern “literary criticism” was just becoming fashionable at Cal State San Bernardino. I took a senior seminar on the work of Toni Morrison (itself disappointing because I didn’t particularly like Morrison’s work, but it was the only seminar topic in the quarter I needed it) in which our professor read a work of criticism he had written, heavily drawing on concepts like power struggles and language arbitrariness. I was completely bewildered, thinking I was ill-read and unsophisticated because at the time it all sounded like gibberish. Shortly after that I had heard, for the first time, the English canon reductively dismissed as the work of “dead European white males.” I was offended, not really sure why, until I looked for myself at the work of Derrida and literary critics reading through the postmodern gloss. It made me uncomfortable and disillusioned with becoming a professor of English, simply because I could not bring myself to write criticism from a PoMo perspective. Luckily for me, grad school at San Jose State was great–I was left to find my own voice to explicate the texts we were studying and we were shown a smorgasbord of critical theories, all of which I rejected as absurd, with the exception of “formalism” (what used to be called the “New Criticism”) and the work of Northrop Frye. Most schools of criticism appeared to me to be more about the critic than the work.

    Anyway, I get the impression that in the years since, postmodern criticism and postmodern philosophy in general have become more central in English and other humanities. I remember once in a faculty lounge hearing a cultural anthropologist go on about power struggles, “marginalization” and all that . . . I guess my question for the group is to what degree these days postmodern philosophy may be influencing the teaching of literature, but also how much it may be influencing the teaching of history, anthropology, or art criticism. I have heard Dr. Peterson’s comments on the pernicious influence of postmodernism on social psychology and the creation of other academic “disciplines” like women’s studies, cultural studies, and the like . . . what a horrorshow.

  • Damien Johnson

    Glad I followed up learning and listening to Dr. Peterson. The Future Authoring Program is a great tool as well. Excited to read the 12 Rules of Life in January. Thank you Dr. Peterson. Would love to listen to you live if you are in Ottawa again.