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The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast

418. Hedonism, Taboos, Society, and Deprivation | Ben Shapiro

Mon Jan 29 2024
Counter-EnlightenmentValuesMarxismPostmodernismBiblical NarrativesCapitalismDeterioration of SocietyHedonismNovelty in RelationshipsCommunityObjective StandardsReligious InstitutionsMarginalizationEldersResponsibilityRebuilding Social Structures


This episode explores the counter-enlightenment perspective and the importance of values in shaping our worldview. It delves into the connection between Marxism, postmodernism, and victim-victimizer narratives. The misinterpretation of biblical narratives and the role of capitalism are also discussed. The deterioration of society, the consequences of hedonism, and the importance of novelty in relationships are explored. The podcast emphasizes the significance of community, objective standards, and the danger of attacking ideologies by attacking advocates. It also addresses overcoming marginalization, the role of elders, and rebuilding social structures. The episode concludes with insights on political observations and the need for meaningful discussions to rebuild society's moral foundations.


The Importance of Values

Values play a crucial role in determining how we interpret data and make decisions.

Misinterpretation of Biblical Narratives

Misinterpretations and misreadings of biblical narratives have shaped our modern world, including distorted victim-victimizer narratives.

The Deterioration of Society

The deterioration of society is symbolized by the corruption of femininity and the rise of power-hungry states.

The Consequences of Hedonism

Hedonism leads to atomization, conflict, and a lack of unifying factors in society.

The Importance of Novelty in Relationships

Creating distance and maintaining novelty in relationships is essential for long-term satisfaction.

The Role of Community

Community is necessary to prevent delusion and maintain a shared understanding of narratives.

Objective Standards and Religious Institutions

Objective standards grounded in science can be integrated with religious narratives. Attacks on religious institutions should target non-virtuous individuals rather than religious doctrine.

Overcoming Marginalization

Genuine abuse or hardship does not necessarily lead to becoming an abuser. Self-marginalization is a phenomenon that hinders personal success.

The Role of Elders and Responsibility

Elders provide wisdom, and responsibility brings meaning and additional freedoms when used wisely.

Rebuilding Social Structures

Rebuilding social structures requires focusing on strong families and individual actions.


  1. The Counter-Enlightenment and the Importance of Values
  2. Mapping Narratives and the Victim-Victimizer Narrative
  3. Misinterpretations of Biblical Narratives and Capitalism
  4. Symbolism in Biblical Stories and the Deterioration of Society
  5. The Consequences of Hedonism and Short-Term Gratification
  6. Sublimation and the Importance of Novelty in Relationships
  7. The Role of Narratives and the Importance of Community
  8. The Importance of Community and Objective Standards
  9. The Danger of Attacking Ideologies by Attacking Advocates
  10. Overcoming Marginalization and Bullying
  11. The Role of Elders and Responsibility in Society
  12. Maintaining Strong Families and Rebuilding Social Structures
  13. Political Observations and the Need for Meaningful Discussions
  14. Rebuilding Social Structures and the Value of In-Person Meetings
  15. The Importance of Moral Foundations and Individual Actions

The Counter-Enlightenment and the Importance of Values

00:03 - 07:58

  • The podcast features a conversation between the host and Ben Shapiro.
  • They discuss the counter-enlightenment and the realization that empiricism and rationality are insufficient in understanding the world.
  • The left, particularly the radical left, believes that power is the fundamental story through which the world should be viewed.
  • They talk about how this leads to a victim-victimizer narrative and discuss its connection to Marxism and postmodernism.
  • The host introduces his new book called "We Who Resil with God" and describes it as a counter-enlightenment perspective.
  • They explore how empirical data alone cannot guide us without prioritizing it based on values, leading to the importance of storytelling in shaping our worldview.
  • Ben agrees with this idea, emphasizing that values play a crucial role in determining how we interpret data and make decisions.
  • The conversation touches on large language models used in AI systems to calculate conditional probabilities between words, phrases, sentences, etc.
  • They mention that interpretations of narratives are not arbitrary projections but have intrinsic meaning.

Mapping Narratives and the Victim-Victimizer Narrative

07:31 - 15:17

  • Our interpretations of narratives are arbitrary, but AI language models can map out the relationship between words and concepts statistically, providing an empirical validation for symbolic interpretations.
  • Systems have been designed to interpret dreams by mapping out the semantic differences between concepts, similar to a formal analysis of a text.
  • The story is primary and constitutes our character and ethical presuppositions. By telling stories about patterns in the real world, we can infer people's values and adjust accordingly.
  • Postmodernism concluded that the story is primary, but added the twist that the primary story is victim-victimizer. Marxism and postmodernism share this victim-victimizer narrative, but postmodernists inverted the hierarchy of victimhood in intersectional postmodernism.
  • The Marxists prioritized economic inequality as the cardinal issue in victim-victimizer dynamics, while postmodernists abandoned it. Poor white people cannot be seen as oppressed according to intersectional postmodernism's hierarchy.
  • Some philosophers view Marxism as an offshoot of a misread of Christianity rather than capitalism, suggesting that class exploitation arises from a misinterpretation of Christianity's message about meekness inheriting the earth. Nietzsche also explored this idea.

Misinterpretations of Biblical Narratives and Capitalism

14:53 - 22:16

  • Christianity suggests that the meek will inherit the earth, but on an economic level, this doesn't seem to be happening, indicating possible class exploitation.
  • Marxism can be seen as a strange offshoot of Christianity rather than capitalism, as Nietzsche suggested when he treated Christianity as a victim narrative.
  • Postmodernists believe that all narratives are about power dynamics because they wish to use their own narrative as a power dynamic.
  • Postmodernism is self-defeating at its core because it seeks to destroy all narratives while creating its own narrative.
  • There is a misreading of biblical narratives that contributes to the development of postmodernism and other ideologies.
  • The parable of the unjust steward in Christianity emphasizes the importance of true virtue and discipline in managing material prosperity.
  • The pursuit of material abundance or capitalism is not inherently condemned in Christianity; it's the prioritization of money over God that is criticized.
  • The Jewish tradition recognizes the goodness of a good life and does not view material wealth as inherently corrupt or damned.
  • The idea that Christianity is in direct conflict with capitalism or property rights is foolish and wrong. Many religious Christians have contributed to capitalist societies throughout history.
  • Misinterpretations and misreadings of biblical narratives have shaped our modern world, including distorted victim-victimizer narratives.

Symbolism in Biblical Stories and the Deterioration of Society

21:59 - 29:08

  • The Cain and Abel story in the Bible is often misunderstood. It is not just about Cain being a victimizer and Abel being a victim, but rather about Cain recognizing his sin and repenting before God.
  • The Mark of Cain, given to protect him, was not meant to mark him for murder. It was a symbol of his repentance.
  • Associating success with power, oppression, and corruption leads to the belief that all success is evidence of evil.
  • When Cain tears down his ideal (represented by Abel), he destroys the possibility of attaining it and feels overwhelmed by punishment.
  • The book of Revelation depicts the deterioration of masculinity accompanied by the corruption of femininity, symbolized by the whore of Babylon on the back of a multi-headed beast representing the fragmented state.
  • The patriarchal beast destabilizing leads to the destabilization of femininity, such as female sexuality becoming commodified or women being sold for sexual purposes.
  • The power-hungry state promises unbridled pleasure but ultimately forbids any form of pleasure once it gains control.
  • After the disintegration of what unifies society (the death of God), other powers arise, including nature, power itself, hedonism, and despair/nihilism.
  • Power becomes desirable because it allows one to compel others to do what they want them to do.
  • There is a hierarchy of gods or narratives that unify societies throughout history.

The Consequences of Hedonism and Short-Term Gratification

28:52 - 35:53

  • Power is often used to compel others to do what one wants.
  • Radical leftist movements combine licentious hedonism with the belief that power rules everything.
  • The promise of tearing down existing systems has not brought about human fulfillment or a better world.
  • Wrecking intermediate social institutions leads to atomized individuals pursuing hedonistic pleasure.
  • Hedonic pleasures eventually come into conflict with each other, leading to a lack of unifying factors.
  • Primordial drives like sex and aggression are short-term in nature and can put individuals in conflict with each other.
  • Atomized individualism lacks reciprocal altruism and cannot survive as a social relationship principle.
  • There is a wide-scale abandonment of sexuality, particularly seen in Japan and South Korea, leading to disruption of relationships.
  • Pursuing short-term desires can lead to psychopathic behavior and an inability to perform sexually.
  • The pursuit of short-term gratification characterizes psychopaths and is indistinguishable from dark tetrad orientation (manipulative, psychopathic, narcissistic, sadistic).
  • Sexual boredom arises when all taboos are eliminated, leading to a lack of novelty.
  • Men are driven by sexual novelty, which marriage was meant to sublimate for the building of something greater.

Sublimation and the Importance of Novelty in Relationships

35:30 - 42:44

  • Freud supports the idea of sublimation, which involves channeling short-term desires into higher pursuits.
  • Destroying the common narrative leads to a lack of motivation and positive emotions.
  • Having multiple aims increases anxiety and diminishes the value of resources or stimuli.
  • Proper sexual function requires a certain amount of deprivation and novelty.
  • Women may lose romantic interest more easily due to higher neuroticism and multidimensional response to sexuality.
  • Creating distance in a marriage can reignite desire and maintain novelty.
  • Women seek novel displays of hypergamy capacity in men for sexual satisfaction.
  • The Bible suggests that married couples should abstain from sex for at least one week each month to create scarcity and novelty.

The Role of Narratives and the Importance of Community

42:17 - 49:16

  • The Bible suggests that there are certain times when people should refrain from certain activities, which is seen as inherited wisdom over time.
  • Narratives play a significant role in shaping our understanding of what is admirable and heroic.
  • Young boys abstract commonalities of fatherhood by observing their fathers in different situations.
  • Traditional narratives serve as an anchor to resist moving in a pathological direction when consensus goes wrong.
  • Modern society's failure of conversation has led to a loss of the personal connection and depth in narratives.
  • Literacy has increased knowledge but has also shallowed the depth of stories, compared to oral learning and conversation.
  • The Protestant insistence on the biblical corpus alone has led to fractionation and infinite interpretations.
  • Identity claims by radical individuals can lead to delusion if they believe they are the sole interpreter.

The Importance of Community and Objective Standards

48:46 - 56:43

  • The radical types on the hedonic laughter are making identity claims, stating that they are the only interpreters between themselves and God.
  • To determine whether the God they follow is genuine, one must consider if the story is told by respected individuals and if there is an active discussion conducted by such people.
  • Rituals and congregation play a role in maintaining social structure and transmitting stories.
  • It is tempting for intellectuals to believe that it can just be them and the text, but community is necessary to prevent delusion.
  • Sam Harris advocates for objective standards of morality grounded in science to establish a transcendent good.
  • Robert Axelrod's work on cooperation in iterated systems can be integrated with Sam's approach and discussed among participants like Exodus.
  • The highest order narrative that grips us aligns with the biblical narrative and works best in repeated interactions across time with multiple people.
  • Attacks on religious institutions are most damaging when they target non-virtuous individuals within those institutions rather than attacking religious doctrine itself.
  • Christ's enemies in the earthly world were moral hypocrites like the Pharisees who used religion as a disguise for their psychopathic actions.
  • Separation of church and state protects against totalitarian hypocrites who use religion to manipulate others while proclaiming moral virtue.

The Danger of Attacking Ideologies by Attacking Advocates

56:19 - 1:03:49

  • The podcast discusses the concept of people using moral virtue to elevate their own status while discrediting what is considered holy.
  • It warns against falling into the trap of destroying entire ideologies by attacking the advocates of those ideologies as sinful.
  • The story of Noah is used as an example to highlight the importance of respecting wise traditions despite the flaws of those who came before.
  • The podcast criticizes politicians who apologize for historical wrongs without demonstrating wisdom comparable to historical figures.
  • Attacking the dead and attempting to demoralize and devalue the past is seen as a cowardly act that showcases unearned moral virtue.
  • The coalition of marginalized groups often targets successful individuals for their failings, believing that success must be a sign of oppression rather than non-compliance with societal rules.

Overcoming Marginalization and Bullying

1:03:30 - 1:11:15

  • People who have experienced genuine abuse or hardship in their lives may not necessarily become abusers themselves.
  • Some individuals who have faced marginalization and obstacles in life are able to rise above their circumstances and succeed once those conditions are removed.
  • Self-marginalization is a phenomenon where people without significant obstacles claim marginalization and blame external forces for their lack of success.
  • Bullying does not always lead to the destruction of a person's character; many successful individuals have been bullied as children and used it as motivation to achieve greater success.
  • There is a distinction between labeling the entire system as unfair and recognizing that the situation one currently faces may be unfair, with the latter being more actionable.
  • Bullying is a common experience for both boys and girls, whether it manifests physically or through emotional torment by peers or siblings.
  • The vulnerability present at the beginning of every life allows for the construction of victim-victimizer narratives, but it is our responsibility to act as moral agents and strive towards the good.

The Role of Elders and Responsibility in Society

1:10:49 - 1:18:05

  • Power corrupts and the world is vulnerable, but our role is to act as moral agents and strive towards the good.
  • Elders in societies are characterized by their lengthy history of honesty, productivity, and generosity, and people voluntarily seek their advice.
  • Functional societies like the United States are not solely based on power; power corruption is a deviation from the fundamental story.
  • The attempt to disregard traditional wisdom, particularly from the elderly, has had negative consequences for society.
  • In traditional social communities, elders provided wisdom while younger individuals supported them economically.
  • The encroachment of a larger state has marginalized the elderly and disrupted intergenerational transmission of knowledge.
  • Economic conditions and state interventionism have broken down non-economic social relationships that were beneficial for society.
  • Responsibility is seen as freedom for the majority of people across time. It brings meaning and additional freedoms when used wisely.
  • Responsibility voluntarily undertaken and accepted can be equated with meaning.
  • Excessive use of force is strongly objected to in biblical teachings.
  • The breakdown of intergenerational transmission of knowledge may contribute to infantilization in educational institutions.
  • Examples from responsive parents or grandparents can help reinforce disciplinary practices for children.

Maintaining Strong Families and Rebuilding Social Structures

1:17:36 - 1:24:36

  • The default feminine proclivity in infant care is to alleviate emotional distress immediately, but this can be problematic when there's a conflict between short-term distress and long-term thriving.
  • Wisdom is knowing when to allow short-term distress for long-term adaptation.
  • Modeling discipline is more effective than just giving advice to parents.
  • It is not unusual in some societies for elders or other community members to discipline children in public, which can lead to better child rearing.
  • The marginalization of the elderly, due to economic reasons and the removal of them from homes, has negative consequences.
  • Lack of intergenerational dialogue is detrimental both for people who are 40 and not having kids, as well as their parents who are not with them.
  • How we treat the elderly should be how we want to be treated because we will all get old eventually.
  • Life is complicated and treating the elderly well requires consideration.
  • The speaker has been working on various projects including political ones like observing the situation at the southern border and foreign policy-related topics.

Political Observations and the Need for Meaningful Discussions

1:24:15 - 1:30:56

  • The speaker is working on multiple projects, including political and foreign policy-related ones.
  • They recently visited the southern border and described it as a disaster area.
  • The speaker is concerned about where potential hotspots and trigger events for larger wars may occur in the world.
  • They are focused on identifying the principles that a society must pursue to maintain peace, health, and fulfillment for all citizens.
  • Disillusionment with politics has led to disillusionment with principles as well.
  • There is great fragmentation and disagreement on both sides of the political aisle over principles.
  • The speaker believes there is a need to go beneath the principles to what is genuinely sacred in order to address the current crisis of fractionation and disagreement.
  • It has become increasingly difficult for podcasts featuring political figures to gain views or attention.
  • Speaking about first principles seems to generate more interest than purely political discussions.
  • The issue goes beyond fixing institutions; there is a lack of broad-scale recognition of interests and changing terms of debate.
  • This lack of commonality has led to fragmented language and an inability to communicate effectively.
  • Conversations about fundamental topics like sexual identification have lost common ground, leading to further fragmentation.
  • AI technology plays a role in blurring these lines even more sophisticatedly at the intersection of human identity and technology.
  • There is now a punishment structure attached to conversations with those perceived as being from the other side, making finding common ground difficult.
  • Leading Democrats have been hesitant to appear on podcasts due to fear of backlash or criticism.

Rebuilding Social Structures and the Value of In-Person Meetings

1:30:34 - 1:37:52

  • The lack of productive political dialogue has led to extreme and charged language being used in public discourse.
  • Large-scale, broad scope discussions may no longer be effective, and smaller, more intimate conversations are needed.
  • Social media hinders the formation of small-scale communities and encourages scalable enterprises based on popularity.
  • In-person events and meetings are crucial for rebuilding broken social structures.
  • Public appearances provide a sense of community and collective engagement that cannot be replicated online.
  • As fake videos become more prevalent, the value of in-person meetings will increase.
  • The shallowness of political dialogue is exemplified by recent events at Harvard involving Bill Ackman, Chris Rufo, and Claudine Gay.
  • Ackman's engagement as an anti-DEI activist shows a deeper level of involvement in the battle against societal problems.
  • To address deep-rooted issues in American and Western society, it is necessary to focus on raising strong families and building supportive structures that have been eroded over time.
  • Despite feeling insignificant in the face of larger problems, individual actions matter, especially when it comes to maintaining stable marriages and families.
  • Getting one's moral house in order and establishing organizations based on that foundation is essential for meaningful progress.

The Importance of Moral Foundations and Individual Actions

1:43:49 - 1:45:08

  • Building a strong moral foundation is crucial for personal and societal success.
  • Imposing top-down solutions tends to fail and fragment society.
  • The pressure at the top of the system can lead to collapse if there is no solid foundation at the bottom.
  • Society is built by individuals who contribute to the social fabric that is passed down through generations.
  • Basic truths, such as the importance of family and individuality, are being re-argued in today's society.
  • The real impact on the world comes from raising children who will shape society.
  • Rationalizations often come after actions have been taken, not before.
  • Rebuilding a shattered social structure takes time and effort, like rebuilding a stained glass window.
  • Autobiographical material will be discussed in another podcast episode.