It seems to me that Jordan is actually saying something rather simple which is going over people’s heads – and that is:
What is true and factual does not have to be expressed in a Scientific way or language in order to be true and factual. Truth can equally be expressed in many different ways and they don’t necessarily exclude each other as people like putting forward.
When he says facts aren’t necessarily true he is making a philosophical claim – a necessary truth is what must be true and cannot be otherwise as a possibility in all possible worlds – for example I exist is a truth and a fact, but in a possible world where I don’t exist I obviously do not exist – the fact that I exist is not a necessary truth – my parents could have not had me, and everything else could be different. The fact that I exist is a contingent truth – it could have been otherwise.
But for a Determinist like Sam Harris this is impossible to swallow. His ontological assumptions about the universe and reality don’t allow him to admit a very clear and obvious metaphysical argument which is sound and reasonable.
This is a claim which is obviously true. Not all facts are necessarily true, as they could be otherwise. A necessary truth is that which cannot be otherwise.
Thus Science can only ever talk about contingent truths and never about what is True in the objective sense, but merely in the contingent sense. Science has no power to discover necessary truths and fails to say anything other than what is because it is and happened the way it did. It can never delve into the Metaphysics of reality and Truth in the necessary sense.
In reply to the argument that determinism doesn’t entail that all facts are necessary:
It depends whether you’re a soft or hard Determinist. What you said is certainly true of soft determinism and Compatibilism. But hard determinism is the view that everything would be exactly as it was and will go forward how it will because it cannot do or be otherwise because of the beginning states – under hard determinism you cannot rearrange the beginning states because they are determined, and then you enter metaphysics to answer the question of what is beginning and how the beginning states can be determined and by what. Which leads to Cosmological-Theology.
Under hard determinism everything is a necessary truth and couldn’t be otherwise, otherwise it would of been – to put forward a hypothetical which is impossible under its own concept is a contradiction. Every choice was always going to be the one made, every state was always going to be the one which was in existence. Possibility that has no chance of actuality is not possibility at all, but impossibility.
From what I have read of Sam he seems to go between hard and soft depending on his subject matter and where it suits him. Which in itself is a philosophical problem. Jordan’s point doesn’t seem to be that Sam is saying everything is a necessary truth, but that Sam says too many things are which simply aren’t – the key point here is that contingent facts are no where near as universally solid and ‘factual’ as often claimed. Which is of course why Science has to be self-regulating in order to prevent itself from speaking nonsense. When you don’t take this view into account you aren’t so much doing Science, as Scientism. Science doesn’t dig down into the truth and reality of the universe in ways that we see often expressed. It is a contingent-empirical method and is deeply flawed, but highly useful. I think Jordan’s main point is that Science isn’t the only method and way of expressing contingent truths. We do it everyday, all day with common language.
‘Waking Up With Sam Harris #62 – What is True? (with Jordan B. Peterson)’ – by Sam Harris:
A video Jordan B. Peterson made after the debate – ‘An open letter to Sam Harris’ – by Jordan B Peterson:
Sam Harris and Jordan B. Peterson got together by the demand of their fans in order to give it another go. This conversation is far more fruitful.
‘Conversation between Sam Harris & Jordan Peterson – Waking Up Podcast #67’ – by Jordan B Peterson:
‘Waking Up With Sam Harris #67 – Meaning and Chaos (with Jordan Peterson)’ – by Sam Harris:
An interesting and informative interview with Jordan Peterson – ‘The Architecture of Belief | Jordan Peterson and Stefan Molyneux’ – by Stefan Molyneux: