JBP at 20 Monroe Live

My wife and I were at Dr. Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life lecture on Thursday (Sep. 20) in Grand Rapids, MI. We had VIP seats (3rd row, center) which added a badge, a picture with Peterson, and a separate interactive Q&A session. An unadvertised perk, for which my skinny old butt was grateful, was padded seats. Beyond row G, there was no padding. 20 Monroe live is a venue designed for rock concerts, not lectures, and all the folding chairs were packed closely.

Dave Rubin opened: A couple of decent jokes, and invocation of several Peterson memes (e.g. Cathy Newman, lobsters). All of which drew positive reaction from the audience. Rubin was OK, but has a pretty much canned intro. He welcomed 3,000 people when the capacity (it was filled) is about 1500. Must have been thinking about a previous event? He also told us we were the first audience to cheer for the venue’s announced policy of “no heckling, no video.” Aside from the fact that Peterson ticket buyers come for an intellectual stimulus and wouldn’t want to peer at the man through a forest of cameras held high in the first place, or listen to some SJW ranting instead of what they paid for, I’ve also read of the same reaction elsewhere. Maybe Dave wasn’t at that event.

The audience was about 35% female, 40% young male, and 25% older male. I make that latter distinction because I’m in the category, and it is relevant to the second-hand ad hominem arguments of many of Peterson’s critics. These postmodernist fellow travellers (most of them aren’t aware of how their social justice world views were formed) claim his demographic is overwhelmingly young, alt-right, and male – and mostly incels. They claim this audience proves he is a fascist, homophobic misogynist. Untrue of the demographic, but it’s all they’ve got. Peterson has hundreds of hours of video online going back decades, which you can be sure these SJW’s have minutely combed for any badthink.

On the contrary, the more of him you see the more you will be convinced he is intelligent, articulate, polymathic, grounded, kind, thoughtful and humbly aware of his own exhaustively examined faults. It’s not possible to spend a little time listening to him and come to any other intellectually honest conclusion.

The problem is simple: journalists guilty about inequality portray Peterson as an anti-trans, Cold War lunatic. Then, people who read that commentary and end up watching videos from his Biblical Series, or his Maps of Meaning lectures, do not find a right-wing radical. Instead, they find a passionate lecturer against authoritarianism who is deeply invested in a symbolic, archetypal understanding of human nature. Now, they realize that all these left-leaning outlets have lied to them. Instead of exposing a bigot, they’ve smeared a serious scholar.

For political reasons. But, Peterson’s message is only political in the sense that he looks at the science and comes to different conclusions about human nature than does the collectivist left.

He said nothing political during his speech.

Politics came looking for Peterson, he didn’t go looking for politics. His many years studying psychology, and vast experience as a clinical psychologist, have convinced him that postmodernism is a nihilist threat. Until his government decided to apply group-identitarian principles to him through the mechanism of compelled speech, he was invisible to the Internet. Then he made his conclusions explicitly public.

Back to the event. People I talked to said they were there because they wanted to better understand Peterson’s ideas. They sense the nihilism oozing from academia and media, and don’t want to succumb to it. Only one of them recognized the phrase “long march though the institutions;” and “Gramscian” drew a blank. But they all knew the effects. They’re looking for intellectual ammunition.

It is the first event of this nature I’ve attended which began with a standing ovation. That goes back to a Barry Goldwater campaign rally in 1964. That’s before I could vote.

I think Dr. Peterson had a cold. His voice seemed a little hoarse, or maybe it was the spirit of Kermit. A meme you’ll have to look up if you don’t recognize it.

From 2 minutes in the audience was transfixed. Interruptions by applause decreased as he continued; not because he stopped making valuable points, but because nobody wanted to interrupt the flow. Interrupting a train of thought is his specialty, but he usually does it himself (then jumping right back to his main thread).

Peterson gave an original, insightful, erudite, humble, astoundingly extemporaneous performance. It seemed improvisational. Which is to say, it was typical.

For reference, the 12 rules:

1.  Stand up straight with your shoulders back
2.  Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
3.  Make friends with people who want the best for you
4.  Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who
    someone else is today
5.  Do not let your children do anything that makes you
   &nbspdislike them
6.  Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
7.  Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
8.  Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
9.  Assume that the person you are listening to might know
   &nbspsomething you don’t
10. Be precise in your speech
11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

He started with Rule 1 (this is not necessarily obvious, he skipped around and only directly mentioned rules 1, 3, 2, 5, 9 and 4, in that order, IIRC). He invoked Rule 1 in speaking to the Problem of Evil, and to set up the relationship between responsibility and meaning: Be prepared for tragedy, in part by taking responsibility for yourself. In doing so you find not the answer to the purpose of the universe; but meaning in your life.

He segued to the rule 3, 2, 5 sequence (with excursions to 5, 9 and 4), building the case for treating “yourself like someone you are responsible for helping” because that directly impacts relationships with your spouse, your children, and your community. Not concepts you haven’t heard from him before, but essential to the core element of his message: individual sovereignty requires individual responsibility.

The collectivist counterpoint is: “Treat everyone as a member of a group you need to control in order to ensure your own power.” I.e., power is well-being. Peterson has never specifically said this (AFAIK), but I think the contrast is both accurate and useful.

I’d put the overall experience in the top 90% of the hundred or so hours I’ve watched on YouTube, half of that (so far) his university lectures. I didn’t expect to hear shocking new directions. After all, the talk was about 12 Rules. There were many concepts with which I was familiar, but with different stories, examples, and analogies. I learned from those. JBP spoke of ideas he’d “just figured out in the last 2 weeks.” Nice to be a spectator in that journey.

He is a powerful teacher; he lets you see the mundane as marvelous – again. It’s an encouragement to regain your childlike wonder. Listening to him is a challenge and an invitation to explore the borders of chaos and order.

He was also funny. There were some hilarious riffs on relationships. Peterson had to pause to let the laughter die off.

I’d give a lot to see Peterson’s humour unleashed over a beer or three. I imagine it to be poker-faced and Menckenian, though peppered with, “And that’s that, bucko!”, “Think again, sunshine!”, and “Bloody neo-Marxists!” Hearing him laugh about something is a treat.

In a era where Jerry Seinfeld eschews college campuses because of their near Stalinist humorlessness, we won’t see unconstrained Peterson humor anytime soon. He is pilloried enough without contributing sound bites for the deliberate misinterpretation at mis-re-education camp(use)s. This is a shame.

There was a deserved standing ovation at the end of Dr. Peterson’s address.

The following will likely vary by venue, but for those of you wondering about the content, sequence and timing of activities, as I was, here’s a bit of housekeeping info. The lecture is followed by a general Q&A. In this case, Dave Rubin selected questions submitted online through Slido. This segment completes the basic portion of the show.

Then there’s a delay of 15-20 minutes while they set up for pictures.

It was stated in emails prior to the event that it was OK to give JBP a gift during the picture segment. I did. I gave him a kiddie cup from a dinner I had at Red Lobster on the occasion of my wife’s birthday earlier this month. I expected a laugh from the doctor, and I got one. He asked where it had come from, and I told him Red Lobster via my 10 year old grandson. I have my own cup, from a granddaughter. So I have that in common with him now. ;)

As my 20 seconds ended, I thanked him for the hard work and dedication that made it possible for him to give us the gift of his insights.

We were asked please not to engage in extended conversation, since to move 200-300 people through the process takes 45 minutes – if it’s moving quickly. This is why there’s no book signing, the time would easily double.

You would think that at a Jordan Peterson event, people would be particularly loath to violate this responsibility.

Well, there’s always a couple, aren’t there? You could hear grumbling from everyone both in line and already finished when a couple of people took a minute or two. I was jealous, but proud that my inner child hadn’t done anything that made me dislike him.

The reason people who had already had their picture taken were grumbling is that the last portion of the evening is spent in a more intimate, back and forth Q&A with JBP. They were robbing us of that time. About 50 of us stayed for it.

I paraphrase: The questions ranged from a long exposition (female): “I like STEM. I’m a proven talent. Males and females give me praise for my abilities. It’s still really hard. Should I continue?”, to (female) “What psychedelic drug would you recommend to a beginner?”, to (male) “I have evil tendencies. I’ve always identified with villains. I’ve resisted temptation to do -some unspecified thing- so far. How do I ensure I continue to cope?”

A takeaway for me was the intimate nature of some questions before a group of 50+. Some people had a remarkable level of trust in a bunch of strangers whose only certain characteristic was an interest in Jordan Peterson’s ideas; and a belief JBP could tell them something important about a personal problem.

He handled the serious and the oddball questions with aplomb and real interest. Probably at bit like office hours at UoT, or a clinical session with a client. ;)

This conversation lasted a little over an hour, and my wife and I discussed the evening for our entire 45 minute drive home. A fine evening.

Jordan Peterson is a classical liberal who strongly supports First Amendment principles. His cogent defense of these ideas is a gift to all of us. I highly recommend visiting his website and YouTube channel, particularly the videos of his lectures at the University of Toronto. His passion for teaching and the importance of his thinking can only be appreciated with a deeper exposure than a single lecture, or an interview with an ideologue like Cathy Newman.

Academiarchy

A well written peek into the suppurating cesspit that is SJW academia (which is most of it). The cracks in the edifice are being exposed, ironically, by #MeToo hypocrisy. The author would appear to be risking her career, so I find it remarkable. It’s also remarkable it could be published.

Added to the DoJ support for Asian applicants’ suit against Harvard, DeVos finally insisting Title IX must observe due process, and the fear inspired vitriol directed against Professors Jordan Peterson, Johnathan Haidt, Christina Hoff Sommers, Brett Weinstein, Charles Murray, and Stephen Pinker, this is encouraging.

If you’ve ever wondered where the Left’s version of Jordan Peterson is, there isn’t one. Oh, there are academic superstars like Avital Ronell (and Catherine McKinnon and Judith Butler, for example) all over the place. But they can’t be called “public” intellectuals because their ideas are agenda driven, deliberately obtuse, and generally abhorrent to the public.

And Ronell’s defenders know it. Judith Butler’s cringing apology is instructive, and essentially admits to autonomic tribalism. Basically, “We rose in righteous anger because the punishment didn’t fit the crime, even though we didn’t know what the crime was.”

Oops. Ronell is a female Harvey Weinstein, but they couldn’t wait to find that out before reflexively attacking her accuser.

#MeToo leader Asia Argento couldn’t be reached for comment.

Stoic Justice Warriors

Jordan Peterson channels Marcus Aurelius: Life is hard. Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Get your room clean before you decide to start changing the world. Pick up the biggest weight you can carry, it will give meaning to your life. Treat yourself as someone you care for. Pay attention.

Marcus Aurelius on How to Turn Around a Rotten Day

“…there will always be difficulties to drag through your day… Nothing has to go right today for you to act with honor and character. …we, not other people, are the problem. …things don’t have to go well for you have to a good day. …instead of treating yourself with respect, you have entrusted your own happiness to the souls of others. …Concentrate every minute…on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice.”

Peterson has become notorious because so few have ever heard this. Modern University courses would regard Marcus Aurelius as a white-privileged, patriarchal colonizer; if they mentioned him at all.

That, and they’re all clamoring about their “rights” with no regard for their responsibilities.

Update. 5:47 PM.
I notice I am not the first to make this association:
Jordan Peterson and the Return of the Stoics

TERF War

Academia’s Consilience Crisis
Appearances by Gad Saad, Jordan Peterson, Nassim Taleb, E. O. Wilson and anti-science poster boy and Professor of Sexual Diversity Studies, Nicholas Matte.
Recommended.

[C]onsilience
… refers to the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can “converge” to strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own. Most established scientific knowledge is supported by a convergence of evidence: if not, the evidence is comparatively weak, and there will not likely be a strong scientific consensus.

One might say, “Interdisciplinary scientific method.”

The Quillette article doesn’t mention Intersectionality, but it bears some discussion as the evil twin of Consilience. It’s what Dr. Matte applies as an alternative to scientific method when he flat out denies the reality of biological sex differences.

Intersectionality
…is an analytic framework which attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society. Intersectionality considers that the various forms of what it sees as social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, disability and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are complexly interwoven.

One might summarize, “A means of creating victim identity groups.”

Implict, but missing from the definitions is another difference. Intersectional analysis begins with its result already decided. It is not falsifiable by experience or logic. That does not mean there are not competing and conflicting “theories,” but debating such differences is problematic because any such conversation is bounded only by opinions about the relative power of various victim identity-groups. It’s postmodernists shouting their foregone conclusions at each other.

For example, the TERF war (TERF is trans exclusionary radical feminists) revolves around who can claim to be a woman. At issue are claims by some feminists that trans-women (i.e., men) aren’t really women. While science is on their side, this does put the TERF feminists in a bit of a bind. They appear to be claiming “biological determinism is only a fallacy when used against them, not when they use it against others.” Of course, by “biological determinism” both sides of the TERF war mean to reject the idea that there is a biological difference between sexes. Differences between men and women are determined wholly by social conditioning.

If both sides agree with Dr. Matte that there’s no such thing as biological sex, why do they care who calls themselves a woman? Well, if your biological sex can be determined moment by moment at your whim, what’s the point of Women’s Studies? If it can’t be, what’s the point of Transgender Studies? People’s careers are at stake. So is the basis of their power.

Consilience bears a superficial similarity with intersectionality in weaving together multiple points of view, but consilience compares independent observations in an attempt to falsify theories – a way of seeking objective truth. For example, that there is a better than 99% correspondence between physical characteristics and how people identify as men or women; that in utero exposure to testosterone has permanent developmental effects; and that, with vanishingly small exceptions, males and females differ by huge tracts of genetic material, tend to strongly confirm profound biological differences between men and women – identity group power struggles notwithstanding.

Intersectionality is anti-science, so it allows some to claim that math is racist, rigorous discipline in engineering is sexist, physics is based on white privilege, and chemistry is colonialist. The emphasis on power as the only arbiter of truth gives rise to claims that speech criticizing intersectionalist claims is literally violence, while intersectionalist speech is beyond reproach.

In the TERF war we’re seeing what happens when intersectionalists engage in their only useful activity.

Pass the popcorn.

Canada the Goof

Jesse Brown may be Canadian, but he’s definitely not forthcoming, eh? Mr. Brown has an Op-Ed in the New York Times:

“There is a certain image that Canada projects to the world, one that is particularly compelling to Americans. It’s the image of Canada as a tolerant, progressive, kind and humanitarian nation, populated by mild-mannered and polite people. The idea of Canada the Good — a Scandinavian-style socialist democracy, with the added bonus of multicultural harmony — is an attractive one, helpful in providing Canadians with some kind of national identity, and left-leaning Americans with a handy rhetorical device for political arguments: Look at what’s possible, right next door!

But it’s worth remembering that this image of Canada, currently personified by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is a relatively recent construction, largely put forth by Mr. Trudeau’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. “

Justin Trudeau’s father was a snooty playboy who married… shall we say a goofy development-arrested woman 30 years his junior. She was 22 upon their marriage, he was 51.

Justin’s contribution to “Canada the Good” follows soundly in the flower-child traditon of his mother. Just search the ‘net for ‘justin trudeau gaffes.’

I can tell you that many, many Canadians, at least since the 60s, thought of their country as “Canada the Good,” many of them did so in comparison to the ‘US Imperialists.’ The identity being expressed is, “We’re NOT Americans.” Which is tautologically true, if somewhat insubstantial as a national identity.

“Canada is home to many more Jordan Petersons than Justin Trudeaus.”

Debatable. Take a walk down Bloor Street and ask a few people some political questions. Say, about socialized health care, pronouns, CAGW, multi-culturalism or firearms.

“Pierre Trudeau might have technically been a liberal, but he was the kind of liberal who declared martial law in 1970”

Pierre Trudeau’s good friend Fidel Castro might technically have been a socialist, but Castro was the kind of socialist who tortures political prisoners. Pierre Trudeau was not a liberal, despite the name of the party he headed. He was an elitist authoritarian. He was a long, long way from classical liberalism.

“[T]he New Democratic Party, ostensibly the major party farthest to the left, ran its last campaign on a platform of balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility.”

That’s like our Democrats saying “We don’t want to take your guns.” The NDP is far left by our standards. Even the conservative party is the “Progressive Conservatives.”

“Not even the Green Party dares to suggest divesting from Alberta’s oil sands.”

No, they just block the pipeline construction needed to sell that oil and are wholly supportive of a punitive carbon tax Justin Trudeau is pushing.

“Canadian conservatism is not brash. It not belligerent, it is not loud. It is not Fox News.”

True, Canadian conservatism is more like Joe Lieberman Democrats.

“The proposed human rights policy that made Mr. Peterson famous is now Canadian law, and no instance of “compelled speech” has occurred as a result of it or resulted in criminal charges, as Mr. Peterson feared. On the issue of legal requirements for pronoun use, things remain the way Mr. Peterson wanted them — the same.”

If things are the same, one wonders why the law was needed.

There have been no charges yet, but Jesse Brown deftly ignores Lindsay Shepherd‘s experience at Wilfred Laurier University, where she was threatened with that very law for showing her class a video snippet of Jordan Peterson from an Ontario public television current events show. While the inquisitors were wrong, they did think the law could be used to compel Shepherd to toe the line. It’s only a matter of time before it’s applied to compel speech.

Jordan Peterson and the Problem of Evil

I hereby cede the rights to this post’s title to J. K. Rowling.

Here’s another “I lean left and I’m embarrassed to say I like Jordan Peterson” book review. Thoughtful and worth reading.

BOOK REVIEW: TWELVE RULES FOR LIFE
by Scott Alexander

This passage caught my attention, because its snark and jarring misapprehension seem out of place in an otherwise balanced, even sympathetic, article. Peterson, author of Maps of Meaning, refuses to answer THE question about the search for meaning?

What about the most classic case of someone seeking meaning – the person who wants meaning for their suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people? Peterson talks about this question a lot, but his answers are partial and unsatisfying. Why do bad things happen to good people? “If you work really hard on cultivating yourself, you can have fewer bad things happen to you.” Granted, but why do bad things happen to good people? “If you tried to ignore all bad things and shelter yourself from them, you would be weak and contemptible.” Sure, but why do bad things happen to good people? “Suffering makes us stronger, and then we can use that strength to help others.” But, on the broader scale, why do bad things happen to good people? “The mindset that demands no bad thing ever happen will inevitably lead to totalitarianism.” Okay, but why do bad things happen to good people? “Uh, look, a neo-Marxist transgender lobster! Quick, catch it before it gets away!”

“[W]hy do bad things happen to good people?,” is also known as the Problem of Evil.

Despite the mockery, the quality of the rest of the article makes me charitable: This is probably not deliberate misrepresentation. But it is a serious error. Alexander acknowledges Peterson does address the Problem of Evil, ““Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street” is about a heart-wrenchingly honest investigation of the Problem of Evil,” (Rule 12) and then puts that paragraph in?

Still, there’s more than one class of evil. There’s evil chosen by man, and then there’s the random, impersonal, perverse chaos of existence. Let’s see if Peterson is evading either of those.

To the first evil, Peterson tells us in no uncertain terms one of the reasons bad things happen to good people is that “good people” lie – often to themselves. This answers questions about why there is war; speaks (mostly and in the present, at least) to why famine; and tells us the cause of all manner of man-made evil. It’s explained by Rule 8, forms the basis for Peterson’s admiration of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and informs many of Peterson’s lectures.

Other bad things come under the heading of “Why does the universe tend toward perversity, when innocent people are randomly made to suffer terribly?”

That is, why cancer? Why Alzheimer’s? Why chaos? Why… Well, I can’t miss the opportunity to quote (truncated) one of my favorite Joeseph Heller passages from Catch-22:

“And don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,” Yossarian continued… “There’s nothing so mysterious about it. He’s not working at all. He’s playing. Or else he’s forgotten all about us. That’s the kind of God you people talk about — a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatalogical mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?”

“Stop it! Stop it!” Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife screamed suddenly, and began beating him ineffectually about the head with both fists. “Stop it!”

… “What the hell are you getting so upset about?” He asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. “I thought you didn’t believe in God.”

“I don’t,” she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. “But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He’s not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be.”

Yossarian laughed… “Let’s have a little more religious freedom between us,” he proposed obligingly. “You don’t believe in the God you want to, and I won’t believe in the God I want to. Is that a deal?”

 

I think the God Jordan Peterson doesn’t believe in is the God you can blame your suffering on, thereby absolving you of responsibility for your own life. The God who cares about every sparrow’s fall is the God who also doesn’t do anything about it. The totalitarian state is like that, too. When they’re not engaged in actively shooting the sparrows. Which is a difference between man-made evil and random evil.

Peterson addresses the Problem of Random Evil extensively in his lectures Maps of Meaning and The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories.

He confronts the problem and suggests a psychological/ evolutionary-biological answer is at least partly in the archetypal stories humans have created over millenia. More succinctly than 60 hours of lectures: “Take up your own burden. Learn from mistakes, take corrective actions, and don’t repeat. Don’t whine.” One of the received truths is that you have to take responsibility for yourself – in doing so you find not the answer to life, the universe and everthing, but meaning. It’s all you can ask for. Ignoring it leads to evil.

Maybe the the offending paragraph results from the fact that this is narrowly a book review, and perhaps Alexander is not well acquainted with Peterson’s other works:

The politics in this book lean a bit right, but if you think of Peterson as a political commentator you’re missing the point. The science in this book leans a bit Malcolm Gladwell, but if you think of him as a scientist you’re missing the point. Philosopher, missing the point. Public intellectual, missing the point. Mythographer, missing the point. So what’s the point?

The non-point-missing description of Jordan Peterson is that he’s a prophet.

[Peterson is] the only person in the world who can say our social truisms and get a genuine reaction with them…

Maybe that’s because they aren’t social truisms anymore. Why? Well, that brings us to an oversight in the piece. It’s because many people have never heard them, and there’s an organized effort to suppress them.

So, one might ask the question “If Peterson is indeed evading the Problem of Evil with cliches, what is the alternative?” Well, one popular on our campuses is the postmodernist answer, which Peterson identifies as evil for good reason. Here’s their answer:

Postmodernism, the school of “thought” that proclaimed “There are no truths, only interpretations” has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for “conversations” in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.
-Dr. Daniel Dennett

That is, the Problem of Evil is irrelevant – if it did have any relevance it would be sexist, racist and patriarchal. Only power matters. All this angst about good and evil is pointless. Cultural relativism and moral equivalency are absolutes in a universe where truth cannot be known.

This nihilism could serve as a definition of evil. It’s what Peterson stands against. If his metaphysical answers to the Problem of Evil are somehow less than satisfactory to you, fine; but to assert he’s evading the question is simply ludicrous.

And Alexander knows it. One of the ideas continually showing up in reasoned critiques of Peterson is that he is a good man.

And it makes me even more convinced that he’s good. Not just a good psychotherapist, but a good person. To be able to create narratives like Peterson does – but also to lay that talent aside because someone else needs to create their own without your interference – is a heck of a sacrifice.

Yes. Exactly. How did he become a good man? By squarely facing the Problem of Evil.

So, he provides a role model, which is another thing prophets* do. He came to be that model by prolonged, intense grappling with the question, among other phrasings, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” You can even see him continuing to do that when he frequently pauses to make sure he’s telling the truth (Has anything changed since I last thought this thought which would cause me to change my mind? Are these words the right words?).

The more of him you see the more you will be convinced he is intelligent, articulate, polymathic, grounded, kind, thoughtful and humbly aware of his own exhaustively examined faults. One of which is not refusing to answer the question about why bad things happen to good people. It’s not possible to spend a little time listening to him and come to any other intellectually honest conclusion.

It is unreasonable to complain Peterson hasn’t supplied a tidy sound bite answering the Problem of Evil to your satisfaction, it’s quite another thing to mock him for it when his life-work has been dedicated to answering it.

*Alexander’s word. I’m not claiming it, and I’m quite sure Jordan Peterson would be uncomfortable with it. Because he knows full well the danger.

One man

Highly recommended article at Quillette.
Why Jordan B Peterson Appeals to Me (And I Am on the Left)
A slice:

There is the lecturer, who juxtaposes mythological and religious themes with psychology and evolutionary biology, presenting a synthesis of science and religion, and then there is the social media culture warrior. Watching Peterson’s lectures versus watching snippets of him online, in recent interviews, you are watching two different men…

Maps of Meaning is an attempt to take the wisdom of religion and ancient cultures and explain, through a contemporary lens of modern psychology, what these cultures got right. It is an attempt to revive the past as a source of deep knowledge, not wreckage to be discarded at the altar of scientific materialism, or a postmodern presentism.

I agree one could perceive two men (or more, there’s also the serious scholar), if one worked at it, because of Internet fractionalization – mostly on the basis of hyperbolic click bait headlines – not content. Seeing two men is superficial. An examination of his works reveals just one.

I quibble over a minor point. It has some truth in it, but rankles slightly because it’s hard to think of anyone more totally integrated as a person than Jordan Peterson. Peterson as a teacher and Peterson as a social media presence are exactly the same man. Calling him “two men” concedes something to his critics that they don’t deserve.

Maps of Meaning was published in 1999. Peterson’s lectures on TV Ontario are twenty years old. His interview with Cathy Newman was an educational exercise. He’s been saying what he’s saying for a long time. There are several platforms, but only one man. It’s the message, not the medium. And it’s not who follows him, though who his critics are is revealing.

Another way of looking at this is:
There is a man whose many years studying psychology, and vast experience as a clinical psychologist, have convinced him that postmodernism is an existential, nihilist danger. Until his government decided to apply postmodernist principles to him through the mechanism of compelled speech, he was invisible to the Internet. Then he made his conclusions explicitly public.

There are not two men there, there is one man with the courage of his convictions, thrust into unexpected notoriety for the act of speaking. An action he surely saw in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Peterson has often praised Solzhenitsyn’s insight: “One man who stopped lying could bring down a tyranny.”

Peterson said, “I don’t think he meant that as a metaphor–or hyperbole.”

The one man is the one who’s been trying to identify and prevent tyrannical acts for twenty years. That there are more tyrants whose message has become more ingrained, and that dissemination of ideas has become easier since 1999 does not bifurcate the man. The author never quite recognizes the problem as one of perception, but comes close by explaining the damage the Left is doing to itself.

The problem is simple: journalists guilty about inequality portray Peterson as an anti-trans, Cold War lunatic. Then, people who read that commentary and end up watching videos from his Biblical Series, or his Maps of Meaning lectures, do not find a right-wing radical. Instead, they find a passionate lecturer against authoritarianism who is deeply invested in a symbolic, archetypal understanding of human nature. Now, they realize that all these left-leaning outlets have lied to them. Instead of exposing a bigot, they’ve smeared a serious scholar.

He mentions (excuses?) only Peterson’s strictly academic presentations. I’ve watched hundreds of hours of both his University of Toronto classes and his more forceful interviews and podcasts. Some examples of the latter, totally consistent with his academic message:

5 minutes


7 minutes

44 minutes

Jordan Peterson discussed in The New Yorker

Interesting article: Jordan Peterson’s Gospel of Masculinity.

Many black writers seem to aspire to be Ta Nehisi Coates. That is, intellectual pretenders.

Kelefa Sanneh is able to resist, though the New Yorker article title subtly labels Peterson a sexist by conflating Peterson’s audience demographics with his message. The message, in fact, has no sexual orientation. That it resonates with a male audience more than with a female audience is because men and boys are routinely vilified as a group. So the idea of ‘redemption’ through individual responsibility is more compelling for males.

Sanneh says, “modern liberal culture” when he should be clear and say “Cultural Marxism” or “Postmodernism.” It’s a misuse of the word “liberal” even in today’s context, and specifically in Peterson’s context. Peterson only uses the word to describe a Canadian political party, or to claim he is a “Classical liberal.”

Summarizing Peterson as, “by turns, a defender of conformity and a critic of it” is a misleading twist. There’s some banal truth in it, but Peterson’s main concerns are how humans can find meaning and truth. Differentiating order from chaos on a case-by-case basis is a consequence, not a motive. Sanneh, in fact, almost says so, “he [Peterson] thinks that if readers pay close attention, they, too, can learn when to be which,” but doesn’t quite accept the appropriate inference.

Sanneh writes, “Peterson excels at explaining why we should be careful about social change, but not at helping us assess which changes we should favor,” but any careful consideration of Peterson’s body of work cannot help but provide exactly the guidelines needed to openly debate organic social change. That’s exactly his point about the value of Western Civilization, despite its flaws.

The message is simple. To paraphrase, “Take responsibility for your life. Start small. Do things which are better for you, your family and your community – today, next week, next year. You already know what those things are.” What short circuits this simple plan is group identity politics and the culture of victimization. It’s hard to know when to conform and when to dissent when your conform/dissent divide is defined by a collective.

The fact that Peterson advocates personal responsibility over intricate laws governing how everyone should live is another social change guideline. Sanneh: “We can, most of us, sort ourselves out, or learn how to do it. That doesn’t mean we will ever agree on how to sort out everyone else.” Exactly. We’re not responsible for sorting everyone else out, and should avoid the impulse. Sanneh seems not to see that that’s the point.

These are minor quibbles, however, with a well written and perceptive article which will reach an audience that needs to hear it. For example, Sanneh writes,

“In “Maps of Meaning,” he [Peterson] traced this sense of urgency to a feeling of fraudulence that overcame him in college. When he started to speak, he would hear a voice telling him, “You don’t believe that. That isn’t true.” To ward off mental breakdown, he resolved not to say anything unless he was sure he believed it; this practice calmed the inner voice, and in time it shaped his rhetorical style, which is forceful but careful.”

You can see Peterson carefully, constantly rechecking his beliefs in his lectures.

I was interested enough to check Sanneh out a bit. His father is a practicing Roman Catholic, and Yale Divinity School professor of World Christianity who happens to be a black Gambian. His mother is a linguist teaching at Yale; she’s a white South African.

In 2015 Sanneh penned a surprisingly dispassionate (for a New Yorker article) look at race and culture – “Don’t Be Like That: Does black culture need to be reformed?” in which, to some extent, he defended the 1965 Moynihan Report’s points about the disintegration of American black families.

“To some extent,” because while Sanneh acknowledges there are two sides to the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, he never mentions that “Hands up! Don’t shoot,” the meme that provided the impetus for NFL “Take a knee” protests, was a fabrication (according to Barack Obama’s DOJ) used in the ongoing exploitation of blacks for political gain. In itself a collectivist contribution to the decline of black family values.

The 2nd article could have been a chapter in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. It ties in to Peterson’s message in pointing out the damage to people that results from abandoning individual responsibility in favor of group victimization politics and from banning some questions from public conversation.

P.S., You can get a free copy of Maps of Meaning here. And I can also recommend 12 Rules for Life, still Amazon’s number one most read book more than a month after its release.