Jordan Peterson

I don’t know anything about Jordan Peterson except that he was in the midst of one of those bizarre pronoun scandals and that he was in a very weird interview. But there is a stack of copies of his book at the local bookstore, and every time I’m there (which is every other day because it’s Klara’s favorite place), I see men between the ages of 20 and 50 reading his book, buying his book or avidly leafing through his book. The men look very working class, with the kind of hands that you don’t often see holding books by college professors. I wish I had time to read the book because now I’m very interested in what he could have written to attract this particular audience. But it’s beyond heart-warming to see it.

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41 thoughts on “Jordan Peterson”

    1. These days everybody is a fascist if they ever said anything that somebody somewhere didn’t like. I’ve been called a fascist, too. I don’t even remember over what.

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    1. I glanced over a few pages and what I saw was a bit too superficial for me. It was in the vein of motivational, common sense advice, like work hard, declutter your life, avoid bad habits. But as you say, it was just a rapid glance, so I shouldn’t draw any conclusions.

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      1. I just looked at the article you linked and yes, exactly that’s the impression I got from my very cursory glance. But the phenomenon is fascinating. I’d rather people read even a vague book by an academic than watched crap on FB, so in that sense it can only be good. Shit, I wish I had the time to read it.

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  1. Looks like Cliff decided to write about it: https://cliffarroyo.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/more-post-religion-religion/

    His advice is largely common-sense yes, but it is rooted deeply in psychology, philosophy and protestant ethics. The last is probably why it is probably why is appeals so much to the American working class. It may seem common sense but he’s filling a gap. When I was a young student, the only advice I ever got was ‘follow your passion’. As I grew older, I realized that was the worst advice to give a young person. He is also advocating against a sort of post-modern nihilism where all morals are relative and nothing is sacred anymore.

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    1. I’m getting the idea of him doing the strict but kind father which is what a Jungian psychoanalyst does for a male patient. If that’s what he does, it’s an interesting experiment. It’s a kind of popularization that is not usually attempted in this field.

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      1. Yes, exactly! Which explains his appeal to me. It’s probably worth mentioning that he’s a practicing clinical psychologist with about 20 years of experience. So much of what he says comes from that background. I like that he’s making Jung more accessible, but I’m also afraid that such mass application of psychotherapy will do more harm than good. Psychotherapy seems like personal business to me.

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        1. Absolutely. That’s why I say it’s an unusual experiment. Opening these feelings up is not that hard. But an analyst at the end of the session always closes them back up so they don’t blow up your life. How to do that en masse, I have no idea.

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  2. I’m definitely not a working class man. I’m arguably elite educated. Yet I find Peterson not only fascinating but useful. If you’re a liberal man, the only discourse you ever encounter is how you’re super privileged and the only way you can do good in the world is by being being an ‘ally’ to the oppressed groups and constantly apologizing (through words or deeds) for your privilege. Great, but honestly it’s quite hard to find meaning in life with that philosophy. Peterson is advocating that there can be nobility in masculinity, primarily manifested by taking responsibility, being strong and supporting yourself, your family and your community through your deeds.

    Peterson is definitely speaking to the mainstream majority. He’s not overly concerned about the margins – except for the pronoun circus and other things. His message to women is also somewhat limited. The only thing he seems to say to women is – don’t reject traditional gender roles without thinking hard about them.

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    1. “I find Peterson not only fascinating but useful”

      I’ll mention I have no intention of buying his book and I haven’t listened to any of his videos for the last few months (I listened a lot and once I’d worked out most of his message I tapered off and I’m off on a new tangent now which I might write about in a few days). What made me realize that he would be big wasn’t the content per se, but the reactions of other people, both positive and negative.

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      1. His books doesn’t say anything that he hasn’t said a thousand times in his lectures already. Actually he as several ’12 Rules’ videos too which pretty much cover all that material.

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    2. “If you’re a liberal man, the only discourse you ever encounter is how you’re super privileged and the only way you can do good in the world ”

      Seems like this is what you want to hear, so you can justify switching to a reactionary position. Like, if this is the only discourse you’ve encountered, you’re either looking in shitty places, or you’re simply being dishonest. I identify as a liberal and I don’t feel any need to ‘constantly apologize’ to anyone.

      ‘Look what you made me do’ is a cowardly position to begin with. If you like what he has to say, just admit it instead of whining about how the mean libruls made you do it.

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      1. Actually, come to think of it, I do have access to other aspects of liberal discourse. There is SSC and other ‘rationalist’ opinions. Then there is Sam Harris (who is engaged in a series of debates with JBP), and the late Christopher Hitchens – with their radical atheism. What I was pointing to in my comments was a particular brand of liberal discourse, let’s call it the SJW discourse for a lack of better term. I’ve always been uneasy with it but I didn’t know why. Peterson points out why which is why I was attracted to his views.

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        1. Dude. Sam Harris? He’s this close to whipping out his vernier calipers to measure human skulls.

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              1. Great! I’d recommend the podcast in general. They really have a way of cutting through bullshit.

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        2. I’m very uneasy with it but I know why. It’s very similar to what I remember from my Soviet days. Whenever I see a colleague sign an email with “pronouns: he, she, it,” I feel almost physical pain. I know it’s a fad and nobody does it seriously (outside of a couple of truly crazy folks.) But it’s still scary.

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          1. Yes, Peterson is a vocal critic of the Soviet Union and invokes soviet style thought policing when he critiques this kind of posturing. But, as you pointed out, he’s probably taking it too seriously. Apparently, there was some bill in Canada that legally mandated use of pronouns. The whole controversy was around him protesting that law. He has maintained it’s a political position specific to this bill but you can make your own judgments about it.

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            1. Hah! I had no idea. Interesting. Hey, at least, somebody is a critic. It’s refreshing.

              And I’d support anybody who’d put a stop to the pronouns craze. I’m in academia. Here it’s out of hand. I know nobody else is aware or cares but for us it’s an issue.

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  3. I’ve listened to a number of this guy’s lectures, partly because I was interested in Jungian psychology at the time, partly because Stringer and Cliff seemed to have had a tiff about it.

    A lot of his popularity is not so much from his ideas as his manner, which I enjoyed quite a bit. I didn’t really have the best relationship with my father, and this guy manages to channel “strict but fair” pretty well. His particular angle, and it is directed mostly at men, is to tell people to ‘sort themselves out.’ The general attitude is that they could be doing better than they are, that they’re responsible for the situation they’re in through action, inaction, or sheer ignorance, but also that they’re the most capable person to do the changes necessary. It worked on me – being gently scolded and then being told I’m capable feels very welcome when my baseline experience is either a mix of unpredictable love/rage or just being plain ignored. Not particularly happy to feel that way towards another adult, but it’s there.

    Some of the major concerns he repeatedly touches on are the Jungian theme of integrating shadow parts of the self; relatedly, the question of evil – as expressed either through totalitarian regimes or individual psychology; childhood as the basis of adult psychology; and a biological basis for both individual psychology and broader cultural archetypes (the rough argument being that myths are primarily stories about the best ways to negotiate the universal possibility of threats and the unknown); and that larger political structures have to be suborned to this biological basis (roughly, to be able to feed each other and have children without killing each other) in some way or fail.

    Intellectually, he is not an inspired thinker by any means, and is prone to repeating the same few concepts over and over, sometimes in exactly the same formulation, and makes exceedingly stupid sweeping statements quite often. What I do genuinely respect about the man, however, is the willingness to look at and analyse the dirty side of human nature as something that has comprehensible human causes, rather than as superfluous trash that can simply be jettisoned away no problem.

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    1. So he is a Jungian! This is what I suspected. Ok, that makes sense then. And that’s why people are drawn to him. It’s an alternative to psychoanalysis which is insanely expensive and not covered by insurance.

      Thank you, this makes a lot of sense.

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      1. This is really making me want to read his book. I probably need psychoanalysis, but I don’t see myself ever being able to afford it.

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  4. I haven’t read anything by him, but my suspicions are that he’s a much better speaker than he is a writer. You could check out his Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories series. He only has a few ideas, really, and benefits greatly from having a text to bounce off of.

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  5. Grifters gonna grift.

    A judge’s ruling on a personality tool he developed.

    “In R. v. Pearce (M.L.), 2014 MBCA 70 (CanLII), Peterson failed to quite sell the court on his “Unfakeable Big Five” personality test as a forensic tool .”

    “It is difficult to see how Dr. Peterson’s technique of assessing the personality of a person for his private consulting business satisfies the Daubert factors to make it admissible for a forensic purpose. Dr. Peterson provided no evidence that his technique of personality assessment has been properly tested for the purpose it is being used for here, detecting when an agreeable person may falsely confess to the police. All Dr. Peterson could say is he hired university students to try and fake the personality assessment and they couldn’t do it. That is not scientific validation. “

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    1. That’s the entirety of social sciences that operates like this, unfortunately. Somebody I know got a hefty grant to prove that “overweight people are cognitively deficient.” And the “study” was exactly like this. Find a bunch of students and prove that the fat ones are dumb. She got the funding while I was denied because what I do has no practical value, apparently.

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  6. Like others in this thread, I’d also love to know his appeal. Clearly he’s providing his followers some sort of emotional support. What is it?

    Is it a reaction to neoliberalism? The organization of our society that is leading to more and more atomization? The lack of structure in people’s lives that makes them yearn for a male authority figure yelling at them to get their shit together?

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