Implications of Petersonism


Opposing Comments: Leftism encourages fear, not respect. Leftism encourages J.E.A.R. (Jealousy, Envy, Anger, Resentment).  The Left fears the competent.  The Left resents the competent.

[This is actually a good point, but I can’t get to it until the next post…]

I am glad that someone challenged my review of Jordan Peterson, where I used hasty generalizations.  I picked out a few distinctive vignettes and created a caricature.  But is Peterson’s philosophy more than this?  This reviewer had what follows to say about this post which at a cursory glance may seem like good points.  But they nevertheless miss my point.  My point, however, was too nuanced and not developed enough for anyone to get it.  If I were to summarize my point, it would be that Petersonism reinforces hyper-competition.  The inevitable result of hyper-competition is status hierarchies.  It makes zero difference if these hierarchies are based on competence or intimidation from other forms.  Decades worth of epidemiological studies show the deleterious effects of status hierarchies.  We weren’t always this competitive because we were egalitarian before the advent of the agricultural revolution.  Since competition and status striving are here to stay, should we take Petersonism to heart or rebuke it?

None of this means that the alternative to hyper-competition is a system of socialism.  This post is not about other options although many authors have proposed ways to at least buffer the costs of unbridled capitalism.  My thoughts on conservatism, which is the essence of Peterson’s approach, is that it is a preference mainly based on personality differences.  But it also can be dangerous because it can lead to demonizing the Other.  In fact, the conservative mode of reasoning leads to conclusions like the following.

If he has not worked hard enough, he is slothful and hence morally weak.  If he is not talented enough, then he ranks lower than others in the natural order…The rich (who are talented enough and who have worked hard enough to become rich) deserve their wealth and the poor (either through lack of industry or talent) deserve their poverty [1].


Response to Commetator 

Opposing Comments: Seeing no actual JB Peterson quotes in this essay, I doubt the author has read or listened to JB Peterson. There are citations from people who opined about JB Peterson but no citations of JB Peterson himself. The books and lectures of JB Peterson cover a very wide array of subjects and the author demonstrates a deep and fundamental misunderstanding of JB Peterson’s philosophy.

Opposing Comments:  Evidently the author is ignorant about JB Peterson’s work on play. The author claims that Peterson’s advice “boils down to intimidating others”. The author is just being prejudicial.

The commentator does not convince me that I have a profound misunderstanding of his philosophy.  If by philosophy they mean his approach, then I think even my caricature captures the “flavor” of his brand.   He is for an extreme form of meritocracy, and I am not even touching upon his other conservative beliefs.  Conservatism has been identified to be a mode of thought that gives direction and form to our arguments.  Conservatism is the essence of his philosophy despite the occasional appeal to “play”.  Although I do not agree with this, many have labeled Peterson as a “pseudo-intellectual” because of his brand permeating his reasoning.

Play is what we do when we want to ease tension in our social interactions, and hence we can say that it is a good thing for the functioning of social hierarchies.  When I say Petersonism is more about “getting ahead” than “getting along”, I mean that the unintended consequence of his focus results in this.  Jordan Peterson must work within the confines of meritocracy.  Although he may very well be for “getting along” within this context, the inevitable result of his approach is contributing to meritocracy.  Although we participate in this system, we do not have a choice because we are indoctrinated into it.  And status hierarchies work by who submits to who.  This hardly qualifies as getting along.  Understanding this will require a deeper explanation of status hierarchies.

We are so used to the point that competition is good for us that I do not expect anyone to see the perils of meritocracy.  Meritocracy rewards the competent and punishes the incompetent.  There may be some good things that come out of meritocracies such as high-quality services and products.  But carrots and sticks are not the only way to motivate people.  It is also an efficient way to implement an economic system, but is it the best way to configure a society?  I am not claiming to have the answers to this, but we do know the costs of this system.  Epidemiological research has been conducted over decades with robust and conclusive results.

If we want to learn about the effects of status hierarchies, I have written about this here and here.  To summarize an effect, those who make an income of $40k have a relative risk of death of three times that of the group that makes $140k.  This has nothing to do with absolute status, which is how much education and income we have in absolute terms.  It is about what education and income bring relative to the next guy.  Relative status gives us more control and social benefits in life.  This means that even if we make a handsome $200k a year, if the people we compete with are more capable, intelligent, and earn more, we will not be better off.

I must also add that I am not prejudiced against Jordon Peterson.  I began to like the guy despite his beliefs.  And I think if we want to be successful in this system, most of his advice is spot on.  The last comment on the alpha males is not something I even discussed.  I do not think the commentator understands what exactly a status hierarchy is and relies on the dictionary to assist with concepts that are better left for social and evolutionary psychologists to sort out.  In the next post, I will explain what I mean by a status hierarchy by relying on real models.  This will give us a better understanding of the differences between fear, respect, admiration, deference, submission, and more.  Lastly, I will also address the comment at the top of the page because the commentator is right.  But it turns out that those feelings have assisted the downtrodden to be successful over millions of years.

Opposing Commemts: ccording to the dictionary, FORMIDABLE = inspiring fear or respect through being impressively large, powerful, intense, or capable. Fear (aka intimidation) versus Respect. Fear is not Respect. Fear is a reaction; respect is a decision. Going back to the subject of play, no one gets invited to play through intimidation. Peterson definitely advocates people to strive to be capable, competent, and (IMPORTANTLY) playful. Formidable and playful inspires much more respect than fear. Fear and Respect are functions of the beholder more than of said formidable person.

According to the dictionary, RESPECT = a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. Respect opens one to improve oneself, to educate oneself. Fear closes one to improvement and education.

The author confuses JB Peterson with Andrew Tate who stated that the main goal of the alpha male is status.

To be fair, Peterson is more than just my caricature.  This can easily be proven by looking at his 12 Rules for Life which touch upon relationships, personal growth, finding meaning in life, and more.  But none of this negates that his overwhelming approach utilizes conservative concepts.  Take a look at what George Lakoff calls the conservative constellation of concepts.  Peterson uses these to teach us lessons.  Of course, Peterson also tells us to question the rules if they are stupid.  He is more than my caricature.  But at the core, since we need a worldview to organize our thoughts and feelings, he must rely on something to give his thoughts direction.

character, virtue, discipline, tough it out, get tough, tough love, strong, self-reliance, individual responsibility, backbone, standards, authority, heritage, competition, earn, hard work, enterprise, property rights, reward, freedom, intrusion, interference, meddling, punishment, human nature, traditional, common sense, dependency, self-indulgent, elite, quotas, breakdown, corrupt, decay, rot, degenerate, deviant, lifestyle. [1]


Notes

i).  I do not think, however, that our liberal bias is not somewhat warranted.  For those who fall into the categories of the underrepresented, e.g., the LBGTQA+ community, Peterson is quite frankly not that supportive.  He supports traditional marriage and other conservative beliefs which are obviously not a plus for those who are not traditional.  When you exclude people, then you will arouse animosity.  I am trying to put aside those beliefs in order to focus on a single belief of meritocracy.

[1] Lakoff, George. Moral Politics. University of Chicago Press.

Comments

  1. sonofrojblake says

    tl;dr – inflation exists, meritocracy doesn’t.

    Point 1: you use the word “Petersonism” as though what you mean by it is obvious. It is not, at least not to me. You’ll need to define it if you’re going to criticise it, and I don’t think you have, not clearly enough.

    Point 2:

    the conservative mode of reasoning leads to conclusions like the following.[,,,]The rich (who are talented enough and who have worked hard enough to become rich) deserve their wealth

    Then the “conservative mode of reasoning” is simply demonstrably false, since it’s foundational assumption, right there in the brackets, is that the rich have “become rich”, whereas even the most cursory examination of the evidence would immediately demonstrate beyond any doubt that the rich don’t “become rich” – they’re BORN rich, in all but the most vanishingly rare cases. People like multi-millionaire former council-flat resident Alan Sugar are notable because they are the incredibly unusual exception to the pretty much ironclad rule that the way to become rich is to choose the right parents.

    Or put another way: “meritocracy” is a fiction sold to the working class by the only other class there is – the capital-wielding class. Unless you can convincingly contend that meritocracy exists somewhere in meaningful sense, your critique of people who support is just as much pseudo-intellectual wanking as anything Peterson has ever said.

    He is for an extreme form of meritocracy, and I am not even touching upon his other conservative beliefs

    I’ve never seen a conservative who was in favour of a meritocracy. Conservatives are, in word and deed, in favour of plutocracy. One need only look at how systems of government are set up and how they manifest – it’s obvious. If conservatives were in favour of meritocracy, Liz Truss would have been full of thorazine dribbling in a padded cell, not in number 10 fucking Downing Street. Any pretence it was a meritocracy, or a party that believed in it, that put her there is a sick joke. She made Donald fucking Trump look competent.

    Your next two paragraphs seem to proceed on the basis that meritocracy is real and in effect – so I can safely ignore them, because that’s a fantasy.

    The next paragraph just seems, at least to me, to be about the value of money. The only way making £200k makes me no better off is if a loaf of bread costs £50. If PRICES are fixed at £1 for a loaf of bread, say, then if you make £200k you are very definitely better off than if you were £50k, regardless of whether everyone else in the country is on £500k. All of which is meaningless, because inflation exists.

    • musing says

      There is evidence for both plutacracy and meritoracy. Don’t misinterpret what I am saying here. When I speak of meritocracy, the concept doesn’t mean what type of government rules us. This should be obvious from the context of the paragraph. I’m speaking of our economic system. I am using it as a concept designated to show how status hierarchies usually form when you get a bunch of people together. They are based on the goals of the group which is usually based on competence required to achieve the goal. This is not political science but social psychology. This is more complex than the monolithic impression you give. Yes, meritoracy can also be a myth when wealth is inherited, and people are born into class and status. I’m not talking about that and have made no reference to it whatsoever. You will have to get your mind out of the political science and government framework. I will address your comment fuller when I get the chance later.

    • musing says

      Capitalism is a mixture of cronyism and meritocracy. I have, however, never worked for a corporation where positions were not based on aptitude. We are very good at detecting the weaknesses in others, so anyone who gets a position based on likability and not competence does not last long. Even board of directors who are handpicked based on who they know usually have some competence and skillset. Yes, meritocracy is partly a myth when seen in light of inherited class and status. But I’m not talking about concentrated wealth. I’m talking about hierarchies which form, very easily and often unconsiously, when a group of people get together and live life. Usually who gets the most respect is who has the most to offer, that is, is the best at something or has the best qualities (likability, physical attractiveness, intelligence, etc.). If we tease out cronyism, then we can surely have a conversation about meritocracy.

      Since I am not talking bout concentrated wealth or absolute status, and instead relative status, then your analysis on “mode of reasoning” no longer works. There are research articles that I can point you to that have identified how conservatives and liberals reason differently. The debate now is do these differences in reasoning stem from evolved psychological mechanisms or are they passed down from family to family (Lakoff’s model is based on family origins and Haidt’s the former). You are obviously not familiar with the research, which is OK. But to really know something, it is always best to check with the experts, from time to time.

      As far as your monetary example, I suggest that you thoroughly read the two posts that I suggested regarding relative status. It would take too long to explain it. By the way, the real myth is that anyone and everyone can be anything they want to be. This would include the effect of cronyism and meritocracy as not everyone is as smart as capable as others. To me, it is not just that the effect of cronyism is unfair but that the effect of meritoracy is also unfair. But this post wasn’t on unfairness but rather on how striving for status results in a net reduction in health and happiness. You must read the prior posts.

  2. says

    “not that supportive” is a funny way to say “building massive personal wealth marketing transphobia in a way that empowers global fascism.” i find myself deeply incurious about anything related to this guy, but we all gotta write what is keeping our attention in a given moment.

    • musing says

      Hello Great American Satan. Yeah, I was trying to take the focus off of him also being an authoritative prick (hey, we can all be pricks) and focus on one topic. But he does seem to show compassion in general towards the plight of others. It is a shame that it is not all-inclusive.

  3. StevoR says

    Leftism encourages J.E.A.R. (Jealousy, Envy, Anger, Resentment).

    Huh. Really?

    Sounds much more like the Regressive reichwing to me and a massive case of projection bigger than an iMax screen to me..

  4. says

    Yet more nominees for the Batshit Stupid Over-Generalization Hall of Fame:

    Through play children learn about rules, sportsmanship, and fairness. Socialization through play brings about not only sportsmanship but also chivalry by allowing others to win. JB Peterson cited several times studies involving rats and play. The large rat allows the smaller rats to win 1 out of 4 wrestling matches, even when it is obvious the large rat can win 100% of the matches. Who does the invitation to play? Answer: the smaller rats, not the large rat. The large rat CANNOT intimidate the smaller rats to invite him to play. All rats feel the urge and need to socialize. Humans are no different.

    Humans are “no different” from rats? Wotta load of horseypoop. (No one who compares humans to any other animals, and then says humans are “no different,” should ever be taken seriously. They wouldn’t need to refer to any other species if they had actual examples of human behavior.) This may be true of SOME children’s play, but not all — especially not play that’s organized and controlled by school coaches or other adults.

    And yes, play certainly CAN teach values such as chivalry, playing by rules, good sportsmanship, etc.; but it doesn’t always teach the same lessons consistently. If JP really wanted to understand people in this regard, he could have spent more time observing PEOPLE, and would have had no need to talk about rats (or lobsters or whatever other animal catches his fancy on a given day) at all. I don’t need to read about rats to know that JP doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    • musing says

      Thanks for the support and comments. It does show that Peterson is more than just about competition and status striving, but his overwhelming approach and attitude are still coming from a conservative ideology. I don’t know if there is such as thing as an “essence” of something, but if conservatism were to have an essence I believe George Lakoff captures it as follows. I know we may conceptualize conservatism to be a different kind of thing, but the stance and attitudes conservatives display on issues all come down to a type of reasoning where competition and self-reliance are center stage. Liberals’ reasoning, on the other hand, stems from a place of wanting to support or help others.

      Without competition, there is no source of reward for self-discipline, no motivation to become the right kind of person. It is through competition that we discover who is moral, that is, who has been properly self-disciplined and therefore deserves success, and who is fit enough to survive and even thrive in a difficult world.

      As far as rats being a good model for socialization, there are probably some things that we can glean insight from and other things we cannot. I am not an expert on studying rats, so I have no idea. “Play” is seen in most if not all mammals, so it may actually offer some insight.

  5. friedfish2718 says

    The genesis of all this Peterson-phobia (-phobia as in Hate and/or Fear) is Peterson’s refusal to kowtow to the Leftist imperative on pronouns. Previously Dr Peterson wrote several books, posted 100’s of hours of his lectures on social media. He was relatively unknown until the Leftst kerfuffle about pronouns. Dr Peterson’s fame and fortune exploded because of Leftist hysteria.
    .
    Then. Uh.. Oh… JB Peterson is found to be conservative culturally (he keeps insisting that he is a classical liberal). The horror!!! Conservatism is bad!!! Conservatism is EVIL!!!
    .
    Then. Uh.. Oh… JB Peterson is found to be religious. The horror!!! Religion is bad!!! Religion is EVIL!!! Well, if Religion bends to the diktats of the Left, then Religion is somewhat ok.
    .
    The narrator needs to show his Leftist bone fides and has to write some pseudo-objective essay damning JB Peterson with faint praise while implying – giving no specifics -that he is wrong in some undefined aspects.
    .
    Meritocracy. In “12 Rules for Life”, the words “merit”, “meritocracy” are absent. Words “improve”, “compete”, “competition” show up many times in the book. Again, “merit”, “meritocracy” do NOT show up in Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life”. The narrator shows a fundamental misunderstanding by insisting that “Jordan Peterson must work within the confines of meritocracy”. Question: what lies beyond the confines of meritocracy? No civilization, no long-lived society existed which was not a meritocracy. Societies, communities indulging in non-meritocracy have not lasted long. The American Left wants “meritocracy” to be the boogie-man scaring away all the woke children.
    .
    A dictionary definition of meritocracy = a system, organization, or society in which people are chosen and moved into positions of success, power, and influence on the basis of their demonstrated abilities and merit
    .
    A dictionary definition of merit = a praiseworthy quality; character or conduct deserving reward, honor, or esteem.
    .
    “I do not expect anyone to see the perils of meritocracy” Such idiotic statement. What are these perils? The narrator does not say. Might as well state “see the benefits of evil”, “look for the wickedness of virtue”. The Left is good at word salad; think of Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance”. Or “color-blind racism”.
    .
    Competition. Life is tough. Ready or not, prepared or not, competent or not, willingly or not, you will be placed in competitions of all sorts. JB Peterson’s professional focus is get one to be prepared to face the adventure called LIFE. Part of preparation is to be as competent as possible. I am amused to see the acrobatics of the narrator trying to infer that competition is bad.
    .
    “Meritocracy rewards the competent and punishes the incompetent.” An insipid statement. How does meritocracy punishes the incompetent? An elite school admits only top 100 scorers with a minimum score of X%. So you failed the admission exam. You were not arrested. You were not bull-whipped. You were not tarred and feathered. Fact: you failed an exam. Failure per se is not a crime. If failure is punishment then all humanity has been punished – repeatedly and constantly – since the beginning of time. The woke conflates failure with punishment. Participation trophies for all!!!
    .
    Meritocracy. Recently administrators of several Virginia public schools withheld National Merit Awards from the winning students for as long as 5 years. Dishonest, unethical, dishonorable behavior from administrators for the sake of wokeness and D.I.E. (Diversity, Inclusion, Equity). A storm is a-brewing from the affected parents and students.
    .
    Meritocracy. Recently Lowell School (of San Francisco) went from exam-based admission to lottery-based admission. Lasted 1 year during which time half of the school board was voted out. Now Lowell School is back to exam-based admission.
    .
    “Meritocracy…but is it the best way to configure a society?” Answer: Yes. Example: how to build a football team. The person with best attributes for quarterback plays quarterback. The person with best attributes for wide receiver plays wide receiver. etc.. etc.. Let us look at a less clear situation. A 2-people team. Person A has top training in X and Y. Person B has training in only Y. Person A outperforms person B in Y 90% of the time. X is to be done by 1 person. Y is to be done by 1 person. Question: who is to do X? who to do Y? The focus of JB Peterson is on the individual, not society. The advice of JB Peterson for the individual is valid for whatever society one is in, meritocratic or not. Meritocratic societies seek proper positions for all. Meritocratic societies are based on standards and standards have rational basis. Non-Meritocratic, standard-less societies are chaotic. The subtitle of “12 Rules for Life” is “an antidote to chaos”. Chaos on the individual level brings about a chaotic society.
    .
    Traditional Marriage: JB Peterson supports it. So what. JB Peterson is not suppressing the gay lifestyle in any way. The pursuit of same-sex marriage to be seen as equivalent to traditional marriage is sign of incompleteness of the gay culture. Ancient Greece where homosexuality was pretty mainstream and yet same-sex marriage was absent. In Ancient Greece, where homosexuality plays a prominent role in its culture, all men are required to marry a woman. Even Alexander had to marry a woman (Roxanne) to strengthen an alliance with another nation. PLATO LAWS 636D : “… He who refuses to marry shall be thus punished in money, and also be deprived of all honour which the younger show to the elder; let no young man voluntarily obey him, and if he attempt to punish any one, let every one come to the rescue and defend the injured person, and he who is present and does not come to the rescue, shall be pronounced by the law to be a coward and a bad citizen.”
    .
    Traditional Marriage. Cultures, subcultures evolve with time, with institutions being created, destroyed, modified on some rational basis. The gay community says “Love is Love”. So why the opposition by the Gay Community to polygyny, polyandry, human-animal marriage which are embodiments of the “Love is love” principle? Can a community experiment with same-sex marriage? Yes! Why not? We will see the state of same-sex marriage in, say, 75 yrs from now. Traditional Marriage lasted thousands of years.
    .
    More on Plato. PLATO LAW, BOOK 8:”But how can we take precautions against the unnatural loves of either sex, from which innumerable evils have come upon individuals and cities? How shall we devise a remedy and way of escape out of so great a danger? … in what degree will they contribute to virtue? Will such passions implant in the soul of him who is seduced the habit of courage, or in the soul of the seducer the principle of temperance? Who will ever believe this?-or rather, who will not blame the effeminacy of him who yields to pleasures and is unable to hold out against them? ”
    .
    Transgenderism. JB Peterson’s stance on this issue is very much based on atheist – not christian – foundation. “Gender-Affirming” care. What gender is being affirmed? The spiritual gender? The material gender? Why do atheists abandon their faith on the transgenderism issue by embracing the spiritual gender over the material gender? I thought atheists do not believe in spirits, souls, ghosts, gods, and such silly stuff. The atheist’s stance on transgenderism is akin to Cargo Plane Cults where wooden planes were built as inducements for actual planes to come back with modern material goods.
    .
    “When you exclude people, then you will arouse animosity.” Excluding from what? Excluding for what reason? The politics of the American Left is politics of J.E.A.R. (Jealousy, Envy, Anger, Resentment). Animosity brings about Resentment. The politics of the Left is not so much one of Inclusion but one of Intrusion. The American Left is not comfortable, not interested in multi-cultural societies. Multiple cultures in the same physical space invariably implies that some aspects of one culture are excluded from other cultures; otherwise all cultures are one and the same resulting in a mono-cultrue society. For a harmonious multi-cultural society there should be a set of overlapping interests common to all participating cultures while – naturally – each culture maintaining exclusive aspects : the basis of federalism. And yet the American Left is bothered by “cultural appropriation”.
    .
    Is same-sex marriage just cultural appropriation from heterosexual culture? Why does gay culture want to imitate heterosexual culture? Is gay culture parasitic?
    .
    Is transgenderism just cultural appropriation from female culture? Why does transgender culture want to imitate female culture? Is transgender culture parasitic?
    .
    Mr Rogers as transphobe. Check YouTube (Mr Rogers on gender orientation — The Tonight Show 09-04-1980).
    .
    “I began to like the guy despite his beliefs.” Who cares. I doubt very much JB Peterson cares. Play the pieces on the board, not the person across the board. Facts do not care about your feelings.

    • musing says

      Hey, I sense either hate or contempt from you, not sure which one. Your tone suggests that I got underneath your skin there. If I did, I apologize. I have been respectful and cordial, so I request you do the same. This is the second time you fail to get my point. I really only had one big point and a subset of that point. You tacitly, but meanly, admit that my point is accurate on his style being conservative. That is progress. I don’t disagree with your points on meritocracy. No one said that all meritocracy is bad. The only other point you have above is about disparate cultures coexisting. I don’t necessarily disagree with what you are saying on that either. But I have my own subtle points on that topic too. By the way, most would agree that I shouldn’t give you the time of day, but I am because some of your points are accurate and interesting. I guess you have to get my point first before you would dare to find anything that I post interesting too. I will post one last post with bullets to help with comprehension of my point along with addressing your points on culture. Hopefully, I can get to this tomorrow evening.

    • says

      Dr Peterson’s fame and fortune exploded because of Leftist hysteria.

      No, it “exploded” because of Peterson’s own manufactured hysteria over a bogus allegation that “Leftists” were gonna put Peterson in jail any day now for bravely refusing to be polite to trans people. It has since been pointed out, repeatedly, that Peterson has been lying the whole time about that proposed Canadian law that would allegedly criminalize conservative manhood. Peterson’s current fame is based on lies.

      JB Peterson’s professional focus is get one to be prepared to face the adventure called LIFE.

      Oh please. He’s nothing but a lazy hack trying to pretend to be a “life coach,” with nothing to offer but recycled cliches and absolutely no added insight or experience of his own to add to all the life-coachery books and videos we already have. And it’s not like Peterson’s own life choices are a shining example for anyone who wants to be successful at anything.

      The politics of the American Left is politics of J.E.A.R. (Jealousy, Envy, Anger, Resentment).

      I can see why you gravitate toward Peterson: you yourself think entirely in tired stupid cliches, and Peterson offers you and you fellow haters more of the same. Seriously, did you just copy-and-paste that sentence from your earlier comment? Did you get it from Peterson, or will Peterson be cribbing it from you?

      And the rest of your comment is nothing but feverish lashing-out incoherent defensive rubbish (and you’re accusing “the “Left” of “JEAR?” Reread your own hateful tantrums).

    • says

      The atheist’s stance on transgenderism is akin to Cargo Plane Cults where wooden planes were built as inducements for actual planes to come back with modern material goods.

      Your analogy is like Hitler at an ice-rink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.