The End to Peterson (Sneak Preview)

Sneak Preview: This is a sneak preview of my formal rebuttal to a commentator who dares to challenge me.  Do not take this too seriously as this is entertainment.  I should have the rest of my rebuttal up sometime this month.  I found a ton of more research that I must include.  Hey, it is a long and exhaustive response, and it takes time to review the original research.  Although I can’t offer direct empirical support for my hypothesis (indirect, yes), I do make a good a priori case.  I will not be responding to any rebuttals though.  I know this is unfair, but I have the power to do so and no more time to give.

I really got under this commentator’s skin because they are shouting like an aggressive Trump heckler, “CONSERVATIVE PHOBIA!” This is what happens when people defend their beliefs; it becomes tribal warfare.  Being an ideologue makes us self-righteous and have hate for the Other.  The difference between them and me is that I have been cordial and have acknowledged their points.  This person, on the other hand, wants to shove their argument down my throat until I choke with blood and concede that I am wrong. They show what happens when we combine conservatism, the authoritarian flavor, with folk psychology found on the internet. 


Angry Trump fans converge on the press pen at a rally in Florida (source: RAWSTORY)

You cannot know what you can withstand.  You cannot have any proper sense of self-respect unless you know what you can tolerate.  And if you avoid everything you have reason to avoid, but should nonetheless not avoid, you will not know who you are, and you cannot live a proper life.

[The Jordan Peterson quote has to be what people mean about him being difficult to understand.  It is basically saying that a struggle in life is worthwhile although I would only say that perserverence makes us understand one aspect of ourselves.  This comes from an assumption of conservatism that life is a struggle for survival, which is not accurate.]

This will be the end of the reply to the never-ending comment, not to Peterson.  Peterson will go on as other conservative pundits do.  Recently, I got the privilege to listen to Dennis Prager and Peterson discuss the topics of God and the attack on Western culture.  I am not being sarcastic; most of the stuff Peterson does is thought-provoking.  Since he is concerned about people challenging his thoughts, he formulates every response as a long strained argument.  This makes following him challenging but sometimes worth it.  Dennis Prager, however, rubs me the wrong way.  I obviously have an ingroup bias.  I think this is where the commentator has a point.  For some, those who are “formidable” and confident are threatening.  Although Prager comes across as bold, it is also possible that his look which is the prototypical authoritarian from the 1950s (Christian, strict father, short hair, etc.) irritates me.  Personally, I enjoy people that are a little more easygoing.  It is just a matter of preference.  It does not mean that I do not strive for excellence and competence.  The difference is in a matter of degree and what we ground our worldviews in.

Mental Rigidity 

I noticed that sometimes this person has difficulty dealing with nuance, especially with the idea of how much.  There is a difference between some versus all and sometimes versus always.  They don’t agree or concede to anything or try to “get” where I am coming from. Although this individual would have to take a test to be sure, it is hard not to infer that they would score high for the RWA trait or Right Winged Authoritarianism.  This trait affects how they process information (see below) [1].  Since this person follows conservative dictums to a tee, I am sure they will retort with the left being authoritarian.  There is some evidence that they would be correct.  The best estimates in the US put the right to be at least three times that of the left [2].  In any event, I am not one of them.

Processing of Information [1]:

  • difficulty in judging evidence
  • high need to compartmentalize info
    • ironically, they hold more contradictory beliefs than others; so they must vigilantly categorize to reduce dissonance.
    • once information is categorized, then it becomes solidified which makes changing their minds impossible.
    • the mind is also poorly integrated so when they hear something that doesn’t fit right, they don’t know what to do with it
  • dogmatism — intolerance towards ambiguity
    • since nuance comes across as ambiguity, this explains why they must insist on absolute categorization without degrees
    • absolute categorization says that something is either in or out of the category and there is no deviation
  • lack of self-awareness

These are the four assumptions [3] that drive all logic within the conservative worldview.  Notice that one of the assumptions is absolute categorization which would explain why conservatives hate relativism but like moral absolutism.  This does not mean that radical relativism is true in the postmodernist sense.

  • folk-behaviorism – we learn through punishments and rewards which affects all of their moralities
  • humans are rational – this makes maximizing self-interest to be a moral act by way of logical necessity
  • competitive struggle for survival – life is tough which in turn justifies competition and other moralities
  • absolute categorization – attributes are either in or out of a category, which gives way to absolute morality

Authoritarian Trait

Intriguingly, the researchers found some common traits between left-wing and right-wing authoritarians, including a “preference for social uniformity, prejudice towards different others, willingness to wield group authority to coerce behavior, cognitive rigidity, aggression and punitiveness towards perceived enemies, outsized concern for hierarchy, and moral absolutism. [2]

[It seems that all in-groups if they don’t question their tendencies to oust outsiders and prefer insiders, especially ideologues, are susceptible to becoming authoritatians.]

The following description lists the trait as a series of subtraits or dimensions.  We all possess these tendencies, but it is a matter of to what degree.  And everyone can sometimes be an authoritarian, especially if someone wrongs us.  Possessing this trait obviously had some survival value if it still exists within the population.  In fact, I think it is the rudimentary trait of all in-groups before we realized that other groups matter too.  But if we possess the knowledge that it exists, then we can hold one another to a higher moral standard.  As stated, liberals can exhibit this trait too, but it seems to be much more pervasive with conservatism.  The interesting difference is that left-wing authoritarians are against the establishment and right-winger authoritarians reinforce the establishment. We have evidence for the mental rigidity in the commentator, but can we assume that they possess all of the sub-traits of RWA?

Describing the RWA trait:

  • to believe that authorities are always legitimate
  • follow and obey authorities and not criticize them
  • be intolerant of others who hold different moral, political, and racial differences
  • to adhere to societal conventions and norms and value uniformity
  • to agree to hostile and punitive treatments (e.g., coercion, oppression) for those who do not follow authorities or adhere to social norms, rules, or expectations
RWAs are likely to agree with the following statements [4]:
  • “People who are poor just need to work harder”
  • “In life, winning is the only thing that matters”
  • “A company’s main focus should be profits”
RWAs are unlikely to agree with the following statements:
  • Building relationships is more important than building profit”
  • “Happiness is more important than money”
  • “Protesters are the most patriotic citizens”

The Tough Guys: Gad Saad, Jordan Peterson, Thomas Sowell, and Dennis Prager

Commentator: Direct quotes from Lakoff (Leftist), a reference to Haidt (classical liberal). No quote or reference to JB Peterson or any other conservative like Thomas Sowell or Dennis Prager. Is the narrator lazy and/or gripped by fear of Conservatives? CONSERVATOPHOBIA!!!

The above comes across as a bully harassing the nerd on the playground.  This is an intellectual debate and not a contest over who can intimidate who with mockery and slurs. I have bent over backward trying to understand the commentator’s points, but there have been no original insights on their part, just rehashed conservatism.  The only thing I have learned is that Peterson buffers the blow of being formidable with playfulness.  The entire argument was whether or not the essence of Peterson is conservative-like. We already established that he is.  The next argument is whether or not Peterson is contributing to the tension in status hierarchies.  I think that I can demonstrate this with an affirmative.  Play or not, Peterson is aiding self-interested people in preparation for combat.

As references, I did use conservative sources from the Cato Institute and Federalist Publications.  But even this is irrelevant.  The references that I use make no difference in what their ideology is because it is an explanation of their scientific work albeit in an accessible style.   In principle, science describes phenomena, in this case, the different worldviews, and is not about what an author thinks society should be like.  It would be impossible for George Lakoff, who is a brilliant cognitive linguist, to have advanced in the scientific community without having bonified research.  His views on how society should be configured are liberal, but this has absolutely nothing to do with his analysis of the different worldviews.  In fact, he states that the conservative worldview is rational and those who are conservatives are just framing issues differently than how liberals do, which is a scientific fact, not an opinion.

As far as having a phobia, no, I would say that it just so happens that most of academia is liberal.  Furthermore, none of the “tough guys” have research published on modeling and describing the different worldviews.  If they did, I would have used them.  Their popular writings are opinions on what is wrong with the liberal worldview, which is often quite good but irrelevant to my purpose.  I used to be a conservative and looked up to these guys until I started to question why I was attracted to conservatism.  I know their reasoning and arguments in and out.  I have had life experiences that made me want to place more of an emphasis on being empathetic and gaining insight versus a focus on being formidable.  I will say it again; this boils down to a difference in preference.

Parting Words of Wisdom

Of course, each side views its own beliefs and values to be the right ones (making us self-righteous) while the other side is deemed to be in desperate need of the facts (making the other irrational).  Relative to one’s own framework, both sides are correct because both sides form coherent and rational moral frameworks.  In other words, liberals’ beliefs and values will only make sense within a liberal moral framework, and vice versa.  This explains why experts on morality believe that each speaks their own language. Taking one example of many, liberals define abortion as a cluster of cells, while conservatives define abortion as a baby.  Therefore, within the liberal frame, abortion is moral and within the conservative frame, abortion is immoral.  Preferences for framing things one way over the other are based on differences in personality or culture.  These framing differences give rise to different beliefs and values. Once we prioritize and reason with our beliefs and values, then we have a coherent worldview.  So can we ever have a correct answer?  Of course but we would have to formulate our beliefs as matters of facts that can be empirically tested, which is a challenge.  Most beliefs, morals, and values are known as distal beliefs and are difficult to prove.  The best is yet to come …


[1] Altemyer, Bob.  Right Wing Authoritarianism

[2] The Experts Somehow Overlooked the Authoritarians on the Left

[3] Lakoff, George.  Moral Politics



  1. says

    The above comes across as a bully harassing the nerd on the playground. This is an intellectual debate and not a contest over who can intimidate who with mockery and slurs.

    You can say that all you want, but it’s pretty clear that blustering morons like friedfish don’t WANT a innelekshal debate, they just want to spew whatever talking-points they heard others saying, without even understanding them enough to put them together into any sort of coherent argument or thesis, just to make themselves sound and feel tough.

    It’s not my place to tell you how you should spend your time, but I really think you’ve said all you need to say in this “debate;” and saying more won’t get you anything more from friedfish than more repetition of what’s he’s already repeated in ALL of his comments so far. (And given how long it’s taken for you to respond to said comments, I suspect you agree that you have more worthwhile things to do.)

    Peterson’s blithering about competitiveness and “building character” or whatever aren’t really aimed at contributing to a rational debate; they’re all just pandering to our primitive, animal-level instinct to admire “strength” and “toughness” and avoid “weakness” and “weak” people. Notice how friedfish never mentions any examples of meaningful competition in which he’s proven himself or prevailed in any beneficial way? He probably doesn’t have any, just like Peterson doesn’t, except for maybe doggedly bellowing nonsensical PRATTs until everyone else just gives up trying to talk any sense to him. He’s just another nobody cheering the biggest bullies (from a safe distance) just to pretend he’s tough like them.

    • musing says

      Raging Bee, I more or less agree with you. But I am using this as a springboard to get some crucial points across about inequality. I have no hope of influencing the mentally rigid. The next post will be my last one. If we are to get anything out of this, it will be that Peterson is probably increasing our problem with status inequality. And inequality turns out to have health and happiness consequences for the population at large. This is not my conclusion, but thirty years’ worth of epidemiological research. This research has been muted by the right propaganda machine, such as FEE and the Cato Institute, which claims its reasoning is based on sound economic principles. Although it mostly is, they are only looking at how increases in GDP result in increases in living standards across the board, which is related to an increase in well-being. But once we remove people from poverty, there is something else contributing to the picture. Because people who make 100k still have an increase in death relative to someone who makes 120k. Someone at 100k has the same access to health care and education as someone at 120k. So they should have the same risk of death. The authors have concluded that something else is going on here. It’s the very virtue of the status difference that causes a problem. You will have to read the post to find out what exactly this means.

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