The Peterson/Zizek debacle to come

Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Zizek are going to have a debate next month. I have a hard time imagining a more hellish prospect.

First, it’s a debate — regular readers know how much I’ve come to despise debate. They might as well make it a wrestling match or a tiddly-winks contest for all the relevance it will have. It will settle nothing, and just allow a couple of blowhards to shout past each other.

Second, it’s Peterson, a bloviating airhead with nothing but his biases to trot about. I want his 15 minutes of fame to end soon.

Third, Zizek. You can read the opinion of a man who totally favors Zizek; I’m not impressed at all. If he can’t resolve his own personal contradictions, why should I care about his philosophy? (Yeah, I know, a lot of philosophers seem to be colossal assholes, who still manage to say interesting things — Zizek is just one who has also put his personality front and center.)

But also, Zizek is going to lose this debate, not because he will do a poorer job of defending his position, but because a debate is never about who makes the most logical, best supported argument. Most of the audience will be there because of Peterson’s inexplicable popularity, and they will not be budged from their cultish idolatry, and they will totally shut off their brains while Zizek speaks. It’s going to be an ugly mess of childish assertions against a professional obscurantist, and the child will triumph with his audience of man-babies.

Zizek was nuts to consent to this, which is another reason to doubt his competence in performing in this circus.


  1. raven says

    I want his 15 minutes of fame to end soon.

    Jordan Peterson who???
    He’s long since taken his rightful place on the far right wingnut lunatic fringes with Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and any number of fundie xian televangelists.

  2. raven says

    Peterson’s inexplicable popularity

    What popularity?
    He isn’t the least bit popular except among a tiny subset of mostly young, mostly marginal males.
    Any thinking being with some education can see right through his drivel easily.

    Peterson is a routine conperson and hate merchant, selling people’s hate back to them for a few bucks.
    Hate is a perennial best seller but it is by no means everyone’s cup of tea.

  3. hemidactylus says

    I’ve read some Zizek. There are parts where he’s making sense, then he hyperjumps into some Lacanian alternative universe where word strings flow through my brain with no processing whatsoever. No referents inside or out? I had similar experiences with Jung where he made reasonable sense for his time period in some passages and then became suddenly arcane and baffling.

    If anyone has the bizarre intellectual background to meet Peterson where he’s at with the arcane psychobabble and maybe rope-a-dope him a bit before putting him him flat on the canvas, hopefully it’s Zizek. But if he goes into the esoteric Lacanverse, who would know? Not me.

  4. kevskos says

    I’ve noticed a drop off on Peterson trolls on you tube channels that are criticizing him lately, maybe his 15 mins are ending. One can hope..

  5. gijoel says

    @5 How much do you want to bet that he starts making stupid, invective claims to woo back his money/supporters.

  6. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Well, they both have the same opinion of ideology (i.e. both express dislike for ideology), but I imagine their description of the term are wholly incompatible. And they also both complain about political correctness, etc. As long as they don’t go any depth into their actual beliefs, they could have this debate agreeing with each other on everything.

  7. hemidactylus says

    Though interesting as spectacle in the spirit of a train wreck I am not sure how much actual benefit I would get from watching the Zizek v Peterson bout. I’ve been struggling with Huxley v Arnold on the addition of science to education curricula ca. early 1880s. Amazing how polite and subdued that battle was. I was inspired by Lionel Trilling whom Pinker failed to reference in Enlightenment Now though he relies on the parallel Leavis v Snow controversy as a touchstone along the way of invoking Wilson’s colonizing consilience, where cultural critics, pomos and other bogeys are subdued by almighty science and reason. Gould did a much better job in The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox highlighting the history of the literati v science “conflict” (even bridging the Renaissance into the Enlightenment with more nuanced historical reflection than Pinker bothered to muster). Wonder if Pinker is still sore over Gould v Pinker as he fails to reference Gould’s book. The few references to Gould are negative.

    I guess Zizek may be the stand-in for the leftist Second Culture literati and Peterson the illuminated one in this bout? Or are they both shades of benighted? Whomever wins we all lose?

  8. colinday says

    and they will totally shut off their brains while Zizek speaks.

    Isn’t that the best way to listen to him?

  9. chrislawson says

    Žižek loves attention. It’s not about the debate, it’s about the eyeballs.

  10. chrislawson says

    ck the Irate Lump:

    You know the old saying: ideology is something other people have.

  11. ck, the Irate Lump says

    chrislawson wrote:

    Žižek loves attention. It’s not about the debate, it’s about the eyeballs.

    As does Peterson. He once got into a twitter fight with a Zizek quotebot. And it’s the perfect matchup: both can spout nonsense that will convince only those who were on their side to begin with, ensuring each respective group of fans can leave believing that their guy won.

    It also serves another purpose for Peterson. He’s been claiming for years that post-modern neo-marxists were refusing to debate him. Those mentioning how he was dodging offers to debate were probably getting a little too loud. Debating someone capable of pulling his arguments down from his shoddily constructed theoretical framework would be inconvenient, so enter Zizek.

  12. KG says

    What an enticing prospect: two ridiculously ego-inflated pseudo-intellectual poseurs spewing gobbledegook at each other.