A critique of Jordan Peterson’s views


To be quite honest, the Jordan Peterson phenomenon largely passed me by, appearing only in the periphery of my consciousness. I kept coming across his name in various places but what I fleetingly gathered did not suggest to me that whatever he was saying or doing was worthwhile investigating to find out more so I ignored it, much like one tries to ignore a fly buzzing around but don’t completely succeed. I adopt the same policy whenever I see the name ‘Kardashian’, quickly moving on.

But apparently this clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto has created quite a stir in some circles with his views. Even though I did not know what those views are, it is always nice to read a careful and methodical takedown of someone whom the author considers to be a poseur, and Pankaj Mishra does the honors in an essay the New York Review of Books titled Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism.

Following Carl Jung, Peterson identifies “archetypes” in myths, dreams, and religions, which have apparently defined truths of the human condition since the beginning of time. “Culture,” one of his typical arguments goes, “is symbolically, archetypally, mythically male”—and this is why resistance to male dominance is unnatural. Men represent order, and “Chaos—the unknown—is symbolically associated with the feminine.” In other words, men resisting the perennially fixed archetypes of male and female, and failing to toughen up, are pathetic losers.

Such evidently eternal truths are not on offer anymore at a modern university; Jung’s speculations have been largely discredited. But Peterson, armed with his “maps of meaning” (the title of his previous book), has only contempt for his fellow academics who tend to emphasize the socially constructed and provisional nature of our perceptions. As with Jung, he presents some idiosyncratic quasi-religious opinions as empirical science, frequently appealing to evolutionary psychology to support his ancient wisdom.

Closer examination, however, reveals Peterson’s ageless insights as a typical, if not archetypal, product of our own times: right-wing pieties seductively mythologized for our current lost generations.

Reactionary white men will surely be thrilled by Peterson’s loathing for “social justice warriors” and his claim that divorce laws should not have been liberalized in the 1960s. Those embattled against political correctness on university campuses will heartily endorse Peterson’s claim that “there are whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men.” Islamophobes will take heart from his speculation that “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.” Libertarians will cheer Peterson’s glorification of the individual striver, and his stern message to the left-behinds (“Maybe it’s not the world that’s at fault. Maybe it’s you. You’ve failed to make the mark.”). The demagogues of our age don’t read much; but, as they ruthlessly crack down on refugees and immigrants, they can derive much philosophical backup from Peterson’s sub-chapter headings: “Compassion as a vice” and “Toughen up, you weasel.”

Nowhere in his published writings does Peterson reckon with the moral fiascos of his gurus and their political ramifications; he seems unbothered by the fact that thinking of human relations in such terms as dominance and hierarchy connects too easily with such nascent viciousness such as misogyny, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Like Peterson, many of these hyper-masculinist thinkers saw compassion as a vice and urged insecure men to harden their hearts against the weak (women and minorities) on the grounds that the latter were biologically and culturally inferior. Hailing myth and dreams as the repository of fundamental human truths, they became popular because they addressed a widely felt spiritual hunger: of men looking desperately for maps of meaning in a world they found opaque and uncontrollable.

As is plain to see just from those brief excerpts, Mishra’s critique of Peterson is undoubtedly harsh. Peterson, being an academic, has responded in a calm and mature manner, overlaid with the legendary Canadian politeness. He called Mishra an “arrogant, racist son of a bitch” and “And you call me a fascist? You sanctimonious prick. If you were in my room at the moment, I’d slap you happily”. Peterson apparently has legions of devoted followers who think he is some kind of genius and will leap to his defense and attack his critics, somewhat like Sam Harris’s acolytes, so Mishra can expect to have heaps of vitriol directed at him.

Is Mishra’s critique fair? I am hardly in a position to judge since I have barely heard of Peterson and have read exactly zero of his output. But there are often cases where one enjoys a long form essay and learns from it even when one knows little about the main target of the piece. I recall reading a collection of George Orwell’s essays when I was around college age and although I did not know much about some of the topics he was writing about, I enjoyed reading them and learned a lot about the subject being covered. One such essay Benefit of Clergy was a critique of Salvador Dali that I still remember even though I knew nothing about art then and haven’t gained much knowledge since. Another article was Charles Dickens that analyzed Dickens’s attitudes towards class and work. I had not read anything by Dickens up to that pointed but was stimulated by the essay to read and enjoy many of his novels.

In my opinion, Mishra’s piece is another such essay. He brings in ideas about many writers and thinkers related to this topic and I found that quite fascinating, even if I did not know (or care) much about Peterson himself.

Comments

  1. Mark Dowd says

    Peterson, being an academic, has responded in a calm and mature manner, overlaid with the legendary Canadian politeness.

    Been watching too much Colbert, haven’t you.

    Just kidding. There’s no such thing as too much Colbert.

  2. says

    When Shiv first started putting him on her radar screen, I searched up some lectures of his on youtube. There have been several time I’ve thought about trying to do some analysis of his ideas but every time I think about where to start digging in, all I come up with is my Argument Clinic episode on labels. Labelling is his method: he calls things “post modernist” because ‘everybody knows’ that post modernism is bad. And “cultural marxism” – another vacuous label which, I suspect, is interchangeable for “political correctness” in his world.

    I didn’t see anything worth arguing about. When I encounter someone who throws up a screen of labels, I assume I am dealing with a charlatan or an ignoramus. The videos I watched did not include definitions of any of the terms he was using – and nobody asked him to define what “cultural marxism” means. At that point I am pretty sure that my Argument Clinic recommendations apply: you just take him apart on terminology.

  3. Jenora Feuer says

    @Marcus:
    That’s been about the response from most of the people I’ve heard from who have tried to read Peterson lately: “I can’t argue with his thesis because even after reading this I have no idea what his thesis is.” It’s all pseudo-mysticism and deniable dog whistles meant to provoke an emotional response from the right sorts of people who aren’t read well enough to realize how empty it is, while at the same time never quite stepping over the line to anything he could explicitly be held to.

  4. anat says

    Marcus, ‘cultural Marxism’ is often dog-whistle for Jewish. Don’t know if this is Peterson’s usage.

  5. Daniel Schealler says

    I’ve been following Peterson for a while. In my experience, he’s something of a Rorschach test.

    The people on the radical right think he’s one of them. The people on the radical left agree. The people in the center (me) think he’s a centrist who has been criticizing the radical left, and this has confused both hyper-tribal ends of the left/right spectrum into thinking that he is much further to the right than he actually is.

    For example, you’ll occasionally come across a YouTube video where one of Peterson’s fans publishes a snippet of one of his talks under the title “Jordan Peterson DESTROYS White Privilege” or something like that. But when you listen to the actual video, Peterson comes out and says that undoubtedly privilege exists – what he’s criticizing isn’t the idea of privilege, he’s criticizing the idea that privilege is the sole explanation for inequality of outcome.

    To my reading, Peterson is first and foremost a psychologist. His focus is on taking individuals and helping them to improve their lives by taking charge of the world in a more successful way, and his means of doing that is by providing them with the psychological tools to overcome their limitations. As part of that general practice, Peterson will reach into psychologically resonant cultural symbols that he can use to help people construct a narrative that – all going according to plan – will give them a better platform from which to engage the world than they started.

    So whenever Peterson engages with Christian or Jungian or Freudian or Nietzchean ideas, he’s not coming at it as a philosopher first who is endorsing the entire canon and history of those theories and frameworks. He’s dipping into those frameworks to take out the bits that work. In his experience, they’ve been extremely successful, and so he feels himself to be justified in their use based on those outcomes.

    So for my money, Peterson is ultimately a consequentialist. The ideas and philosophies he picks up and deploys on the way aren’t being picked up because he thinks they are true *first* and then he seeks to implement them. Rather, he picks them up to see if they lead to the outcomes he’s trying to achieve, and the degree to which they are successful in deriving the outcomes he’s interested in achieving is the degree to which he believes them to be true.

    It’s an important distinction.

    This is one of the reasons why Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson have fallen into the trap of talking past each other. Sam has a focus that religion allows people to abandon reality checks on the empirically objective world, and that this has the very real risk of religious adherents committing moral travesties in the name of righteousness. So to Sam, Jordan is endorsing religious ideas and this provides potentially dangerous cover to religious nutjobs. But to Jordan, he’s seen these religious/Jungian/Freudian/Nietzschean ideas work in practice – and if it works, it works. For Jordan, the fact that these ideas can be misused is no more a reason to abandon them than it would be for a surgeon to abandon the use of scalpels to save lives just because another person might use them to commit murder.

    The only real criticism I have of Peterson is that he has a tendency to be guilty of one of the crimes of which he accuses the radical left. He accuses the radical left of explaining *all* inequality as being the result of injustice and oppression – and while he acknowledges that injustice and oppression do exist, he also insists that much of the time inequality can be the result in differences in ability, preference, productivity and competence.

    On the surface I think that’s reasonable, but in too much of Jordan’s speaking he seems to fall into the trap of thinking that *all* inequality is the result of differences in ability, preference, productivity and competence. But that’s the exact same trap of oversimplifying the outcome in a complex system to a simple cause of which he accuses the radical left.

    So I do think he over-sells the benefits and unders-sells the harms of maintaining the status quo, and that is significant. But otherwise, the *vast majority* of the material I’ve read from Peterson is entirely reasonable.

    I’m a left-leaning centrist, and to me Jordan comes across as exactly the kind of right-leaning centrist with whom I could have a productive and useful disagreement to balance out the biases in the room.

    To be clear, none of this is to say that Mishra is wrong, per se. But I do think Mishra is being selective and misleading. For example, take this section:

    Like Peterson, many of these hyper-masculinist thinkers saw compassion as a vice and urged insecure men to harden their hearts against the weak (women and minorities) on the grounds that the latter were biologically and culturally inferior.

    Note that this is assigning to Peterson the beliefs that 1) women and minorities are weak, biologically inferior, and culturally inferior, and therefore 2) men should harden their hearts against women and minorities.

    This is an utterly false representation of Peterson’s views.

    Peterson believes that women are culturally and biologically different from men. But he does not think that women are inferior to men. And if you listen to him fairly, he actually thinks very highly of the role that he believes women play in society.

    For example, I’ve heard Peterson say in multiple settings that, for men, responsibility and maturity are optional, but for women they are mandatory. In Peterson’s view the fact that the biology of sex and reproduction imposes such harsh costs on women means that women can’t typically afford to fuck around as women-children the same way that men can get away with fucking around as man-children. So generally speaking, he believes women are better at taking on the burdens of responsibility and maturity than men, and Jordan is all about responsibility and maturity.

    Or on the subject of minorities, Jordan relates some research he had done in the past with a self-authoring program that was performed in (I think) Denmark. Of the people in the study, danish women were academically out-performing danish men, who were out-performing minority women, who were out-performing minority men.

    After the program was done the follow-up outcomes were assessed. On average, everyone across the board improved. However, the minority men and women improved the most, to the point that suddenly the minority men were out-performing the minority women.

    At no point in the talk did Peterson suggest that this was a bad thing, or that minorities were doomed to be inferior to the dominant culture in which they were a minority, or anything of the kind. He was incredibly pleased and impressed that the academic outcomes of minorities was so drastically improved by that study, and he takes that as a powerful vindication that the self-authoring program is a good idea that should be broadly adopted.

    None of that is evident in Mishra’s article.

    Again, that isn’t to say that Mishra is wrong, exactly. Jordan is dipping into some thoroughly poisoned wells when he uses these kinds of archetypes to tell the kinds of stories and build the kinds of philosophies that he’s building, so there’s definitely room for criticism.

    But I do think that Mishra is being extremely unfair in the cherry picking department, so you should take that article with a massive grain of salt.

    Which basically brings me back to my original point. Jordan is a Rorschach test. What people say about him is typically going to be more revealing of the person doing the talking than it is about Jordan himself.

    If you’re inclined (no obligation) the best way to get a feel for that is to look at the videos that Jordan posts himself, then look at the videos that right-leaning fans of Jordan post of his talks and lectures. The right-leaning fans put on a massive right-wing spin in how they frame and edit Jordan’s videos – but if you actually listen to the original content without the editing, he’s a lot more centrist and reasonable than he is frequently presented to be.

  6. Mano Singham says

    Daniel @#6,

    Thanks for that informative background on this whole issue. I’ll try and find the time to check out the videos. I am not a fan of videos as a learning tool, much preferring the written form.

  7. Silentbob says

    @ 7 Mano Singham

    Then I highly recommend this one is you haven’t read it already. PZ linked to it earlier. It’s considerably more in depth, but, I think, says all that needs to be said about Peterson.

  8. Clovasaurus says

    #6 Daniel… Check those blind spots.

    The ideas and philosophies he picks up and deploys on the way aren’t being picked up because he thinks they are true *first* and then he seeks to implement them.

    Right, because that would mean a confirmation bias.

    Rather, he picks them up to see if they lead to the outcomes he’s trying to achieve,

    …which is confirmation bias.

    and the degree to which they are successful in deriving the outcomes he’s interested in achieving

    …and so is this.

    is the degree to which he believes them to be true.

    … and this.
    Take care.

  9. cartomancer says

    I never really knew anything about this man until discussion of his stuff started popping up on Pharyngula. Suffice to say almost nobody has heard of him outside the American circles of the internet he seems to inhabit.

    But from everything I’ve seen of him so far, I find the man’s views profoundly offensive. He champions precisely the kind of harmful, old-fashioned, toxic masculinity and capitalistic social structures that I believe are and always have been the prime causes of human misery. He champions individual responsibility and an outdated model of “maturity”, where I think the notion of individual responsibility is fundamentally wrong-headed and we should not be held accountable for our decisions which, ultimately, are a product of all the influences working on us throughout our lives. I find traditional notions of the division between mature and immature utterly pernicious, and feel that we would all be better off if we acted and lived more like children are permitted to live, rather than forcing ourselves into artificial “adult” social roles that are fundamentally alien to our best interests. All this coming-of-age nonsense is incredibly harmful to people, and in my experience the most satisfied and happiest people tend to be the ones who eschew cultural notions of appropriate “adult” behaviour most completely.

    He champions fundamental differences between the genders (of which he proudly and ignorantly claims there are but two), where I see no evidence at all that human differences are anything more than the product of social conditioning, and even if they did have a biological basis we should strive to work against it. He sees the whole gaudy phantasmagoria of human culture and myth as having profound insights into a timeless reality, where I, as an historian, see it as so intimately tied to past social and historical circumstances as to be almost totally useless as a guide to living today. You simply can’t learn lessons from myth – apart from valuable historical lessons about what cultural preoccupations gave rise to the myth in the first place.

    He champions hierarchy and power and dominance as valuable. I think they are incredibly harmful, and ought to be abolished as utterly as possible. They are the baggage of a failed and increasingly harmful world that holds us back from achieving all we can in terms of human happiness and security – the engine of oppression and inequality and misery.

    In short, I marvel at how anyone can look at the crude, damaging, manifestly unjust and inadequate excrescences of the last seven thousand years of human culture and not just fail to appreciate that we can do better but to actively lionise the elements that do most harm.

  10. Mano Singham says

    silentbob @#8,

    Thanks so much for that link! I quickly read through the article and bookmarked it for a more careful reading later.

  11. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    I very much appreciate Daniel Schealler’s nuanced view. I had stumbled on one of Peterson’s courses a little over a year ago: Personality and its transformations. This is a psych 1xx level course reviewing the way that the idea of personality has been developed over time. I watched all the sessions, enjoyed them, found a number of his insights resonant and useful, and took extensive notes.

    Now, because suddenly Peterson is popping up on blogs I follow and being reviled — apparently for good reason — I’m reviewing those notes. Because, frankly, it upsets me that I apparently fell for a racist misogynist’s subtle line without realizing it. Or maybe not.

    I still find his demonstration of how archetypal symbols are embedded in, and give structure to, modern cultural artifacts (The Lion King, Disney’s Pinocchio) useful and insightful. Maybe “Jung’s speculations have been largely discredited” but the archetypes are still everywhere, if you look, and Peterson’s lectures made me more aware of them. His discussions of pathological personality traits and how people fall into them illuminated my experiences of toxic people.

    Per my notes, his discussion of gender differences (in this course) was primarily in lecture 17, and although his approach is strongly data-driven, with lots of curves and discussions of distributions and standard deviations, his choices of data leads him to several conclusions about innate differences between the genders. This made me uncomfortable and I thought he could have questioned the data sources more deeply.

    In the end his message to his students was mild and positive, with statements like,

    “People ask, ‘does life have any meaning?’ I can tell you one meaning it has: it is perfectly reasonable for you to devote yourself to not producing any more suffering than is absolutely necessary. At a minimum you can live so as to avoid causing pain and misery.”

    and,

    …if you learn to think and you learn to speak, and you learn to act properly and be articulate,… you’ll never have to worry for one minute in your life about what you’re going to do… because people like that are in unbelievably short supply… Just turn yourself into an articulate, and honest, and educated person. People like that are incredibly valuable.

  12. jrkrideau says

    @3 Marcus
    One damning thing about him: He talks about the id as if he believes in Freud. Any psychologist who does that is either incompetent, a con-man or both. I’ll settle for the latter.

  13. lanir says

    Felt like commenting but didn’t really know the guy, so… I just finished watching a half-hour video of his aimed at millenials where he tries to tell them how to change the world in a way that he thinks is proper. Why that one? Because it was self-listed in a playlist of popular videos and I didn’t feel like wasting 150 minutes on one of his longer lectures. I figured if he couldn’t make a point in 30 minutes on a topic of his choice in a featured video then he just wasn’t very interested in or capable of making one.

    He starts by telling them to look at themselves first rather than the world in a sort of one-size-fits-all approach which is already wrong and dismissive. Because he’s an authoritarian. So that’s a pretty lousy place to start from. Then he moves on to labeling them as marionettes whose strings are being pulled by unspecified others, then states openly that unless they read very specific texts they are incapable of thinking for themselves. Of course, he has the solution to this imaginary problem.

    And somehow in this mess of advice that can roughly be paraphrased as “think for yourself!” he manages to imply they should just listen to his authority and the authority of his hand-picked reading list without really mentioning anything about forming good questions. Any two-bit loon could use the same sales pitch. Hold on, we’ll get back to that idea of “sales” in a minute. You saw that coming, right?

    The video mentions some other concepts like aiming for the best results for yourself, your family, your society and the world but for an audience he seems to think is ignorant, he doesn’t bother adding any guidance or perspective to that. It’s just a list. He states that authority is always positive and that if you aim for the things on that list above and are honest you’ll gain authority magically.

    The end is a sales job for a $15 series of questions he describes as helping you write out an essay of sorts. Basically it starts by visualizing a personal heaven and hell and he mentions it later gets into organizational aids to aim for the former. To be fair this is about the last 1/6th of the video.

    He seems to be using a lot of fairly standard tricks people use when they want to say whatever they feel like, pretend it’s true but not have to back any of it up. People who don’t agree with him are puppets. Authority is always good and you should read his lengthy reading list before you are educated enough to talk to him (or his followers I think). The list starts with 5 novels by Dostoevsky along with 26 other novels, non-fiction books and at least one clearly religious text mentioned on the page (2 by Nietzsche which he doesn’t put in the list proper, I can only assume because he links the books in the list and Nietzsche is the starting point he’s trying to move away from), plus his own book. His book is described as “a call to religious awakening”. He isn’t very clear about what he’s referring to (I think he means anything he can label as “Marxist” without being widely ridiculed) but he’s likening viewpoints he doesn’t agree with to the thought processes behind the worst aspects of Stalinism, Nazi death camps and Mao’s purges. He’s also implying that millenials will either fall in with his ideas or end up supporting those things, an extremely forced and false dichotomy. And he relies overmuch on the Pinnochio story summing up the human experience without the sort of justification (even a short one) that any competent humanities professor should be able to pull off easily. Maybe yet another attempt to escape meaningful questions? All this together brings the whole video well into the realm of the absurd, despite his reasonable-sounding tone and demeanor through most of it.

    I’m not even close to being a millenial so none of his casual dismissal, barbs, or misguided attempts to exert his authority were aimed at me. They still look pretty ugly. He’s just someone who found a way to repeat disgusting viewpoints in a more wordy way. He’s unworthy of serious consideration and certainly no guiding light to the young of any age. The term for someone who claims to teach you how to think for yourself and then tells you what you should think is “con man.”

  14. says

    #9 Clovasaurus…

    It is a little amusing how you demand that another person should check their blind spots and then claim that what is not confirmation bias is in fact confirmation bias.

    So let us go with a working definition of confirmation so that we may actually judge what is confirmation rather than relying upon your uncertain judgement of what constitutes confirmation bias.

    confirmation bias; the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.

    Ideas, philosophies are not evidence they are what is commonly known in the scientific community as hypotheses(at least that was how the original commenter had meant his/her comment), now of course you may disagree, because you feel that the word “evidence” should be ment exactly in the way you have defined it, which is likely exactly how you have defined it(convenient isn’t it? but that really does not mean you have used the word/concept correctly); unfortunately for you that really is the Trumpian model of language. Truthfully it is also the Post Modernist model of language but never let it be said that ideologues such yourself are consistent.

    You can only call confirmation bias if someone obviously slants evidence to prove their pet hypothesis ie anti-vaxxer discovers vaccinations cause autism by slanting evidence and results, GMO opponents discover genetically modified plants kill human beings with cancer by slanting evidence and results, god bothers discover god by proving atheists exist oh yeah I just threw in a confirmation bias that I thought you might be able to identify as your own.

    At this point I feel safe in assuming that you have revealed your own confirmation bias ie everything and anything that Jordan Peterson writes or documents by video is personally offensive in some manner to you. Which is ironically not at all a confirmation bias(Shirley you might want to check your own blind spot), but hell I guess you must have an entirely different definition of confirmation bias.

    If you have actual evidence of Jordan Peterson’s confirmation bias how about providing that evidence rather than evidence of your own confirmation biases and feewings. At least then there could be conversation rather than you posting your ignorant stupidities which only serve to prove that you are unaware of where you stand on the Dunning Kruger bell curve.

  15. says

    I’m a bit late to this party, but…

    Daniel Schealler@#6:
    To my reading, Peterson is first and foremost a psychologist. His focus is on taking individuals and helping them to improve their lives by taking charge of the world in a more successful way, and his means of doing that is by providing them with the psychological tools to overcome their limitations. As part of that general practice, Peterson will reach into psychologically resonant cultural symbols that he can use to help people construct a narrative that – all going according to plan – will give them a better platform from which to engage the world than they started.

    Technically, I am a psychologist. But I’m a psychologist-apostate (I took my BA in psych because it was a super easy degree and I could spend all my time playing with the computers without having to get into the Math department) So, I can semi-officially say that that’s not at all what a psychologist does. What you’ve described is some kind of pop-psychologist, if there’s such a position, or perhaps a mush-brained pseudoscientific psychiatrist. Not all psychiatrists are full of pop psychology, but enough are that I’m willing to dismiss the lot of them except the ones pursuing evidence-based neuroscience.

    For one thing, psychotherapists do not simply go about performing interventions on random strangers – i.e.: “providing them with the psychological tools to overcome their limitations” that sort of thing is only appropriate in a patient/doctor relationship where the practitioner has the patient’s consent and is able to understand the patients’ concerns, better. To give you an analogy: if you go to a master woodworker and ask to be taught how to use a table-saw safely, they may find it reasonable to assess your knowledge-base and willingness to learn and then may decide to teach you what they know – always with an eye toward your safety. A master woodworker does not simply sail about yelling “table saws for everyone!” and handing out power tools.

    So, if you’re saying that’s what Peterson is doing, then he’s wrong to be doing it. Fortunately, I don’t think that’s what he’s doing it all; I think you’re wrong about him.

    So whenever Peterson engages with Christian or Jungian or Freudian or Nietzchean ideas, he’s not coming at it as a philosopher first who is endorsing the entire canon and history of those theories and frameworks. He’s dipping into those frameworks to take out the bits that work.

    Christianity, Jung, Freud, and Nietzsche share one thing in common: they are all bullshit. None of them have any epistemological foundation that can be defended – they’re all things that were pulled out of someone’s ass on a fine morning and written down, then presented as facts. Jung and Freud were the spiritual fathers of psychology and started its dangerous habit of making stuff up and asserting it as science. Nietzsche, at least, was interesting. But he was also not building an epistemology that could be defended; he was mostly tearing down christianity (and by extension, other systems of thought that were based on proof by vigorous assertion).

    If you appreciate that Peterson is “lifting out the pieces that work” from those systems, you’re saying that you appreciate that he’s a dogmatic con-man who’s spouting the resurrected bullshit of the ancients. That would be ironic, since Peterson appears to complain about “post-modernism” (I suspect he does not know what post-modernism is and is simply using it as a label) but picking pieces out of that philosophical grab-bag of shit-nuggets is exactly what post-modernists do. The core claim of post-modernism is that philosophy has gotten too caught up in rationalist epistemology and needs to be more understanding that experienced reality is personal and highly context-dependent.

    In other words, I find your observation to be screamingly funny. You appear to be trying to defend Peterson but you just called him a great big fucking idiot. I mean, you’re right. But only by accident. That makes this extra-super damn screamingly funny:
    Jordan is a Rorschach test. What people say about him is typically going to be more revealing of the person doing the talking than it is about Jordan himself.

  16. estraven says

    To my mind Peterson is a racist and misogynist who uses evo psych and other myths to justify his bigotry. I have no use for the man. The fact that known racists and misogynists love him is enough for me, thanks.

  17. Daniel Schealler says

    @Chuck Lindenberg #15

    A lot of atheists and social justice activists adopt the position that, if someone has demonstrated that they’re speaking in bad faith, then they are probably not worth the time spent trying to draw them into a meaningful conversation.

    Now obviously I agree with you, and what you do with your own free time is entirely up to you. I just wanted to remind you of this principle as it is an option that’s available to you. 🙂

  18. says

    At a minimum you can live so as to avoid causing pain and misery.

    Says the guy whose rise to prominence and wealth was literally giving lectures on why it is right, nay IMPERATIVE, to always refuse to use trans people’s chosen pronouns.

    Cool. Cool cool cool.

  19. Daniel Schealler says

    Says the guy whose rise to prominence and wealth was literally giving lectures on why it is right, nay IMPERATIVE, to always refuse to use trans people’s chosen pronouns.

    This is an excellent example of what I’m talking about.

    That is not Peterson’s view.

    Peterson’s position is that the making it illegal to fail to use a person’s self-nominated pronouns is a misuse of government power and a violation of free speech, and is contrary to how language is supposed to evolve naturally. He believes that it is imperative to stand up against violations of free speech.

    When he is asked what he would do in practice if someone asked him to use a non-standard pronoun in relation to themselves, he (admittedly) dithers a bit but says that he would take it on a case by case basis. In some situations he probably would, but in others – particularly in the case of political grandstanding – he would feel justified in refusing to comply.

    So no. Jordan does not give lectures on why it is IMPERATIVE to ALWAYS refuse to use trans people’s chosen pronouns. That’s a misrepresentation of Jordan’s views.

    Which isn’t to say that Jordan’s views are above reproach. But if there is a problem in Jordan position, then criticize his position. Don’t misrepresent that position just so you can dismiss it. It’s ineffective.

    Note: Jordan’s position isn’t my position. I think that willingly going along with someone’s self-identified pronouns is a good social norm, and all else being equal that is what I do and will continue to do. Failing to do so should be regarded as boorish and rude, and people who fail to live up to this norm should suffer all the normal social consequences for being rude and boorish. So in that respect I disagree with Jordan.

    But I also think that taking something that should be a social norm and enshrining it as a legal norm is not only a category error, but it is also a well-intentioned misuse of government power that is in violation with freedom of speech and conscience and as such I think that C-16 goes too far when it comes to pronouns.

    It’s also really interesting that when you look at C-16 itself, the word ‘pronoun’ doesn’t appear anywhere in the bill itself. The point of the bill doesn’t appear to have been to make failing to comply with someone’s self-nominated pronouns illegal. To my reading, the bill was aiming to do was adding “gender identity or expression” into the lists of discrimination-protected categories in the Canadian Human Rights act and Criminal Code, and in and of itself I think that this is a good idea.

    The problem is that that the combination of that change in combination with the underlying and related legislation and legal precedent had lead to this additional scenario where failing to comply with someone’s self-nominated pronouns becomes illegal. I think that goes beyond the scope of what C-16 was intending to achieve, which spoils the bill and should have been dealt with in that bill before it was passed.

  20. Clovasaurus says

    #15 @Chuck, I find it more amusing that you spent all that time and energy trying to obfuscate @Daniels overt bias for Lord of the Lobsters, and forgot to call me a ‘cultural marxist’… LMAO!

  21. Clovasaurus says

    #18 @Daniel, All lobsterians consistently demonstrate an underlying desire for authoritarianism, and ignoring your blind spots won’t make them go away. It does however, expose your obtuseness, making your presence here nothing more than a standard bearer.
    Again… Take care.

  22. Daniel Schealler says

    Hey Mano. I know this is a dead thread now, but wasn’t sure how to get hold of you any other way. Apologies for showing up in the inbox of anyone subscribed to this thread.

    Regarding Jordan, my position is still that there is a glut of very unfair polemics against him that fail to engage with his actual ideas properly. That isn’t to say that fair criticisms of Jordan don’t exist, because they do. But it has been my experience that these are in the minority.

    I’ve just stumbled on a conversation between Jordan Peterson and Matt Dillahunty. I’m only partway into the conversation right now. The conversation itself isn’t a criticism of Jordan per se, but it’s a wonderful example of Hitchen’s old line that some arguments don’t need to be countered so much as underlined. It functions as a better criticism of Jordan’s views than pretty much every article attacking Peterson than I have ever read.

    So thought I’d pass it along on the off chance you or anyone else here might be interested. 🙂

    https://youtu.be/FmH7JUeVQb8

  23. Mano Singham says

    Daniel,

    Thanks for the link. I was thinking of posting an appeal to people to point me to something that they think is worthwhile because there is a LOT of Peterson out there on the internet and one does not know where to start and I had no intention of devoting too much time on the search.

    I’ll post something after I have had time to listen and digest.

  24. Daniel Schealler says

    No worries.

    Matt’s post-discussion thoughts are excellent as well.

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