Professor Jordan Peterson – a summary of his arguments and a personal view of what motivates this polarising force. (Warning: 5000 words! )
Introduction: I make no claim to originality in this article. It has been condensed from, and parts of it have been directly ‘lifted’ from other articles and videos by and about Peterson over the last few weeks. I made notes as I read so as to help to shape my ideas, which were not intended for publication, so I did not collect the citations and references as to where these ideas and quotations come from, and I have not checked out every source. These are almost all other people’s ideas, although some interpretation is mine where I have tried to synthesise and condense the material.
This article was written as a contribution to a specific debate which arose from a Facebook link to an article in The Guardian:
Facebook was not the best medium for my reply, as I wanted to set out some background and definitions before answering the specific points raised by Simon Kirkwood and Nicola Snell.
The Peterson phenomenon has engaged my attention only very recently (June 2018), and I have been looking at it for several weeks only. Although I have spent some time listening to his lectures and following the commentaries, this summary is my first attempt at disentangling the underlying importance of what he says from his ‘throwaway’ provocative remarks, and from the deluge of misrepresentation which seems to follow him.
His recent speech at the Oxford Union (24 June 2018) gives a fairly typical introduction to the territory, his concerns, and his style of debate.
Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZMIbo_DxJk
Professor Jordan Peterson has been hailed as a hero and intellectual giant, and condemned as a lying charlatan. As might be expected, the condemnation tends to come from his targets in academia and the far left, and there are some good arguments suggesting that he is completely wrong in some of his conclusions on some of his topics. It appears that the approval comes from a spectrum of political views. There is however a consensus that he is a polarising figure, and mentioning his name can divide a room. I found it hard to ignore him, so this text is my attempt at coming to terms with my sympathy for some of his more controversial arguments.
Peterson is a child of the internet, in his celebrity, although not in the development of his opinions, which come from clinical practice and academic study. The polarising effect of his views is most evident in comment that follows any online publication, and I anticipate taking some heat for even publishing this summary. Believing in free speech does not make me racist, or Fascist, but I admit to having difficulty knowing where to draw the line regarding prohibition of hate speech. I suggest that anyone who disagrees with the content in this article might give an alternative view, rather than simply writing it off as alt-Right or Fascist, which would simply provide further evidence that Peterson has a point.
It was the consistency and frequency of the widespread misrepresentation that made me realise that he had touched a nerve somewhere, and I wanted to find out how, and why, he had done that.
We live in an era of ‘post-truth’, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” As I will show, Peterson uses emotional appeal as well as empirical evidence, and my text is an attempt to get at the truth of the matter while standing on the middle ground. My politics until now has been agnostic/hippie/anarchist/liberal/centrist with strong environmentalist leanings and some activist history, so Peterson challenges a large part of my world view.
Another reason for my interest is that I have personally observed the development of an exclusive and rigid orthodoxy in academia, and I have been struggling against it in my business for 30 years. I therefore have a personal interest that makes me biased against the vested interest of the academic heirarchy. I am not alone in that, however. (See Footnote 2. for more details.)
I have still not made up my mind about JP, but have set out here my summary of what I think he is actually saying, rather than what people think he is saying. I have not reached many conclusions. Right or wrong, Peterson is not going away, and I would rather debate his view than simply dismiss him because he rocks the boat.
I do not say much about the Jordan Peterson biography, or the history of his rise to prominence, since this is widely available elsewhere on the internet. With a few exception, I won’t discuss his religious ideas, although I argue they permeate his thinking, and I suggest that his political statements may be motivated by a form of intuitive, shamanistic Evangelism, and a compulsion to warn the world of the dangers of a society without a transcendent moral framework. (See Footnote 1.)
I concentrate on his political and cultural arguments, and so I must define a few terms, because they are interpreted in different ways by different people. I am not an academic, or a philosopher, although I have various academic degrees and so I am familiar with some of the terminology. These definitions are my own understanding of the terms as used by Peterson. The definitions are simplified, but I will be happy to debate them and expand on detail if asked.
Neo-Marxism: An ideology which develops the ‘old’ Marxist idea that human history has been a continuous struggle for power between classes, in which the working class (the majority) has fought to assert itself against an oppressive hierarchical capitalist structure. ‘Old’ Marxism was replaced in part because old-Marxist ideas (of class struggle and the dominance of the group over the individual) collapsed as a mainstream political creed after they were put into practice in Soviet Russia, China and Cambodia, where hundreds of millions of dissidents were murdered by the state.
Neo-Marxism replaces idea of the class struggle with a struggle between identity groups and the hierarchies which oppress them. Peterson states that he has studied mass-murder by Marxist dictators for 30 years, and that therefore his primary concern is to overturn the academic neo-Marxist and Post-modernist hegemony, which places the interests of the group over the interests of individual dissenters. Currently the hegemony in the academy does this by denying dissenters free speech, by enforced language, by no-platforming, by disciplinary action and by an approved ‘correct’ curriculum from Junior school onwards. etc. Peterson believes that this has profound consequences. “The Marxists aren’t just wrong: They’re wrong, murderous, and genocidal. I know something about the way authoritarian and totalitarian states develop and I can’t help but think that I am seeing a fair bit of that right now.”
Post-Modernism: An ideology which rejected the prevailing empirical, objective, logical, positivist philosophy of the Enlightenment, and replaced it with Relativism, or the idea that there is no universal, objective truth, but that any point of view has its own truth. From this it follows that categories cannot be absolute, but all categories are social constructs. (For example, self, identity, gender, race nations and money.) The relativist philosophy derived from Foucault and Derrida, who held that because language can be interpreted in many different ways, so there can be no absolute values. JBP argues that post-modernist relativist philosophy has been booming in the social sciences since the 1980s and is now the dominant theory underlying further education. Relativism dominates anthropology and cultural studies, and has advocates in political theory, political science, sociology, and philosophy.
It is relevant to an understanding of Peterson’s views that absolute moral values are incompatible with Relativism, and the Catholic Church has identified relativism as one of the most significant problems for faith and morality. Peterson acknowledges Friedrich Nietzsche as a significant influence, and has lectured on the theme ‘God is Dead.’ ‘We have killed him, and we will never find enough water to wash away the blood.‘ Nietzsche’s correct prediction of the unprecedented mass slaughter of 20th century Marxism underpins Peterson’s concusion that human society needs the moral absolutes of religion in order to avoid catastrophe, and that is why post-modernist relativism is so dangerous. (See Footote 1.)
According to JBP, various consequences follow from the neo-Marxist post-modernist relativist doctrine:
- This doctrine focuses on power, and on group identity. Groups are usually defined as either oppressive or oppressed.
- Group guilt incriminates all members of the group.
- All power structures are indefensible, since virtually all power structures can be cast as oppressive, and justifying oppression is forbidden.
- There are no moral or scientific (e.g. biological) absolutes, only social constructs.
- When there are no absolutes, and therefore no discrimination based on value, everything can be portrayed as of equal value.
- Moral relativism leads to totalitarianism, and to mass slaughter in pursuit of ideological objectives.
- The widespread adoption in academia of ‘Critical Theory,’ oriented toward critiquing and changing society, in contrast to traditional theory which is oriented only to understanding or explaining it.
- Academic career paths depend on compliance with the new academic orthodoxy, so academia and society is now filled with managers who put this doctrine into practice.
- Students therefore have only one method of inquiry: to criticise power structures and social structures with the intent of dismantling them, because all hierarchies are oppressive.
Peterson’s core argument centres on the evidence of the dismantling of free speech and the rights of the individual, in favour of defining and protecting groups. In post-modern ideology, criticism of the limitations on free speech is cast as a membership of the oppressor group, and arguments in favour of free speech are equated with racism, homophobia etc. Peterson is not arguing that there is a coherent plan or a conspiracy to undermine Western values, in fact he goes to some trouble to dismantle the alt-right flirting with the ‘Jewish Conspiracy,’ although he does allude to a ‘cabal.’ He argues that the limitation on free speech is the incremental outcome of an ideology that has become a cult because no-one dare question it, particularly if they want a career.
The evidence for his argument does not centre on identifying individual professors who teach that ideology, although they tend to identify themselves when they denounce him. His argument is based on the evidence of specific cases where free speech has been forbidden, or where empirical evidence contradicting the politically correct line is ignored or dismissed, and he traces the origin of these cases back to the prevailing ideology in the universities. The following list is a summary of some of those cases which he cites in evidence. Many of these cases are complex, nuanced and with grey areas, but the detail can be found easily enough by Googling the bold type headings. (Add Jordan Peterson to search terms.) My interest is as much in the extreme reactions for and against Peterson that these cases have provoked as it is in the final right and wrong of each case. I am doubtful about some of his assertions, and I can see the logic in others, particularly where he has numbers to back them up.
- C16 and gender pronouns. JBP refused to comply with a Canadian Human Rights Bill enacted to force the use of gender pronouns specified by any individual. He was ‘no-platformed’ and threaten with dismissal because he asserted the biological basis of gender, and rejected ‘forced speech.’ “In order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive.” His stated that his objection was against authoritarian imposition, not against respect for LGBTTQQIAAP, and to state enforcement of norms, whether left or right. (Some critics claim he has mis-read the C16 Bill, which he denies.)
- ‘Fluid Gender’ Education. Peterson explicitly acknowledges biological intersex and “genuine complexity in sexual identity” (UBC The Talon) but he objects to the separation of gender into discrete components, where, for example, Junior Schools are required to inculcate a particular philosophy of identity. Cartoon characters are used to teach children that their biological sex, psychological sense of their sex, the way they dress, and their erotic feelings towards others are all independent of each other. Children are asked to check boxes to indicate “sex assigned at birth”, “gender identity”, “gender expression” and “sexual preference”which are treated as separate realms. (I have not found the origin of this story, so it may be fake.) The law now states that gender identity is something that is only determined subjectively. Peterson describes this as ‘insane’ “The first problem is that the evidence that there are biological differences between men and women is overwhelming. The vast majority of people who have a biological sex also claim that they are psychologically the same as that biological sex, so the idea that they are independent is completely insane.”
- Wilfred Laurier University incident. Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant who showed her class a video clip of Peterson talking about gender pronouns, was disciplined by the University. JPB was compared to Hitler, and Shepherd’s career was completely stalled. The University later apologised, but both she and JPB are now taking legal action against the University.
- Hostile Workplace. James Damore, a senior software engineer, was fired from Google in August 2017 after he tried to warn against an increasingly dogmatic and stifling left-wing environment by internally circulating a memo, arguing (in part) that women are not as biologically suited for coding jobs as men. Google maintained that the debate about biological gender differences was over, to the extent that it was not permissible to question the orthodox view that all gender differences are social constructs. The issue for Peterson was not whether Damore was right or wrong (some argue that his science was wrong, although Peterson supported it) but that the debate was not allowed, even internally, as it would create a ‘hostile workplace.’
- The Cathy Newman interview. This interviewe propelled Peterson to international celebrity status. As he said: “She wasn’t interviewing me, she was having a battle with a figment of her imagination.” (Peterson would say something, Newman would restate a version of what Peterson purportedly said, to make it seem as if his view is offensive, hostile, or absurd.) He regards her attitude, repeated throughout the media, as a symptom of exactly the problem he describes, – politically correct thinking that has become so deeply ‘normal’ that any challenge is simply misunderstood and incomprehensible. The Newman interview has been viewed by 30 million people. (10 million for the interview, 20 million commentaries and reviews. Peterson asserts that it would be foolish to assume that these people are all alt-right trolls, although the majority are young men.)
- YouTube lock-out. His channel, which at the time he had 350,000 subscribers. (now 1.2 million) was suspended. There was debate about whether this lock out was, or was not, a politically motivated crackdown on conservative channels, and he was re-instated.
- No-Platforming: Peterson’s opponents attempted to ban him from speaking, because “allowing free speech puts the health and well-being of trans and gender non-binary students and faculty at risk.” No platforming has other examples in the UK. Radical feminists and TERFS were denied platform at Bristol University, Germaine Greer denied a platform at Cardiff University, Peter Tatchell was no-platformed and accused of helping to incite violence against transgender people when he signed an open letter against no-platforming. As JBP states: progress requires debate.
- Gender Pay Peterson acknowledges that women pay a disproportionately high price for deciding to have children, but he believes that some significant evidence is being ignored for ideological reasons when charcaterising the gender pay gap as a function of the patriarchy. The research literature shows that there are multiple reasons for the gender pay-gap, not just oppressive patriarchy. “Men and women won’t sort themselves into the same categories if you leave them alone to do it of their own accord. We’ve already seen that in Scandinavia. It’s 20 to one female nurses to male… and approximately the same male engineers to female engineers. That’s a consequence of the free choice of men and women in the societies that have gone farther than any other societies to make gender equality the purpose of the law. Those are in-ineradicable differences. You can eradicate them with tremendous social pressure and tyranny. But if you leave men and women to make their own choices you will not get equal outcome.”
- Free Speech: University of Toronto students confirmed that they are afraid to speak or to engage in debate in class. “Today I had a tutorial at the University of Toronto where I talked about Jordan Peterson and issues of personal identity, legally sanctioned categories etc…still students were not engaging in discussion. I asked them why. One said it was because she was worried to share her opinion for fear of being singled out or saying something offensive. I asked who else was not speaking for that reason. The whole class put their hands up.” The writer claimed that this was commonplace.
- Unconscious Bias. JBP believes that the rapid adoption of the testing and training in the whole area of the ‘unconscious bias’ agenda is part of the “broader corruption of social psychology” as it is based on false premises. “Diversity training requires your perceptions to fall into accordance with their demands. Your involuntary unconscious perceptions have to be retrained.” He grounds his criticism in empirical psychological evidence: “People are categorised by novelty aversion. You can’t distinguish racial [or any other kind of] bias from novelty aversion. We can’t distinguish stereotyping from perceptual habit.”
Caveats, qualifications, and replies to specific issues.
Nicola: Irrationality and Provocation: I believe that Peterson can be careless in his throwaway utterances, and that he allows his rhetoric to carry him into areas where he is outside of his area of expertise. He may underestimate the importance of ‘minority stress’ (although he is aware of it) and of listening to those from marginalized communities who have valid fears about his arguments These throwaway lines get him into trouble, and I was puzzled as to why it seemed to happen so often to someone who says, ‘I am very careful with my words,’. I then came across a video in which says: (and I paraphrase) “You can know perfectly well what is right, without knowing why or how it is right.” In another video he says “I am not provocative. I say what I believe, and that provokes people.” And he has set out the fundamental procedure of his argument in a short poem, Wisdom. (See Footnote 1.)
I believe these statements and the poem are crucial to understanding Peterson’s own psychology, but they stray into unscientific, mystical territory, so they have had little attention even among his critics. He is intensely religious, and it seems to me that religion drives his arguments in tandem with his science. He has developed and extended a theory of symbols and mythology in religion. He believes in his own benevolent motivation, and his own extraordinary power, as a healer. He is riding a wave of intellectual celebrity the like of which I have never seen. He acknowledges that anyone who rides a 60-foot wave is likely to die, and that if he puts a foot wrong, he will fall. I believe that from time to time, for the sake of rhetorical power, he will say something he ‘knows’ to be true, even though he knows he cannot prove it, and therefore he must at the same time know that it may not be true. “People don’t need money” is a good example. Obviously wrong, but in context, he is making a religious point: He believes that meaning is centrally important to effective operation in the world. (See Footnote 1.)
I accept that this confidence in his instincts for what is right sits very uneasily with his reputation as a rational scientist who relies on evidence. I believe that it weakens his good empirical arguments when he makes them. I believe that he can be justifiably criticised for these lapses and I could not defend them. I do however recognise that they can be very powerful, and his instinctive, semi-religious utterances can convince people who do not follow his intellectual arguments – they are part of the Peterson phenomenon. I see him as much a religious figure as a social-scientist.
Nicola: Quotas and equality of outcome: I accept that quotas can redress the balance of power for oppressed minorities, but Peterson’s underlying point is that equality of outcome is not possible. We are all individuals, and the state cannot address every aspect of every individual’s oppression and victimhood. Quotas, regardless of merit, imposed by the state or by an ideology, do not solve the problem. You raise the point about Travellers for example. Lack of representation of senior Gypsy and Traveller people in Gorgio social structures has been due to many factors besides racism. It is primarily due to illiteracy, (due to voluntary lack of education, as parents take children out of school at 11 years,) voluntary exclusion from mixing with Gorgios, voluntary anonymity on the Electoral register, all these have played a part in exclusion of Gypsies and Travellers. You could argue with some justification that racism may lie at the root of all these handicaps, but quotas would not address any of the issues involved.
The characterisation of Gypsy and Traveller women as oppressed has similar difficulties. Gypsy cultures are invariably presented as ruled by tradition and machismo. Women are presented as helpless victims, especially when it comes to gendered forms of violence. Some of this is racism related (they do not want to bring criticism on their culture which is always under attack) – but much of it is voluntary – the Gypsy women I know state that they prefer traditional gendered roles. They would rather do the cooking and cleaning and child-rearing than laying tarmac, landscaping, and scrap-metal dealing. They regard their status as very much improved in the last generation, for which they are grateful, and traditional gender roles are part of their identity, so they are reluctant to surrender that identity to Gorgio ideology, thank you very much. (I realise there are big questions here, about education and anthropology in particular, but I won’t go into that here.)
Nicola: Anti-Feminism: He is careful on this point. He is not anti-feminist, but he questions certain aspects of ‘3rd wave’ or modern feminism, in particular the assertion that history has been a continuous and oppressive patriarchal hierarchy. He acknowledges that all hierarchies tend to corruption, that all hierarchies are about power, and that most people tend to accumulate at the bottom of the hierarchy, subject to the power of those above them. If people move up the hierarchy on the basis of power, rather than competence, then the hierarchy is corrupt. He disagrees with the presumption that all hierarchies are oppressive, and argues that historically they have also been co-operative, based on choice, consent, competence and biology, not just on male power. Attempts at egalitarianism produce hierarchies with the same characteristics as those which evolve naturally. (Some feminists who believe that gender is purely a social construct condemn that assertion.) According to Peterson, about 8% of British women identify as feminists, but feminist ideology now dominates Humanities faculties and some media outlets, without the consent of the majority. His underlying position is that 50 years after the birth control pill liberated women from being tied to reproductive and domestic functions, we have still not yet worked out a proper functional new relationship satisfactory to both (or all) genders. He points out that evolving norms are generating confusion and mixed signals, and that women play a role in sexualizing work environments, for example. One analysis by a conservative writer on feminism, Cathy Young, notes: “We have rejected traditional sexist proprieties that forbade coarse language in front of “the ladies,” yet a man can now be fired for telling a crude joke that offends a female co-worker. Calling women “the weaker sex” would be considered shockingly retrograde, yet ambivalent sexual encounters are easily recast as violations of women, with men presumed entirely responsible for ensuring consent. Workplace romances abound, yet flirting could be one step away from someone’s idea of sexual harassment. Most feminist discourse spends too much time bashing men for trivial transgressions. For all its successes, contemporary feminism’s main message to men is not one of equal partnership. Rather, it’s: Repent, abase yourself, and be an obedient feminist ally — and we still won’t trust you. It’s no wonder that Peterson has found an eager audience in this climate. If feminists don’t like his message, they should offer a better one. “
Nicola: Non-recognition of social justice and progressive movements. He has spoken very clearly about the negative effects of income inequality on mental and physical health, homicide and other crime, literacy, obesity, creativity, social mobility and infant mortality. He outlines very clearly and in detail the hopelessness and intense stress that results from poverty and low status, and which produces these effects. He points out the clear relationship between poverty and depression, obesity, cancer, and the psychological causes and effects of these high stress-conditions. The stress produced by living in an unequal society is so overwhelming that even people at the top of the dominance hierarchy have shortened life expectancy. He has broadcast on the subject of the necessary eradication of absolute poverty, and the mitigation of relative poverty, by wealth re-distribution. He asserts that the stability and safety and opportunity in our communities is of major importance, and should be taken into account when measuring ‘wealth.’ Peterson has consistently argued that part of the value that people on the Left bring to society, especially creative people with high openness to experience, is that they are able to challenge existing structures and improve them. He argues that the primary function of the state is to ensure that the rules of society are inclusive, fair, and proper so that everyone can ‘play the game’ and no-one is disenfranchised. It is mis-characterisation to say that he is ignorant or careless of those who suffer in poverty or oppression. It is his business to address those issues, and he has done so in detail.
Simon Kirkwood. Anti-Progressive. As I said in my Facebook reply, I do not believe that Peterson’s broad argument lumps together all progressive ideologies, although the thumbnail video you posted does him no favours in this respect. He clearly believes in progress through debate, and has beliefs and values that are clearly classically liberal progressive – separation of church and state, equality of opportunity, gun control, for example. He thinks abortion should be legal, but should be avoided if possible. He warned against a vengeful response to 9/11 as risking a ‘cycle of terror.’ He affirms that men and women are essentially the same, with some differences in temperament, but they have equal intelligence and should have equal opportunity. He has no proclivities for or against LGBTQ+ people. I would describe him as a left-leaning centrist, with some traditional values.
You are correct that he does have a prejudice against radical political movements, which he studied over a long period, but he opposes authoritarian elements of both the left and the right, which seek to control speech, belief and behaviour. So, when he heard about compelled speech, it really didn’t matter who was compelling him, he resisted, because resisting totalitarianism was his life’s work and interest. He has repeatedly stated that he has no problem with people choosing their own pronouns, and out of personal respect he would use them. His objection was to the state forcing him to do so. His conflict with the authoritarian left has been more prevalent because he is in a local context, academia, that is very left-leaning. His critique of ‘social-justice warriors’ has been based more on his study of the relationship between personality and political belief. It focuses on the authoritianism of their form of political correctness, rather than denying the injustices they seek to correct.
He is strongly critical of alt-right anti-Semitism. He was tormented by what happened to the Jews in Europe, and the hundred million people who died under Stalin and Mao ‘in the name of Utopia. He argues for genuine multi-culturalism, not tribalism. “It turns out we don’t fit into one group, any of us, we fit into multiple groups and it’s not obvious at all which groups should be of paramount importance,” he said, noting that people can be divided by race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic class, intelligence, personality, etc. He sees the individual as the most important entity. When group-identity politics disappears, we “meet soul to soul, so to speak, and we meet in a situation where we hold sole responsibility for our actions. Meeting the individual as an individual and not as a member of a certain group allows for real multiculturalism, instead of dangerous tribalism. “
As one commentator said: “Basically Dr. Peterson is fighting for freedom of expression without limits and resisting the establishment of a violent, holy and righteous thought police with force of law. That’s about as Left Wing as you can get. He is angry at the Left who are supposed to create a haven for open-minded thinkers, and who are instead shutting down open dialog at that extreme a level (legislating compelled speech”.
In summary, as regards him being anti-progressive, he says “I’ve studied Nazism for four decades, and I understand it very well. And I can tell you there are some awful people lurking in the corners, and they’re ready to come out. And if the radical left keeps pushing the way it’s pushing, they’re going to come.”
Footnote 1. Wisdom, a poem.
I believe this poem is a key to understanding many of Peterson’s pronouncements. I believe this is his motivation and provides an intuitive but coherent sequence which he follows in developing his arguments. This poem explins why and how free speech and telling the truth is at the critical centre of his thought, and is not merely aspects of a ‘self-help formula’ as characterised by some critics. This poem is why I excuse some of his throwaway, unscientific and unsupported comments, – like a shaman, he ‘knows’ them to be true although he does not know why, and he is motivated by love in order to put an end to suffering.
I believe this may also explain his anger. Hhe believes himself to be a force for good, and yet like Cassandra, who always spoke the truth but was condemned never to be believed, he is constantly characterised by the egalitarian left, (his natural home) as evil and wicked. This would make even a saint angry. I believe he should be seen, at least in part, as a shamanic/religious/spiritual leader, even though he is not sure if he even believes in God, and not just as a psychologist or cultural commentator which is where most of his critics place him. If I am correct, this would of course undermine his position among intellectuals, but may strengthen his appeal among everyone else. (i.e. about 85% of the population.)
Wisdom, a poem by Jordan Peterson.
Life is suffering.
Love is the desire to see unnecessary suffering ameliorated.
Truth is the handmaiden of love.
Dialogue is the pathway to truth.
Humility is recognition of personal insufficiency and the willingness to learn.
To learn is to die voluntarily and be born again, in great ways and small.
So speech must be untrammelled, so that dialogue can take place.
So that we can all humbly learn.
So that truth can serve love.
So that suffering can be ameliorated.So that we can all stumble forward to the Kingdom of God.
Peterson’s experience as a clinical psychologist exposed him to extremes of human suffering- broken lives, suicides, addictions, psychosis, and depression. From that, in part, he derives his starting point that all life is suffering.
Peterson is a serious student of Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Jung. He believes that Nietzsche’s uncannily accutate prediction of ‘all hell breaking loose’ was because he was grounded in his deep imagination, and so got wind of the idological currents in society long before most people. I suggest that Peterson has great confidence in his own intuition, and his clinical practice has demsontarted his capacity as a healer. His obsessional preoccupation with nightmares of totalitarian genocide has troubled him, and his critique of the dominance of relativist philosophy arises from his intuitive, apocalyptic certainty that if it continues, ‘all hell will break loose.’ He has no doubt that Nazism was a religious transformation, not merely a political ideology, in which the state became an alternative or a substiture to God. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8u0CEvqEY
Peterson feels compelled to warn people, at some risk to himself, of impending disaster. This conviction gives him the confidence and power of an old-time preacher, and I believe supports the suggestion that Peterson’s power is that of the Shaman.
Footnote 2. – Personal Bias.
The Case of composer George Lloyd
I am an aged white male, married to the same person for several decades, highly educated, generally successful in some aspects of business, and so comfortably off. Highly privileged, in other words. (I guess most people reading this are the same, but who knows?) I do not believe that my privilege invalidates my opinions, although it certainly colours them, but readers must decide that for themselves.
Since Donald Trump was elected – which I correctly predicted the day he announced his candidacy – I have taken a lot more interest in politics. I detested Trump from the start for his blatant lies, and since then I have come to detest him further, for a lot more reasons. My interest in American politics led me to Peterson’s analysis of the cultural hegemony of the Universities, which immediately attracted my interest because it chimes exactly with my own experience of British academia. I accept that I am therefore very biased toward Peterson’s analysis, so my views on Peterson are based partly on my anecdotal evidence of post-modernist ideology in action.
I have set out the detail of my own 30-year struggle with academic orthodoxy in a separate Blog entry, so that my bias can be seen in this context, although the direct relevance to Peterson is tenuous. It is a fairly specialist topic, and concerns a three-way stich up between Marxist post-modernist academics, the BBC programmers, and the classical music publishers.