An unserious scholar
April 7, 2019 10:49 AM   Subscribe

The Barely Hidden Flaws in Jordan Peterson's Scholarship "Simply reading the books you find in the religion section of your local used bookstore does not make you a religious scholar, no matter how many YouTube videos you post." [SLMedium]
posted by heatherlogan (94 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
 
Nice to have an actual scholar take him apart. I've summarized my impressions of 12 Rules before, but the part that's relevant here: Jordan basically says, "My interpretation of the Bible comes to exactly the same conclusions as my interpretation of evolution, which is a miraculous coincidence that proves I'm right!"
posted by clawsoon at 11:19 AM on April 7 [23 favorites]


It's basically the religious studies version of evo- psych.

I liked this bit:

But it is precisely the imbalance of power that distinguishes the institution of patriarchal rule from its alternatives. For this reason, it can be useful to replace these gendered concepts with what Riane Eisler has termed “dominator” versus “partnership” cultures.

The question occurs to me whether it can be shown that matriarchal societies are less oppressive to men than patriarchal societies are to women. But I suspect n to be pretty small in the former case.
posted by klanawa at 11:26 AM on April 7 [1 favorite]


As we have seen across our culture of late, influence trumps facts.
posted by gwint at 11:27 AM on April 7 [3 favorites]


of late?
posted by slater at 11:46 AM on April 7 [9 favorites]


I'm glad to see someone dunking on Peterson based on his own scholarly ineptitude ("It is no doubt partly because of a general ignorance of myth and religious symbolism that Peterson’s ideas seem brilliant to people who have never encountered his source material." -- USDA Prime shade), but I worry that we're fighting an uphill battle. In the three weeks it likely took Emily Pothast to put together this (devastating, would-be-career-ending-for-anyone-without-a-million-Youtube-followers) takedown, I'll bet Peterson has put out three more Youtube videos, attracting more intellectually and emotionally stunted young men to his cause than will ever be dissuaded by someone patiently pointing out why this man is a charlatan. It's kind of like the problem with reporting on Trump's pathological lying: in the time it takes you to debunk today's obvious lie, he's made three more, and no one on the alt-right has the attention span needed to listen to someone explain why the absurd things you just heard aren't true.

I'm starting to think that Egg Boi had the only proper approach to contemporary proto-fascists.
posted by Mayor West at 11:48 AM on April 7 [81 favorites]


Though Peterson has the advantage that, should anybody meticulously debunk him from a position of scholarly advantage, he can just turn around and dismiss their criticism with a magical incantation: “Postmodern Marxism”. Because that is an absurd, meaningless phrase (Marxism is the very model of the sort of overarching grand narrative postmodernism dismissed), it is a blob that devours meaning and against which there is no rational defence, whilst also sticking to the target like napalm and marking them out for attacks from the alt-right.
posted by acb at 11:51 AM on April 7 [27 favorites]


("It is no doubt partly because of a general ignorance of myth and religious symbolism that Peterson’s ideas seem brilliant to people who have never encountered his source material." -- USDA Prime shade)

I love a good academic expansion for something like "a dumb person's idea of a smart person."
posted by rhizome at 11:52 AM on April 7 [44 favorites]


.....his understanding relies heavily on a handful of early- to mid-20th century authors like Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell—three popularizers of myth who share, as religious scholar Robert Ellwood put it, “intellectual roots in the antimodern pessimism and romanticism that helped give rise to European fascism.”

I used to love Eliade, but I found out that his involvement with fascism went a bit beyond what one might apologize for as a youthful flirtation. Now his whole project seems tainted to me - I can't shake the doubt that it's an elaborate Trojan Horse for Blood and Soil. I don't know why, but I feel that way about his work even more so than Heidegger's.
posted by thelonius at 11:59 AM on April 7 [13 favorites]


Peterson's schtick is just largely boring and self serving. I've heard a bunch of his interviews, many from sympathetic hosts who will sign off on any claim he makes. There's almost always a part of the interview when Peterson will say something like...

"Based on my deep reading of Pinocchio we can see that he needs to enter the belly of the whale in order to confront his own id and overcome the oedopian shackles of his quasi-father figure, Gepetto. After he leaves Pleasure Island, therefore symbolically putting away the toys of boyhood, he must rise up and embrace his own manhood as symbolized by Jiminy Cricket. He must stop lying to himself and embrace his masculinity...

...Look it says it right there in in X-men #25, when Magneto wrenches the adamantium out of Wolverine's skeleton it's just like the climax of any Campbellian journey when the protagonist must sanctify his transition into warriorhood by stripping away his old support system and wander the desert with only his own bones and sinew as a means of aggression...

...It's really just like the story of Tommy, the Green Ranger, who must learn to fuse his own superego and id into a kwisatz haderach-like amalgam of Yin and Yang. Only then can you really call yourself a Power Ranger...

...It's essentially the same as when Ash used the Raiden Stone to evolve Pikachu into a Raichu and then couldn't control the cockier, stronger Pokemon. In this case, the Raiden Stone is allegorically puberty and Raichu is the young man who hasn't learned to control his new physical/sexual prowess. In this case Ash represents both a father figure and a sexual rival who much learn to control his own needs before he and Raichu can work together to overcome the crypto-marxist-matriarchy in this case depicted as Team Rocket...
"

::long silence::

And then Joe Rogan is like,
"Totally. Totally... Dude that reminds me of the time I took some DMT and talked to a tree."

The interviewers will generally agree with him because his statements aren't really falsifiable when he talks about myths. It's just stuff that he reckons and slots into a story he likes.
posted by Telf at 12:07 PM on April 7 [90 favorites]


I'll bet Peterson has put out three more Youtube videos, attracting more intellectually and emotionally stunted young men to his cause than will ever be dissuaded by someone patiently pointing out why this man is a charlatan.

Huh. I don't know if you read to the end of the article, but she goes out of her way to state that she sees value in his work generally and thinks he's had (some) positive influence:

All that said, I do not believe that everyone who has been helped by Peterson’s fatherly counsel is totally deluded—at least not insurmountably. There is value in standing up straight with your shoulders back; it just can’t necessarily be read as a primal decree from ancient Mesopotamia. The cult of capitalism dictates that competitiveness is hardwired into us to the exclusion of all other virtues, but there is also evidence that our ability to share and cooperate has played a formative role in our evolutionary development. One of Peterson’s strengths is that he understands how confirmation bias and unconscious motivations structure our belief systems, at least in theory. When he fails, it’s because he has forgotten to turn this wisdom on himself.

It is possible, however, to get something of value from Jordan Peterson’s self-help advice before moving on. Despite his flawed conclusions, Peterson has captured a rapt audience of young people who are now interested in the possibilities that religion and mythology have to offer, making staunch atheists like Sam Harris look dull and unimaginative by comparison.


I don't think her purpose is to "end the career" of a "charlatan", it's to point out deep flaws and limits in his scholarship and to poke a big ol' (well deserved) hole in the idea that he's a brilliant, original thinker.

("It is no doubt partly because of a general ignorance of myth and religious symbolism that Peterson’s ideas seem brilliant to people who have never encountered his source material." -- USDA Prime shade)

I love a good academic expansion for something like "a dumb person's idea of a smart person."


I think it's less stupidity than ignorance. Most people don't know much about myth and religious symbolism, this is precisely why popularizers - even well-intentioned and well-read in the literature - can have outsized and sometimes problematic effects on how the public views their chosen field. It's how you get Yuval Noah Harari being raised - somewhat to his own surprise, if you can believe his interviews - to the status of a guru, when he basically wrote a moderately interesting summation of "stuff knowledgeable people have figured out about human history" followed by a moderately frightening summation of "stuff knowledgeable people think may be coming down the pipe". Peterson revels in the role, at least from what I've seen of him, whereas Harari doesn't seem to find it particularly comfortable, but the space they occupy is there to be occupied because most people in this country are offered an increasingly bare-bones educational experience followed by a work-life balance that doesn't exactly encourage taking off hours to rummage gleefully through the local community college library for this stuff themselves.
posted by AdamCSnider at 12:10 PM on April 7 [34 favorites]


Helen Lewis, who interviewed Peterson for GQ late last year said something interesting in her recent Intelligence Squared conversation with Rutger Bregman.

I'm paraphrasing here, but she mentioned how when people become public figures they have the tension of sycophantic fans on one side and "anti-fans" who constantly berate them. It's very hard not to get pulled in the comfortable direction of your supporters. Largely because of the poor packaging of twitter, it's very easy to dismiss largely performative attacks against you. (By performative, I mean criticisms that are designed to play well and to your own social media base.)

If you don't constantly challenge your tendency to gravitate away from criticism you might find yourself going into a dark tunnel. She called Peterson a parody version of his original self. Now that he has an easy groove to stick with, why would he revise his beliefs?
posted by Telf at 12:20 PM on April 7 [10 favorites]


She called Peterson a parody version of his original self.

the thing is... his 'original self' was no great shakes as a scholar, either
posted by halation at 12:28 PM on April 7 [21 favorites]


Yeah, he didn't quite burst onto the scene with a promising debut. But he is a legitimate professor, he is probably a subject matter expert on aspects of clinical psychology and was by all accounts a popular professor.

His views have become more ossified and reliably oppositional against what he perceives to be the cultural Marxist hegemony. Now that he has a persecution complex, and though not entirely unwarranted, the chance of him breaking out becomes slimmer and slimmer.

(When I say unwarranted, I mean that he probably receives loads of aggressive messages and mentions that put him in a defensive crouch with his back against a safe corner. That isn't a defense of his views, just saying that public life can get ugly.)
posted by Telf at 12:33 PM on April 7 [4 favorites]


I think it's less stupidity than ignorance.

On the other hand, the reason why Peterson is so popular is that he provides validation of the regressive world view of his audience: Look, here is a person who sounds smart and who has academic credentials, and he believes what I do. My views are scientific and rational!

The hypocrisy inherent in his fanboys' adoration of him is, of course, that they see the academic credentials of his critics to be evidence of irrational bias; they're just part of the sjw postmodern neomarxist feminazi establishment, and are probably cucks too. It doesn't really matter who is better spoken, who has more expertise, or whose argument is more coherent and well-founded. What matters is that you like what you're being told.

Peterson is not really a popularizer in the sense of Pinker (who I think is also often quite odious). Pinker became famous through publishing very successful books. While his regressive politics have always been visible, and this might have increased his appeal among some readers, they weren't the reason for his fame. Peterson, on the other hand, became famous for being an asshole about trans people on Youtube, and it snowballed from there. He is famous because he is a symbol of the crusade against "political correctness".

I think that's pretty stupid, personally.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:37 PM on April 7 [36 favorites]


Yeah, he didn't quite burst onto the scene with a promising debut. But he is a legitimate professor, he is probably a subject matter expert on aspects of clinical psychology and was by all accounts a popular professor.

I am no expert, but a friend of mine (and a very quiet mefite) is a clinical psychiatrist with a pair of doctorates on his wall. I look upon him as an expert, and his views on Peterson are... less than maximally generous.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:50 PM on April 7 [20 favorites]


I look upon him as an expert, and his views on Peterson are... less than maximally generous.

Yeah, I can definitely believe that. Honestly, if I walked into a clinical therapist's office and he started talking about how I need to defeat Enkidu in battle before I can marry Ishtar, I'd probably want my $200 back.
posted by Telf at 12:56 PM on April 7 [14 favorites]


I was Jordan Peterson’s strongest supporter. Now I think he’s dangerous, by the colleague who did the most to get Peterson hired at the University of Toronto, is worth a re-read in the discussion of his academic credentials, strengths, and weaknesses:
Jordan was a captivating lecturer — electric and eclectic — cherry-picking from neuroscience, mythology, psychology, philosophy, the Bible and popular culture. The class loved him. But, as reported by that one astute student, Jordan presented conjecture as statement of fact. I expressed my concern to him about this a number of times, and each time Jordan agreed. He acknowledged the danger of such practices, but then continued to do it again and again, as if he could not control himself.

He was a preacher more than a teacher.
posted by clawsoon at 12:58 PM on April 7 [69 favorites]


Just finished that Toronto Star article posted by clawsoon. It's very good.

Sort of confirms a lot of suspicions I had about Peterson's origin story.
posted by Telf at 1:14 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


Seconding clawsoon’s link. Thanks for that!
posted by Barack Spinoza at 1:55 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


performative attacks [...] criticisms that are designed to play well and to your own social media base

Now that's a useful phrase for the ol' mental toolbox.
posted by Leon at 2:03 PM on April 7 [5 favorites]




subject matter expert on aspects of clinical psychology

I forget which metric it was but people were crowing about Peterson's academic impact in terms of citations. I looked it up. It was almost identical to... Andrew Wakefield's. Compared to someone like Noam Chomsky? An utter nobody.

#notthatitmatters
posted by klanawa at 2:36 PM on April 7 [8 favorites]


I forget which metric it was but people were crowing about Peterson's academic impact in terms of citations. I looked it up. It was almost identical to... Andrew Wakefield's. Compared to someone like Noam Chomsky? An utter nobody.

Citation numbers (or journal impact factors or counting first author papers or...) is rarely a useful metric, especially across disciplines, but something that perennially gets used as a gotcha of Metafilter.* I'm sure Wakefield's citation numbers are actually quite impressive (making this comparison even more pointless)--being a fraud who causes public health problems is one way to rack up a lot of citations!

*My favorite was the time when people were opining about the number of first author papers someone in math had. Mathematicians alphabetise. Being called Adams doesn't make you a better mathematician than being called Zhang, but it sure gets you more first author papers.
posted by hoyland at 2:51 PM on April 7 [17 favorites]


Yeah, that was kind of my point.
posted by klanawa at 2:58 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


That Peterson is has done work in clinical psychology says nothing. It's like saying James Watson did work in genetics. It actually proves by example that despite one's training, discipline and institutional selection one can still be very wrong about things. The French call this observation Déformation professionnelle.
posted by polymodus at 2:59 PM on April 7 [15 favorites]


Slavoj Zizek to debate Jordan Peterson later this month

Whoever wins...we lose.
posted by AdamCSnider at 3:03 PM on April 7 [43 favorites]


I listen to a bit of Zizek and in fact I'm going over his recent talk at Cambridge. It will be interesting to see if and how he deviates from his prior written criticism of Peterson. On the few debates I've seen, Zizek is great in an unfair kind of way. He gets at a root of why his opponents are mistaken, but because they aren't trained in philosophy they can't analytically engage on the same terms.
posted by polymodus at 3:24 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


I have been ignoring this man. I spent a lot of time back in the day engaging with fans of people like Daniel Dennett and Michael Behe when intelligent design was flying its flag, and I learned that it was pointless. You cannot develop an argument with such people, and they cannot develop their ideas, because any application of skeptical thinking is like piss on candyfloss.

Spot them, avoid them, and only if you have to deal with some personal shit connected with their ideas should you bother to engage.
posted by Devonian at 3:34 PM on April 7 [13 favorites]


But consider the sex life of the lobster.
posted by nofundy at 4:04 PM on April 7 [6 favorites]


That Peterson is has done work in clinical psychology says nothing. It's like saying James Watson did work in genetics. It actually proves by example that despite one's training, discipline and institutional selection one can still be very wrong about things. The French call this observation Déformation professionnelle.

Ask research psychologists what their opinions are of clinical psychology's academic quality.
posted by srboisvert at 4:06 PM on April 7 [4 favorites]


Absolute certainty in too large a breadth of knowledge is strong evidence of wrongness at most of it.

When I attended college 40+ years ago, the flaws in academia were just beginning to become evident, and mostly to those of us who changed majors a couple times. The "anti-Marxists" in Economics were becoming more absurd than the Marxists infecting other fields, and their spread (supported by moneyed interests) seemed inevitable. And so they have become.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:17 PM on April 7 [5 favorites]


Aren't there orders of magnitude more Marxist psychoanalysts than Marxist economists these days?
posted by acb at 4:24 PM on April 7


Peterson sure seems to be filtering the world and his source material through the temperament he's more or less psychologically equipped with. On balance, that filter seems pretty Lakoff-ian strict father to me (the world is dangerous, you need to get strong). So I wouldn't be surprised to find evidence of that in his scholarship.

But there's several arguments in this piece that seem pretty iffy to me.

The big one is this: when it comes to stories like the Enuma Elish, is the intention the text? And if so, does that *stop* it from being an expression of mythos at time of writing? That seems to be the implication with characterization of the EE as a revolutionary pamphlet vs transgenerational archetypical story, but the idea that the text is captive to the author's intention or solely reflects it is not one I'd imagine is going to find unchallenged purchase as a fundamental academic approach.

I can buy the idea that context matters, and if I reviewed relevant scholarship, I might even be convinced that the EE was assembled as propaganda. But texts have a way of taking on a life of their own, are inevitably sourced from mythos, and even axe-grindy authors end up producing surprising results from their text, so Rand's The Fountainhead ends up functioning primarily (in my opinion) as a warning against selling out in spite of her uber-capitalist values, Pullman's Dark Materials series has some sublimely religious mythology in spite of being pointedly anti-religious.

Now if the EE is in fact solidly established as primarily patriarchal/political propaganda (and I have no idea what the strength of that case is, as it's supported in this piece by citing ), well, obviously that's a problem if it's the main foundation of the philosophy Peterson is presenting. But Peterson's sourcing is clearly broader. OK, maybe in his sourcing and conclusions across egyptian and greek/roman and judeo christian mythology and modern psych/neuroscience have the same problems he has with the EE. But then again, when I've heard him draw conclusions from that story, they seem to be largely about the value of attention and logos expressed as speech, and less about the merits of a literal patriarchy, so it's not at all clear to me the propaganda is the part he's selecting for.

The assumption that Peterson is selling the patriarchy through the EE seems to extend to other collapsed conceptions of Peterson's oeuvre. If, for example, she meant for the "Long before Marduk..." paragraph to present EE contrasting mythology that Peterson should consider as an alternative to patriarchal propaganda, Peterson himself relays stories of a yearly mesopotamian ritual where the monarch underwent group scrutiny, engage in “fit for her holy lap" stuff. If in saying "it is not chaos, but our fear and visceral disgust toward the idea of chaos" she means to set up a contrast to a conception of chaos as purely negative force only controlled by "subjugating it through hierarchical dominance", then she doesn't understand Peterson's conception of chaos, under which it is not only a source of threats but also of potential renewal or transcendence, and the important task is more or less surfing on the boundary of chaos and order rather than utterly subjugating/containing it (if such a thing were even possible).

I don't want to pin all the misunderstanding on that front on Peterson's critics rather than Peterson himself. He's done a lot in leaning into an audience that also elevates him less on critical engagement with his work than, as Kutsuwamushi says, how they think that work can be used to validate their worldview, and in so doing has earned some of the suspicion and criticism he gets. Also doing things like treating masculinity and femininity as psychological symbols has huuuuge communicative hazards in the current era, whatever the merits, and without being circumspect about that (a virtue that does not seem to come easily to Dr. Peterson) invoking that approach is probably going mean you'll hit the hazards.

There's more I could say about the article, but this is already more effort than I wanted to put forward on a Sunday afternoon for an audience that is less likely to be less friendly to criticism of criticism of Peterson than criticism of Peterson, so I'm going to stop, but I'll just say that as critical as I am, I *am* glad to see more academic challenges to Peterson. This one is way better than the "Jordan Peterson isn't actually saying anything" nonsense that went around a while back, but isn't my favorite so far (the one his former colleague wrote, linked up thread, is pretty devastating, and I also like "Jordan Peterson Doesn't Understand Postmodernism). But I'll dig into Pothast's case a little deeper and maybe I'll learn something that'll change my mind about it.

(Oh, that and I'd love to hear the criticism of ricochet biscuit's mefite friend if they can be summoned.)
posted by wildblueyonder at 5:12 PM on April 7 [9 favorites]


Devonian: I spent a lot of time back in the day engaging with fans of people like Daniel Dennett and Michael Behe when intelligent design was flying its flag.
Huh? Daniel Dennet is a well-known philosopher and defender of evolution. Perhaps you meant someone else?
posted by monotreme at 5:18 PM on April 7 [7 favorites]


(Oh, that and I'd love to hear the criticism of ricochet biscuit's mefite friend if they can be summoned.)

Believe me, I have tried. He is a pretty busy fellow and insists that while he is sure he would enjoy being on the blue regularly, he is worried that he would enjoy being on the blue regularly, to the detriment of his other activities. He signed up after he tagged along to a meetup with me and enjoyed the company, but he has never been very active.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:33 PM on April 7


Slavoj Zizek to debate Jordan Peterson later this month
Whoever wins...we lose.

That's not necessarily true. They could both evolve into their final form on the podium, and tear each other's heads off before the moderator is able to summon anyone with tranquilizer darts.
posted by Mayor West at 5:34 PM on April 7 [23 favorites]


Then there's what he excuses (because it's the fault of women) on a for-profit basis:

Recently, a young man named Alek Minassian drove through Toronto trying to kill people with his van. Ten were killed, and he has been charged with first-degree murder for their deaths, and with attempted murder for 16 people who were injured. Mr. Minassian declared himself to be part of a misogynist group whose members call themselves incels. The term is short for “involuntary celibates,” though the group has evolved into a male supremacist movement made up of people — some celibate, some not — who believe that women should be treated as sexual objects with few rights. Some believe in forced “sexual redistribution,” in which a governing body would intervene in women’s lives to force them into sexual relationships.

Violent attacks are what happens when men do not have partners, Mr. Peterson says, and society needs to work to make sure those men are married.

“He was angry at God because women were rejecting him,” Mr. Peterson says of the Toronto killer. “The cure for that is enforced monogamy. That’s actually why monogamy emerges.”

Mr. Peterson does not pause when he says this. Enforced monogamy is, to him, simply a rational solution. Otherwise women will all only go for the most high-status men, he explains, and that couldn’t make either gender happy in the end.


Last fall, a friend of mine was recovering from surgery at a well-known Toronto rehab hospital. While visiting my friend, I encountered one of the victims of the Toronto van attack. She was getting out and about on the grounds, and, from a respectful distance, looked like she was doing pretty well (physically) all things considered - in her 80s, she lost both of her legs above the knee when she was run over by the van attacker.

And what does Peterson care? He's making bank excusing it. And if the whole guru for white supremacists and incels thing doesn't work out and his Patreon funding dries up and his books stop selling, he can keep collecting his six-figure tenured paycheque from U of T.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:17 PM on April 7 [57 favorites]


But texts have a way of taking on a life of their own

They actually don't. Texts are inanimate, but they have a way of being filtered, interpreted and repurposed by people with concrete objectives. To ascribe motives to words, divorced from the intentions of their writers, is to rewrite them as fiction.

I can buy the idea that context matters, and if I reviewed relevant scholarship, I might even be convinced that the EE was assembled as propaganda.

Right. To translate, if you accept the historical context and original intent of the text, you wouldn't feel comfortable imparting your own meaning to it, because that would be dishonest. On the other hand, if you imply discarded established historical (or scientific -- whatever) facts and substitute your own premises, you can use those as the foundation of a new (and entirely circular) rational framework. (This is what the article is about, of course.)

Like, if we accept the historical evidence that a particular text establishes a divine hierarchy to make a contemporary political hierarchy more palatable to its subjects, we're kind of locked in to a particular set of interpretations. But if we simply throw that out, we can make it mean whatever we want.

And the critiques of Peterson ultimately revolve around, "what does he want?" because, as far as I can tell, the expert consensus concerning his intellectual failures is pretty much uniform.
posted by klanawa at 6:20 PM on April 7 [10 favorites]


Does Peterson read Babylonian? I generally don’t trust anyone interpreting a text that they can not read. Translations don’t count. He is more likely interpreting a modern English text purporting to be an accurate representation of an ancient text, though he has no credentials to judge the accuracy of the translation. Philology is a necessary tool to interpret ancient texts.
posted by njohnson23 at 6:25 PM on April 7 [11 favorites]


acb: Though Peterson has the advantage that, should anybody meticulously debunk him from a position of scholarly advantage, he can just turn around and dismiss their criticism with a magical incantation: “Postmodern Marxism”. Because that is an absurd, meaningless phrase (Marxism is the very model of the sort of overarching grand narrative postmodernism dismissed)

On a lighter note: anyone who's sat in a graduate students' pub and listened to Marxists and postmodernists go at it - hammer and tongs - over pitchers of beer knows this all too well, and will readily conclude Peterson's rambling on this is absurd on its very face, and indicative of his deep-seated ignorance.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:38 PM on April 7 [10 favorites]


"anyone who's sat in a graduate students' pub and listened to Marxists and postmodernists go at it"

I'm curious; can any bartenders here tell us which group tips better? I genuinely want to know. I feel like the answer to that question will be more insightful than Peterson will ever be.*

* The answer to that question really doesn't matter. I'm still curious.
posted by el io at 8:39 PM on April 7 [6 favorites]


I'm curious; can any bartenders here tell us which group tips better?

Neither. And I’d bet my Saturday night tips that Jordan doesn’t tip either.
posted by valkane at 8:48 PM on April 7 [9 favorites]


It's weird to read people discuss the academic merit of a transphobic alt-right idol.
posted by Memo at 9:18 PM on April 7 [29 favorites]


I'm paraphrasing here, but she mentioned how when people become public figures they have the tension of sycophantic fans on one side and "anti-fans" who constantly berate them. It's very hard not to get pulled in the comfortable direction of your supporters. Largely because of the poor packaging of twitter, it's very easy to dismiss largely performative attacks against you. (By performative, I mean criticisms that are designed to play well and to your own social media base.)

It's one of the big problems of the internet generally. Anyone who writes and gets any amount of attention gets regular amounts of worthlessly stupid and hostile criticism. The filters you develop to deal with that make it very hard to notice and engage with substantive criticism unless it's coming from someone you already trust to some extent.
posted by straight at 10:27 PM on April 7 [6 favorites]


There is value in standing up straight with your shoulders back

I dunno; is there?
posted by tummy_rub at 10:31 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


I used to love Eliade, but I found out that his involvement with fascism went a bit beyond what one might apologize for as a youthful flirtation. Now his whole project seems tainted to me - I can't shake the doubt that it's an elaborate Trojan Horse for Blood and Soil.

I'm working through similar feelings surrounding a youthful enthusiasm for Joseph Campbell and Camille Paglia. Was their work always a stalking horse for fascism? And was I just unaware of it at the time, or willing to excuse the implications?

It's making me think a lot recently.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 11:19 PM on April 7 [5 favorites]


straight,
It's one of my biggest fears about the radicalizing effect of the internet in general. As you said, this is not isolated to people like Peterson; anyone past a certain threshold of notoriety falls into this trap. It has a very ugly influence on people regardless of their political leanings.

Somebody in this thread will probably make a comment about how criticism of Peterson isn't worthlessly stupid or hostile, but this really isn't just about Peterson.

I think Twitter is the best example of how the medium is the message. Tweets are tiny chunks of interaction that are just long enough to bludgeon any nuance of thought. They really only serve to impress people who already agree with you or enrage people who dislike or fear you. They are the perfect kindling for burning bridges that could lead to reconciliation.

Again, this doesn't have to be about Peterson. I can think of multiple people from different ends of the political spectrum who get pushed into their corners when masses of angry netizens descend upon them.

Boring caveats and premptions:
*No I am not equivocating the far right with the activist left so please don't act as if that was my intent. This is solely an observation about the radicalizing effect of online interaction especially when done in a public setting where the lines are already drawn.
** No I'm not saying anybody needs to reconcile their views with Peterson. Anyone is entitled to think he's odious or dangerous.
*** I know Peterson's preferred medium is Youtube, where he has enough rope to layout his exact beliefs in detail. I'm not talking about how he spreads his ideas, I'm talking about how we engage with those ideas and the effect of our conversations on the figures who espouse them.
posted by Telf at 11:27 PM on April 7 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: like piss on candyfloss. This is my new favourite expression.

What the story of Jordan Peterson shows, I think, is that many more scholars need to get out and share their knowledge in an engaging way. Before him, who would have thought that a professor with some obscure interests could become a Youtube celebrity? There is a huge thirst for scholars who talk about the existential life questions - many more scholars should be doing it, from their own point of view, more honestly than Peterson. Unless people find something better than Peterson, they will continue crowding around him.

This is also, I believe, how you defeat a charlatan. Pointing out his errors is not enough, you have to give him some competition, drown him in quality material. If there was a dozen similarly well-known scholars doing the same thing, he wouldn't be nearly as influential. Now, for a large part of the public, there's Peterson and nothing else.
posted by Termite at 12:30 AM on April 8 [12 favorites]


There is value in standing up straight with your shoulders back

I dunno; is there?


That is probably not a serious question but I will say, as someone with crappy posture, yes, yes there is value in standing up straight. You can even see the improvement in S3 E2 of Queer Eye when the Fab 5 explain to Joey Greene that slumping does not make him appear accessible to others; smiling does.

(As a cis female, it was an interesting experience to watch a man, for a change, being told to smile more. /End of derail.)
posted by Bella Donna at 12:46 AM on April 8 [9 favorites]


The most recent Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything Episode, Bad Recommendations, takes on Peterson but also YouTube in general. Well worth a listen.

"I see now why Marc was so defensive about Jordan Peterson. He gave Mark validation and absolved him of the patriarchy's sins. And, made him feel less guilty."
posted by Gotanda at 2:15 AM on April 8 [3 favorites]


Ask research psychologists what their opinions are of clinical psychology's academic quality.
posted by srboisvert


Umm, ask any biochemist what they think of “research psychology’s” academic quality? The very homeland of the “crisis of replicability” is in those labs.

Turtles all the way down once you start reifying truth claims on a scale of “academic quality.”
posted by spitbull at 2:46 AM on April 8 [8 favorites]


To which I will add that I — a mere humanistic semi-Marxist postcolonial social scientist — am routinely asked to peer-evaluate work in the branch of “research psychology” devoted to my specialization (a linguistic anthropologist, focused on the relationship between musical and linguistic expression). Most of it is such garbage as research design that this humanist can easily demolish the assumptions involved. I happen to be able to check the math on a lot of this stuff too (which has made me a go-to reviewer for some editors used to innumeracy from PhD humanistic scholars)) and you’d be amazed how often badly conceived “experiments” produce meaningless “data” that is then subject to future incompetent manipulation by supposedly “scientific” experimental cognitive psychologists who then make absurdly broad implicative claims.

I was recently invited (in my very capacity as a contrarian humanist critic of the EvoPsyching-of-everything who isn’t intimidated by math, evolutionary theory, or basic genetics) to a conference of “those people,” as I call them, when I’m not straight up calling them scientific racists. I was on a focus group that reviewed a famous paper in the recent literature, involving very problematically naive (from an anthropologist’s perspective) field experimentation with an Indigenous group in a developing country (they got to tweak buttons on a box in response to stimuli on headphones — mind you).

The “scientific” argument of the entire (celebrated) paper rested on the premise that the group had very limited exposure to western musical idioms, and a “traditional” musical idiom that was entirely monophonic (without even a concept of the unison, typical primitivist woo abetted by the fact that there was no modern ethnographic study of this culture’s music traditions in the literature, conveniently.)

Halfway through the discussion, bored and annoyed and surreptitiously surfing on my laptop, I found a YouTube video of a group of kids from this group happily singing a well known western children’s song, in unison, at what looked like a mission school.

Raised my hand, turned my laptop around, hit “play.” Made a few more enemies that day.

Naturally, of course, the control group for the study was midwestern US college students, leading to my now infamous quip, “experimental musical psychology has often provided us with deep insight into the music cognition of white American middle class adolescents who can afford tuition but still need the $10 and the free sandwich.”

Dunking on the scientism of “experimental psychology” (most of which I find behaviorist AF, even when it invokes “cognition” as a talisman)is kinda my thing. Especially when it claims to control for culture and history and even individual agency as mere dependent variables.
posted by spitbull at 4:53 AM on April 8 [50 favorites]


One other thing you learn is that many experimental psychologists of music couldn’t jam their way out of a paper bag.
posted by spitbull at 4:59 AM on April 8


It depends what he’s actually trying to do. Peterson is as ideologue; but thinkers and ideologues can have something to say and deserve a place in the academy. No one expects Freud or Marx to cite their sources, or look at things “in context”. It’s pedantic and pointless.
posted by Middlemarch at 5:05 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Hey, now, cancer and early GWAS studies have had their own replication crises, so it's not like biology is immune.
posted by clawsoon at 6:01 AM on April 8


“Postmodern Marxism”. Because that is an absurd, meaningless phrase (Marxism is the very model of the sort of overarching grand narrative postmodernism dismissed),

To his credit, Peterson acknowledges this, and says its precisely the point: that the left is so cray cray that they glom onto anything critical of the West. So for them, postmodern marxism makes sense to them despite being a contradiction in terms. Which, like everything he says, is a somewhat clever rhetorical ploy that is meaningless when you think about it for even a minute.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:06 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


No one expects Freud or Marx to cite their sources, or look at things “in context”.

I won't argue with you on Freud (who no one expected to let an editor anywhere near his works for broader public consumption, either, apparently), but this mischaracterizes Marx.

/derail

posted by eviemath at 7:21 AM on April 8 [9 favorites]


The big one is this: when it comes to stories like the Enuma Elish, is the intention the text? And if so, does that *stop* it from being an expression of mythos at time of writing? That seems to be the implication with characterization of the EE as a revolutionary pamphlet vs transgenerational archetypical story, but the idea that the text is captive to the author's intention or solely reflects it is not one I'd imagine is going to find unchallenged purchase as a fundamental academic approach.

This seems like a rather naive approach to propaganda. The fact that, say, "Reefer Madness" was produced for specific propaganda purposes absolutely should be relevant to any academic interpretation of the influence or relevance of the work on mid-century US culture and politics (or human culture or politics more broadly); and no, you won't find much academic challenge to that idea. I would be disappointed in future scholars if they thought that a few thousands years made a difference in that.
posted by eviemath at 7:39 AM on April 8 [9 favorites]


No one expects Freud or Marx to cite their sources, or look at things “in context”.

Isn't a standard criticism of Freud that he doesn't really....cite? And that his "context" is kind of made up and/or totally wrong? We're all always-already Freudians now what with the vague popular sense that the "unconscious", disavowal, the uncanny, etc are real things, but almost no one actually calls themselves a Freudian.

Marx doesn't "cite" in the way that someone would cite when writing a history paper today, but he doesn't just assert.

~~
But that said, the thing with Peterson is that he expects to have it both ways - when he's accused of being a mystifier like that Iron John guy, he is all "but I'm a Very Serious Academic" and when he's accused of not living up to academic standards he's all "I want to start a church". If he wants to be a scholar, let him act like one; if he'd rather write Chicken Soup for the Alt-Lite Soul, he doesn't get to hide under the mantle of scholarship.

~~
I really think that this is all about trying to escape from interiority and choice, with the goal being to establish a way of being that relieves you of the need to think, the fear of fucking up and the possibility of encountering people who might say that you're fucking up. Even if "chaos" is a time of fear/possibility rather than just "danger bad", it's still figured as something that you sort of hack. Like, all these alt- idiots seem to be people who hope that they can somehow "hack" being alive and never again have to think or question. It's fascist in the way that fascism is described in Theweleit. You, like, evacuate the squishy and unpredictable interior and eventually become the strict, armored father who is totally hollow, whose "tenderness" is a sham because it's not built on anything inside, it's just a performance of masculinity.
posted by Frowner at 7:46 AM on April 8 [17 favorites]


What's always struck me about Peterson—besides just how unhappy the dude always appears to be—is the degree to which his whole shtick as a public intellectual is almost wholly regurgitated Campbell, only angrier. Because here's the thing—despite Campbell's own poor scholarship, despite the reactionary not-so-sub-text of much of his work, and despite the stories of his own racism and anti-semitism, Campbell mostly chose to present himself (and let himself be presented) as a vaguely liberal and genial old man with an even more vague but basically liberatory message—"Follow your bliss. Be the Hero. Find yourself." And in Campbell's view, the world, while threatening, is the place where one does that, the world is the place where one actualizes. The world is the place where, in Campbell's favorite pun, the Hero "at-ones," achieves integration.

So Peterson comes along and picks up Campbell, but turns him on his head, and where Campbell liked to talk about "at-one-ness" and following one's bliss, Peterson likes to emphasize the myriad threats that face the Hero and the harsh discipline he needs to stand apart from the world that is always looking to diminish him and swallow him up. It's as if Peterson took Campbell's hippy-dippy love-in, scooped out all the reactionary stuff, and weaponized it.

(The reasons for all this lie largely in Peterson's own emotional baggage, IMO, but it's maybe also because it's easier to sell perpetual threats than enlightenment. Had Campbell achieved his notoriety at a younger age and had more opportunity to speak directly to his fans, maybe he'd have eventually done the same.)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:47 AM on April 8 [18 favorites]


I think “Angry Joseph Campbell” is a great moniker for Peterson.
posted by spitbull at 7:48 AM on April 8 [7 favorites]


TL;DR—Campbell uses mythology to tell a basically Jungian story about how the Hero achives wholeness and integration; Peterson uses Campbell to tell stories about how the Hero tries to keep from disintegrating.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:00 AM on April 8 [3 favorites]


...it's maybe also because it's easier to sell perpetual threats than enlightenment.

The ground is also well-prepared, by several decades of near hysteria from conservatives, for whom civilization is perpetually on the brink of collapse, the barbarians are always at the gates, and the stab-in -the-back myth is always fresh.
posted by thelonius at 8:04 AM on April 8 [3 favorites]


In a way the Petersonians remind me of that Jameson tag about how it's easier to envision the end of the world than the end of capitalism - it's easier for them to envision becoming automatons/functionally dead than to imagine living in a world of permanent choice and interdependency where they can't just "master" women, POC, bodies, reproduction, etc and be done.
posted by Frowner at 8:05 AM on April 8 [15 favorites]


I believe it was Perry Anderson who said “What comes after ‘late’ capitalism? More capitalism!”

It is the hallmark of the dominant class — no less so and possibly more so when it is threatened by history not coming to an end — to assert that its own ideologically interested analysis is in fact revelatory of the “natural” order of things. Original Marx is still the best Marx.
posted by spitbull at 8:23 AM on April 8 [7 favorites]


Peterson seems to have picked up all he knows about Darwinism from one of those paperbacks you can buy at an airport. But that's not the problem with him.

To get at what I think is the real problem, you would need a whole group of people, each an expert in his/her own field. Let's say that Peterson starts by picking an example from biology. A biologist steps forward and says, "Actually, evolution doesn't work the way you think it does ..." Peterson would answer by shifting the subject: "Well, biology isn't that important to me, I only use it as a metaphor, but look here, it says in the Bible that ..." Then a Bible scholar would step forward to say "Well, your interpretation of Genesis is as misguided as your idea of Darwinism, no one in the field would agree with you ..." Peterson would switch the topic again, talking about yin & yang, or witches, or psychology ... and at each point, someone who knows the field would have to pop up and refute him.

Reading "12 rules..." gave me the impression that Peterson doesn't care about any field deeply enough to actually bother to learn something about it. He only uses Darwin, Freud, the Bible, Babylonian mythology, archetypes ... etc as decorations, while telling a story that is so simplistic that it could have been produced by his favourite pop culture company, Disney. This makes him, in my opinion, dishonest, and after a while simply a boring public intellectual.
posted by Termite at 10:10 AM on April 8 [15 favorites]


Perhaps you meant someone else?

Ooops, brain fart and two many double Ds - I meant Dr Dembski, not Daniel Dennett. (Although a literary friend of mine got a furious letter from the latter after giving one of his books a less than glowing review. Said latter is proudly displayed in the loo.)
posted by Devonian at 11:07 AM on April 8 [4 favorites]


...It's really just like the story of Tommy, the Green Ranger, who must learn to fuse his own superego and id into a kwisatz haderach-like amalgam of Yin and Yang. Only then can you really call yourself a Power Ranger...


A "Will-to-Power Ranger"?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:55 PM on April 8 [6 favorites]


Somebody in this thread will probably make a comment about how criticism of Peterson isn't worthlessly stupid or hostile

I'm sure some of it is. I guarantee he regularly gets messages from people saying he's going to hell because he doesn't espouse their version of Christianity. And I imagine that there are people who in the process of calling out his sexism have managed to actually misquote or misinterpret something he said, which he can point to and feel comfortable telling himself that all his critics are misunderstanding or misquoting him.
posted by straight at 1:42 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


But there's several arguments in this piece that seem pretty iffy to me.

The big one is this: when it comes to stories like the Enuma Elish, is the intention the text? And if so, does that *stop* it from being an expression of mythos at time of writing? That seems to be the implication with characterization of the EE as a revolutionary pamphlet vs transgenerational archetypical story, but the idea that the text is captive to the author's intention or solely reflects it is not one I'd imagine is going to find unchallenged purchase as a fundamental academic approach.


Pothast isn't really taking about the meaning of the text of the Enuma Elish or the author's intention, she's talking about the historical purposes of the text, one of which, at least, is a wish by the author (or the author's patrons) to explain/justify/codify the authority of the Babylonian kings.
Enuma Elish is not a deeply ancient myth handed down generation to generation, nor a documentation of a revelation. It’s a story written to justify a cosmic power grab that mirrors a real-life power grab.
is a key paragraph here. Now one of the purposes of literary texts has always been to explain/justify power grabs—compare, say, the letter of the Russian monk Filofei of Pskov in 1510 to Grand Duke Vasili III which proclaimed "Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will be no fourth. No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom!"—or the lines from George Berkeley's Verses on the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America
Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The first four Acts already past,
A fifth shall close the Drama with the day;
Time's noblest offspring is the last.
which has been used to symbolize/justify American manifest destiny. In all of these cases the intent of the text isn't what's at question, it's the purposes to which they were put. And this matters in the case of Peterson because it's Peterson's contention—or appears to be Peterson's contention—that these stories are not simply illuminating historical artifacts put to use, but illustrative of deep archetypal structures that govern what it means to be human, both now and in ancient Babylonia ("Six or eight thousand years ago / They laid down the law ...").

Now Peterson could concede that the Enuma Elish doesn't reveal the deep archetypes of human behavior, that it's merely a story illustrating ways of being or behaviors worth emulating. That could be. But that would require him to be clearer about, among other things, why he chooses to characterize "the feminine" as "chaos" or what it even means to do so. But that would require Peterson to take a little more responsibility for the ideas he promulgates and rely a little less on a presumption that his ideas are innate.

(As an aside, it's notable that trans feminine people get a lot of grief for allegedly "essentializing" femininity, but none of those critics have harsh words for Peterson for constructing the feminine as dark, inscrutable, or chaotic.)

I don't know if you read to the end of the article, but she goes out of her way to state that she sees value in his work generally and thinks he's had (some) positive influence:

I remain convinced that there is some genuine value in Peterson's books. OTOH, I'm not convinced that what's best in Peterson couldn't be gotten from Dale Carnegie, or the Boy Scout Handbook, or Mom just as well.

it's easier for them to envision becoming automatons/functionally dead than to imagine living in a world of permanent choice and interdependency

Given the influence of Campbell on Star Wars, the line "He's more machine now than man," leaps to mind.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:58 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


I remain convinced that there is some genuine value in Peterson's books. OTOH, I'm not convinced that what's best in Peterson couldn't be gotten from Dale Carnegie, or the Boy Scout Handbook, or Mom just as well.

I can't remember where I saw this but perhaps the meanest thing I've seen in Jordan Peterson critique is calling his 12 Rules book, "Chicken Soup for the Incel's Soul".
posted by mhum at 3:07 PM on April 8 [8 favorites]


Peterson really needs to make his bed.
posted by nofundy at 4:09 PM on April 8


Isn't a standard criticism of Freud that he doesn't really....cite? And that his "context" is kind of made up and/or totally wrong? We're all always-already Freudians now what with the vague popular sense that the "unconscious", disavowal, the uncanny, etc are real things, but almost no one actually calls themselves a Freudian.

Freud began as a neurologist treating “hysteria”, what now seems to be the response of powerless women to the predation of male relatives, frequently their fathers. He also ran a public clinic for those who couldn’t afford his rates to go to, and his students, Jung included, worked at these as well.

A lot of his early writing are case studies of specific people, which he combined into a general theory of how the human mind/soul worked.

Some basic theory: He postulated that humans had internal drives that needed to be expressed, all of them sexual at the root. The It (Germans use a gender neutral pronouns for children under 8 or so, and that is the word “id”) was the conception of those drives, as children were viewed as wild and uncivilized. The “Over I” is essentially the rules of the parents with the tones the parents of a given child used. Freud believed people needed to make a big enough “I” to mediate between the Id and the Over-I so they could be a good person and repress themselves properly, but not so much it became pathological.

We now know a ton of the details are wrong or over-complicated, science has disproven a lot of his and his daughter’s developmental theory, and those girls most likely were being molested instead of fantasizing about it, but lack of citation or context wasn’t really his problem.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:17 PM on April 8 [9 favorites]


I so much love Telf's take.
posted by clawsoon at 4:38 PM on April 8


(Although a literary friend of mine got a furious letter from the latter after giving one of his books a less than glowing review. Said latter is proudly displayed in the loo.)

Love the image that Dennett himself is proudly displayed in the loo.
posted by Cosine at 7:28 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


despite one's training, discipline and institutional selection one can still be very wrong about things

Yes. When Peterson tried to be an expert witness, the Court was unimpressed.
(search in page for "Peterson")
posted by meehawl at 7:30 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Peterson finally passed the threshold of my care-o-meter when a friend who is teaching an intro to feminism course was seeking advice and she told me that someone else suggested to her that Peterson would be a good source and I had a vague feeling of "that sounds wrong, but I don't know why..." and she agreed.

One of the big problems is that you have to climb down these alt right rabbit holes in order to debate them because they're so full of in-group signalling and mysticism posing as science and I really just want to go back in time and dial my care-o-meter back to "not."

Also: Juxtapose this FPP with the one about Thea Hunter for maximum desire to smash one's head into one's desk.
posted by Skwirl at 4:32 AM on April 9 [7 favorites]


(Germans use a gender neutral pronouns for children under 8 or so, and that is the word “id”)

This seems like a misunderstanding of grammatical gender in German. The word for "child" is grammatically gender neutral, and will pair with the gender neutral pronoun. Baby and girl are neutral as well, although boy is masculine. But I haven't heard of using the neutral pronoun if you're talking about a specific child by name. I'm not a particularly proficient speaker of German, but I feel like that would have come up at some point if it were the case. Also, "id" is it in Latin, not German.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:28 AM on April 9 [9 favorites]


Just in case anyone here hasn't seen Jordan Peterson on Burger King. Quoting that and practicing my Kermit impression is my go to response when it sounds like one of my friends has been reading Peterson.
posted by lucidium at 5:10 AM on April 10 [6 favorites]


Helen Lewis, who interviewed Peterson for GQ late last year said something interesting in her recent Intelligence Squared conversation with Rutger Bregman.

Helen Lewis is a TERF and fash friendly, so take what she says with a grain of salt.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:23 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Peterson we should not forget began his career as far right academic by putting the boot into trans people, playing the victim because he had to respect people's pronouns.

There's nothing of value in him and you're always better off to just dismiss him out of hand as a nazi, which he is, than to try to mine his dross for gold.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:25 AM on April 10 [7 favorites]




From the Toronto Star article clawsoon posted:
If Jordan is not a true free speech warrior, then what is he? The email sent through his wife’s account described Bill 28, the parenting bill, as part of the “transgender agenda” and claimed it was “misleadingly” called “All Families are Equal.” Misleading? What same-sex families and transgender people have in common is their upset of the social order. In Maps of Meaning, Jordan’s first book, he is exercised by the breakdown of the social order and the chaos that he believes would result. Jordan is fighting to maintain the status quo to keep chaos at bay, or so he believes. He is not a free speech warrior. He is a social order warrior.
Lawful fucking evil.
posted by duffell at 7:27 AM on April 11 [7 favorites]


A REPLY TO MY CRITICS CONCERNING AN ENGAGEMENT WITH JORDAN PETERSON
Zizek is way more interesting than Peterson. Peterson is a run of the mill huckster using his degree in a semi-related field to prey on alienated college aged males. Zizek is raccoon who lived in a dumpster behind a university's library who was transformed into a human by a witch

Chad Vigorous (@PrettyBadLefty) March 1, 2018
posted by octobersurprise at 7:46 AM on April 11 [6 favorites]


LoL. From meehawl's court link:

[Dr. Peterson’s] opinion had no scientific qualities and was unnecessary.
posted by klanawa at 2:16 PM on April 12 [3 favorites]


Jordan Peterson & The Meaning Of Life by lefty personal doppleganger, Philosophy Tube
posted by The Whelk at 9:01 PM on April 12 [4 favorites]




Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson attempts to live tweet the Zizek/Peterson "debate". Hilarity ensues.
posted by eviemath at 6:06 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]


The Guardian's Stephen Marche weighs in ...

The great surprise of this debate turned out to be how much in common the old-school Marxist and the Canadian identity politics refusenik had.

One hated communism. The other hated communism but thought that capitalism possessed inherent contradictions. The first one agreed that capitalism possessed inherent contradictions. And that was basically it. They both wanted the same thing: capitalism with regulation, which is what every sane person wants. The Peterson-Žižek encounter was the ultra-rare case of a debate in 2019 that was perhaps too civil.

They needed enemies, needed combat, because in their solitudes, they had so little to offer. Peterson is neither a racist nor a misogynist. He is a conservative. He seemed, in person, quite gentle. But when you’ve said that, you’ve said everything. Somehow hectoring mobs have managed to turn him into an icon of all they are not. Remove him from his enemies and he is a very poor example of a very old thing – the type of writer whom, from Samuel Smiles’ Self-Help to Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, have promised simple answers to complex problems. Rules for Life, as if there were such things.

The mere dumb presence of the celebrities on the stage mattered vastly more than anything they said, naturally. But there was one truly fascinating moment in the evening. It came right at the end of Žižek’s opening 30-minute remarks.
Pity Jordan Peterson. Can a giant lobster analogy ever replace a sense of humour?
Read more

“We will probably slide towards apocalypse,” he said. And Peterson agreed with him: “It is not obvious to me that we can solve the problems that confront us.” They are both self-described “radical pessimists”, about people and the world. It made me wonder about the rage consuming all public discussion at the moment: are we screaming at each other because we disagree or because we do agree and we can’t imagine a solution?

posted by philip-random at 8:24 PM on April 21


are we screaming at each other because we disagree or because we do agree and we can’t imagine a solution?

That undefined "we" is doing a lot of work there.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:01 AM on April 22 [4 favorites]


"The great surprise of this debate turned out to be how much in common the old-school Marxist and the Canadian identity politics refusenik had."
I feel like this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows anything about either of them. One's a professional provocateur who occasionally does a little quasi-Marxist philosophy; the other's a professional provocateur who occasionally does a little quasi-Jungian psychology. Both men are deeply in love with the sound of their own voices and neither have any patience with anything that isn't about men who are deeply in love with the sound of their own voices. To the degree that either of them can be bothered to listen to the other, why wouldn't they have a lot in common?

(Is Peterson a farcical Settembrini and Žižek Naphta or is it the other way around? Discuss.)
posted by octobersurprise at 8:27 AM on April 22 [6 favorites]


they're both massive (and unlikely) overachievers, having accomplished the almost impossible in this time of prolonged information overload -- they've risen above the noise to become "signal". That their signals only seem to amount to more noise -- well, I suppose the coming "slide towards apocalypse" will solve that problem.
posted by philip-random at 10:04 AM on April 22


Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson attempts to live tweet the Zizek/Peterson "debate". Hilarity ensues.

For those who need to rinse out their brains a bit after watching that debate - this link led me to some rummaging around Current Affairs until I found this gem.

Not everyone has resigned themselves to wait upon the apocalypse.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:54 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


Vice Magazine's take on the "debate"
posted by eviemath at 3:17 PM on April 24 [2 favorites]


« Older Tea dragons do not require play, they require...   |   A lot of research into things that really have... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments