Who is Jordan Peterson? I have no idea.

Who is Jordan Peterson? My first exposure to him was the Cathy Newman interview. Folks are asking whether he is the intellectual giant some are suggesting, and even whether he is really qualified to be a public intellectual.

We could ask the same question re Alain de Botton, of course. Yet what Alain De Botton does is fine. So, I am not bothered too much about Jordan Peterson's credentials re his role as 'public intellectual', which I am sure are perfectly OK even if he is not quite the intellectual giant some are suggesting. For neither is Alain de Botton. However, unlike Jordan Peterson, Alain de Botton is not saying stuff that odious right wing folks really want to hear.

As I say, the Cathy Newman thing was my first exposure to JP and I thought he was alright, actually. Not that I agreed with him, but he was calm, polite, patient, and made a case while being constantly misrepresented and feebly challenged by someone - Newman - who clearly felt very strongly that JP was wrong but had little expertise and tackled him in the style of a Daily Mail journalist (e.g. heavy reliance on strawman and anecdotal evidence). That doesn't make JP an intellectual giant, but it shows that if you want to challenge him you need to up your game.

Having read another fairly flimsy article about JP I came away with the impression that his ideas are pretty banal. He bashes postmodern bullshit, of course, but then so do I. It's easy to do.

Of course, in the eyes of some right wing folk, postmodern bullshit just is left wing thinking. That is why it's important that folk politically to the left also criticise such bullshit very publicly and make it clear that being left wing and being a postmodern bullshitter (and/or an identity politics SJW intent on gagging critics of Islam on campus) are not at all the same thing.

So what do I know about Jordan Peterson? Not much at all at this point. And I guess neither do you. But we certainly shouldn't make a judgement based on hackery that aims either to puff him up or to poison the well.

Talking of poisoning the well,  this particular piece on JP reads like a hatchet job. I have read enough similar pieces about e.g. Corbyn to know that by selective use of evidence, half-truth, anecdotal evidence, and guilt by association it's possible to create a highly misleading portrait. I wouldn't draw any conclusion on JP based it.

Comments

Martin Freedman said…
Check out https://samharris.org/speaking-of-truth-with-jordan-b.-peterson/
ficciones said…
Are you familiar with Corey Robin's thesis in The Reactionary Mind, that conservatism's core motivating idea is the defence of hierarchy - especially the sense that one's birthright higher in the hierarchy has been lost or stolen? Peterson's essentialist thinking appeals to alt-right, "redpilled" men's rights types and conservatives in general because he seems to be offering "natural" reasons why society is rightfully stratified along gender and racial lines.

I think that for a large proportion of young men in Western countries, men who have wasted their teen and early adult years eating cheetos, playing video games and sh*tposting on places like 4chan, placing the blame on feminism and affirmative action - that is, "social engineering" - offers them an excuse for listlessness and failure in life. They're an easy audience for an essentialist who tells them that they're the naturally smart, strong, aggressive ones, and that "cultural marxism" is to blame for their fall from grace.

I agree that the interviewer did a horrendous job, and that Peterson's ideas deserve a more fair hearing and more intelligent critique. However, his example of the lobsters really was, I think, in keeping with the conservative reach for innate biological reasons to vindicate stratification - it's an example of the naturalistic fallacy in operation in political thought.

I think it's a good thing that Peterson offers homey, down to earth advice to young men about cleaning their rooms and getting their act together - but at the same time he promotes dangerous scapegoating that seeks to place blame on the non-male and non-white population, and the sneaky leftists who have aided and abetted them.
Anonymous said…
Ficciones is a prime example of what is wrong with the left.

Humans are animals and, like any other animal, they are the product of millions of years of evolution; this is why the blank slate theory of humanity is so, in your face, stupid.

Why should we believe that something like intelligence is caused by some sociological variable and that it has very little to do with genetics, for example?

People like Richard Haier, Gad Saad, and Jordan Peterson reveal the idiocy of anyone who believes that humans are born with identical or near identical potential for intellectual achievement.
Anonymous said…
Hi Stephen,
I was at the discussion with Nigel Warburton, today. Firstly, re Jordan Peterson, and the comment by Ficciones. Re “natural” reasons why society is “rightfully” stratified along gender and racial lines.

I’m not aware of providing such reasons along racial lines; possibly his comments about Jews (or a certain group of Jews) an IQ, may be an example, though I’m not sure to what extent he may or may not be attributing their higher IQ to biological, rather than cultural, reason. As far as gender is concerned, yes I think, whilst he’d surely agree that there are some very peculiar instances whereby an either/or distinction can’t easily be made (unlike Ben Shapiro, he seems prepared to respect the individual’s declared identity, but does not accept that Ben Shapiro, say, should be forced to do likewise by law), he almost certainly does not accept another category of gender I.e there is a basic spectrum, male at one end and female at the other (though I’m sure that can be complicated also).

I think the lobster hierarchy thing is probably somewhat flawed, but JBP loves stories, metaphors and archetypes etc. This is different because he possibly commits the naturalistic fallacy by claiming the stamp of scientific legitimacy in places where it’s not justified. To me it’s kind of fun and an interesting approach... I also agree that hierarchies are inevitable; it just seems so banal and obvious to me; I think it would be more surprising if, say, there was an equivalent, different, hormone to serotonin that served the same basic function in ancient species.

As far the “dangerous scapegoating” is concerned... I think this is an outrageous claim that needs to be backed up by more evidence. He’s perhaps not very consistent; discussing the story of Adam and Eve, he leans heavily to taking the side of Eve. He’s been criticised by Karen Staughan, for taking this line of reasoning; and I think she’s basically right. This is also discussed in response to an interesting blog about JBP, on the Dalrock blog - it’s easy to find.

This kind of leads me to today’s discussion, with Nigel. Firstly, well done, Stephen, for acknowledging that you read the Guardian and are surrounded by ‘Liberal’ peers, that may have undue influence on your reasoning. On the subject of pursuing truth, no matter how painful it might be, that is basically the ‘Red Pill’, and in relation women, and voting, say, many people who’ve taken the red pill have come to the painful realisation that women are basically very unreliable (I suggest the Red Pill Interviews, and the work of F. Roger Devlin), they are at the mercy of hypergamy (ergo hypo-agency), it’s not really a case of them being dim, though there is that, but often they’re very devious, ‘essentially’ deceitful. This is largely the consequence of the sexual selection dynamic (look up SMV Graph), gatekeepers of sex etc, by the time their advantage in the dating environment is waning, they’ve doubtless had many disappointments. To quote Jane Austen: “It is our vanity that fancies [SMV] means more than it does.” The pain of this realisation generally ensures that women are far more likely to vote for socialist governments; using the state to extract resources from men, so as not to end up on the street, but also to punish men for not ensuring their fairytale.

Regarding the right’s supposed relentless insistence that immigrants are the problem; this is also an outrageous claim. Think of the distinction you made between qualitative and numerical when discussing the ‘river paradox’. Massive difference, and you know it, only too well. Read Sir Roger Scruton for an excellent defence of the secular Nation State... and it’s enemies, for that matter.