21 Aug 2017

Jordan Peterson

Philosophy, Religious 17 Comments

I joined the bandwagon and started listening to Jordan Peterson’s podcast. Note, however, that this has NOTHING to do with his controversial stance regarding pronoun usage. I heard him on Tom Woods’ show when that issue was breaking, and didn’t think anything about his actual work.

Rather, I know some people who were huge fans of his work even before the controversy (and in fact wish that whole thing had never happened). Peterson is fascinating because he is well-read in a variety of disciplines and links them in unusual ways. I have never heard anybody like this guy. He mixes psychology, philosophy, Darwinism, and a profound appreciation for Biblical narratives in a way that blew me away when I first heard it.

I’m by no means an expert, but as of now I’ve listened to the first 3.5 episodes of his podcast. Just give Episodes 1 and 2 a chance. If you aren’t hooked, then thank you for your time.

Here are some notes I jotted down from Episode 3, “The Necessity of Virtue.” The time stamps are not (necessarily) exact; they just indicate the minute in which the discussion occurs.

17.50 — Humans have remarkably good vision (second to birds of prey). One researcher has a compelling theory that it developed in order to avoid snakes. Thus, the serpent gave us the ability to see.

21:00 — People who are bored and think life is meaningless also think they are ineffective. But actually you are a loaded weapon. You are capable of great evil. But if you realize that, you can also become a force for good.

26:00 — People embrace meaninglessness because there is no responsibility. Who cares what you do, if it’s all pointless? But if there is profound meaning in every action, then you must be very deliberate in each choice you make.

29:00 — The people who participated in horrific “utopian” projects of the 20th century just used the utopian vision as their cover story. Really they wanted to do horrific things to others.

43:00 — If you’re not honest, you can’t trust your own intuition. If you lie to yourself, you corrupt the structure you use to interact with being; it will then mislead you.

17 Responses to “Jordan Peterson”

  1. Dan K says:

    I’ve had the same experience since I started watching his work after his first interview on the Joe Rogan Experience. The latest version of “Maps of Meaning” are really good and have a much better production value than the previous and the Biblical series is really getting the attention of a very wide cross-section of people that would have ignored Jordan due to his stance on free speech.

  2. Josiah says:

    I have mixed feelings about his stuff. He does have a lot of interesting things to say, particularly on Biblical themes, but when I listened to him on Sam Harris’ podcast debating the nature of truth, I thought that Harris ironically had the more Christian conception of the matter (and the better of the argument).

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Josiah for what it’s worth, in Episode 4 of his podcast JP gets into some weird stuff about the nature of truth. He almost went full Sumner.

      • Josiah says:

        He took a Sumner type line in the Harris podcast. What’s weird is that other contexts he speaks acts as if he does believe in absolute truth. That would seem to be the whole point of the pronoun thing, for example.

    • James Smith says:

      What do you guys mean by your reference to Sumner?

      • Josiah says:


        See here for one example.

        • Craw says:

          It’s only “useful” to know not to step out a 21st story window if it’s true something bad will happen.

          Saying we don’t have a foolproof truth detector doesn’t mean that truth is just “what is useful.”

  3. Stephen Dedalus says:

    It’s rather remarkable that a claim that people cannot just make up an arbitrary word and demand others call them by that word is considered “controversial”: in all previous human cultures, for all of recorded history, such an assertion, “Oh, and from now on, you must refer to me with the pronoun ‘zhog'”, would have been considered absurd.

  4. skylien says:

    He really has tons of interesting and also true things to say. Though I only know him from my Youtube feed so far.

  5. Ethan says:

    His podcast is a bit behind but you absolutely have to check out his lecture series on the Biblical Stories!

  6. Mark says:

    Bob – Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

    This is what you have with Prof. Peterson. I don’t have time to write anything about him right now – it might be a week or two until I get to it (in the middle of moving and a bunch of things. I’ll probably post it as a reply here and whatever your current “Religious” post is at the time.) But you are not getting orthodox Christianity with him, and he is someone you should be very leery of. As they used to say on The Tonight Show: More to Come.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      That’s fine Mark, and I’m certainly not “captive” to Jordan Peterson. But I actually think it’s more persuasive to skeptics when a “non-Bible-thumper” (for lack of a better term) explains how the Bible actually makes a lot of sense, even from a secular perspective. E.g. I think it is very useful if an atheist geologist says, “It seems there was a great flood” or whatever.

      • Mark says:

        I understand and there is a sense in which that is true – science will confirm the Bible, and it’s nice, I suppose, when unbelievers directly or indirectly confirm it. But as Christians, we start with the supposition that the Bible is true, and knowing that God is a God of logic, order, truth, etc., we know that anything we find in nature, or science discovers or codifies, will confirm it (science, history, “facts,” etc. do not prove the Bible. If they did, we are saying they have a higher authority than God’s word, and they do not.) The flood legends from past cultures are an example of this, to use your example. Also, as Ken Ham says, if the biblical account of Noah’s flood is true, we would expect to find billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth. And what do we find? Billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth.

        Also, re Peterson, here’s the best I can do at this time. (I will also post this on your next “religious” post, along with a reference back to this comment at that post.) I just don’t have the time right now to focus on Jordan Peterson. However, I did email Gary North about it, and this will have to suffice re Peterson.

        Dr. North –

        I’m a little concerned about the Jordan Peterson “bandwagon.” Tom Woods and Bob Murphy seem a bit enamored with him, and Monday’s [9/4/17] LewRockwell.com has an article by Ira Katz where he mentions Peterson’s lecture series and how it takes “a rational approach to the Bible stories through the latest understanding of neuroscience, psychoanalysis (Peterson is also a clinical psychologist), evolutionary biology, philosophy, literature (the wisdom of our civilization), and art.”

        I’m sure you recognize this is exactly backwards. The Bible is to be used to assess and shed light on those disciplines, not the other way around. While I’m no expert on Peterson (more power to him on the gender issue), as best as I can tell, while he reluctantly refers to himself as a Christian, I see nothing Christian about him.

        He rejects historic Christian doctrine, rejects the Genesis account as history, accepts evolution, questions the Deity of Christ and even questions if He existed. He sees Biblical accounts as “stories” rather than literal history (allegory, metaphor, etc.). His perspective seems more new agey than anything. I’m wondering if you have written anything on him or if you are familiar with anyone who has – from an orthodox Christian perspective, of course. Without sounding too dramatic, before this gets out of hand, someone needs to write an expose on him. I’m not the guy, but I’m thinking you might be or know someone that is (or maybe has already done it – I’ve checked with the more well-known apologetics ministries and haven’t found anything.)

        Dr. North replied:

        Just another liberal. They are like cockroaches. Step on one, and four more appear.

        What I do not understand is why any Bible-believer pays any attention to such people. But they do.

        (He gave me permission to share his response.) Best I can do at the moment, but I wouldn’t put too much credence in Peterson. Just thank him for what he’s done re the gender issue. But his comments re the Bible and Christianity are of no real value.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Mark, do you think I shouldn’t tell people to check out the movie about Lee Strobel’s story? I’m not asking sarcastically, I’m genuinely trying to understand why you are upset about me touting Peterson.

          • Craw says:

            Mark is down on heretics. He’s still upset that Matthew, John, and Luke differ with him.

  7. Steve Maughan says:

    I’m also fascinated by Jordan Peterson. I can’t get enough of his thinking. He has an amazing ability to mix the profound with the practical, bordering on the obvious. One minute he’s quoting Jung, and there next he’s saying, “Abraham had God on his side – that’s at least a good thing. It’s dam good to have God on your side!”.


  8. Dirk Reum says:

    Excellent find! I binged 5 episodes as they’re so amazing.

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