Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of interviews and lectures with controversial thinker and psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson. This Canadian bloke is a rather interesting mix if you really listen to his thoughts and beliefs. Many on the left, especially those on the social justice warrior side seem to hate his guts and believe he is sexist, racist, abusive, and a number of other unpleasant adjectives. I don’t believe he is actually as far right wing as many seem to think, but he does definitely have some classical views on innate gender differences and he certainly has a hatred for what he sees as newfangled pronoun madness.
As far as the whole pronoun thing goes, I do agree with him in many ways. I have seen the charts of all the new pronouns that supposedly exist now and I just don’t see how using all of those in common vernacular will ever really catch on. How many people will bother to memorize such a chart as the lengthy ones I have seen online? I see no issue with people wanting to be referred to with particular existing pronouns (he, she, they, etc.) as long as they don’t expect people to be able to read their minds and know which pronoun they prefer. I believe if you ask people to call you a particular thing, most will agree and try to do so, as long as it isn’t too hard to remember or seemingly insulting.
Aside from that whole controversy, what I really find interesting about Peterson is his obsession with Nietzsche (one of my personal favorites), Jung, and his love of archetypes. He sees a story arc in everything apparently, and usually a metaphor-laden one at that. I do find it interesting how he likes to deconstruct pop culture favorites, be they movies, tv shows, books, or other works of art, using Jungian thought. I have heard complaints that he entirely misconstrues Nietzsche’s work, but I’m not sure I’ve seen too much of that personally. Sure, his personal views bleed into his interpretation, just as everyone’s does, but I’m not sure it is to any greater extent than most philosophical analysts.
I do think his latest book “12 Rules for Life” sounds fairly simplistic and seems to lack much deeper introspection, instead almost falling into the common self-help book market. “Clean your room”? “Stand up straight”? Thank you, Grandma. I hear his earlier book, “Maps of Meaning”, is far more thought-provoking and deep, so maybe I will give it a try at some point.
Lastly, I just want to comment a bit on Peterson’s personality and the impression I get from him. Dude does seem awfully angry and easily provoked over nothing at times. Maybe this is frustration at feeling constantly misunderstood and misrepresented, but it still makes him look a bit snowflakish himself, which I’m sure isn’t the impression he wants to give. I also often wonder if he ever appears happy or genuinely smiles? He almost seems very depressed to me…and I would know as I struggle with the same beast. He talks a good game about finding meaning in life, but there is a big part of me that thinks deep down he struggles constantly with the seeming meaninglessness and absurdity of life and is resentful of it. But perhaps I am projecting a bit there.
I have also heard him accused of using “word salad” or droning on and on without making much of a point. I’ve seen a bit of this myself, but I think part of the issue is how many tangents he seems to wander off on while making a point. I feel his lectures could definitely benefit from some streamlining and sticking more closely to each point until its conclusion.
Many have suggested that Peterson seems to have a bit of a “savior complex”, which I do see signs of now and then. My antenna especially went up when he talked about how if he went to prison for refusing to use someone’s pronouns and pay the fine, he would go on a hunger strike. Calm down a little! Is it really worth all that? Why not just set yourself on fire on Main Street? I think someone so famous going to prison over something so stupid would be enough in itself to garner attention.
*For an interesting look at the difference between a therapist and a psychologist, check out this article by BetterHelp!