A profile piece published by the New York Times on Friday claims clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson is the “pedigreed voice” for those who seek to “undermine mainstream and liberal efforts to promote equality.”
The bestselling author of “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” recently invited writer Nellie Bowles into his home and along for his popular speaking tour. The final product of her efforts to better understand his popularity — particularly among young men — frames the man as the intellectual leader of “a loose collection of activists who feel men have been subjugated or betrayed by social progress.”
Similarly, the University of Toronto professor (currently on an early sabbatical) allegedly woos audiences with “old-timey phrases” and a “hypnotic rhythm.”
“In Mr. Peterson’s world, order is masculine. Chaos is feminine. And if an overdose of femininity is our new poison, Mr. Peterson knows the cure. Hence his new book’s subtitle: ‘An Antidote to Chaos,’” the author writes. “The messages he delivers range from hoary self-help empowerment talk (clean your room, stand up straight) to the more retrograde and political (a society run as a patriarchy makes sense and stems mostly from men’s competence; the notion of white privilege is a farce). He is the stately looking, pedigreed voice for a group of culture warriors who are working diligently to undermine mainstream and liberal efforts to promote equality.”
Mr. Peterson, however, staunchly supports equality of opportunity. What he opposes are efforts by government bodies to ensure equality of outcomes.
“All outcomes cannot be equalized,” he writes in his latest book. “First, outcomes must be measured. Comparing the salaries of people who occupy the same position is relatively straightforward (although complicated significantly by such things as date of hire, given the difference in demand for workers, for example, at different periods). But there are other dimensions of comparison that are arguably equally relevant, such as tenure, promotion rate, and social influence. The introduction of the ‘equal pay for equal work’ argument immediately complicates even salary comparison beyond practicality, for one simple reason: who decides what work is equal? It’s not possible. That’s why the marketplace exists.”
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“It is a rare person indeed who isn’t suffering from at least one serious catastrophe at any given time — particularly if you include their family in the equation. And why shouldn’t you?” Mr. Peterson continues. “Here is the fundamental problem: group identity can be fractionated right down to the level of the individual. … Every person is unique — and not just in a trivial manner: importantly, significantly, meaningfully unique. Group membership cannot capture that variability. Period.”
The newspaper’s profile piece also features an exchange in which the clinical psychologist and his interviewer disagree over the existence of metaphysical truths embedded deep within the everyday language and archetypal stories told throughout human history.
“Mr. Peterson illustrates his arguments with copious references to ancient myths — bringing up stories of witches, biblical allegories and ancient traditions,” the author writes. “I ask why these old stories should guide us today.”
“‘It makes sense that a witch lives in a swamp. Yeah,’ he says. ‘Why?’”
“It’s a hard one,” the writer says.
“Right. That’s right. You don’t know,” Mr. Peterson replies. “It’s because those things hang together at a very deep level. Right. Yeah. And it makes sense that an old king lives in a desiccated tower.”
“But witches don’t exist, and they don’t live in swamps,” Ms. Bowles says.
“Yeah, they do. They do exist. They just don’t exist the way you think they exist. They certainly exist. You may say well dragons don’t exist,” Mr. Peterson counters. “It’s, like, yes they do — the category predator and the category dragon are the same category. It absolutely exists. It’s a superordinate category. It exists absolutely more than anything else. In fact, it really exists. What exists is not obvious. You say, ‘Well, there’s no such thing as witches.’ Yeah, I know what you mean, but that isn’t what you think when you go see a movie about them. You can’t help but fall into these categories. There’s no escape from them.”
Mr. Peterson’s book, which was released in January, has sold over 1.1 million copies.
His YouTube channel featuring a popular Biblical lecture series also has over 1 million subscribers.