Jordan Peterson

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Jordan Peterson
Peterson Lecture (33522701146).png
Peterson at the University of Toronto, 2017
Born (1962-06-12) June 12, 1962 (age 56)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Residence Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Citizenship Canadian
Fields Psychology
Institutions
Alma mater
Thesis Potential psychological markers for the predisposition to alcoholism (1991)
Doctoral advisor Robert O. Pihl
Spouse Tammy Peterson
Children 2
Website
jordanbpeterson.com

Jordan Bernt Peterson (born June 12, 1962) is a Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. His main areas of study are the psychology of religious and ideological belief, and the assessment and improvement of personality and performance. He authored Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief in 1999.

Peterson grew up in Fairview, Alberta. He earned a B.A. in political science in 1982 and a B.A. in psychology in 1984, both from the University of Alberta, and his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from McGill University in 1991. He remained at McGill University as a post-doctoral fellow for two years before moving to Massachusetts, where he worked as an assistant and an associate professor in the psychology department at Harvard University. In 1997, he moved to the University of Toronto as a full professor.

In 2016, Peterson released a series of videos on his YouTube channel in which he criticized the Canadian government's Bill C-16. The videos sparked a left-wing controversy that received significant media coverage.

Around August 1, 2017, Google blocked Peterson's access to his Youtube and Google accounts, but access was subsequently restored. It was speculated that the event was related to his refusal to use gender neutral terms.[1] This did not slow his increasing cultural influence and popularity.

Alt-right writers claim that in 2018 Peterson became the effective figurehead of the controlled opposition,[2] whose writings are allegedly encouraged by the established ruling class. While they don't agree with Peterson's work, it is tolerated because it helps limit the range of politically acceptable discourse, also known as the Overton Window.[3] For this reason Peterson is allegedly portrayed as being "right wing" in the mainstream media.

Childhood and education

Jordan Peterson was born on June 12, 1962 and grew up in Fairview, Alberta, a small town northwest of his birthplace Edmonton. He was the eldest of three children born to Beverley, a librarian at the Fairview campus of Grande Prairie Regional College, and Walter Peterson, a schoolteacher.[4] His middle name is Bernt (/bɛərnt/ bairnt), after his Norwegian great-grandfather.[5][6]

According to Peterson, he learned to read at the age of 3, and attended the United Church of Canada with his family.[4][7] When he was 13, he was introduced to George Orwell, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Ayn Rand by his school librarian Sandy Notley—Rachel Notley's mother. He also worked for the New Democratic Party (NDP) throughout his teenage years, but grew disenchanted with the party due to what he saw as a preponderance of "the intellectual, tweed-wearing middle-class socialist" who "didn't like the poor; they just hated the rich".[4] He left the NDP at the age of 18.[8]

After graduating from Fairview High School in 1979, Peterson entered the Grande Prairie Regional College to study political science. He later transferred to the University of Alberta, where he completed his B.A. in 1982.[8] Afterwards, he took a year off to visit Europe. There he developed an interest in the psychological origins of the Cold War and was plagued by apocalyptic nightmares about the escalation of the nuclear arms race. As a result, he became depressed about mankind's capacity for evil and destruction, and dove into the works of Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in an attempt to rationalise his emotions.[4] He then returned to the University of Alberta, and received a B.A. in psychology in 1984.[9]

In 1985, he moved to Montreal to attend McGill University. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology under the supervision of Robert O. Pihl, and remained as a post-doctoral fellow at McGill's Douglas Hospital until 1993.[10]

Career

From 1993 to 1997 Peterson lived in Arlington, Massachusetts, while teaching and conducting research at Harvard University as an assistant and an associate professor in the psychology department. During his time at Harvard, he studied aggression arising from drug and alcohol abuse, and supervised a number of unconventional thesis proposals.[8] Afterwards, he returned to Canada and took up a post as a full professor at the University of Toronto.[9]

In 2004, a 13-part TV series based on his book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief aired on TVOntario.[9] He has also appeared on TVO on shows such as Big Ideas, and has been a frequent guest and essayist on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin since 2008.

In January 2017, he hired a professional production team to film the lectures he gives to his psychology class at the University of Toronto using funds he started to increasingly receive through the crowd-sourced funding website Patreon after he became embroiled in the free speech/gender pronouns controversy in September 2016 (he had reached $1,000 per month in support by August 2016, $14,000 per month as of January 2017 and over $30,000 per month as of May 2017).[11][12]

Peterson was nominated for the position of Rector of the University of Glasgow in March 2017.[13] He came fifth in the election; lawyer Aamer Anwar came first.

In April 2017, Peterson was denied a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant for the first time in his career, which he interpreted as retaliation for his statements regarding Bill C-16.[14] In response, The Rebel Media launched an Indiegogo campaign on Peterson's behalf.[15] The campaign raised $195,000 by its end on May 6, equivalent to over two years of research funding.[16]

Bill C-16 controversy

On September 27, 2016, Peterson released the first installment of a three-part lecture video series, entitled "Professor against political correctness: Part I: Fear and the Law".[11][17] In the video, he stated he would not use the preferred gender pronouns of students and faculty, and announced his objection to the Canadian government's Bill C-16, which proposed to add "gender identity or expression" as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well to the list of identifiable groups against whom it is illegal under the Criminal Code to promote genocide or publicly incite hatred.[18]

He stated that his objection to the bill was based on potential free speech implications if the criminal code is amended, as he claimed he could then be prosecuted under provincial human rights laws if he refuses to call a transsexual student or faculty member by their preferred pronoun.[19] Furthermore, he argued that the new amendments paired with section 46.3 of the Ontario Human Rights Code would make it possible for employers and organizations to be subject to punishment under the code if any employee or associate says anything that can be construed "directly or indirectly" as offensive, "whether intentionally or unintentionally."[20] Other academics challenged Peterson's interpretation of C-16.[19]

The series of videos drew criticism from transgender activists, faculty and labour unions, and critics accused Peterson of "helping to foster a climate for hate to thrive".[11] Protests erupted on campus, some including violence, and the controversy attracted international media attention.[21][22] When asked in September 2016 if he would comply with the request of a student to use a preferred pronoun, Peterson said "it would depend on how they asked me ... If I could detect that there was a chip on their shoulder, or that they were [asking me] with political motives, then I would probably say no ... If I could have a conversation like the one we're having now, I could probably meet them on an equal level."[23] Two months later, the National Post published an op-ed by Peterson in which he elaborated on his opposition to the bill and explained why he publicly made a stand against it:

I will never use words I hate, like the trendy and artificially constructed words "zhe" and "zher." These words are at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century.

I have been studying authoritarianism on the right and the left for 35 years. I wrote a book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, on the topic, which explores how ideologies hijack language and belief. As a result of my studies, I have come to believe that Marxism is a murderous ideology. I believe its practitioners in modern universities should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to promote such vicious, untenable and anti-human ideas, and for indoctrinating their students with these beliefs. I am therefore not going to mouth Marxist words. That would make me a puppet of the radical left, and that is not going to happen. Period.[24]

In response to the controversy, academic administrators at the University of Toronto sent Peterson two letters of warning, one noting that free speech had to be made in accordance with human rights legislation and the other adding that his refusal to use the preferred personal pronouns of students and faculty upon request could constitute discrimination. Peterson speculated that these warning letters were leading up to formal disciplinary action against him, but in December the university assured him that he would retain his professorship, and in January 2017 he returned to teach his psychology class at the University of Toronto.[11]

In February 2017, Maxime Bernier, candidate for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, stated that he shifted his position on Bill C-16 after meeting with Peterson and discussing it.[25] Peterson's analysis of the bill was also frequently cited by senators who were opposed to its passage.[26]

In May, Peterson spoke against Bill C-16 at a senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs hearing. He was one of 24 witnesses who were invited to speak on the bill.[26]

Works

Something we cannot see protects us from something we do not understand. The thing we cannot see is culture, in its intrapsychic or internal manifestation. The thing we do not understand is the chaos that gave rise to culture.

If the structure of culture is disrupted, unwittingly, chaos returns. We will do anything--anything--to defend ourselves against that return.

—Jordan B. Peterson, 1998 (Descensus ad Inferos)[27]

In 1999, Routledge published Peterson's Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. The book, which took Peterson 13 years to complete, describes a comprehensive theory for how we construct meaning, represented by the mythical process of the exploratory hero, and provides an interpretation of religious and mythical models of reality presented in a way that is compatible with modern scientific understanding of how the brain works. It synthesizes ideas drawn from narratives in mythology, religion, literature and philosophy, as well as research from neuropsychology, in "the classic, old-fashioned tradition of social science."[27]

Peterson's primary goal was to figure out the reasons why individuals, not simply groups, engage in social conflict, and try to model the path individuals take that results in atrocities like the Gulag, Auschwitz and the Rwandan genocide. Peterson considers himself a pragmatist, and uses science and neuropsychology to examine and learn from the belief systems of the past and vice versa, but his theory is primarily phenomenological. In the book, he explores the origins of evil, and also posits that an analysis of the world's religious ideas might allow us to describe our essential morality and eventually develop a universal system of morality.[28]

Harvey Shepard, writing in the Religion column of the Montreal Gazette, stated: "To me, the book reflects its author's profound moral sense and vast erudition in areas ranging from clinical psychology to scripture and a good deal of personal soul searching. ... Peterson's vision is both fully informed by current scientific and pragmatic methods, and in important ways deeply conservative and traditional."[29]

Online projects

Peterson has produced a series of online writing exercises including: the Past Authoring Program, a guided autobiography; two Present Authoring Programs, which allow the user to analyze his or her personality faults and virtues in accordance with the Big Five personality model; and the Future Authoring program, which steps users through the process of envisioning and then planning their desired futures. The latter program was used with McGill University undergraduates on academic probation to improve their grades.[30]

The Self Authoring programs were developed in partial consequence of research conducted by James W. Pennebaker at the University of Texas at Austin and Gary Latham at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Pennebaker demonstrated that writing about traumatic or uncertain events and situations improved mental and physical health, while Latham has demonstrated that planning exercises that are personal help make people more productive.[30]

In 2013, Peterson began recording his lectures and uploading them to YouTube. He has amassed more than 300,000 subscribers and his videos have received more than 14 million views as of June 2017.[12] He has also appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience, The Gavin McInnes Show, Sam Harris's Waking Up podcast, Steven Crowder's Louder with Crowder, Dave Rubin's Rubin Report, Stefan Molyneux's Freedomain Radio and many other online shows about the free speech/gender pronouns controversy as well as his work as a psychologist. In December 2016, Peterson started his own podcast, The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast, which has 24 episodes as of July 18, 2017.[31]

Critique of political correctness

Peterson's critiques of 'political correctness' have widened from the preferred gender pronouns of students to wider issues including white privilege, cultural appropriation, and postmodernism. Writing in the National Post, Chris Selley, stated that Peterson's opponents had: "underestimated the fury being inspired by modern preoccupations like white privilege and cultural appropriation, and by the marginalization, shouting down or outright cancellation of other viewpoints in polite society's institutions".[32] The impact of these views has been magnified by his social media presence, with The Globe and Mail reporting: "few University of Toronto professors in the humanities and social sciences have enjoyed the global name recognition Prof. Peterson has won".[33]

White privilege

Peterson has criticized the use of the term "white privilege", stating, "The idea that you can target an ethnic group with a collective crime, regardless of the specific innocence or guilt of the constituent elements of that group, there is absolutely nothing that is more racist than that...The idea of collectively held guilt at the level of the individual as a legal or philosophical principle is dangerous."[34]

Feminist postmodernists – the Oedipal pathology

Peterson argues that postmodern feminists err by seeking to infantilise society. Peterson stated: "There is an essential feminine pathology, just as there is an essential masculine pathology. And the essential feminine pathology Freud mapped out, it's the Oedipal mother. And the Oedipal mother is the mother who gets too close to her children, and intermingles herself with them to too great a degree. That in her attempts to protect them undermines them, fatally."

He carries on: "It's so comical watching the feminist postmodernists in particular rattle on about the absence of gender reality and act out the archtypical devouring mother at exactly the same time. For them the world is divided into predators and infants. And the predators are evil and need to be stopped and the infants need to be cared for. Well that's what the mother does, but adults are not infants, and all you do is destroy them when you treat them that way."[35]

Cultural appropriation

Peterson has been prominent in the debate around use of the term cultural appropriation,[36] which he argues is "absolute nonsense". He has stated: "There is no difference between cultural appropriation and learning from one another ... . Now that doesn't mean there is no theft between people. There is. And it doesn't mean just because you encounter some ones else's ideas that you have an immediate right to those ideas as if they were your own. ... But the idea that manifesting in your own behaviour the ideas of another culture—the idea that that's immoral is just insane. It's actually one of the bases of peace. ... one of the things that human beings as groups have to offer one another is the tremendous value of their culture."[37]

Neo-Marxist postmodernists and 'identity politics'

Peterson claims communist principles in postmodernism are being spread under the guise of identity politics. He believes postmodernists built on Marxist ideology, arguing that postmodernists "started to play a sleight of hand, and instead of pitting the proletariat, the working class, against the bourgeois, they started to pit the oppressed against the oppressor. That opened up the avenue to identifying any number of groups as oppressed and oppressor and to continue the same narrative under a different name....The people who hold this doctrine—this radical, postmodern, communitarian doctrine that makes racial identity or sexual identity or gender identity or some kind of group identity paramount—they've got control over most low-to-mid level bureaucratic structures, and many governments as well," he said.[38][39]

Personal life

Peterson married his wife in 1989 and has one daughter and one son.[11]

References

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  2. Vox Popoli (May 8, 2018) http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/05/fake-opposition-confirmed.html
  3. New York Times article placing Shapiro at the outer limit of political discourse | https://archive.fo/akLg5
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  5. Peterson, Jordan B. (March 23, 2017). "Bernt. Pronounced Bear-ent. It's Norwegian, after my great grandfather".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Brown, Louise (April 17, 2007). "Schools a soft target for revenge-seekers". Toronto Sun. Jordan Bernt Peterson of the University of Toronto.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Gyapong, Deborah (November 27, 2016). "Churches should 'tremble' at social justice warrior agenda: speaker". The B.C. Catholic.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
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  34. Debate: Saturday March 11 2017 at the Ottawa Public Library https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UL-SdOhwek 52.03 onwards
  35. Debate: Saturday March 11 2017 at the Ottawa Public Library https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UL-SdOhwek 17.20 onwards
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  37. Debate: Saturday March 11 2017 at the Ottawa Public Library https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UL-SdOhwek 26:45 onwards
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  39. "Dissident Professor Explains Neo-Marxism; 'Women's Studies Should Be Defunded'". Daily Wire. May 28, 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links