Thursday 10 May 2018

If not, then what? As applied to Jordan Peterson (in this evil totalitarian society)

It is all very well for me to call Jordan Peterson an antichrist, and to warn people off taking seriously someone who is a merely a psychotherapist, left-libertarian, atheist... but the rejoinder is that 'who else' is there in the modern world getting mainstream coverage that is talking as much common sense?

And the answer is: nobody. Nobody else who has comparable fame and impact is any better than Jordan Peterson  - and yet Jordan Peterson is qualitatively inadequate for the needs of this time: he is a waste of time, a blind alley, a red herring; thus, in our state-of-emergency - he does more harm than good...

There just isn't anybody who has anything significantly worth listening to that most people have heard of, or who has power or fame. That is the nature of our time and place...

Surely this is not surprising? What do you expect - we live in an evil-dominated totalitarian society! What public figures, 'public intellectuals', people with a high impact 'platform' were there in Stalin's USSR or Mao's China or current North Korea? Exactly the same number that we have in the UK, the US and Western Europe.

For people to regard JP as a significant thinker is evidence that they have no idea of the severity of the situation here and now.  They have no idea of the pervasiveness and depth of corruption in a society that officially advocates and enforces moral and aesthetic inversion; which punishes truth and systematically generates an interlocking structure of lies. We are in a very bad way indeed - advanced en route to self-chosen damnation on a mass scale.

Put it this way; if our situation was such that Jordan Peterson really was a valuable public voice saying something we needed to hear; then we would not need him.

But as things are, to find what we need, we must (and must means must) look outside the scope of the mainstream mass media - that is: we need to look to writers and thinkers from the past or other places, or who operate in relative or extreme obscurity.

What we need to know will not be given us - we need to seek for it. And if we haven't sought for it, then we can be sure that it is not what we need... That's what it means to live in a totalitarian society.   


Michael Dyer said...

Can you expand on that? He's been called a gateway drug to Christianity and he's opened up a door to a lot of doors to people "too clever" to believe in a spiritual world.

I have my own serious reservations but antichrist is a bit strong.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Michael - Read yesterday's post on the subject. And 'antichrist' may not mean what you think it means!

Michael Dyer said...

I am so sorry, I missed that, will do.

Michael Dyer said...

Read your post, right, carry on!

I've been bothered by JP as well because others keep listing him as Christian and he claims to be such, but from much listening, I think he means "I think it's useful as a philosophy/therapy/etc." not "Jesus Christ is the Way the Truth and the Life".

ted said...

This is one area for Peterson that is odd. He seems like he wants to be a real Christian, but can't take the leap. Instead cleverly he creates his own church. Seems like a cop out. And maybe that is why he is only a functional Christian.

Chiu ChunLing said...

JP is mostly useful for observing that, scientifically speaking, Christianity is not false.

And while it is true that this observation could be said to do more harm than good, it very clearly does most of that harm to those who would prefer to assert that Christianity is incompatible with science.

It's true enough that what he is entering into the public discourse is facts so obvious and incontestable as to be apparently trivial, such as pointing out that men and women are in fact different from each other, and these differences remain even when it is inconvenient. If there were any hope left of saving our civilization, it would not be necessary to lionize anyone for publicly standing up for such commonplaces.

And so, seeing that civilization cannot be saved, it is foolish to act as though one man can save it. But that isn't the point.

The more people who come to see how far our civilization has strayed from fundamental principles necessary for its continuation, the more people can arouse themselves to prepare for the now inevitable collapse of civilization.

And that's far from worthless.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - "The more people who come to see how far our civilization has strayed from fundamental principles necessary for its continuation, the more people can arouse themselves to prepare for the now inevitable collapse of civilization. And that's far from worthless."

Actually it *is* worthless.

I 'was' Jordan Peterson until I became a Christian - near enough... Professor of Psychology, libertarian, atheist, anti-political correctness (the first international media firestorm I experienced was almost exactly a decade ago). I was involved in all kinds of campaigns (through academic papers and journalism, and networking) to introduce 'common sense' functionality into medicine, universities, public policy; I was involved in various think tanks that did the same (esepcially the Social Affairs Unit; and I contributed to Roger Scruton's Salisbury Review)...

But actually it was all worthless - because it was inevitably utterly ineffectual - lacking The One Thing Needful. It was based on false metaphysics (and therefore reinforced false metaphysics) - it ignored Christianity (and therefore it was intrinsically wrong).

Anyone whose activities are not based upon working for the One Thing Needful is wasting their time, and wasting everybody elses time - and in the context of things as they are and are trending, that is a wicked thing to do.

And yes, that means that nearly everybody is strategically evil in their activities. That is the measure of the problem.

We must must keep our eyes on the ball, and not somewhere else. Anyone who is not telling us to look at the ball, is a part of the problem, and blocking the solution.

Unknown said...

I think the problem with JP is the medium. JP himself is a smart guy who's been trying to get a grip on what is going on for quite a while, however he definitely hasn't sorted out sound metaphysics yet. Left to his own devices, I suspect he would have continued to wrestle with the problem and made progress. Unfortunately, he's now famous, which means that the the signal to noise ratio on his communications with people who could help him has gone waaaay down. He has neither a spiritual Master who could help guide him, nor a solid crew of fellow seekers he could efficiently explore with.

Twitter is not at all conducive to getting one's own philosophy sorted out, and neither are book and lecture tours. With luck his fame will dissipate or he'll be discredited / broken by the Mass Media in the usual ways and then he can get back to real work. Maybe he can come visit you here!

The big give away that JP has spiritual problems is how unhappy and attached to suffering he is. (This is why he attracts so many other people who are suffering.) Once you really *know* that God has your back it sets a hard upper limit to how miserable you can be. Jesus himself was only on the cross for a couple of days, after which he was *just fine*.

-- Robert Brockman

-- Robert Brockman II

Unknown said...

"I 'was' Jordan Peterson until I became a Christian - near enough... Professor of Psychology, libertarian, atheist, anti-political correctness"

This makes you one of the most qualified to be his spiritual Master: you were at his position on the game board and somehow figured out how to get to the next stage. If the understanding of how this was done can be properly packaged and transmitted to him, he might be able to make the jump. The Mass Media has made that next to impossible right now, but they will find another chew-toy soon enough. He doesn't strike me as the sort who wants to remain stuck forever: you certainly didn't, so if the analogy holds up, neither does he.

I had limited personal contact with JP before he became ultra-famous, when the time is right we should seriously consider bailing him out.

-- Robert Brockman

Bruce Charlton said...

@Robert - Ha! There are no spiritual Masters here and now; we have to do these things for ourselves, by intuition and effort (we can find teachers from whom we can learn with discernment: e.g. Tolkien, Lewis, Barfield... but no Masters to whom obedience is justified).

Until the late-1990s I did a fair bit of travelling to meetings, conferences to give talks etc - and appeared on national radio and TV somewhat; but since then I have been - unlike JP - extremely introverted, and more so as I get older.

Probably this has been enforced by my increasingly severe and frequent migraines. Anyway, the idea of world tours, book signings and the like fill me with absolute dread - I simply would not do it.

But for whatever combination of disposition, choice and illness; I have been for a couple of decades relatively very disengaged from the main-stream - which is, of course, necessary.

Unknown said...

A Master is simply somebody who both understands something and understands how to teach it to somebody else, the Apprentice. Once the Apprentice can demonstrate to the Master that he has understanding he becomes a Journeyman, once the student can demonstrate his ability to teach the understanding he then is declared to be a Master. Apostolic succession like this works the same way in plumbing, carpentry, and spirituality.

Transmission of certain kinds of knowledge can only be done this way because either the knowledge is implicit / procedural and cannot be written down or because the Apprentice is unfit to judge for himself whether or not he truly understands. For many kinds of spiritual knowledge especially there is a great danger that a would-be Apprentice will read a book or consume some other form of Mass Media and become deluded into thinking he understands something when he does not.

Attempting to transmit information using the Mass Media which requires the closed-loop apprenticeship model for reliable and safe learning is a form of greed, which is why so much "education" these days is nonsense. The Mass Media is not very useful for dispersing the spiritual knowledge that you have acquired, and would be a huge distraction to your spiritual research. Helping out JP or others like him would be a private one-on-one or at most one-on-five sort of thing.

As for the existence of very high level spiritual Masters here and now, we should remember the Word on the Street: the Gospel writer John is supposedly *still out there* and if he isn't, one of his apprentices is. It is possible that the current lesson God wants us to learn is "figure stuff out for yourself", but I think it's more likely that all manner of reinforcements will be made available to us when we are in a position to benefit from them. My suspicion is that for JP, someday soon, *we* may be those reinforcements.

-- Robert Brockman

Bruce Charlton said...

@Robert - Good point about the author of the fourth gospel being still alive, and clearly a Master in the sense of a 'resurrected angel' - and also that there are all kinds of divine helps (sometimes called synchronicity). The basic scheme seems to be that we should do as much as possible 'for ourselves' but that divine providence will arrange matters and provide tactical interventions so as to make possible what we most need.

Unknown said...

This is interesting timing because I just met him briefly when he was in Seattle for his book tour.

From what I have seen I disagree with the harshness of your assessment.

I have watched several hours of his Biblical lecture series which are available on YouTube. Peterson takes the position that
the Bible is essentially true. He goes through it line by line and describes how he feels each line is true when viewed through his lends of psychology.

Where he is noncommittal is in the exact nature of that truth. When asked if he believes in God for example his answer is that he acts as though God exists.

My impression is that he clearly believes God is a necessity and that the Bible contains deep fundamental truth and the standard atheists critiques of it are false.

My impression is that he still struggles with a priori metaphysical truth. That is he has not taken the metaphysical step from the logical necessity of God to the accepted reality of God.

However, Peterson's positions and thought process are a natural prequel to that step and not incompatible with it. I think he is and will lead a lot of young men to Christianity who otherwise would not find it. "Ye shall know them by their fruits." Furthermore he appears to have a deep commitment to seeking truth so I would not discount the possibility of him taking that metaphysical step in the future.

I think the thing missing from Peterson's worldview is the very thing so often discussed in this blog. It's too bad you two don't know each other.

-Jared Wagner

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jared - I think JP as he *was*, is one thing - JP as he is now, is another.

He is stuck in a transitional phase, and has not moved on; but one cannot stay still, spiritually, if not forward into faith, then inevitably backwards away from it - and this is why (I believe) he is corrupting - accelerated by excess media engagement, publicity adulation.

What is he actually advocating is Christianity as an expedient social system, which is not salvific. Evangelicals are correct: one *must* be born again, salvation is by faith, which is personal...

Also, being a psychotherapist is intrinsically corrupting, dishonest. So whatever he was (which was not very much! - in the scheme of things) he is getting worse, not better.

Really - it is a bit absurd (or desparate) to suppose that someone who is Not himself a Christian is going to lead young men to faith as you and others have told me!... this is what I meant by people treating him as a 'saviour'.

Only because JP is being so regarded, does he actually function as an antichrist.

Unknown said...


A great way to open someones mind to an alternative worldview is to challenge their system of beliefs on its own terms. To show that it fails using its own metrics when applied to reality.

Often it is only after that failure is manifest that those who have accepted the assumptions of that worldview become willing to revisit them.

My own path towards a faith in God started with the realization that I should question atheist utilitarianism on utilitarian grounds. That was the necessary first step.

It is only after that first step back that one can consider the deeper arguments of faith or metaphysics.

Arguments like those of Peterson are certainly not strong theist arguments. You are correct in stating something critical is missing. It is through faith not through evolutionary or utilitarian arguments that a true knowledge of God is formed.

The words of faith, however, often cannot reach those who have embraced nihilistic assumptions. They are blocked or interpreted as nonsensical by the filter of assumptions those on that path have adopted. To grasp the deeper arguments one must first turn around travel back to the point where theism was rejected as definitively false. Only then as the assumptions of atheism peel away is possible to hear and truly consider the deeper arguments of faith.

Peterson keeps his arguments within a general empiric framework and makes the case that Christianity is true on a practical level. That argument often can reach an atheist. It is less likely to be blocked by false a priori assumptions. Once one accepts the practical truth it is much easier take another step forward and accept the ultimate truth.

I am not a huge fan of psychotherapist in general either but no field is all bad and I make an exception for Peterson. I think he is helping many young people back away from Nihilism. Definitely not a savior and definitely not sufficient but overall a force for good.

-Jared Wagner

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jared - Of course there are going to be individual exceptions, because everybody is different - but Peterson's approach was tried, very thoroughly, very competently, back in the early 1980s; indeed in a much more favourable social context, and when there were *many* public intellectuals pursuing it (in the UK Roger Scruton was an example - a *far* more substantial and impressive individual than JP).

As a strategy, after a little bit of impact at first - as shock value; it did not work and it really is a waste of time for people suppose it is going to work now, when Leftism has evolved and adpated specifically to neurtalise and defeat exactly this approach.

Having worked-through this slowly and painfully, and seen how secular Leftism was stregthened by the encounter, it is dismaying to see so many people gearing up to repeat the mistakes of the past.

But we now have, or should have, the advantage that things are becoming very clear and very simple - and what we need is also clear and simple... at least, it is if we can sufficiently detach from the mass media circus and its distortion field.

Unknown said...

@DrCharlton - Interesting post!
Will there be a mini-review of Avengers: Infinity War out in the near future? Excited to hear your thoughts as always.

Bruce Charlton said...

@HT - I intend to see the movie - whether it gets a review depends on my reaction...

L. J. Wright said...

We shall have to agree to disagree. John and I have listened to Peterson for hours and hours, and he's just brilliant. It's not a Christian approach, but he doesn't pretend to have a Christian approach. He's looking at life from the point of view of someone who is trying to help an unmoored generation find their bearing.

But I don't think a Christian would be as successful today. There are people who are violently allergic to Christianity. Only someone on the outside has a chance of reaching them.

On the other side, John thinks Peterson is in a similar place to where he was right before he converted. So maybe we should be praying for his conversion. ;-)

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jagi - I have also said that JP is what I was 15 years ago.

However, the difference is that JP wants fame, wealth and influence in the modern mainstream world, and has got it by Not becoming a Christian - which is the cost of getting and keeping fame, wealth and influence.

JP has faced the fork in the road and has already taken the wrong path and gone a long way down it.

This makes JP a bad person to pin hopes on, and unsuitable to be a spiritual leader - he is already compromised, already en route to corruption; yet people are pinning great hopes on him, and people do regard him as a spiritual leader: that is the problem.