Twelve Perspectives on Jordan Peterson: An Antidote to Allergies and Infatuations
Posted: 27 Jun 2018 Last revised: 4 Mar 2019
Date Written: June 20, 2018
The cultural pressure to endorse or reject public intellectuals wholesale is problematic, because it can perpetuate groupthink, and diminishes scope for intellectual growth, societal maturation and political imagination. On encountering public figures who appear to be both right and wrong, sometimes simultaneously, perhaps dangerously, there is scope to be more creative and less reactive in our response. In the illustrative case of Jordan Peterson, commentators often orient their analysis within a conceptually moribund political spectrum; eg Peterson is ‘Alt Right’ attacking ‘The Radical Left’. Social media echo chambers lead some to read that Peterson’s ‘fanboys’ are ‘misogynist trolls’ while others hear that his critics are ‘virtue signaling snowflakes’. And the tendency of print and broadcast media to seek a defining angle tends to diminish rather than distill complexity; for instance Peterson’s fame is related to a perceived crisis in masculinity, but that is not the whole story. The coinage ‘Petersonitis’ is introduced here as a serious joke to describe the intellectual and emotional discomfort that arises when we seek a fuller understanding of complex characters in a divisive political culture. In an echo of Peterson’s book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, twelve relatively dispassionate perspectives on his contribution are offered as an antidote to the language of allergy and infatuation that has surrounded his rise to fame. Peterson is described here as symptomatic, multiphrenic, theatrical, solipsistic, sacralising, hypervigilant, monocular, ideological, Manichean, Piagetian, masculine and prismatic. First person language is used to reflect the author’s experience of Petersonitis, after being drawn to Peterson’s online video lectures, debating with him in a public forum and gradually clarifying the nature of my disappointment in his outlook and approach. It is hoped that the paper will help readers recognise, recover from, and ultimately transcend Petersonitis, and to appreciate the wider application of the idea.
Note: *This paper can now be viewed on Medium, under the title: "Cultural Indigestion: What we learned and failed to learn from Jordan Peterson's rise to fame."
Keywords: Jordan Peterson, Public intellectuals, Masculinity, Conversation, Twitter, Books, Transgender, Psychology, Reductionism, Postmodernism, Spirituality, Media, Culture, Christianity, Jungian, Piagetian
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