Ideology, Logos, and Belief | Jordan Peterson

I came across this interview with Peterson last month, and as a year-long fan of his, this is one of the best interviews I’ve listened to. This is a good video to share with people who’ve never heard of Jordan Peterson before, because they’ll get a nice primer of his body of work. It does a good job of encapsulating the arc of Peterson’s thoughts over his career (especially recently) and the interviewer does a great job of asking timely and well-articulated questions that help Peterson explain a complicated idea to those that might not be familiar.

If he references Christianity, those thoughts go into this post: Truths & Symbolism in Judaism & Christianity. Which is serving as the amalgamation of all of his ideas about Christianity.

0:00:00 — Summary of the Latest Events

Fallout from series of videos from Sept 2016. Made video critiquing bill 3-16. Took issue with compelled speech (gender pronouns). Marxist identity politics. Inappropriate to turn it into legislation. The videos were made because he had something on his mind and needed to clarify his thoughts. He decided he’d publish them to see if his ideas “clicked”.

It’s never obvious what’s going on.

The more serious an event in your life, the more you use religious terminology to characterize it. Words like “good” and “evil”. Someone suffering from PTSD are usually struggling because of someone malevolent—and sometimes that malevolent person can be themselves. They had a certain view of the world, and then were made to do something that they didn’t know they were capable of doing. It’s as if this archetypal evil leapt out of them and slaughtered someone on the battlefield—this effectively shatters them, they can’t believe they were capable of that. This usually happened to people who are somewhat naive, and you have to help them build a new structure of reality.

References his thoughts on “The Story of Cain and Abel“.

It doesn’t matter what people say they believe, it matters how they act.

Trans-gendered activists are not accurately representing the actual wishes of trans-gendered people.


References his thoughts on “The Word of God“. Peterson was calling upon this idea in order to frame up the issue of bill 3-16. Take something that is large, unwieldy, and hard to understand, and try to bring more specificity to it, and distill the issues down into something that everyone can better understand.

“People ask me ‘Why’d you pick that hill to die on?’ Well, because you have to pick a hill to die on.”

Genie: (genius) tremendous power encapsulated in a tiny space. One idea that the Christians were trying to figure out is how was the entire majesty of God able to instantiate itself into the human frame. Human beings are essentially low-resolution representations of god.

While making the video, Peterson claimed that it was probably illegal to say the things he said under the pending legislation. The University sent Peterson a cease and desist letter, which was perversely helpful because it served to prove Peterson’s point. The University claimed that it had received complaint letters saying that Peterson is violating the code of inclusion and making the campus an unsafe space. They conveniently left out the fact that the University received hundreds of letters in support Peterson. They didn’t take  both sides of the story into account.


Interviewer plays “devils advocate”. Rene Girard, the Scapegoat. He challenges Peterson’s focus on Christianity because it’s what’s readily available.

Was this the case even in the middle ages? For instance could it be that the idea of the individual and free speech arose out of separate social and political processes independently from religious tradition? I mean there were times in the Christian history where people were burned or maimed for dissenting against the doctrine.

Vision of a plane. Barren earth. Gigantic crystal—being pushed up from the earth. There’s an idea that is trying to break free. It’s happening very slowly. Some people like to trace the development of the Western Tradition to the enlightenment and then stop there. And then mis-characterize the Christian dogma as if it were something that was standing in its way. In reality, the enlightenment is this brief side-show to a process that has been emerging for much longer.

“The spirit and the dogma of a religious tradition are always in conflict, because on the one hand, dogma provides structure, and the spirit provides transformation.” –Jordan Peterson

Rationalists and the empiricists started to build a robust system of objective reality, which seemed to be in conflict with the teachings of the Christian church.


No distinction between the spiritual and material—it’s a low-resolution understanding. For example, look at a cell under a 10x microscope, you can see a low-res view of the cell. If you zoom in even further then you can really see all the parts of the cell.

We’ve always been making maps of the world. Not so much an objective top-down map, but rather a map of “being”. Progress of human knowledge is differentiation of the maps. Sometimes an undifferentiated map is more useful because it obscures useless details.

Items can have sentimental importance. It’s not just a material item, it’s actually an element of “being”. The mountain where your grandfather was buried is not the same as another mountain. “Well yes they are, they’re made of the same clay and silica, and all those things…” Yeah, man—you’re missing the point! There may be usefulness in recognizing a subjective reality and the objective reality. In a sense, we are technological wizards, but we’ve lost something… that subjective overlay.

Evolutionary perspective on religion is that it’s something that has evolved with humanity for functional reasons.  From the perspective of the realist, there’s nothing more real than the atom. From the perspective of a philosopher of being, there’s nothing more real than suffering. What is “being”? Being is the realm in which suffering is real—you can’t argue with it—it’s the least deniable aspect of our subjective experience. People act as if their pain is real. “I am consciously aware, therefore I am.” This is not the material world—pain is not a material phenomena.

Devils advocate: but pain is a neurological condition that can be treated with medicine and therapy to limit or decrease pain.

Well what you’re really doing here is “tinkering with the edges of pain” but you are not actually eradicating the whole of the pain. It’s not that people are striving for happiness, exactly—when in fact they are striving to minimize negativity and suffering.


Social media—facebook/instagram. Everyone is trying to show their happiest life. You need a philosophy that withstand tragedy, and that philosophy should be the closest to the ultimate truth that we can strive for.

Discussion about Iconography, Dreams, and Idea.

Tyrant chimp will not rule for long, he’ll be ripped to shreds by two sub-tyrant chimps. They have no restraint on their emotion. More stable rulers pay attention to the females. They reciprocate, they have friends and allies. Maintain friendships and formations of alliances. Their rule stabilizes. They are culture heroes of the chimps. The wolves act this out. The rats act this out.

Talks about the rats at play—a bigger rat has to let the little rat win at least 30% of the time or the little rat will stop asking him to play.

Morality that emerges at a basic behavioral level out of the necessity of social interaction.


Lets say that’s been true for hundreds of millions of years (which is when the dominance hierarchy emerged) There are ways of comporting yourself within the DH that ensure your success. The DH also acts as a selection mechanism. In most mammalian species, the females use it to “peel off the top”. The successful climbers are the ones that leave the most offspring. The morality becomes structurally part of us as well. There’s a concordance between our moral obligations and the demands of the social world. It’s real.  What’s real is that which selects. This isn’t the material world. Materialists try to oversimplify, and it doesn’t work.

References his discussion with Sam Harris.

We are unsophisticated at measuring “well being”. Well being for how long? and When? 5 years later? And who chooses what well being is? Well-being in relationship to my significant others? To the community? Going to measure that, eh? Good luck. Fatal flaw.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to their need”. Devil’s in the details.

The centrality of the DH theme in your thoughts leads viewers wondering “How is that different from the Marxist philosophy where ‘power is everything’?” DH is a shorthand. It’s could just be any hierarchical structure, not just power. A hierarchy built on power is very unstable. You can force someone to do something, but it is extremely costly to maintain that force. For example, let’s simplify it like this: First, there’s a set of games that I make you play. Then there’s the set of games that we play together. Lets have a competition between those two kinds of games. We’ll orient these games toward the production of a certain thing and see who can get there first. Voluntary game wins every time because there are no “enforcement costs”.

Piaget’s equilibrated state. E.g. peekaboo with an infant. What happens when you play peekaboo with an infant is by gesturing, you and the infant settle on the rules of the game. What you want to do is engage the infant in play because you find that intrinsically rewarding. The infant will look at you, you’ll smile, and he’ll smile, because that’s what infants do—you can tell if the infant is in a playful mood. Then you can hide your face, and you want to calibrate this so you don’t startle the infant. You want to put the infant on the border of order and chaos because that’s where the “fun” is. So you play with the hiding and re-manifesting yourself and it produces delight in the infant. And what you’ve done there is set up a societal microcosm. Games are tiny societies—everyone agrees on the rules and they play the game. As the child grows, the confines of the game expand until the line between “the game” and world at large are indistinguishable.


This is why the Post-Modernists are wrong about the infinity of interpretations. While they are correct that there ARE an infinity of interpretations, there isn’t an infinity of viable interpretations. For example, I am not going to play an interpretation that produces an excess of agony.

There are built-in biological modules that part of our evolutionary history: pain, hunger, thirst, temperature regulation, elimination, sexual desire. Each of these modules has it’s own “world-view”. The hunger view: I need to find food, where is it? etc. Post-modernists are forced to deny these because it undermines their theory.

We are also bound by our biological constraints. We are going to be hungry now, and we are going to be hungry later. The constraints are now and later. The solution has to solve both of those problems. But not only that, but it has to solve the problem for yourself as well as the other person in your space that has the same problem! We either fight or we mutually negotiate a solution, which is not easy. You argue with the people you live with all the time, because you are essentially trying to figure out “which interpretation will suffice?” You work through this with the family, the community, the economic system the biological system, etc. They game is played simultaneously at every level. That’s what a symphony expresses, right? It’s all of these levels of being stacked up one on top of another but yet they are all acting harmoniously. Because we are evolved for this, we can tell when it’s happening. Dopamine kicks in—that’s what the sense of meaning is, which is very old, and rooted in the hypothalamus.


text – obviously, i’m tired, but It’s time to publish anyway.















Image Credit : Pixabay



Leave Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.