Jordan Peterson

I started watching this discussion between a Bishop and a Rabbi and very first topic of discussion was this guy Jordan Peterson. And so I went looking for what this guy was a about and then why these two clergy would even be talking about him. In some sense this is a deja vu for me because it recalls to me the impact of Scott Peck who was also a clinical psychiatrist – someone who had a significant impact on my thinking.

His main claim to media attention is as the author of two books where he relates what he has learned of the human condition in his clinical practice:
Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief
12 Steps for Life: An Antidote for Chaos

In this his principle message has been to call to our attention the fundamental connection between meaning and responsibility as a much more solid foundation for our lives than the search for happiness. His point is that without roots in something deeper to hold on to, the inevitable/frequent tragedies of life is just going to blow us away.

He has mostly got into trouble recently with his challenges to the some of the premises of radical feminism. I think perhaps he bends things a little too much but he does make some good points. I was raised in pretty die hard feminism but I am also a male and I can see some areas where things have gone a little out of balance. I have long had sympathies with the male liberation movement (i.e. liberation from expectations which measure manhood by our fit with traditional roles). Then there has been recent observations (by women), that marriage has become something of a losing proposition for men. On the other hand, I have no sympathy whatsoever with anti-abortionist arguments which would deny the right of choice for abortion without question during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy - not as long as rape is a reality. In summary, I suppose I would simply say that feminism is a very complicated issue and there are a lot of assumptions that should be examined carefully.

But this still doesn’t really address why his name came up in a religious discussion. So I kept looking until I found his public talks on the topic of “Psychological Significance of Biblical Stories.”

Just thought I would bring up the subject on the forum before I finish my first foray into this and give you my own impressions.

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I don’t know much about Jordan Peterson either, but have heard rumors of both good and bad. Thanks for breaking into this question. I look forward to learning more.

Just a reminder (not related to anything that has been said, just knowing that Jordan Peterson elicits strong reactions): Even when discussing public figures, please use the same level of graciousness you would use if the person was participating in the conversation. Since he is a political lightning rod, try hard to stick to critiquing ideas, not arguing for or against particular political positions. Thanks.


I listened to the discussion between Bishop Barron and Rabbi Wolpe, I agree with them completely that whilst individuals can be good without religion, on the macro-level, society would suffer. I disagree with you on abortion, as it deprives one of the chance to enjoy life, and I do see it as a sign that we have abandoned the value for life found in Genesis 9:6. There is also fairly good science showing that religious people commit less crime, and give more to charity.

I have tried listening to Peterson’s biblical lectures, and I find them pretty boring, even if he does have great insight on the psychological meaning of the stories.

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I’ve listened to all of Peterson’s podcasts. He would be considered “Christian” by many, but could only be called “Christian” in a cultural sense (whatever that even means).

He has a lot to say of value in our culture today and has elicited a strong interest in the Bible among people that had none before.

Greg Boyd has some interesting responses in his blog (starts here:, but like many, I find that some of his criticisms arise from not really listening to what Peterson is really saying.

I really like Peterson and would love to sit and chat with him (yeah, like there’s any chance of that).

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These two article from Premier Christianity touch that issue pretty good in my opinion, just ignore the title from the second one since it´s cringy and the answer is “No, are you serious?!”
But he is not an atheist for sure and from my persepective he is in a year long transition, that may or even ma not be finished in his life time. Someone here made a good comparison to Kurt Gödel which seems very fitting, some kind of “closet christian” who fears the consequences of embracing it openly? YOu can probably tell better, he´s not that famous in most parts of western europe

I haven’t been a big fan of Nietzsche, and have always been a bit puzzled by those who like him. So for that reason alone, I am thankful to Jordan for giving me more insight into why this is. In the end, I see that even Jordan Peterson criticizes Nietzsche’s claim about a superior man creating his own values. I am also grateful to Jordan for making a more clear separation between the “discarded skeleton” in the teachings of Freud and that part which has fundamentally changed our understanding of the human mind with regards to the unconscious. It seems to me, Jordan draws more from Jung than anyone else in this idea of the realm of dreams, art and the inarticulate being the birthplace of our articulate thinking.

In many ways I am reminded of something which I myself have said…

I believe in magic as an allegorical representative of the non-visible natures of the heart and spirit. I believe in the power of stories to reveal the unseen in symbolism and metaphor. And for this reason I can say that I believe in Santa Claus.

His comparison of the reality of these stories (in myth and the Bible), which abstract meaning from our collective observations of human behavior, with the reality of numbers, is intriguing. I have never liked Plato’s idealistic realism but Jordan’s talk about how abstractions like numbers can be said to be more real because of their power is more compelling than what I read in Plato.

I was also interested in Jordan’s comments in this and other discussions and interviews, which include the following.

  1. Meaning is a human instinct.
  2. I am interested in the psychological causes for catastrophic governance (like Nazism and communism) .
  3. Explaining Nietzsche: Christianity pushed the idea of truth which then became the noose by which it strangled itself.

At the Wycliffe College debate series, he relates a dream he had that is kind of staggering. But I suspect he interprets his dream differently than I would based on his definitions of “Christ” and “God.”

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I watched most of this. Jordan Peterson is by far the most interesting and dynamic speaker of the three and definitely the most passionate. He really has a way of cutting through empty rhetoric to the things which are important.

Of course I agree with Rebecca and Peterson far more than Craig. Craig still clings to the idea that the existence of God can be proven and I have already made it clear how see only intellectual poverty in the moral argument in particular. In fact you can draw a close connection between Euthyphro’s dilemma which Rebecca describes and my own explanation that the reasons why something is good or bad is the only thing that can make morality absolute. You only need an authority to dictate them when they are an arbitrary selected standard and thus essentially relative.

One of the ongoing contentions in the discussion between the three rather eloquently denounced by Peterson is this idea of Craig’s that meaning, value, and significance requires permanence. I quite agree to the objections of both Peterson and Rebecca on this. However, Craig could make a much better case with a slight alteration of his claim by changing it from “requires permanence” to “is enhanced by permanence.” I think there can be no dispute that permanence adds to value and significance. And in my mind cannot help leaping to the example of the material value we see in things like gold and diamond because of their permanence.

Putting lives into the context of an eternal existence is an advantage to the Christian’s ability to see meaning and value in life as long as we don’t make the mistake (which atheists are quite ready to call to our attention) of ignoring the meaning and value the comes from the way we live our life in the moment. This is why the argument Craig makes sounds so hollow. By insisting that it requires permanence, Craig implies discarding the value of what we do in the moment, and puts it all down to rewards in a largely unknown afterlife. This not only sounds dangerous to the quality of life by postponement, but also looks too much like a call to entitlement, when it really should be about doing the right things for their own sake because of who we are.

P.S. It is a bit of a characterization but these three look an awful lot like an embodiment of Scott Peck’s three stages of spirituality: the institutional religious, the skeptic, and the mystic who goes through and beyond skepticism.


See I don’t deny that there are good atheists, and that atheists ‘can’ be good without God. But I do think that an atheist society wouldn’t hold human life to the same value that a Judeo-Christian society would. I agree that the Euthyphro dilemma is a problem. Hence I am a virtue ethicist, not a DCT, I believe we should try to achieve the ultimate flourishing which comes about when we have a moral character (but nothing else, I’m not suggesting some kind of transhumanism) like God.

What are your thoughts on Peterson’s views on polygyny causing violence? Whilst there does seem to be a correllation, this only seems to exist in heavily patriarchal societies, which I argue we no longer live in. The Tanakh does not prohibit polygyny, in fact it expliictly allows it.

I think with a fair distribution of sexes, imbalance in sexual relationships (specifically polygamous marriage) could result in violence.

However, in a culture where the male population has been decimated, say due to war, you wouldn’t see these results and polygamy could be beneficial (especially in more traditional patriarchal cultures).

I am also a virtue ethicist though I understand that as a contrast to deontological ethics and consequentialism, to the say the best measure of morality comes from what we see in mirror (what kind of person it makes us) rather than the integrity of a set of rules or direct consequences (as if such were really under our control anyway). The real opposite to DCT or as I call it, divine relativism, would be more a term like “rational ethics,” that the only absolute element to morality must come from reasons why some things are good and other things are bad (directly derivable from Euthyphro’s dilemma).

While I have no objection to Peterson’s views on Polygamy, I think the viability of most social forms are highly contextual. The workability of polygamy and monogamy depends on the male-female ratio, and for another example, the workability of homosexuality depends somewhat on the population density. I think the ethics of slavery and monarchy are also dependent on the context. Slavery can seem be the only ethical option in a world of constant warfare where you have the problem of what do with large numbers of captured prisoners (notice that this hardly justifies the kind of slavery which America resurrected after slavery was abolished in Europe). And democracy isn’t very workable in such a world of constant warfare where the vast majority are neither literate or educated.

Because of this, I don’t think the Bible promotes polygamy any more than it promotes slavery or monarchy despite the frequent attempts to read this into the Bible. Rather it sought promote morality and reform in the context of whatever social forms we have adopted.

I never said it ‘promotes’ it I just said it explicitly ‘allows’ it.

Responses are not always about you or what you said, so unless they specifically say so it isn’t a great idea to assume this.

It was a response to a post I made, so you cannot blame me

So, I cannot talk to you without talking about you? You asked a question and I was replying to that question. If I was commenting on what said then I would quote it.

In any case, I prefer to talk about the Bible and about Jordan Peterson. I thought that is what you were interested in also. You were asking my thought on Peterson. But if you want my thoughts on what you said, I can do that too.

Most would consider a polygamist society to be a heavily patriarchal society. Certainly the historical examples bear this out. But, I don’t see really any logical connection with violence regardless, particularly when the gender ratios are agreeable. As for your comment on the Tanakh… I am not quite clear what you are trying to say. Is the second phrase anything more than a repetition of the first? What do you mean by “explicitly?”

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