“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

The Jordan Peterson Moment: Seeking Dialogue on the Left



9 responses to “The Jordan Peterson Moment: Seeking Dialogue on the Left”

  1. roycrawfordsmith Avatar

    Excellent discussion. To be perfectly honest, I was on the left in the last presidential election. But slowly I’ve felt that rift in my own psyche about the issues pushed by the left. I could not in my own conscience support those issues based on my own gut level reactions. I sort of accidentally ran across Peterson almost 2 years ago around the beginning of the C-16 bill, because I don’t watch mainstream TV and exclusively watch Youtube. I had no idea that the Peterson phenomenon would snowball into what it is today. Needless to say, the more I listened to Peterson, the more I was able to put my gut feelings about my leftist politics into perspective. I began to question some of the ideologies I had formally embraced. I was challenging Peterson on several levels as well, since I am basically a Whiteheadian philosophically. As I investigated Peterson’s basic philosophical and intellectual orientation, and how he was neither a militant atheist nor a religious zealot, and he was intimately familiar with deep understanding of Jungian psychology, as well as a deep understanding of where we are with respect to our understanding of consciousness, my admiration deepened to the point that I was sure that he was on the right track as far as taking us to our next level of planetary evolution. There is much more to this but I think I will leave it there. Thanks very much for the discussion.

  2. donsalmon Avatar

    Can anybody provide a coherent definition of Left, Right, liberal or conservative, one that doesn’t commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness?

  3. Warren Falcon Avatar
    Warren Falcon

    The one-after-another is a bearable prelude to the deeper knowledge of the side-by-side, for this is an incomparably more difficult problem. ~Carl Jung, CW 14, Para 206

    Thank you for this thoughtful conversation. I’ve forwarded it to many, posted in various places in hope that your reflections will create similar elsewhere and bear real practical fruit in the polis.

    I discovered Peterson before the current media storm quite by (happy) accident. Several years ago I googled for a particular passage by C.G. Jung and was offered top of the page a youtube Peterson link, part one of a two part lecture on C.G. Jung as part of his semester course, Personality and Its Transformations [I highly recommend it]. Within minutes of watching his full-bodied efforts, the contorting, the grimaces, the long silences, his pacing, his voice excitedly labile from low tones to high pitched squeals, much of which delivered in many ways, I was hooked. I am a Jungian-oriented counselor for over 20 years now, with years of personal Jungian analysis under my belt (belt being a depth image of sorts what what lurks and percolates beneath), I gained some new and insightful takes on Jung and his psychology from a man of passionate intensity who offers up real meat, not fluff, for think and integration.

    I don’t agree with some of his views but I realized I could learn much from him (re: evolutinary psychology which I did not get exposed to when I was a student and then in my training as a counselor, I also benefit from P.s integrating, attempts thereof, various psychological approachs which, first and even ongoing glance appear to cancel out others) and so listened to his entire Theories series taught, all 5 years of the same course, in a row. From the beginning I soon saw links re: Peterson and his controversies re: gender pronouns, free speech, and more, watching those coming from naive and ideal projections on Peterson on my part viz. “how can he be Jungian AND politically conservative [and has he undergone a personal Jungian analysis where one gets one’s Jung from the inside out via ordeal, disintegration, reintegration, etc.]; the bulk of Jung’s early and middle work delves/dives into anima, animus, shadow shadow and more shadow and the projections thereof upon those ever present “others”/aliens/suspects, etc.

    Watching the media slowly and locally (Canadian, some conservative am talk radio shows) pay attention to Peterson I knew that he, to say it the wrong way, “would soon belong to the collective”, that he would “blow up” and no longer could I or his students have their “own private Peterson (and their personal Self projections upon him)”. And Peterson too would “blow up” or might (how can one not be inflated from all the attention whether positive or negative?). And that is what has happened. And Peterson has orchestrated all that masterfully since, it has been noticed, he knows what he knows what he knows and knows it cold and will articulately argue and demonstrate his points and patiently (for the most part) wait for others counter views (the way he handled the BBC reporter who made him notorious and famous) is a case in point. Peterson, let’s not forget this, is a Trickster and much of his mana derives from that activated archetype of media, communication, shapeshifting, a protector of thieves and liars as well as their victims all at once, etc. Trickster is familiar with all counter arguments and came embody one or the other or many all at once. Peterson forces one to know what they know what they know too. Or at least have some well-thought out and, yes, felt-through views on presenting issues (the “growing edges” where postive grown occurs in self and culture).

    As a very left progressive I have managed to hang on to Peterson in ways that you 3 have discussed. I long ago learned that with any teacher, guru, parser of or after “truth” one must “take the money and run” while not drinking the proverbial Kool Aid offered. What helps is to at least have the target consciousness Jung speaks of in the epigraph above. The amount of inner work implicit in getting to this “side-by-side” consciousness is humbling.

    In closing, since Philip Roth, American novellist, has just passed, I provide this quote from his novel, American Pastoral, which is now even more pertinent than ever as Roth describes the “manifestation of the indigenous American berserk”. A client read this passage to me during session at least, what, 20 years ago, a young man, lost, suicidal, desperate for some, “one real thing”, the kind of young men Peterson apparently is addressing in his bestseller book and pitches thereof:

    “You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you’re anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you’re with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception. And yet what are we to do about this terribly significant business of other people, which gets bled of the significance we think it has and takes on instead a significance that is ludicrous, so ill-equipped are we all to envision one another’s interior workings and invisible aims? Is everyone to go off and lock the door and sit secluded like the lonely writers do, in a soundproof cell, summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word people are closer to the real thing than the real people that we mangle with our ignorance every day? The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that–well, lucky you.”

    — from Amercian Pastoral, a novel by Philip Roth, p. 35

    1. Matthew T. Segall Avatar

      This is the most insightful comment I’ve seen in response the Jordan Peterson phenomenon. Thank you, Warren.

  4. Warren Falcon Avatar
    Warren Falcon

    Forgive some glaring typos, etc. in the above but I think/hope the reader can self-correct my mistakes while writing on a train between Philadelphia and NYC.

  5. Splinter Avatar

    I guess this conversation is all Peterson could have wished for.

    I leave a copy/paste of a comment to this article on Peterson, it foresees of what you guys have been mentioning:

    Splinter says:
    February 14, 2018 at 12:25 pm
    (Yes, absolutely. That is totally what is being seen happening here. Very clear. You are like the author of this piece in the sense that you don’t understand, but then less clever, without being less confident. Your whole examining apparatus is outdated, premeditated and faultily wired. You is not able much to discern your not so existent, overly enthralled “young men” from the observing “sympathisers”, endowed, I admit, maybe a little bit with a little surprising sniff of approving enthusiasm.)

    Maybe the meaning of “Cult” could be inverted in this particular occurrence, meaning you’re in when you’re out; out there in that rigid, hyper-spastic, “consciousness and the nature of its nature is yet of course already fully fathomed” extremely non-guru land. Out there in so-called “post-everything” land, gazing at the rotting carcass of Meaning thinking it still makes total sense because there obviously still is the awareness of the observer. That’s why all these quasi intellectual attempts for a rebutting piece have these awkward and forced shallow sameness. The grasps, though somewhat layered, are utterly simplistic and incompetent. The extreem desire to contain it and dumb it down is cute so to say. It’s delightfully fascinating how the vision that is behind this unfolding living work is fully self-referential, fully self-sustaining, self-empowering and self-balancing by its pragmatic ideal loops that are fundamentally grounded in life and reality and in common sense and that it surfaced through an ill-imposed unnatural law causing a deeply, dééply felt existential outcry of an extremely well developed and intensely contemplative honest soul that already had mapped the Arena. It taps straight from the source, that of itself has no system, only creative potential available for who- or whatever wants to do whatever what with it and that has ingeniously structured itself for an endlessly long time into ever more sublime cohesive brilliance until it got halted by this cognitive dissonance thing caused by some emerged species’ disconnected and delusional idea of fully realised hyper-self awareness that therefor by its own means devours its own generative structure and along with that all other. Up to a certain point, and then something happens that puts the focus back on the original structure that so ironically facilitated the derailing of itself. Ain’t Nature something else?

    It’s perfectly good as it is, as it most obviously says: all this is yet only just beginning. ~Õ~

  6. Splinter Avatar

    Matt Segall, you should take at heart what your conversation partner is saying about Trump and the possible bias. It’s unreal to hear you talk about Peterson and the positive effect he has on your thinking and then go off at Trump in complete opposite fashion. Whit all your philosophical density this is what you make of Donald Trump and the whole geist behind it? It the same geist that Peterson has emerged out of. You are degrading yourself by ascribing all these superficial things to Trump so easily and with such hubristic conviction. It’s ridiculous, it’s the same thing that happens to Peterson with identifying him with the extreme alt-right. Peterson and Trump have risen from the depths of the unconsciousness to take up the battle in the cultural and media landscape to bring out the rage that produces the process that purges the mind of its biases.
    All of you guys admit that there a very deep ignorance in the left and that it needs to reinvent/recalibrate itself. There is more honour in the man than judging that he is only about white nationalism and self enrichment. The man has seen it all throughout his life, thought deep about it and decided to go for it. And then he literally played his name in the political poker game. He trumped the whole political bastion, which is simply a glorious achievement. It’s phenomenal, it’s sublime. It’s going against all odds, it’s the victory of intuitive genius over inert arrogant rational discourse. It made everybody shut the f up and at the same time made everybody speaking out loud, revealing themselves from the shades of the sidelines.
    All got meaningful for everyone all of a sudden. And that’s the great gift, now we starting to know what we are dealing with because everybody reveals him/herself, and with that is being put to scrutiny. And you guys just showed that with this very nice conversation.
    Donald Trump is the personification of all that America is about, his personality has been trained by the intense idiocy of the Show that all the Americans are involved in. He is neither good or bad, he is a natural product of the culture, he represents the Mercury of the alchemical process that reconciles the universal opposites. The American/Wordly Cauldron is Boiling; all the themes that are being battles out in the culture war can be traced back to the alchemical process, e.g. the hermaphrodite as a result of the unification of the King and the Queen, it represents all the gender issues. That low profile myth that is needed, I say a proper candidate for that is the alchemical process. And you are all about this esoteric spiritual Jungian Schellingian Whiteheaded approach to reality, then you must be familiar with the occult/esoteric history of Europa and America. Could it be that some of that is also playing a role in this Grand Drama? Could it be that within the elites certain practices where being honoured and could it be that someone has seen all of this from the inside, got into a certain position and is now in a total war against it? Just give it a thought.

    What is going on is simply absolute consciousness grasping itself through the phenomenal conglomeration of its own creation. A powerful reflective medicine is being presented. This is Ayahuasca cleaning out the mind with intensity, madness and realisations. Simply knowing where to throw up is Key, or how to sublimate that substance.

    As Schelling puts it in Philosophy of Mythology:

    “The theogonic process, through which mythology emerges, is a subjective one insofar as it takes place in consciousness and shows itself through the generating of representations: but the causes and thus also the objects of these representations are the actually and in themselves theogonic powers, just those powers through which consciousness is originally the God-positing consciousness. The content of the process are not merely imagined potencies but rather the potencies themselves—which create consciousness and which
    create nature (because consciousness is only the end of nature) and for this reason are also actual powers. The mythological process does not have to do with natural objects, but rather with the pure creating potencies whose original product is consciousness itself. Thus it is here where the explanation fully breaks through into the objective realm, becomes fully objective.[XI 207]”

    and as Wirth puts it in the foreword of Philosophy of Mythology:

    “One does not explain the fact of mythology philosophically by arguing that mythology is really something otherwise than what it purports itself to be (the infancy of reason, proto-science, archetypes, the despotic musings of power hungry priests, the overarching ambitions of a poetic instinct, culture wide delusional thinking, etc.). Rather the fact of mythology is the fact of what Schelling elsewhere calls the tautegorical. Mythology is the fact of the history of the coming of the Gods and the Gods come as themselves.”

    If there is any merit to this, then we can agree that the idea ‘trump’ in the contemporary American case is kind of representative for the word tautegorical. It’s all alchemy that’s going on. People function is instrument for the mythical process through inspiration expressed by fully developed personalities. It’s all the inner working of the individuation process of this mankind. Peterson is so inspiring because he is Jungian by heart, because consciousness is Jungian by heart. There is this Dragon raging and both the masculine and the feminine and all that the opposites that create the Dichotomy that creates consciousness need to master it by cleaning each other out and working together.

    You yourself comply with the observation that the media has an political agenda, which has mostly revealed itself through the revelations through Wikileaks about how Bernie was cheated. So many factors that all played their part brilliantly in the unfolding. The whole process of the election has been magnificently sublime, to not ascribe a certain ‘geist’ guiding this whole thing is to deny a deep aspect of life and reality. I’d say it’s epic mythology writing itself. Within the human arena it is obvious there is a whole interlacing of the mainstream media and the political establishment to further an agenda. The bias you confirm is on the left is most definitely present in the media, to the highest degree, and not out of ignorance. Trump was an outsider to all of that, that’s why things are so vibrant and reactive. It the most real opposition possible, because it is unscripted. Trump and the media is the same as Peterson and the Left.

    Some words in your ideas about soem of your remarks. Charlottesville, yes horrible what happened. Absolutely. What also happened was that more than 20 people surrounded a troubled young man’s car and put all their hate towards him. It can be paralleled to this one time that Peterson lost his temper and called out Pankay Mishra for his sickening hit piece. And this MS-13 gangmember remarks, make sure that you don’t read your bias into the remarks about them. Calling things out for what they are is often a dirty job, these days. Obama didn’t fix it, although his same dirty job wasn’t exposed like it is now and meanwhile fracking boomed. Just saying: take it easy.

    Your friend is very wise in saying to mitigate his judgement to at least reconsider the narrative. A true gem to have that heard being spoken in this conversation.

    Great work,
    a deepest salute,

  7. Matthew T. Segall Avatar

    Thanks for your fascinating comment. Adam, Jesse, and I are planning to record another conversation on some of these themes next week.

  8. roycrawfordsmith Avatar

    I critiqued this “cult meister” premise about Peterson when that first became the popular rage for explaining away the Peterson phenomenon. Those poor, poor young men who can’t seem to think for themselves need a stupid man’s intellectual, a guru figure of genius to guide them. Right. What rot. It’s deeper than that folks.

    Any way, here’s my story:


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