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Jordan Peterson

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Jordan Peterson
Peterson in 2018
Born
Jordan Bernt Peterson

(1962-06-12) 12 June 1962 (age 62)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Occupations
Spouse
Tammy Roberts
(m. 1989)
Children2
Academic background
EducationUniversity of Alberta (BA, BA)
McGill University (PhD)
ThesisPotential Psychological Markers for the Predisposition to Alcoholism (1990)
Doctoral advisorRobert O. Pihl
Influences
Academic work
DisciplineClinical psychology
Institutions
Notable works
Websitejordanbpeterson.com Edit this at Wikidata
Signature

Jordan Bernt Peterson (born 12 June 1962) is a Canadian psychologist, author, and media commentator.[4] He began to receive widespread attention in the late 2010s for his conservative[5][6] views on cultural and political issues.[7][8][9] Peterson has described himself as a classical British liberal,[10][11] and a traditionalist.[12]

Peterson was born and raised in Alberta, and he obtained two bachelor's degrees from the University of Alberta and a PhD in clinical psychology from McGill University. After researching and teaching at Harvard University, he returned to Canada in 1998 and became a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. In 1999, he published his first book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, which became the basis for many of his subsequent lectures. The book combined psychology, mythology, religion, literature, philosophy and neuroscience to analyze systems of belief and meaning.

In 2016, Peterson released a series of YouTube videos criticizing the Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Bill C-16), passed by the Parliament of Canada to introduce "gender identity and expression" as prohibited grounds for discrimination. Peterson argued that the bill would make the use of certain gender pronouns compelled speech and related this argument to a general critique of "political correctness" and "identity politics". He received significant media coverage, attracting both support and criticism.

In 2018, he paused both his clinical practice and teaching duties and published his second book: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, a self-help book. Promoted with a world tour, it became a bestseller in several countries. In 2019 and 2020 Peterson suffered health problems related to benzodiazepene dependence.[13] In 2021, he published his third book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, resigned from the University of Toronto, and returned to podcasting. In 2022, Peterson signed a content distribution deal with the conservative media company The Daily Wire and became Chancellor of Ralston College. His various lectures and conversations, available mainly on YouTube and podcasts, have gathered millions of views.

Early life

Peterson was born on 12 June 1962 in Edmonton, Alberta.[14] He is the eldest of three children born to Walter and Beverley Peterson. Beverley was a librarian at the Fairview campus of Grande Prairie Regional College, and Walter was a school teacher.[15][16] His middle name is Bernt (/ˈbɛərənt/, BAIR-ənt).[17] Peterson grew up in a mildly Christian household.[18]

In junior high school, Peterson became friends with Rachel Notley and her family. Notley became leader of the Alberta New Democratic Party and the 17th premier of Alberta.[19] Peterson was a member of the New Democratic Party (NDP) from ages 13 to 18.[20][21] As a teenager, Peterson decided that "religion was for the ignorant, weak and superstitious" and hoped for a left-wing revolution, a hope that lasted until he met left-wing activists in college.[18]

Education

After graduating from Fairview High School in 1979, Peterson entered Grande Prairie Regional College to study political science and English literature,[22] studying to be a corporate lawyer.[3] During this time he read The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell, which significantly affected his educational focus and worldview.[22][3] He later transferred to the University of Alberta, where he completed his BA in political science in 1982.[20] Afterwards, he took a year off to visit Europe, where he began studying the psychological origins of the Cold War; 20th-century European totalitarianism;[22][10] and the works of Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,[15] and Fyodor Dostoevsky.[10]

Peterson then returned to the University of Alberta and received a BA in psychology in 1984.[23] In 1985, he moved to Montreal to attend McGill University where he earned his PhD in clinical psychology under the supervision of Robert O. Pihl in 1991, and remained as a post-doctoral fellow at McGill's Douglas Hospital until June 1993, working with Pihl and Maurice Dongier.[22][24] While at McGill University and the Douglas Hospital, Peterson conducted research into familial alcoholism and its associated psychopathologies, such as childhood and adolescent aggression and hyperactive behaviour.[25][26][27]

Career

Peterson at the University of Toronto in March 2017

From July 1993 to June 1998, Peterson lived in Arlington, Massachusetts, while teaching and conducting research at Harvard University, where he was hired as an assistant professor in the psychology department. Author Gregg Hurwitz, a former student of Peterson's at Harvard, has cited Peterson as an inspiration of his, and psychologist Shelley Carson, former PhD student and now-professor at Harvard, recalled that Peterson's lectures had "something akin to a cult following", stating, "I remember students crying on the last day of class because they wouldn't get to hear him anymore."[28] Following his associate position at Harvard, Peterson returned to Canada in 1998 to become a full professor at the University of Toronto.[23][9]

Peterson's areas of study and research within the fields of psychology are psychopharmacology,[29][30] abnormal,[31] neuro,[32] clinical, personality,[33][34] social,[34] religious, and ideological.[22] For most of his career, Peterson maintained a clinical practice, seeing about 20 people a week. He has been active on social media, and in September 2016 he released a series of videos in which he criticized Bill C-16.[35] As a result of new projects, he decided to put the clinical practice on hold in 2017,[36] and temporarily stopped teaching as of 2018.[16][14]

In February 2018, Peterson entered into an agreement with the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO) after a professional misconduct complaint about his communication and the boundaries he sets with his patients. The college did not consider a full disciplinary hearing necessary and accepted Peterson entering into a three-month undertaking to work on prioritizing his practice and improving his patient communications. Peterson had no prior disciplinary punishments or restrictions on his clinical practice.[37][38]

In March, 2020 the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (“ICRC”) of the College of Psychologists of Ontario ("CPO") investigated statements made by Peterson which were alleged to be "transphobic, sexist, racist" and "not in keeping with any clinical understanding of mental health".[39] They concluded their investigation without making any orders but expressed concern that "the manner and tone in which Dr. Peterson espouses his public statements may reflect poorly on the profession of psychology" and advised him to "offer [his] opinions and comments in a respectful tone in order to avoid a negative perception toward the profession of psychology."[39]

In the fall of 2021, Peterson retired from the University of Toronto, becoming professor emeritus.[40] In May 2022, he became chancellor of Ralston College, a liberal arts education project.[41] Along with Baroness Stroud and John Anderson, Jordan Peterson founded Alliance for Responsible Citizenship in June 2023.[42] He hosted its international conference in October of that year.[42]

In November, 2022 the ICRC ordered Peterson to complete a specified continuing education or remedial program regarding professionalism in public statements.[39][43][44] The ICRC concluded that some of the language used in his public statements between January 2022 and June 2022 "may be reasonably regarded by members of the profession as disgraceful, dishonourable and/or unprofessional" and that his statements "posed moderate risk of harm to the public" by "undermining public trust in the profession of psychology".[39] They also concluded that he “appeared to be engaging in degrading comments about a former client and making demeaning jokes on the Joe Rogan experience".[39]

Peterson denied any wrongdoing and filed for judicial review.[45][43] Peterson's appeal was reviewed in August of the same year by panel of three judges of the Ontario Divisional Court, who unanimously upheld the college's initial decision[46] concluding that the ICRC's reasoning in their 2022 decision was "transparent, intelligible, justifiable, and reasonable" and ordered Peterson to pay the CPO $25,000 in legal costs.[39] The decision was upheld on appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeals in January 2024.[47]

Books

In 1999, Routledge published Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, in which Peterson describes a theory about how people construct meaning, form beliefs, and make narratives.[20][48][49] According to Peterson, his main goal was to examine why individuals and groups alike participate in social conflict, exploring the reasoning and motivation individuals take to support their belief systems (i.e. ideological identification)[20] that can eventually result in murderous and pathological atrocities, such as the Gulag, the Auschwitz concentration camp, and the Rwandan genocide.[20][50]

In January 2018, Penguin Random House published Peterson's second book,12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, in which self-help principles are discussed in a more accessible style than in his previous published work.[28][36][51] The book appeared on several best-seller lists.[52][53][54]

Peterson's third book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, was released on 2 March 2021.[55] On 23 November 2020, his publisher Penguin Random House Canada (PRH Canada) held an internal town hall where many employees criticized the decision to publish the book.[56]

Social media

Jordan B Peterson
Former profile picture used on Peterson's channels
YouTube information
Channels
Years active8
Genre(s)Psychology and religion lectures, interviews on science, personal growth, culture
Subscribers
  • 8,010,000 (Jordan B Peterson)
  • 1,760,000 (Jordan B Peterson Clips)
[59]
Total views
[59]
Associated actsJoe Rogan, Bret Weinstein, Dave Rubin, Rebel Wisdom, Akira the Don, Russell Brand, Jocko Willink, Holding Space Films, Lex Fridman[citation needed]
100,000 subscribers2017
1,000,000 subscribers2018

Last updated: 3 December 2023

YouTube

In 2013, Peterson registered a YouTube channel named JordanPetersonVideos,[60] and immediately began uploading recordings of lectures and interviews. From 2014, uploads include recordings from two of his classes at University of Toronto ("Personality and Its Transformations" and "Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief").[61] In March 2016, after three years of basic uploading of course videos, Peterson announced an interest to clean existing content and improve future content.[62] The channel gathered more than 1.8 million subscribers and his videos received more than 65 million views as of August 2018.[35][63]

Twitter

On 29 June 2022, Peterson's Twitter account was suspended under the site's "hateful conduct policy" after posting a tweet misgendering and deadnaming transgender actor Elliot Page, calling his physician "a criminal".[64][65] Peterson said he was notified that he would be required to delete the tweet in order to restore access to his account, which he said he "would rather die than do".[66][64] YouTube has demonetized two of Peterson's videos, one about his Twitter suspension and another video where he said gender-affirming care was "Nazi medical experiment-level wrong."[67] Peterson's Twitter account was restored in November 2022 after Elon Musk acquired the company.[68]

Other media

From early 2017, funding for projects dramatically increased through his use of Patreon. Peterson hired a production team to film his 2017 psychology lectures at the University of Toronto. Donations received range from $1,000 per month in August 2016 to $14,000 by January 2017; more than $50,000 by July 2017; and over $80,000 by May 2018.[19][35][69][70] With this funding, a number of projects and lecture series were proposed. However, regular donations for the YouTube channel were interrupted in January 2019, when Peterson deleted his Patreon account in public protest of the platform's controversial banning of a far-right[71]and anti-feminist[72] content creator, Carl Benjamin (also known as Sargon of Akkad)[8] for using racist language on Youtube.[72] Following this, Peterson and Dave Rubin announced the creation of a new, free speech–oriented social networking and crowdfunding platform.[73] This alternative had a limited release under the name Thinkspot later in 2019 and has remained in beta testing as of December 2019[74] receiving largely negative[75][76][77][78] reviews from media critics.

Peterson has appeared on many podcasts, conversational series, as well as other online shows.[63][79] In December 2016, Peterson started The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast.[80] In March 2019, the podcast joined the Westwood One network with Peterson's daughter as a co-host on some episodes.[81] Peterson defended engineer James Damore after he was fired from Google for writing Google's Ideological Echo Chamber.[51] In January 2022, Peterson was interviewed by Joe Rogan on The Joe Rogan Experience. During the interview, Peterson said that the Earth's climate is too complicated to accurately model. Several climate scientists criticized Peterson, saying that he misunderstood climate modelling.[82] Also in June 2022, Peterson signed a deal with the news company The Daily Wire, which includes the distribution rights to Peterson's video and podcast library. Peterson will also produce bonus content and specials featuring guests for the video on demand platform DailyWire+.[83]

Biblical lectures

Peterson speaking in front of St. Stephen's Basilica, Budapest, Hungary, in May 2019

In May 2017, Peterson began The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories,[51] a series of live theatre lectures, also published as podcasts, in which he analyzes archetypal narratives in the Book of Genesis as patterns of behaviour ostensibly vital for personal, social and cultural stability.[51] A second series of lectures on the Book of Exodus released on DailyWire+ in November 2022, and another series on the Book of Proverbs has been announced.[84]

In March 2019, Cambridge University rescinded a visiting fellowship invitation to Peterson. He had previously said the fellowship would give him an "opportunity to talk to religious experts of all types for a couple of months," and that the new lectures would have been on the Book of Exodus.[85] A spokesperson for the university said there was no place for anyone who could not uphold the inclusive environment of the university.[86] Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope explained that a photograph of Peterson with his arm around a man wearing a shirt reading "I'm a proud Islamophobe" led the faculty to the rescindment due to a conflict between Peterson's "casual endorsement by association" and the school's commitment to interfaith dialogue.[87][88]

The Cambridge University Students' Union released a statement of relief, considering the invitation "a political act to ... legitimise figures such as Peterson" and that his work and views are not "representative of the student body."[89] Peterson said that the photograph was one of 30,000 taken with his fans in the previous 15 months,[90] called the university's decision a "deeply unfortunate ... error of judgement", and said that the Divinity Faculty had submitted to an "ill-informed, ignorant and ideologically-addled mob" in rescinding the invitation.[91][92] Peterson also said that he would stop posing for photographs with fans wearing "provocative political garb, given that the fallout can be used by those who are not fond of me to capitalise on the opportunity the photos provide, particularly in isolation and context-free."[90]

Views

Peterson has characterized himself politically as a classic British liberal,[10][11][93] and a traditionalist.[12] He has stated that he is commonly mistaken as right-wing[63], though he's been identified as part of the alt-right pipeline by some journalists[94] and commentators[95] and features prominently in conservative media.[96][97] He has said that he supports universal healthcare, redistribution of wealth towards the poor, and the decriminalization of drugs.[51] The New York Times described Peterson as "conservative-leaning",[8] and The Washington Post described him as an "aspiring conservative thought leader".[98] Yoram Hazony wrote in The Wall Street Journal: "The startling success of his elevated arguments for the importance of order has made him the most significant conservative thinker to appear in the English-speaking world in a generation."[7]

In the Los Angeles Times, journalist Cathy Young commented:

Peterson's ideas are a mixed bag: He says some sensible and insightful things, and he says some things that rightly draw criticism. But you wouldn't know this from reading Peterson's critics, who generally cast him as a far-right boogeyman riding the wave of a misogynistic backlash. That's a mistake.[99]

Academia and political correctness

Peterson asserts that universities are largely responsible for a wave of "political correctness" that has appeared in North America and Europe,[35] saying that he had watched the rise of political correctness on campuses since the early 1990s.[100] Peterson believes the humanities have become corrupt and less reliant on science, in particular sociology. He contends that "proper culture" and western civilization are being undermined by "post-modernism and neo-Marxism".[9][10]

Peterson's critiques of political correctness range over issues such as postmodernism, postmodern feminism, white privilege, cultural appropriation, and environmentalism.[79] His social media presence has magnified the impact of these views; Simona Chiose of The Globe and Mail wrote that "few University of Toronto professors in the humanities and social sciences have enjoyed the global name recognition Prof. Peterson has won".[35] Writing in the National Post, Chris Selley said that Peterson's opponents had "underestimated the fury being inspired by modern preoccupations like white privilege and cultural appropriation, and by the marginalization, shouting down or outright cancellation of other viewpoints in polite society's institutions".[101] Tim Lott stated in The Spectator that Peterson became "an outspoken critic of mainstream academia".[10]

Psychologist Daniel Burston has both agreed with and critiqued Peterson's views on academia. On Marxism, postmodernism and feminism Burston largely disagrees with Peterson, characterizing his thoughts as oversimplified.[102] On the general state of academia, Burston somewhat agrees[103] with Peterson's criticisms of identity politics in academia,[b] as well as with Peterson's charge that academia is "riddled with Left-wing bias and political correctness".[103] On summarizing the decline of the university, Burston disagrees with Peterson's critique against the Left, arguing that Peterson overlooks the degree to which the current decline of the humanities and social sciences is due to university administration focus.[103]

Postmodernism and identity politics

Peterson has said that "disciplines like women's studies should be defunded", advising freshman students to avoid subjects such as sociology, anthropology, English literature, ethnic studies, and racial studies, as well as other fields of study that he believes are corrupted by "post-modern neo-Marxists".[106][107][108] He has said that these fields propagate cult-like behaviour and safe-spaces.[107][106] In 2017 he said that he would create a website to reduce enrollment in "postmodern neo-Marxist cult classes by 75 per cent across the West", including women's and ethnic studies, prompting 'alarm' from the University of Toronto Faculty Association for Peterson's plan to "place under surveillance certain kinds of academic content".[109]

He has repeatedly stated his opposition to identity politics, stating that it is practiced on both sides of the political divide: "[t]he left plays them on behalf of the oppressed, let's say, and the right tends to play them on behalf of nationalism and ethnic pride". He considers both equally dangerous, saying that what should be emphasized, instead, is individual focus and personal responsibility.[110] He has also been prominent in the debate about cultural appropriation, stating that the concept promotes self-censorship in society and journalism.[111]

Peterson has used the terms "cultural Marxism" and "postmodernism" interchangeably to describe the influence of postmodernism on North American humanities departments and he views postmodern philosophy as an offshoot or expression of neo-Marxism.[9][112][113][114] These beliefs have been criticized as "conspiratorial" and "riddled with pseudo-facts" by Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian.[115] Peterson argues that social justice promotes collectivism and sees individuals as "essentially a member of a group" and "not essentially an individual". He also argues that social justice "view[s] the world" as "a battleground between groups of different power".[116] Several writers have associated Peterson with the "intellectual dark web", including journalist Bari Weiss, who included Peterson in the 2018 New York Times article that first popularized the term.[117][c][119][120][121]

Gender and gender expression

Peterson has said that there is an ongoing "crisis of masculinity" and "backlash against masculinity" in which the "masculine spirit is under assault".[14][122][123][124] He has said that the Left characterizes the existing societal hierarchy as an "oppressive patriarchy" but "doesn't want to admit that the current hierarchy might be predicated on competence."[14] He has said men without partners are likely to become violent, and that male violence is reduced in societies in which monogamy is a social norm.[14][122] He has claimed that the rise of Donald Trump and far-right European politicians is due to a negative reaction to a push to "feminize" men, saying that "if men are pushed too hard to feminize they will become more and more interested in harsh, fascist political ideology".[125]

A 2018 Channel 4 News interview with Cathy Newman included a debate over the gender pay gap in which Peterson argued that "multivariate analysis of the pay gap indicate that it doesn’t exist", pointing instead to other factors like generalized differences between the personalities of men and women.[126][127][128][98] Newman received criticism for her approach to the interview, including mischaracterizations of some of Peterson's claims, and was the victim of an online harassment campaign following the interview.[129][126][130] Channel 4 News reported that it had consulted with security specialists due to "vicious misogynistic abuse, nastiness, and threats" made against Newman.[131] Peterson said that he immediately called on his supporters to "back off" once he became aware of the abuse and denied that the harassment was reflective of "fundamental misogyny".[132]

Bill C-16

On 27 September 2016, Peterson released the first installment of a three-part lecture video series, entitled "Professor against political correctness: Part I: Fear and the Law".[19][133][134] In the video, he stated that he would not use the preferred gender pronouns of students and faculty, alleging it fell under compelled speech and said that he opposed the Canadian government's Bill C-16 which proposed to add "gender identity or expression" as a prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and expand the definitions of promoting genocide and publicly inciting hatred in the hate speech laws in Canada.[d][135][133][136]

Peterson speaking at a Free Speech Rally in October 2016

Peterson cited free-speech implications in opposition to the bill and falsely[137][138] said that he could be prosecuted under provincial human-rights laws if he refused to call a transgender student or faculty member by the individual's preferred pronoun.[139][140][9] According to law professor Brenda Cossman and others, this interpretation of C-16 is mistaken, and the law does not criminalize misuse of pronouns,[137][139][138] Since the bill's enactment in July 2017, no Canadian person has been jailed or fined for misgendering another person.[141][142]

The series of videos drew criticism from transgender rights groups, faculty, and labour unions who condemned Peterson for "helping to foster a climate for hate to thrive" and for "fundamentally mischaracterising" the law.[143][19] A teach-in and rally was held by members of the trans and non-binary community on campus, which drew "free speech protestors" and far-right political commentator Lauren Southern with Rebel News who spoke at an event on campus along with Peterson. [140][144][145]

When asked in September 2016 if he would comply with the request of a student to use a preferred pronoun, Peterson said "it would depend on how they asked me. ... If I could detect that there was a chip on their shoulder, or that they were [asking me] with political motives, then I would probably say 'no'. ... If I could have a conversation like the one we're having now, I could probably meet them on an equal level."[145] Two months later, the National Post published an op-ed by Peterson in which he further expressed his opposition to the bill, saying that gender-neutral singular pronouns were "at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century."[146]

In February 2017, Maxime Bernier, then candidate for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, stated that he had shifted his position on Bill C-16, from support to opposition, after meeting with Peterson and discussing it.[147] Peterson's analysis of the bill was also frequently cited by senators who were opposed to its passage.[148] In April 2017, Peterson was denied a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant for the first time in his career, which he claimed was in retaliation for his statements regarding Bill C-16.[149] However, a media-relations adviser for SSHRC said, "Committees assess only the information contained in the application."[150] In response the far-right[151] Rebel News launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign on Peterson's behalf,[150] raising C$195,000 by its end on 6 May, reportedly equivalent to three years of research funding. [152] In May 2017, as one of 24 witnesses who were invited to speak about the bill, Peterson spoke against Bill C-16 at a Canadian Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs hearing.[148]

In November 2017, Lindsay Shepherd, the teaching assistant of a Wilfrid Laurier University first-year communications course, was censured by her professors for showing, during a classroom discussion about pronouns, a segment of The Agenda in which Peterson debates Bill C-16 with another professor.[153][154][155] The reasons given for the censure included the clip creating a "toxic climate," being compared to a "speech by Hitler,"[21] and being itself in violation of Bill C-16.[138] The censure was later withdrawn and both the professors and the university formally apologized.[156][157][158]

In June 2018, Peterson filed a $1.5-million lawsuit against Wilfrid Laurier University, alleging that three staff members of the university had maliciously defamed him by making negative comments about him behind closed doors.[159] By September of 2018, Wilfrid Laurier had asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, stating that Peterson filed it in an attempt to limit debate on matters of public interest. Laurier commented that "there is inescapable irony in the fact that Peterson ... is bringing a claim for the stated purpose of causing academics and administrators to be more circumspect in their words.”[160] In May 2024 shortly before an anti-SLAPP motion against Peterson was set to be heard he agreed to dismiss the lawsuit in full and to pay part of the universities legal fees.[161]

Climate change

Peterson is a climate-change denier and has publically expressed his disbelief in the scientific consensus on climate change.[12][89][162][163] Appearing on The Joe Rogan Experience in 2022, Peterson said that "there is no such thing as climate", that "climate and everything are the same word"[164], that "more people die every year from solar energy than die from nuclear”[164] due to people "falling off the roof while installing it"[164], denied the accuracy of climate modelling and confused it with weather forecasting [165], reportedly repeated disinformation from an "exxon funded climate denier"[166] and falsely[167][168][169] asserted that fracking has not polluted water supplies.[164]

Climate scientists widely denounced Peterson's statements on the podcast.[170] Professor John Abrahms, a climate scientist at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota, referred to the episode as a "word salad of nonsense spoken by people who have no sense when it comes to climate".[170] Dr Michael Mann, a professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University, said in an interview with The Independent that Peterson's "argument betrays either a total lack of understanding of how science works (or, more likely, a total disdain for his audience and an intention to disinform)".[164]

In November 2023 the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship, an organization affiliated with Peterson[171], held a three day conference beginning with a statement by Peterson stating that "We do not believe that humanity is necessarily and inevitably teetering on the brink of apocalyptic disaster.".[172] The conference hosted several speakers including Michael Schellenberger who downplayed the extent of anthropogenic climate change and promoted the use of fossil fuels.[173] Other speakers included Denis Prager, an American conservative activist.[174] Attendee and biologist Jennifer Marohasy characterized the conference as a platform for spreading climate change denialism.[174]

Religion

In a 2017 interview, Peterson was asked if he was a Christian; he responded, "I suppose the most straight-forward answer to that is yes."[175][e] When asked if he believes in God, Peterson responded: "I think the proper response to that is no, but I'm afraid he might exist."[36] In a podcast with Douglas Murray and Jonathan Pageau, Peterson stated that God is the "ultimate fictional character" which is "at the top of the hierarchy of attention and action".[176]

Writing for The Spectator, Tim Lott said Peterson draws inspiration from the Jungian interpretation of religion and holds views similar to the Christian existentialism of Søren Kierkegaard and Paul Tillich. Lott also said that Peterson has respect for Taoism, as it views nature as a struggle between order and chaos and posits life would be meaningless without this duality.[10] He has also expressed his admiration for some of the teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church.[177][178]

Writing in Psychoanalysis, Politics and the Postmodern University, Daniel Burston argues that Peterson's views on religion reflect a preoccupation with what Tillich calls the vertical or transcendent dimension of religious experience but demonstrate little or no familiarity with (or sympathy for) what Tillich termed the horizontal dimension of faith, which demands social justice in the tradition of the biblical prophets.[179]

Influence

In 2018, Kelefa Sanneh wrote in The New Yorker that Peterson "is now one of the most influential—and polarizing—public intellectuals in the English-speaking world".[180][125][98] In 2022, Mick Brown wrote in The Daily Telegraph that Peterson "has become the most visible, outspoken and certainly the most polarising figure in the 'culture wars' between Left and Right, challenging the new orthodoxies of political correctness that have permeated academia, education, and political and cultural life."[181] In August 2018, Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic argued that Peterson is popular because he

offer[s] an alternative means of understanding the world to a very large group of people who have been starved for one. His audience is huge and ever more diverse, but a significant number of his fans are white men. The automatic assumption of the left is that this is therefore a red-pilled army, but the opposite is true. The alt-right venerates identity politics just as fervently as the left.[182]

In contrast, in March 2018, Zack Beauchamp of Vox argued that Peterson is popular because he

is tailor-made to our political moment. His reactionary politics and talents as a public speaker combine to be a perfect fit for YouTube and the right-wing media, where videos of conservatives 'destroying' weak-minded liberals routinely go viral. Peterson's denunciations of identity politics and political correctness are standard-issue conservative, but his academic credentials make his pronouncements feel much more authoritative than your replacement-level Fox News commentator.[9]

During a press tour to promote her 2022 film Don't Worry Darling, Olivia Wilde said the sinister character Frank was inspired by Peterson. She described him as "this insane man, Jordan Peterson, who is this pseudo-intellectual hero to the incel community."[183][184][185] Peterson called the film "the latest bit of propaganda disseminated by the woke, self-righteous bores and bullies who now dominate Hollywood."[184][186] He also criticized the term "incel", calling it a "casual insult" for men who are "lonesome and they don't know what to do and everyone piles abuse on them."[183]

Debates and media appearances

Beginning in 2003,[9] Peterson appeared on television, speaking on a subject from a psychological perspective. On TVOntario, he appeared on Big Ideas in 2003 and 2006,[187][188] and in a 13-part lecture series based on Maps of Meaning, aired in 2004.[23][188] In a 2007 BBC Horizon documentary, Mad but Glad, Peterson commented on the connection between pianist Nick van Bloss' Tourette syndrome diagnosis and his musical talent.[189][f] From 2011, TVOntario's The Agenda featured Peterson as an essayist and panelist on psychologically relevant cultural issues.[190]

Peterson has also been featured in the documentary films No Safe Spaces,[191] What Is a Woman?,[192] and The Rise of Jordan Peterson.[193] Regarding the topic of religion and God, Bret Weinstein moderated a debate between Peterson and Sam Harris at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver in June 2018. In July, the two debated the subject again, this time moderated by Douglas Murray, at the 3Arena in Dublin and The O2 Arena in London.[194][195] In April 2019, Peterson debated Slavoj Žižek at the Sony Centre in Toronto over happiness under capitalism versus Marxism.[196][197]

Personal life

Starting around 2000, Peterson began collecting Soviet-era paintings.[21] The paintings are displayed in his house as a reminder of the relationship between totalitarian propaganda and art, and as examples of how idealistic visions can become totalitarian oppression and horror.[28][14] In 2016, Peterson became an honorary member of the extended family of Charles Joseph, a Kwakwakaʼwakw artist, and was given the name Alestalagie ("Great Seeker").[21][198]

Family

Peterson married Tammy Roberts in 1989,[19] with whom he has a daughter (Mikhaila), who is named after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and a son (Julian).[15][19][52] Mikhaila suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) in her childhood,[199] requiring a hip and ankle replacement when she was 17 years old.[181] Mikhaila, who also has a career as a political commentator and podcaster, has since adopted what she calls "the lion diet", consisting entirely of eating only beef, salt, and water.[199] While analyzing Mikhaila's diet and promotion thereof, a 2020 New Republic article by writer Lindsay Beyerstein described her as a "nutrition 'influencer' with no medical credentials".[200] In 2016, Peterson restricted his diet to only meat and a few vegetables in an attempt to control his depression and the effects of an autoimmune disorder.[16][12] In mid-2018, he stopped eating vegetables altogether and continued eating only beef, salt, and water.[199][200] Nutrition experts point out that such a diet can result in "severe dysregulation"[199] and Mikhaila later claimed that Peterson experienced a "violent reaction" to this diet.[201]

Health problems

Peterson was reportedly first prescribed Clonazepam in 2016 for anxiety that began after a "violent reaction to a meat and greens only diet", starting at 0.5mg/day and increasing to 4mg/day.[201][202] Peterson attributed his increased usage of Clonazepam to his wife Tammy's diagnosis of kidney cancer.[200] Peterson said that he made several attempts to reduce the dosage or stop the drug completely,[200] but experienced "horrific" benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.[203]

According to Peterson, in January 2020 he was unable to find North American doctors willing to place him into a medically induced coma as a treatment for his addiction. As a result he flew to Moscow, Russia to find a doctor who would perform the procedurealong with his daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter to receive the treatment there.[204] Doctors in Russia reportedly diagnosed him with pneumonia in both lungs upon arrival and placed him into a medically induced coma for eight days, followed by four weeks in the intensive care unit, during which time he suffered a temporary loss of motor skills.[203]

For several months after treatment in Russia, Peterson and his family moved to Belgrade, Serbia.[205] In June 2020, Peterson made his first public appearance in over a year, when he appeared on an episode of his daughter's podcast recorded in Belgrade, at which point he was "back to my regular self" and was cautiously optimistic about his prospects.[205] In August 2020, Peterson's daughter announced her father had contracted COVID-19 during his hospital stay in Serbia.[206] Two months later, Peterson informed viewers of his YouTube channel he had returned to Canada and aimed to resume work in the near future.[207]

Honours

Bibliography

Books

  • Peterson, Jordan B. (1999). Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-92222-7.
  • Peterson, Jordan B. (2018). 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Penguin Random House. ISBN 978-0-345-81602-3.
  • Peterson, Jordan B. (2021). Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. Penguin Random House. ISBN 978-0-735-27833-2.
  • Peterson, Jordan B. (2022). An ABC of Childhood Tragedy. Libra Press. ISBN 9781955858090.
  • Peterson, Jordan B. (2024). We Who Wrestle with God. Penguin Random House. ISBN 978-0593542538.

Select publications

Notes

  1. ^ "I read something by Carl Jung, at about this time, that helped me understand what I was experiencing. It was Jung who formulated the concept of persona: the mask that 'feigned individuality.' Adoption of such a mask, according to Jung, allowed each of us – and those around us – to believe that we were authentic."[1]
  2. ^ Burston is similarly critical against identity politics,[103] citing Haidt,[104] and Sugarman and Martin.[105]
  3. ^ The thinkers profiled included the neuroscientist and prominent atheist writer Sam Harris, the podcaster Dave Rubin, and University of Toronto psychologist and Chaos Dragon maven Jordan Peterson.[118]
  4. ^ The phrase "a prohibited ground of discrimination" means it is illegal to discriminate against an individual or groups of people "on the grounds of" (based on) race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, etc.[135]
  5. ^ Interviewer: Quick question, are you a Christian?
    Peterson: I suppose the most straight-forward answer to that is yes, although I think it's ... it's ... let's leave it at 'yes'.[175]
  6. ^ There are also contributions from scientists who explore and reveal the biological basis for the connection: The manic writer, herself a Harvard scientist, the eminent neurologist Oliver Sacks, and the psychologist Jordan Peterson.[citation needed]

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