I’ve spent a good portion of my online career bashing Jordan Peterson. I’ve often found him clownish and, at times, downright dangerous.
His new book Beyond Order, however, surprised me. The Peterson that emerged from its pages was a far more complicated and interesting figure than I had previously given him credit for. He lives with brutal addiction and depression, and yet doles out advice on how to lead a good life. He’s weird, eccentric, verbose, and surprisingly progressive and conservative at different turns. I found parts of his book genuinely helpful, and other parts frustrating and overly esoteric. None of this is to say that I’m a fan or that I agree with him on everything. It’s simply to say that I found his most recent book worth engaging.
I’ve been making noise on social media lately about how I deliberately read problematic books. By problematic, I mean that they are deemed, justly or unjustly, toxic or bad by people I usually agree with. I’ve noticed some palpable discomfort when I bring up the topic, so I thought I would take some time to explore why I think reading problematic literature is helpful.
On his podcast Deep Questions, Cal Newport said something that has gotten deep into my brain and utterly complicated my life. I notice, by the way, that the very best things tend not to make my life simpler — they make my life more interesting, complicated, and challenging. This is one of those things:
I think a lot of what we see on social media is basically what I call intellectual groupieism. Like, I don’t want to do the work, someone else tell me the cliffnotes. What are the basic ideas we all agree with, and more importantly, what’s good and what’s bad, and what do I do to make sure I do the good thing and not the bad thing? like great, I’m with it. And now I’m going to, with great fervor, push this philosophy, but there is nothing below it. You haven’t read any of the things, you haven’t done the hard reading, you haven’t confronted the criticism, you haven’t read the alternative and let that collide and then let your roots grow deep. On social media you are often just a groupie for intellectuals, and say, “I just trust you. Just give me the cliffnotes I need, because I just want to go around with your metaphorical jam band and make sure I have bootleg tapes from your concerts…” We don’t do this anymore – we don’t build philosophies from scratch, we don’t go to the sources. Social media says “don’t bother with that. In fact, if you do bother with it, we might yell at you, so just come on, we will just give you the cliff notes.
In this episode of Sacred Tension I sit down with author and logic professor Ben Burgis to discuss his latest book, Give Them an Argument, and what figures on the right like Peterson, Harris, and Shapiro get wrong.
This week in curiosities: Jordan Peterson comes unprepared to a debate with Marxist titan Slavoj Zizek, Matt Dillahunty debates the resurrection of Christ, and The Satanic Temple receives tax exempt status.
Welcome to Sunday Curiosities: the blog series where I bring you the interesting, bizarre, and insightful tidbits I’ve collected over the week.
Jordan Peterson is Incomprehensible
A hilarious video of edited footage from the Joe Rogan show has Jordan Peterson arguing with himself. I was once enamored of Peterson, but I now understand him to be at best boring and at worst incomprehensible and an accessory to sexism, transphobia, and patriarchy. What amuses me about this video is how it is just slightly more indecipherable than his regular videos.
I’ve been fairly vocal about my journey into nontheistic religion, and the response from fellow Christians has been a tremendous amount of anxiety. I’ve found myself in twitter disputes over faith, and I’ve had more awkward coffee dates with concerned Christians than I’d prefer.