If someone asked me “What does Jordan Peterson believe in?”, it’d be easier for me to answer with what Peterson hates and that is postmodernism. He will actually say this himself about a million times if you ask him, even though he can be considered a postmodern philosopher.
I always found that interesting. Watching a couple of Jordan Peterson‘s videos and interviews, I couldn’t help but notice dissonance in his rhetoric. At that point, I should state that I don’t believe he has foul intentions and this is meant to be a productive discourse.
Jordan Peterson Praises the Primacy of Subjectivity
He is a psychologist after all. It’s his job to accept and interpret the subjective reality of his patients and synthesize a solution. Moreso, he applies a Jungian scope to the extroverted macro-reality, using archetypes and myths to deconstruct it back to its roots and underpinnings.
He’s very fond of Nietzsche, though Nietzsche was one of the very first, if not THE first intellectual to go against the ontological notions of modernism.
He believes in dominance hierarchies and takes a very Darwinian approach to the matter, but will not hear a word about Foucault’s idea of the functions of power (is he actually in agreement here?).
On one hand, he hates the postmodern idea of “logos” (speech is used by the oppressor), but on the other hand, he uses the very same tools to construct his arguments and deconstruct the arguments of his opponents.
Opponents… he believes there are people in academia that use or constrict “speech” in order to forward their own agendas. Hmm… believing there are groups of people that want power through “logos” and are characterized by a distinct identity… shit, I’d swear I read that in Derrida’s work.
Postmodern Philosopher against Postmodernism
You can’t frame a branch of philosophy as “evil” and “toxic”, while simultaneously using a frame of reference that abides by the postmodern notion that truth is conceptual. He finds symbolism and meaning behind Disney movies, biblical stories, etc. Nothing is what it looks like and has a deeper meaning, with multiple nodes of sub-stories? Again, smells like postmodern.
I believe Dr. Jordan Peterson doesn’t understand postmodernism, as is evident by the way he criticizes it. Or to be more precise, he won’t accept that postmodernism describes both good and evil of reality, the nuances, the gray zones. Piaget’s clear-cut realism won’t cut it in the real world. What a paradox, huh?
Postmodernism isn’t the death of modernity or history or hard science. It is not a singular thread of thoughts or principles. It doesn’t claim that the victorious write the history (that’s modernism), but rather that history has many narratives, many different branches. Black and white doesn’t exist in postmodern history and evil can be victorious, good can be defeated and both may co-exist. Perception.
Jordan Peterson and Capitalism
Dr. Jordan Peterson, being a believer in the Judeo-Christian dogma, that established the modern interpretation of history, mainly by disposing of the Hero’s Journey, ie overcoming hurdles and achieving salvation, usually divine, has a blind spot. He bends history to fit his own narrative.
Damn communists are evil and killed millions because of their ideology. But the evil capitalists that are killing millions right now are just evil and capitalism is not to be blamed.
To be fair, Jordan Peterson has extensively pointed out the destructive chaos that can arise from the extreme right but fails to grasp that fascism is linked to some rotten aspects of capitalism. Or at least he purposely ignores that part. It’s like he has his mind already set up about what’s right and wrong and this duality creates an artificial need for political correctness when talking about capitalism. He’s looking the other way because he believes capitalism is the best we got (and I agree), but this immediately creates a (positive) strawman of capitalism, that has ideological holes.
Rather than trying to excuse everything, accept that there’s not right or wrong and be honest with how we want our society to look like.
“It’s not Real Communism”
Finally, Dr. Jordan Peterson believes the absolute conclusion of postmodernism is Marxism. I assume this idea stems from the fact that many of the French philosophers were indeed pro-socialism and believed that said system was the best solution for the oppressed.
But this is just an opinion! Post-modern by definition would disregard the idea there is only one available option. As we hinted, the oppressed, the oppressors, etc., are arbitrarily assigned. Jordan Peterson claims postmodernists don’t want to have a discussion, because they deem him and everyone who disagrees with them as the oppressors, hence there’s no point. But if we believe that, then we are doing the same, don’t we?
If we try to enforce a set of morals that we regard as “objectively true”, without having in mind what kind of society we want to have, then we will perpetually try and occupy the space of uncertainty and distrust.
Marxism: An Interpretation of Postmodernism
To the point, Marxism is simply an interpretation of postmodernism. It applies a certain set of values to supposedly accomplish a specific result. Besides, the melting pot of leftist ideology America has become certainly diluted what Marxism is to the point of total distortion (Did you know communists were anti-immigration and would hunt down homosexual individuals like no other? No one can stomach this. Ideologies get highjacked by humans and not the other way around).
“It’s not real communism”. Dr. Jordan Peterson points out the “no true Scotsman” fallacy Marxists supposedly fall for. But it got to the point where China is communist and Venezuela and North Korea are communists, while they still have private property for crying out loud… He uses wide brushes to paint “enemies” and every disagreement to the gatekeeper’s judgment is coming from a point of evil intention or from possessed ideologues. Again, smells like teen spirit.
But when talking about religion… oh boy, we can readily disregard the bad stuff.
Although it might not be evident in this piece, I actually respect Jordan Peterson and I believe him to be the inflection point (but I took the risk of offending him, capiche?).
Unfortunately, short attention spans force me to condense my thoughts (thanks, Netflix) so I expect accusations of oversimplification.
That said, I want to end this with my own opinion and extend an invitation to Dr. Jordan Peterson to continue the dialogue: There will never be a postmodern society. It’s impossible. There’s no meaning, hence we create meaning. We assign meaning. We assume what we believe in, what we want our society to achieve and work from there. Our morals, traditions, perceptions will stem from axioms we can never prove. But these axioms can change and create another set of narratives that will create another culture. A postmodern framework.
This is where you come in and claim that “here are some things that will make your life less miserable and your suffering bearable”. You are proposing a certain narrative that has a positive outcome, from your perspective (and mine), but it’s not the absolute truth.