Tough Love and Bible Stories a Popular Professor's Advice on Living Well

By Altschuler, Glenn C. | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), May 6, 2018 | Go to article overview

Tough Love and Bible Stories a Popular Professor's Advice on Living Well


Altschuler, Glenn C., Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


In recent years, Jordan B Peterson has emerged from relative obscurity as a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto to prominence as a pop psychologist and public intellectual. Published in 1999, Mr. Peterson's "Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief" suggested that ancient myths and religious faith could mitigate social conflict by helping people "develop and implement a universal system of morality." When Mr. Peterson presented this thesis, along with a critique of modern liberal culture and a mental health improvement program, on YouTube and a 13-part public television series, he attracted millions of followers. He became an anti-"political correctness" rock star in 2016, when he opposed legislation in Canada that added "gender and identity expression" to a list of grounds on which allegations of discrimination could be based.

His second book, "12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos," delivers self-help advice. Drawing on his personal experiences, his clinical practice, Bible stories, classic texts by Milton, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Orwell and Solzhenitsyn, and a few studies by neuroscientists and social psychologists, Mr. Peterson lays out lessons for addressing the struggle between order and chaos.

He sets these lessons in context with an assault on "postmodern Marxism." The "nihilistic and destructive nature" of this philosophy, he writes, "is almost impossible to overestimate." Mr. Peterson finds "not a shred of hard evidence" to support claims that Western society is "pathologically patriarchal" or that hierarchies were designed to exclude. Nature rather than men, he maintains, has been the primary source of the oppression of women. Masculine and feminine traits are not socially constructed. If pushed too hard to feminize, men "will become more and more interested in harsh, fascist political ideology."

Human beings, Mr. Peterson emphasizes, have learned to live together and organize complex societies over long stretches of time. Behind reforms like liberalizing divorce and mandating affirmative action for some ethnic and racial groups, undertaken "in the name of some ideological shibboleth," lurk "horror and terror." Laws mandating equal pay for equal work for women or disabled people, he adds, complicate salaries "beyond practicality." Institutions and educators whose aim is "the demolition of the culture that supports them" should not receive public funding.

Instead of values he regards as toxic, Mr. Peterson advocates a conceptual framework based on two fundamental principles. …

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