📆 September 6, 2023 | ⏱️ 3 minute read

Re: Dr. Pordan Jeterson: Answering the Toughest Question of All

A few months ago a Youtuber that goes by the alias DarkMatter2525 made a video titled ‘Dr. Pordan Jeterson: Answering the Toughest Question of All’ showing the confusing way public intellectual Jordan Peterson communicates.

Peterson has a fairly large and dedicated following. I found a few of his psychology lectures online. They were alright. He’s obviously very passionate and able to communicate clearly at least some of the time. I’m not going to criticize his opinions in this entry because I have no idea what he actually thinks. What I think he deserves the most criticism for is his way of using language.

He often frustrates interviewers and debaters because he seems impossible to pin down on any specific issue. You ask him a very basic yes or no question, and he spends the next twenty minutes going off topic, spinning the conversation, and somehow relating everything back to myth and Jungian archetypes. Then you try to gain clarification and he does the exact same thing again. It seems like his process for responding to questions or criticism is to create such a long word salad of nonsense that you forget what your original question was.

What’s particularly frustrating about Peterson is that the noises he makes on controversial subjects often sound sympathetic to conservative politics, especially when taken in today’s social/cultural context, but then he refuses to give definite answers about whether he actually holds the views that his noises heavily imply and accuses people who challenge what it sounds like he’s saying as strawmanning.

It’s not just the fact that he isn’t plainspoken or that he’s long-winded. Plenty of philosophers manage to be intelligible despite being verbose and roundabout on occasion. It’s that he strings together these highfalutin phrases that cannot be understood without clarification, but his attempts to clarify are equally vague. I think one of the best examples of what I’m talking about here is this video.

I don’t know Peterson’s motives, but I don’t believe he creates word salads on purpose. He seems to genuinely think he’s making sense when he just isn’t. He reminds me of Deepak Chopra with the way he seems to hypnotize an audience with fanciful language that sounds deep and is grammatically correct, but incomprehensible.

Again, I am not inside Jordan Peterson’s head. I’ve never met the guy. But, based on what I’ve seen of him online, he seems like a person who has been hypnotized by myth and legend to the point where he can’t distinguish stories from reality.

Peterson is right that we humans are intensely inspired by myths and that we use archetypes and stories to make sense of and relate to the world. But what he doesn’t seem to acknowledge is that there is an underlying physical reality we inhabit that we have every reason to believe isn’t contingent on the stories we tell ourselves nor individual perceptions.

The fact that there is a base reality independent of individual perception is simply undeniable. If you don’t believe that, just spend a few minutes talking with a paranoid schizophrenic and see if you still think that the story they’re telling themselves about reality is as valid as yours.

If Peterson would just acknowledge this shared reality, I think it would be possible to make some progress with him and maybe even get him to dial down his word salads.