This is desperate instinct for self-preservation

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Jordan Peterson spoke with Quillette about his newly influential ideas:

Classical liberalism is not an ideology because its reflective of something that is deep and that is real. The books that I have written, both Maps of Meaning and 12 Rules for Life are an amalgam of a Jungian psychoanalytic approach to narrative and evolutionary biology. And so they are also an amalgam, in some sense of theology and evolutionary biology. But that’s sort of via the psychoanalytic interpretation of literature.

The reason for that in part is that I think that our religious preconceptions evolved. They are deeper than rationality, by a large margin. They reflect a reality that’s deeper than that which we have been able to apprehend rationally so far.


I think the one advantage that I have is that the material I have on YouTube is being watched and is being understood. And it’s not easy material, so the people who are supporting me that have put the time in, actually understand with reasonable depth what it is I am trying to do and why.

That’s makes [the fan group] more solid than it might be. I think I have evidence for that and the evidence is that I have had my reputation attacked, probably as brutally as it can be attacked short of actual physical violence over the last year and a half. And what’s stopped that from having a lasting effect is the fact that four hundred hours of what I have said have already been online and that people know it very deeply.


Part of the humility that’s necessary to make this sort of thing work is the proper terror of making a mistake. I have been far more terrified of making a fatal error in the last eighteen months than I have been thrilled about my newfound notoriety. I have been walking a very thin tightrope. I only have to say one thing, in all the things that I have said since September, and I have come close!


Outside of my immediate family, I have a circle of advisers who are not the sort of people who are swayed by fame. Not because they don’t understand its utility, not because they are contemptuous of it, none of that. But because some of them have had their fame, and some of them have had the kind of power in the world that is sufficient so they are no longer star-struck by that sort of thing and they can see the dangers. I talk to them and I say, “OK, here is what I said, what did I do wrong? Where did I go overboard? Where wasn’t I clear? Where did I wander into egotism?” And they are brutal, they tell me, “Here is what you did wrong, don’t do this again”. There are five of them. And plus I pay attention to the social media comments. Not obsessively, but if I have made a video that doesn’t get fifty-to-one likes to dislikes I have made a mistake. Because that seems to be about the [right] ratio.

This isn’t a moral virtue on my part. This is desperate instinct for self-preservation. It’s like if you’re in a piranha tank you don’t want to get a speck of something delicious on you, how would that be?


  1. Anomaly UK says:

    Does anyone know, what’s the best way into Jordan Peterson for someone who doesn’t like watching videos? Is there a collection of writing somewhere, or should I get Maps of Meaning or the new one?

  2. Slovenian Guest says:

    Peterson back on the Joe Rogan podcast.

  3. Charles W. Abbott says:

    I have not viewed his book yet.

    There are short lists of his maxims in a couple places, including on Quora.

    Watching videos often seems like a waste of time to me–many of us can read faster than we can listen and find that video is just slow and pointless. That’s my general feeling about videos.

    I’m not a big video watcher, but…

    His videos generally hold my interest and don’t seem to be a waste of time. I like the Canadian accent, the straightforward colloquial delivery without excessive use of jargon. I enjoy how you can watch him think hard to articulate ideas “on the fly” using exactly the words he wants, and pacing back and forth in front of his students.

    Maybe your friend could search youtube for Peterson videos on a particular topic of interest, spend half an hour sampling, and then decide what to do next.

  4. Isegoria says:

    I haven’t read Maps of Meaning, but it’s my understanding that he was still exploring many of his ideas at that point, and it’s not an easy read. 12 Rules, on the other hand, is clearly meant as an introduction to his thinking, if not a textbook.

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