Peterson's Progeny…. For Me

About two years ago I wrote a post for LRC about my Peterson Plunge, that is, my viewing immersion in the series of biblical videos by the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson. Since then, Peterson has rocketed to international fame through his book 12 Rule for Life and his encounters within the PC milieu. I have continued to follow him, but also I have been watching videos and reading many other of his progeny. I use the word progeny somewhat in the sense of the definition a body of followers, disciples, or successors (also because I like alliterative titles), but the “for me” is included because they are not truly followers of Peterson, but I have found them following my interest in him.

An example of one person who really is following in the steps of Peterson is the Christian Reform Church (Calvinist) pastor Paul Vanderklay (PVK). He started a Youtube channel to investigate for himself why Peterson was having such a large influence, including sparking interest in Chistianity in disillusioned young men. He brings his experience as a pastor and seminary training with an amateur’s passion for philosophy, cognitive science and psychology to his commentary on Peterson. His videos are the best way to understand the relationship between Peterson and Christianity. PVK has said “I would never have found all of this without Peterson.” I could say there are many things I have found from watching both Peterson and PVK.  Here is a sample of what I have absorbed through followup reading: Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Tolstoy’s Confession, many books by C. S. Lewis, The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt and his concept of the rider and the elephant. I have come to appreciate through many videos the Jungian concept of archetypes, but I have not taken the wacky step of actually reading any books by Jung. Against the State: An ... Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. Best Price: $5.25 Buy New $8.56 (as of 02:50 EST - Details)

Besides his own videos, PVK records many conversations with academic and non-academic intellectuals. The two most prominent discussion partners have been Jonathan Pageau and John Vervaeke. Pageau is an Orthodox Christian icon carver. He is a friend of Peterson and has his own Youtube channel called The Symbolic World. His brother has also written a book, The Language of Creation, that gives a symbolic explanation to many Genesis stories. The Pageau brothers are both significant non-academic intellectuals. In contrast, Vervaeke is a professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Toronto with Jordan Peterson. He also has a Youtube channel (notice a pattern?) called Awakening from the Meaning Crisis (more below) that could be described as a survey course on philosophy with cognitive science and psychotechnology explanations. He is an academic who has assimilated will into this non-academic, internet based intellectual arena.

Some others who have lodged in my memory include Alastair Roberts, a very learned Christrian intellectual; Nathan Jacobs, an Orthodox convert, is an unusual academic who made a film about religious attitudes called Reaching the “Nones” and “Dones;” Byrne Power, who calls his Youtube channel The Anadromist, and it is through him that I learned of the films of Andrei Tarkovsky; and Sevilla King who has a Youtube channel, A Quality Existence, organized around her reading of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert Pirsig. I would also like to note the compelling conversation PVK had with a young academic named Kyle McNease on his personal trials and the state of the students at universities. For libertarians the last 5 minutes on the realities of “research,” and the incompetent or malevolenent influence of government is especially relevant.

Last but not least for me on the PVK channel are the regular discussions he holds with his international, virtual congregation; these are regular folk, non-intellectuals, who “do” philosophy with him. These are often very moving and personal discussions that bring to my mind the utter practicality of philosophical knowledge. The discussions work because of PVK’s gregarious affability, generosity and open minded intellectualism.

What is the interest of all this to LRC readers or to libertarians more generally? Note the assembly of images includes the motif for the libertarian blogger the Bionic Mosquito at the top because it was by this blog that I became aware of Peterson. His blogging has continued to focus on the role of culture, beyond the more narrow scope of the Non-Aggression Principle, in creating and maintaining a free society (e.g., here). It is in this vein that these discussions could be of interest to libertarians. From Dawn to Decadence... Jacques Barzun Best Price: $1.81 Buy New $10.28 (as of 01:30 EST - Details)

Years ago I read many books by Jacques Barzun including his grand treatise Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present- 500 Years of Western Cultural LifeNow I would suggest an alternative title to describe the last 500 years: The Dawn of Decadence, at least in the spiritual sense of Western civilization. In other words, as Verevaek explains in his series, there is a meaning crisis.  The philosopher Dallas Willard posed the meaning crisis in four key questions: What is reality? Who is well-off or blessed? Who is a truly good person? How does one become a truly good person? The questions are rarely asked, as the zeitgeist disallows the possibility of answers.

PVK has often referred to a particular presentation by Prof. Willard on world views.  The questions he addressed were, What are the main worldview questions? And why is this concept so crucial to understanding what truth is? He explained in one slide that there is “Nature and Necessity of World View:

*Your “world view” consists of your assumptions about the realities and values that govern you and the world in which you live

*It is a biological reality, built into your usual actions and responses.”

The biological reality is that world of observable facts consists of much, too much data to be absorbed. Thus our world view is our filter to limit the data to a workable quantity. But if your filter is faulty your life will be faulty.

For a more concrete sense of world view consider a  recent article by Ron Unz, “… my own views were shaped by the rather conventional media narratives that I absorbed. Hence, for nearly my entire life, I always automatically dismissed all of the so-called ‘conspiracy theories’ as ridiculous, never once even considering that any of them might possibly be true.” With his world view changed he is perhaps the best proponent of revisionist history on the internet.

My own world view has evolved in important ways when I discovered Austrian economics and revisionist history. The discussion of the meaning crisis I have been following is not totally new to me, but the vocabulary and concepts I have learned are valuable, especially for my personal relationships.

There is not much political philosophy or economics directly discussed by Peterson’s progeny, but having meaning in life certainly helps one cope with those fundamental problems and help build a culture that could support a free society.