The Blinding Light of Jordan Peterson – Popular Sophist Extraordinaire

ANGLO AMERICA, 14 Oct 2019

Stefan Schindler – TRANSCEND Media Service

14 Oct 2019 – Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist who has become a media phenomenon in North America and, increasingly, in Europe.  He is entertaining and articulate.  He lectures frequently on Jung and Nietzsche.  He has brought philosophic psychology into the marketplace of ideas with a sudden burst of enduring popularity.  His books are modest best-sellers.  His interviews and lectures are nearly ubiquitous on the internet.  Media moguls and a great many college students revere him.

Peterson is, one could say, an academic reincarnation of Newt Gingrich – a former media darling and Speaker of the House of Representatives, with deep roots in the state of Georgia and its racist and misogynist policies.  Gingrich and Peterson are modern American archetypes of linguistic glitter and pontificating sleaze.

There is, of course, an important difference between Gingrich and Peterson.  Gingrich knew that he was lying.  Peterson believes what he says.

Gingrich advocated lying as a way to secure the triumph of the Republican Party, assuring the common man that he too can become a king of the capitalist gang-bang if he would blindly embrace Reaganite trickle-down theory and increase the fire of his hatred for all things liberal and egalitarian.  Peterson, perhaps inadvertently taking his clue from the blood-stained glory of Cheney-Bush, says the climate crisis is a hoax and he can cite scientific scholarship to prove it.

Peterson’s naturalistic-empiricist reductionism reminds me of Carl Sagan, but without the humanism (in the best sense of the word).  Despite his pretensions to the contrary, Peterson does not understand Nietzsche, Jung, Marx, and postmodernism.  He thinks he is an expert on the first two, and his vilification of eco-socialism and postmodern philosophy is even more delusional.

Peterson is (and this is his word) “optimistic” about our climate future; and, he says, even if there is such a thing as global warming, he “sees no solution on the horizon” – oblivious to the fact that Buckminster Fuller more than half a century ago offered a multiplicity of pragmatic recommendations, urging us to remember that “there are no passengers on spaceship earth; we are all members of the crew.”

Peterson’s comprehension of both Eastern and Western philosophy is shockingly superficial; and a few sessions with a transpersonal therapist might catalyze a cathartic epiphany regarding the psychic mirror embodied in the last two words of his assertion that “Jung’s intelligence was bloody terrifying.”

Peterson fails to comprehend the existential roots of the Socratic, Kierkegaardian and Heideggerian postulation that (to paraphrase) … Humans are walking question marks.  Or at least: They ought to be!  Hence the enduring relevance of Plato’s cave parable and the catastrophic implications of the modern Orwellian Matrix in which the primary function of education is To Ignorate.  Peterson perpetuates that function.  He gobbles up media glory like it’s nectar from the gods; and wrapped in the religious fundamentalism that contradicts his empiricist reductionism, he thinks he’s leading people to the light outside the cave as he seduces them with linguistic gymnastics ever deeper into the darkness of it.

Peterson completely misses the Pythagorean and Buddhist inspiration for defining philosophy as: The journey from the love of wisdom to the wisdom of love.

Peterson’s arrogance, ignorance and dogmatism blind him to the liberating insights of Transpersonal Psychology.  Indeed, Peterson’s sophistic pretensions parading as authentic philosophy are not only absurd, but much in need of public rectification.  I am confident that Albert Camus and Mark Twain would agree.

In the battle for the soul of civilization, Greta Thunberg, Matthew Fox, Robert Thurman, and the Dalai Lama stand on one side; Peterson and his Gingrichian sycophants stand on the other.  Whether today’s children will inherit the world of peace, beauty and opportunity they deserve remains to be seen.

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In memory of the adorable genius of William James, Howard Zinn, and David Rakoff; with special thanks to Lewis Randa and Victor Wallis for their courage of conscience and endlessly edifying inspiration.

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Stefan Schindler taught philosophy, psychology, education, and religion for 40 years at institutions of higher learning, including The University of Pennsylvania, La Salle University, Berkley College of Music, The Boston Conservatory of Music, Dance and Theater, and the Boston and Brookline Centers for Adult Education.  Co-founder of The National Registry for Conscientious Objection, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a recipient of The Boston Baha’i Peace Award, and a Trustee of The Life Experience School and Peace Abbey, Dr. Schindler received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston College (on Freud, Sartre, Hegel, and Jung). He wrote The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Awards for Howard Zinn and John Lennon.  His books include The Tao of Socrates and America’s Indochina Holocaust.  His forthcoming book is titled Buddha’s Political Philosophy.


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 Oct 2019.

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One Response to “The Blinding Light of Jordan Peterson – Popular Sophist Extraordinaire”

  1. As the author of this article, it occurs to me share with readers a Kantian quote that exhibits the essence of my critique of Jordan Peterson. Immanuel Kant, climactic philosopher of the Enlightenment, said of Jean-Jacques Rousseau — “Beware the wizardry of his words.”

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