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My Intellectual Journey with Jordan Peterson

August 6, 2018

 

 

7 Months, 30+ hours of podcast recordings over 25 books, 15 poems, dozens of hours of lectures, numerous essays, 13 notebooks filled and I have finally finished my reading of Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

 

I've thought a lot about what value my sprawling exploration may have for you.  Likely very little.

 

However, should you seek to explore with me, here is some of what you will find.

  • The over 25 books I read to help me study Peterson's work

  • 15 Poems including all the poems in Peterson's book

  • 30 hours of my own podcast recordings

  • A discussion with a friend on Rule #1

  • 20 movies discussed in the recordings

  • Essays I read to understand Peterson's work

  • New and unique insights into Peterson's philosophy and literary analysis techniques.

I recorded these podcasts with the goal of exploring Peterson's ideas to the best of my ability. This is a record for my future self.

 

 

To an audience I suspect that the value really lies in the extensive reading and viewing list below. Or, perhaps you will be the few persons interested enough to take one autodidactic's journey into the intellectual work of a very impactful contemporary thinker.

 

My initial aim with this series was to use a classic poem to bring out the themes within each of Peterson's 12 Rules for Life. After all, he includes several poems, so why shouldn't I expand on that to help my audience? I soon discovered this to be much more difficult than I had initially assumed. 

 

Peterson's book is very unique for a "self-help" book. First, though it purports very simple rules, the underlying argumentation is excruciatingly complex. There are psychological principles, philosophy, Christian theology, ancient mythology, anthropology, evolutionary psychology and Disney movies all used to explain a rule as simple as "stand up straight with your shoulders back."

 

Each of the rules were enlightening for me. But nothing compared to the world shift I felt in reading and studying rule 6: "Put your house in perfect order before criticizing the world." 

 

I had just graduated 8th grade in 1999, when the Columbine shootings occurred. I'll never forget sitting in my father's home office staring at a tiny 12 inch TV for hours as they played and re-played the footage. My freshman year of high school was coming up and I was not unsure I wouldn't be shot. I didn't go to a bad school, but a school very similar to Columbine. Most schools are like Columbine, I think. 

 

In studying Rule 6, where Peterson discusses school shooters, particularly Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, I felt all the anxiety and fear rushing back.  For this rule not only did I read an entire book (listed below), but I dove into everything I could on school shooters. I read everything on the website www.acolumbinesite.com which includes all of the journal entries of both Eric and Dylan. I printed them out. I investigated every single word. I also studied Eliot Rodger and Adam Lanza, Seung-Hui Cho, Nikolas Cruz. I watched their videos and studied their lives.

 

And I came to conclusions that I have not yet heard regarding our gun debate and school shooters in America today. 

 

Below, I will have a section for each of the rules with the audio of my podcast episode. In the section I will include the book or books I read and any other references. I'll also include links to the poems and myths I used while exploring that rule.

 

For rule 1 for instance, I'll include works from Ayn Rand, several movie references, and the poem Horatio, to start.

 

I will also include any links to Peterson's work outside the "12 Rules for Life," including interviews I bring up and relevant lectures.

 

This blog is a living document. I will update it as I learn more and return to Peterson's work in the future. Also, if you email me your thoughts or criticisms to kirkbarbera@gmail.com or comment below I will update accordingly.

 

Lastly, I wanted to say something on the 2018 climate for and against Jordan Peterson in which I am publishing this document. I do not know what the future holds for him. Perhaps he will fade into obscurity or perhaps be embroiled in a controversy, or god forbid, something heinous will happen. But I do know that currently there are those who lavishly praise him and those that seek to destroy him. My intentions were to do neither, although I did both.

 

In my exploration I have come to admire Peterson immensely. Also, I have discovered such intense and fundamental disagreements that I can never approach Peterson or his work with the same bright-eyed fawning I had upon my first encounter. Perhaps, now I have gained the eyes of a seasoned and knowing sleuth. You decide.

 

RULE 1: STAND UP STRAIGHT WITH YOUR SHOULDERS BACK

 

Listen to this episode on ITUNES

 

"To every man upon this earth

Death Cometh soon or late.

And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers

And the temples of his Gods!"

-      Horatius by Thomas Babington Macaulay

I love Westerns. I often wonder if the death of the western has led to some of our confidence problems today. In this episode I compare Jordan Peterson's Rule Number 1 "Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back" to the westerns of the 1939 to 1969 era as well as to the poem Horatius by Macaulay.

 

In this episode is a discussion of:

  • The Ayn Rand mind/body integration

  • How the western American hero illuminates Peterson's number one rule

  • A full analysis of the rule with reference to movies like Rio Bravo, Red River, The Searchers, Hondo, True Grit, The Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy And the Sundance Kid

  • Why Clint Eastwood is a horrible human being for creating High Plains Drifter.

The second half of the program is a reading of the poem Horatius followed by an in-depth converse-with-verse where I lay out the story and analyze it from a Petersonian perspective. Enjoy!

 

My discussion with a friend:

 

Supplementary Material:

 

Poem:

Movies: 

Lectures:

Essays:

Books:

 

A Treasury of POEMS: A Collection of The World's Most Famous and Familiar Verse

 

RULE 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You are Responsible for Helping

 

Listen to this episode on ITUNES

 

"Which is better to suffer an injustice or to commit one?" - Socrates

 

What is it about people that makes many of us more likely to take care of our pets and less likely to take care of ourselves? Or why are so many of us willing to dole out sound advice but not take it? We tell our loved ones that it's important to exercise regularly, as we sit around eating burgers and failing to exercise. If we are to take care of any entity in the world, it seems we will do the worst job in taking care of ourselves. 

 

I discuss: 

  • The relation to Peterson's profound rule by diving into The Myth of Prometheus and Pandora

  • Ayn Rand's theory of Epistemology

  • Leonard Peikoff's "Objectivism the Philosophy of Ayn Rand"

  • Richard Mitchell's "The Gift of Fire,"

  • And T.S. Eliot's The Little Gidding poem

I hope by the end of this you will respect Your Promethean gift.

Poem:

 

Lectures:

 

Short Stories: 

 

Books:

RULE 3: Make Friends With People Who Want The Best For You

 

Listen to this episode on ITUNES

You've probably heard the observation "you are the product of the five people" you spend the most time with." Sounds good, right? Just surround yourself with 5 great people and voila! You'll be great too. Doesn't work like that though. If we blindly drop one friend we are just as likely to attract a new friend of the same exact type and replay the past.

 

In this episode we explore Peterson's 3rd rule from his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

 

The rule is "Make friends with people who want the best for you." To do that, however, we must attempt new strategies at finding new types of friends. To help illuminate the ideas in this chapter I discuss: The Poison Tree poem by William Blake Jason and the Argonauts by Apollonius of Rhodes The myth of Phaethon and the sun chariot.

 

I wish you luck in your exploration. And if you fail, 'yet nobly dare.

Poem:

 

Youtube References:

 

Books:

RULE 4: Compare Yourself To Who You Were Yesterday, Not Who Someone Else is Today

 

Listen to this episode on ITUNES

*Before listening to this episode try taking Dr. Simons's Selective Attention Test

 

"First aim high

Then learn to fly

But Pack Your chute

Or you will die"

 

Jordan Peterson is dangerous.

 

On this fourth installment of my grapplings with Peterson I explore Peterson's rule "Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone else is today."

 

For the first time I express some serious disagreements with Peterson, though I definitely agree with much of his underlying reasoning for the rule. After giving an overview of his method for expressing the underlying reasoning for this rule, I dive into where we diverge.

 

I discuss:

  • The character Raskolnikov in the book Crime and Punishment. The poem  "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost

  • Jordan Peterson's esthetics versus Ayn Rand's esthetics

  • The Focusing Power of Art

  • Peterson's view of perception

Poem:

Podcast:

 

Ted Talk:

Books:

RULE 5: Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Would Make Your Dislike Them

 

Listen to this episode on ITUNES

 

"Why don't people who tell us what is good, also tell us how they came to know it?" - Richard Mitchell, The Underground Grammarian

Whether or not you are a parent, ask yourself the following question. If you had to choose for your child which would you prefer: Outward success or inner happiness?
 

In Jordan Peterson's rule 5 "Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them," Peterson gives his answer clear as day. 

 

In this discussion of Peterson's book "12 Rules for Life: An Antidote To Chaos,"

 

I discuss:

  • Sleeping Beauty versus Petronilla,

  • William Blake's poem The Little Vagabond

  • Edward Dyer's My Mind to Me A Kingdom Is

  • and a fair bit of Socratic inquiry.

  • Critical question: "Is it natural to prefer that goodness which impels truthfulness to that which impels acceptable behavior?"

  • Question confronted: What is a child?

  • The Solzenytsin Conundrom

 

Peterson offers many interesting insights. The more I dig into his self-help philosophy the more I see the glaring face of a very peculiar American

Philosopher, and the more I fall down holes that cannot be rectified.

 

Well, at least not by Peterson.

 

Poems:

Different Modern Thinkers on "what is The Good."

Lecture:

 

Movies:

Books:

RULE 6: Set Your House In Perfect Order Before You Criticize The World

 

Listen to this episode on ITUNES

 

"It is the lot of the moral man to struggle against undutiful feeling inherent in his nature, and the more desperately he struggles the greater his claim to virtue. It is the lot of the moral man to burn with desire and then, on principle—the principle of duty—to thwart it. The hallmark of the moral man is to suffer." -Immanuel Kant

 

"I do shit to supposedly 'cleanse' myself in a spiritual, moral sort of way (deleting the 'limits' on my comp, not getting drunk for periods of time, trying not to ridicule/make fun of people...at school, yet it does nothing to help my life moraly. My existence is shit. To me- how i feel that i am in eternal suffering. in infinite directions in infinite realities." - Dylan Klebold

 

"I will sooner die than betray my own thoughts. but before I leave this worthless place, I will kill who ever I deem unfit for anything at all. Especially life." -Eric Harris

 

Eric Harris, one of the Columbine killers, was a young man who had his house in order. He was good with the ladies. He had several close friends, including Dylan Klebold (fellow Columbine Killer). He recently received a promotion at work. He was considered very reliable. Though he had recently been punished for breaking into a van with his compatriot Dylan, Eric had graduated from the "diversion program," as one of the more distinguished young men. The judge who saw him believed him to be a fine young man with a good father. He was good with computers, smart, good-looking and charming.

 

 Had we a time machine to take to Eric Harris the book "12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos" by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, Eric would have merely become a more efficient killer.

 

Had Eric taken to heart the blase advice by Peterson to put his house in perfect order before criticizing the world, Eric would merely have become a more efficient murderer. He would have arranged the chairs more properly on his sinking Titanic.

 

In this podcast episode I dive deep into what connects Eric and Dylan to Islamic radicals, to Nazis, to Communists, and to any individual or group who has created a subjectivist irrational worldview and acted it out to it's fullest conclusion.

 

In previous podcasts on rules 1-5 I have mostly praised Dr. Jordan Peterson. In this podcast I had no choice but to destroy his ideology. He is dead wrong about these ideologically motivated killers. Peterson also commits the gravest of crimes (though I am hoping he has been merely duped by his Christianity). But, he has committed the crime of intellectual dishonesty.

 

There is no other conclusion that can be drawn when he compares the suffering of Eric and Dylan to that of the brutal murdering Carl Panzram. 

 

Dylan and Eric were upper middle class, very loved and very lucky young men. Carl Panzram was raped and brutalized as a child in a correctional facility. To even pretend that these were the same, and that their "suffering" is what led them to seek vengeance is absurd and dishonest.

 

Something else had motivated Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and Eliot Rodgers and Adam Lanza and Cho Seung-Hui to put bombs and guns to schools in an attempt to annihilate as many humans as they could.

 

This is what we will explore in today's podcast on Rule #6: Set Your House in Perfect Order before You Criticize the World.

 

Poems:

The School Shooters:

Shows and Movies and Songs:

Essays:

Short Story:

Books:

RULE 7: Pursue What is Meaningful (not what is expedient)

 

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Why should one pursue what is meaningful, in the face of Peterson's foundational proposition: "Life is Suffering?" What does meaning mean? Where does it come from? How do you pursue it given the trials and tribulations of life? Is life suffering? Or can there be another worldview?

 

Poems:

  • Rizpah by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sculpture:

Lectures:

Books: 

RULE 8: Tell The Truth (Or At Least Don't Lie)

 

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Peterson's 8th Rule "Tell the Truth (Or at least don't lie) is important not only for avoiding disaster but for building a new you! That's what Ed Catmul, founder and president of Pixar, did. He was honest with himself that he was not a good enough animator to become a professional. So he pursued something else: computer science. By the mid 1970s he had his PHd and his dream: to create the first feature length animation movie done completely on a computer. Of course, in 1995 he did that. But he came to another problem. Most successful companies fail by making stupid mistakes. Why do they do that? These unseen forces took down some powerful companies in his time. Catmul decided not to let that happen to his company, so instead of focusing on the technical difficulties of making better animated videos, he decided to institutionalize honesty and candor. But how do you do that?

 

Listen to find out.

 

Poem:

Youtube talks:

Books:

 

RULE 9: Assume That The Person You Are Listening to Might Know Something You Don't

 

Listen to this episode on ITUNES

 

"The mark of an educated man is to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it." - Aristotle

Why is Jordan Peterson So Popular Today?

 

In this episode we will be exploring Peterson's rule "Assume that the person you are Listening to might know something you don't." It's a lesson we should all take to heart, especially those (like myself) who are so inclined toward totalitarian certainty.

 

While certainty is achievable, it is anything but easy. More appropriate should be our desire to understand other ideas, and how to entertain those ideas, without necessarily accepting them. In that no greater tool is at your possession than ART.

 

Benjamin Franklin as a young man gave himself a daily assignment in his attempt toward moral perfection: To imitate Jesus and Socrates. We know what it means to imitate Jesus. But what does imitating socrates entail? This episode will explore that idea.

 

 

Poems:

 Online Discussions:

Articles:

 

Books:

RULE 10: Be Precise In Your Speech

 

Listen to this episode on ITUNES

 

"People who cannot get their thoughts straight through the control of language live baffled and frustrated lives. They must accept stock answers to their most vexing questions; they are easily persuaded by flawed logic; they cannot solve their problems because they cannot express them accurately." - Richard Mitchell, The Underground Grammarian

Here are just a few of the topics we will be covering on this episode about poetry, language, perception, philosophy and anthropology.

  • Robert Frost and Jordan Peterson's differing view on meaning

  • Frost's Mending Wall poem

  • A conundrum from Germany circa 1939

  • The lost Jiukiukwe Indian tribe near the Orinoco

  • The basic nature of language

  • The Second Coming poem by William Butler Yeats

  • What we can learn about precision and clarity from Francis Bacon and Benjamin Franklin

 

Poems:

 

Online Discussions:

 

Books:

RULE 11: Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding

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What is masculinity? Why is it under attack today? 

 

These are the fundamental questions addressed in Jordan Peterson's Rule 11: Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding.

 

We'll be exploring the life of MAN from Ancient Greece to modern time. We'll be talking about wildly different men like

  • Demosthenes of Ancient Athens

  • Winston Churchill

  • John Adams

  • Thomas Jefferson

  • George Washington

  • And Your everyday men like me!

Are there conditional requirements to meet before one can enter the eternal fraternity of man? If so what are they and what do they mean?

In the poem IF by Rudyard Kipling he sets down a set of 37 conditions he believes in necessary to achieve manliness. 

 

As Peterson addresses in this chapter, there is a sentiment prevelant today that has been growing for the last 50 years. He began to identify this motivational emotion when he noticed that the University of Toronto, where he worked, put "skate stoppers" on certain curbs and on the bases of sculpture. These were designed to stop young skateboarders from grinding their boards against these areas. But they were uglier than any damage a young man could do on his flimsy piece of wood. So what really was their motivation? And what is it about boys and men that seem to crave pain and agression? Is this what so many women today are calling "toxic masculinity?" Is it the same tendency in men that leads to real violence?

We'll be exploring these questions any more in this episode. I hope you'll join me in an attempt to understand what this thing we call "masculine" really is.

 

Poems:

  • If by Rudyard Kipling

Online discussions:

Books:

RULE 12: Pet a Cat When You See One on the Street

 

 Listen to this episode on ITUNES

 

"Hold Your Headd Up High, His Name is Written in the Sky" - Blood Upon The Risers

This podcast I seek to answer Jordan Peterson's fundamental question posed in Chapter 12: "Is there any coherent alternative given the self-evidence horrors of existence? Can Being itself, with its malarial mosquitoes, child soldiers, and degenerative neurological diseases truly be justified?"

 

With reference to:

  • Homeric heroes and gods in The Iliad and The Odyssey

  • Peterson's own unique literary criticism

  • Blood Upon The Risers

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Ambitious Guest."

  • Ayn Rand's "Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged"

  • Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson

  • Stoic philosophy

  • And Much more!

Does Peterson have the proper perspective on Man's metaphysical nature and the metaphysical nature of reality or has he perpetrated an error that leads him to see the world through a prism of pain, suffering and agony? Is LIFE suffering? As Peterson says, Or is there a way to see the world differently. If you're a fan of Jordan Peterson I hope you'll join me on this final installment of my intellectual journey through the lectures and books of a controversial, interesting, erroneous, and brilliant thinker.

 

Poems:

Short Story:

Books:

 

Facebook Video of Paratroopers singing "Blood Upon The Risers:" 

 

Lecture:

Ayn Rand Lexicon:

Article:

Books Of and About Poetry:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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