Jordan Peterson Maps of Meaning Lecture 1

This is the beginning of the course. Here is the text from the YouTube description.

In this lecture, I discuss the context within which the theory I am delineating through this course emerge: that of the cold war. What is belief? Why is it so important to people? Why will they fight to protect it? I propose that belief unites a culture’s expectations and desires with the actions of its people, and that the match between those two allows for cooperative action and maintains emotional stability. I suggest, further, that culture has a deep narrative structure, presenting the world as a forum for action, with characters representing the individual, the known, and the unknown — or the individual, culture and nature — or the individual, order and chaos.

Peterson was driven by his experience of the cold war to ask “what would lead people to the point of risking the annihilation of humanity through nuclear war?” He was then forced to ask “what is a belief?” He went from individual to community, etc.

52: Belief systems are systems of moral guidelines. (See discussion on Philip Reiff in First Things podcast on the Triumph of the Therapeutic What defines a society is by what is not permitted )

1 hour: David Hume in that you can’t establish an ought from an is. And this is pretty foundational in terms of the scientific method, because what you want to do is isolate out the value systems in an attempt to see the valueless system. In this process you must be careful not to imagine you can then cross that divide going the other way. Can you come up with a scientific morality? Peterson differs with Sam Harris by believing you won’t.

1:05 There’s been a war between science and religion and religion hasn’t done so well. We’ve arrived a system where individuals are respected above the law even when they’re reprehensible. This is a precious thing but we may in fact lose it, says Nietzsche. Our world conception has been nested within the Darwinian system. These are pragmatic truths rather than objective truths. They’re good enough to keep us alive long enough to reproduce and keep the whole thing going.

1:24 We’re at a place where we think what is “true” is determined by science. But we don’t really act that way. It’s hard to know what we’re talking about when we ask “what is true”. What we really want to know is how one should conduct themselves in the world. We want to know that more than anything. What we did with our creative imagination was to try to figure out how to deal with unexplored territory, what we still hadn’t mastered. Without understanding that surround, you’re too atomized. You haven’t incorporated “the spirit of your ancestors” and you don’t know what to do.

1:27 Meaning is proportionate to the adoption of responsibility.

1:30 No one argues with their own pain. What is real? People act as if their pain is real. Real self-consciousness is the knowledge of your borders, not only in space but in time. Human beings are the only creatures that have discovered their future. It’s an existential burden that everyone bears and it connects us with suffering. Meaning can be found in reducing suffering. There’s some more that you conduct yourself in is what makes you a good person. A good person alleviates suffering. You don’t question this if the suffering itself is what is questioning the meaning of your own life.

`:37 These distilled stories, by great authors (Dostoevsky) We’re necessarily nested in moral systems. The systems are predicated on moral drama.


1:42 “I find students coming in because professors have deconstructed their lives and said nothing has any meaning.”

You inhabit a story and the framework through which you view the world is a story.

You’re in a state of insufficiency of one kind or another and you’re aiming at rectifying that insufficiency. You try to rectify it through action. That’s essentially the answer to the mind/body problem in the world. You implement through action. Its not a very interesting story but it is a value laden story.

the basic story jordan peterson

Back to the cold war. What was going on here? Whose to say that one set of values is better than another? It is an arbitrary thing? Settled by force? What were the roots of the Marxist system and the Western system. One evolved and the other was a rationalist system that was imposed. What is the Western system grounded in and was it real in any sense? That’s what drove him to the fundamental stories of Western Civ. These are the sources of our culture. The refer to something “actually real”.

There are different ways of conceptualizing real. The initial axiom is that pain is the most real because that’s how people act.

The fundamental essence of stories can immunize you against ideologies which are fragments of the fundamental narrative.

Order is you do what you’re supposed to do and you get what you want. Chaos is when you do what you’re supposed to do and what you want doesn’t happen. (Pragmatism)

Chaos is rather non-specific. You now you hit it when you produce the stress response. Your unexplored territory has to do with your relational nesting. If a snake comes into your house your house can turn into unexplored territory. It’s a conceptional territory. Wherever you are when things aren’t working for you the way they’re supposed to be. These are permanent parts of the human experience. You’re always somewhere. Most of your territory are other people. We view the world as an aggregation of other personalities. Unexplored territory is where you don’t know what to do. You do know what to do when you don’t know what to do because it is the stress response. This is what PTSD is. You stay in this state all the time. You age, you get depressed, you get old. Your system is shunting everything to maintain that state. This is why people are so prone to defend their familiar territory they default back to their state of emergency preparation. People experience this when they are betrayed, lied to, when there is a death of a person. The betrayal destroys the nested representations that you have been living out of. Even the past isn’t what you thought it was. You even don’t know you. Were you clueless? Everything is up in the air. We travel to the underworld and come back. Whenever we fail we go back to the underworld and everything is in chaos. One way of conceptualizing yourself is the thing that traverses between the two domains and that is the mythological hero.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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