JBP: The Intellectual We Deserve Current Affairs

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2018/03/the-intellectual-we-deserve

Having safely established that Jordan Peterson is an intellectual fraud who uses a lot of words to say almost nothing, we can now turn back to the original question: how can a man incapable of relaying the content of a children’s book become the most influential thinker of his moment?

But here the left and academia actually bear a decent share of blame. Why is Jordan Peterson’s combination of drivel and cliché attracting millions of followers? Some of it is probably because alt-right guys like that he gives a seemingly scientific justification for their dislike of “social justice warriors.” Some of it is just that self-help always sells. Another part of it, though, is that academics have been cloistered and unhelpful, and the left has failed to offer people a coherent political alternative. Jordan Peterson is right that people are adrift and in need of meaning. Many of them lap up his lectures because he offers something resembling insight, and promises the secrets to a good life. It’s not actually insight, of course; it’s stuff everybody already knows, dressed up in gobbledegook. But it feels like something. Tabatha Southey was cruel to call Jordan Peterson “the stupid man’s smart person.” He is the desperate man’s smart person, he feeds on angst and confusion. Who else has a serious alternative? Where are the other professors with accessible and compelling YouTube channels, with books of helpful advice and long Q&A sessions with the public? No wonder Peterson is so popular: he comes along and offers rules and guidance in a world of, well, chaos. Just leave it to Dad, everything will be alright.

This is a fruitless path, though. That’s not just because Peterson is a charlatan. If he was just offering up his brand of “hearty intellectual stew,” as the Chronicle of Higher Education called it, going around “sprinkling in ideas from philosophy, fiction, religion, neuroscience, and a disturbing dream his 5-year-old nephew had one time,” we could just laugh at him. But the Peterson way is not just futile because it’s pointless, it’s futile because ultimately, you can’t escape politics. Our lives are conditioned by economic and political systems, like it or not, and by telling lost people to abandon projects for social change, one permanently guarantees they will be the helpless victims of forces beyond their control or understanding. The genuinely “heroic” path in life is to band with others to pursue the social good, to find meaning in the collective human striving to better our condition. No, not by abandoning the idea of the “individual” and seeing the world purely in terms of group identity. But by pooling our individual talents and efforts to produce a better, fairer, and more beautiful world.

This much should be obvious from even a cursory reading of him: If Jordan Peterson is the most influential intellectual in the Western world, the Western world has lost its damn mind. And since Jordan Peterson does indeed have a good claim to being the most influential intellectual in the Western world, we need to think seriously about what has gone wrong. What have we done to end up with this man?

 

 

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
This entry was posted in Daily Links and Notes. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s