Help! Is Jordan Petersons thinking and work itself ideological / does it take an ideological structure? Or not?

(Kevin Kaiser) #1

Lately I had a discussion with a friend about Jordan Peterson. As we all know Peterson talks about ideologies and ideological structures. The friend of mine said the problem with JP is that - even though he argues against ideologies - JP himself has a form of ideological thinking and has created a kind of ideology. Now I didn’t really know what to say and did not have a good, reasonabe, solid thought-through argument against this claim. I really hope that that is not the case… that JPs tinking is ideological.
Why have so many horrible ideologies gone down such a horrible, destrucive way? I mean, there must be some kind of difference in the structures of ideological thinking that has extremely negative consequences and the ideology of JP? I mean what if JPs thinking is really just another dangerous ideology? I am really confused right now… Why does JP talk against ideologies when his thinking is ideological? That is suc a contradiction for me…

Can someone help me to find true, clear reasons an arguments why JPs thinking is NOT ideological? Or is it?! I would appreciate clarification on that point.

(Nick Redmark) #2

Use first principles. Try clarifying for yourself what ideological thinking means - and why, if at all, ideological thinking is bad, by your definition. Then you can see whether JP does that or not :slight_smile:

(John Buck) #3

My understanding of having an ideology is to have a singular frame of perspective for all analysis of the world. A heuristic for simplified thinking into a sort of equation. For instance, ideological thinking on the left is analysing which party in a contention has less power, and by definition that party is morally correct.
Subtlety is lost in an ideological framing. All actions that further that ideology are painted as always being positive for the individual as well as the society. Any evidence that ppints in a different direction is ignored or dismissed.

I personally do not see any of this in Peterson’s lectures or work. I believe he’s put the negative understandings of his points in full light.
Hope this helps.

(Mats Winther) #4

Why don’t you read my article Critique of Jordan B. Peterson’s Neo-Hegelian philosophy and judge for yourself.

(John Buck) #5

(Skimmed it, sorry)
But I think I see part of your point regarding Peterson and ideology. Following a bit of Hegelism -and Taoism- Peterson’s heuristic or ideal that he uses for a referential standard is the hero that stands between order and chaos. In between the known and the unknown. If Peterson is an ideaologue, that is the idealogy that he is advocating for.

(Tyler) #6

Ideologies can be thought of as archetypes. Imagine the communistic ideology as an archetypal bearded Marx sitting inside the skull of Marxist activists. Every time you speak to someone espousing Marx, they say the same thing, and make the same arguments, because they all carry that same set of beliefs. This is true for Christianity (bearded Jesus), Capitalism (bearded Uncle Sam), Christmas (bearded Santa)…starting to see a pattern here…

Moving over to systems/information theory, every “set” of beliefs in your brain is like a tiny set of instructions about how to process information (e.g. seeing red, green, white lights on tiny bulbs means Christmas, but not Easter). Each separate grouping of beliefs is packed into its own little box, and anytime you encounter information in the world that you think is relevant to the beliefs in that box, you run the information through the box and see what spits out. It is the case that one can process information through many different types of boxes, i.e. seeing a statue of Christ as a devout christian is not the same thing as seeing it as a militant atheist. In fact, part of the ability to process information through many different boxes is called thinking critically.

It is important to understand that we are all in possession of ideologies. There are probably dozens of high-level heuristics about how to see the world running in your head all the time, and countless more unawares. The manner in which you notice the swiftness of the people walking around you, or the number of smiles you get at work, or the amount of skin your coworker is showing today; all this gets processed via some heuristic which is often neatly expressed in language by a social ideology (prude, modesty, politeness, hurried). The key idea that Peterson attempts to teach is that, though you are in possession of many ideologies, you should try as hard as you damned well can not to be possessed by them, and especially not just one of them, and even more especially not a bad and impoverished ideology, like Intersectionality for instance.

When you choose to filter everything through a single ideology you are ignoring an extraordinarily large swath of reality, and eventually it will come back in the form of a dragon and bite you- and interestingly enough, since you were the originator of that poorly filtered ideology, the dragon is really biting its own tail- you are the tail. It is this realization that Peterson wishes to teach, that the creature that hounds you, the ills of your culture, the sufferings at home, is ultimately traced back to this improper filtration of reality through too narrow and too incapable an ideology. The blame for all our ills lies on the great transpersonal failure of our collective living group to meet the challenges of reality. But, if we pay attention, and use language to communicate to each other our own failures and successes, we can continually improve our heuristics. This process of continual improvement is the real identity of the conscious self. You are not a robot to spit out other people’s programs. You are the programmer sitting atop the robot that God, and the billion ancestors before you, gifted you.

TLDR; Yes, Peterson has ideologies, we all do. And yes, you can analyze each and every one of them for their usefulness or truthfulness. That’s exactly what he’d hope you do.


I just did a look-up on etymonline for “-ology” and then found a link to “all the -ologies”, but “ideology” wasn’t there. ology being a branch or collection of knowledge. Or perhaps the psychological image of a external manifest something. I always go to “biology” FWIW. You have your biology… ish.

My point of mentioning this that is slightly different is, like most things, if you take out the emotional reaction, a word can still be used with other modifiers or simply in another context.

Related to other points above, or rewording some, what would make an ideologue, or any given individual thinking ideologically is if it’s a bottleneck for interpretation. Being possessed by something, as Tyler said. Well said by the way.

There’s a good point in one of his interviews in the summer he was grilled by an interviewer as being ideological, and he elaborated out in articulate terms exactly why he’s NOT an ideologue.