The Liminalist # 153: Jordan Peterson’s Elusive Metaphysic (with Norman Young)

First of two-part conversation with Norman Young on from biology to theology, The Last Jedi, investigating Jordan Peterson, the meaning of life vs purpose of life, “don’t think about futility,” de-emphasizing Satan, a worldly focus, keeping it equivocal, Peterson’s metaphysic, a pragmatic context, Darwinism as metaphorical context, the concept of eternity, a Liberal Protestant ethic, belief as action, ethical truth, an evolving perspective, Maps of Meaning, the Biblical series, wrestling with the incarnation, myths as extracted patterns of human behavior, use of archetypes, what does Peterson mean by meaning, building a myth, reasons to act, seeking a myth that fits biology, left & right brain function, fudging the data, Rene Girard as counterpoint to Peterson, mimetic violence & the scapegoat mechanism, sacrifice as a worldly practice, the limits of Peterson’s self-sacrifice, a loving father figure, running counter to the Biblical ethic, Social & Spiritual Darwinism, the will to power, hierarchies of competence, is Peterson a gateway to Christianity?, what psychologists do, Peterson & anti-depressants, Jungian psychology, psychedelics and religious experience, the inexplicability of consciousness, keeping the door open, Whitley Strieber & Prisoner of Infinity, the spoken word, speaking beyond his competence, an illustration of human excellence, on the edge of chaos, the moment of discovery, liminalism, Peterson as performer, being led by ideas, the transformation of the Peterson project, modeling an idea of heroism, Pagan vs Christian hero, standing up to totalitarianism.

Norman’s website:

Norman’s Essay on Peterson.

The Cross Marks the Spot: Jordan Peterson’s Treasure Map of Meaning (Answer to Jordan # 1)

Songs: “I’m Going Insane” & “Clap Your Hands” by Lee Maddeford; “I Asked My Mom” & “If It All falls Through” by the Blacks.

11 thoughts on “The Liminalist # 153: Jordan Peterson’s Elusive Metaphysic (with Norman Young)”

  1. Interesting interview. You seem to be investigating him, and finding him wanting, as some kind of modern prophet, specifially a God-man of Christianity- a prophet who misses the mark, a leader of flocks who is going astray, who won’t quite fess up to his intimate spiritual life and is thus doing a disservice. I don’t exactly know where he makes any claim to be such a guru or guide – he does not have to have that function if he is merely enquiring publicly into religious stories and mythos, or speaking up about identity politics or pronouncing on social issues. Any of us could do the same – though most likely in our own tiny echo chambers. Is the problem that he has an audience? Perhaps the religious function has been projected onto him? Perhaps he would never have wished for such, and simply experienced unexpected recognition because of his stance on identity politics. His fame or notoriety ie his ”success” if one could judge that by reach – which seems to be the biggest problem here – is as a result of global media (youtube especially) and an obvious gap that had emerged in people’s search for meaning (particularly young males). That he fell into this gap as a voice (in a wilderness?) is most likely something he never expected, and one can certainly agree or disagree with him. The pendulum is likely to swing against him, as it does in such extremes – but I have not yet heard him make claims to be a preacher of the word of God. He’s maybe just a popular dude?

    • are claims really relevant compared to what is being ascribed and enacted? this seems like a very superficial analysis of the situation.

  2. That was interesting, man.

    The thing that bugs me most about Peterson is that he has the same tells as the rest of the talking heads in the world. He constantly uses the Vitarka mudra while speaking and he is fond of saying “Look,” before explaining his point, as in, “Look, let me tell you..” or “Look, the point is..” and of course that doesn’t mean he was created in the same clone lab or something, but it’s not a good.. look.

    Peterson knows his stuff, especially his esoteric Judaism. These texts are magick (no matter how much neuroscience Darwin bullshit he has rattling around in his head) and I think that the Judaic texts have given him a strong connection to The Force™. Now he must choose a side..

    Peterson also knows what every good band knows : It’s all about the live show !

  3. Great work here Jasun.

    Everything works in theory. What I notice missing from any Peterson blabfest is that he is a practitioner, 20 hours a week for 20 years with another human being, often damaged. He’s So, for instance, Jasun, I wonder if you were sitting in front of a suicidal person you wouldn’t suggest anti-depressants, voodoo, flying turtle soup or anything else that might keep him/her alive another day.

    My weightlifting coach has no theoretical training. He’s been training people for 10 years without a serious injury. If you asked him to sit and theorize his knowledge, I’m sure he could be picked apart and driven out of the business by the credentialed experts. Al of his knowledge is practically applied–in the world– if it is theoretically inconsistent at times, does it matter.

    Peterson noted in his RSA that theory is besides the point when you’re in pain.

    “Man must embody truth:he can not know it.”

    • I am not sure your point about whether or not I’d rec anti-depressants to a suicidal person pertains to my point about JBP which was about the incongruity between JBP’s theory and his practice. If when rubber of theory meets the road of practice, it explodes, then the theory isn’t worth much. What a man embodies says infinitely more than what he says, or claims to know. Insofar as the latter contradicts the former, it may be worse than worthless (it may be self-harming).

      & if pain relief was the be-all and end-all of human aspiration, then we may as well all become morphine addicts.

      Funnily enough, weight-lifting comes up in Prisoner of infinity as an example of self-traumatization.

      • Though poorly expressed, my point was the inability to talk meaningful about practice and the practitioner. I’ve noticed this the past 30 years as we’ve become sedentary, automated, inert, informationized, de-industrialized… whatever you chose to call it.

        You have the most potential from all the blabbing I’ve heard.

        One significant change I’ve noticed over the decades are reactions to my telling cubicle zombies I work with my hands and tools. Twenty-Five years ago I was treated with contempt, told to use the side entrance, which was to be expected; lately, it’s looks of incomprehension, like I’ve landed from another planet with an anal probe.

        If that is a slam at weight-lifting, exercise, embodiment, moving a force through a distance, you are making my point. More intriguing is that where I lift and box, the majority of the customers are 20-30 year old females… Some of them pay to hike in the mountains and chop wood! Never thought I’d see it again.

        Related, and I haven’t quite grasped this yet, I have status with kids under 30 because I use my hands and body. How can you be so fit/healthy at your age? Work I tell them. Many find it “amazing”, “awesome” that I can fix things. Self reliance as we get increasingly poorer?

        I’m glass-half-empty type by nature. But some of these the kids today… especially the ones who’ve stayed away from formal education… It’s rather heartening.

  4. As usual, one would have to write a book to properly encompass with critical insight any one of Jasun’s podcasts. So, I offer a scrappy bit of light by lightning:

    Tolstoy was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church whereas Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn were Russian Orthodox Christians. Tolstoy’s seminal essay is “What I Believe,” and he arrived at his position after teaching himself Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament, and reading all the available commentaries on the Gospels. He boils everything down to the Gospel injunction: “Do not resist evil.” Now, here’s where Tolstoy draws an insanely logical, and quite pragmatic, conclusion: we would usher in a secular paradise on earth if everyone were to simply and absolutely follow that injunction! IF everyone were to not resist evil then there would be no one to perpetrate evil.

  5. Am meditating on this pagan – christian hero dichotomy which seems to be key to the JBP enigma. In both cases the concept of sacrifice is key, sacrifice in order to effect change. The hero may have been a big deal in the age leading up to the postmodern present, but he is kind of redundant now we live in constant flux. JBP is trying to stick all the arms and legs back on the Black Knight and keep him going a bit linger, which evokes a kind of romantic nostalgia. You mention he is afraid to sacrifice his body , but the body of Christ , thr Eucharist ,,is it not a psychic body of which we all partake ? Its not over yet Peterson may still be torn limb from limb by the Dionysian Shrikes, but the hero Archetype has to be archived (Ark-hived) forward for future use when the flood waters recede. Its a circle not a line, after all.


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