Don't be a follower of Jordan Peterson, be a thinker for Jordan Peterson (1)

Jordan Peterson, either you love him or hate him. As an admirer of Peterson myself, I've hanged on every word he said. But this doesn't prevent me of looking with a critical eye to his ideas. Because I think Jordan Peterson needs more constructive criticism.


Unless you have lived under a rock, you've noticed the Internet phenomenon Jordan B. Peterson (if not, I would check his videos on YouTube or this documentary about him). Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist at University of Toronto who became famous because of three videos on gender-neutral pronouns and postmodernism in October 2016.

Today, he's so much more than an one-issue guy but a public intellectual with a broad range of interests: cultural criticism, existential philosophy, evolutionary-psychological Biblical hermeneutics and Jungian psychology. His lecture series on the psychological significance of the Biblical stories, his personality courses and courses about his book Maps of Meaning has attracted well over a million views.


His ideas has been so persuasive and his figure is so charismatic, that he has created his own fan club, a cult even around his persona (although cult is a strong word, guru might be better). I'm an admirer of Peterson's work (and I do not use the word admire lightly) but I would not go so far that I lose all critical thinking. The problem is that a person like Jordan Peterson (unintentionally) polarizes: there are his fans who will vociferously defend him and there are his haters who will do anything to destroy him. There is not much room in the middle.


It is ironical that he's creating that what he despises: a group of ideologically-possessed who are simply repeating every word Peterson says. I think I can illustrate it with one of his vids. When I heard this question of the audience and Peterson's answer, I couldn't think but to apply it to Peterson himself: to what degree are his fans mere mirrors, spokespersons or possessed puppets of his ideas?

Of course, some people did integrate his ideas into their being and got transformed and are really passionate about it. But an even greater danger lurks here: to what degree are those born-again Petersonians their original selves? You cannot transcend the puppet stage if you don't have any original thoughts of your own.

This is most harmful for Jordan Peterson himself. When you're locked up in a room full of mirrors and you ask: "Magic mirror on the wall - who's the fairest one of all?", the answer that you want is not you. Otherwise you fall like Narcissus in love with your own reflection, freezing you on the spot and holding you back from developing. Peterson knows this and he has an inner circle of friends who checks-and-balances him.


Will this be enough, I wonder? But it is important that even though you can admire Peterson, you stay critical of his ideas and give constructive feedback. Otherwise you do a great disservice to him.

That is the purpose of this blog serie and hence the title: don't be a follower of Jordan Peterson, be a thinker for Jordan Peterson.