U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson‘s conduct has increasingly been the subject of public and media criticism. He has gone from refusing to let students choose their own gender pronouns to a much broader critique of university culture. Recently, he proposed to start a website where people could report which of their professors and classes are “indoctrination cults”.
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Dr. Peterson is an interesting man and one of the most compelling speakers I’ve been exposed to. I feel like he has seriously lost perspective and become inappropriately convinced that he is being subjected to persecution. If he could abstract himself from his own situation enough to think about it more objectively, I think a section from one of this lectures would lead to him rethinking his conduct:
So life is suffering. What does that do to people? It makes them resentful. These are pitfalls of being. Except being has a structure. One of its fundamental structural elements is suffering. But suffering produces other characteristics of being: resentment is a characteristic of being. People feel resentful when they believe that they’ve been taken advantage of. And if you feel resentful, it may be that you are being taken advantage of. It may also be that you should screw your head on straight and look at things properly. And it may also be that you should talk to somebody to find out if youâ€™re being taken advantage of or if your head just isnâ€™t screwed on straight.
Dr. Peterson started on the comparatively defensible ground of being concerned about how potentially oppressive institutions might unjustly constrain speech, but from the beginning he has been targeting the oppressed rather than the strong. Now he has drifted into the company of aggrieved enemies of supposed “political correctness” who have inverted their understanding of politics to see themselves as oppressed while those like the transgendered are elevated by structures which he must now resist. It’s a dynamic where exposure to people who disagree with you can tend to deepen your conviction that you are actually right, leading to you being more and more isolated and increasingly unable to comprehend the discussion you’re taking part in.