As a lecturer, the University of Toronto’s Jordan Peterson is quite something. Yesterday, Tristan showed me videos of a couple of his lectures. One of them – The Necessity of Virtue – is available online.
One thing I found striking about the talks (which are mostly about psychology and ethics) is just how much we know about the brain, and how much we can reduce seemingly complex human behaviours and experiences to be predictable operation of certain brain structures. I had not previously realized the full importance of the hypothalamus. In one particularly grim example, Peterson explains that a cat stripped of almost all of its brain, but left with a spinal cord and a hypothalamus, will still behave much like an ordinary cat, except that it will be unusually likely to explore and unable to mate (if male).
What humanity is learning about the brain (which seems to produce the mind) seems likely to have considerable importance both for understanding the world in important ways and for deciding how to act in it. I will be adding Peterson’s Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief to my reading list, and may even be able to finagle a way to audit one of his courses if I do move to Toronto.