JORDAN PETERSON: Well, I took my first degree in political science. And I was interested in motivation for social conflict, primarily. And at the time I took my degree– and I suppose it’s probably similar now– all the explanations for social conflict were economic. People are basically fighting over resources of one form or another. And that just struck me as wrong. It’s too simple. And it also doesn’t explain why people value certain resources. It’s not self-evident that a resource has value. It depends very much on the cultural context. And it is– also didn’t seem to me to take into account the relationship between belief and the individual. It was a purely economic explanation– plus, then it’s also predicated on an essentially economic view of men. It wasn’t deep enough to really explain the issue. And at that time, too, it was in the early 80s when I really started to think about this, it was sort of the second peak of the Cold War. And people were very, very worried about nuclear destruction. You know, it was a constant background concern. And so part of what I was curious about was how belief could be important enough so that people would be willing to put life itself at risk to have produced this insane standoff with these tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. And then there was something beyond that too because you can explain some of that with just just with territoriality, but there was more– there was an element of gratuitous violence that characterize situations like those in Nazi Germany, and also in the Stalinist camps, and in lots of other places as well. But those were the two that really stood out for me that I felt couldn’t be explained by– well, certainly not by a resource theory, or even really by a theory that had anything to do with territoriality. There was some other element that was more metaphysical that wasn’t being attended to. You just couldn’t account for those sorts of things. You know, it’s one thing to kill people. You can even make a rational account for that under many circumstances. But to make them as miserable as possible while you’re killing them, and then also to do it in a manner that’s counterproductive with regards to your own ends– because that clearly happened in Nazi Germany– that’s not– there’s no straightforward rational explanation for that. So I started reading more and more about that. There was something about, especially, the archetypes of the collective unconscious, reading that in relationship to the Gulag Archipelago, that I felt that there was something there that really bore further investigation. You know, when Solzhenitsyn, for example, he concentrated a lot on the relationship between individual deceit, particularly, lying, to put it simply, and the path elegies of the state. Makes a very clear case for that. And I always sort of interpreted Freud’s idea of a repression as a form of lie. Now, I don’t think his account of repression is correct. But it doesn’t matter. It’s interestingly wrong, at least, or it’s approximately right, something like that. And then there was a weird connection between this idea of the lie as the root of pathology in totalitarian states and archetypal religious ideas that were associated with the idea of good and evil. And so that started to attract my attention. I was probably about 20. It was 1982. Yeah, I was 20. And I was also reading Nietzsche at that time. And I read everything that he wrote that– of his major works. I mean, the whole collected works hadn’t been published yet, but I read him in chronological order. And that was extremely interesting for me, as well. And there’s a very interesting intellectual relationship between Nietzsche and Jung and Solzhenitsyn. The Solzhenitsyn connection is more through Dostoevsky. You know, when Dostoevsky and Jung, or Nietzsche, were investigating very, very similar ideas at exactly the same time. So there’s these weird parallelisms of thought. And although people don’t know it well, Jung was extremely influenced by Nietzsche, just as much as by Freud. I mean, there is a publication, for example, that’s notes on his seminar on Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and it’s like 2,600 pages long. And it only covers the first third of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. So Jung was very interested in Nietzsche. So this– I found this source of ideas, which I suppose was grounded in some sense in 19th century romanticism, that seemed to really get at the root of the question as far as I was concerned. So because there’s something– there’s something that isn’t just– it’s not just rational behavior that drives people towards war. There’s an irrational element of it that you can’t explain without– I don’t think you can explain it at all without recourse to religious language. It’s the only language that’s deep enough to get at it properly. So I started reading all this– like, I didn’t understand the archetypes of the collective unconscious at all. So I read it again. And then I read it again. And then I then I started to understand what he was talking about a little bit, you know, the idea that these– that there were patterns of action and perception in a sense, or cognitive categories– that’s another way of looking at it– that lie at the bottom of our thoughts. They structure the way that we look at the world. And they a deep evolutionary basis. And they have the quality, in a sense, of God. And that really frightened me, that idea. You know, one thing Jung said– which I really love– he said, people don’t have ideas. Ideas have people. I thought oh, yeah. That’s a really interesting way of looking. It’s like Richard Dawkins’ idea of meme. It’s funny to read Dawkins because Dawkins is someone who is almost to the point where he could read Jung because his idea of memes and the archetypes are very, very close, except the meme is a trivial concept compared to the archetype. So an archetype is like meta meme, in a sense. It’s deep. It’s so ancient that it’s tangled up in our biology. So Dawkins, even though he’s an evolutionary thinker, is still like post-enlightenment rationalist. You actually can’t be a post-enlightenment rationalist and an evolutionary thinker. That doesn’t work. Well, you’re too concerned with rationality. Rationality is new. It hardly even matters in some sense. Anyway, so I was obsessed with the idea of destruction and the will to destroy, fundamentally, and its expression and totalitarianism, and then, its relationship with the history of ideas, in general. That’s partly why I found Nietzsche so useful because Nietzsche predicted that the 20th century would be a war, in some sense, between– well, certainly a war that would involve communist ideas. He predicted that in about 1860, something like that, in Will to Power. He said, you know, we’ll pay for that conflict with a couple of tens of millions of lives, which is quite the prognostication like, 30 years before the fact. And then he also talked about nihilism and both of those as a reaction to the collapse of Christianity. And that struck me as highly plausible. So Nietzsche was also extremely useful. One of the things about Jung is that Jung spent his whole career trying to answer Nietzsche’s question. So Nietzsche said, basically, that the conflict between enlightenment thinking and religious thinking– Christian thinking, in particular– was going to wipe Christian thinking out, or at least people’s ability to believe in the metaphysical assumptions that underlie Christianity, and that the only proper response to that would be nihilism, which he was very much concerned with, or authoritarianism. And so Nietzsche was trying to develop a philosophy of what might constitute a third path. And that’s expressed to some degree in Thus Spoke Zarathustra with the idea of the Superman or the Overman. But that idea really never got developed. In fact, Jung believed that the development of that idea was part of what drove Nietzsche insane. He thought that he developed a kind of schizophrenic inflation. Jung believed that inflation was the invasion of the conscious ego with archetypal content. And so it’s almost like, when the old hero dies, a new hero was born. And that new hero, in some sense, was born within Nietzsche consciousness. But those are experiences that are powerful enough, in some sense, to have a psychotic element to them. And anyways, Nietzsche died before he developed those ideas very far. But then Jung spent his entire career, in some sense, trying to understand hero mythology fundamentally. SPEAKER: And today, as well, there are a lot of people who insist that religion or otherwise supernatural belief systems or mythologies are relics from the past, that they’re, you know, from another era, and they’re either naive, faulty descriptions of actual material reality, the same way that we think of science today. Or there were kind of crowd control tools of elites– JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, they are straw man arguments, fundamentally. I mean, one of them is just Marxist. You know, it’s like, what are power structures there for? Well, they’re there to serve the purposes of the elite. It’s like, no, that’s one of their purposes. You know, that mono mania, that insane desire for singular causes, to me, that’s also the expression of an archetype. That’s monotheism in action. It’s like, you know, so you see these people who claim to be atheistic. They just invent a new god. Foucalt did that with power. Freud did that with sex. You know, if you’re smart, too, you can take a major motivational drive or system– they’re not really drives; they’re really personalities– you can take a major motivational personality like power or sex, and you can explain everything on its basis because everything is– every human action is motivated by the major motivational system, some admixture of them. And then, if you’re smart enough, you can always figure out a way that some complex phenomena is related causally to some simpler motivation. But it’s intellectual masturbation, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not the attempt to explain something. It’s the attempt to reduce everything to one simple principle that you can be master of. Now, so, you know, was religion for crowd control? Well, it’s just a– that’s an empty theory. Well, what– so this is what, a multi-generational conspiracy? That’s what it is. It’s a conspiracy that stretches as far back into the past as we can imagine, right back to where people were tribal, and maybe farther back than that. I mean, that’s not an explanation. And the other one, the supernatural explanation– well, you know, there are– there are people who think they think scientifically, but they don’t because they’re not very good at it. And then there are people who think scientifically at a genius level. It’s like, well, there are people who think they think religiously, but don’t. And then there are people who think religiously at a genius level. And you can’t assume that you can use the same motivational explanation at every single level of analysis. So yes, there are elements of religious belief that are superstitious, although, you know, that’s kind of a sleight of hand too because if you want to argue that religion is only superstition, you collect up all the superstitions, you define them as religious, and then you define religion as a collection of superstitions. So you know, it’s not very careful articulation of the whole class of phenomena that are attempting to be– that people are attempting to explain. And there’s also a big difference between explaining and explaining away. So well, Dennett likes to explain away things, like consciousness. And you can’t explain away consciousness. Well, you can. It depends on how you structure your initial presumptions about the world. So the logos that we were talking about earlier that’s associated with, let’s say, articulated truth, and the communication of articulated truth, that’s basically the prime function of consciousness. And the Judeo Christian story is predicated on the idea that that is a fundamental element of being. Now, you can structure your world with different presuppositions. So you could say, well, consciousness is epi-phenomena of the material world. Well, you can make a perfectly coherent and useful set of tools out of those pre-suppositions. But that set of tools does not cover everything that you need. And it’s no more viable as an explanation than the explanation that no consciousness is somehow fundamental to being. And of course, being is different than material reality. So– and these things aren’t grappled with properly by positivistic scientists who have no real training in philosophy and who knew nothing at all about religion. You know, their religion, the Christianity that Dawkins criticizes is the Christianity that a smart 13-year-old boy objects to. So it’s like, well, you know, how can you reconcile Genesis with evolutionary history? It’s like well, no, that’s really not the problem. So it’s a straw man argument. Hello, ugly. You better sit. Sit. Lay down. Lay down. One of the things that I’ve learned about argumentation is that if you’re trying to distinguish between the validity of two different worldviews, you want to make the strongest possible case for both worldviews. You’re not trying to be right. You’re trying to figure something out. And the easiest way to be right is to make your opponent into an idiot. So there’s no doubt that empirical science has kicked the slats out of the way people think about religion because it wasn’t easy for people to understand that there could be different– that different systems of thought might have different purposes. You have to be a philosopher of thought to think about that, even. And I don’t think it was– I don’t think that became obvious at all until after Nietzsche. Not all belief systems serve the same masters, so to speak. And so you can’t assume that every system of thought is doing the same thing. And then, you can’t assume also, that there’s only one way to formulate your basic assumptions about the nature of reality. I mean, Heidegger. I didn’t discover the relationship between the system of thought that I derived say, from Nietzsche and Jung and some other people that I read, and Heidegger, until much after I had written Maps of Meaning. But Heidegger’s study of being is predicated on the idea that being is the fundamental reality, and that is not objective reality. It’s not material reality. It’s lived experience, something like that. Lived experience is real. OK. That’s a pre-supposition. So you start with that pre-supposition, then you ask yourself, well, what are the basic elements of lived reality? And then, what happens there– or at least what seems to have happened– is that Heidegger identified the same basic elements of lived reality that I identified in Maps of Meaning. And one was the social world– the world that’s constructed by humans– which I think is basically an elaborated dominance hierarchy. And it’s permanent. So this is where the issue about what constitutes reality becomes very critical. Dominance hierarchies are 300 million years old. They’re older than trees. So if you think that’s– what– one definition of what’s real is what’s persistent across time, then it’s almost impossible to find anything more real about life than a dominance hierarchy. So– SPEAKER: This goes to your point about lobster, I think. JORDAN PETERSON: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s the same bloody circuitry, serotonergic circuitry. I mean, there’s another circuit that lobsters use that we don’t have that’s based on octomine, I think that’s the right word. But a lot of the way that lobsters maneuver within dominance hierarchies is the way we maneuver within dominance hierarchies. If you’re an evolutionary thinker, you can’t just push that away. And dominance hierarchies are– although we can think about them as a social construct– they’re also a natural phenomena, right? So the dominant hierarchy is actually a major part of the environment to which we have adapted. OK. So there’s the dominance hierarchy, that’s– we’ll say the social world, for the sake of argument. There’s the natural world. And there is the experiencing subject. Well, those are Heidegger’s categories of being as well. And in some sense, what religious thinking seems to do is to continually posit those three things as interacting causally at the base of being. So– and that’s not material reality. There’s a lot of things about being that we can’t attribute simply to material reality. We may eventually be able to do that. But by that time, our notion of what constitutes material will be much different. OK. So we can’t deal with subjectivity within the confines of our materialist theories. And that’s partly because those theories are predicated on the elimination of subjectivity as an a priori move, right? The whole point of objective science is to remove subjectivity. OK. So then it gets removed and while you’re surprised about it. It’s like, well, no, you can’t be surprised about it. You removed it right at the beginning. Now, that works for certain purposes. It works very well. But it has consequences. And some of those consequences, as far as I’m concerned, are serious enough to produce two forms of social and mental illness and one of those would be succumbing to the temptations of authoritarianism. And the other would be succumbing to the temptations of nihilism because there are logical consequences of the definition of subjective is non-real. So now then you ask yourself, well, how do you determine whether or not a theory is true? Then you ask yourself, well, what do you mean by true? Well, then you’re in trouble. OK. Because I think you can take a Newtonian perspective on that or a Darwinian perspective, but you can’t do both at the same time. Yeah. So Nietzsche said truth serves life. OK, in some sense, that’s a Darwinian idea. OK. If it’s true enough so that if you act it out or hold it that increases your chances of survival and reproduction over long spans of time, that’s true. OK. We have no idea if our detailed knowledge about the material world is going to be the type of knowledge that allows us to survive and reproduce over a long period of time. It’s not been tested from a Darwinian perspective at all. And you might say, well, of course the materialist perspective is right. Look what we’ve built with it. We’ve built hydrogen bombs, for example. But then you might object to that by saying, well, yeah. We’ve built hydrogen bonds. But the only reason we could build them or were willing to was because we left things out of the equation. Well, what things? Well, things like, is it really a good idea to build hydrogen bombs, for example? I can give you another example of that. I read a book a while back that was written by a KGB officer who claimed to be exposing the inner workings of the Soviet scientific community with regards to biological warfare. And the people in the Institute that he described were trying to cross Ebola with smallpox because smallpox is extremely infectious and Ebola is extremely deadly. So like, that’s a valid scientific enterprise. OK. Then you think, oh, isn’t that interesting that that’s a valid scientific enterprise? Because obviously, that’s insane. So then you think, well, if it’s so obvious that that’s insane and it’s a valid scientific enterprise, well, there’s some disconnect there between two different views of what constitute at least appropriate behavior. Now, you know that this is why the definitions of truth start to become so important. Like, is it truth as expressed in action? Is it truth as it serves Darwinian purposes? Is it truth as defined by the axioms of the materialist philosophy– which by the way, aren’t even true anymore, because if you go down far enough into material reality, now we know you hit a realm that’s so bizarre that we can’t even comprehend it. And there’s implications of that bizarreness that we can’t comprehend. So I would say we will develop a materialist philosophy of consciousness eventually. But it won’t be using the same material that we use now. So– SPEAKER: If I just interject– if I understand correctly, you’re talking about– there– in, let’s say, the industrialized north, in a society that relies on site analysis to make its– to establish the fundamental basis on which the rest of the society is predicated– JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. SPEAKER: There are certain assumptions about what is real versus what is not real. What is actually out there, if there’ a– JORDAN PETERSON: Well, but well– SPEAKER: A distinction between subject– Well, but, but even there there’s an implicit assumption that’s what’s out there– in objective space– is what’s real. OK, well, but the problem with that is that that’s an assumption about reality. Now, it’s obviously a powerful assumption. But here’s another way of looking at the Darwinian problem, as far as I can tell. So part of the reason that the Darwinians insist that random mutation is the source of continual– it’s not progress– continual survival is that the underlying environment changes, and it changes unpredictably. By its essential nature, it’s unpredictable. Thus, if it’s unpredictable, only random transformation can keep up with it, a lot of random transformation. Hopefully, the randomness of the environmental change will be matched by the randomness of the genetic change. OK. So what that means in part is that the environment, so to speak, is finally incomprehensible because you can’t predict it. OK. So that means that a limited creature that’s established itself by Darwinian means can’t have access to the truth. They can only have access to sufficient truth. And sufficient truth is the truth that allows you to survive and reproduce. And from a Darwinian perspective, there isn’t any truth past that. So I don’t think Dawkins is a Darwinian. I think he’s a Newtonian because he believes that there is truth. The Darwinians don’t believe that. The Darwinians say, no. There’s enough truth to keep you alive and have you survive. And that’s all. And eventually all that’s going to go to because, you know, 99.5% of all species are extinct. SPEAKER: That’s an amazing point, if I understand it correctly. JORDAN PETERSON: Look, the American pragmatists figured this out in the late 1800s. SPEAKER: Exactly. This reminds me of pragmatist philosophy, specifically, which I have a soft spot for. I mean, it speaks to me directly. But I’m thinking about other people who I know at the university, the rest of my life. If they hear this, they would just say, what? Like, so it’s as if we’re living in two different worlds at the same time. JORDAN PETERSON: We are. SPEAKER: In the sense that we’ve internalized the evolutionary mindset for a large part and parcel of how we understand reality. But at the same time we hold onto this notion of truth as beyond our subjective experience of there. And we’re actively– JORDAN PETERSON: Right. SPEAKER: Directly, when we conduct these experiments. This is just true– JORDAN PETERSON: Right. Well, a simple part of the problem too is that because science is reductionistic, whenever you measure something extremely accurately, there’s a whole bunch of other things you’re not measuring. And your assumption is that the knowledge gained by that precision isn’t undone by the dismissal of everything else. Well, is that a valid claim? It depends on what your preconditions are for determining validity. Like, automobiles get you from point A to point B. You might say, well, that’s their fundamental purpose. That’s what they were designed to do. But I could say, well, no, it turns out that there are fundamental consequence, if not purpose, is the complete transformation of cities, the demolition of the rural communities, and the destruction of the atmosphere. It’s like, oh, we left something out. Yeah, you left something out. So you gain– you gain precision. But you pay for it with the loss of something else. And then there’s the other problem, which is the pragmatic problem, which is truth for what? You know, it’s difficult for me to say– see that it’s dangerous, as far as I’m concerned, to consider truth independent of its effect on us. So I think if the truth drives you insane, it’s not a truth. There’s something wrong with it. That’s like a definition. But I think it’s a definition that’s grounded in Darwinian thinking. And I think what I think about religion is very Darwinian. I think religion is an evolved– it’s evolved knowledge. And it’s knowledge about action. And the world is made out of action– especially the human world– and so you can’t say well, that’s not real. It’s like, that’s wrong. It’s real. It’s not something you can easily reduce to causal relationships between the fundamental building blocks of matter. But not only is it real, everyone acts like it’s real. And then I would say, well, I don’t care what people say about what they think about what’s real. I care about how they act because that actually shows what they really believe. And whatever their rational mind is computing and, you know, chattering about on the surface, it’s like, who cares about that? They’re just possessed by ideas. They may they may be defenders of the ideas too. But that doesn’t mean they believe them. You know, depending on how you define belief. SPEAKER: OK. So this is the crux of it, I think. It’ll be a good launching point for the rest of the discussion. So we’re talking here a truth– not a reinterpretation of truth from an objectivist, positivist, scientific perspective, which we’ve been hearing from the rationals. You’re saying– JORDAN PETERSON: It’s a return to the original conceptions of truth. SPEAKER: Right, along with the American pragmatist, and in light of Darwinian insight into what life is. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, you know, the thing about the pragmatists, like I said, as soon as Darwin published The Origin of Species, they recognized that the theory of evolution was pragmatic. They got it like right now. They were very excited about it. So and they got excited about it because the Darwinian claim is things are always true enough, and that’s it. And it isn’t in some sense even because you lack knowledge. It’s because you couldn’t have the knowledge, even hypothetically, without running a simulation as complicated as the world itself. And even then it wouldn’t turn out the same way. SPEAKER: So is this like a Godelian view of reality, in the sense that any explanation of the complexity of the system is doomed to be simpler than the system is trying to explain. JORDAN PETERSON: Yes. That’s one way of thinking about it. Sure. Sure. Well, yeah, you could think about it as– that’s right, you can think about it as a limitation of the perceiver. The problem too is that whatever knowledge you accrue about the system changes the system. It’s like trying to predict the stock market, which isn’t possible. Right? So I think that’s a really good example, actually. And you know, try to predict the stock market rationally. See how you do. Well, you might say, well, it’s not real. It’s like, OK. Well, we don’t agree about what constitutes real. So we can have that discussion. SPEAKER: It sounds like what you’re saying is the truth is as much about action as it is about some sort of material, measurable objective reality. JORDAN PETERSON: No, I’m saying it’s more about action. SPEAKER: More. JORDAN PETERSON: Oh, yes, yes. The fundamentals of truth are those that guide action. And then the object of science is nested inside that. It has to be. There’s no way around that. SPEAKER: OK. So that is really central because everything– in my mind– everything in Maps of Meaning and a lot of your other work flows from there. It’s a different way. It’s a different priority. JORDAN PETERSON: That’s right. That’s right. SPEAKER: Maybe we can elaborate that a little bit. JORDAN PETERSON: OK, well, we could do that Darwinian. And let’s do it from a Darwinian perspective. OK. So first of all, there’s the single celled animals. We’ll say, well, we don’t have to talk about them. What we’re going to start to talk about is animals that have a complex, a sufficiently complex nervous system to have to respond to the social environment, which would be made out of conspecifics often. So lobsters are a perfectly good place to start. It’s like, once lobster– there’s a lobster and then there’s another lobster. And maybe they’re alone. Well, then they only have to solve the problem of being one lobster. But then as soon as you put them together, they have to solve the problem of being two lobsters in the same space. And then maybe there’s 100 lobsters in the same space. So then the question becomes how do you organize lobster behavior when most of the environment consists of other lobsters behaving? And the answer to that has been you put it– you make a dominance hierarchy. And then the dominance hierarchy– the way you adapt to the dominance hierarchy is by noting the patterns of behavior that compose it, and by first internalizing those. Let’s say, modeling them– to the degree that that’s possible. But even more remarkably, over huge expanses of time, because the dominance hierarchy and its patterns are a fundamental element of reality, you start to adapt biologically to the dominance hierarchy. So OK. So now what we’ve got is we’ve got an emergent set of social behaviors. OK. They’re not rules because they’re not rules till you observe them, or till you codify them, or til you articulate them. What they are is the patterns from which rules emerge. And they are deep patterns. So then you might say, OK, what are the rules for staying alive in a dominance hierarchy, not being torn apart by your conspecifics. And that’s learning quickly who can tear you into pieces and who can’t, and learning how to get away from the thing that can tear you into pieces quickly, and learning how to push the thing that can’t aside. And you’d better learn that fast. And you want to learn it with the minimum possible amount of damage because that’s another problem that social creatures have, or at least creatures that are in a dominance hierarchy. It gets even more complicated when the members of the dominance hierarchy start to cooperate. But lobsters, as far as we know– as far as I know– don’t cooperate. But still, like, their behavior is very, very determined by the nature of the dominance hierarchy. OK. So what that is the patterns that govern a dominance hierarchy are the place from which ethics derive. Right? And they evolved. And they’re not arbitrary. That’s the other thing. What works in one dominance hierarchy works in another. And so you might say, well, what’s your proof for that? And why would say, well, one of my proofs for that is that we use the same brain chemical and the same neurological system, roughly speaking, to keep track of our position in the dominant hierarchy as lobsters do. And that’s 300 million years of continuity. So that’s real enough as far as I’m concerned. OK. So now you’ve got your lobsters, and find they organize themselves according to these rules. And the top lobster is confident and makes himself big. And he’s the one that gets all the chicks. So your success in the dominance hierarchy, especially if you’re male, also determines the probability of your reproduction. And it may determine that more than anything else. So how to maneuver in the dominance hierarchy might be the prime question that faces creatures that have to live with conspecifics. And the females, in some sense, use the dominant hierarchy as a distributed computational device to determine the worth of the males. So because what the females do is they sort of hang off to the side, and they watch the males battle it out. And then they just pick from the top. Now, they have their own hierarchy. And you know, it runs by somewhat different rules. But it’s very smart. It’s– they’re externalizing the cognitive problem to the structure itself. So then there’s the rules that govern the dominance hierarchy, the simple one, which is just where they are the same animals, but they’re competing. But then, when you get a little farther along, you know, maybe to the point where animals are hunting together, that might be it, or caretaking, something like that, anyways, where cooperative behavior emerges. OK, now a different rule start to apply because– like in a wolf pack, let’s say. The wolf still wants to get to the top, but he doesn’t want to tear every one to pieces as he climbs to the top because if he did that, then he won’t be in a pack. And then that’s not going to work. He’s going to starve to death. So that really gets complicated. It’s like, you can defeat someone, but you can’t destroy them. OK. There’s another more rule. You can defeat someone, but you can’t destroy them. So you might say, well, that’s a rule that emerges spontaneously as a consequence of social interactions under biological control. And once the rule emerges, the dominance hierarchy lasts long enough so evolutionary pressure can start to operate to ensure that creatures within that system build their ability to follow that rule into their nervous systems. Because it’s the main selection force, whether they’re successful at it. So what seems to be arbitrary and social can become built in and biological I think faster than we understand because the consequences of being victorious in the dominance hierarchy are so high. So in the wolf hierarchy it’s sort of like– we got to hunt together. We’re going to have disputes about who’s boss. We’ll settle the dispute symbolically, fundamentally, right? I’ll threaten you. You threaten me. One of us will blink. The guy that blinks rolls over, shows his throat. You pretend to rip it out. But you don’t. And we accept that as a proxy for battle. SPEAKER: You’re making the case that wolves operate symbolically? JORDAN PETERSON: No. Not at all. It’s just– it’s coded in their behavior. Yeah. Yeah. You have to make a real distinction between patterns of action and rules. They’re not the same thing. Because we like to think that well, if you see regularities in an animal’s behavior, it’s following rules. No. It’s as if it’s following rules. SPEAKER: Doesn’t in an anthropomorhpizing assumption. JORDAN PETERSON: Well. So, it’s also a different– it’s also a different– it’s a level of abstraction above. First, it’s the pattern of behavior. Then, if you observe the pattern of behavior, and you have the capacity to make symbolic representations, then you can make the symbolic representation. And those would emerge first in image, not in words. Image. Image and stories. Right? So that’s like the dramatic substrates behavior. And then it’s behavior imitating behavior. That’s drama. That’s like a Piagetian idea, you know, that you can use your body as a representational structure. That’s what human beings can do. That’s what imitation is. It’s a big deal. So OK. So you’ve got the wolves. And it’s sort of like– SPEAKER: And so, this is great. So it sounds like the argument is building from lobsters to– and this is this is how I’m interpreting it– from lobsters to a strong argument for essentially why union archetypes actually– JORDAN PETERSON: Absolutely. SPEAKER: As things. Which is– JORDAN PETERSON: Yes, well this is– SPEAKER: Very important. However, what I think is also important is to help viewers understand how we get from lobsters and dominance hierarchies to truth. JORDAN PETERSON: OK. So they’re not things. They’re constituent elements of reality. That’s not the same thing. OK. And a constituent element of reality is in some sense– depends on the thing– but it’s longevity is sufficient to make it more than merely a thing. Thing is a kind of temporary. I mean, protons aren’t. But, you know, things are temporary. Dominance hierarchies, those are not temporary. Those are eternal. They’re eternal as far as we’re concerned. OK. So you got the wolf. And then you think, well, what kind of wolf gets to the top? And you might think, the toughest wolf. That’s sort of like the cave man theory, you know. But it’s unlikely that it’s the toughest wolf. It’s a wolf that’s well-adapted across multiple dimensions. But the wolf that’s successful in the dominance hierarchy, you could think of as the archetypal wolf. Now, what kind of wolf is that? Well, I don’t know enough about wolves to know. But I do know some things about dogs. I mean, a dog is co-operative as well as competitive. And it’s pretty sophisticated at picking up the cues that indicate the nature of social relationships. Like it can do that in a human society. The dog doesn’t know the rules. But the dog has the morality of the dominant system already built into it. So it’s a predicate of it’s biological existence. OK. So we’ll switch to chimps because you can actually talk a little bit more– with a little bit more concrete knowledge about which chimps win– this is a lot from Frans de Waal– which chimps stays on top. Because male chimps make a pretty vicious hierarchy, right? And it’s almost always a male on top. It’s not so clear with bonobos, but– or bonobos, I never know how to say that– but the chimp that stays on top– brutal chimps can rule for a while. But because they’re brutal, they’re not very good at making coalitions. And even if you’re brutal and strong, two guys that are half as brutal as you, and 3/4 as strong will take you down. And that’s what the chimps do. So then you might say, well, in order to be optimally situated for maximum reproductive potential, not only do you want to climb the hierarchy, you want to climb it without being hurt too much. You don’t want to blow the straps out of your group. And you want to stay there as long as possible. OK. So that’s a niche. Think about that. That’s a niche. It’s complicated because the niche involves success in climbing, and then it involves success in maintaining an uppermost position. OK. And that, for chimps, that requires not only the capacity to be aggressive, but also the capacity to be co-operative and empathic. So one of the things de Waall discovered, for example, is that the chimp who stays on top, first of all, can make coalitions. So there’s a lot of reciprocal grooming and so on. So he can make friends, even though he’s kind of– you know, he’s tough. But he also pays a lot of attention to the females and the infants in the troop. So whatever constitutes sovereignty, let’s say, from a chimp perspective, is a lot more complex than mere power. OK. So fine. So that’s chimps. Now, we’re chimps. So you already got the origin of human ethics to some degree in that. It’s like, get to the top, but don’t be too much of a prick when you’re there, so to speak, right? You have to rule while making allowances for those– and make allowances for the fact that those you rule over have value. Now, that’s an interesting thing because now what you’ve done is if you’ve introduced the– not the idea, but the fact that even a defeated other is a valuable part of the group. OK. Now, that’s starting to get morality there, started to get fairly deep because that’s kind of like, well, the outcast still has value. OK. Now, you come to human beings and you think, OK, well, what’s– what makes a human being successful in the dominance hierarchy? You can say, well, it’s the same thing the chimps have. And that’s right, except that human beings have one other thing, at least. They can make new dominance hierarchy. That’s what creativity is, right? So you invent a new something, and you can erect a dominance hierarchy around it. So if you can’t climb the dominant hierarchy that’s already here, you can just say well, here’s a new thing, and we’ll make it a little dominant hierarchy over there. So now you’ve got the addition of the capacity to transform the dominance hierarchy as another thing that’s contributing to dominance hierarchy success. OK. So I believe that what’s come out of that is the idea that– this is such a great idea– is that the top of the dominance hierarchy is the right place to be. But the top of all potential sets of dominance hierarchies is a better place to be. And I think we’re selected to be the top of the set of potential dominance hierarchies. And that means, in some sense, if you’re at the top, you’re not at the top of a dominance hierarchy. You’re at the top of– OK. So now imagine this. So now imagine a landscape. OK. As far as you can see it’s a plane. And there’s pyramids all over it of different sizes, right? And you’re flying above it. You zoom in to a pyramid. And you see all people packed inside, trying to climb to the top. But there’s pyramids everywhere where people are doing this. But you’re flying along the top. OK, well, that’s– as far as I can tell– that’s the Egyptian god Horus. Horus isn’t in the pyramid. He’s above the pyramid. And he’s the Eye, because Horus is the Eye. And so Horus stands for attention. And so there’s this idea that the Egyptians start to play with that one of the most important gods is Osiris. And he’s like god of the pyramid. He stands for security and stability and the past. But he can be wiped out by various means. So he’s not permanent enough in some sense, or he lacks something. SPEAKER: The father archetype, essentially? JORDAN PETERSON: Yes. So Osiris is the father, yeah, the Great Father. It’s half of the archetype because he’s the po– he’s the positive element of the Great Father. He’s not the negative element, although he makes himself susceptible to the negative element by being willfully blind. OK. So his son is Horus. And Horus is the Eye. Horus pays attention. So the Egyptians are starting to get the idea that well, you should be Osiris. That means you are the embodiment of the dominance hierarchy, say. But you also should be Horus, which is the thing that pays attention, because the dominance hierarchy as it’s currently structured may be restructured. And then– so you don’t want to just be adapted to this dominance hierarchy, you want to be adapted so if it transforms its structure, that’s no problem for you because you’re not stuck in it. You’re in it and not in it at the same time. And that’s the big contribution of Egyptian thought. I think it’s brilliant, brilliant. SPEAKER: We can– just a slight tangent from that. So what you’re talking about here is– just to make the distinction clear for other people– when the Egyptians are experimenting with these ideas and representing them in imagistic form or in hieroglyphic form, are you saying that they’re doing this consciously, or this is– this is like some sort of natural– JORDAN PETERSON: Happens automatically. SPEAKER: Next level of representation. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Well, think about it this way. So imagine that one of the things that characterize whether or not you can climb the dominance hierarchy is how good you are at watching people who can climb the dominance hierarchy and imitating them. OK. So that means that part of it’s going to be built in your biology because you’ve been– the dominance hierarchy has been working on you for a long time. So you have the capability of being the thing that can climb. But then, let’s say you get an edge by watching someone who’s successfully climbing because they’re adapted to the current circumstances precisely. And you can imitate them. OK. Then the question is, well, what does it mean to imitate them? And what it means is you can model their behavior with your behavior. OK. So that’s a form of representation. OK. Now you’ve got it. Now, we’re all watching each other. And we find those people who can climb up dominance hierarchies very interesting. So we tell– we start to tell stories about them, which is the representation of behavior in image and articulation. So it’s like, you tell the story about some interesting person that you admire. And then it’s a pretty good story so other people remember it. But then it sort of gets commingled in with some other stories about some interesting people who can climb the dominance hierarchy. And then thousands of you gather. And those stories all have a war over centuries. And what you extract out of it is like the most interesting person who’s the best at climbing the dominance hierarchy. And that’s where you start to get the idea of the Savior. And so it’s a bottom up process. And so– and then once that’s once you’ve started to get that, well, then the process can be more than merely– you can start to understand and model, in some sense, what the principles are that govern success. But it’s a universal success, right? It’s not success in a given hierarchy. It’s like, what are the principles that guarantee universal success? So you might say, well, that’s the ultimate question of life. It’s like, yes, that is the ultimate question of life. So what did the Egyptians figure out? Well, they figured out that Osiris was a good guy. You need him. But he’s kind of blind because he’s old. And he’s willfully blind too. And that makes him susceptible to the forces that want to overturn the hierarchy, but the negative forces, the ones that just want to destroy. That’s his brother Seth. So Osiris remains willfully blind and he let Seth basically chop him into pieces and distribute him throughout the Egyptian state. So things fall apart. And Seth rules. So the Egyptians had already figured out in models that the hierarchy can become probably corrupted by power and deceit, something like that, right? So it’s no longer functioning as it should. And it can continually do that. SPEAKER: Is that a descent into chaos, or that’s just sort of– JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s that it’s the demolition of order. And well, then that’s when Isis makes her appearance because she’s goddess of chaos. It’s like up comes Isis. And her husband is Osiris. And he’s all chopped up. So she goes around Egypt. He’s not killed because he can’t kill Osiris because he’s dominance hierarchy. You can disrupt it. You can break it into pieces. But it’s going to come back together. So Isis wanders around Egypt trying to find his phallus. So she finally does. And she makes herself pregnant with it. And so the idea there is that when the pieces of society fall into chaos, they’re still alive. So something new can be born out of them, right? It’s like the creative destruction that the economists talk about. Isis makes herself pregnant. She gives birth to Horus. Now, Horus is Osiris’ son, but the big difference between him and Osiris is that he can see. He’s not willfully blind. In fact, he’s the opposite of willfully blind. He’s almost only the Eye, the famous Egyptian Eye. He’s also a falcon. And falcons are those things that fly above. And they can really, really, really see. So Horus grows up outside the kingdom. Well, why? Everybody grows up outside the kingdom because the Old Kingdom is always corrupt and archaic and willfully blind. So you’re always alienated from it. So alienation is like a permanent element of being. But then Horus goes, and because he can see, he sees Seth for who he is. And then he has a horrible fight with Seth. And he wins. And then he banishes Seth. Now, you can’t kill him because he’s Seth. It’s like, the fact that dominance hierarchies can become corrupt is an eternal fact. So there’s no getting rid of Seth. But you can get rid of him temporarily. So when he gets rid of him, he steals his eye back. And then you think, OK, well, he’s got rid of Seth. It’s like, he’s got the kingdom. End of story. But that is what happens. Horus takes his eye, and goes back down to chaos, in the underworld, and he finds Osiris down there, who’s sort of like, you know, he’s a ghost. Is a shade of his former self. And Horus gives him his eye. So now Osiris can see with the eyes of youth. And then Horus and Osiris go back to ruling the kingdom together. And the pharaoh is Osiris and Horus together if he is a good pharaoh. So that means his wisdom and tradition, and attention. And that’s– you’re starting to get very close there. Now, the Egyptians identified that Horus Osiris thing with the immortal soul. It’s like, yes, they they’re right. And it’s not some trivial superstition. It’s their right. That is the immortal soul. It’s the thing. It’s the best in each person, and that’s another way of thinking about it. Now, you know, those ideas get much more developed as we get much more civilized. So by the end of the Egyptian periods– they call this the democratization of Osiris– although only the pharaoh to begin with could sort of use the symbolism that was associated with Osiris Horus, it sort of spread down the dominance hierarchy. And then for me what happens after that is that well, it starts to get universalized, right? So this is not a particularly linear progression. But for the sake of simplicity, we can make the case. The Greeks give every adult male a soul, right? Well, by the time Christianity rolls around, it’s like, oh, huh, isn’t it weird? Everybody has a soul, even the weirdos that you’d rather get rid of, even those things that you think of as enemies. It’s like it’s in people. OK. Now, Christianity really starts to play around with exactly what the hell the soul is. And they, you know, the ideas come out in very bizarre ways. And like, one of the most bizarre ways is that Christianity makes the assumption that the word of God that pulls order out of chaos at the beginning of time– so logos– is the thing that’s Christ, you know, so many eons later. They’re the same things. It’s like, what the hell does that mean? Well, it’s like, if you embody the immortal soul properly, you’re the thing that generates order from chaos, or sometimes the reverse. You make– you know, you’re the transforming agent that sits at the middle of order and chaos. OK. So that’s the same thing that was there in the beginning. Well, that’s the beginning of being, not the beginning of the universe. It’s the beginning of being. Those aren’t the same thing. And the Christians figure out that this logos thing is very much associated with articulated truth, articulated truth. And so the Christian idea, in part, is– and this is this is where Nietzsche had it wrong, I think, because he was too cynical about Osiris. He was too cynical about Christianity. He thought all it was was rotten infrastructure. So he saw how it had become dogmatized and corrupted across time. But he didn’t see what was in the center of it. And you know, his Superman was sort of a substitute for that. But he never fleshed that out well. But Jung started to play with the Superman idea and with the idea of the Philosopher’s Stone. And he was studying Christianity. And at one point he saw, oh-oh, those are the same thing. They’re all the same thing. It’s complicated . But one of the things that Jung recognized was that the core doctrine of Christianity, in some sense, is the truth buttresses you most thoroughly against the vicissitudes of being. That’s your salvation, the truth, the spoken truth. It’s not– So you might say, well, people say– Christians say, well, if you believe in Christ you’re saved. Well, what do you mean by belief exactly? You say Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And you say, I believe that. Just because you say that, doesn’t mean you believe it at all. It has almost no bearing on what you believe. The question is, how do you act? And the fundamental question that’s under all that is, is your speech true? Now, then you might ask well, what does true mean? Well, and the answer to that would be twofold. What are you trying to do with your speech? There’s two things you can do with it. One is you can manipulate reality so that it does what you want it to do. And that’s the sort of speech that people use when they’re trying to get what they want. The problem with that is that there’s no way that they can actually know what they want. They just hypothesize what it is that they want based on some theory, and then they try to manipulate the world so that they get that. But it’s an unsatisfying venture. And often, when they do get it, it’s not good anyways. So it involves a kind of falsity of speech. The other way is to try to say what you mean and think and perceive as clearly as you possibly can, always, and see what happens. Now, the story that underlies Christianity– and it’s not only Christianity, but it’s Christianity that I’m most familiar with– is that. The rule is live in accordance with the truth and see what happens. So in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, Christ basically says– set your sights on allegiance to God. It’s like, whatever the highest value is, we’ll say. And act in a manner that’s concordant with that. So that’s your goal. Then pay attention to it here and now, your best strategy for the future. Then you might say, well, prove that. Well, that that’s when the question starts to become existential. It’s like, well, you can’t prove it. You have to try it. That’s like Kierkegaard’s leap of faith. You cannot tell if this works unless you do it. And that’s a commitment. It’s like, those two ways of being, like the manipulative way of being. That’s an adversarial way of being archetypally. It’s Manipulative It’s got the lie at its core. That’s completely different than this path. So it’s a hypothesis. Well, it’s a hypothesis that Jung did a good job of elaborating, although you know, even with Jung it’s not fully articulated. He’s still saturated in image to a large degree. But no wonder– it’s very complicated to make this sort of thing fully articulated. You read Solzhenitsyn. You think, OK, why did the Soviet Union become the absolute hellhole that it was? Solzhenitsyn says because everyone lied. It’s like, oh, isn’t that interesting? Well, that isn’t a hypothesis that you hear every day. So then you think about Freud, and you think, well, what’s the major cause of mental illness? Repression. Well, that’s a lie, fundamentally. I mean, Freud’s played around with it to some degree. So it’s sort of like, it’s more like lying by omission actually than lying by commission. But it doesn’t matter. It’s still lying. Jung says the same thing. It’s like, oh, well, wouldn’t it be interesting if the fundamental root of psychopathology was the lie, the fundamental root of political psychopathology is the lie. It’s like, well, what if that’s what’s demolishing your life? People say, well, people think– especially when they’re nihilistic and they become destructive– that the universe is sort of– it’s an unfair and arbitrary place and it’s basically bent on their random destruction while they suffer. It’s something like that. Yeah. Right. OK. What do you do under those circumstances? That’s the question. Well, one potential answer is twist the thing so that you can maybe get what you hypothetically want out of it. The other is rely on your perceptions and your capacity for accurate representation. Communicate that. And take your chances. It’s like, who’s right? Well, that’s the battle between good and evil. Who’s right? It’s a continual battle. SPEAKER: I think it’s really important to drive home this notion of right and truth you’re talking about here in terms of action. Was is the right action? Because action is essentially– it’s almost a unit of truth that you’re hypothesizing based on. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Yeah. SPEAKER: But for most people, I think, when they hear the word truth, especially people in academia, or people involved in the sciences in any way, they think is something very different. JORDAN PETERSON: Yes, of course. Their truth is representational. SPEAKER: Right. Can you elaborate maybe on this? JORDAN PETERSON: See. That’s also– that’s also partly why the Catholic church historically has been so put off by the rational intellect. You know, like people like Dawkins say, well, you know, yeah, they went after Galileo because he was undermining their superstitions. It’s like, yeah. Partly right. The other part was Seth, like the figure of evil throughout history is always the hyper rational intellect. And the reason for that is the intellect is God’s highest angel. So that’s Lucifer. And it falls in love with its own creations. It likes to make totalities out of its own creation. Once there’s a totality, there’s no room for the transcendent. There’s no god. That’s Satan’s error, by the way. And everything immediately turns into hell. Now, you see, that was all put together particularly well by Milton. And Milton was a visionary. And what Milton felt and put together was the imagistic substrate out of which the totalitarian states were going to grow. He envisioned it. Now, was visionary. He saw it as a battle between heavenly agents. But he codified it. And he said, well, you know, here’s the approaching problem. Here’s the approaching problem, the totalitarian intellect. It’s like, and that’s exactly right. If you talk to people who are suffering existentially, they’re always in love with the products of their intellect. They do not pay attention. They say, well, I can’t see how my life has any meaning. An answer to that is you’re not seeing, you’re thinking. And you can easily think yourself into a corner where your life has no meaning. It’s a cheap trick. I can say, who cares about this documentary? It’s not going to matter in a billion years. Right? Or in 100 years, or whatever. I can pick a time frame within which this event is irrelevant. OK. So then you can derive from that fact that it’s irrelevant. Or you can derive from that fact that that’s a stupid way to think. You can derive the conclusion that it’s a stupid way to think if you haven’t made thinking your god. So and there’s lots of other things that work better than thinking. Paying attention is better than thinking. It’s much better than thinking. Paying attention allows you to listen to people who don’t agree with you. Paying attention allows you learn things that you don’t already know. So you know, if it’s thinking or attention that should be the god, it’s like, attention rules. Thinking, that’s a subordinate phenomena. But it likes to pop up on top, you know, because it likes its little tight theories. And it likes to be right. Well, you know, forget that. You’re not going to be right. You could say that the image of Christ is the West’s attempt to most accurately represent the path of being that constitutes success across an infinite set of dominance hierarchies. That’s essentially– or that’s it that’s at least one way of looking at it. Now, there are figures– hero figures, you know– because Christ is like a hero, but he’s sort of a meta hero, right? He’s the amalgam of many, many, many, many heroes. But the hero has key attributes. Like the hero, for example, is always encountering chaos and defeating it. Well, that’s the human path. You know, we encounter chaos. It’s often a snake. Well, that also points to its deep evolutionary roots. So there’s a anthropologist, Lynne Isbell, who wrote a book a while back called The Tree The Serpent In Vision– I think I’ve got that right. And she was interested in why human beings can see so well. Because we can see really well. The only things that can see better than us are birds of prey. And she thought, well, why would a primate like us have such good vision? So she went around the world. She thought– she knew also that we were particularly good at detecting the kind of camouflage patterns that characterize snakes, especially in the lower half of our visual field. And she was kind of curious about that. And then she thought, well, you know, maybe we were preyed upon by snakes. And you know, maybe we had to develop that vision because we were preyed upon by snakes, like, you know, 60 million years ago, way back when we weren’t even people, which is about how old snakes are. It’s like 60 million years or something like that. So then she went around the world and she correlated the equity of primate vision with the prevalence of predatory snakes. It’s like, nice correlation. So she thought oh, human beings and snakes co-evolved. Well, so what gives you vision? Snakes. That’s what it says in Genesis. What else gives you vision? Fruit. That’s also right. That’s why we have color vision. Right? What makes you self-conscious if you’re a man? Women. Right? That’s Eve. So you know, the stories in the Bible, the pre-flood stories, they are really old. We have no idea how old they are. And like they’re extremely old. And you might say, well, in story form, well, like, actual story form– god only knows how well they are– but in terms of behavioral pattern, they could easily be 60 million years old. It’s like, the thing that defeats the snake gets the women. And you imagine that in tree dwelling primates, say. Well, up comes the snakes. It’s like, the first guy who figured out how to drop a stick on a snake, he was very popular. So you know, so the snake what’s happened is that religion– so what’s happened as far as I can tell is that the systems that our brain evolved to detect basically rapacious predators. It’s not just snakes, but it be like reptiles with teeth, predators in the dark, things under the water, like crocodiles. That’s like– that’s the lurking anomaly, right? It’s the thing you have to contend with. And it’s actually a monster. People say monsters aren’t real. It’s like, it depends on your time frame. If you add up and average all the predatory monsters across 60 million years, you get a monster. OK. So the amalgam of monster is a representation of the class of predatory stimuli. That might be a way of looking at it. OK. So we’re very sensitive to that because we were prey animals. OK, then our cortex leapt up our level of abstraction. So then that same system started to detect anomaly as such. It wasn’t just the predatory thing that was outside the dominance hierarchy. It was the abstract thing that was outside the system of ideas. It’s the same thing. And so that became symbolized by the chaos monster. And we can easily throw that on our enemies. It’s like, well, who are / you’re outside the hierarchy. Oh, you’re a chaos monster. Well, yes you are. That’s not a arbitrary prejudice. It’s like, you are absolutely a chaos monster. Then the question is what do you do with chaos monsters. One answer is kill them. The other answer is get their gold. That’s a better answer. Because there’s information and chaos. And we’re information scavengers. And that’s our niche. It’s like, outside what we know, there’s information. You might die retrieving it. But if you don’t die, you’re like a major hero. Yeah. That’s right. SPEAKER: So was this the sense in which these religious or love mythological stories and images are true. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. SPEAKER: Except in the sense that they instruct action in a way that– in the Darwinian sense– is true. JORDAN PETERSON: Great. And that’s the only sense in which truth exists. Well, if you’re a Darwinian. Right. So that’s the problem with modern scientists. It’s like, are you Newtonian or are you Darwinian? It’s like Newton. He’s wrong, by the way. Right. We already know that because Newton is only a subset of Einstein, let’s say. And god only knows what the whole quantum thing is going to end up being. We don’t even know how to structure our thoughts in accordance with those presuppositions. But Darwin trumps Newton. That’s my hypothesis. So you know, you might say, those who– so then the question is what attitude towards religion is truly scientific? I think my attitude towards religion is precisely scientific because it’s predicated on Darwinian– really on Darwinian pre-suppositions. Dawkins is a rationalist. He’s not a Darwinian. He just thinks he’s a Darwinian. SPEAKER: OK. Can we explore this a little bit in terms of describing how you’re working with these definitions. When you say that your approach to religion is a Darwinian one, and Dawkins is– unwittingly perhaps– JORDAN PETERSON: He’s an enlightenment guy. SPEAKER: Right. JORDAN PETERSON: The Enlightenment is like, it’s really thin paint on a mile deep piece of rock. It’s nothing. One of the things I really liked about reading Jung was that Jung tracks the development of thought say, back 10,000 years. It’s like, wow, that’s a 10,000 year span of history. That’s a long time. It’s like, well, not compared to 300 million years. That’s a really long time. OK so if we’re going to talk about the Darwinian underpinnings of the brain, or of the human organism, let’s use some time spans. So Dawkins has Darwinism painted on Enlightenment rationality. He’s an enlightenment guy. It’s like, rationality rules. It’s like, this is how you make sense of the world. It’s like, OK, well, we thought that more or less for 400 years. So what did we think for the other like, 300 million years? How did we manage without that if it’s truth. So it’s a form of truth. It’s a partial form of truth. And it’s a powerful partial form of truth. But to say it’s truth well, then depends on what you mean by truth. So yeah. Well, and that’s where it gets back. And that’s where it starts to go back into the Darwinian issue, which is there’s only one way you can define truth in relationship to finite beings. It’s true enough. True enough for what? True enough so that you survive and reproduce. That’s it. You don’t get to go any farther. What’s more true than that? Sorry, can’t ask that question. That’s it. You’ve hit the limit. And that’s basically Darwin’s claim. And that’s what the pragmatists recognized as well. SPEAKER: So it was another way of– that’s really helpful, what’s you just went through. That’s going to be very useful. So there’s another way of articulating that. What is true is what enables you to successfully achieve a goal. JORDAN PETERSON: That’s what that’s what’s true enough. SPEAKER: Right JORDAN PETERSON: Right. But there’s only true enough. But there’s like, there’s varieties of true enough. So it doesn’t turn you into a relativist. It’s like, some things are only true for one thing. Some things are true for 10 things. Some things are true for a million things. It’s like, well, that’s a better truth. Well, and what the religious imagination, which is the imagination that’s concerned with values, is always trying to determine is well, what’s the highest value? That’s the religious question, what’s the highest value, which is what should you serve, let’s say, to ensure your viability across the broadest domain of time. Well, we don’t know. So what we’ve done is well, we’ve watched successful people. What does successful mean? Well, we know what it means. We can stay within the Darwinian framework. I mean, I don’t think, by the way, I don’t think the Darwinian framework is the last word on things because we’re starting to discover, for example, that there are epigenetic transformations. So you know, we’ll see where that goes. It’s going to go somewhere very interesting. But that’s OK. For the time being, we’re enamored of successful people. OK. There’s a successful person A, successful person B, successful person C. And what makes them the same is that they’re successful. OK. Then the question is what is successful? Well, then, in some sense, the variations of hero mythology are complex answers to that question. It’s like, well, if you’re a hero, you’re successful. Well, there’s a bunch of different kinds of heroes. OK. So you get all these heroes together. They have a big fight. Who comes up on top? Well, I can tell you one answer to that because that’s exactly what happens in Mesopotamian mythology. It’s like there’s a bunch of heroes. They’re gods. And then they’re confronted by a horrible chaos monster that actually gave birth to them, that’s Tiamat. And these gods, they know that singly she’ll just claw them to nothing. So they’re all freaking out about this. And then, at one point, a new god gets born. His name is Marduk. He’s kind of an interesting god because he could speak magic words. And he has eyes all the way around his head. So they send out a god now and then to go after Tiamat because she’s angry with them for making too much racket, essentially, and killing her husband. It’s not a very good idea. They’re careless. They’re like two-year-olds, really. So they throw out a god now and then to go fight Tiamat, but she just warps them. There’s not even any context. So this Marduk is born. And he grows up. And they’re pretty impressed with him. So they asked him one day, well, how would you like to go fight Tiamat. And you know, maybe he’s not too thrilled about that. But he says, OK, OK, I’ll do it. But here’s the rule. Call the council. You put me in charge. I’m top god. And that means from here on in I determine destiny. So here is the thing that determines the way the future is going to unfold. And they’re not that about that, but they arrange them into a hierarchy, and they put him on top. And then he goes out and he catches Tiamat in the net. So he conceptualizes her, so to speak, cuts her into pieces, makes the world out of her. It’s like, that’s what a human being does. Pays attention to where the chaos is, encapsulates it, cuts it up, makes the world. One of his names was actually He Who Makes Ingenious Things Out Of The Combat With Tiamat. It was actually like a literal name of Marduk. And so the Mesopotamian emperor had to imitate Marduk. So to the degree that he had sovereignty, the reason he had sovereignty was he was a Marduk. And then he could be a good Marduk or a bad Marduk. So at the New Year’s festival, they’d take the King outside the city. So that’s out in chaos. They’d strip him of his kingly clothes. And then they’d make him kneel. And then he had to confess to all the ways that year he hadn’t been a very good Marduk. They’d actually hit him with something first. Then he had to confess. Well, I wasn’t a good Marduk this way or that way. And you know, so it got all the sins out in the open. Then they had a big ceremony with the like, the statues of the gods. They replayed the battle between Marduk and Tiamat. And then there were some other things that happened too, which I won’t get into. But then they went back inside, and the new year was renewed. So they acted out the eternal battle between attention, say, and embodied attention and chaos. And they realized that reverence for that was the basis for valid authority, valid authority. And the King had a moral obligation to act in that manner. That’s why he got to be King. It’s like, brilliant. Now, you say, well, are they conscious of this? They’re conscious enough to act it out. Right? That’s as conscious as they were. They could use their bodies and their collective as a representational mechanism. But they couldn’t– you know, and then they could tell stories about it too. But as far as deriving out what that meant philosophically and in a fully articulated way, it’s like, no, they couldn’t do that. SPEAKER: Which is fascinating for me. So what this seems to imply– at least my interpretation of what you’re saying– is that religious systems that are often derided by, let’s say, enlightenment or post enlightenment thinkers for their– for axioms that are just not true, that are false about the world. JORDAN PETERSON: Right. That’s– SPEAKER: Oh, that’s a religion. That’s religious superstition– is clearly wrong. That’s backwards. But what you’re saying is they were and are very much true in the sense that they are almost pre-conscious representations of correct action. JORDAN PETERSON: And the environment in which correct action takes place, which is fundamentally the dominance hierarchy. Right. Like, we don’t contend with protons and atoms. We contend mostly with other people. And to some degree, we contend with nature. But nature is sort of outside our proper domain. That’s partly why that idea infuses environmentalism. It’s like, environmental is mythology, to the core. It’s like, pure mother nature. She’s a virgin. And she’s being raped by the terrible father and his evil sons. It’s like, yeah, yeah, true. But what about the good father and his good sons, and cancer? And you know, there was this horrible worm in Africa that used to burrow inside people’s skin. Yeah, it’s horrible. And it was just eradicated. So some doctor took it upon himself to get rid of that worm. It’s like, yeah, well, that’s mother nature too, you know. So environmentalism is an ideology because it only tells half the story. Of course, people are rapacious and horrible. You know, and mother nature is beautiful and virginal. Yeah, yeah. But she’s also an absolute terror. And you better be thankful for the fact that you have a roof over your head, and that everybody isn’t an adversarial rapist. So you know, you better balance out the story a little bit. So the stories tell you how to act, but they also tell you what the environment is. No– not environment. They tell you how to conceptualize. They model the nature of being– that’s the best way of thinking about it– actual being. And in being is the social world. How do you act in relationship to the social world? Let me tell you a simpler story. SPEAKER: Just to follow. Isn’t that– what you’re saying is, isn’t that different mythologies at different points of time will tell you how to act under particular conditions in which that society developed. JORDAN PETERSON: No. No, no, it’s broader than that. It’s broad– it’s broader– well, look, I had a student once who said, well, if these archetypes are true, why don’t we just tell the archetypal story over and over? Why do we need like, literature? I thought, well, that’s a really good question. And then I thought, well, for much of human history, we just told the archetypal story over and over. But then there’s this tension. So this is why I think that there’s three persons in the Christian trinity. It’s like, there’s the Holy Ghost– we’ll just forget about him for a minute. But there’s God the Father. That needs no explanation. That’s, you know, the benevolent element. Benevolent. That’s the Great Father. And then there’s the son. That’s the hero. OK, but the hero is weird because there’s this sort of logos hero that’s been there since the beginning of time. That’s logos, right? That’s the word. And then there is Jesus Christ the carpenter. He’s this guy that lived in some little bitty irrelevant village 2,000 years ago and died young. Why do you need him? Well, it’s because the universal isn’t real till it’s being made particular. And what we are are particular manifestations of the universal. And the particular and the universal are both important. So the general pattern is crucial. But so are the details. So the archetype is a general pattern. You know, it’s not– you have– your religious task, in a sense, is to figure out how to embody the archetype in actual time and space. So it’s a pattern. But you know, you still have to fill in the details. And it’s not like the details are irrelevant. They’re really relevant. SPEAKER: And are the details culturally and temporally specific in some cases. JORDAN PETERSON: Yes, sure, sure. SPEAKER: Is that why we have, let’s say, that’s why we have Christ in the Christian tradition. But we have Buddha in the Buddhist tradition. The Hindu tradition has its own plethora with its own embodiments of universal truth versus individual atman. I mean, because the case you make for the power of the– let’s say, the Christian archetype narrative is most familiar to is in the West, whether it’s George or otherwise. Are very– JORDAN PETERSON: I also think that Christianity has the best– the most thoroughly developed– philosophy of evil. So I think that’s a big advantage. So– but yeah, I mean, if you think about religions as at least in part variations of hero mythology– which they are in part– then it’s a story that can be told 1,000 times in 1,000 ways. I mean, that’s what the movie is if it’s an adventure movie. It’s always a hero myth of some sort. I mean, Christ, they’re– the ones we have now are almost purely archetypal, like all the superhero movies. Those are archetypal right to the core. And it’s funny because I know a comic book artist or author who writes Batman and Wolverine. And there’s a community that the comic figure serves. So if it’s Batman, and you’re a writer for Batman, you don’t just get to do anything with Batman. There are Batman rules. And the whole community of Batman fans, they know the rules. And so if you muck about with Batman, then they tell you. So Batman is actually an archetype that’s been generated by the collective. Right? And they all feel well, that’s not quite right. Well, how– why do you feel that the story isn’t quite right? Well, the answer to that is it’s like a platonic answer. You know the story. You just don’t know that you know the story. And so when someone tells you the story properly you think, wow, that’s the story. It’s like, lock in– lock– key in lock. SPEAKER: Which is fascinating. And is your argument, then, that we know it’s right when we see it because it’s so ancient and– JORDAN PETERSON: Oh, yeah. SPEAKER: And ingrained in us on so many levels– JORDAN PETERSON: Absolutely. SPEAKER: Biological and social, and– JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. And that’s the other thing. So there’s– Piaget had this idea of equilibration. Man, it’s a smart idea because Piaget– I don’t know if you know this or not, but the motivation– Piaget’s motivation– was to bridge the gap between science and religion. And he had very intense messianic experiences when he was a young man. Yeah. Yeah. So no one ever teaches that about Piaget. Piaget’s way more interesting that you think. Piaget was very interested in the origin of morality. And he traced the origin of morality back, in some sense, to the rules that govern social interactions. OK. So you can think Piaget thought it really got going once kids were able to play games with each other that had a shared goal. OK. So that was kind of Piaget’s definition of a game. It’s like, there’s a bunch of people cooperating and competing in relationship to a mutually agreed upon goal. So like a Monopoly game, you know. You want to get all the money. It’s like, why? Because everyone agrees that that’s what we’re doing. So it’s like that’s an artificial dominance hierarchy. We just whipped it up on the fly. Here’s the top value. We’ll play it out. So then we’re playing with this kind of dominance hierarchy, right? And you get all sorts of information about people doing that. And you also, you know, clue yourself in to the nature of dominance hierarchies and the way that they can be constructed, even somewhat arbitrarily. Now, what Piaget noted was that children could play together, and they could get along, and they could pursue the goal. But if you took them out when they were young, out of the context, and you asked them what the rules were, well, they didn’t know because the rules were actually the behavioral patterns that all the kids had agreed upon one way or another. They didn’t sit down, codify the rules, and then act them out. They acted out a coherent action pattern, and then– when pulled from that– they couldn’t articulate it. That wasn’t the level at which the knowledge was embodied. Well, that’s exactly what happened to us across the course of history. It’s like, we learned to act before we learned the rules for how we acted. It’s exactly the opposite of a rationalist perspective, by the way. And Nietzsche was the first person to really point this out. You know, he said that a philosophical– a philosophy is the unconscious confession of the philosopher. And here you can think about this in terms of the story of Moses too. It’s like, Moses realizes the rules, right, because God gives them to him. Well, before Moses gets the rules, he spends like, years in the desert as judge, like all the Israelites who are always scrapping with each other. They get into a fight. They come to him and say, OK, who’s right here? And he’s doing it like all day for years, adjudicating. So his mind is assembling all of these instances of moral conflict. And he couldn’t recognize patterns. Well, one day it’s like, it’s a blinding flash of illumination. It’s like, oh. These are the rules that we’re following. It’s the translation of the behavior of knowledge into abstraction. Now, you know, Moses is a composite character although, you know, there are many stories about the original law giver. It’s not the original law giver. It’s the original law observer. Like, we’re our own wolf pack. We’re anthropologists or ethnologists and wolf pack at the same time. Oh here we are doing things. What are we doing? Well, we watch. And we make stories out of it. This is what we seem to be doing. What do those stories mean? This is what they seem to mean. Oh, those are– those are rules. They’re articulated descriptions of behavioral patterns. We must be following them. It’s like, well, now we’re following them because we know what the rules are. Before, we were just acting out the equivalent embodied pattern. And you know, like, the conspiracy theorists, you know, the people who say, well, you know this is all about control by the upper classes, it’s like, they assume that you can just generate up some arbitrary rules that happen to serve you, and then enforce them on a community. Well, no. Partly, but fundamentally no. You know. Because that’s not– that’s not biological thinking. You know, that’s dawn of the industrial age thinking, or something like that, or post agricultural thinking. Who cares about that? You know, let’s go back to when we lived in trees. We’ll go back 60 million years, and start talking about who we are from that perspective. And that’s just a start. We’re older than that. So it’s too– it’s way too narrow a view. It’s not informed by biological reality. SPEAKER: So when you mentioned the Moses story as law giver versus law observer– and then I was thinking the actual biblical story of where God speaks to Moses, then my inner Dawkins, or my inner enlightenment rationalists is saying, OK, all well and good, but why do you need this ridiculous sky figure who– JORDAN PETERSON: He’s a representation of the dominance hierarchy. That’s the father. It’s like, why not– OK. Let’s talk about that, what is it? Agency detection module. OK, first of all, that’s a stupid way to conceptualize. It is not an agency detection module. It’s not some little gadget that stuck to a computer. It’s really deep. OK. So let’s think about who we are. Monkeys. Where do we live? In a dominance hierarchy. What’s a permanent element of the dominance hierarchy. The dominance hierarchy. What else? Well, males, females, and you. OK. So we’re going to say, what’s the world made out of? Males, females, and you. Why is the world made out of that? Because no matter where you go, no matter when, no matter how far back in time, those are things you can rely on. So now we have this circuit. It’s the brain. It’s like, well, what are males like? What are females like? And what are we like? And how do we interact? OK. So there you get the constituent elements of reality. So first of all, it’s just social. But it’s complex because the males aren’t just singular figures. Like, the father isn’t an individual. The father is the whole patriarchal dominance hierarchy, right? The individual is just a representation of that. So our minds are more evolved to consider masculinity as such, rather than the male individual. Jung would say of Freud’s problem patients that they confused their own fathers with the masculine. The masculine is like a god. You say, well, is it a god? It’s like, well, it shapes your behavior. It determines your destiny. It determines your fitness. Is it alive? That’s a good question. Depends on how you describe alive. OK. So we’ve got this system that can recognize like, the masculine living thing, the feminine living thing, the self living thing. Well, that’s the underlying pre-suppositions of our nervous system. That’s the world of being. OK. At some point, our cortex inflates. So now we can use abstraction. But you know that evolution is a conservative process. You don’t just build a new thing. You build a new thing on an old thing. And so the new thing still thinks like the old thing. But it can do some more things. Well, so, what’s happened to us– and this is something that’s amazing to me– is that we’ve taken these basic social cognitive categories, and we’ve been able to map being itself using the same categories. And it works. You map the masculine onto the dominance hierarchy. You map the feminine on to nature. Well, that works. All of a sudden, that works. It’s like, you can survive like that. So you think, well, is that a metaphor? It’s like, no. It’s not a metaphor. And here’s an example. Why is mother nature mother nature? Well, what’s nature? Well, nature is that which selects. That’s like as far as I can tell, how else are you going to define nature. Nature selects. Women select. I mean, that’s what women do. Human women. They’re not like chimps. They’re selective maters. So as far as men are concerned– and maybe as far as women are concerned too– women are nature. It’s not a metaphor. It’s like, they’re the thing that stops you from reproducing, let’s say. And that’s partly why they make you self-conscious when you reject it. It’s like, they’re the portal to immortality. That’s another way of looking at it. They are nature. It’s not like they represent it. They are nature in the most direct possible way. So like, is that a right way of looking at the world? It’s difficult to make an alternative case if you think from a Darwinian perspective. Now, there’s a metaphorical element to it, too, because you can also project it on that which lies outside of the patriarchy, which is also why women get in trouble with men sometimes, because men can easily get confused, right? It’s easy for women to be the chaotic thing that doesn’t fit in the hierarchy. And women are always complaining about that, right? And as they should. It’s a constant battle. But what’s happened for better or worse is that we’ve been able to take that initial social cognitive architecture to build a system of abstraction on top of that to use the same basic categories to explain how to behave. And it worked. So it’s mind boggling. It’s mind boggling to me that that works. SPEAKER: Are you familiar with the theories of embodied cognition, and like, George Lakoff, and his metaphor theory of thought, basically. JORDAN PETERSON: Mhm. Sure. SPEAKER: I think what you’re saying is the same thing, right? We have these categories that emerge from our lived experience as humans in our human embodiment. JORDAN PETERSON: Sure, absolutely, yeah. Yeah. SPEAKER: And because these are actually the only tools we have, we use them in recombination with each other with themselves if necessary in modification. But we use them as ways of making sense of the world. Even our scientific models are predicated on the embodied experience– JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, that’s a tougher one. That’s a tougher one because I do think that science does have a qualitative. There’s a qualitative difference. It is in some sense stepping outside of the mythological framework, you know. And it’s because it’s this really powerful technique, it’s like, OK, what is the nature of our shared experience? Now, that’s not exactly what science is about. It’s more like, if we behave in such a way, something will happen. We’re going to interpret that from a subjective perspective, like a personal perspective, let’s say. But what happens if we get 100 people to do that, and they all observe the outcome, and then they all tell a story about it, and then we take what’s common across the stories? It’s, like oh, well, that’s interesting. We get a new way of describing things. Well, is that true? Well, then you get back into the problem of what constitutes truth. Is it useful? That– we also don’t know that because we don’t have the time frame across which to analyze it yet. Like, we’re staking our survival on the presupposition that it’s useful. But it’s like, you know, there wouldn’t be constant bouts of apocalyptic thinking if we didn’t have our doubts about it. Right? And it’s certainly an anomaly in the natural world. But no one no other creature has science. It’s like, they did perfectly well without it. Maybe science is fatal. I mean, it could easily be fatal. So you know, and someone who’s a scientist in that sort of ideological sense would say, well, even if it’s fatal, it was still true. It’s like, well, it depends on how you define truth. Like, if you’re willing to say that fatal is true, well, then go ahead. But I think that’s not a good definition of truth. And that’s where our disagreement really lies. You have your definition. I have my definition. I think my definition is Darwinian. So you have to contend with that if you’re a scientist. But you might dispute that. although it’s not clear to me how you would dispute that. But well, we’ve already run through that argument. It gets tangled up at the bottom, you know. And I also think part of the problem with strictly– with the view that only what is objectively observable is real– which, you can have a science without that presupposition. You could say only what is objectively true is uniquely useful and valuable. But it’s part of a bunch of things that are uniquely useful and valuable. But let’s not discount it. It’s also dangerous. So we got to keep an eye on it, you know. It’s a big tool. Well, that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. What– do you take the next step and you say, only that. Well, then I also think another way, it’s like, why are you claiming only that? You say, well, it’s because I’m pursuing truth. And I think, oh, you’re sure about that, are you? You actually think that like, you’re on this– you’re sure that you’re on this pristine path. And all those other people who aren’t, they’re deluded or there’s something wrong with them. But you, you’re on this pristine path. You’re so sure of that. I don’t think you know anything about yourself if you think that. All scientists are devoted to the truth. What truth? Maybe they’re devoted to the purpose of demonstrating that there’s no meaning in life so that they don’t have to bear any moral responsibility. It’s like, why not that? Oh, we wouldn’t think that. It’s like, well, I’m a psychoanalyst. I might think that because whenever anybody says to me I believe x, I think, what does that allow you not to believe? I’m for x. What are you against? Well, I’ve thought about this a lot. It’s like, oh, it’s a catastrophe that the war between science and religion blows our capacity to believe in transcendent meaning. It demolishes our ability to believe in transcendent meaning. Isn’t that a catastrophe, sort of the Nietzschean viewpoint? It’s like, I don’t know if it’s a catastrophe because then I think, all right, well, under what conditions would you be motivated to accept that catastrophe? Well, you could you say your life is meaningful. But meaning comes at a price. The price is basically moral. And part of that moral price is truth and responsibility. You have to bear that. OK. It’s like, yeah, you get meaning. But now you’ve got some work to do. You don’t get to regard your actions as trivial. You don’t get to rationalize your errors of speech as casual and forgivable– none of that. You get the whole burden that goes with meaning. Or you can say, well, nothing’s meaningful. Well, Dostoevsky figured this out a long time ago. If there is no god, there’s no moral values, everything is permitted. It’s like, OK, maybe that’s what you want. Maybe your whole argument– even though you don’t know it– maybe that whole argument of which you’re only a part of is actually predicated on the desire to demolish the necessity for truth and responsibility. Well, you could say, no. It’s like, OK, but you know. It’s not like science has always been put to purposes that we would regard as ethical. And then you also have to ask, well, what allows us to ask the question of whether or not science is put to ethical purposes? What’s the framework for evaluation? Well, it’s not scientific. Well, does it exist? Hmm. Solzhenitsyn said something interesting about the Nuremberg judgment. Because he thought of that as like a pinnacle event in the 20th century. And I can understand this because– like, you know, there’s this Cartesian– one of the things Descartes did– hypothetically– was to try to doubt everything till he found something he couldn’t doubt. And what he couldn’t doubt was the fact that he thinks. Now, that’s a translation. So I don’t really know if he meant, I think. Whatever, he had this process of radical doubt. Well, I did that too before I wrote Maps of Meaning, except I didn’t know that Descartes had done it. I was trying to think, what do I actually believe? What’s unassailably true for me. And I thought, pain. Pain is true. It’s really hard. You can’t argue yourself out of pain. It’s like, when it happens, it’s real. No matter what you say about subjectivity, it’s like, you’re running around screaming. So who cares what you say. Then I thought, well, the infliction of pain is real. And then I thought, well, and pain is– like, pain is unpleasant. It’s got that quality about it. You know, I– so that was good. And then there was another process of argumentation that led me to conclude that what constituted evil was the infliction of unnecessary pain. And for me, like, so, not only, like, if I’m really evil, I’m going to inflict pain in a way that not only damages whoever I’m inflicting, it also damages me. And that’s fine. It’s like the shootings in the high schools. It’s like, why don’t they just shoot themselves to begin with? Why go to all the trouble? Well, try answering that. You should read some of the writings of the Columbine killers, man. They’ll make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. You know, it’s– you cannot believe what those kids wrote. It’s uncanny what they were thinking. Truly. So well, they’re motivated by something. Well, what? Well, it’s something Satanic from an archetypal perspective. You know. So for me, what ended up at the bottom of reality was it’s wrong to inflict unnecessary pain. So pain, even that doesn’t serve your own purposes even. That’s the Nuremberg judgment, fundamentally. It’s like, there are things that are wrong. OK. Are you gonna accept that or not? Well, if you accept that, there is a place you go. And if you don’t accept that, there is another place you go. And we already saw what happened when people go to that place. And so you can say, well, that’s irrelevant. OK. Fine. You pay the price for your belief. So will other people. And so that’s why Solzhenitsyn is at least in part an admired of the Nuremberg judgment. It’s like, there are things that are archetipally evil. You don’t get to escape from them because of culture. You don’t get to escape from them because of the particulars of the situation. Well, you could make a strong case that that’s victor talk and revenge. Fair enough. But when I wandered through the Holocaust literature, and the literature on the Japanese invasion of China, and the literature on the Stalinist camps, that was sufficiently convincing for me. It’s like, no. Not there. That’s not the right place to go. Is that a scientific judgment? No. SPEAKER 1: But from your own logic, if I understand it correctly, you’re saying that your judgment is predicated on your existence as a human in a dominance hierarchy, and that’s what makes that judgment– the fact that this sort of behavior is wrong true because of the biological context almost– JORDAN PETERSON: Sure. It’s deep. SPEAKER 1: –in which you’re embedded. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Well, it’s more than that because as an individual, I’m an individual. But as a human, I’m not an individual at all. I’m this unbelievably old thing. I’m like, as old as life. I’m really old. Well, there’s the “me” in this, which is this thing that was like come around in 1962. But there’s the deeper reality of this thing that I am. You could say, well, that’s the Jungian self. That’s one way of looking at it. And it has its nature. It’s the human nature. Well, good and evil are human terms. Whether we refer to something transcendent, that’s a whole different question. That is not a simple question because we don’t know what role consciousness plays in being. So like the deepest strata of thought that I’ve encountered makes the case that the most real thing is the eternal battle between good and evil. And I’m prone to believe that. So what exactly that means, that’s a different story. It’s a complicated idea. SPEAKER 1: So the inner materialist in my brain now is saying that’s a confusion of facts and values. But what I’m assuming that you would say back– and correct me and tell m what you would say back. Even as a materialist scientist, you, yourself, are a human participating in this human drama. JORDAN PETERSON: Right. SPEAKER 1: You’re mistaking what’s embedded in what. JORDAN PETERSON: Yes. That’s right. That’s exactly right. That’s right. Because that’s the question. Objective reality, mythology, one proposition. Mythology, objective reality, another proposition. That’s my proposition. It’s like, this is way deeper than this. It’s incomparably deeper. Now, that doesn’t mean this isn’t deep. It’s deep. But it’s sterile. And that’s dangerous. And then when you forget which is embedded in which, then you make mistakes. It’s like, yeah, well why not cross Ebola with smallpox? Well, that’s a good question. Why not do it? Well, you know, a rationalist would say, well, I’m capable of making that judgment. OK, well, let’s really specify that. What exactly do you mean that you’re capable of making that judgment? Because again, with Dawkins and his ilk, they make the claim that they can have their cake and eat it, too. So they can have all the benefits of an evolved morality, which is basically a Judeo-Christian morality in the West. And they can say, well, yeah, but we don’t have to accept any of the metaphysical presumptions. It’s like, says who? Yeah. You could be right, but why would you assume that you are? This is Nietzsche’s point, maybe the metaphysical presuppositions are absolutely necessary. SPEAKER 1: And the question then is, as understood by the millennia old individuals or cultures that gave birth to them, or reinterpreted as preconscious symbology? You see what I’m saying? JORDAN PETERSON: No. Not exactly. You have to specify that more. SPEAKER 1: Right. Because then Dawkins might say– or I’ll try not to pick on him. But then the materialist, positivist, rationalist might say, OK, but what does it mean to accept that mythology or to accept the metaphysics? Does it mean that I have to believe that there is this omnipresent, sadistic god who pits nations against each other and orders you to murder your neighboring tribe? Or rather, is it necessary to accept the metaphysical background, or the substrate if you will– as understood now as [INAUDIBLE]– JORDAN PETERSON: Symbolic. SPEAKER 1: –imagery from a culture that had no other means of articulating it? Because then they might say, well, sure. I can accept that it had some value in its time and place. JORDAN PETERSON: OK. That’s where the problem would start for me. It’s still that time and place. You get this idea, too– the evolutionary psychologists do this– where are we evolved with the African savanna? And our moral systems are adapt– It’s like, why? Why there? Like, why not in the oceans 300 million years ago? Why is that the preferential place from which our values are derived? The rest of it’s just nothing. It’s like, I don’t understand that. It makes no sense to me at all. Well, you could say that’s where we differentiated from chimps. It’s like, well, so what? We’re not that different from chimps, so what about the chimps? They share a lot in common with us. They didn’t go through the savanna. So the idea that these values, say, are shallow. I mean, if you put it in an evolutionary basis and you go back to the African savanna. Well, that’s something. It’s a few million years, anyways. But to me, that’s still icing on the cake. It’s not deep enough. This is way deeper. Now, the metaphysics. OK, well, let’s talk about the metaphysics. OK, who’s idea of God are you talking about? It’s like is God an old man with a beard and he lives in the sky? OK, well, let’s take that argument apart a little bit. OK, first of all, the ancient Jews, they didn’t like you to say the name of God. Why Because they didn’t want you to confuse the representation with the phenomena. So whatever was real for them was something beyond words. OK. The same thing obtains with Taoism. Same idea, right? Don’t make a graven image because you confuse the damn image with the thing. What’s the thing? It’s that which is beyond imaging. Does that which is beyond imaging exist? Obviously. What’s its nature? Well, that’s a different question. Now, in the Old Testament, its nature is arbitrary. It’s like, look the hell out. You’re going to get swatted down. But if you look carefully at the structure of the Old Testament, and Northrop Frye did this. Frye’s argument was basically this. Well, you’ve got the really old stories. Forget about them. History starts, basically, with Abraham. What is the Old Testament about? The Israelites climb up to dominance. They get corrupt. They forget about the widows and the children. A prophet comes up and says, you better look out. You’re off the path. They ignore him. Whap. They’re in chaos for like a long time. They get all humble and they build themselves up again. And when they get power, they get all corrupt. And a prophet comes along and says, you better look out. You’re off the path. You’re not paying attention to the widows and the children, and all hell’s going to break loose. Like, bang, down they go. Six times. Six times. Is that arbitrary, or is that actually the right idea to derive from history? It’s like, power corrupts. So you make your kingdom. You make your empire. And it’s serving its proper purpose, but you let it get corrupt. Things are going to fall apart. So I can give you an example of that. It’s like, what caused the flooding in New Orleans? A hurricane? No. No, corruption. If the dikes would have been built properly, as everyone knew they should have been built. If all those millions of dollars hadn’t gone into the pockets of corrupt politicians, there wouldn’t have been any flood. In Holland, they build the dikes for the worst storm in 10,000 years. In New Orleans, they built them for the worst storm in 100 years. Well everyone knew that was insufficient. So why didn’t they do something about it? Well, if you get corrupt enough, God will send a flood. It’s like it’s an old story. It’s right. Now, the question is, who is God? Well, I would say the ancient Israelites never made– they never said who God was. They just said, look the hell out for him. You deviate from the path. Man, you’re going to get flattened. The people who wrote that book– first of all, it was assembled loosely as a book. It’s a bunch of books. That’s what Bible means. It was edited and assembled across vast stretches of time. We have no idea what process led people to assemble it that way, except that they felt that that made sense. So they were guided by their internal intuition of meaning. Weirdly enough, it produced a document with a narrative. Now, the narrative is difficult in some ways to discern given all of the detail. So I would say, give our ancestors a break, for god sake. What do you want? You want absolute perfect coherence when they’re trying to be so inclusive? It’s very hard to be coherent when you’re trying to be inclusive. Those two things battle. So have a little respect. That’s how it looks to me. Those people weren’t stupid. They were seriously not stupid. And what they thought was not stupid– now, we can look at it in other ways. Why is God in the sky? Well, I know you can’t see it in the city. What’s the fastest way to see infinity? A look up at the night sky. It’s like, why is God up there? Because when you look at the night sky, that’s how you feel. So is that wrong? Well, it’s not bad. You know, it’s like, well, where’s the infinite? Because that’s really the question. Well, it seems to be up there. It’s like, yeah. Right. OK, so you make your sacrifices. It’s like, why do people do that? God, that’s primitive. It’s like, no. The invention of the sacrifice was probably the single greatest stroke of genius that mankind ever was given or produced. What is a sacrifice? You give up something of value now so that things might be better in the future. It’s like that’s the human discovery. That’s the human discovery of time. Everybody makes sacrifices. It’s like, I’m going to go to university instead of partying and snorting cocaine. It’s like, because that’s fun. Why? Well, because if I organize my behavior properly and I make the right sacrifices, God will smile on me in the future, or at least the probability seems enhanced. It’s like, OK. Well, we don’t use the same terminology. Well, we use the same terminology. We don’t burn rabbits. But then again, we’re not agriculturalists. So the people who are playing with the idea of sacrifice, they were acting out the discovery of time. You can give up something now. Try to get a bone from a dog and tell him you’re going to give him two bones. It’s like, he doesn’t give a damn about that. Bone now. And we regard the civilized person as the person who’s capable of deferring gratification. Deferring gratification is a sacrifice. Does it please God? Well, everyone thinks so or they wouldn’t do it. So you burn the sacrifice. Why? Well, God’s in heaven. How else is he going to figure out the quality of your sacrifice? Well, you might say, well, that’s primitive. It’s like, don’t be so sure. It’s like, they got the sacrifice idea right. They got the awe part right. If they’re acting it out, it’s concretized. It’s like a drama. Does that make it primitive? Well, no. It’s not primitive. It’s unbelievably sophisticated. It’s ridiculously sophisticated. Because the mode in the Old Testament is you make the right sacrifices and you will thrive. It’s like, do we believe that? Yeah, it’s the basis of civilized behavior. You don’t get a complex civilization without that presupposition. SPEAKER 1: So I think we’ve actually done quite well. JORDAN PETERSON: Good. It’s hard to keep to a linear track. This is another problem with this kind of material. It’s like, you can call the process of coming to terms with this material a circumambulation, a continual wandering around a center. And you sort of specify the center almost by inference. So it’s one of the things that make Jung very difficult to read. Because everything that he says is dependent on all the other things he said. That’s one of the problems I ran into when I was writing Maps of Meaning, too. It’s like, there’s a presupposition at the bottom that you have to accept in order to follow the logic. And the presupposition is there are alternative ways of laying out your initial presuppositions about the nature of reality. It’s like, well, why should I accept that? Well, I can’t show you why till you accept it because I can’t walk you through the argument. It’s a paradigm problem, fundamentally. So the way I did that in Maps of Meaning was that it was kind of like a small circle to begin with, and then a bigger circle, and then a bigger circle. So I could get all the elements described in a simple way, and then make it a little more complex, and then a little more complex. And that seemed to work to some degree, anyways. SPEAKER 1: And there’s something– not to be sycophantic, but there’s something so compelling about it. I think largely in part because that basic presupposition is not articulated well, or even accepted in the sorts of science or social science that we learn in university. JORDAN PETERSON: That’s partly why it’s so shallow. The social science, in particular. It’s like, man, it’s unbelievable. I should be careful about that. I learned a lot from animal experimentalists. A lot. And from neuroscientists, but most of the ones working on animals. They learn things. And part of that was a consequence of behaviorism, which was a very reductionistic method– useful. So it’s not like I dismissed the capacity of science to produce useful information, but I am also terrified of it. It’s like, there’s no reason to be so optimistic about scientific truth. The other thing that I’ve noticed about the rationalists– the empiricists, they’re sort of off in the same corner– is that they always make the assumption that if we transcend our historical religions, we’ll no longer be religious. And what we will be is rational. It’s like, I think, no. No, you’re completely out of your cotton-picking mind if you think that. It’s like, well, how do you account for the emergence of new age philosophy? It’s like, if you want incoherent, just take a wander through that desert. It’s like, you blow out these historically– these carefully constructed historical frameworks, what you get is like rampant and insane Protestantism. The idea that people will magically become like Newton because we’ve blown out the substructure of morality. That’s so absurd that that’s the sort of thought that I think is motivated. It’s like, there’s a reason to believe that because who the hell would believe that? You don’t know anything about people if you believe that. It’s hard to think scientifically. It’s really hard. Here’s a way of thinking, too. You can reduce religion to sort of Darwinian principles and sort of destroy it that way. You Or, you can expand your notion of Darwinism, so that it actually encompasses the genuine phenomena of religion. Man, that is way more interesting. But the problem is, it’s also the problem– the reason that people won’t read Jung. First, he’s very difficult. Second, he is terrifying. It’s terrifying to read Jung. Well, because no one thinks like he thought. Nobody thinks like that. I mean, his grasp of the development of ideas stretched over, like I said, 10,000 years. It puts the Enlightenment thinkers to shame. But if you start grappling seriously with the idea that ideas have people instead of people having ideas, that forces you to re-evaluate the entire nature of your being. Because the other thing he asked is, which ideas have you, and where are they suggesting that you go? And that’s like the Greek god idea, right? We’re playthings of the gods. It’s like, well, Dawkins already knows about memes. These are like meta-memes. And so let’s not be too incautious about who’s in control here. So it’s like, OK. Well you’ve developed a nihilistic philosophy that’s predicated on rationalism. Fine. Why? Who’s behind that? Precisely. You? It’s like, yeah, right. No way. A thousand other people wouldn’t think exactly the same way if it was you. You’re just in its grip. And what’s it up to? It’s up for the betterment of humanity. Sure. Maybe. But you know, I wouldn’t bet my life on it. When Jung wrote about alchemy, which his writings on alchemy are incredibly opaque. But I can give you a bit of an insight into them. You can understand Jung’s readings on alchemy if you start from the presupposition that the matter that alchemists were studying wasn’t matter. It was information. Now, the relationship between matter and information is very complex. And some people think the substrate of things is information and matter is sort of an emergent property. Whatever, it’s complicated. Now, if you’re studying information, you can’t study it objectively, precisely. Because as you study the information, you get informed. That changes you. And so the problem with studying this sort of thing is that you can’t study it without being changed. Because if you’re not changed by studying it, you’re not studying it. You’re no anthropologist who’s outside of this. You can’t be. Because if you’re outside of it, you don’t understand it. Because if you understand it, then you’re not the same person anymore. So you can’t keep it at bay. And so that’s also partly why Jung is terrifying. You I read– and I don’t remember where– the crucifix has Latin letters on the top of it. And it’s I-N-R-I. It’s the representation of Jesus Christ, King of the Jews. Hypothetically, that was put on his cross. There’s an occult interpretation of that, which is also Latin, which I can’t remember. But it means all nature is renewed by fire. And so the crucifixion then is assimilated to the idea of a forest fire. Everything burns down before there’s new growth. If you study religion properly, it will demolish your personality. Your personality, like the personality that’s you, is like the dead branches on a pine tree. You might be clinging to them because you think, well, I’m all these dead branches. It’s like, well, yeah. But first of all, you should let go of them. And second, you should let them burn off. And then you might think, well, I don’t want them to burn off because that’s me. It’s like, yeah, that’s true. But it’s the false you that you’re clinging to. Well, that doesn’t mean you want to be burned up in the flames. So to study this material properly is to be burned up in the flames. And there’s no escaping that. You’re just not in it if that doesn’t happen. You don’t get it. One of the things I realized when I started studying this was that virtually everything I said was a lie. I would say 99%. And by lie, I mean, it was manipulative. It was unclear. It was vague. And that was all often motivated. Or, it was a false attempt to gain dominance status, which is typical of someone who’s intellectual. It’s like, well, I’ve got these ideas. I’ve taken them from places. And now I can use them as, say, a status weapon, something like that, which is what people do when they’re trying to win an argument, say. It’s like, that’s all lies. Well, that’s rough when it’s 99% of what you say. First of all, the first thing you realize is how much you aren’t. You’re not Nietzsche. You have your experiences, your claim to reality, and it’s often pretty thin. But the development of authentic speech is worth the price that you have to pay for it. But you just can’t stay detached from this. This isn’t the phenomenon to study. It’s the basis of being. SPEAKER 1: So on that note, because that’s an expression of your experience really delving in-depth into material. Whereas, there are other researchers looking at this from a different angle. I’m not saying it’s more or less valid. It’s just different. And they’re looking at this from why– not necessarily why or how does religion come about, where do these ideas come from, and why are they important, so much as once they’re there, why do they perpetuate? And why are they successful? Why do religions exist when there seems to be so much that a rationalist would find objectionable or just silly? JORDAN PETERSON: Sure. Yeah. That begs the question, who’s silly? The rationalist assumes that it’s not him. It’s like, OK. Let’s have some evidence. Well, we can fly to the moon. Fair enough. That’s one form of evidence. How long has this been working? 200 years. OK. Let’s iterate it for a million years and see what happens. Right. And you can object to that because you can say, well, who knows where the future will lead, and so on. But my point is that– well, again, what you assume to be true structures your argument. And you have to assume something to be true because you don’t have infinite knowledge. So you make that initial choice. Why? Well, it might be because you’re a true truth seeker. Well, I would be careful about making that claim Right because you’re probably not. So then, who are you? SPEAKER 1: We’re motivated by something that we’re not aware of? JORDAN PETERSON: There’s no probably about that. Yeah. Not only that, you might be motivated by terrible things that you’re not aware of, like truly terrible things. You One of the things Jung said about the shadow, which was– for him, that was sort of all those parts of you that weren’t very developed and are mad about it because you’re like trying to kill them. And all those sort of storehouse of lies and deception that you’ve managed and all the things you’ve left undone and the motivations for doing all that. It’s like, that’s the shadow. He said, well, the shadow is rooted in hell. And you think, well, that’s a nice metaphor. It’s like, don’t be so sure it’s a metaphor. It’s not exactly a metaphor. I can elaborate on that a little bit. If you walk down [INAUDIBLE] Street, and you watch, you can see people in hell with no problem. They’re not only the people who are completely lost– the homeless– but they’re the homeless that you cannot look at. And the reason you can’t look at them is because they find your act of mirroring their state of existence intolerable. It will instantly enrage them. And that’s because they’re in chaos. They’re in the underworld. But they’re in a particular suburb of the underworld. And that little suburb, that’s hell. And you think, well, is it eternal? It depends what you mean. It’s been around a long time. It’s been around a long time. And it’s really deep. And there’s another weird thing about hell, which is if you’re in it, no matter how bad it is, there’s some stupid thing you can do to make it worse. And that’s why it’s bottomless. It’s not obvious what’s a metaphor. Does heaven exist? Depends on what you mean. I think people get glimpses of it all the time. Those are the times in your life when the meaning shines through. It’s like, that’s a place when the meaning shines through. That’s a place. If you conceptualize things as four-dimensional, this place shifts with time. So we’re actually sitting in a multitude of places here. Now and then, that place configures itself, so that it’s as perfect as it can be. You get a glimpse. And then you think, well, what if it could always be like that? It’s like, well, what if it could be always like that? So you might say, for example, what would happen if everybody told the truth? We know what happens when people don’t. You get the Gulag Archipelago. What’s the opposite of that? Well, we don’t know. We do know that there is an opposite, though. So people are incautious about their discussions of what constitutes real. They don’t even notice their own experience. You’ve never been to the underworld? It’s like, you’ve been there every time things have fallen apart in your life. I tell people that all the time in my lectures. Here’s what the underworld means. You’ve been married for 10 years. You’re happily married. You come home. Your wife’s gone. There’s a note that says, I’m leaving with my lover of the last 10 years. It’s like, well, you were somewhere before you walked into the house and now you’re somewhere different. Where are you now? Well, you’re where you go when the bottom drops out. Where is that? Well, it’s in the underworld. It’s like, you’re in the underworld. You’re in that chaotic state that exists before order is constructed. You go there all the time. SPEAKER 1: And the reason people can’t see the connection between their experience and these earlier mythological representations is because people are being anachronistic and reinterpreting mythological representations as if– JORDAN PETERSON: They’re scientific theories. SPEAKER 1: As if these people were naive scientists. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. SPEAKER 1: Really, what they were doing is coming up with images to explain things that they couldn’t otherwise represent, but were real in terms of their lived experience. Is that accurate? JORDAN PETERSON: Absolutely. Yeah. Why would we think they were naive scientists? Is a chimp a naive scientist? It’s just silly. They weren’t naive scientists, whatever they were doing. Well, I think they were naive phenomenologists, but they weren’t very naive. They weren’t concerned with material reality. They were concerned with the nature of being. I mean, that’s Heidegger’s claim. He believed that– and again, I didn’t know this until much later. Heidegger believed that philosophy actually lost its way with the Greeks. With Plato, for example, when things became rationalized. Nietzsche thought the same thing in many ways because he was very interested in the Dionysian, which is more like– well, that’s more like lived experience, the Dionysian. That’s the chemist who goes out and– maybe he’s a punk rocker in his spare time and he goes out in the evening and listens to a thrash metal band and pounds himself against other people and doesn’t see any contradiction there. It’s like, well, one’s rational. Another isn’t. That’s a contradiction. Well, you find the irrational activity enjoyable. Well, how do you account for that? You don’t. You just keep the worlds separate. So our ancestors were phenomenologists. And they were accounting for their landscapes. They’re the geography of being. Well, there’s an underworld. Well when do you go there? Well, when things fall apart. It’s like, that’s where you end up. Everyone gets that. You know, I tell these stories to retirees and all sorts of people. I say, look. There is a place that you go when everything falls apart. It’s like, oh, I’ve been there. Then the question is, well, what do you do when you get there? Because everybody needs to know that. That’s another thing that religious stories are trying to tell you. When things fall apart, what do you do? Well, we don’t think of when things fall apart as a place, but that’s our problem. It’s a place. I mean, people live in it. All you have to do is go look on the street. It’s like, oh, look. That person is in the underworld. It’s like, and that person’s in hell. And you can tell, but you won’t look. What usually happens in a circumstance like that is they’re so much in hell, that you’ll just walk around them, and you won’t look at them. Well, why not? You don’t want to go there. Yeah, that’s right. SPEAKER 1: We actually have that expression in English, I don’t want to go there. JORDAN PETERSON: Right. SPEAKER 1: So encoded in the way we think, there is this inherent locality or geography. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Well, and it is a geography. It’s a slice of space time. It’s also the street, but it’s not just the street. It’s the being of the street. SPEAKER 1: It’s everything that is afforded by the representation of street in our mind. It has other meanings beyond what we– which is something we didn’t touch on at all, actually. I wish we had, which is the complexity management theory angle in the sense that how we compartmentalize reality is not at all a given. JORDAN PETERSON: No. You do it on the fly. SPEAKER 1: Right. JORDAN PETERSON: And you do it for pragmatic reasons. And so in some sense, what you do is you look for the simplest possible and least energetic way of conceptualizing the current situation so that the next thing you want to do happens. It’s something like that. And I like to think about it in terms of resolution, because I think resolution is a really useful idea. Most of our representations of reality are extremely low resolution. Like, we’ll rely on a thumbnail. Well, why not? It’s good enough. It’s pragmatic. It’s good enough. Don’t make it anymore complex than it has to be. And what you are managing always is complexity. Because the thing– the representation you use, which is an image, let’s say, is a low-resolution representation of the reality behind the image. So for example, you’re sitting there. OK. Well, I can’t see your back. So I can’t see your family. I can’t see your culture. I can’t see your education. I can’t see the biosphere that you’re an embedded part of. I can’t see any of your substructures. It’s like, they’re all there. They’re just as real as the thing that I see. They’re causally implicated in everything that you do. It’s like, that’s complexity. I’m assuming that you’re what we both decided to allow to be possible here. Right Because we’re both polite. We’re doing this little act that we both agree. And we’ve never met, but we’re going to run this routine. We’re going to play by the rules. But for all I know, you could just turn left right now. And then all of a sudden, all that complexity is like– it’s there. That’s chaos. It’s like, that’s a potential, too. Because maybe I think, well, what we’re doing is too mundane. It’s boring. I’m caught in it. It’s like, I hope you turn left a little bit, because then that’s the water of life, too. That refreshing complexity comes back, but hopefully not too much of it. Right I don’t want too much of it. I want a little bite-sized piece of it that will make me interested and not terrified. So that’s complexity. And that’s a better way of conceptualizing what the terror management guys are after with regards to the fear of death. So partly, I don’t think they’re very imaginative. There’s many worse things than death to be terrified of. Like, insanity is probably one. Pain, that’s a bad one. Long-term pain, that’s a bad one. Well, then there’s long-term pointless pain. Then, there’s your long-term pointless pain and that of your family. There’s horrors that exceed death by orders of magnitude. So to make that the fundamental fear, I think that’s an error. It’s like, are people more afraid of dying or having their children die? That’s a perfectly reasonable question. So I read Becker. Really, read him. I like Becker’s book. It’s brilliant, but he makes a bunch of mistakes. One of the things he does, for example, is right in the intro. He says, it’s a book that’s trying to bring about the psychoanalytic closure of the study of religion. So it’s Neo-Freudian. It’s smartly Neo-Freudian. And he wants to explain religion, pretty much completely within the psychoanalytic framework. He does a great job. But in the intro he says, well, you might wonder why in a book that’s devoted to the last word in psychoanalytic thinking about religion, I never mention Jung. So then he says a bunch of things about Jung. One of them is I could never understand a single thing he was talking about when he wrote all his works on alchemy. It’s like, oh, well. That’s a problem because that’s where all the information that your book lacks is. All of it. You missed it. It’s like, yeah. You’re thinking about the hero myth, for example, as a delusion. And as a hero project and as something that’s only there to stave off the fear of death. It’s like, well, you got a good way into the depths, but– and way farther than most people get, but you missed the next 300 stories. And that’s too bad. So And it’s funny because I’ve also read the social psychology– a fair bit of it– that is associated with terror management. And most of the problem with it is it hasn’t moved Becker one inch. It’s like, yeah, that’s what Becker said. So we’re proving it. Well, no. Not really. Because the demonstrations are amenable to multiple interpretations. But Becker, he covered it. I mean, it’s a brilliant book. But it’s wrong. SPEAKER 1: Right. So on that note, this argument is wrong in what way? For people that may not have read Becker, they’re not fully aware of the terror management theory. JORDAN PETERSON: Because he thinks of everything that we do to contend with mortality as a ruse. And I don’t think that’s right. Because I don’t think that it’s necessary to be terrified of death. Now, it’s not easy not to be. But you know, it’s fate that as far as Becker’s concerned is that that’s what you’re going to be terrified of. It’s like, well, I don’t think that that’s right. I think that people don’t have to be terrified of death. It’s not an easy state to achieve. It’s not like I want to die. Although, I can certainly imagine things that are worse than that, no problem. I think– and this is something Solzhenitsyn laid out in the Gulag Archipelago, too. I think there are ways of living that are worse than death. That’s Why people commit suicide. That’s their decision. So obviously, hell is worse than death given how I described it earlier. So it isn’t death that’s the problem. It’s complexity that’s the problem, is that things are beyond us. And because of that, they always exceed what our models tell us they’re going to do. Or, they always transform themselves in some ungainly way so that we don’t get what we want. So then the question is, well, how do you best deal with complexity? And the reason I think truth is so useful is because generally it reduces complexity. I mean, one of the things that’s really useful about trying to say things that you believe to be true is you don’t have to remember what you said. It’s like, well, what did I say? Well, I don’t know, but I was trying to explain things properly. Then you don’t have to tear through all your rationalizations and think about what you have to keep track of. Deceptions, they grow. They’re like [? hydras. ?] So well, don’t do that. OK. Truth, simpler. That’s one big advantage. You And people can say, well, truth isn’t always the answer. Well, there are sometimes you get into a situation that’s so awful. You’ve made so many mistakes that not only would it be very difficult for truth to rescue you, you’ve already warped your character to such a degree that you couldn’t even use it. Well, you had it. You You’re off the radar at that point and nothing short of a miracle would save you. SPEAKER 1: To what degree do you think that, 1, the lessons that you’ve extrapolated and you’ve put into words are easily applied across various cultures that you may not have necessarily addressed in your examination of mythology? And I’m challenging you a little bit here, but just because it’s an interesting topic. For instance, Islam just doesn’t feature at all in the work that you’ve written as I read, but it’s a hugely important religion on a global scale. And even in countries like Canada. And then, there’s also the question of, with so many people coming with different, specific mythologies or embodiments of the universal mythology that we’re discussing, what are the– I mean, this is sort of a unique episode of human history in the sense of just the scale and the rapidity with which people are come into coming with each other from very different backgrounds. So what do you see as the implications of that, for good or for bad, in a country like Canada– JORDAN PETERSON: OK. You mean the fact that people are coming together? SPEAKER 1: Coming together, but from those very different cultural places in which maybe there’s a universal mythology that envelops all of them, but the values and the particular embodiments of mythology that people have grown up with are often very different. And these can clash. JORDAN PETERSON: Right. Tribal. They clash tribally. SPEAKER 1: Right, tribally. I don’t mean in the clash of civilizations sort of overblown way. But I’m just saying on a pragmatic level, people are often operating in different psychological space. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Well, to some degree, the issue there is whether or not you can negotiate. Because a society, a multicultural society, in many ways is dependent on negotiation. And here’s another sort of axiom. It’s like tyranny, slavery, and negotiation. Those are your options. You want to be a tyrant? Fine. You want to be a slave? That’s an option. But if you don’t want to be either of those, you negotiate. OK. So how do you negotiate? Well, partly, you pay attention. So you listen. And here’s another way to think about it, just like the totalitarian assumes that what he does will redeem him. It’s sort of the basis of terror management theory in some sense, right? What you know protects you and keeps you safe. OK. And so you want to tighten that up and you want to make it rigorous and you don’t want anything to exist outside of it. OK. So in some ways, you worship the great father. That’s a way of thinking about it. Here’s another way of thinking about it. What you don’t know will redeem you. Well, why? Well, because you already know what you know. And now, then you can ask yourself, well, is that enough? And then, the answer to that is, well, what’s the quality of your life? If the quality of your life is what you want it to be, really, then what you know is enough. But the probability that your quality of life is what you want it to be is very low because you’re still prone to all sorts of suffering and all sorts of ignorance. And you know, you can face that forthrightly. It’s one of the things that didn’t happen in the Soviet Union, because everybody said, my quality of life is great. We know everything we need to know. When in reality, it was like abysmal, murderous, treacherous, deceitful. It was horrible. But so what that meant was that in the Soviet Union, if you admitted to– if you admitted to your own suffering, you were a traitor. Well, that’s hell. So you can’t even let your suffering be true. Right Not only do you have to suffer, but you can’t even admit it. So back to listening. It’s like, well, if you assume that what you don’t know is redemptive, then you can listen. You can listen because you never know, the person might know something that you don’t know. And maybe that would be a useful something. And maybe you have something to say that they don’t know that would be useful. Now, there’s some presuppositions that go along with that. It’s like you have to be willing to meet the other person in the space between cultures. And you have to know how to operate in the space between cultures. And that’s part of the hero myth, by the way. If you’re a hero of the right form, you know how to operate in the space between cultures. Well, then how do you operate there? Well, I think we know. What makes cultures rich? Trust. What makes trust possible? Honesty. You want natural resources? There’s nothing more valuable than trust and honesty. Why is the world poor? Corruption, that’s why. All the poor countries, almost all the poor countries are corrupt. Part of the reason they’re poor is because they’re corrupt. Now, you might say, well, are the Western countries so uncorrupt? It’s like, well, they’ve got their problems. But generally, the answer is they’re not corrupt. So eBay’s a good example of that. Because when eBay first emerged, people thought, you send me junk and I send you a check that bounces. So that’s the end of eBay, right? So these third-party– I can’t remember what they’re called– agents set themselves up so that you could pay them a fraction of the price, and they would get the check and the product, validate them, and ship them off. And you know, they’d take 10%, or whatever. There’s a particular name for people who do that. It’s a profession. Anyways, what happened was the average rate of honesty on eBay was so high that that was useless. It’s like, the default was, I won’t screw you. And that was between strangers who had never met. And even more weirdly, were never going to engage in another transaction. So what that meant was that eBay all of a sudden became insanely valuable because people would trade property. Now, reputation markers soon evolved. And I do believe that in the West, the default is you won’t screw me. And that means that I can trust your persona. If the default is you will screw me, then I’m a barrel of snakes and you’re a barrel of snakes, and we will never get anywhere. SPEAKER 1: Exactly. I mean, if we talk about the state of the world, most of humanity does not live in the West, where the default assumption is, I can probably trust this person. What are the lessons to learn from what you’re arguing and from what you’ve extrapolated from your experience for these contexts? JORDAN PETERSON: OK. I mean, I can only speak about that at the most general level. Because what to do in any particular circumstance, that’s the sort of problem I deal with in my clinical practice all the time. It’s like, here’s this insanely complicated circumstance. It usually has nothing to do with mental illness. It’s just the person is caught in something ridiculously complex, like their aunt is sick at home. Their husband just lost his job. And they have an illness. It’s like, oh my god. That’s horrible. Are they mentally ill? No. It’s just awful. So how do you weave your way through an awful situation? Well, the particulars matter a lot. And so you have to do strategic analysis, paying attention to the details. OK. So that’s the particular. So what’s the general case? Well, the general case is maybe don’t falsify your relationship with being to the degree that you can manage that. Now, one of the things that I tell my students is, try solving a problem. Fixing it, not trying to solve a problem. But you know, you’re going to fix it. And you can fix it. And it’s a problem. And you know it’s a problem. OK. So there’s like a precondition here. So let’s say there’s a bunch of things around you that bug you. And you think, hm. Those things bug me. Why? Well, you don’t know, but they bug you. And you might think, well, is one of those things that bug me something I could fix? And you might think well, yeah. And there’s another part, which is not only could I fix it, I would fix it. Because you can think, well, I could fix that, but I won’t. If you’re being honest, you know you just won’t do it. But there’s often something that you would fix. Start there. Fix it. Then, try again. Try to see if there’s something else you can fix. So if you’re going to beat the lie, you have to start with what you can do. And you start locally, like right locally. And you can tell it’s the right amount of local because it bugs you. You could fix it and you will fix it. So perfect. That’s your problem. That’s exactly your problem right there. Fix it. Well then, everything shifts a little bit. Everything around you is just– the balance between chaos and order is a little better. Well, the same thing applies to your speech. It’s like, OK. I have to lie here because otherwise I’m going to get killed. It’s like, OK, well, maybe that’s not the place to start. Maybe that’s just foolhardy. OK. Would I say that you should lie in that situation? I would say, I can’t tell because I’m not in the situation and the particulars matter. So I don’t know what to say. That situation might be so awful that there’s nothing you can do that isn’t awful. How about in your own home? How about in relationship to yourself? It’s like, how about you start fixing up the little micro-lies that you leave lying around everywhere, and then it’s going to make you tougher and more formidable? You keep practicing that for like 15 years, and then maybe you’ll be able to start to address some of the larger problems. Maybe you’ll even start to understand what the larger problems are. Because that’s a problem with prematurely trying to do too much, right? It’s like, well, is that really the problem? And what makes you think you’ll make it better rather than worse? So you got to pick the right-sized problem. So I would say, start with little weights and work yourself up. And that’s how you develop competence, anyways. If you’re going to figure out how to set things straight, you might as well start where you can set them straight. And you might think, well, that’s trivial. It’s like, it’s not trivial. You might think it’s trivial. You have no idea how important it might be that you straighten up your relationship with your wife or your son. You have no idea what that might lead to. Just think of what Stalin’s relationship with his father led to. Well, it was awful. There’s Stalin. He killed like 60 million people. His father was a brute. So that seemed reasonably important. Maybe he shouldn’t have been a brute. So you know how horrible things can be if you do things wrong. It’s like, well, how good can they be if you do things right? You don’t know. Try starting. It’s like, see what happens. My experience has been that to the degree that I’m able to speak carefully– and I do speak carefully. And I don’t really care about the consequences. It isn’t that they don’t matter. It’s that I’m not speaking to produce a consequence. I’m just trying to say what seems to me to be the case. For me, that’s been incredibly, ridiculously, practically useful. Insanely useful. Like it’s opened doors that I would have never dreamed of opening. And in my professional life, it’s produced all sorts of opportunities. And it’s been a real aid in my private life, too. And in my professional life. It’s not like I don’t make mistakes. I don’t think that I am– I would never think of myself as fundamentally a good person. I think maybe I’m fundamentally a bad person. Because you know, I have dark thoughts. And I’m quite temperamental. Anyways. I do what I can to deal with all that. And I don’t do it perfectly. And I slide backwards, mostly by avoidance. I don’t always stay on top of the things I should stay on top of. But to the degree that I’ve been able to adhere to this mode of being, I can’t think of a single thing that’s happened that hasn’t been– in some ways, beyond my expectations. And it’s really fun talking to the students. Because it’s fun with the lectures because when I’m talking about the mythological material, and I can sort of sort out the stories, I can just see lights going on everywhere. It’s like, click. You know, you can see it’s like– you can tell when someone has an insight. I think they open their eyes a bit more. Maybe that’s it because it’s a bit of a surprise, so you can detect it. And it is like light going on. And so I’ll walk someone, say, through this Egyptian story– an audience– and they just go click, click, click, click, click, click. It’s fun. It’s really fun. And people seem to respond to it positively, which I’ve always been completely surprised about. I can’t believe that I’ve been able to lecture about the things that I lecture about without running mightily afoul of something. Because my classes are quite different than the standard psychology class or the standard university class. They’re very different. I don’t know. So far, it seems to be working, which is a surprise to me. So that’s what I would say to people, is like select the domain in which you can act. Straighten it up first, and that’ll transform things a bit. You put your house in order. Then, you can start to put your town in order, or maybe your street, or maybe your neighbor. God only knows. Start where you can start. And you might think, well, what’s that? Well, it’s nothing you can wave a placard in the street about, which is a good thing. That’s like praying in public. This is more like praying in private. Fix up what you can fix up, and see what happens. And I don’t think that there’s anything that’s more powerful than that.