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The twilight of Jordan Peterson

This post was originally published on this site

I want to piggyback on a comment from redditor HillGrassBlueBilly:

I recently watched a dialogue between Jordan Peterson and Dennis Prager. In the opening of the discussion, Dennis Prager start’s by expressing a high commendation for Jordan that he (Dennis) has an innate ability at recognising “Goodness” in people and regards Jordan as such. Jordan responds by disapproving the well-meaning compliment and instead says that it’s not that he’s inherently good, rather he recognises in himself the capacity for evil and how terrible he could be. Seeing and avoiding the pathway to the dark places people can go, is what motivates him to do “Good” rather than it being inherency.

This reminds me of what C.S Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity regarding the increased awareness of all the evil in you.

“When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less.

A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right.

This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them, you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk.

Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.”

I’m not suggesting Jordan is a Christian (Although if I had to place a bet I’d say he’s bordering on conversion) but the more I walk with God, the more I also recognise just how utterly evil we humans are or capable of. This can often be looked at as overly cynical as it has been suggested to me before, but there would have been a time when I myself would regard Romans 3:10-12 as pessimistic.

I would not say my view on how absolutely reprehensible we are, is solely down to realizing how evil we are/could be (I’ve seen a fair share of evil), rather it concurs with a new perspective and appreciation for the Holiness of God and His goodness which is beyond comprehension. It’s this revelation of His goodness that becomes one of the cornerstones in my seeking for goodness.

1. Here is the discussion between Jordan Peterson and Dennis Prager. I haven’t watched it. I’ll simply go off of the comments above.

2. On the one hand, that’s good Jordan Peterson recognizes the evil within him. So, with respect to the evil within, sure, I suppose one could say he is “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mk 12:34).

3. On the other hand, I think the problem is Peterson teeters back and forth between this (biblical) recognition of our bent, twisted, and evil nature and the nihilistic moral abyss into which he fears his soul could plunge at any moment. I think Peterson is attempting to “rage, rage against the dying of the light”, to choose goodness and light in the face of the torrent of moral darkness rising up and threatening to flood him and drown him beneath its heavy waves. He’s like a Viking heroically facing down Ragnarök, though the twilight of the gods is upon him.

In short, I think Peterson echoes within his own soul: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Peterson sits on a knife’s edge, knowing he must resist so he doesn’t become a monster or be pulled into the abyss, but likewise suspecting resistance may be ultimately futile. Fearing that, at any moment, the monster could emerge or the abyss suck him down, down into its depths, forever lost.

4. My hope is Peterson realizes if nihilism is true – such as (if I’m not mistaken) the nihilism of Peterson’s mentors across time and space like Carl Jung and Friedrich Nietzsche – then there are fundamentally speaking no objective moral values let alone duties or obligations. If there are no objective moral values or duties, then Ragnarök is inevitable. The death of all must come. If nihilism is true, then life is absurdity.

As Shakespeare puts into the mouth of his guilt-ridden MacBeth upon hearing about the death of his queen:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

5. However, if Peterson doesn’t wish to succumb to the perpetual night and the frozen waste land, wherein lie absurdity and madness, then his only real or viable option is to embrace the faith of his father and mother: the God of the Bible, whom alone imbues life with ultimate value, meaning, and purpose. Why is Christianity the only real or viable option? I’d recommend a book like James Anderson’s Why Should I Believe Christianity? for the case.