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  • Norman Young

Peterson vs. Petersonism

North America's Most Popular Clinical Psychologist Is Better Than His Own Philosophy

Peterson's Project

For Jordan Peterson, truths about the objective world are the purview of science; phenomenological truths about our subjective valuation of the world are the purview of myth. This is an absolutist fact/value dichotomy which could easily lead to cultural relativism. But Peterson avoids relativism by means of Darwinism. “True” values are those that natural selection has conditioned humans to feel in order to survive.

When Peterson explores biblical and mythological texts, he appears to be taking religious ideas seriously. What he is really doing, however, is constructing a myth of his own from Darwinian premises. Myths are created, Peterson suggests, by observing behavior and “extracting out” patterns. Peterson begins his mythopoesis with an observation he believes to be fundamental: that human beings behave differently toward familiar things and unfamiliar things. The abstract idea of familiarity and unfamiliarity are then hypostatized, becoming “the known” and “the unknown”, the domains of Peterson’s mythical world. In the center of this barren cosmos is the individual, a hero, forever hacking away at the unknown and constructing knowledge from her pieces.