The Jordan Peterson Moment

That is the new David Brooks column, here is one excerpt:

Much of Peterson’s advice sounds to me like vague exhortatory banality. Like Hobbes and Nietzsche before him, he seems to imagine an overly brutalistic universe, nearly without benevolence, beauty, attachment and love. His recipe for self-improvement is solitary, nonrelational, unemotional. I’d say the lives of young men can be improved more through loving attachment than through Peterson’s joyless and graceless calls to self-sacrifice.

But the emphasis on strength of will, the bootstrap, the calls to toughness and self-respect — all of this touches some need in his audience. He doesn’t comfort. He demands: “Stop doing what you know to be wrong. … Say only those things that make you strong. Do only those things that you could speak of with honor.”

There is much more at the link.


A lot of those things however will help one find and keep a relationship, humans are pretty good at getting together, but the virtues to stay together are another matter. Also a lot of things on that list fall into the category of what many women regard as good signals in a future husband.

"Parents, universities and the elders of society have utterly failed to give many young men realistic and demanding practical wisdom on how to live. Publius Syrus, Balthasar Gracian, Francois Rochefould, and Peterson have filled the gap."

Yep, he's in good company!

Like Hobbes and Nietzsche before him, he seems to imagine an overly brutalistic universe, nearly without benevolence, beauty, attachment and love.

Sounds like Brooks hasn't listened to too much Peterson.

the lives of young men can be improved more through loving attachment

Ironically, the trait of Agreeableness, the valuing of close personal relationships, has zero correlation with a lower divorce rate. What does lower your chances of getting a divorce is Concientiousness, particularly Orderliness. Keep your damn relationships in order, as Peterson might say.

I'm sure Brooks understands Peterson just fine. How can you take Peterson seriously if he doesn't have his pants crease sorted out? Sad!

"the lives of young men can be improved more through loving attachment" - David Brooks

"sounds to me like vague exhortatory banality" - David Brooks

^actual lol, thank you for that

+1. Brilliant.

As I read through this stuff, there was something at the back of my mind. Then I realized, thanks to your post, that David Brooks is jealous.

+1, that sums it up

Peterson has the order correct. Get your act together first, then you will find more opportunities for loving attachment.

Brooks is Jewish, right, so he must have read the Old Testament? How is that not a brutalistic universe?

Reading Jordan Peterson's book inspired me to start reading The Brothers Karamazov.

A number of reviewers seem to focus on the "young men" aspect of the book which to me seems a bit odd. Almost like it's an excuse for the reviewer to not apply Peterson's thoughts to themselves.

"Like Hobbes and Nietzsche before him, he seems to imagine an overly brutalistic universe, nearly without benevolence, beauty, attachment and love."

I think anyone who's walked across Columbia, the Congo, Iran, or North Korea will tell you that people are kind and caring, especially when they get in control of the government. I think people's reactions to Trump show that they are only think the best thoughts about our leaders and their compassion towards their citizens.

Is this the same column where Brooks makes an utterly stupid reference to Foucault? I won't wast a click on a Brooks column, so don't want to see for myself, but he's obviously been getting too many drinks while hanging out at the Applebees salad bar lately. I constantly amazes me that anyone takes Brooks seriously.

Well, Prof. Cowen appears to.

You're missing the Straussian implications. As usual.

Easier to keep getting published in the Times when you speak glowingly of its columnists.

Well played sir

All I know about Peterson was learnt from watching a bit of his recent interview with the hysterical harridan on Channel 4. If I had to make a choice I'd take his side.

The moment he had her speechless was remarkable. One of the many Ceausescu moments I have enjoyed over the last year and a half.

I thought Newman gave a tough interview, she seems like a pretty tough woman. I wouldn't mind more interviews adopting an adversarial style like that. I don't understand idiots gong after her.

She copped to being "got" - good on her.

Peterson handled the whole thing extremely well.

I guess this is off topic, but I thought she spent way too much of the interview talking. We're here to listen to the guest, not the journalist. The split should be something like 80/20 in the guest's favor.

And way too many leading questions / assertions. She should use open ended questions, instead.

'Tough' and 'adversarial' should not be equated to 'continual and deliberate strawmanning and misrepresentation'. A critic with good intentions is to be welcomed. A critic who assaults people with word games in a pathetic attempt to avoid engaging with ideas is worse than worthless.

+1. Bingo.

It's almost reflex these days to immediately formulate strawmen that allow you to become and/or remain offended.

Tough and adversarial is absolutely welcomed. Starting off every other sentence with, "You say..." is not the same thing.

When you do that (as is so common on primetime Fox News or MSNBC shows), you come across as good and wise to many fellow members of your choir. To others, you come across as either disingenuous, irrational and emotional, or dogmatic. (And if we happen to be on your side, we wish we had a better advocate representing us. Someone disagreeable but also reasonable.)

Should read: "Starting off every other sentence with, 'You say... (insert strawman allowing me to embrace my own narrative and signal offense at the infidel)' is not the same thing."

Newman's style of interview would have been fine if she was interviewing someone with the intent on misleading the audience, and her hard questioning would have gotten to the truth. There's appropriate situations for this kind of interviewing tactic.

But that was not that situation.

Newman's style in this interview was not to reveal, but to conceal. She intended to debate a strawman and consistently misrepresented Peterson's views in order to get that. She clearly had no intention of getting to the truth about what Dr Peterson believes or advocates. Peterson was forthright and congenial, and wasn't trying to mislead anyone. But she had identified Peterson as an ideological opponent and was trying to character assassinate him.

She spectacularly failed to do so because of Peterson's poise, conduct, and his constantly bringing the interview back to the facts and truth and now allowing her to misrepresent him, and that is why the video has gone viral.

I think I disagree. The pattern I saw was:

Peterson: Statement
Newman: Uncharitable characterization of statement
Peterson: Patient correction of mischaracterization

Over and over. If the interviewee sticks to their guns and understands their position and can articulate it clearly, this seems like a very effective strategy for identifying and dispensing with one uncharitable characterization after another, which seems to me what happened.

A "nicer" interview would not have brought so much to the surface.

"I thought Newman gave a tough interview, she seems like a pretty tough woman. I wouldn’t mind more interviews adopting an adversarial style like that. I don’t understand idiots gong after her."

Re-watch the interview. She attempted to deliberately misconstrue his statements repeatedly. She attempted to claim he said things he didn't repeatedly. Even in some cases, immediately after he said them. It was one of the worst interviews I've ever seen. She wasn't trying to interview the subject, she was trying to paint him in an unflatteringly light. He very adroitly side stepped or blocked all of her attempts.

This is almost all interviews today. The only difference is that he stood his ground instead of caving.

So what you're saying is, you hate all minorities and long for the return of Der Fuhrer?

Even accounting for the fact that interviewers must challenge and try to take the contrarian view sometimes, her performance was remarkably terrible. I hope he sent her a thank you card for boosting his status, and serotonin. what's the real story here --- Jordan or the MSM stunned reaction to him ??

was there ever any underlying problem with the MSM world view ??

It's a Cathy Newman thing. I don't think she's particularly smart and seemed pretty unprepared.

I think she is pretty smart and was reasonably well-prepared, but she just didn't know what she was up against. A lot of people want to write Peterson off, but he is formidable.

I don't know. If a decent journalist had read one interview with him or even viewed a YouTube video they would have taken a different approach than she did. It's like she had an intern give her a few bullet points of "Peterson believes" and that's all she was going on. I felt uncomfortable just watching her, because I'm sure she meant well but my god.

Peterson has given loads of interviews. Surely somebody has done their homework and asked the right questions. Which one do you like best?

Joe Rogan did the best Peterson interview.

Agreed Tarrou. It is because Joe wasn’t attempting character assassination, but rather talking through ideas.

You have to choose Dearie. Because believe me, you won't endear yourself to the new mandarins of the far left rainbow.

I find it a bit exciting, this Jordan Peterson moment, kind of like when an obscure band that you like starts making it big, and you feel a bit smug towards the newbies, and maybe a bit worried that the "mainstreaming" of this thing that you were among the first to like might change the specialness of that thing.

+1. My sentiments exactly.

Wowza... Brooks didn't take much time in reviewing Peterson. A large part of the message is creating competency so one can be a valued member of households and/or communities. It's not about isolation.

Yeah I get the feeling this is just Brooks' attempt at inoculation or at least to position himself as someone on the right side of the Peterson phenomenon. I'm pretty sure Peterson would say that there are few things worse than isolation.

The keyword here is balance.

The children of helicopter parents and tiger moms need a bit of music, party and MDMA to relax and let go. Children who got an Xbox instead of caring parents may benefit from Mr. Peterson 's "life for dummies".

Similar to vitamins. Supplements are great for people in need but it doesn't mean it's good for everyone.

Also, Mr. Brooks mistakes introspection for isolation. It is good to be alone to think. However, balance again . It is good to sleep but you can't sleep 24/7.

> "Much of Peterson’s advice sounds to me like vague exhortatory banality."

Coming from David Brooks, a master of vague banality, I guess this was intended as a compliment?

Everyone just needs to use Straussian mood affiliation to divine the proper answer.

"Straussian mood affiliation": I fear that must remain one of life's mysteries of which I understand nothing. Was the relevant Strauss from the musical family?

Well, one can waltz over to here if interested -

As you can see, the man himself already understood that Straussian would become a term of some import, referring to his own work as follows - '“There is no inquiry into the history of philosophy that is not at the same time a philosophical inquiry” (PL, p. 41).'

Sneer all you like, Prior, but Strauss was writing at a time when it was widely accepted that the history of philosophy had nothing to offer. (The analogy was: why should philosophers study the ancients with their silly beliefs, when -- for example -- biologists just get on with doing biology, without having to study Aristotle or Galen. This view has not disappeared at all. Contemporary philosophy depts are pretty split between those who value the history of philosophy and those who find it a waste of time, and will "translate" Plato or Aristotle into whatever current lingo suits them best.)

Strauss was a defender of humanistic inquiry, and he wrote not only against his greatest enemy (the radically historicist) Heidegger but also against the scientistic reductionists of his day.

Strauss was also a great champion of liberal democracy.

Moreover, Strauss believed -- unlike the historicists -- that there are perennial philosophical problems, and we would be immodest if we assumed that thinkers from other ages and other cultures didn't have something to contribute.

A good lucid book is "Leo Strauss, Man of Peace", if anyone is interested.

I don't know how it is where the Canadian commenters on this blog-thread live, but most cities and colleges (even the "junior colleges") in America have several "Leo Strauss" clubs where folks like to gather a couple nights a week to discuss the difference between esoteric and exoteric knowledge, and to discuss, say, the exciting differences between, say, the various translations of megathumos (great-hearted, great-souled, wonderfully inspired...?).

Unlike Canada, here in the U.S.A. almost all our "situation comedies" and almost all our "superhero movies" have frequent unmistakeable references to the vintage works of Strauss (roughly speaking, the published and unpublished works of the 40s and 50s, including the "underground" lectures and the "basement tapes"). I don't think the BBC in Canada refers to Strauss much.

And of course, if you watch each year the Oscars, the Grammies, the Emmies, the American Country Music Awards, the "Espies", and also those charming interviews that the figure skaters give on the "kiss and cry" couches after their performances, you will frequently hear unmistakeable references to the aphorisms of Strauss, usually regarding the "arena of life" or the "ongoing dream of more profound art and more profound understanding", but sometimes with specific insights into the eternally difficult and obscure questions of the theories of "res publica" (rerum publicorum) and the hard questions (of consciousness) and (of the duties we owe to those we love). Erin go Bragh!

Of course the discussions of the difficult issues of "rerum publicorum" and the hard questions of consciousness and what are, in fact, the mutual duties of heart to heart companionship or sympathy (cor ad cor loquitur) only arise on rare occasions even in the United States

It's David Brooks, so the pop-psychological idea of projection would be more appropriate.

I think this is much more about Brooks.He did divorce his long-term wife to marry a research assistant 23 years younger than him. So yeah, no wonder he rejects somebody who values discipline. orderliness, and loyalty.

I thought his wife divorced him (after having an affair).

I wonder if it could even occur to David Brooks that the world is signicantly more brutal to many people than it is to him. Of course Peterson isn’t offering much in the way of tea or sympathy to the brutalized non-Brookses. He is pretty much saying “Sure, Brooks is a cretin who deserves a smack in the mouth more than he deserves a column, but you can’t dwell on that. The world is not very fair, and if you become obsessed with who deserves what you will ruin yourself. Do your best, throw resentment away, and be as good a person as you can manage.” Banal? Perhaps.. But more significant than anything Brooks has, will, or could come up with.

No, Peterson would not say 'Brooks is a cretin who deserves a smack in the mouth.'

Peterson is a civilized man who is clearly opposed to that style of rhetoric. As noted here - '“If you’re threatening her, stop. Try to be civilised in your criticism. It was words. Words, people, words. Remember those?”' regarding the vicious abuse directed towards a Ch. 4 interviewer.

He also says that conversations between men have an underlying threat of violence, and the civilising influence keeps it from going that far.

Please do provide a cite, but assuming that is summation is accurate, then Prof. Peterson is an idiot.

Or he lives in a very different world than most people. After all, being inducted into the coastal Pacific Kwakwaka’wakw tribe might be a sign of that being true.

Watch his discussion with Camille Paglia. She seems to agree.

I do as well. I work with men and women, and his words describe what I experience. It doesn't come to violence, but the words and tone are in that direction. His exhortations seem to be about keeping a lid on our tendencies.

Your schtick here oozes with resentment and anger. Or maybe it isn't a schick, and you are unaware of yourself.

I have seen more than enough Peterson - and Paglia - in my life, so I will take your word that Peterson is an idiot.

'but the words and tone are in that direction' - If you say so - I seemed to have missed that framework over the last 25 years or so.

'Your schtick here oozes with resentment and anger'

Actually, guilt. I used to be paid to participate in something that now fills me with a sense of guilt. In part, because we all knew that a large part of our job was presenting lies as truth to those who were unaware of what we knew.

'Or maybe it isn’t a schick, and you are unaware of yourself.'

Or, and this has been something I have been thinking much more about over the last 6 months or so, things are starting to go in deeply disturbing directions concerning public discourse in the U.S. Far beyond the sort of hatred directed against the Clintons in the 90s or Bush II 15 years ago, but a seeming desire to become part of a mob, with an overwhelming need to destroy an endless parade of enemies.

And the fact that some people consider this a sign of being left or right is just part of it - because anyone pointing it out without being part of either the left or right is then considered to be an opponent.

You actually did the same thing - I called Peterson a civilized man, which most would have considered a compliment in the past, and yet you feel the need to say that Peterson feels that violence is a normal part of communication between men. No, it isn't.

You are doing the exact same thing as that silly Channel 4 interviewer. I didn't say that violence is part of conversations, but the underlying threat of violence. You quoted his admonition in response to violent words.

I don't know if this is what he says, but this is what I say. We as humans have urges, tendencies. Hierarchical, desire to follow, violence, powerful sexual desires, etc. Successful civilizations are built by systems, expectations, ways of channelling these characteristics to prevent harm and use them to benefit. The competitive nature of men channelled appropriately gives you technological advancement. Not channelled appropriately gives you street fights or the stupid status games. Channelled sexual desires produce long relationships and stable families, unchannelled results in broken societal bonds and chaos. Etc.

Much of that Channel 4 interview was pleading that people not be as they are but as we imagine they should be. Peterson responded by describing reality and some strategies to work with reality to accomplish what we want.

If two people disagree, it is good to have a debate. That debate naturally becomes harder if one person is disagreeing with two. The matter being debated did not change, but a subconscious threat of violence certainly exists, even if everyone is perfectly civilized, and the odd person out will tend to have his voice quieted.

This is not saying it is a good thing. It's saying this is where we are. If you don't want to be here, and want to be over there, knowing where you are now is pretty helpful. It's foolish to deny there's an animal part of our nature - we are not purely spiritual, rational beings of the mind. I don't want violence either, but that doesn't change the fact that a 6'4 250 pound man can be intimidating, even if he's offering you tea.

'I didn’t say that violence is part of conversations, but the underlying threat of violence.'

True, so let me change what I wrote, and tell me if it changes the meaning at all - '... and yet you feel the need to say that Peterson feels that an underlying threat of violence is a normal part of communication between men. No, it isn’t.'

'We as humans have urges, tendencies.'

Like cooperation, independence, compassion, enjoyable sexual desires, etc, right? Notice that my list is just as accurate as yours, but would seem to make your following argument fall apart. Just so stories are a genre that never go out of fashion.

'Peterson responded by describing reality'

Really? The single thing that struck me the most about that exchange was Peterson telling a woman what women want (starts around the 3rd minute). Though, yes, that is reality of a sort (though one assumes that Peterson would say that is an 'observation') - men really don't care what women think at all, in the main.

'but a subconscious threat of violence certainly exists'

Sorry, I simply reject the very premise, at least as applied to most men.

That there seems to be a group of men to which it does apply to seems ever harder to ignore, thanks to the Internet. However, they are still in the minority, regardless of what a bubble reflects back to them.

Sorry, I simply reject the very premise, at least as applied to most men

You're free to reject reality, I guess, but that's not Pareto optimal. No one is saying good does not exist. The good policeman that gives you directions when you're lost, protects your property from theft... well he carries with him a gun. That's not why you should be polite and respectful to him. You should be polite and respectful because he's a conscious being. Because he's there to protect and serve. But don't forget about that gun.

I referred to your comments here since I have been reading this comment section. I said that it oozes with resentment and anger.

It is profoundly passive aggressive. Continuous, every article.

That aggressiveness is exactly what I am talking about. I experience either passive aggressive words, or outwardly aggressive threats all the time in my interactions with men. Part of the training I give to the people who work for me is how to deal with it effectively and productively. What we do is high stakes, expensive with serious repercussions. The aggressive power dynamics are undeniable.

Not only men. Some women as well.

'That aggressiveness is exactly what I am talking about.'

If you say so. Here I was, thinking that many of these comments are sneering or snide or mocking - if you wish to call that aggression, fine. Or would they be more along the lines of a micro-agression?

Because I have heard that micro-aggressions are omni-present in discourse these days.

'You’re free to reject reality'

Really? Why should a 6' 4" man serving tea be intimidating? Or are so many people so filled with fear that they cannot imagine a life without it?

'well he carries with him a gun'

In the UK, he doesn't.

'But don’t forget about that gun.'

Why should I care that a police officer is carrying a gun? Do you have the same attitude towards anyone carrying a weapon? (Just as a point - weapons safety is another subject entirely, of course)

In the UK, the unarmed police bravely run away from terrorists and civilly jail people for online comments. My brother got his nose broken from a good ole American police beatdown. I'll take the American model, thank you.

In an ideal world, a woman could strip naked in a frat house, get blackout drunk, and wake up unmolested. I could leave 10000$ on my car dashboard, unlocked, and it not get stolen. We don't live in that world. I am not saying it is the victim's fault, but go back in time and give the victim some teeth, some defenses, and you will no longer have a victim, but an equal.

The idea is to empower people, not infantalize them.

And yes, unless I know the carrier of the weapon very well, I become a lot more polite in their presence. Does that mean I am a man of low moral character?

The one who denies wolves exist will get a lot of sheep killed. If you're going to be a sheep, be a wise one. If you're going to be a wolf, be a civilized one.

Good manners are an artefact of when men would be armed.

From a man who comes to take revenge daily on ??? Professors T and C? Or? Not sure exactly who or what the actual target is.

I haven't read or listened to much Peterson, but he seems to eschew the silly tropes like "the lives of young men can be improved more through loving attachment". What the hell does that even mean?

Loving attachment isn't something that falls from the sky. If you were lucky to be raised in a family where you were taught manners, exposed to a broad variety of people, had adult role models of both sexes that displayed healthy relationship patterns, then maybe some of this stuff will come naturally, but probably not.

Charles Murray says that the successful middle class lives in a way that is very disciplined, key to their success, but they don't talk about it. Brooks should read a bit more, get out a bit more. It isn't the desire for loving attachment that is missing from people's lives. It is the knowledge of how to actually get there. It takes strength of will to commit to a relationship. It takes toughness and self respect to take on the task of raising children, with all that it entails.

'It takes toughness and self respect to take on the task of raising children, with all that it entails.'

Ever raised children? Toughness is not what it takes to take on that task.

An ability to understand loving attachment, on the other hand ....

So why do men leave the women they have impregnated with the heavy responsibility to raise their children? How about because they want loving attachment with no ties, no load, no demands. They are children willing to indulge in the pleasures of the moment, but unwilling to take on the hard and long task of providing for a family, caring for both the mother and the children over 20 years.

Loving attachment lasts until the kid get colic and you have to pace for hours with a very unhappy child every evening for weeks giving the mother a break from the same task.

Toughness and discipline means you take on a task that is hard and demanding, and use your resources to do it well. And stick with it to completion.

Have you ever cared for an elderly parent? It is the hardest thing anyone will do in their life, and it never ends well. Why do people do it? Loving attachment is part of it, no question, but it is a sense of responsibility and desire to use what you have to relieve suffering. Have you ever had to make the very hard decision where a parent loses everything they have worked all their life to set up? These are not pleasant and nice situations, extremely trying and difficult.

People do this stuff. This is the foundation of civilization. Getting kids to school is a decision that is carried out most mornings for 12 years. Watching a mother do this is a display of toughness and discipline. And these qualities are the foundations of loving attachment.

> So why do men leave the women they have...

Derek, I often disagree with what you post. This post, however, was *spot* on.

For me, joy and affection carried me much of the way through parenthood.

But when the joy and affection ran out (like at 2am when you've had 4 hours sleep in the last 36 hours), a combination of grit (I'm not a quitter), bloody-mindednesses (I'm not going to be beaten by mother nature that decided that babies can sleep 45 minutes of every hour and be just fine), self-respect (I'm not the sort of person that dumps these things on my equally exhausted wife when things are tough), and a dash of absurdity (you can come up with very creative alternative lyrics to the Disney song you are crooning over your colick-y 3 month old) were the only things I had left.

For me Peterson advocacy for discipline and self-respect is like someone advocating that people need exercise. It seems obvious that (1) people *do* need some exercise in their life and lots of people have much less than needed to keep them healthy and happy (2) if the only thing one worries about is exercise, then your life is going to be a shambles.

I suspect the magnitude of Peterson's popularity (both positive and negative) has a lot more to do with what people want him to represent than the advice he offers itself.

'So why do men leave the women they have impregnated with the heavy responsibility to raise their children?' - Because the military sends them on a tour of duty? Oops, sorry, you weren't talking about that, were you?

'How about because they want loving attachment with no ties, no load, no demands.' - Somehow, it seems as if someone does not understand what 'attachment' means, as 'no ties, no load, no demands' are examples of antonyms to the concept.

'Loving attachment lasts until the kid get colic and you have to pace for hours with a very unhappy child' - You really have not raised any children, have you?

'Toughness and discipline means you take on a task that is hard and demanding' - Raising children is not about toughness and discipline. Hard and demanding it may be, but that is not the same as saying that it requires toughness and discipline.

'Have you ever cared for an elderly parent?' - Do you mean like sucking their lungs out on a regular schedule? Yes. Have you ever raised a child?

'Have you ever had to make the very hard decision where a parent loses everything they have worked all their life to set up?'

Well, I was the one that the living will said was in charge of deciding about a parent's life or death, and yes, I have had a conversation with a doctor concerning a parent's future (told the doctor that his suggestion was not how that parent ever wanted to die).

'Getting kids to school is a decision that is carried out most mornings for 12 years.' - Have you ever raised children? If your 4th grader is not capable of going to school more or less on their own, you probably need to improve your parenting.

'Watching a mother do this is a display of toughness and discipline.' - Actually, that is the sort of thing that a man or a woman is equally capable of doing well.

You are wrong. Everything you describe happens because of discipline and a toughness of mind. Men leave because they are lazy and entitled. The parenting that produces a 4th year child to go to school is about steadiness, expectations and responsibility. The living will arrangements were a hard and tough look at the realities of life and doing something about it.

About people making decisions and sticking to them over a long period of time, putting off personal gratification for the benefit of others.

Your mistake is that you somehow believe that this happens automatically. It doesn't. If you did those things, and I believe you did, it was because you learned them somewhere along the line. Parents, education, mentors, experience. You made choices between some transient pleasure and long term satisfaction that comes from accomplishment or long term relationships.

The toughness and discipline required isn't about imposing it on others. It is on ourselves. Choosing a woman and sticking with your commitment. Siring a child and doing what is needed so that they thrive. Taking responsibility for your parents even though it is very hard. People who do this stuff do it because they have been shown the path somewhere along the line and taken it to heart.

A friend was seriously injured, losing limbs. Lucky to be alive. He was told by his rehabilitation therapist that 90% of marriages where this happens fall apart. Likely to prepare him for that eventuality. It didn't happen in his case. His wife is a remarkable woman. It was hell for both of them for years, but they are happy and done remarkably well. Why? How? Toughness of mind and determination.

'You are wrong.' - Have you raised children? A question you seemingly refuse to answer.

'The parenting that produces a 4th year child to go to school is about steadiness, expectations and responsibility.' - Yes, however those three qualities do not require toughness or discipline (acknowledging that consistency may be easily confused with discipline).

'it was because you learned them somewhere along the line' - Of course. Welcome to living in a society, by the way.

We can go back and forth on this forever, but since I do not accept many of your premises (parenthood is about more than choosing a woman, and sex is more than a transient pleasure as examples), it will not be very productive.

I am raising a kid, and it is a tough job, so it is toughening me up. This does not correlate to o a specific discipline approach, which is what you seem to be interpreting toughness to be. Perhaps grit is a better word.

So what you're saying is (to use Cathy Newman's rhetoric)

Humans are miraculously completely different than animals, are born with a blank slate to be written by society, there is no moral component to the sexual act, but it is fundamentally and objectively moral to be completely harmless, and also there's no God.

It all makes sense now. Thank you!

I am raising a child, and it is a tough job.

I'll be honest; loving attachment doesn't cut it, bless them.

You need a sense of duty; that it would shameful to fail them. That's what gets you out of bed when they are unwell at 3am in the morning, when they have temper tantrums, when the won't eat their food, when they won't sleep, when you have to talk them through grief and loneliness. You tell yourself that YOU are the one responsible. That YOU have to do the right thing. You remind yourself that YOU are the hero they are waiting for. And you will act like one.

'Perhaps grit is a better word.'

Maybe, as the word 'tough' has several different meanings. Challenging (at times, certainly) would also be quite appropriate.

However, oddly enough, humans have been raising children since there were humans - it does not seem to be all that tough, to use a slightly different variation on the term.


'Humans are miraculously completely different than animals' - Why would anyone say something so utterly stupid? We have our differences from animals - think language - but we are certainly animals. Of the primate variety - we are not canines with a pack and a leader, we are not rabbits always having sex, and we are not sharks always looking to eat.

'born with a blank slate to be written by society' - See the point about language above - to deny the role of society is to deny the sort of animal humans provably are.

'there is no moral component to the sexual act' - Which one?

'but it is fundamentally and objectively moral to be completely harmless' - How can anyone raise a child without being aware that it is impossible to always be harmless, regardless of whether someone else thinks it is moral or not.

'and also there’s no God' - I have absolutely no opinion of whether there is a god or not. I also wonder why people seem to think that having an opinion is important, considering just how many gods are claimed to be the only true one(s).

'It all makes sense now.' - Maybe to you, but much of what you wrote seems thoroughly nonsensical.

“However, oddly enough, humans have been raising children since there were humans – it does not seem to be all that tough, to use a slightly different variation on the term.”

Life was extremely tough for most of that time period! 😀

I've raised children. It definitely takes toughness, of a particular kind.

I think the word you're looking for is 'assiduousness', which is a quality the general run of parents need. 'Toughness' is something you need when things really go south, and often it doesn't repair the problem. George McGovern buried one of his children. Might have helped if he and his wife had been tougher, or perhaps not.

“the lives of young men can be improved more through loving attachment" I think it depends on how young Brooks is talking about. Children do very much need loving attachment to their parents (or caregivers if they are orphans or raised by another family member), and without secure attachment they tend not to grow up into flourishing adults. (I do realize that Brooks is talking about young adults, in which case getting their sh*t together really is more important than focusing on their relationships, although relationships can often be a great spur for men to get their sh*t together).

"Charles Murray says that the successful middle class lives in a way that is very disciplined." Speaking as a middle class professional with a family, is it actually the case that our lives are so disciplined? The whole life script of "work a full time job, get married before having kids, and don't have kids or get married before age 21 (as an aside I think 25 is a better number)," just never seemed to me like something all that difficult to do. I actually don't find it hard to not drink too much or use drugs. Promiscuity has never been appealing to me, as having sex with a stranger sounds frightening, not erotic (how do you know that they don't have STDs, or that they won't murder you, or that they are not seriously mentally ill, or a sociopath?). The idea of having children before getting married never occurred to me as an acceptable life option, and again I didn't find it difficult to find significant others who agreed with this, and so this never really took much of any effort on my part to achieve. I will admit that getting a degree and working an office job do take a degree of conscientiousness and effort, but one doesn't need to get an office job to make a family supporting wage. I have to say that I honestly find lower class norms in the US baffling, as following middle class norms does not seem difficult and seems to lead to much more fulfilling lives. I am sure the SJWs can explain why the lower class acts the way it does.

"I am sure the SJWs can explain why the lower class acts the way it does."

The lower classes are either duped victims to whom compensation (for capitalism, or pick your evil) must be made, at which time they will automatically emerge from their cocoons as beautiful moral butterflies, or else they are irredeemable scum who are best left alone until they can be swept away by the broom of social change.

I find that the percent of people who comment on Peterson who do so inaccurately -- and often clearly having not read or listened to his material -- to be remarkably large. Much of this comes from those (mostly on the left) who propagate a myth that he is (alt)right. Some seem jealous, as was noted in the comments here recently. Some seem to not grasp his messages. Brooks does OK, but I would still assert that he does not quite understand what Peterson says.

I can highly recommend the following interview with Jordan Peterson made a couple of days after the "debate" with Cathy Newman. It offers insights on the infamous debate and also on his general work:

How shall I live, David Brooks? What shall I do?
This next book will get at what’s true
On classes on taxes on politics too

A task most solemn
To fill out a column

How shall I live David Brooks? What shall I do?

Nice comment line breaks ya got here.

Enough to ruin a sad little poem

It's a man problem, one that is the result of self-absorption instead of self-awareness. Dara Horn's guest op/ed in today's NYT has a similar theme to Brooks's column, but much more concrete. In it, she points out that it's men, very wealthy privileged men, who are absorbed (self-absorbed?) with immortality, their own immortality. Women not so much, because it's women who have historically had the burden of caring for others, the young, the sick, the old. If only men had the same burden they would be less self-absorbed. She concludes: "But men who hope to live forever might pause on their eternal journey to consider the frightening void at invincibility’s core. Death is the ultimate vulnerability. It is the moment when all of us must confront exactly what so many women have known all too well: You are a body, only a body, and nothing more."

Some of these comments do what Conor Friedersdorf pointed out in a recent essay in The Atlantic, which is "[i]nstead of actually listening to Peterson, she just distorted, simplified and restated his views to make them appear offensive and cartoonish." That's Brooks paraphrasing Friedersdorf, who was using an interview of Peterson to make the larger point about what lots of people do in argument today.

> "It is the moment when all of us must confront exactly what so many women have known all too well: You are a body, only a body, and nothing more."

Yes, this is clearly a thought that would never have occurred to any of the millions of soldiers throughout history who saw death up close.

That's a good point. What is it with men and their wars? My grandfather served as an army surgeon in two of America's wars, and I can't even imagine what he must have seen. I never met him because he died when my mother was only a child from a staph infection he got in the war zone.

> "That’s a good point."

The NYT's moderators beg to differ.

> "What is it with men and their wars?"

Can't put it better than Orwell: the reason why you can sleep peacefully at night is because there are rough men standing ready to do violence on your behalf.

I am sorry to hear you never got to meet your grandfather.

Well, my grandfather got his staph during the Philippine American War. I'm not sure that Americans slept peacefully at night because the rough men were standing ready to cause almost 1 million casualties in a primitive country on the other side of the globe.

ready to cause almost 1 million casualties in a primitive country on the other side of the globe.

They didn't, but it's proved a useful talking point for the world's self-aggrandizing fools.

Coincidentally I'm reading Balthasar Gracian right now, based on the recommendations of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Highly recommended! If you like Rochefoucauld you'll like Gracian.

Peterson is being built up to such heights that he's going to crash down due to some mistake one of these days. My prediction is that it will involve a woman.

That is a reliable heuristic.

Maybe. He's getting sucked into Twitter and its Daily Maelstrom of Stupidity, and I don't see how that medium is at all conducive to his message.

I'd tell him to pull back and take a breath -- a lot has happened in the last 18 months -- but so far he's been careful, so maybe he knows what he is doing.

As Peterson himself says, he has hundreds of hours of video online -- if there was something in there that would blow him up, they would have found it by now.

I think it might be unlikely. The reason is that he's an accomplished, disciplined adult of a certain age. If he'd done something crazy or dangerous, he would have done it by now. That's one reasonable conjecture.

"8 million men killed in first week of World War 3. Women and children most effected" - future headline

In response to anonymous bosch

Haven't dived too deep into it, but this criticism from Brooks appears to jive with the comments from Sam Harris following his talk with Peterson.

Basically he summed up Pederton as having a belief that evolution and natural selection explain everything, and that this gives us a framework for understanding how to act and structure our lives. "Be a man", "stand up for youself", "the weak get killed and eaten"... etc. This dog eat dog world view does seem pretty Hobbesian, so I can see where Brooks is coming from.

Is there some reason to believe that evolution and natural selection don't explain everything? (About human nature, that is.) I don't know how one could argue that, except from a creationist perspective.

Yes, it's called God. If evolution does not explain everything, there is your only logical exemption.

I said, "except from a creationist perspective."

Sorry, my bad. But you don't need creationism for God or the supernatural. Evolution explains natural phenomena very well, but of course it has nothing to offer about the supernatural or metaphysical. The world can be 5 billion years old and we have a common ancestor with apes and lobsters, and it says nothing about free will or morality.

If I -choose- to marry an Agreeable woman, evolution may speak to the result but not the cause. If I -choose- to value honesty over emotion, something spooky, not just evolution, is acting.

Read about it on his website, but there are adaptions and features of people that don't appear to have any evolutionary benefit. Why have ethics at all?

Societies that had ethics thrived and conquered societies that did not

The mongols?

Also, how did these ethics help these societies conquer the others?

Well, I think that underlying at least some of Nietzsche's thought is the idea that natural selection means that in some sense there aren't really species (in an Aristotelian sense where there is some kind of underlying metaphysical and normative essential nature to a species). So, as Nietzsche points out, you can have human beings (like Philosophers of the Future or ubermenschen) who are really very different from the rest of humanity and who should not use some sort of understanding of "human nature" to understand themselves. But those people are true outliers psychologically and physiologically. Another way to restate that is that for a materialist, the most reasonable starting assumption is to assume that you are psychologically and physiologically pretty much like the rest of the herd, or at least within enough standard deviations of whatever trait that you should assume that descriptions of the herd and evidenced based advice for the herd will be applicable to you. However, you would also be open to updating your priors if you found through experience that you actually aren't like the herd, because there is nothing in physics and genetics that prevent someone from being such an outlier that they are psychologically different in kind from the herd.

I am not sure whether Jordan Peterson issues prescriptions and proscriptions for women also - we don't seem to be his focus - so I will, in low, gossipy female fashion, admit that my shallow first thought on reading David Brooks' upholding "loving attachment" over cold "honor" was to recall that he ended his marriage to the mother of his children and took up with his much-younger research assistant, an evangelical Christian (I remember seeing their wedding gift registry, which had a tasteful "elegant farmhouse" - one might even say understated boho - vibe). I imagine they will be happy. I also imagine she was quite worshipful of him. That often makes for strong attachments.

I don't know whether Brooks plans to replace his children too, as older men in second marriages often do.

Only attach.

I had the same thought, but I guess I don't know for sure who ended their marriage, or why.

Oh, his wife was probably unhappy. Probably a shrew, and a man shouldn't have to endure marriage to a shrew.

Or: whether she was or no, that will be the surmise; inevitably his actions will have put the thought into everyone's mind, that his first wife, whom, presumably, he similarly once pledged, to some degree or other, to cherish, was a person not worth keeping, not worth whatever trouble she probably caused him, or didn't want to have sex with him; or, particular to his case since his divorce happened to coincide with a spiritual awakening of some sort, that she was materialistic and un-spiritual ... Unfair, but there it is.

It's wrong to speculate? Almost certainly. But also, conveniently enough, very outmoded to, a la Ford Madox Ford, entertain the idea that one's actions should involve consideration, of what thoughts they may put in others' minds ...

Since he's the one who precipitately re-married (and to one of his subordinates), it's a reasonable guess that he was the plaintiff in the divorce case, de facto and perhaps de jure. That's not how it usually works, even among couples in their 50s. I'd stick him in the pigeonhole labeled 'self-centered toad' unless he gave me some reason to put him in some other pigeonhole. If you think that's uncharitable, ask yourself what you're implicitly saying about her when you refuse to make a tentative evaluation of him.

The most likely explanation, on these facts and this timing, is that he began having an affair with the subordinate, and either asked his wife for a divorce, or she became aware of the affair and insisted on a divorce. In either case, I, from my moralistic, judgmental perspective, would consider him the guilty party.

Oh, you misconstrue me. I haven't the slightest idea about it - and if it's unclear, my evaluation of him would hinge very little on her conduct.

Not personally impressed by Mr Brooks. Some of us take our oaths seriously.

There is a very moving passage in 12 Rules in which Peterson writes about the psychic chaos unleashed upon a woman who discovers her husband cheating.

@Peri: Thanks for reminding me why I so resent David Brooks, the moralizing hypocrite. Here you have a man who writes a book titled The Road to Character, and what does he do? He ends up with the 23-year-old research assistant who helped him on that project. Yes, I'm sure the first step on the road to character is dumping your middle-aged wife for a younger woman. What a repulsive, self-important hack.

No kids though, which is not the typical dump the wife and kids.

Oh, I just looked at the top "stats" part of his Wikipedia. The "personal life" section mentions an "older son."

I believe his 2nd wife is in her 30s.

Heh. Peterson would say that what people really believe is manifest in their behavior.

Didn't we already call that revealed preference?

Yes. Yes we did.

"Honey, you've changed. You used to be 23."

Brooks' focus on Peterson's concerns about the plight of young men in today's world is a distraction, as many commenters have noted. The logical fallacy of arguing off the point is exactly what interviewer Cathy Newman practiced with consummate skill, and what Brooks, at base, seems to be embracing as well, albeit less hysterically, a posture consistent with his center-right (or is it center-left?) politics.
For a much better and more overarching commentary on the Peterson/Newman phenomenon, this British pundit (link below) is as articulate as they come.

Can somebody to explain what the difference is between Jordan Peterson and Tony Robbins? Outside the fact Jordan shut up a SJW feminist.

I take it that you didn't watch the interview with Newman?

Peterson is at least attempting to be a serious, public intellectual. Robbins is a charlatan who panders on stage to needy rah-rah salespeople types, and charges them a fortune to deliver platitudes. (This is not to say that Robbins cannot occasionally be right, but stopped clocks are occasionally right too.)

Peterson admires people who he believes are more intelligent than he, and discusses their ideas frequently. It is likely that he differs from Mr Robbins in that. I once heard him (Dr Peterson) say, with a charmingly innocent level of admiration, that Jung " read the classical languages" and understood ancient philosophy in a really smart way, as if it were a surprise that someone whose job in 20th century mittelEuropa was to be an intellectual actually spent a few hours in his youth learning Greek instead of playing endless rounds of pool or working on hot rods down at the garage.

Tony Robbins was great in "Shallow Hal", but there were no references in that now classic movie (the kayak scene and the restaurant scene and the look on the mobster dad's face when Jack Black says he loves his daughter are my favorites but there are other great scenes) to why, for example, everything of value Nietzsche or Jung might have said has previously been said --- admittedly difficult to appreciate languages that have not been spoken for 80 generations ... --- has previously been said, as I was saying, and even much better said, by Socrates and his pals and Isaiah and his pals and, for all we know, by Minerva and Athena and the famous women of the Bible. Maybe the scenes where Tony Robbins talked about Minerva and Epictetus were left on the cutting room floor, I don't know.

Furthermore, I may have missed the Tony Robbins lecture that would have contradicted what I have just said with respect to the difference between him and Professor Peterson, who appears to lecture only in cheap basement rooms with concrete block walls - what is up with that ? What kind of cheap school does he teach at where people go to class in nasty cheap little concrete classrooms to talk about eternal truths? Put a few inexpensive (I saw some really cheap ones, 2 bucks or so each, last week at Walmart's) cactus plants on a shelf somewhere, at least.

As for Brooks, I have heard that he is much smarter in real life than on the page.

" I’d say the lives of young men can be improved more through loving attachment than through Peterson’s joyless and graceless calls to self-sacrifice."

This is a ridiculous false dichotomy.

Did Brooks even read the book? Here are direct quotes from the book that contradict everything Brooks claims in Tyler's excerpts: 'Make friends with people who want the best for you." "A stable, loving relationship is highly desireable, for men as well as women." "A convesation such as this one where it is the desire for truth itself--on the part of both participants--that is truly listening and speaking... ...A conversation like that puts you in the realm where souls connect, and thats a real place." "And finally, all this is made possible by an even less visible element: the social contract of trust..." "The extensible boundaries of our selves also expand to include other people--family members, lovers and friends." "To honor your wife as a Mother of God is to notice and support the sacred element of her role as mother... ... a society that forgets this cannot survive." Personally, I prefer Marcus Aurelius to Peterson, but Peterson's 12 rules are very much worth contemplating and undeniably sincere in contrast to all the wretched imitations pouring out now.

Jordan Peterson is mommy - clean your room, get married are messages that come from your mom. Also his drag make up and "I'm a bad bitch" facial expression. Spiritually female

Got your pick up lines sorted for the weekend, Bob?

If one feels compelled to try to lower Peterson's status, the weak spot to attack would probably be Maps of Meaning. Have only read bits and pieces here and there but strikes me as derivative of the great Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism which in turn was derivative of The Golden Bough. Nobody seems to read either anymore. Sad.

Brooks: "Peterson (...) inspires (...) by telling (...) that life is hard (...) essentially a series of ruthless dominance competitions. The strong get the spoils and the weak become meek, defeated, unknown and unloved."

If Peterson is so black-pilled he should go all the way and admit that meekness, assertiveness and other character traits are highly heritable and hardly alterable through sheer tyranny of will. What is his stance on behavioral genetics?

David Brooks commits an unusual failure here in his account of JP's thinking. He claims : “His recipe for self-improvement is solitary, nonrelational, unemotional.” This is just about the opposite of what JP claims. There is no question that for JP the individual has special importance and is responsible and accountable and must accept that responsibility. But it's also true that for JP the meaning in life lies in family, friends, and relationships. And these require strong self-regulated individuals.

It's funny, but I thought as I waded through a bunch of Jordan Peterson's stuff that he's just a way more thoughtful and incisive David Brooks, from the Brooks era of "The Social Animal".

But Peterson lacks the sauve East coast skills of Brooks. (Peterson is very blunt.)

So it was odd to see Brooks be so tone deaf to the similarities between his own message and Peterson's. Then it occurred to me that Brooks is co-opted whereas Peterson seems beholden to no one, and thus free to speak clearly -- if bluntly -- about gender, the law, PC culture, etc. And Brooks is jealous, either of Peterson's ploughing the same ground or more likely of Peterson being completely fearless while doing so.

Contra both Brooks and Peterson a bit:

What all this misses is the means by which society can reward good behavior and punish bad. It's all well and good demanding good behavior from men, but if you reward the bad and punish the good, guess what?

Peterson dispenses some good advice, but it's all internal. Brooks is a sentimental moron. "Loving attachment" indeed. The question at the macro level is how to incentivise the best behavior from the greatest number.

didn't you just say: "bad at finding best talent - 6. journalists"?

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