• Jordan Peterson's "Maps of Meaning"--a critique

    From M Winther@21:1/5 to All on Tue May 22 11:44:30 2018
    XPost: alt.philosophy.debate, alt.psychology

    You have probably heard of psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, the YouTube
    star. His effort to engage the madness of our era is laudable. What's
    worse, his views represent a throwback to Hegelian philosophy. He often mentions psychologist Carl Jung. However, his book "Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief" (1999) has more to do with Hegel than Jung.
    Although it contains much of value, his views are mostly commonsensical.
    It is a long and meandering book, where he often returns to the same
    argument. His theory revolves around the societal and cultural ideal.
    All myths and religion boil down to the joint effort of humankind to
    create the ideal society. Spirit, then, becomes manifest in cultural
    products and *homologized* social interaction. (He repudiates multiculturalism.)

    Peterson reduces the entire corpus of religion, mythology, and fairytale
    to stories about ego formation and social adaptation. He equates symbols
    with metaphors, which implies that they can be clearly understood in intellectual terms. Allegedly, myth and symbol serve only a social
    purpose, and they are wholly explainable in logical terms. Jung says, on
    the contrary, that symbol is needed to express that which *transcends*
    the intellect, that which cannot be intellectually understood.
    Archetypal myth is symbolical, not metaphorical.

    Peterson has found inspiration in mythologist Joseph Campbell, who has contributed much to the *egoization* of the archetype, i.e. seeing the archetype (especially the hero) as a human ego. Yet, Marie-Louise von
    Franz, Jung's foremost pupil, repudiates the personalistic method of interpretation ("The Interpretation of Fairy Tales", Preface). A
    god/archetype is neither a human ego nor a model for a human ego. The consequence of such misinterpretation is that the very healing element
    of an archetypal narrative is nullified.

    Peterson also draws on Erich Neumann, who tends toward a personalistic understanding. He says: "The analytical psychologist Erich Neumann
    [wrote] a definitive, comprehensive and useful book on the symbolism of
    the feminine" (p.160). But Neumann tends to get things wrong. Von Franz
    ("The Golden Ass", ch.5) criticizes Neumann's "Amor and Psyche", where
    Eros is understood as a woman's 'animus'. Allegedly, Apuleius's story is
    about feminine psychology. In fact, the novel is written by a man, and
    the story fits well into male psychology.

    Neumann also formulated a theory around the "ego-Self axis", which means
    that ego and Self are really the same thing. (The Self in Jungian
    psychology is the "God archetype".) It is like a rod whose top end
    inhabits the conscious realm. This is the ego. The other end of the rod
    abides in the unconscious. This is the Self. But, according to Jung,
    this is characteristic of pathology, when the ego becomes assimilated to
    the Self or vice versa (cf. Jung, "Aion", pars.45-47). When the Self
    becomes assimilated to the ego, it results in inflation, as the world of collective consciousness is overvalued--very characteristic of Hegelianism.

    Thus, as Peterson draws on inferior theorists, poets and novelists, and
    mostly reasons philosophically, his views are insufficiently
    substantiated. This is a glaring flaw of the book. For instance, he says
    that humanity could first merely express themselves by means of
    "patterns of action", and then by mythic narrative, and only later by
    logical abstraction. But he provides no proof that myth preceded logic
    and abstraction. Were Cro-Magnon unable to think logically? In fact, anthropologist believe that we were capable of logical thinking long
    before we created mythological narratives and art.

    Peterson argues, rather scandalously, that the "transcendental unknown"
    is merely "the aspect of experience that cannot be addressed with mere application of memorized and habitual procedures" (p.99). This is
    reductionism on a par with behaviourism. Although it runs counter to
    what great minds like Jung and Aquinas say, he gives no evidence,
    neither empirically nor with arguments by reason. He says that the
    religious sacrifice is predicated on the idea that the present schema of behavioural adaptation must be destroyed in order for a new adaptive
    pattern to emerge. The dying and resurrecting god also depends on this
    concept (p.173 and elsewhere). It means, of course, that the meaning of Christ's sacrifice is reduced almost to nought.

    The myth of the hero represents "voluntary alteration in individual
    human attitude and action" in order to achieve better adapted behavior
    in society (p.181). So the hero archetype is understood simply as a
    heroic personal ideal, mimicked by creative individuals. Each properly socialized individual must try and emulate the hero, after having
    acquired traditional learning. "The inherent value of the individual is dependent on his association, or ritual identification, with the
    exploratory communicative hero" (p.244).

    In Jungian psychology, hero identification has pathological
    consequences. But Peterson elevates it as an ideal for personality. Furthermore, he says that there is an archetype of evil that only wants
    to "eliminate the world". But this a Manichean article of faith. He
    provides no proofs for this bizarre idea, which runs counter to
    Darwinian theory.

    The human ego is like a giant troll that gobbles everything up. In
    fairytales, the hero is the *counteragent* of this greedy psychic power
    centre. The hero defeats evil in this form. So it seems that Peterson
    has signed up to the ego party, the enemies of the hero archetype.
    Spirit is the "known", he says. This is the Hegelian concept of spirit,
    which runs counter to Christian theology and Jungian psychology. But
    Truth cannot be possessed by the ego, formulated in intellectual terms.
    Truth is God, forever beyond the grasp of the ego.

    Comparing Hegel and Peterson we find many correspondences. To be an
    individual means being 'a psychologically unique person who goes his own
    way'. But according to Hegelianism citizens shall become coordinated,
    their personalities homogenized, as they all cast off "subjective mind"
    and absorb the communal "objective spirit" (cf. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel/). Hegel says:

    "Since the state is mind objectified, it is only as one of its members
    that the individual himself has objectivity, genuine individuality, and
    an ethical life. Unification pure and simple is the true content and aim
    of the individual, and the individual's destiny is the living of a
    universal life." ("Philosophy of Right", sec.258)

    It's like saying that a potato only attains genuine individuality when
    it is converted to mashed potatoes. In Hegelianism, the
    self-consciousness of the particular individual shall be elevated to consciousness of universality through the realization of the universal substantial will, as located in the rationality of the political State.
    So it means the eradication of true personhood. There will be no more individuality proper, because the particulars have become one with the
    Geist, manifested in the State, equal to God. It is out-and-out
    collectivism, as realized in the Communist and Fascist states. The
    supereminent state stands above all else in giving expression to the
    Spirit (Geist) of a society in a sort of earthly kingdom of God, the realization of God in the world (cf. https://www.iep.utm.edu/hegelsoc/). Evidently, Peterson finds this form of pantheism appealing:

    "[Personal identification with the group] provides structure for social relationships (with self and others), determines the meaning of objects, provides desirable end as ideal, and establishes acceptable procedure (acceptable mode for the "attainment of earthly paradise")." (p.223)

    "[Expulsion from Eden] is a step on the way to the "true paradise"--is a
    step toward adoption of identity with the hero [who] can actively
    transform the terrible unknown into the sustenant and productive world." (p.338)

    However, the ego-inflated hero knows no bounds, and that's why hero identification is regarded pathological. Carrying names such as Hitler,
    Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, and Ceausescu, this breed of heroes attempted to
    create the ideal society, the earthly paradise. Rudolf Hess has finely characterized heroic megalomania: "Die Partei ist Hitler, Hitler aber
    ist Deutschland wie Deutschland Hitler ist" (Nuremberg, 1934). This is
    not the hero that Peterson vouches for, but this is what he will get.

    Luckily, Peterson has recourse to much common sense. He criticizes
    identity politics, emphasizing the absurdity of "equal outcomes". Equal opportunity ought to be guiding principle. This is all well and good.
    Yet, this is merely a thin conscious value judgment erected upon a rationalistic edifice that won't hold together. In Peterson's view,
    everything revolves around society and culture (the unconscious
    archetypes, too). But this means that his philosophy springs from the
    same source as cultural Marxism.

    Dr. Ricardo Duchesne criticizes him for neglecting the way in which
    human beings have always grouped together, emphasizing biological
    distinctions, such as ethnicity, nationality and gender, but also
    economical status (cf. https://tinyurl.com/ya868ktz). Peterson turns a
    blind eye to the biological facts and thinks that all people, regardless
    of ethnicity, etc., are equally prone to adopt the same "behavioural
    pattern", and thus lay the grounds for a prosperous society. But his
    project is not realizable, because it runs counter to our biology. It is
    much too philosophical.

    By example, the average IQ of Blacks in the US is 85. How on earth are
    they going to adopt the same "behavioural pattern" as Whites? With
    "equal opportunity" the majority of Blacks will end up on the bottom of society. If we are going to talk about equal opportunity, we must also
    be prepared to accept the consequences. As long as we neglect biological differences, it is easy enough to talk about equal opportunity. Yet, it
    must needs lead to a stratified society, but this is not how Peterson
    paints the future, i.e. with gated communities and all that.

    Although Peterson teaches people to value tradition and the creative individual, his book contains so many errors and so much conjecture. It
    is impregnated with rationalism and reductionism. I cannot recommend it.

    Mats Winther | http://two-paths.com

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