Posted by: gcarkner | October 13, 2018

GCU Panel on Jordan Peterson and Millennial Angst

Marvin McDonald: Jordan Peterson clearly highlights our human search for meaning as more central to our lives than striving for happiness.  He joins with positive psychologists in emphasizing Aristotle’s eudaimonic well-being as crucial to supplement hedonic well-being. And parts of his advice go further, fitting with Thomas Acquinas’ revision of Aristotle around virtues of sacrificial love, agape in the Christian traditions. Although some readers try to dismiss his voice or polarize reactions to him, Peterson’s ways of engaging resonate well with generous forms of scholarship like those embodied by Paul Ricœur, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Charles Taylor.

Ron Dart:  Peterson, in the last few years, has come to play a significant role on the public stage as an articulate, engaging public intellectual. There are boosters and knockers of Peterson, but he has a nimble and uncanny way of eluding the ideologies of both the left and the right, progressive and conservative. I will focus on his unique (mythic/mythopoetic) method, a more layered and nuanced way of reading and interpreting the Bible. His is a recovery of the great biblical stories as deeply relevant to live issues in our culture amidst the quest for identity and hope. Such an approach has affinities to Northrope Frye, Joseph Campbell and Classical Christian Patristic thought.

Gordon Carkner: What is it in Jordan Peterson that is connecting with the existential crisis that currently haunts Millennials? Secular (exclusive) humanism is inadequate to their quest for meaning and significance, as they cope with a silent universe, one that is deaf to their pain, rooted in mere matter and blind chance. Raised on moral subjectivism and radical tolerance, they lack moral grounding and thus experience a fragile sense of moral agency. They see in Peterson someone who is willing to wrestle with the toughest existential, Big Life Questions: philosophical and religious, social and cultural. He pricks the bubble of the ideology of scientism, and beckons religion and science to the table of dialogue with ethics–through the nexus of suffering and tragedy.   He is offering a way back to personal, thoughtful, responsible moral agency and a positive relationship with the good and the true, as we find articulated in Charles Taylor’s moral realism (Sources of the Self) and Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Like Kierkegaard, he beckons the aesthetic self to rise to the level of the moral self.
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12 Rules for Life: Like Russian author Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, whom he much admires, Jordan Peterson believes that we are not in this world to pursue happiness, to be entertained, but for moral growth , to grow in the virtues, to become attentive and take responsibility for our part in the larger scheme of things. This offers a more hermeneutical outlook or social imaginary, one which authenticates human subjectivity and the quest for purpose and meaning. Philosopher Bernard Lonergan has parallel concerns in his Principles of Self-Transcendence.

  • Be Attentive: pay attention to what is happening around you
  • Be Intelligent: examine your assumptions, reflect, self-criticise
  • Be Reasonable: speak carefully and listen to others
  • Be Responsible: own your part in the greater scheme

Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life has captured the imagination of many who are hungry for a hopeful way forward in a confusing age. He is directing people away from their nihilistic tendencies and towards a meaningful, productive existence. It is a book well worth engaging.

Firm but caring…Peterson speaks the way I always wished my father had….He is the right person at the right time, someone capable of showing you men that cleaning up their room has cosmic significance, and that imposing a little order upon chaos is good for the soul, which in turn is good for the world ~National Review

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