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Jordan Peterson took the intellectual world by storm in 2016, bursting on the scene in a way not seen by a non-leftist thinker since Allan Bloom in the late 1980s. His idiosyncratic mix of Jungian psychology, existential philosophy, and common-sense self-help advice (also lobsters!) as expressed in his best-seller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, is hard to sort out at times.
Glenn Ellmers, one of our favorite recent authors (who also got a long notice from Thomas Byrne Edsall’s latest New York Times column this week), took a deep dive into “the Jordan Peterson phenomenon” in the Claremont Review of Books back in 2018, having attended one of Peterson’s live appearances in Washington DC. Above all, we marvel at how Peterson cooly flummoxes his critics and media interlocutors, as in the justly notorious TV interview with the obtuse Cathy Newman in Britain in 2018.
One thing the enthusiastic response to Peterson demonstrates is how large is the void of sensible intellectual and moral thought available especially to young people. Peterson’s capacious and eclectic approach to communicating is an implicit reproach to conservatives who reside too narrowly in policy wonkery and stale cliches. Can Peterson be imitated or replicated? Probably not, but there are some general lessons to be learned from his example.
Did you know there is actually a Jordan Peterson drinking song? It was the obvious choice for exit music for a podcast organized around whisky.
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