Ok… in good faith, here goes:
I am simply trying to elucidate Jordan Peterson’s central teaching (since it was sorely and perversely lacking in Daniel’s misinformed attempt).
Please note: I haven’t spoken to Peterson personally in over 20 years. I can’t read his mind and I don’t know why he does *all* the things he does or *says* all the things he says. In fact, I have elsewhere criticized him. For example, when he has said that White Privilege is a farce, I wrote a lengthy critical comment disputing the epistemology of his claims and how he was, in fact, acting hypocritically by making that statement. I wrote the comment on that YouTube video (for whatever that’s worth.)
Collective action is, of course, a good thing. Of course! And I’m sure JP is quite pleased with the collective actions that are ensuing from his teaching — the community that is growing up around him.
But here’s the problem. People *tend* to assume that their Group is better than and/or morally superior to other Groups. (You point out how JP might already be guilty of the same thing, by demeaning those who belong to other Groups that he disparages. And you might be right about that. Although I do suspect there is nuance to his critique.)
Nonetheless, it remains a great paradox: we need collective action to make real change but we must have individual sovereignty in order to insure moral stability for all individuals across ALL groups. And this, he teaches, is what we’ve learned from history: we must ensure that the “individual is the locus of moral authority.” If not, if the Group claims moral authority for itself, then it commits atrocities in the name of its Group — and that’s just historical fact.
And people are still the same now. We haven’t changed since the 20th Century when the Naziis claimed they were, as a Group, superior to other Groups, or when Communists (in China and Russia) claimed they were, as a Group, superior to other Groups.
Let’s take it a little further… do you think that “Christians” are morally superior as a Group to “Muslims?” And can you see that IF they do think that way, then that will lead to war, which, of course, it has. Or what if “Muslims” consider that they are superior to “Infidels?” That leads to violence in the name of their Group — as it does with ANY group.
And what Peterson is AT PAINS to explain is that this Group Psychology is at play in ANY Group identification. He points out, for example, how Groups that have couched their Group’s agenda in positive terms like “equality” and “tolerance” have nonetheless still done violence to other individuals in the University, by for example, getting dissenting professors fired from their long-standing jobs — an example that Daniel rightly points out.
But, here’s the kicker. No-One likes having their Group Identity questioned. No-One. Try questioning a devout Christian’s Group Identity! Or try questioning a die-hard Trump Supporter’s Identity! It won’t be pretty!
It hits close to home. And THIS is why so many people have angry reactions to Jordan Peterson— because he is challenging their own cherished Group Identity.
And if you want to understand what a Group Identity is, I recommend you read Eckharte Tolle. Group Identity is Ego Identity. And so, when we are invested in our Group Identity, as our Identity, it’s really none other than an Egotistical Limit. And what Tolle says is that ALL Ego Identification is pathological. Meaning: he is, in fact, saying EXACTLY the same thing as Peterson, only in different language. Because that’s what Peterson wants us all to realize: ALL Group Identification is pathological.
And when we understand that our Group Identity IS our Ego Identity, its no wonder why people get so agitated whenever their Group Identity is challenged — and Peterson has certainly challenged the Group Identities of Feminists and Transgendered folks among others.
Personally, I think he’s being deliberately provocative. And I credit my sister with that observation. She thinks he’s deliberately trying to stoke the debate. And that may well be true. He’s certainly smart enough to know exactly what he’s doing when he issues his provocative critiques.
But, let’s bring it all the way home.
Let’s take a personal example. You self-identify as a “feminist.” So here’s the question: Is everyone who belongs to that Group morally superior to, let’s say, everyone in the Group of people who voted for Trump?
Or, are their individuals across BOTH groups and within BOTH groups who might be operating with moral integrity AND individuals across BOTH groups and within BOTH groups who might, as individuals, lack moral integrity?
Where does the locus of moral authority reside? With the Group? Or with the Individual?