Letter to Jordan Peterson on Antidepressants and Rational Discussion

I like your videos, e.g. about identity politics, university, insight into human life, and the value of skill at thinking, writing, speaking, arguing, and reading. Let's have discussions to advance human knowledge and find truth.

I believe you're mistaken about antidepressants. Logically, at least one of us is mistaken. It'd be good to resolve this and find the truth.

You say [1] that if an antidepressant works, you'll know in a month. But how would you know? If your life improves in a month, it could have been for an unrelated reason, due to trying more, or due to placebo. The correlation between taking the antidepressant and then getting better doesn't imply causation. To know causation you have to figure out explanations of how antidepressants work.

You suggest that antidepressants either work or don't work, and are harmless. You suggest this by saying there's no good reason for people to resist trying antidepressants when they're "depressed". But antidepressants are harmful.

The explanation of how antidepressants "work" is they're brain-disabling [2]. That's what they do, not a side effect. That makes it harder for people to think about or complain about their problems, and harder to fight with others. It also motivates some people to lie that they're better in order to get off the drugs.

Peter Breggin explains [3]:

... except for the brain dysfunction and biochemical imbalances caused by psychiatric drugs, there are no known abnormalities in the brains of people who routinely seek help from psychia­trists ... All biopsychiatric treatments share a common mode of action: the disruption of normal brain function. ... all the major categories of psychiatric drugs—antidepressants, stimulants, tranquilizers (antianxiety drugs), mood stabilizers, and anti­psychotics​—​are neuro­toxic. They poison neurons, and sometimes destroy them. ... The currently available biopsychiatric treatments are not specific for any known disorder of the brain. ... they disrupt normal brain function, without correcting any brain abnormality.

I can elaborate on this, and on the additional issue that "depression" and "mental illness" are myths [4].

I searched for information refuting this position, particularly by you or referenced by you. I was unable to find it. E.g., I checked the six neuroscience books you recommend [5], searched your Quora, and listened to Rethinking Depression [6]. I also looked at other criticism of Breggin [7].

In Rethinking Depression, you say you disregard human antidepressant trials because of human complexity. It's too hard to measure the results, control all the factors like other drugs being taken, and prevent bias. I agree. But the same issues apply to judging whether a drug works in one individual's life.

You positively bring up animal trials. But human complexity also poses a problem for extrapolating from animals. Can you link a detailed, written explanation, citing animal studies, that you think should change my mind?

You say critics of antidepressants have unrepresentative experiences and don't appreciate the depths of human misery. You're right about some critics, but Thomas Szasz and I agree with you about human tragedy. I have nothing against people getting help (it's not a crutch), as long as that help is compatible with science and liberalism. I'm not denying the reality and severity of "depression" and suffering, I only deny that it's a medical problem and that antidepressants can medically cure it. Note that being a non-medical and non-genetic problem doesn't mean it's easy to solve, I actually think that means it's harder to solve. (Memes are more fearsome adversaries than genes.)

This is similar to identity politics in two ways. First, saying people lack appropriate lived experience, perspective, etc, isn't a good answer to critics. If they don't know something, it can be explained. Second, people have assumed that, since you object to trans pronoun laws, you deny the reality of bigotry against trans people and are unfamiliar with their suffering. Critics like that exist, but that isn't your reasoning.

Do you have additional arguments which address my points about antidepressants?

I like much of what you have to say, and don't think it depends on these claims about antidepressants.

Below I discuss objections to discussion and methods of rational discussion, then provide references.

You may have some objections to discussion like:

  • You're busy.

  • You're skeptical that I'm smart and knowledgeable enough.

  • You expect discussions of this nature usually don't reach conclusions with anyone changing their mind, ever, let alone in a timely manner.

  • If it turns out you're correct and I learn something, where's the value for you?

There are solutions to these problems which don't require giving up on addressing criticism and disagreement from the general public.

Today people get flooded with incoming ideas. People normally filter by prestige, popularity, gatekeeping authorities, social circle, subculture, and proxies for those. These filters are bad at finding the truth. Great new ideas often start off unpopular and look just like bad new ideas to the filters.

One of the solutions is a public, online, discussion forum where other people answer questions and arguments, so you don't have to personally defend everything. (For this, it's necessary to have competent supporters – without those, it's kinda only fair and reasonable that a serious intellectual must do a lot of work explaining stuff himself.)

Another solution is reusing ideas with links and references. If something has already been answered, simply provide the link. And take personal responsibility for any mistakes in that answer, even if someone else wrote it, since you're using it for your own position. Or if no one on your side of the debate has ever created an adequate answer to the criticism, then it's worth some time and attention.

This link reuse approach means only a new argument requires a new reply. And one can write general answers which address an entire category of arguments at once, and then only a different category of argument requires a new answer. Writing quality, canonical answers, and then reusing them, also helps avoid making ad hoc arguments for a position one has a bias about. It also builds up human knowledge.

Methods like these address the question: "If I'm mistaken, and you know it ... how will I find out?"

Answering all critical arguments is important because you could be mistaken. It's also a good way to learn. And providing answers allows for your critics to learn why you're right, or to give follow up arguments you haven't addressed.

People don't do this well. They go through life having inconclusive discussions, using filters to ignore some arguments, and staying mistaken about issues where better ideas are already known. There's a better way [8], which I can elaborate on.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuQgJxYriYI

[2] http://www.wayneramsay.com/drugs.htm

[3] Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry, 2nd edition, Peter R. Breggin. pp. xxiii, 2, 7

[4] https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Mental-Illness-Foundations-Personal/dp/0061771228/


[5] https://jordanbpeterson.com/2017/03/great-books/

[6] http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/rethinking-depression-part-1-1.2913549

[7] E.g. this criticism of Breggin is bad. I can provide details. http://quackwatch.com/11Ind/breggin.html

[8] http://fallibleideas.com/paths-forward

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (15)

Moana Review

You will learn more if you watch the movie first and write down your own thoughts before reading mine, so you can compare.

Moana is better than Frozen but has some nasty stuff about identity ("who you are"), emotions, and not needing skill. Also, like Frozen, it doesn't have a serious evil bad guy. I don't think Disney wants to admit there's evil in the world anymore. There's no character anything like Scar from The Lion King or Jafar from Aladdin. Not even close.

Moana starts when she’s like 2yo and her dad disrupts her important activity, without knowing what she was doing or why, and ignores her protests. he drags her away from the magic powers, wonderland, etc. then he says she will grow up to be chief but first she needs to learn “where she belongs”. learn your place, don’t go to the ocean!

then it glorifies primitive life. “the island gives us what we need” (they should try watching the Alone TV show to see how realistic that is). primitive island tribe life seems to consist of way more dancing than manual labor. and "we share everything we make" is so anti-Objectivist and collectivist.

moana sings (paraphrasing): i try to be the perfect daughter, but no matter how hard i try i still disobey (b/c my dad is wrong)

moana's world sucks because her people forget their identity. but she magically suspected it from birth and has a quick little magic shamanic journey to find out.

moana goes out, alone, to face the scary unknown on the ocean without bothering to even learn how to sail a boat first. b/c her heart told her to.

Moana has a strong and powerful male lead so that's an improvement over Frozen. the man and the woman have to work together, using both of their different strengths, to succeed. it's not great or anything. but that tradition is way better than the modern radical attack on it for the purpose of destruction. it's hard to reform anything when it's under attack by enemies. i'm not an enemy of our culture's traditions, just a would-be reformer. i'd much rather have people stick to old ideas than make things worse. i try to make sure my criticism of society isn't aligned with radical leftist and SJW agendas. i try to clearly separate myself from them and point out how they are worse than the traditional aspects of society which i criticize.

Some lyrics

Moana go now

Moana don't stall

Don't worry 'bout how

Just answer the call of the sea

Not worrying about how, just proceeding, is stupid. Moana at least does some training after she's on her journey.

The overall meaning of the movie is as follows (notice this is basically good):

Society is stagnating and failing. It can't go on without any change. But it resists change. Moana is young and naive and willing to think outside the box. Her dad tells her to stop, but she does it anyway.

Change is scary, but Moana chooses to be heroic. She has setbacks and doubts, but keeps trying. It's hard, but she doesn't expect to be pampered. She isn't looking for a stress-free life on easy street. She succeeds at harnessing the power of the scary unknown and brings it back to her society which begins a new era of flourishing. By courageously facing and solving scary problems, Moana was a pioneer, and her individual actions changed the world while the bulk of her society did nothing.

For points of comparison, I'll summarize three more Disney movies. BTW, thanks to Jordan Peterson for his analysis of Lion King and Pinocchio which is great.

Lion King is about the danger to society from evil, and how heroic actions can defeat evil. Simba's father dies because society is blind to its evil side. Simba spends the middle of the movie being irresponsible, but then he realizes his error and decides to do better. Part of why he reforms is that he disappointed the girl. He's also aided by a shamanic journey, which basically means he does some introspection. Facing Scar is a stressful challenge, but Simba is able to succeed. This is pretty good.

Pinocchio is about a young boy growing up. He receives a lecture on morality which doesn't make any sense, because society is terrible at explaining morality logically, so that's a typical experience of children. Then he goes along with temptation which offers him rewards (fame and money) without the effort of education, even though his conscience (Jiminy Cricket) warns him. Pinocchio is generally passive and irresponsible, rather than taking charge of his own life. He gets a second chance and pursues temptation again (the easy fun of Pleasure Island). The excuse used is that he's sick and instant gratification will cure him. Pinocchio manages to escape before losing his humanity, but still has to face a difficult challenge (the whale) to put his life back together. He finally acts responsibly and heroically, and succeeds. This is pretty good.

In Frozen, Elsa nearly kills her sister Anna by not keeping herself under control. The danger is real. Nevertheless, the lesson she learns later is to "Let It Go", stop trying to control herself, and embrace her wild whims and arbitrary emotions. This doesn't make sense.

Anna is a contradictory mix of traits. She's helpless and feminine at times, strong and competent at other times. This fits with the modern lie that girls can be just like boys when they want, but also still be girls when they want. (Life roles don't just arbitrarily mix and match like that. It's hard enough to manage one lifestyle you focus on. Changing lifestyles like masks, at a moment's convenience, is ridiculous. It basically implies that everything people do in life is superficial and simple.)

Anna's love interest is a weak beta male with little to offer.

The theme of the movie is following your emotions. Very bad movie.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Analyzing How Far I'll Go

Lyrics from How Far I'll Go, from Disney's Moana.

I've been staring at the edge of the water

The ocean water is a metaphor for the unknown, the Other, for thinking outside the box, for being a pioneer.

Long as I can remember, never really knowing why

People don't understand themselves very well.

I wish I could be the perfect daughter

But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try

Moana tries to follow her society's rules and fit in like her dad wants her to. "Perfect" refers to perfect conformity.

But she can't do it. Many people are content to just go with the flow of their society, but Moana is an ambitious hero. And as as the movie plot indicates (Moana's actions are necessary and help her society), society needs some people who stand out, some explorers, pioneers and nonconformists.

Every turn I take, every trail I track

Every path I make, every road leads back

To the place I know where I cannot go

Where I long to be

Moana faces a conflict with her society. She tries to fit in, but there's friction. This is normal. Society tramples on the individual some. It may be pretty good, but it's not going to be a perfect fit for everyone. This is a common problem, especially for children, but most people accept their place as they grow up.

See the line where the sky meets the sea.
It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes

Society doesn't understand the world outside the society.

The line is a boundary line. Crossing a line is similar to breaking a rule. Moana wants to cross lines.

If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I'll know

Moana wants to push boundaries. She wants to go beyond her society's current knowledge.

This isn't a challenge to her society. She isn't attacking her society. She isn't calling it oppressive. She doesn't think the new knowledge will harm her society. She thinks it will be good. And in the movie, it is good for everyone.

Notice the if. Her plan involves uncertainty. The unknown involves unpredictability.

If I go there's just no telling how far I'll go

When you're a pioneer, you never know where the journey will take you. Once you step outside society's boundaries, there's no more societal structure to guide your or limit how far you go.

I know everybody on this island seems so happy, on this island
Everything is by design

Society has reasons for how it's organized. And it makes people happy and works pretty well.

I know everybody on this island has a role, on this island
So maybe I can roll with mine

People have roles in society. People try to figure out a role which works both for them and for society. Moana has a role which is accessible to her (chieftain's daughter who will later be chief), and has been trying to make herself want it. But she wants to be a pioneer.

I can lead with pride, I can make us strong
I'll be satisfied if I play along

She sees good things about the life role her society is offering her. She can accomplish worthwhile things within the role. She thinks she should be able to play the role and be satisfied, like other people do. (Or at least appear to do. Many others have similar struggles like Moana. But they don't always talk about it, and they often become satisfied and play along as they grow up.)

But the voice inside sings a different song
What is wrong with me?

Moana thinks something is wrong with her because she doesn't fit into her place in society. She has put a lot of effort into fitting in, but it's still not working. She wants something different.

See the light as it shines on the sea.

Moana wants to explore the sea (the unknown beyond her society's little world). The light on the sea is positive symbolism. Light is holy, moral and illuminating. This is partly because light lets us see, and seeing lets us understand and deal with the world.

A dictionary definition of "illuminate" is "help to clarify or explain".

It's blinding

But the sea is difficult to deal with. Her society is blind to what the unknown is like. Moana can't currently see the world she wants to explore, but she believes it will be illuminating to go there.

But no one knows, how deep it goes

The unknown is scary and dangerous. You don't know how to control and organize it and put it in a safe, bounded structure.

And it seems like it's calling out to me, so come find me

And let me know

What's beyond that line, will I cross that line?

Moana wants to cross lines (explore outside boundaries, break rules). She's inspired to do this. She finds it appealing. She has an energetic, adventurous, heroic spirit.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (8)

Frozen Comments

female "equality" is a type of feminist social justice, and is a major theme in Frozen.

let’s have 2 female leads and a weak man, and call it equality… uhhhhhhhh

another major social justice idea is that existing social structures are oppressive. which is also a main Frozen theme. it presents following your emotions as the solution to this oppression. the rules are mean, so ignore them and replace with whim and be free and empowered.

lion king says existing social structures can be oppressive or not. depends who’s in charge. Scar was oppressive but that was a solvable problem without getting rid of the structure.

but Frozen says you can’t reconcile existing social structures with your emotions, identity, etc

Moana sings about “who you are” and has some identity shit. and it says this causes some mild friction with society. but that fundamentally Moana is compatible with society and is even celebrated by her society without the society losing its nature or values.

in Lion King, when Simba accepts his societal role, function, duty and responsibilities, he makes things better. his responsibilities weren’t oppressing him, they were guiding him to do the right thing which was best for everyone.

in Pinocchio, when he acts responsibly, he saves his father from the whale and he becomes a real boy. first he acts contrary to his conscience, to society’s ideas, and makes his life a mess. then he acts more like how he knew he should (how society and his conscience say to) and that got his back life in order.

Moana is irresponsible in mild ways. a bit reckless. but what matters is: she decides to do something hard because it’s important for her society in a way that’s bigger than herself. it’s also personally fulfilling. that’s compatible. she decides to take on a burden, a responsibility, a difficult heroic quest.

and the Moana plague, Pinocchio whale and Scar tyrant are all like objective problems in the world. as opposed to Frozen where the primary problem is Elsa being emo, not the political plot. Simba being dumb in the middle is not the primary problem in the movie.

Pinocchio is dumb and is responsible for some of his own problems. but his emotion following is portrayed as bad. he wasn’t supposed to give in to temptation. (as opposed to Frozen where they are supposed to give in to their emotions). and then Pinocchio faces a major challenge in the world after.

Moana is never very dumb. at her worst, she thinks she’s failed and wants to give up. one scene later to give her some wisdom, she’s back at it.

in Moana, her semi-love-interest is an older man with a large power imbalance in his favor (he’s a demigod…). he’s cocky, funny and initially dismissive to Moana. he’s high status and knows it and is literally willing to say so. Moana is strong enough to push back and earn some respect.


I see what's happening yeah

You're face to face with greatness and it's strange

You don't even know how you feel

It's adorable!

Well, it's nice to see that humans never change

Open your eyes, let's begin

Yes, it's really me

It's Maui, breathe it in

I know its a lot; the hair, the bod

When you're staring at a demigod

What can I say except you're welcome

For the tides, the sun, the sky

Hey, it's okay, it's okay, you're welcome

that’s how his song begins when she meets him. and he shit tests her by sealing her in a cave with a giant boulder and stealing her boat and leaving

Anna doesn’t decide to be a hero. she doesn’t choose to face the dangers like wolves or giant snowman, they just happen to her. she never starts acting responsibly on purpose

she keeps gossiping. she’s super social. that’s not typical of adventure movies. but she spends her time talking and then like actually does things as a minor aside.

simba knows scar is dangerous and faces it anyway. same with pinocchio and sea+whale. same with Moana and maui, crab and fire boss

anna says elsa isn’t dangerous when she goes on journey

she isn’t setting out to face the scary unknown or slay a dragon. she’s just trying to talk with her sister like at home.

Anna’s most heroic moment is when she gets hit by a sword. b/c of self-sacrificing love, not courage. at least she knew she was stepping into danger (tho she was about to die anyway)

Moana sings about trying to choose a role in life (chief or explorer)

roles Ana plays include: clumsy-adorable girl, falling in romantic love girl, helpless girl who needs to be rescued, breadwinning provider, gossip, martyr, badguy puncher (in a comic way without strength), dismissive beta-orbiter-target

she doesn’t really play a princess role, but she does abuse her office to give Kristoff a job

she fakes confidence in a social way a couple times on journey

she never does anything to learn, grow, train, skill-up as is pretty standard in these movies.

the movie is about letting go of the structural organization of society, not having roles in life to guide you, and replacing it all with emotions – especially love.

Frozen also has no strong characters. the giant snowman/monster or random guards are the closest. the hero doesn’t even fight the monster. she just leaves and the bad guys fight it

the movie is so confused. changing the bad guy into the sister will do that, i guess.

the movie doesn’t even know if “cold” is good or bad. it can’t keep its metaphors straight b/c of the role change. she has cold powers. which are good, sorta. but Let It Go ends with “The cold never bothered me anyway.” besides a lie, this is a use of the regular meaning of cold (as bad)

and in Let It Go (all Frozen lyrics), Elsa sings:

And I'll rise like the break of dawn.


Here I stand, in the light of day.

But then when Anna shows up, Elsa sings:

Please go back home, your life awaits

Go enjoy the sun and open up the gates

It's contradictory about the sun. Elsa was singing how she gets to be in the sun now, but then she's like "nah you go be in the sun Anna".

later the trolls sing:

We’re not saying you can change her, ‘cuz people don’t really change 

We’re only saying that love of course is powerful and strange 

People make bad choices if they’re mad, or scared, or stressed 

Throw a little love their way and you’ll bring out their best 

True love brings out their best!

Frozen says Love is an Open Door (that's another song title)

Frozen replaces the hero’s journey with the lover’s journey.

in Frozen, you don’t pioneer by facing the unknown, you pioneer by falling in love... in regular movies you explore the scary unknown world and face challenges in the world. in Frozen, you explore your own emotions, and the challenges are your own emotions, and pretty much the whole world consists of emotions.

Frozen is a super social movie all about talking, relationships and emotions. it's heavy on romance, love, and dishonesty. Anna lies about her assertiveness with Kristoff and later lies about letting him tag along (faking non-needy high status even on a snowy mountain, because she thinks social reality always matters more than real reality). And Anna doesn't want Kristoff to tell the truth to Olaf about summer melting snowmen. And then there's what Elsa sings (emphasis added)

Don't let them in, don't let them see

Be the good girl you always have to be

Conceal, don't feel, put on a show

Make one wrong move and everyone will know

Putting on a show means lying.

A "wrong move" consists of one that lets everyone know. She's trying to hide the truth from them. She wants them blind ("don't let them see"). She wants them not to have knowledge. She considers enlightening and illuminating wrong.

The cold never bothered me anyway.

The cold did bother her. This is such a standard, modern, social lie. People say they didn't care anyway about stuff they did care about. Like if they don't get invited to a party they lie that they didn't want to go anyway.

And what are Elsa's ice powers a metaphor for? They are something about she doesn't fit in, she's not normal, and when she's emotional she can hurt people. I think the movie is ambiguous and Elsa is meant to fit many types of not fitting in, rather than it being about a particular type. As an example, Elsa could be a lesbian and trying to hide it (the voice actors like the idea). That would fit the movie fine. But the movie is vague and it could easily be something else instead, like she's a nervous dork. Or she could think she's a C student working really hard to get A's, but she's not smart enough for the perfect student role and worries she'll be revealed as a fraud if she slips up. Or she could be a non-cheerleader who worries if she slips up with her makeup and lets them see a pimple then people will realize she's not the beautiful girl she tries to present as. There are lots of ways people get nervous, worried and stressed. They try to fit into a role in society, and especially early on they aren't perfect at it and worry people will recognize the mismatch. And then they sometimes lash out when the pressure and stress upsets them. The pressure is often more self-imposed than the realize, but there's also frequently some genuine, important external pressures which they resent.

What is Frozen's solution? if you don't fit in, blame society. do whatever you feel like and people should be happy to support you. Frozen has no respect for the reasons society is organized as it is, no understanding of the purposes of society's structural organization. Frozen seems to think people can change their place in the world about as fast as they can change emotions.

Read my previous comments on Frozen.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Criticism of 12 Rules For Life: Secondhandedness

12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson:

On Quora, anyone can ask a question, of any sort—and anyone can answer. Readers upvote those answers they like, and downvote those they don’t. In this manner, the most useful answers rise to the top, while the others sink into oblivion.

Some useful answers rise – and so do some bad ones. Some great answers sink into oblivion. This is well known, yet also contradicts the claim that the most useful answers rise. JP is overstating the wisdom of the mob.

Quora tells you how many people have viewed your answer and how many upvotes you received. Thus, you can determine your reach, and see what people think of your ideas.

Their viewing and voting patterns do not tell you what they think. It omits why they like things – their reasoning, their thoughts. It also leaves you with no way to tell if they're being honest (you can't spot dishonesty through votes and view).

As of July 2017, as I write this—and five years after I addressed “What makes life more meaningful?”—my answer to that question has received a relatively small audience (14,000 views, and 133 upvotes), while my response to the question about aging has been viewed by 7,200 people and received 36 upvotes. Not exactly home runs.

JP's goal is popularity. He judges a home run not by what he thinks of what he wrote, but by what other people think. His stated goal – his criteria of success (a home run) – is to get views and upvotes, not to please himself.

My goal, when I write, is truth. I don't judge ideas by popularity. I go by arguments. If someone has a criticism – even one single criticism from one person – I'll consider the reasoning and address it or change my mind. But if a thousand people downvote me without giving any arguments, I don't regard that as making any difference intellectually.

The Quora readers appeared pleased with this list. They commented on and shared it. They said such things as “I’m definitely printing this list out and keeping it as a reference. Simply phenomenal,” and “You win Quora. We can just close the site now.” Students at the University of Toronto, where I teach, came up to me and told me how much they liked it.

JP is a second-hander (see The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand to understand the term more). He's judging his work by the opinions of other people instead of by rational evaluation of the content of the work. He's concerned with who thinks what (social metaphysics, as Ayn Rand called it) instead of what the rational arguments about the material are.

If I were sharing a success story like this, I wouldn't quote reason-less praise. I'd be concerned with the rational benefit of the popularity. Did it get me any questions or criticisms I learned from? Did the audience have enough intellectual merit to help me improve the ideas? It's nice if people like you're work and they're helped, but that must not be a creator's primary motivation or reward. Yet JP focuses on it.

I had written a 99.9 percentile answer.

JP writes this like it's 99.9th percentile quality, when he's only demonstrated 99.9th percentile popularity. These are completely different things which JP blurs together.

Quora provides market research at its finest. The respondents are anonymous. They’re disinterested, in the best sense. Their opinions are spontaneous and unbiased. So, I paid attention to the results, and thought about the reasons for that answer’s disproportionate success. Perhaps I struck the right balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar while formulating the rules. Perhaps people were drawn to the structure that such rules imply. Perhaps people just like lists.

Market research is the wrong approach to truth-seeking. Who cares if people like lists? JP should be considering if lists are the best way to present his work – according to his own judgement about the issues themselves.

JP seeks to figure out what people want to hear, in what format, instead of creating original work and structuring it as he thinks best fits the content.

JP is better than this. He is, in various ways, an original and independent thinker. He does good work. That's why this error stands out. It's an internal contradiction he has, which conflicts with some of his very substantial virtues and makes things harder for him.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (11)

Voluntarily Facing Chaos and Evil

when you read a book that talks about important problems in the world, you get to choose how much attention to pay. you can just read through it and miss a lot of the point. that's what people normally do.

to get more out of it, you have to voluntarily choose to analyze it more, and think through what the negative issues are.

learning about the serious problems of the world isn't just a matter of opening your eyes, it takes a large, active effort. you have to put work into understanding them and making them a part of your own thinking.

it's up to you how much evil, badness, chaos, misery, etc, to voluntarily bring into your life.

it's understandable, in a way, that people usually don't bring in a lot. they don't take a book like Atlas Shrugged or The Gulag Archipelago and read it carefully and think through all of the meaning.

and they have a lot of excuses. this isn't like leaving your lights off to not see that your home is dirty. it takes a major effort to understand the world's misery and disorder beyond what is well known. flipping a light switch is easy, but you can say you're too busy doing other things to carefully think through the full consequences of some long, difficult books. or you can say that you did read it and think about it a lot – and face some of the world's evil – while not doing enough to face even more of the evil/problems (stopping short and pretending you did near the maximum, when there's really a lot more which you didn't make the effort to be aware of).

bringing disorder into your life is serious business. most people are already overwhelmed with their problems, so maybe they shouldn't. as Jordan Peterson would say, you need to get your own life in order before you should take on a bunch of other challenges! (don't overreach!)

this idea helps clarify for me why people don't get a lot out of books like Atlas Shrugged and The Beginning of Infinity. it's not just lack of intellectual skill. these books are serious business and present major world issues, and facing those is a difficult challenge which most people do not wish to voluntarily face. and even people interested in such things limit their exposure, limit what sort of evil and chaos they voluntarily bring into their mind to grapple with.

the more you think through the meaning of important books and ideas, the more you're bringing hard problems into your life and exposing yourself to ongoing tragedies. that's a hell of a thing to do, especially for someone who's life is already chaotic. (my life is very well in order today. but i took on such things in the past when my life was not yet organized. i was pretty damn fearless and this worked out very well for me, but it doesn't work out well for most people who try it – who take seriously a lot of major world problems, and see a lot of the world's folly, without having their own problems and life under control.)

it's difficult because the best way to get your life in order really effectively is to get really good at reason, but learning about reason will reveal to you all kinds of ways the world is irrational and disordered.

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Evil and Chaos Exist

when i was growing up, no one told me about tragedy and malevolence – not parents, school, TV, books. (fantasy books do present evil, but outside the context of the real world, as a fantasy.) so i was not prepared to face the human condition (which has positive aspects, potential and opportunity, but there's also plenty of weakness, sin, suffering, etc. the world is full of problems, some quite hard). i was told society is great, evil is rare and weak, reason and success are common.

it's been difficult finding out how fucked up the world is. it would have been easier to face from the outset instead of as a readjustment later.

One of the meanings here is: don't lie to children about the nature of the world to shelter them in certain ways (other ways of protecting children are good, and the distinction takes some serious thought to get right). but i don't think that's primarily it. i'm from the San Francisco Bay Area. neither my parents nor teachers knew what the world was like themselves!

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Commentary Videos on 12 Rules for Life

I made videos where I read Jordan Peterson's new best-selling book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, and share my thoughts in detail. I went in blind and edited out the silences from reading; it's my raw thoughts as I read, which show you one of my processes for how I think things through and analyze them.

12 Rules Screencast part 1 talks most about whether animals are intelligent (I disagree with the book and explain my view). I also talk about writing techniques.

12 Rules Screencast part 2 discusses a wider variety of issues, many of which I believe are important criticisms of the book.

Scholarly Criticism: Jordan Peterson’s Sloppy Cite (+quotes, research) changes format. I made slides and focused on criticizing one cite about serotonin and the brain. It's shorter and more organized.

12 Rules Screencast part 4 finishes discussing rule 1 at a faster pace using notes and quotes instead of the book text.

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Making Progress and Jordan Peterson Quotes

Jordan Peterson on the Channel 4 Controversy and Philosophy of "How to be in the World" (emphasis added, and transcription may not be 100% exact):

My suggestion was, well, it’s a very complex problem, there isn’t a solution. But the solution to a very complex problem is you should be [a] better person than you are because then you’d be better at solving complex problems. And lots of them are coming your way, so bloody well get your act together. And that’s what I’ve been telling people. But it’s more than that because that’s merely burdening people with excess responsibility, let’s say, so that could be a crushing message: You’re not who you could be, you know, get your bloody act together, you’re whining away in the corner, and you’re no good to yourself and anyone else. You know, it’s harsh. But then there’s another element to that, which is: There’s way more to you than you think you are, and that you have something necessary and vital to contribute to the world, and if you don’t contribute it then things will happen that aren’t good, and that’s terrible for you and everyone else. So it’s not only that you need to do this because it’s your responsibility, but you need to understand that there isn’t anything better that you could do for yourself or anyone else. And people are dying to hear that message.

Problems are inevitable. Problems are soluble. Get better at solving problems. Get better at life. Get more powerful. Embark on the beginning of an infinite journey of rapid progress. It's rapid progress or death. There are no alternatives. Problems will keep coming – including big ones with big consequences for failure (including the extinction of humanity). Either make ongoing progress at problem solving or failure is inevitable. There is no power level which is safe forever, but at least making more progress as fast as possible is the safest thing to do, it's the only thing that can possibly work.


You’re a puppet of other motivational forces. Like this is what happens when you unite the motivational forces that guide you; unite your own nature with your own culture and rise up above it. That’s what happens, is you end up acting this out in one way or another. And you might as well know it. This was Jung’s point. You can be the unconscious actor of a malevolent, tragic drama. Or you can wake the hell up. And you can decide that you’re going to be the hero of not only your story, but of everyone’s story. And then you can choose: which of those do you want? Now the problem with choosing, let’s call it the archetypically heroic path, is that you have to take responsibility. But the upside is, well, what the hell’s the difference between responsibility and opportunity. You can say, well, there’s no difference between responsibility and opportunity, so the more responsibility you take the more opportunity you have. Now maybe you don’t want that because you’d rather cower in the corner and hide. But the thing is that you probably wouldn’t rather do that because if you try it you’ll find that there’s nothing in it but self-contempt and misery. That’s a bad pathway: to pull back and to fail to engage in the world. You end up bitter and resentful and self-destructive and vengeful and then far worse. You can develop a liking for that. I wouldn’t recommend it.

You can let your life be run by your static memes, your culture, convention, tradition, ritual, religion, biology, other people's opinions, social pressures, your parents ... or you can run your own life. The choice is yours: choose reason or be a puppet. Pursue more control over reality – rapid ongoing progress – or be controlled by forces you don't even understand, without even knowing what's going on. If you aren't taking control over your life, and learning all you can, and being as rational as you can, then you are being controlled quite thoroughly, and more than necessary, by forces beyond your understanding (especially memes – which are widely misunderstood, and to understand them you must read The Beginning of Infinity).

Reason is the only effective way to make progress and get control of your own life. Without reason, you'll do it wrong, because reason is the name for methods of thinking which are good at correcting mistakes and actually getting things right.

People say "yeah, great" to this then don't do it. Well, actually do it. Learn about reason. Study it. Write about what you're learning. Discuss it and get criticism because you're going to get things wrong, and the set of mistakes you make will not be identical to the sets of mistakes other people make. You can discuss in the comments below.

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