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Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson

Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of psychology
Jordan Peterson
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of psychology
Known for Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, 12 Rules for Life
A.K.A. Dr Jordan B Peterson, Jordan B Peterson, Jordan Bernt Peterson, Jordan...
Is Professor Educator Critic Writer Psychologist
From Canada
Type Academia Healthcare Literature
Gender male
Birth 12 June 1962, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Age 58 years
Star sign Gemini
Residence Fairview, Alberta, Canada; Arlington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Politics New Democratic Party
University of Alberta
McGill University
Grande Prairie Regional College
Notable Works
Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief  
12 Rules for Life  
Peoplepill ID jordan-peterson
Jordan Peterson
The details


Jordan Bernt Peterson (born 12 June 1962) is a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He began to receive widespread attention in the late 2010s for his views on cultural and political issues.

Born and raised in Alberta, Peterson obtained bachelor's degrees in political science and psychology from the University of Alberta and a PhD in clinical psychology from McGill University. After teaching and research at Harvard University, he returned to Canada in 1998 to join the faculty of psychology at the University of Toronto. In 1999, he published his first book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, which became the basis for many of his subsequent lectures. The book combined information from psychology, mythology, religion, literature, philosophy, and neuroscience to analyze systems of belief and meaning.

In 2016, Peterson released a series of YouTube videos criticizing the Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Bill C-16), passed by the Parliament of Canada to introduce "gender identity and expression" as a prohibited grounds of discrimination. He argued that the bill would make the use of certain gender pronouns into compelled speech, and related this argument to a general critique of political correctness and identity politics. He subsequently received significant media coverage, attracting both support and criticism.

In the wake of the controversy, Peterson's lectures and debates—propagated also through podcasts and YouTube—gradually gathered millions of views. He put his clinical practice and teaching duties on hold by 2018, when he published his second book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Promoted with a world tour, it became a bestseller in several countries.

Early life

Peterson was born on 12 June 1962, in Edmonton, Alberta, and grew up in Fairview, a small town in the northwest of the province. He was the eldest of three children born to Walter and Beverley Peterson. Beverley was a librarian at the Fairview campus of Grande Prairie Regional College, and Walter was a school teacher. His middle name is Bernt (/ˈbɛərənt/, BAIR-ənt), after his Norwegian great-grandfather.

When Peterson was 13, he was introduced to the writings of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Ayn Rand by his school librarian Sandy Notley—mother of Rachel Notley, leader of the Alberta New Democratic Party and 17th premier of Alberta. He worked for the New Democratic Party (NDP) throughout his teenage years, but grew disenchanted with the party, eventually leaving them at age 18. He saw his experience of disillusionment resonating with Orwell's diagnosis, in The Road to Wigan Pier, of "the intellectual, tweed-wearing middle-class socialist" who "didn't like the poor; they just hated the rich."


After graduating from Fairview High School in 1979, Peterson entered the Grande Prairie Regional College to study political science and English literature. He later transferred to the University of Alberta, where he completed his B.A. in political science in 1982. Afterwards, he took a year off to visit Europe, where he began studying the psychological origins of the Cold War; 20th-century European totalitarianism; and the works of Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. He then returned to the University of Alberta and received a B.A. in psychology in 1984. In 1985, he moved to Montreal to attend McGill University. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology under the supervision of Robert O. Pihl in 1991, and remained as a post-doctoral fellow at McGill's Douglas Hospital until June 1993, working with Pihl and Maurice Dongier.


Peterson at the University of Toronto in March 2017

From July 1993 to June 1998, Peterson lived in Arlington, Massachusetts, while teaching and conducting research at Harvard University as an assistant professor in the psychology department. During his time at Harvard, he studied aggression arising from drug and alcohol abuse and supervised a number of unconventional thesis proposals. Two former PhD students, Shelley Carson, a psychologist and teacher from Harvard, and author Gregg Hurwitz, recalled that Peterson's lectures were already highly admired by the students. In July 1998, he returned to Canada and eventually became a full professor at the University of Toronto.

Peterson's areas of study and research are in the fields of psychopharmacology, abnormal, neuro, clinical, personality, social, industrial and organizational, religious, ideological, political, and creativity psychology. Peterson has authored or co-authored more than a hundred academic papers and has been cited almost 8,000 times as of mid-2017.

For most of his career, Peterson had maintained a clinical practice, seeing about 20 people a week. He had been active on social media, and in September 2016 he released a series of videos in which he criticized Bill C-16. As a result of new projects, he decided to put the clinical practice on hold in 2017 and temporarily stopped teaching as of 2018.

Regarding the topic of religion and God, Bret Weinstein moderated a debate between Peterson and Sam Harris at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver in June 2018. In July, the two would debate the subject again, this time moderated by Douglas Murray, at the 3Arena in Dublin and The O2 Arena in London. In April 2019, Peterson debated professor Slavoj Žižek at the Sony Centre in Toronto over happiness under capitalism versus Marxism.



Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (1999)

In 1999, Routledge published Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, in which Peterson describes a comprehensive theory about how people construct meaning, form beliefs, and make narratives. The book, which took Peterson 13 years to complete, draws concepts from various fields including mythology, religion, literature, philosophy, and psychology, in accordance to the modern scientific understanding of how the brain functions.

According to Peterson, his main goal was to examine why individuals and groups alike participate in social conflict, exploring the reasoning and motivation individuals take to support their belief systems (i.e. ideological identification) that eventually result in killing and pathological atrocities such as the Gulag, the Auschwitz concentration camp, and the Rwandan genocide. Placing great importance to Jungian archetypes in the book, Peterson says that an "analysis of the world's religious ideas might allow us to describe our essential morality and eventually develop a universal system of morality."

In 2004, a 13-part TV miniseries based on Peterson's book aired on TVOntario.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018)

In January 2018, Penguin Random House published Peterson's second book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, in which abstract ethical principles about life are provided in a more accessible style than his previous Maps of Meaning. The book topped best-selling lists in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the US, and the United Kingdom. As of January 2019, Peterson is working on a sequel to 12 Rules for Life.

To promote the book, Peterson went on a world tour. As part of the tour, Peterson was interviewed in the UK by Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News—a discussion which generated considerable attention.

YouTube channel and podcasts

In 2013, Peterson began recording his lectures for his two classes ("Personality and Its Transformations" and "Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief") and uploading them to YouTube. His YouTube channel has gathered more than 1.8 million subscribers and his videos have received more than 65 million views as of August 2018.

In January 2017, using funds received on Patreon after he became embroiled in the Bill C-16 controversy in September 2016, Peterson hired a production team to film his psychology lectures at the University of Toronto. His funding through the crowdfunding website has increased significantly, from $1,000 per month in August 2016 to $14,000 by January 2017; more than $50,000 by July 2017; and over $80,000 by May 2018. In December 2018, Peterson decided to delete his Patreon account after the platform's banning of political personalities who Patreon said violated their rules on hate speech. Following this, Peterson and Dave Rubin announced the creation of a new, free speech-oriented social networking and crowdfunding platform. This alternative had a limited release under the name Thinkspot later in 2019, and remained in beta testing as of December 2019.

Peterson has appeared on many podcasts, conversational series, as well other online shows. In December 2016, Peterson started his own podcast, The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast, which has included such academic guests as Camille Paglia, Martin Daly, and James W. Pennebaker. On his YouTube channel he has interviewed Stephen Hicks, Richard J. Haier, and Jonathan Haidt among others. In March 2019, the podcast joined the Westwood One network with Peterson's daughter as a co-host on some episodes. Peterson defended engineer James Damore after he was fired from Google for writing Google's Ideological Echo Chamber.

Biblical lectures

In May 2017, Peterson began The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories, a series of live theatre lectures, also published as podcasts, in which he analyzes archetypal narratives in Book of Genesis as patterns of behavior ostensibly vital for personal, social and cultural stability.

In March 2019, Peterson had his invitation of a visiting fellowship at Cambridge University rescinded. He had previously said the fellowship would give him "the opportunity to talk to religious experts of all types for a couple of months," and that the new lectures would have been on Book of Exodus. A spokesperson for the University said there was "no place" for anyone who could not uphold the "inclusive environment" of the university. After a week, Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope explained that it was due to a photograph with a man wearing an Islamophobic shirt. The Cambridge University Students' Union released a statement of relief, considering the invitation "a political act to…legitimise figures such as Peterson" and that his work and views are not "representative of the student body." Peterson called the decision a "deeply unfortunate…error of judgement" and expressed regret that the Divinity Faculty had submitted to an "ill-informed, ignorant and ideologically-addled mob."

Self-Authoring Suite

In 2005, Peterson and his colleagues set up a for-profit company to provide and produce a writing therapy program with a series of online writing exercises. Titled the "Self-Authoring Suite", it includes the Past Authoring Program (a guided autobiography); two Present Authoring Programs, which allow the participant to analyze their personality faults and virtues in terms of the Big Five personality model; and the Future Authoring Program, which guides participants through the process of planning their desired futures. The latter program was used with McGill University undergraduates on academic probation to improve their grades, as well as since 2011 at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.

The programs were developed partially from research by James W. Pennebaker at the University of Texas at Austin and Gary Latham at the Rotman School of Management of the University of Toronto. Peterson's co-authored 2015 study showed significant reduction in ethnic and gender-group differences in performance, especially among ethnic minority male students. According to Peterson, more than 10,000 students have used the program as of January 2017, with drop-out rates decreasing by 25% and GPAs rising by 20%.

Political views

Peterson has characterized himself politically as a "classic British liberal," and as a "traditionalist." However, he has stated that he is commonly mistaken to be right-wing. Yoram Hazony wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "[t]he startling success of his elevated arguments for the importance of order has made him the most significant conservative thinker to appear in the English-speaking world in a generation."

The New York Times has described Peterson as "conservative-leaning," while The Washington Post has described him as "conservative." Nathan Robinson of Current Affairs opines that Peterson has been seen "as everything from a fascist apologist to an Enlightenment liberal, because his vacuous words are a kind of Rorschach test onto which countless interpretations can be projected."

Academia and political correctness

Peterson's critiques of political correctness range over issues such as postmodernism, postmodern feminism, white privilege, cultural appropriation, and environmentalism. His social media presence has magnified the impact of these views; Simona Chiose of The Globe and Mail noted that "few University of Toronto professors in the humanities and social sciences have enjoyed the global name recognition Prof. Peterson has won." Writing in the National Post, Chris Selley said that Peterson's opponents had "underestimated the fury being inspired by modern preoccupations like white privilege and cultural appropriation, and by the marginalization, shouting down or outright cancellation of other viewpoints in polite society's institutions," while Tim Lott stated, in The Spectator, that Peterson became "an outspoken critic of mainstream academia."

According to his study—conducted with one of his students, Christine Brophy—of the relationship between political belief and personality, political correctness exists in two types: "PC-egalitarianism" and "PC-authoritarianism," which is a manifestation of "offense sensitivity." Jason McBride claims that Peterson places classical liberals in the first type, and so-called social justice warriors, who he says "weaponize compassion," in the latter. The study also found an overlap between PC-authoritarians and right-wing authoritarians.

Peterson claims that universities are largely responsible for a wave of political correctness that has appeared in North America and Europe, saying that he had watched the rise of political correctness on campuses since the early 1990s. In his view, the humanities have become corrupt and less reliant on science:

[Instead of] intelligent conversation, we are having an ideological conversation." From his own experience as a professor, he states, the students who are coming to his classes are uneducated about and unaware of the mass exterminations and other crimes against humanity perpetrated by Stalinism and Maoism, which were not given the same attention as fascism and Nazism. He also says that "instead of being ennobled or inculcated into the proper culture, the last vestiges of structure are stripped from [the students] by post-modernism and neo-Marxism, which defines everything in terms of relativism and power.

Postmodernism and identity politics

Peterson says that "disciplines like women's studies should be defunded," advising freshman students to avoid subjects like sociology, anthropology, English literature, ethnic studies, and racial studies, as well as other fields of study that he believes are corrupted by the neo-Marxist ideology. He believes these fields to propagate cult-like behaviour and safe-spaces, under the pretense of academic inquiry. Peterson had proposed a website using artificial intelligence to identify ideologization in specific courses, but postponed the project in November 2017 as "it might add excessively to current polarization."

In regard to identity politics, while the "left plays them on behalf of the oppressed, let's say, and the right tends to play them on behalf of nationalism and ethnic pride," he considers them "equally dangerous" and that what should be emphasized, instead, is individual focus and personal responsibility. He has also been prominent in the debate about cultural appropriation, stating that the concept promotes self-censorship in society and journalism.

Peterson's perspectives on the influence of postmodernism on North American humanities departments have been compared to Cultural Marxist conspiracy theories. Due to his opposition against identity politics, several writers have associated Peterson with the "Intellectual Dark Web," including Bari Weiss, who was among the first to bring this characterization of him into recognition.

Bill C-16

On 27 September 2016, Peterson released the first installment of a three-part lecture video series, entitled "Professor against political correctness: Part I: Fear and the Law." In the video, he stated he would not use the preferred gender pronouns of students and faculty, saying it fell under compelled speech, and announced his objection to the Canadian government's Bill C-16, which proposed to add "gender identity or expression" as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and to similarly expand the definitions of promoting genocide and publicly inciting hatred in the hate speech laws in Canada.

He stated his objection to the bill was based on potential free-speech implications if the Criminal Code is amended, claiming he could then be prosecuted under provincial human-rights laws if he refuses to call a transgender student or faculty member by the individual's preferred pronoun. Furthermore, he argued the new amendments, paired with section 46.3 of the Ontario Human Rights Code, would make it possible for employers and organizations to be subject to punishment under the code if any employee or associate says anything that can be construed "directly or indirectly" as offensive, "whether intentionally or unintentionally." According to law professor Brenda Cossman and others, this interpretation of C-16 is mistaken, and the law does not criminalize misuse of pronouns.

The series of videos drew criticism from transgender activists, faculty, and labour unions; critics accused Peterson of "helping to foster a climate for hate to thrive" and of "fundamentally mischaracterising" the law. Protests erupted on campus, some including violence, and the controversy attracted international media attention. When asked in September 2016 if he would comply with the request of a student to use a preferred pronoun, Peterson said "it would depend on how they asked me.… If I could detect that there was a chip on their shoulder, or that they were [asking me] with political motives, then I would probably say no.… If I could have a conversation like the one we're having now, I could probably meet them on an equal level." Two months later, the National Post published an op-ed by Peterson in which he elaborated on his opposition to the bill, saying that gender-neutral singular pronouns were "at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century."

In response to the controversy, academic administrators at the University of Toronto sent Peterson two letters of warning, one noting free speech had to be made in accordance with human rights legislation, and the other adding that his refusal to use the preferred personal pronouns of students and faculty upon request could constitute discrimination. Peterson speculated that these warning letters were leading up to formal disciplinary action against him, but in December the university assured him he would retain his professorship, and in January 2017 he returned to teach his psychology class at the University of Toronto.

In February 2017, Maxime Bernier, candidate for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, stated he shifted his position on Bill C-16, from support to opposition, after meeting with Peterson and discussing it. Peterson's analysis of the bill was also frequently cited by senators who were opposed to its passage. In April 2017, Peterson was denied a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant for the first time in his career, which he interpreted as retaliation for his statements regarding Bill C-16. However, a media-relations adviser for SSHRC said, "Committees assess only the information contained in the application." In response, Rebel News launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign on Peterson's behalf, raising C$195,000 by its end on 6 May, equivalent to over two years of research funding. In May 2017, as one of 24 witnesses who were invited to speak about the bill, Peterson spoke against Bill C-16 at a Canadian Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs hearing.

In November 2017, Lindsay Shepherd, the teaching assistant of a Wilfrid Laurier University first-year communications course, was censured by her professors for showing, during a classroom discussion about pronouns, a segment of The Agenda in which Peterson debates Bill C-16 with another professor. The reasons given for the censure included the clip creating a "toxic climate," being compared to a "speech by Hitler," and being itself in violation of Bill C-16. The censure was later withdrawn and both the professors and the university formally apologized. The events were cited by Peterson, as well as several newspaper editorial boards and national newspaper columnists as illustrative of the suppression of free speech on university campuses. In June 2018, Peterson filed a $1.5-million lawsuit against Wilfrid Laurier University, arguing that three staff members of the university had maliciously defamed him by making negative comments about him behind closed doors. As of September 2018, Wilfrid Laurier had asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it was ironic for a purported advocate of free speech to attempt to curtail free speech.

Gender relations and masculinity

Peterson has argued there is an ongoing "crisis of masculinity" and "backlash against masculinity" in which the "masculine spirit is under assault." Peterson has argued the left characterises the existing societal hierarchy as an "oppressive patriarchy" but "don’t want to admit that the current hierarchy might be predicated on competence." Peterson has said men without partners are likely to become violent, and has noted male violence is reduced in societies wherein monogamy is a social norm. He has attributed the rise of Donald Trump and far-right European politicians to what he says is a negative reaction to a push to "feminize" men, saying "If men are pushed too hard to feminize they will become more and more interested in harsh, fascist political ideology." He attracted considerable attention over a 2018 Channel 4 interview where he clashed with interviewer Cathy Newman on the topic of the gender pay gap. Peterson disputed the contention the disparity was solely due to sexual discrimination.

Personal life

Peterson married Tammy Roberts in 1989; the couple have one daughter and one son.

In a 2017 interview, Peterson was asked if he was a Christian; he responded, "I suppose the most straight-forward answer to that is yes." When asked if he believes in God, Peterson responded: "I think the proper response to that is No, but I'm afraid He might exist." Writing for The Spectator, Tim Lott said Peterson draws inspiration from Jung's philosophy of religion and holds views similar to the Christian existentialism of Søren Kierkegaard and Paul Tillich. Lott also said that Peterson has respect for Taoism, as it views nature as a struggle between order and chaos and posits life would be meaningless without this duality.

Starting around 2000, Peterson began collecting Soviet-era paintings. The paintings are displayed in his house as a reminder of the relationship between totalitarian propaganda and art, and as examples of how idealistic visions can become totalitarian oppression and horror. In 2016, Peterson became an honorary member of the extended family of Charles Joseph, a Kwakwaka'wakw artist, and was given the name Alestalagie ('Great Seeker').

Health problems

In 2016, Peterson had a severe autoimmune reaction to food and was prescribed clonazepam. In late 2016, he went on a strict diet consisting only of meat and some vegetables, in an attempt to control his severe depression and the effects of an autoimmune disorder including psoriasis and uveitis. In mid-2018, he stopped eating vegetables, and continued eating only beef (see carnivore diet).

In April 2019, his prescribed dosage of clonazepam was increased to deal with the anxiety he was experiencing as a result of his wife's cancer diagnosis. Starting several months later, he made various attempts to lessen his intake, or stop taking the drug altogether, but experienced "horrific" withdrawal symptoms, including "incredible, endless, irresistible restlessness, bordering on panic", according to his daughter Mikhaila.

According to Mikhaila, Peterson and his family were unable to find doctors in North America who were willing to accommodate their treatment desires, so in January 2020, Peterson, Mikhaila and her husband flew to Moscow, Russia for treatment. Doctors there diagnosed Peterson with pneumonia in both lungs upon arrival, and he was put into a medically induced coma for eight days. Peterson spent four weeks in the intensive care unit, during which time he allegedly exhibited a temporary loss of motor skills.

Several months after his treatment in Russia, Peterson and his family moved to Belgrade, Serbia for further treatment. In June 2020, Peterson made his first public appearance in over a year, when he appeared on his daughters' podcast, recorded in Belgrade. He said that he was "back to my regular self", other than feeling fatigue, and was cautiously optimistic about his prospects. He also said that he wanted to warn people about the dangers of long-term use of benzodiazepines (the class of drugs that includes clonazepam). In August 2020, his daughter announced her father contracted COVID-19 during his hospital stay in Serbia.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 08 Aug 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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