The problem with Jordan Peterson

He’s not nearly as pro-freedom and pro-reason as he thinks he is.

Andrea Seaman

Jordan Peterson, formerly an obscure professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, has become famous throughout the West. His popularity began with his opposition to oppressive legislation in Canada, which he argues can force people to use certain gender pronouns, and it peaked with the now famous Channel 4 News interview and the release of his book 12 Rules for Life. Peterson presents himself as a defender of science and reason against so-called social-justice warriors and the postmodern left, people who refuse to accept biological realities and the principle of free speech.

His rhetoric is certainly very powerful. His refusal to bow down before a torrent of criticism, from those attempting unjustly to paint him as a right-wing extremist, is inspiring. Combine this with his passionate entreaties towards men to ‘grow the hell up’, take on responsibility for their own lives, and stand straight with their shoulders back, and you can sense why he receives massive support from many young white men who feel besieged by a left that routinely labels them racist, homophobic and pillars of ‘the patriarchy’. This is Peterson’s positive side. Who can disagree with telling men – steeped in our modern culture of snowflakery, low ambitions and self-pity – to man up?

But there are two major problems with Peterson. First, his commitment to free speech is not nearly as strong as he thinks it is. Although he fiercely opposes hate-speech legislation and campus censorship, he has also launched a $1.5million defamation suit against Wilfrid Laurier University because some of its staff compared him to Hitler. Lindsay Shepherd, then a graduate student and teaching assistant at the university, recorded the comments, which were made in a private meeting, and then released them online. Peterson says his lawsuit is intended to ‘convince careless university professors and administrators… to be much more circumspect in their actions and their words’. So watch what you say, professors and administrators of Canada, or Peterson will set the law upon you!

He has since filed a second defamation suit for $1.75million against Wilfrid Laurier University. He argues that the university’s statement about his first lawsuit was libellous: the university claims that his original suit was unjustified because the publicity achieved by the exposés of the unfounded allegations against Peterson boosted his reputation. It also points out that his motivation in pursuing the suit is authoritarian, as demonstrated by his warning that professors and administrators should be more ‘circumspect’ in their words, and that, if anything, Peterson should be suing Shepherd, given she is the one who released the recording.

Peterson also allegedly threatened to sue Kate Manne, an associate professor at Cornell University in the US, the online news platform Vox and Cornell University, all for an interview Manne gave to Vox. In it, she described Peterson’s ideas as misogynistic, among other unflattering epithets. Given Peterson earns millions through his YouTube channel and his book deals, it seems unlikely he is pursuing these cases for the money. Maybe he, who likes to lament the thin-skinned nature of our society, just can’t handle criticism?

The second problem with Peterson is the weakness of his commitment to science and reason. He may continuously talk of ‘the scientific literature’ and the realities of our biological condition, but his understanding of (if not commitment to) science is fundamentally flawed.

Take his discussion of rats. He can’t stop referring to something apparently discovered by the neuroscientist and psychobiologist Jaak Panksepp – that in rats’ brains there is a ‘play circuit’. So, if one little rat play-wrestles with a bigger rat, relays Peterson, then the little rat will stop playing with the big one if the latter does not allow the former to win a certain number of times. This, he claims, is evidence of how ethics emerges out of nature. Ethics, he proposes, is something natural in our brains, as in those of rats. Morality, he suggests, is a product of our neural activity, which tells us how to act.

Peterson here is blurring the line between science and morality. It may well be that the small rat stops playing if the big rat beats it every time. But that is simply how it is, not how it should be. The former is the domain of science, the latter is the domain of ethics. To see ethics in the mechanical workings of nature and unfree beasts is as unscientific as discovering the hand of God in His supposed creation. Morality is simply not an object of scientific investigation. Its existence and properties cannot be proven or disproven by empirical methods.

In this, Peterson reveals that he is mired in scientism, rather than science – and a particularly strange form of scientism at that. He mixes investigation of the material world with investigation of the non-material world, to the detriment of both. He has suggested that ancient depictions of entwined snakes foreshadowed the discovery of the DNA double helix. Here spiritual experiences apparently offer insight into the real nature of fundamental parts of our biological being, and vice versa. It’s almost Deepak Chopra.

For a man so fixated on being academically rigorous, fact-based and reasoned, Peterson talks a lot about spirits, gods, dreams and mysticism. He has suggested that psychedelics can bring on ‘transcendent’ and ‘metaphysical’ experiences. This type of superstition was the very thing the Age of Reason tried to extinguish. Peterson fatally combines science with mysticism. Often when he talks about science he becomes mystical, and then tries to back it up with deep evolutionary or scientific ‘truths’.

It is invigorating to see Peterson fill up stadiums with many people of my generation, capturing their positive spirit of rebellion against PC orthodoxy. But we should be sceptical next time he presents himself as a warrior for free speech, or cites ‘the scientific literature’, or some primeval spirit or other. He’s not nearly as pro-freedom and pro-reason as he thinks he is.

Andrea Seaman is a writer based in Switzerland.

Picture by: Getty.

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Iain Melville

29th April 2020 at 4:36 am

Defamatory statements are not “criticism”, and objecting to them is not a demonstration of being thin-skinned.

Gee Jaybee

29th April 2020 at 4:48 pm

Nor is it an example of having a tenuous attitude to free speech was implied by the author.

Ozzie Spartan

21st September 2019 at 4:23 am

This article and many others I have read concerning JP’s defamation lawsuit misses a fundamental point. Perhaps that is intentional. Perhaps it is ignorance of the law. Perhaps it is a mischief intended to attract controversy. That point is, in various jurisdictions, such as Canada, governments have for very good reason enacted laws to prevent people and their reputations being defamed. These laws rightly harness the use of free speech to prevent fabrications and innuendo harming a person’s reputation. If you listen fully to the Lindsay Shepherd recording there are what I understand to be many untrue and unsubstantiated utterances concerning JP and his actions towards certain of his students. It is not just about a Hitler comparison. Freedom of speech permits a person to say what they want. If a person speaks the truth there is nothing to fear as truth is a defence to a defamation claim. If, however, a person is disingenuous and thus not reasonably or responsibly exercising their right to free speech and it harms another, then they should be prepared to suffer the legal consequences. In my view JP is not seeking to gag debate or to prevent free speech but rather ensure in future that those who may want to attack him resort to logic and reason rather than lies and innuendo.

Dan Under

7th September 2019 at 10:44 pm

I abandoned reading this nonsensical diatribe at the point the author alleged, ‘there are two major problems with Peterson, his commitment to free speech and the weakness of his commitment to science and reason’.
It appears that the author’s contention may be reduced to the idea that JP majorly lacks ‘commitment’ across the spectrum of rational human discourse.
It is abundantly evident from a substantial and substantive body of work that JP does not lack commitment to free speech, to science or to reason. His rejection of totalitarianism from anywhere on the spectrum, though most obviously from the Left because of its monumental and reliable propensity to murderously fail as evidenced by the 100M corpses of the 20th Century, is both consistent and wholehearted. Furthermore, JP may paraphrase science for the ignorant although he naturally runs the risk of being intentionally misconstrued or misinterpreted, in this instance by a hatchet wielding, illiberal and supercilious Swiss iconoclast.

Gee Jaybee

29th April 2020 at 4:50 pm

I sincerely doubt the author has read or listened to Dr Peterson beyond what had otherwise been reported about him in similar thinly disguised hit pieces.

Daniel Jeyn

4th August 2019 at 4:25 pm

What the article elides over all too easily is the damage that accusations of being “alt right” and “white nationalist” can do to one’s career. Peterson has all-too recklessly been defamed as this by professional journalists and academics. This has lifelong consequences for a person’s career and livelihood. It shows up on Google searches. Legally, it’s defamation at the least. Peterson just happens to have enough of a public profile as a popular and accomplished writer and academic that he can retaliate against this. For every Peterson, there are even more people hounded out of careers, denied opportunity, and otherwise unfairly defamed, because the media and the social-media outrage mob has jumped on false information. Labeling someone as a “racist” has lasting consequences nowadays. People online will dox you and call up your employers, your family, your neighbors, etc. It’s defamation, and it’s time enough that people starting reaping the legal consequences of these actions.

Alex Ander

3rd August 2019 at 7:26 pm

Wow – this article is chronological snobbery par excellence. Although I am by no means a Peterson apologist, I can see (clearly) some questionable presuppositions built in to this writers argument. Take for example the presupposition in the dismissal of ” spirits, gods, dreams and mysticism” – as if somehow the world has moved on from these things in a mutually beneficial way – when actually the opposite is more likely to be true. Look at someone like Rupert Sheldrake who is very engaging on these topics.
Actually it’s very refreshing when academics are open-minded enough to think outside of the scientific materialist and naturalist worldview – even just briefly, to consider alternative ways of understanding the world we live in – Peterson does just this.

Cedar Grove

5th August 2019 at 6:12 pm

How pleasant to come across someone else who reads Sheldrake.

Archie Clifford

3rd August 2019 at 10:40 am

From the headline on down we knew this was an attempted hatchet job on Peterson. There’s a difference between freedom of speech for individuals and members of staff at a university comparing Peterson to Hitler. Presumably some of these people are going to be teaching our students, and do we really want a bunch of politically-motivated ideologues brainwashing the next generation? Like Peterson, most balanced people are aware that our universities as well as other public bodies have largely been taken over by (directly or indirectly) Soros-funded left-wing obsessives who have been indoctrinated in the cult of globalism, neo-marxism, and identity politics. So he isn’t just sticking up for himself, he’s doing all of us a big favour. I’m not surprised he’s suing them, and I hope he takes them to the cleaners.

Hana Jinks

3rd August 2019 at 1:56 pm

They’re promoting fake news and utter horseshit from some teenaged kraut.

You’re the dude, franky-boy, and you’re the editor, Beta No’Zeal.

Hana Jinks

3rd August 2019 at 2:00 pm

If there are any bookmakers out there, then I’d appreciate a market about this post being allowed to remain.

Hana Jinks

3rd August 2019 at 2:02 pm


These dudes is too gay. How long has this been going on?

Matthew Jones

1st August 2019 at 8:54 am

There is nothing wrong with Peterson’s scientific reasoning. When it comes to science, I will stick with Professor Peterson over Ms Andrea Seaman every day of the week. Also, this is a nonsense article.

Neil Mcalester

2nd August 2019 at 1:05 pm

Andrea is a bloke (German Andreas often are!) and he is 21 so clearly has the life experience to critique Mr Peterson!!

Rudolph Pitman

4th August 2019 at 10:29 am

Agree. “Morality is simply not an object of scientific investigation…” is a silly strawman argument. The *origins* of morality, its evolutionary purpose, etc., most certainly are the purview of science. Nowhere does Peterson suggest that large rats *should* allow smaller rats to play, but that the behavior observed suggests a biological basis to (at least some) morality, and that such behavior suggests rudimentary morality exists in non-human species. These are most certainly scientific questions, and the author does not seem to understand behaviorism or evolutionary psychology.

Lee Moore

18th August 2019 at 9:48 am

Yes. Peterson and his rats are explaining (scientifically) why humans (and rats) choose the values they choose. Not arguing with Hume’s (philosophical) argument that a valid moral conclusion requires the selection of a premise from the land of values.

As Pauli would have said, Seaman is not even wrong.

Jerry Owen

1st August 2019 at 8:08 am

‘The problem with Jordan Peterson’ .
JP one of the most notable names taking a stand against orthodox PC and cultural Marxism, he speaks eloquently and gives historical perspective as to why we are where we are. He does this at great personal risk to himself.
Your title to this article wallows in elitism that quite frankly we don’t have time for.
Stop nit picking and give him 100% of your support.

A. Kaat

1st August 2019 at 1:28 pm

Thanks Jerry, I totally agree with you. Mr. Peterson shows us why we are where we are -approximately- but even more important: he tells us where we could go to when we take full responsibility (a meaningful life) and how we will end up if we don’t. (Depressed, resentful) and he does this on a profound scientific basis. We need more Petersons.

Srishti John

31st July 2019 at 8:35 pm

It takes ownership and honesty to understand the key principles of life that Peterson talks about through his book 12 rules for life.
Since the author of this article if only interested in fame, money and the likes.

Your loss Ms Andrea.
Also, it is not just men that he has helped, there are countless number of women as well. If only common sense was actually common, we wouldn’t have nonsensical articles like these.

gershwin gentile

31st July 2019 at 3:05 pm

The reason JP scares some people (those on the left leaning media side) is because he has realised that Marxism doesn’t work.

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 11:28 pm

The reason I’m gonna run you off the site is because ura farkhead.

In Negative

31st July 2019 at 12:01 pm

If Peterson gave up on the scientific element and the “whole clean your room,” self-help claptrap, I reckon he might make a pretty good contemporary thinker. I genuinely feel that science is a prison for him, making his thinking far less free than it could be otherwise. Sometimes, he feels to me like a new man terrified of letting go of the rationalist approaches of the past, trying desperately to chain an emergent new consciousness to the dying values of a rational one.

A great many of his tropes have value here in our contemporary moment. Like the focus on Jungian subconscious and the affect of signs and metaphors in the age of electronic dream-interaction. I was pretty interested to see that he was making a concept out of ‘play’ too as the birthplace of values. You find this appearing in far more interesting ways both in Marshall McLuhan (who I know Peterson likes) and Baudrillard (who he probably wouldn’t touch with a 15 ft pole). It feels like he’s taking these new ideas and trying to give them some scientific foundation, and really, what’s the point?

If your taste is for science, that’s not a problem. I have no issue with ‘the scientist’ proper who pursues his taste. But ‘the scientist’ is a very special kind of animal and there is no point at all the rest of us submitting our taste for ideas to them just because they purport to tell us what is ‘true’. To document itself, consciousness needn’t be looking to constantly root itself in empirical studies, in fact, for some, it is profoundly limiting to do so. McLuhan actually is a case in point. Some of his later works are less interesting because of his apparent need to look for scientific ways to ground his thoughts.

Christian Pine

30th August 2019 at 7:44 am

The “clean your room” mantra comes from being one of the leading worldwide experts in the Big Five, which is one of the most stable psychometric models next to IQ predicting people’s behavior. You will find that the Conscientiousness parameter is recognized universally as the first predictor of success, and is one of the easiest behavioral traits to be influence consciously (that is why Germans are more successful than Italians economically). Since the guy is a clinician as well (besides a psychometrician that works in a lab), he developed a first step to increase people’s Conscientiousness that at the same time works; specially in his audience that he characterized initially as particularly high in Open to Experience, which is another trait of the Big Five in which people are always seeking intelectual stimulation but are in average intrinsically chaotic. His approach works, and using science to design his advice has the capacity to affect the biggest amount of people in a predictable fashion and not product of a “motivational narrative”. For that you have Tony Robbins; Peterson is playing another game, which is what he considers is a more reliable durable approach. Mixing the scientist, the clinician and the mythology lecturer can confuse you, because he has those 3 lines of arguing, but that are entirely different.

Karen T

31st July 2019 at 12:38 am

It is really upset to see that Jordan Peterson being targeted when you know he means well in all his lectures/speeches. I have personally learned a lot from his book and lectures and will always appreciate!

Adrian W

30th July 2019 at 11:21 pm

The article says Andrea Seaman is a “writer” as opposed to a journalist presumably, but if she had researched anything about Jordan Peterson’s law suit against Wilfred Laurier, she would know that the main reason he chose this course of action was because after the appalling way Lindsey Shepherd was treated, and the recognition by the University that what had happened was unjustified and wrong, they (in his words) didn’t appear to have learned a thing and were continuing to treat Lindsey Shepherd badly while protecting the professors and administration staff that had accused her.
He has also said numerous times that he holds other academics to a higher standard than everyone else and has little tolerence for them pushing ideology and false claims over reason and fact-based discussions.

As for her point about him not being scientific, he is a clinical psychologist and uses the examples of the apparent play mechanics found in rats to demonstrate that behavious amongst social creatures needs to be mutually beneficial for it to repeatable over time. That is a behavioural observation, nothing to do with ethics or scientism.

Clearly Jordan Peterson has different perspectives; one as a student and teacher of philosophy, one as a clinical psychologist and potentially another as a behavioural psychologist. He then draws upon these to create another perspective; a view of what is the best way for people to behave and to grow and find meaning. Of course he has flaws, one I would suggest is extrapolating clear meaning and intent from mythological and religious stories when doing so is purely speculative, but that is far from what Andrea Seaman is suggesting and in that she is sadly unjustified.

Tinfoil Hat

30th July 2019 at 10:07 pm

He clearly hasn’t met a small rat thet fights the big rat until it wins.

Christian Pine

30th August 2019 at 7:54 am

You clearly don’t know the difference between correlation and causation

AnGry Ashole

30th July 2019 at 8:32 pm

I find that Andrea’s ideas are specious. I agree with both Andrew’s assessment of her “unique ideas”, but actually prefer Aidan’s (Aidan Maconachy) succinct assessment. I also tire of the neo-nazi’s ( including the ever-popular femi-nazis) attempts to tell us what , how and when to think, talk and feel. Really, take a long walk along an empty beach, look at the stars and try to figure out your proper status in the entire scheme of things. Guide to proper thought is not your calling, Andrea. Only you can determine what it is, but it will help you to roll the dice one more time. ????

Andrew-Paul Shakespeare

30th July 2019 at 4:31 pm

I am surprised that the author appears not to understand the difference between social and experimental sciences. She is correct that it would be inappropriate for a chemist or a botanist to attempt to draw inferences about morality or spirituality.

But a social science such as psychology — Peterson’s field — does not follow the same standards of proof that experimental sciences do, mainly because they’re not studying questions to which there is a definitive right or wrong answer.

Whether one believes in God personally, or whether a God exists, is beside the point; as is the precise details of what is or isn’t moral. The point is that morality governs all our lives, and the metaphysical is a massive motivator, and how that impacts humans is what a psychologist attempts to understand. What’s the Age of Reason got to do with it?

I wonder how the author proposes that we arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the human thought process without considering what drives our moral and spiritual impulses. Does she think we should simply not bother to question what, for example, love is, even though almost all of us devote our entire lives in a quest to obtain and keep it, and despite the significant mental impact that not being loved has upon most of us? Surely not!

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 4:52 pm


You’re new here.

gershwin gentile

30th July 2019 at 3:14 pm

“But there are two major problems with Peterson. First, his commitment to free speech is not nearly as strong as he thinks it is. ”

Spiked writer assumes to know mind of other. Interesting…

C’mon, be honest, Jordan is cool when he is knocking down the Trans straw man. But remember, the guy is anti-Marxist. And I think the dinny middle class mindset of the journo set (spiked included) don’t want to give up that Marx money.

Hana Jinks

31st July 2019 at 8:44 am

I hadn’t until now been able to work out whether incoherent burblings were worse than facile burblings, so thanks for helping to clear that up.

Jonathan Yonge

30th July 2019 at 2:37 pm

“It is invigorating to see Peterson fill up stadiums with many people of my generation, capturing their positive spirit of rebellion against PC orthodoxy.”

‘My generation’ ? Oh dear……

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 2:38 pm

It’s gotta be satire, right?

paul hooley

30th July 2019 at 1:09 pm

Mr Peterson lives in a country that has a substantial number of violent knee jerking mob mentality ‘antifa’ types who instigate assaults regularly on anyone they tarnish as ‘nazi’. It is not a trivial matter to be labelled as such and could lead to actual bodily harm. Wilfrid Laurier University need to be hit hard financially to remind them of their responsibilities to educate not instigate.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 1:23 pm

Salient point.

Paul Robson

30th July 2019 at 1:06 pm

Honest as ever.

The author has missed something out, that many, not everyone will already know. Lindsay Sheperd’s “private meeting” was the one where she was sacked, wrongly I suspect, for playing parts of a video to her students as a discussion point in which Peterson was involved. This was not the typical Peterson “lecture” video but a video of a discussion between two opposing views about Canada’s C16 rule.

The problem with Andrea Seaman, to coin a phrase, is that she almost certainly knows this but chooses to pretend it was just a meeting about something or other at which someone slandered Peterson.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 1:27 pm


This is an astonishing post. We’ve all obviously rubbished this btl, so it makes you wonder why they publish horseshit?

Your post brings new …something to this.

I really feel constrained by this site. They have a banner proclaiming free speech, and yet have a mod system.

What was Orwell saying about doublethink?

Philip Humphrey

30th July 2019 at 12:51 pm

The article criticises Peterson for not being a hard enough scientist, being open to taking religion seriously. Yet surely he is being a good scientist, recognizing the limits of science (as set out by Karl Popper etc.) and not getting into scientism – the unscientific and arbitrary belief that everything can be explained by science and there is nothing other than the physical/material world we can see or examine. A good scientist uses science and the scientific method to understand the physical world, but doesn’t close his/her mind to the possibility that there may be more than just can be explained by science.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 12:57 pm

Thanks so much for making this point, Philip. Too many of them exalt themselves as gods and lead our society astray.

This is the same for politicians and laywers too.

Amelia Cantor

30th July 2019 at 12:51 pm

No, no, I won’t hear a word against Jordy! He’s further cementing the close association between cisgender white males and so-called free speech. Spiked are doing some good work on this front too, albeit at a less successful level.

Anyway, I’m all for cisgender white males arguing in favour of free speech. I hope the Orange Rapist will take up the cause too. In fact, it would be a dream come true for me if he penned a hardhitting “libertarian” editorial for Spiked.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 2:18 pm

How much ridicule and excoriation is gonna be enough for you?

And is masochism a part of being a put-upon leftie? Are there pilgrimages involved? How do you feel about uniforms?

gershwin gentile

30th July 2019 at 3:16 pm

You think you are Hunter S Thompson, you’re not even Emma Thompson. Anyway, I’ll let you get back to your nonce apology thing.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 5:09 pm

I’m not allowed to reply to you at the mome.

Steve Gray

30th July 2019 at 9:59 pm

Very much a legend in his own lunchtime. But not as clever as he thinks he is. I remember his spittle-flecked BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY (sic) , when he realised I had beaten him.

He will now go on about ‘Sleeve Gay’ , Nazis, irrelevant shite of various colours. Still a Zionist, ‘Les’ ? You sure ? Ain’t mentioned it recently… Wonder why…

Hana Jinks

31st July 2019 at 8:40 am

Sleeve Gay.

The only beating l associate with you is the compulsive beating-off that you’ve obviously been doing in anticipation of this moment.

Yet another masochist. What a sicko.

You’re too scared to answer me, so there isn’t much point in asking you to attempt to substantiate your drivel.

Amelia Cantor

31st July 2019 at 11:12 am

Ah, more rightardism from a true rightard. Look, I know you prolly went to a bad school full of cisgender white males trying to drag everyone else down to their v. low intellectual level, but there is such a thing as autodidactism (look it up!). Your punctuation and grasp of the English language really aren’t up to the task of taking on one of your intellectual and moral superiors.

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 4:50 am

Seriously. I didn’t threaten you, and l even self-censored part of what l said.

You guys aren’t getting it right, and when you re-read the original post, you’ll hopefully allow it to be published. Just ridiculous on a site promoting themselves as free speech apologists.

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 2:04 pm

I wanted to tell you that if you didn’t like my punctuation, then you probably should adjust ur butt-plug, or perhaps even remove it altogether?

Sophia Vitkovitsky

30th July 2019 at 6:02 pm

It seems to me that the “orange rapist” speaks very freely already. Unless you believe “free speech” is only what you agree with.

As for “cisgenger” (ugh, new-right-speak) white males, if anyone believes that “old, white males” are the cause of all of society’s ills (Papa Doc, Mao, Idi Amin), then surely, setting white males straight (sorry!) while they’re young is the ideal solution!

Amelia Cantor

31st July 2019 at 11:15 am

It seems to me that the “orange rapist” speaks very freely already. Unless you believe “free speech” is only what you agree with.

As I said: rightards unerringly shoot themselves in the foot.

Yes, “Sophia” (if that’s your real name it is DEEPLY ironic): the Orange Rapist does speak “freely”. He exercises the toxic “free speech” that I said was characteristic of cisgender white males. That was my central point, so why did you repeat it? Because you’re a rightard, that’s why, and your reading skills and grasp of logic are feeble to non-existent.

Hana Jinks

3rd August 2019 at 6:09 am

If you’re allowed to attempt to insult me, then l must be allowed to return serve.

Why does this comment get modded out?

A. Kaat

30th July 2019 at 11:40 am

The accusation Nazi/Adolf Hitler is being used as similar to the utmost evil as we all know. We should do everything we can to stop anyone to accuse another person by calling him a nazi. Mr. Peterson is completely right to launch a deformation suit and we should all support him.

Racism and nazi- accusations spoil and toxify the debate and their aim is to do damage. Damage was done in this way to Rudolf Steiner among others. Steiner brought his anthroposophy to do good. He developed a scientific method to unite science and religion. So we have, in this short piece, already two similarities between Seiner and Peterson( there are more): the racism/nazi accusations on one hand and on the other their scientific approach to religion. Which is, in my opinion the only way to save and refresh the potential of religion.

Ven Oods

30th July 2019 at 1:21 pm

But will his ‘deformation suit’ leave him bent out of shape?
I do agree that many lazy or unimaginative people use the ‘Nazi’ term when they simply disagree with someone.
Probably as a result of recent US English using only two common adjectives – awesome and cool – (if you ignore the Presidential ‘great’, that is).

Claire D

30th July 2019 at 10:41 am

As many others have pointed out there is a difference between free speech and slander & libel.
I would also add that many women and ‘ black ‘ people are inspired by his words, not just ‘ young white men ‘.

Michael Roberts

30th July 2019 at 10:39 am

By acting as he has in relation to defamatory statements made about him, Jordan Peterson has taken a stand that helps defend the principle of free speech; Ms Seaman’s failure to grasp the distinction between the treasured right to freedom of speech and the right to one’s good name and reputation speaks volumes about her own commitments and her motivation in publishing this article.
Having made her poorly articulated point and having failed to state how she sees Professor Peterson’s actions as a threat to free speech, Ms Seaman keeps digging. She states her opinion that ‘it seems unlikely he [Jordan Peterson] is pursuing these cases for the money’ and suggests, on the basis of such ungrounded personal opinion, that the professor ‘just can’t handle criticism’. A balanced conclusion should allow for the possibility that Professor Peterson is prepared to use his personal wealth to defend his right to free speech—to everyone’s benefit.
Not content with her achievement in revealing her own flaws and what looks like bias, Ms Seaman digs herself an even bigger hole. Professor Peterson, she says, is not free to discuss the work of neuroscientist and psychobiologist Jaak Panksepp; Professor Peterson may not—according to her—explore the biological origins of ethics.
What’s more, Ms Seaman, on the basis of a very poor example, concludes that Professor Peterson is mired in scientism, rather than science. She then proceeds to delimit the topics that Professor Peterson may, in her view of reality, legitimately explore as he develops, for the benefit of all, a better understanding of the human condition. She also states that science as a whole takes a fatal step if it considers topics that she deems unscientific i.e. scientists are not free to speak on topics outside their disciplines; the other name for this is censorship.

Jerry Owen

30th July 2019 at 12:10 pm

A well written post with some very good points.

Amin Readh

30th July 2019 at 12:18 pm

‘convince careless university professors and administrators… to be much more circumspect in their actions and their words’. So watch what you say, professors and administrators of Canada, or Peterson will set the law upon you!

He wasn’t defamed or libeled. Someone called him a Nazi in a private meeting… he is out for revenge. And to make a quick buck. He spreads himself thin and takes up as many public/media appearances as he possibly can. And he is quick to anger and to threats. So he cannot take criticism well.

– –

“Professor Peterson, she says, is not free to discuss the work of neuroscientist and psychobiologist Jaak Panksepp; Professor Peterson may not—according to her—explore the biological origins of ethics.”

She has never said anything of the sort. She is rightly upbraiding the closet-Christian for his unscientific nonsense.

Gerard Barry

30th July 2019 at 12:24 pm

“Closet Christian”? Is being Christian something to be ashamed of now?

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 12:59 pm

Lol, that’s a new one on me too Gerard.

Paul Robson

30th July 2019 at 1:00 pm

No. What this writer misses out in “Lindsay Sheperd recorded this in a private meeting” is that Ms Sheperd was fired for daring to play

David Wallace

30th July 2019 at 10:13 am

I believe in freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means that you can freely express your opinions without the risk of going to prison for saying what you really think about something. Calling for something illegal to be done is a step further than merely expressing an opinion though, that’s called incitement I think. And libel is also different. Nobody goes to prison for libel. The laws against defamation mean that if someone makes public claims about you that are damaging then they have to be able to prove that what they have said about you is true or compensate you for the damage their claims have caused. To successfully sue someone for libel requires both the claims to be untrue and for the false claims to have caused damage. If Dr Peterson thinks that what has been said about him is false, and if he believes these claims have harmed him, I see no problem with him seeking compensation for this damage through the courts and I don’t believe this makes him anti freedom of speech.

Paul Robson

30th July 2019 at 1:10 pm

That’s not why he’s suing the University ; it’s the technical reason, but not the force ; googling for Lindsay Sheperd will show in some detail why Peterson has reacted to this slur in particular, as opposed to the countless other ones which he routinely ignores.

Ven Oods

30th July 2019 at 1:27 pm

Surely, the person(s) who made public a private utterance did the defaming?

Stephen Phillips

30th July 2019 at 10:05 am

Jordan Peterson is not the messiah! GET OVER IT!
He is a falible human being like the rest of us.
Where does the world get off expecting perfection from anyone brave enough to venture out into the path of the Left Wing.

Boris Miljkovic

30th July 2019 at 9:33 am

“He is literally Hitler” arguments are ok on social media platforms, not as a part of education. Not a free speech issue.

Jack Stone

30th July 2019 at 9:17 am

“He has suggested that psychedelics can bring on ‘transcendent’ and ‘metaphysical’ experiences.”

What on Earth is incorrect about that?

Peterson talks of myths, symbols and mysticism as a way of understand humans throughout history.

In the author’s opinion, should there only be a thin vein of knowledge that academics should focus on?

George Haworth

30th July 2019 at 9:47 am

Yes, I think it would be interesting to give Andrea Seaman a high dose of DMT and then ask her to rewrite this article.

Phil Ford

30th July 2019 at 9:13 am

I’ve followed Peterson from the very first YT video he posted about Bill C-16. It has been a fascinating journey; by turns inspiring, emotional and intellectually very interesting. However, nobody – not even the sainted Professor Himself, is beyond criticism (something I think he would agree with).

Peterson is flawed. No, not the tired ‘Belief In God Question’ that every dreary interviewer seems duty-bound to try and catch him out on. So what’s the beef?

The trouble with those to the right of Lenin who fall roughly the into the centrist, conservative or libertarian camp, is that while they were all complaining that the left never speaks to them and has instead marooned itself within a mutually advantageous echo chamber of absolute agreement with each other, the right, the moderate centrists and the libertarians busily set about doing exactly the same among themselves. This is how we ended up with Ben Shapiro making an absolute fool of himself on BBC TV in an interview with Andrew Neil. It was a textbook example of how those on the right, however impressive, articulate and well-informed they might be within their own circles, have become just as ideologically blinkered and naive as their opponents whenever they are faced with GENUINE diversity of opinion and criticism.

To his credit, even as his star was ascendant, Professor Peterson seemed to go out of his way to take on the more tricky, possibly combative interviews ahead of and just after the publication of his book ‘Twelve Rules’. I often wondered why he did this – he sat through several of those more difficult encounters with a face like a smacked arse and a temper barely held under control.

Then he started his Bible Lectures and…well, then I started to wander away from the good Professor. Just a little. I remembered something about being ‘careful who your heroes are’… I don’t doubt a lot of what he speaks about (and to) resonates well with a modern audience of young people starved of the spiritual in his lectures. I find it appealing. To a point. But there’s always been the very slightest whiff of the salesman about Jordan Peterson. Something naff about the whole ‘Life Coach’ side of his work. When he’s belting out a critical no-holds barred litany of the horrors of communism in the 20th-century I’m ready to buy the book, wear the T-shirt and join the fan club (and still I am genuine surprised – even gleeful – that any college professor should attack the actual evils of communism in such a raw, visceral way as does Peterson), but not so much on the whole ‘clean your room’ meme.

I like him; but he’s a bit thin-skinned, and doesn’t take criticism too well (despite what he says about listening to others), he has a touch of pompous, he gets over-emotional too often, he can be repetitive and he needs to move on from the whole ‘life is a tragedy and then we die’ line. We get it. It was great the first few times, and maybe some of us needed to hear it; now we need to know what comes next.

James Hamilton

30th July 2019 at 9:27 am

Well put. I have followed him since the beginning too, and I find him to be sometimes brilliant, particularly on free speech and the underlying truth of traditional beliefs, but also sometimes quite incoherent. He has some strange ideas about God – on the one hand embracing religion in a phenomenological sense, apparently having a qualified belief in God, but then saying that anyone who believes in God should be struck down by God for the audacity of such a claim (see his podcast with Bishop Barron), which is contrary to the teaching of the very religion he is relying on for his conception of God. He also seems to treat everything associated with the left, including their philosophy, as being part of a conspiracy, which is a conspiracy theory. Couple that with the fact that he doesn’t appear to recognise that he might have his own biases and one gets the impression that he is worth approaching with respect but not deference – which is probably where his more vocal supporters get things wrong.

That said, the article’s criticisms of him aren’t very good. He is a psychologist, and he views the mystics and so on through that lens. He’s not claiming that Jung’s theories were necessarily metaphysically true but that fables and legends exist because they have a strong psychological resonance with humanity. For example, although I don’t consider naturalist explanations of morality to hold much water in the wider sense, our morality needs some kind of grounding in our experience of reality and so why not in play?

Kristof Roth

31st July 2019 at 6:34 pm

“… our morality needs some kind of grounding in our experience of reality and so why not in play?”

Why not in bereavement, or the experience of being violated, robbed or excluded? Why not in warfare or hunting? If all we’re doing is “some kind of grounding” (what odd research paradigm!) there are no constraints on speculation. But now we proceed as philosophers, not clinicians. Now a whole other world of theory opens up in which someone like Peterson has no claim to expertise and in which he appears as a complete novice.

This conversation about the good/excellence/morality has been going on for 2500 years. There is not a whole lot more that remains to be said, really. To start from scratch as Peterson and Sam Harris do is both presumptuous and naive. The discussion can only proceed radically and systematically by scholars competent in intellectual history. Unfortunately, there is not shortcut to such erudition, and no substitute for it by way of clinical experience or neurophysiological speculation.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 10:33 am


We’re all flawed. I was really looking forward to the rubin interview between Peterson and Shapiro, and was repulsed to find Peterson actually hectoring Shapiro.

I think that Mr Peterson has a lot to share about cultural-marxism.

Mr Shapiro was perhaps ill-prepared in some ways for the Neil interview, but in no way made a fool of himself. (Pls read what l said on the relevant Fraser Myers story if you’re interested.) I don’t think that you can compare what’s happening on the levt and right in that the levt only seem to have vain appeals to emotionalisn left. There isn’t anything GENUINE about any of the critcisms coming from there.

Diversity of opinion is one thing. Indulging nonsense is why we are where we are.

Phil Ford

30th July 2019 at 10:58 am

Hana, you are absolutely correct about Professor Peterson’s interventions re: cultural Marxism (something the left petulantly insists isn’t a thing – because of course they do). As I suggested in my previous comment, that’s when Peterson has me hooked: it’s just so damn refreshing to hear someone – anyone – speak out so forcefully, from a well-informed position, on these things at a time when doing so is tantamount to an act of public and professional bravery, given the heavy social and professional censure so often heaped upon those who do so.

Re: Ben Shapiro – I was just so disappointed by Shapiro’s performance in the Andrew Neil interview. It was obvious Shapiro had done little to no prep ahead of the interview and somehow expected to be treated with the same deferential regard he’s usually granted when appearing on Fox News. Shapiro exists, for the most part, in a safe, mutually-agreeable bubble of like-mindedness at The Daily Wire (just watch some of their shows)… but out in the wider world, where opinions vary, he suffered a similar fate to those on the left he regularly decries. His views were, for once, genuinely challenged and he was found wanting.

The same criticism apply to The Rubin Report. They all agree among themselves that they have splendid conversations, but I’ve yet to see (apart from the infamous Candace Owens/Blaire White episode) any real combative disagreement about anything much from any of his guests.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 12:30 pm

The point you make in the second half of your first paragraph…this is extremely scary. Not everything that Dr Peterson says should be taken as gospel, but surely he should be seen as a man of some repute. So how are the crazy allegations made against him being perpetuated by…err, fake news? Lol.

I really enjoy reading what you write, and learnt from you among other things that no matter what they try and pass themselves off as, they really are all just communists.

It’s why I’m so surprised to see things so differently about what you write about Shapiro, and l think that you’ve got it completely wrong. Which isn’t to say that I’m right. But I’d contend that it’s an unfair comparison. I didn’t see him as being challenged or to be found wanting in any way, and I’m not just saying this. I really mean it.

I’ve been provoking lefties on here for months now. The bodycount is that I’ve been trolling them, and a few disappeared. How do you I’d go in a room full of guardian and bbc people? How do think Shapiro would go?

rubin is literally a you-know-what, and a cheerleader. But at least he is cheering for the right team now. They all welcome lefties to step up. Didn’t Shapiro offer O’Crazio Cortex insane money to come on and debate him? Lol, perhaps it seems as if they talk amongst themselves because the levt is too lame to come on?

You must’ve seen Dr Peterson embarass Sam whatisname?

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 12:32 pm

This lady is pretty funny. She seems like an idiot, but trolls them in such a good way.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 12:40 pm

That’s the thing really. I’ve found something that we probably disagree on, and there are probably a hundred things between us, but l don’t doubt in any way your grip on reality.

Try saying that about Thornberry, Omar, ….or any of them, or any that could possibly support them?

Why must we debate arseholes and lunatics? As if any of it is valid?

Melissa Jackson

30th July 2019 at 12:33 pm

It’s interesting that you mention you prefer Peterson as a critic of Marxism much more than as a practical psychologist because I find that side of him more valuable.

I do appreciate his trenchant criticisms of the far left, but from my side I don’t see anything unique in that. In so many words; anyone who knows the truth of what happened under communism would say the same thing. Peterson is a smart and compelling speaker but I don’t find the content tells me anything new.

I find his individualist pop psychology much more valuable, in a way. It’s so easy to criticise monsters. It’s harder to improve your own life. While his self-help books do feel like self-help, I found that they struck a real chord and put advice forward in a compelling and meaningful way.

Particularly in the modern world where as many of us have become too focused on fighting the culture war, Peterson’s continued advice to focus on oneself and to make the improvements that you are capable of making in your own life is valuable.

I know it’s a meme to “clean your room” but it is an important point. Many of us needed to hear that we shouldn’t look to change the world to suit us, and that we shouldn’t pin our hopes on big government systems to change our lives for us. The idea that if you want change you need to make the change is something meaningful, as is the need to meet the expectations of the world if we want to flourish.

Too many of us, me included, were taught that we were special and wonderful and that we didn’t really need to do anything succeed. No-one taught us that we need to work hard. And the result is that many of us in our twenties are miserable and listless and have achieved way below our capabilities; and we also lack the ability to do anything about that. We just get stuck in a rut, not even trying to get ahead, and it’s hurt a lot of us.

Many of us, especially on the left, have been activists since we were teenagers. We’ve always been trying to change the world, but never learned to clean our room or to take charge of our own lives. Iraq or Palestine or Sudan or socialism or Trump were always more important than our own mental health and our own personal development. These are fine causes, but I left the SWP feeling like I’m been a suicide bomber – My life used up for the cause and no-one caring what happened to me after.

I’m not saying he’s magically wonderful or anything. But as a miserable millennial I did need a kick up the butt, and an explanation of why cleaning my room would help me improve my life. Me and many people I knew through uni genuinely believe that we should just automatically resist all authority, that “tidy your room” was the man keeping us down and squashing our free spirits – “I won’t do what you tell me old man!”. Except that everyone who wanted us to clean our rooms actually wanted us to learn to create our own small sense of order. The adults who told us not to do that (in my case, the older socialist activists) to be free spirits and live in a pig sty, turned out to be people with no meaning in their lives and passed on their nihilism to us.

The funny thing about Dr Peterson is that his whole career is, at least from my side, “Everything your parents told you is true. They didn’t explain it well, and you were determined not to listen, but they really did have your best interests at heart.” .

Maybe this is just me. But I value that. Finding some sense of meaning and purpose matters. And I appreciate my family vastly more now I better understand why they did what they did.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 1:04 pm

One of the best posts I’ve read on here, Melissa.

Kristof Roth

31st July 2019 at 5:52 pm

“…he sat through several of those more difficult encounters with a face like a smacked arse …”

Brilliant. That look of narcissistic rage simmers just below the surface whenever his claim to be recognized as the Prophet of our age goes unconfirmed. A competent lecturer on clinical psychology, Peterson is woefully in over his head when addressing issues such as post-Modernism, neo-Marxism, or Christian theology. He follows in the footsteps of Guru Jung, who was also not deterred from mixing his universes of discourse in a free-associationist manner, convinced he was the mouthpiece of Truth.

Peterson lacks the inner fire and sense of humor that a real role-model needs to have. He is a dour scold who too readily adopts a tone of superiority to ridicule the opposition. As if winning an argument against the vast left-wing conspiracy trumped the gaining of insight, whatever its provenance.

How damning of our time that this egghead should attain such publicity. It too will pass. But not soon enough.

Hana Jinks

1st August 2019 at 6:03 am

Your last sentence could just as easily be describing Jung as well. Utterly diabolical.

Kenan Wang

4th August 2019 at 6:39 am

Above you claim that those steeped in intellectual history and not psychology and neurophysiology are the only ones who will save us. Seems a bit close-minded. It is not revolutionary to suggest that a psychologist could have something valuable to say about the three topics you suggest that he is out of his depth on “post-Modernism, neo-Marxism, or Christian theology”. This is presumably because only those steeped in intellectual history have something valuable to say? Yet, I have not seen intellectual historians offer salient defenses vs. his opinions on the impacts of post-Modernism on universities (his area of concern). Marxists may want to distinguish themselves from criticism by saying that neither their enemies nor their allies properly understand Marx, yet they’ve failed to articulate to society how properly understood ideas of Marx should be distinguished from poor interpretations. Psychology is intimately intertwined with religion both from the perspective of the emergence of religion and how it can be understood as a phenomenon and the impacts of beliefs and faith on human well being – both topics that Peterson speaks to quite cogently.

I haven’t found him to be humorless, he speaks with quite a lot of humor when he is not defending his positions or attacking poor positions, both tasks that we assign to public intellectuals. He has admitted to these tasks to be quite stressful for him, and tasks which he might need to moderate for his own health, but to say that role-models shouldn’t show forceful aggression in an argument would preclude people like Churchhill, MLK Jr. Lastly, I would not call your rage at Peterson’s popularity any less unattractive than the rage that you seem to find so unattractive in Peterson.

Jim Lawrie

30th July 2019 at 9:08 am

Defamation when it concerns a man’s profession and livelihood is not the same as general criticism.

The fact that the University tried to establish behind closed doors that quoting him was a disciplinary offence makes it worse. It flies in the face of free and open speech. It also suggests that they knew they were out of order and coming the bully with Ms Shepherd.

In their rush to rubbish him, Spiked miss the point that this was a full blown attempt to make him taboo, a direct challenge to free speech as a means to disseminate ideas, and a floating of the idea that quoting him was proof, de facto and de jure, that the woman was a Nazi.

Spiked do not even touch upon the acceptance of the notion that being right wing is incompatible with being a University lecturer.

The University could have met the law suit head on by challenging him to open debate. Instead they opted for a PR whispering campaign against them.
When the University rather pathetically countered that they had helped him in the publicity stakes, they conceded that their action had affected him, leaving only the question of whether officially denouncing someone as a Nazi is to their professional benefit or detriment.

The whole article exhibits minimal thought and effort. Spiked ought to commission a new piece on him that is subject to rigorous editorial scrutiny by those whose job it is to do so, and not by the readership.
I concur with those who regard the article as weak and shallow.

The fact that Mr Peterson has the wealth, the know all and the platform to square up to them is relevant in that the flip side of that coin is that there are thousands who are put upon in this way and who have nowhere to turn for help.

Mr Peterson inspires many feelings, envy and jealousy being high on he list.

Kristof Roth

31st July 2019 at 6:21 pm

Just below incredulity, disdain, and annoyance…

christopher barnard

30th July 2019 at 9:00 am

The most interesting thing about Peterson is the hysterical and intolerant reaction of his opponents.

Jim Lawrie

30th July 2019 at 10:28 pm

Quite Christopher. Note how the article tells us of “His refusal to bow down before a torrent of criticism,” and then suggests that “Maybe … he just can’t handle criticism”.

Kristof Roth

31st July 2019 at 6:47 pm

I think you mean the enraged reaction of “lobster boy” disciples to any criticism of Guru Peterson.

Jerry Owen

1st August 2019 at 8:16 am

Many of them here it seems, and posting with the apparent awareness of naval gazing.

Neil McCaughan

30th July 2019 at 8:58 am

Poor stuff, even cheap. Even the best of us was formerly obscure. The article seems to be a bitter lament for the mincemeat to which Peterson routinely reduces feminism and modern liberalism. Peterson is perfectly entitled to sue idiots who call him Hitler, especially the idiotic, anti-rational morons who infest the North American University sector.

The rather thin air in Switzerland seems to be taking its toll.

Amin Readh

30th July 2019 at 12:20 pm

Yes. Then others are perfectly entitled to call him and his many followers complete snowflakes. What a Nazi! Maybe he will come after me… wooooo!

Neil McCaughan

30th July 2019 at 4:28 pm

At least we can all agree you are a complete turnip.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 5:12 pm


Amin Readh

31st July 2019 at 5:52 am

@ Neil McCaughan

More of a “cabbage” actually.

Howard T Duck

30th July 2019 at 8:53 am

I think I’ve got the concept of free speech wrong if it means freedom to lie about people and accuse them of things they are not, without having to face the music for it.

James Hillier

30th July 2019 at 8:47 am

I have reservations about the elevation of Peterson. He makes some legitimate and well-founded points. But the mysticism and Jungian psychology seem suspect.

But defamation is not protected under most definitions of free speech. And calling someone a misogynist and a Nazi when they are not both feel like clear cases of defamation.

Jerry Owen

30th July 2019 at 8:45 am

It’s a shame the author cannot understand the difference between free speech and defamation.
Peterson is absolutely right about the double helix representing DNA.
The ancients new about DNA. The early Medici also used the double helix as its logo.

Ven Oods

30th July 2019 at 1:38 pm

“The ancients new about DNA.”

Sorry to need to ask, but, how do you know that? ( I’d love it to be true, but…)

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 5:05 pm

Ven Oods.

Jerry Oven-Kraut is a confirmed nazi. This is for your information.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 5:33 pm

Jerry Oven-Kraut.

I’ve been trolling you, and you need to give account.

By the time you need to give account means that it’s gone way too far.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 8:39 am

Ameliorate Cant.

Without doubt the biggest load of ignorant and ill-informed rubbish that I’ve seen written on, and that’s really saying something.

Who knows what kind of laws that you imagine apply to anywhere outside of safe spaces, but defamation laws have nothing to do with free speech. If someone calls you Hitler, and they are a rabid leftie with money, then it would be amoral to not sue them.

You also attempt to speak authoritatively about psychedelics. I suggest that you try them before doing that. You have no idea what you are talking about.

The reason for this is because you are a humanist. You are the product of the diabolical nonsense that passes for education. God’s Hand in things really isn’t difficult to see at all if you’d only open your eyes.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 8:40 am

*on here

Michael Lynch

30th July 2019 at 8:39 am

Another awkward hatchet job. I was expecting the author to propose that Peterson was merely comparing us to Rats for a moment. It reminded me of that awful Cathy Newman interview. Peterson is merely fighting fire with fire. Cripes, you get called a Nazi for looking the wrong way nowadays so somebody has to put up a fight.
Peterson, in his own unique style, is simply trying to tell us that we cannot nurture the nature out of ourselves. Something the Woke generation seems to think is entirely possible. Alas, we are no more than a naked ape, a noble savage, that is destined to fail because we cannot escape the process of evolution that made us. We are merely another species that, for a brief moment of time, has reached the top rung on the ladder of evolution.

Andrew-Paul Shakespeare

30th July 2019 at 8:23 am

In the first place, freedom of speech is not licence to defame, and never has been.

In the second place, psychology (Peterson’s field) is a social science, not an experimental science. They necessarily don’t conform to the same standards.

While the author is correct that it would be inappropriate for a chemist or a physicist to draw inferences about morality or metaphysical experiences, they are very much party if the human condition, and therefore very much the role of a psychologist to study.

I wonder how the author proposes that we arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the human thought process without considering what drives our moral and spiritual impulses. Does she think we should simply not bother to question what love is, for example, even though almost all of us devote our entire lives in a quest to obtain and keep it, and despite the significant mental impact that not being loved has upon most of us? Surely not!

I’m surprised the author is unaware of this. I’m more surprised that Spiked consisted such an ill-informed piece worthy of publication.

Louis Le Marquand

30th July 2019 at 8:11 am

This is a great article Seaman. It’s refreshing to read someone criticise Peterson with legitimate reasons. I will just add, however that Ayn Rand solved the is-ought distinction several decades ago. here is a bite-sized version of her argument (, but if you really want her fully formulated argument i would recommend that you read ‘The Objectivist Ethics’ from her book ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 8:47 am

Ayn Rand was a satanist, in case you didn’t know.

Which legitimate reasons did you find refreshing exactly?

Bronk’s Funeral

30th July 2019 at 7:32 pm

Ayn Rand was not a satanist—LaVey described the CoS as ‘Ayn Rand’s philosophy with ceremony and ritual added,’ but that doesn’t make her a satanist.

Trust me; I *am* a satanist, and Rand’s philosophies are abhorrent to me.

Amin Readh

30th July 2019 at 12:08 pm

She did nothing of the sort. Is-Ought has long been debated in philosophy. David Hulme is a case in point.

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 1:20 pm


You are the person on spiked that I’m most confused about.

You understand many things, and have taught me.

I usually have the utmost respect for people, or not.

It’s interesting because l know that you’re a muslim, and thats ok. It’s interesting because you speak so much sense, and yet believe in a religion that l think is crazy.

Sorry..sincerely, l didn’t mean to offend there….as l said, l can either usually respect a person’s opinions or not, but with you, l respect everything you say outside of islam.

I have met one other muslom like you.

Winston Stanley

30th July 2019 at 5:52 pm

Excellent heads up on Hume. I suspect that I largely agree with him, ethics are not rational but are based on sentiments such as the passions and instincts, it has some material and psychological cause. Spiked seem to take a “rationalist” approach to ethics, which is nonsense; it smacks of the myths of Plato and idealism, of the “other world of moral truth”, “heaven” or whatever. They always assume it as true, and never actually argue for it. I suspect that they know that they are talking nonsense on that point, and that they simply fear relativism.

One for me to read through this evening:

Hume claims that moral distinctions are not derived from reason but rather from sentiment. His rejection of ethical rationalism is at least two-fold. Moral rationalists tend to say, first, that moral properties are discovered by reason, and also that what is morally good is in accord with reason (even that goodness consists in reasonableness) and what is morally evil is unreasonable. Hume rejects both theses. Some of his arguments are directed to one and some to the other thesis, and in places it is unclear which he means to attack.

Paul Robson

30th July 2019 at 1:07 pm

Yeah great article. Why did she cover up the actual reason for the Sheperd meeting ? It wasn’t quite as simple as someone said something nasty about Peterson in a meeting, was it ?

alan smithee

30th July 2019 at 6:46 am

Lazy, hatchet job on Peterson. You have to fight fire with fire these days. What’s wrong with writing about psychedelics?

George Haworth

30th July 2019 at 7:55 am

Yes, talking about psychedelics bringing on ‘transcendent’ and ‘metaphysical’ experiences is entirely fact-based and reasoned, the author seems to think the opposite. The only thing I can conclude here is that she has never used them doses high enough to dispel the illusion that Richard Dawkins style rationalism can adequately describe what’s going on there.

Richard Holloway

30th July 2019 at 6:33 am

This is a weak and poorly argued article.
Libel exists to protect speech. Free speech doesn’t mean you can say anything you want.
And it’s a bizarre argument that ethics and science must be separate. Sure we have separate fields for them to aid human understanding, but part of Peterson’s whole proposition is that the ethical and the scientific are not as far apart as people like to traditionally argue.

Come on Spiked, your editors can do better than this.

Bobby Roberts

30th July 2019 at 5:02 am

This is a shallow take on Peterson’s complex body of thought, which he himself insists is still evolving and a work in progress. A fightback is needed to protect freedom of thought and speech against the slander and denouncement campaigns of an activist authoritarian illiberal hegemony that is destroying dissidents lives. Freedom of speech, and everything else, doesn’t come for free, it has been hard fought for, and the battle will never end. The stakes are high and there is no “do nothing” option to maintain a free, liberal society. The perpetrators need to be held to account, and the mccarthyism stopped. Putin was correct in his assessment that western liberal society is destroying itself and is unable or unwilling to defend itself. Freedoms must be supported by a legal framework, they’re not just ‘human rights’ that we are entitled to without a fight. Peterson has been in the vanguard of the fightback and should be lauded for his contribution to exposing the rot and restoring basic freedoms.

Charles Stuart

30th July 2019 at 4:51 am

Defamation is a tort, like negligence, assault, conversion and passing off. In other words it is a deed and not merely speech. hence, defamation is not a limitation on speech at all. It is a limitation on an action, being the wilful attempt to ruin someone’s reputation.

Steve Weatherbe

30th July 2019 at 4:41 am

The writer is mixing apples and oranges. Libel law has been one of the accepted limitations on free speech for centuries: you cannot both lie about someone and thereby damage their reputation , though you can do either separately. What Peterson , who had three million followers before Channel 4 lifted him from so called obscurity, is on about with Canadian compelled speech laws has nothing at all to do with defamation and libel in general and his libel actions in particular.

Alberto Ferro

30th July 2019 at 4:08 am

Dear Andrea,
On your first point i don’t see the contradiction you refer to (Peterson’s unwillingness to take criticism, proven by his lawsuits, that conflicts with being a champion of free speech). One thing is to be aware and possibly fight censorship that aims at shutting dissenting opinions, another is defending yourself from deliberate, ideological attacks based on plain falsehoods. If some university starts preaching that Spiked is an instrument of the Nazi what are you gonna do, nothing because free speech? Any person in the right mind will fight back with the instruments available, and Peterson is using the law. It doesn’t seem a desire of shutting down a legitimate opinion, rather a proportionate way for a private citizen to defend himself from damaging gratuitous defamation.

With regards to Peterson’s scientism, or the overlap of science and mysticism you are referring to, i also don’t see the stretch. The emerging of ‘morality’ in rats for example is an element to consider (as he tries to point out) in order to answer the universal question: is there something resembling an “absolute good” that we can determine scientifically and universally? The answer is complex and he discusses it lenghtly (and clearly) in many occasions (the series Maps of Meaning for example) but it aims at connecting the gap between morality and science, the same gap that moves your understandable skepticism and critique: science and morality deal with unrelatable worlds.

One of the reasons he is so respected is because he connect difficult dots: on one side investigating morality through psychology (the structure if belief, what is religion and what is ideology, etc) on the other relating psychology to biology, chemistry, anthropology, medicine. In other words data, science.
Thanks anyway for your interesting article.
Love Spiked!

Winston Stanley

30th July 2019 at 1:57 am

It is silly to accuse JP of a “weakness of his commitment to science and reason” on the basis that he claims that “ethics emerges out of nature”. He is entirely correct that morality is “a product of our neural activity” and “to seek the mechanical workings of nature”.

Science seeks to explain phenomenon according to the principle of sufficient reason that states that everything happens for a reason, that it has a sufficient cause. The genesis of all objects, their states and their actions all exist as natural effects of sufficient natural causes.

All science depends on that principle and it comes to an end without it. Spiked entirely undermine reason and science when they refuse to accept that principle applies to humans just the same as to all other objects in the cosmos.

The principle of sufficient reason is “transcendental” in the sense that it applies to all phenomenon understood by the human faculty of understanding. All science is impossible without the application of that principle as cause and effect.

It is a really basic idea to grasp: all things, all conditions and acts, are effects of causes. Nothing happens without a sufficient cause. All objects can be understood by cause and effect. That includes humans, which are objects and phenomena just like any other. Exclude humans from that principle and the principle falls in its universality and necessity.

If the principle is not universal and necessary, if there is a single exception to it, then there is no reason to expect that anything should consistently function according to knowable cause and effect. The principle is either universal and necessary or it is not. If it is, then it applies to everything without exception. If it is not, then there is no reason to assume that it applies to anything.

JP’s rat brain circuits (rats are often used in experiments to better understand humans, there is nothing degrading about rats) may not be the entire natural and scientific explanation but he is entirely correct to seek to understand all human behaviour, including morality, in terms of natural causes and effect, in terms of the sufficient reason why humans act in certain ways.

JP is taking a rational, scientific approach and it is openly silly to accuse him of being “unscientific” on that count. Spiked/ Andrea need to understand the fundamental principles of science, the first being that the principles of science apply universally and equally to all objects. Quantum physics is no exception, all objects exist on a quantum level but they all continue to exist and to act according to cause and effect, without exception. Otherwise all science would be impossible. Humans are just the same, complex objects entirely open to scientific investigation and explanation.

“But that is simply how it is, not how it should be… [Ethics’] existence and properties cannot be proven or disproven by empirical methods.”

That was such a childish statement. Can Andrea hear herself? “That is simply how it is”. Indeed, JP is investigating reality, stuff that actually exists, in its cause and effect. That is what “morality” is, it is human behaviour that is entirely explicable in terms of cause and effect, like the genesis, states and acts of every single other object in the cosmos.

There is no other “moral object” in reality, nothing else exists. That is why there is nothing else to explain, to “prove”, and why that nothing else cannot be explained, because it does not exist, and it does not exist such as to be explained, as all objects that exist do so exist as explicable in terms of cause and effect.

Andrea simply has a naïve and unscientific view of the world and of human behaviour. She still “believes” in things that she even admits do not exist, things of which it cannot be said that they “is” (or are), that they have any being. It is no better than fairies and Santa. It is like she knows that Santa does not exist and yet she still insists that he does. It is incoherent, self-contradictory nonsense.

Her “ought” is entirely the stuff of childish fiction. She thinks that “moral truth” can be “proved” in some pseudo-rational way not based on cause and effect, indeed entirely aloof from the real natural world and its universal principles that allow us to understand anything and everything. It is like she wants to prove that fairies have wings, even though she admits that they do not exist, yet somehow they do still exist for her.

Andrea, let me break it to you, Santa is dead, fairies never existed and neither did any “moral object” or “moral truth” of your imagination. That is why they are not anything that “is”. You are a chemical, biological machine, much like any other. You are a material object in the world, entirely subject to cause and effect, and entirely understandable and predictable by the scientific application of the principle of sufficient reason.

On a final point, I do not know anything about JP’s theories about snake symbols anticipating the discovery of DNA, but I agree that does sound like nonsense. Maybe he is appealing to the pseudo-scientific crowd with that one, but as I say, I have never heard about that, so I cannot comment.

Kristof Roth

31st July 2019 at 8:25 pm

You might want to familiarize yourself with the spectrum of Peterson’s deliverances before mounting lengthy defenses of his intellectual integrity. Take a gander at his pronouncements on “the logos,” for example. When channeling the archetypal like some modern seer Jung’s influence is in full bloom (inflammation?). Add this to Peterson’s allusive style of ratiocination, his intuitive free-associating, and very casual way with texts (the whole “post-Modern Marxism” trope), and you have a fair sampling of the kinds of discourse that offend against not just scientific rigor but scholarly probity. All means seem fair game to intellectual brawlers and self-styled prophets fighting the “righteous” fight. And nothing more inconvenient than nuance.

Kristof Roth

31st July 2019 at 8:57 pm

“Hume claims that moral distinctions are not derived from reason but rather from sentiment.”

This naive and undialectical opposition was corrected by Kant and Hegel. Moral philosophy has moved on from the puerile reflections of Hume.

Reason articulates the reasons why x counts as moral (or excellent, good, fair, etc.), it does not create excellence, goodness, fairness, etc. Neither does ‘sentiment’ create those values. Both views are one-sided, subjectivist distortions; the first a form of psychological reductionism, the second a form of ethical idealism. I find it more illuminating to say, with Max Scheler, that there is value-ception, just as there is perception of secondary properties. These are and are not ‘created’ by the act of perception, insofar as they are situational dispositions, that is, they occur as mind interfaces with the environment. In this sense experience is non-relative, the totality of objective and subjective points of reference; at once behavioral and geographical. Certain objects are predisposed to effect us in certain ways, given our psychological make-up. It is a relationship of mutual reception and potentiation rather than some univectoral causation.

Sentiment does not exclude reason, nor reason sentiment. That we can isolate feeling analytically from thinking does not mean they are separate experientially. Feeling is a form of evaluative judgment. Until it is articulated by discursive reason, it is proto-rational, rather than irrational. It perceives within a hierarchy of ends and interests culturally conditioned without being purely constructed.

Moral distinctions obtain interpersonally, therewith objectively, insofar as they are articulated. They are not ‘derived’ from reason, as it makes no sense to be derived from the process of objectification/articulation or the perception of order. But to become culturally salient they must become encoded in discourse. This is a rational and social process that mediates individual experience without creating it. Even the ‘reasons of the heart’ (Pascal) obtain in an ‘ordo amoris’ (Augustin) that is to say, a rationally articulable order of preferences.

Whether these are actively and self-consciously deployed and articulated will depend on the personality of the individual. I have no doubt there are people who experience ‘sentiment’ as irrational, but this does not qualify them to speak for humanity in general, or the ‘nature’ of moral distinctions.

Winston Stanley

1st August 2019 at 4:54 pm

1. I was not defending JP’s intellectual integrity.

2. Are you sure that you disagree with Hume?

aidan maconachy

30th July 2019 at 1:14 am

The crucial distinction to be made here is that between free speech – as it relates to the realm of ideas, political opinion etc – and slurs that have all too frequently been directed at the person of Peterson by liberals who resort to offensive Hitler-type smears.

Also I would take the view re your above examples that gratuitous misrepresentation and defamation needs to be challenged. None of this makes Peterson any less a champion of free speech.

Frankly I hope he takes them to the cleaners. I’m so tired of hearing of people who have views that fall outside the perimeters set by liberal barbed wire being smeared as Nazis… having their life destroyed by the Twitterati etc.

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Deplorables — a spiked film