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Life update from the Sunshine State

It's been about three months since I set sail from all currently existing institutions. After finalizing our business in the UK, saying goodbyes, and flying back to the United States, it's now been a little more than two months in the United States. It's been a mix of better than I expected, and harder than I expected.

I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly some paid work fell into my lap. I was confident I'd find some work sooner or later, to hold me over while I build my grand, unified vision of a financially stable intellectual life on the internet, but I prepared mentally for it to take a long time. I was almost immediately offered handsomly-paid remote work conducting web survey experiments for a business client. This greatly eased my anxieties about the financial implications of leaving academia, but it also threw a temporary wrench into my intellectual workflows. I have zero experience communicating with business clients, and zero experience working on a remote team business-style. I allowed the Slack work style to colonize my consciousness way too much on too many days, even though the total count of hours itself has not been bad at all.

The current paid project is almost done, so it was only a short shock to Other Life Systems. I haven't done a livestream in the past few weeks, for instance. This is also because I am becoming conscious that I need to focus more on high-value work; the weekly solo live streams were really just a way to keep thinking and sharing and staying touch with my readers and watchers while I was going through the unpredictable chaos of the departure from England. Now that I'm on the other side, I will divert effort away from random one-off things to higher value longer-term projects. As of now, I'm going to formally end the tradition of the past few months, where I was doing a solo livestream every Thursday night. That's off until further notice. I might very well bring those sessions back, but if I do then they'll be something more focused and serious. Maybe prepared lectures or something, I just want to avoid too much bullshitting. Mere chatting and joking is fun here and there, but it's too cheap and easy. Seems to be a decent business model, if you look at some popular podcasts, but I'm chasing something different. I will probably still carry on the livestream conversations, I think, when I get settled somewhere; they still feel valuable. When we land in New Mexico, I'm going to commit to some rigorous 6-month or 1-year plan and will let you know what kinds of outputs you can expect through that period.

I still have podcasts posting regularly, and that will continue without interruption, as I continue to archive all the old livestreams as podcasts.

My recent distractions with paid work might have been a blessing for my systems at this early stage, because they're forcing me to rationalize my processes all the more forcefully.

The other good news is that if you need someone to conduct experimental research designs to answer various attitudinal or behavioral questions — I now know my way around like 8 different crowdsourcing platforms, and I can design + field + analyze survey experiments for business purposes quite quickly and affordably. If you have some causal effects in need of testing, .

Although this work has consumed me much more than I would've liked for the past few weeks, remote research work — fit well to the higher end of my abilities — feels more synergistic with my larger intellectual life. It's making me more knowledgeable and nimble with designing, implementing, and analyzing concrete and tractable studies. Moving in and out of a work Slack and RStudio is much more complimentary to my personal intellectual work than moving in and out of... buildings where I'm supposed to be showered and do a zillion bureaucratic things. I'm honing skills that will come in handy for my own autonomous research work, and I am learning business perspectives that might come in handy later, too.

I got my driver's license, after about ten years of it being expired. Took me about a month — I failed the written test the first time around. My dad is something of a hoarder, and he offered us a 2000 Audi A4 which my mother and sister told us to not accept. My dad assured us that it would get us to New Mexico (our ultimate destination for now), and I personally put that probability somewhere around 50%. It was almost free for us, other than a few little things, and the registration, insurance, and a AAA package. So even if it were to die in the middle of our trip, it seemed worth trying. If we needed to buy a new car or fly from wherever it died, it would only put us back where we started. But if it held up, we'd save a lot of money.

Then, the night before we needed to hit the road, the back windshield shattered. My dad placed his eyeglasses on the sill of the trunk, where the trunk space meets the back windshield, while we were doing some last things with flashlights in the dark of night. He forgot he put them there, and we went to close the trunk... It's quite bizarre, the eyeglasses were fine but the pressure went through the back windshield. We had lodgings booked for the whole week, so we had to rent a car — surely the worst possible way to get where we were going, financially.

We drove down the East Coast, taking our time for about a week. We stopped in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley for a night in Waynesboro, VA. We walked the Appalachian trail — for like a mile. We had beers in a huge bar with families and babies everywhere. We drove to the area around Asheville, NC and checked out a few spots. We saw some remarkable wildlife we had never seen before, namely a good-looking couple in their 20s with three kids. I met up with Trad Queen. She was cool, very nice, intense, we didn't have too long, we discussed relationships and she told me to read Flannery O'connor. We drove to Raleigh and enjoyed a meet up with @nicholatian, @resonanceknight, and @cryptochamomile before driving to a beautiful salt-marsh town in southern Georgia. We finally arrived in Florida to spend some time with family there. We've been in Florida for almost two weeks now. There is currently a possibility of some kind of meetup in the next week or two, somewhere within the triangle of Daytona-Gainesville-Jacksonville. If you're anywhere around this area, .

Then we head to New Mexico, where we'll live with Geoffrey Miller and Diana Fleischman in Albuquerque for a few months — maybe more if it works well for everyone. I'm looking forward to the relative stability.

What else? I just met with an accountant for the first time in my life. Gotta know what to do with all these Patreobux...

After a lot of reflection about my different projects and experiments — what's working well and what's not, balancing the work I enjoy with the work that I believe is most important, balancing what gets public traction and what will matter in the long-run, balancing what might lead to money and what probably won't, balancing all these and other things — I think I'm pretty close to having decided a 6-month or 1-year plan for the Other Life project. I microdosed LSD the other day and a few things clicked into place regarding how I should prioritize and sequence the various projects I want to work on. I'll let you know the plan as soon as I firm it up.

Some news and updates resettling

I'm now back in the United States, for the foreseeable future. My last two weeks in the UK were possibly my favorite two weeks in my 5.5 years there. On February 28, we went up to London with only what we could carry, for me to give a talk at the Invisible College (a podcast of my talk will be up soon). We stayed with Nina Power, who generously offered us a room in her flat, until our flight on March 13. The two weeks before these were rather stressful, as we spent most of our time selling, giving away, and shipping our belongings.

My personalized book-recommendation experiment worked really well; I unloaded well more than 100 books to internet friends. The first half of that process went into the red, but after the 'premium' stage of that process, I ended up making a good amount more than we spent in shipping, so that's good. Although it was quite time consuming, I took the time to digitize a bunch of my most bookmarked books before shipping them off. That was a surprisingly edifying experience in its own right, and I'm suddenly rid of my romantic attachment to physical books — a digital library with highlights and notes feels much more powerful, and I even feel closer to my books now than I did before. It turns out books collecting dust are less heartwarming than digital meltdown.

Quite a few people chose to give me a little $ for a custom book recommendation, based on their ideological and personality characteristics, plus my own digitized personal highlights from the recommended book. Although I'm no longer giving away my physical books, my little recommendation+highlights micro-service is up and running, and will remain up as one of many entrepreneurial toy-experiments I'll be piloting over the next year. Patrons at 5\$/month or more get access to all my digital highlights. Currently, the patron hard-drive includes my highlights from books by Chesterton, Bataille, Lacan, Bourdieu, Tiqqun, and more.

If you ordered a physical book, you probably should have received it by now. If you haven't received a book by now, please contact me.

Now that I'm resettling, and will be in one place for at least a month, I'm returning to regularly scheduled production. Primarily, I will return to writing How Academia Got Pwned and I think I will follow through on the Kickstarter idea. I made some videos with Nina and DC that I will release over coming weeks, and I also gave a talk to a student group at my university after I resigned. Going back onto campus for that was quite pleasing. I have audio of that, too, which will go to the podcast soon.

Tonight I speak with Logo Daedalus on the livestream. On Monday, 1 April
at 04:00 pm Eastern, I'll speak with philosopher David Roden about the posthuman. And then on Saturday, 6 April at 11:00 am, I will speak with Johannes Niederhauser, who just finished a PhD on Heidegger. In London, Johannes was telling me about "ecstatic time" in Heidegger and I was like, we have to stream this.

Much more soon…

What am I doing?

Many different people are asking me what's going on with me. In different languages, sometimes gleefully and sometimes worriedly, I have been asked some variant of "what are you doing?" so many times in the past couple of weeks that I figure I should just write one thing that I can give to anyone who asks. The chorus seems to be approaching a crescendo at the moment, with friends, strangers, coworkers, and now even students, and therefore bosses (that was quick!) joining in. So here's what I'm doing, as succinctly as I can put it.

It's not complicated. It's not profound. It’s not heroic or impressive. In fact, it's possibly the simplest decision I've made, or action I've taken, in the past eight years. It's very important to me personally, but it's something anyone can do, something many people should do, and something countless people do every day, with no fanfare.

I've never liked carving myself into separate sections, and strategically presenting myself to one audience here and one over there. People will say, "But of course, everyone has to do that!" Maybe that's correct, but maybe it's just a useful fiction for people who have made their life about optimizing something other than the truth (how they are perceived, their status, their income or financial stability, etc.). For my part, I believe that any mature adult who claims to be an intellectual must insist upon the widest possible latitude to think and speak in their own tongue — in a way that they are content to let stand for any interested party. Comfortably accepting any latitude less than the greatest latitude they can force open for themselves is fine — it just means you are living a different kind of life than the intellectual life. To think one thing and say another, or to say one thing to your peers and another thing to your students and another thing to the public, is — I believe — a truly abominable, cardinal sin for anyone who says to the public that they are in the business of truth-seeking. I understand that some people must live like this, because of their own unique web of obligations, which is why I am not judging others — but it doesn't mean I must like it, or live my own life that way. I am relatively young (32) and highly skilled; I don't have kids yet; my wife is even younger, and she supports me 100% in saying and doing whatever I need to do. One reason she supports and even encourages my freedom is because, over the past few years of being a tight-lipped, well-behaved prestigious professional, I have been a boring, stressed, shell of myself. If my vision of the intellectual life is impossible or "impractical," so be it. For the moment, I can afford to take my chances, and so what I am doing now is taking my chances, because it is my honest view that continuing life as a normal, respectable academic feels like a much bigger risk to me. I have also been delighted and emboldened by those who value my work enough to throw me money on a monthly basis. It doesn't match my salary from academia, but it's certainly enough to make me wonder what would happen if I pulled out all the stops.

People will think I am being ridiculous because, of course, what I am criticizing is the norm in academia and the intelligentsia more generally. First of all, it is exactly the normalcy of deceptiveness in academia that makes the stakes feel so high to me. Maybe, just maybe, this has something to do with the large-scale semi-international backlash of right-wing populists. Gee, I wonder [scratches head]. Additionally, in the contemporary fragmented media environment, trying to think and write honestly while also pleasing your family, bosses, students, and the public is just prohibitively energy consuming. As an academic, you can easily spend most of your days strategizing how to present yourself in different spaces, and never get around to thinking or saying anything worthwhile. If you want to seek the truth, as a life project, you must at nearly all cost find your own language that you can speak to all comers. Or else, you'll never get around to finding out anything interesting, let alone sharing it. I'm aware that all of these patterns I'm enumerating here are utterly banal to observe. As I said, I'm not making a genius argument, I am just explaining why I am now refusing to behave as I have behaved in the past few years.

What I am doing is simple. I am just thinking and saying whatever I feel like. I'm no hero and I'm certainly no martyr (academia looks much more vulnerable than I feel). I'm not asking for anyone's permission, I'm not asking for sympathy, and I'm not asking for more freedom. I'm not even defending myself on the grounds that I have something especially valuable or important to say. I am taking what belongs to me, for the trivial and even frivolous reason that I want to enjoy the right to make mistakes, to be rude, to occasionally overshoot and occasionally undershoot, perhaps even wildly — to try different ideas and performances on for size, sometimes for the sheer pleasure of doing so. I believe that such irresponsible leisure is a truly necessary, if not sufficient, condition for the more important forms of intellectual liberty that are easier to market. But I refuse even the obligation to market my liberty-taking as something more noble than it is. I don't want to justify what I'm doing with reference to these larger values, because my whole point is that I don't want to be constantly playing this rearguard game of having always to justify my own freedom. I did not get a PhD to live my life trembling at what a student or bureaucrat might think or feel about whatever it is I feel like saying. My mother always taught me that as long as I'm not hurting anyone, then I should do what I want.

Now that I've mentioned it, my family looms large in what I'm doing now. The bastard brat of an Irish-American roofer, I was never supposed to enter the official cosmopolitan intelligentsia — and when you sneak into a place, it looks very different than it does to those who are supposed to be there. I'm only here because I learned early how to hack social firewalls and I made up for my modest IQ with extra piss and vinegar (two things I did inherit amply). My dad and brother both have what the DSM calls Oppositional Defiance Disorder; I'm pretty sure I'm on that spectrum too, but I was blessed with enough self-control to sublimate my rebelliousness into a patient, longer game. Through intellectual work I could eventually prove that all those institutional authority figures were wrong, so I would do that instead of acting out and getting punished. My dad never finished high school, running away to hitchhike and eventually join the Marines. My mom, also Irish-American, also had no education and little earning power, but that didn't stop them from having four kids. Two of my siblings are recovering heroin addicts.

That's who I am, I am these people — and I'm quite tired of acting like I'm exactly the same as every other rootless hyper-educated citizen of the world. The typical cosmopolitan professor today — if she was giving my mother personal advice in 1986 — would have advised my parents to abort me. She would be disgusted by the latent racism and sexism she would have found embedded unconsciously in their vernacular. If my parents were "smart," they probably would have divorced each other at some point, in search of greener pastures. But they didn't abort me, and they spoke how they spoke, and they didn't break the family, all for reasons I have been too educated to understand. Until lately. The last time I visited my family was in the run-up to the US Presidential election. My grandmother, a former teacher who is educated and fiercely intelligent (and disagreeable), told me she was going to vote for Trump. I articulated my reasons for why that upset me, and she looked me in the eyes like she never had before, with a coldness unlike her, and she said, "I do not care what anybody thinks." I was horrified and upset at the time, but this was one of my best friends growing up, and I never, ever would have become a successful academic without her. I didn't vote for Trump and I'm still no fan, but her words on that day have been echoing in my head like crazy since then. I may have recalled these words every single day since then. All of my own traits and accomplishments that I like and value the most about myself, I got from my family. They have backbones far stronger than most people I've met in my extensive travels among the international intellectual class. I haven't yet made sense of all this, but sometimes life forces you to make broad wagers, on ill-defined questions you don't fully understand. I needed to give you all of this background, but in conclusion, all I can really say is that I have already invested far too much into academic respectability, and not enough into honoring my family. And I've never been good at half measures, so now I'm going to see what happens if I bet the farm on "I do not care what anybody thinks."

If my bosses think that any of this is inconsistent with my employment, then I will just infer that their employment is inconsistent with a real intellectual life. I am a highly skilled researcher and lecturer, with good publications, and a fine track record in every aspect of my academic career thus far. If the person I truly am, and aspire to become, does not fit into academia, I would much prefer to learn this now rather than later. In fact, it would be a most profound discovery regarding the real limits of higher education today. That would give me something to think and study and write about for years. For intellectuals, huge surprises are hugely valuable;  they're good news, exciting.

If academia can tolerate me, that would also be good to know. But if I can't be truly free to think and say what I want right now, while I have more respectable prestige points than perhaps I ever will, and while I have tenure (the British version, anyway), then I'll certainly never be granted such liberty in the future. I am just going to cease calculating, as much as possible anyway. Sometimes that will mean saying the smartest thing I can think of, sometimes that will mean saying the funniest thing I can think of, and maybe sometimes it will mean saying the dumbest thing I can think of, if in that moment I feel like not bearing the burden of sophistication. As I said, I don't need you to like this, or even understand it, let alone praise or forgive it. But you asked, so here is my answer for now.

Eichmann in Oxford

I have recently been assigned to an Ethics Reviewer position, and I just had my first training. One of the lecture slides for this training was quite audacious: It placed the UK's current academic ethics initiatives in a glorious history, beginning with the Nuremberg Code of 1947. The Nuremberg code came after the famous Nuremberg trials; it sought to codify ethical research guidelines, in response to the atrocities carried out as "research" by Nazi doctors. It was thrilling to learn that my new administrative position was only the latest episode in a grand story of moral enlightenment. I thought I was just taking on a new bureaucratic responsibility, so I was relieved and quite inspired to learn that I would really be fighting fascism.

The reason I describe this particular lecture slide as audacious is because — although my excellent training leader forgot to mention this — the Nazi doctors had been subject to an ethics code from the beginning: the 1931 Guidelines for Human Experimentation (see this 2011 article in Perspectives in Clinical Research, which argues that the Nuremberg Code plagiarized the 1931 Guidelines). When the doctors were later tried in the Nuremberg Trials, one of the defenses put forward by the doctors' lawyers was that the doctors were acting in accordance with the guidelines!

There is little doubt, then, that contemporary academic ethics review systems have some kind of relationship with the horrors of mid-twentieth century fascist totalitarianism. The only question is whether we are the good guys or the bad guys. Is the Ethics Review System (henceforth ERS) of the modern university a 180-degree turn away from the Third Reich's fake, evil system of research ethics, now functioning to protect people from harm? Or is the Ethics Review System of the modern university like the ethics system of the Third Reich, in a more sophisticated form, functioning primarily to protect the interests of research institutions while harming some other subpopulation?

To figure that out, we need to ask what exactly this system is doing. Is it doing something that looks more like "preventing horrific behaviors" or does it look more like "a state-sponsored system to promote a certain group of humans over others?" I will submit that it looks much more like a state-sponsored system to promote some humans over others. But I should admit that I am biased. If I chose the first option, that would not make for a very good blog post.

First, the reasons why it doesn't look like a system dedicated to preventing harm.

For starters, I've not been made aware of any cases in which some horror was prevented by the ERS. That doesn't mean much, because of course the ERS might have stopped some horrible researchers from even attempting to conduct some evil research they would have otherwise conducted. Still, even granting some effect here, my sense is that this counterfactual quantity of prevented harm is very small as a percentage of total research activity, if only because I've met a lot of academics. Most of them don't even do the types of research that can really hurt people. Most of the ethics approval applications are from undergraduate students, and most of those students are seeking to do the easiest and simplest research they can get away with. They want good grades, often in a short time frame, so typically they steer away from elaborate experiments injecting racial minorities with strange chemicals or whatever. It's just not really in their wheelhouse. Even social scientists analyzing public, secondary datasets are now being asked to submit ethics applications. When was the last time that harmed someone?

The really dangerous types of research, on the other hand, such as biomedical research, are not even strongly constrained by the ERS because if the ERS says no to anything, that research will just be conducted in the private sector. I don't know the details so I can't confirm this, but I've been told — in my initial training session, as a matter of fact — that the Cambridge lecturer who created the psycho-graphic Facebook app that would later be used by Cambridge Analytica to force the victory of Trump and Brexit (lol), was denied academic ethics approval. So then he just went the commercial route. The second to last reason I doubt the ERS prevents harm is that, even when ethics reviewers identify potential "ethical problems," the result is usually nothing more than some superficial language changes. Then it's approved. The ERS rarely gives a verdict of "you are absolutely not allowed to do anything like this, do not even try to reapply;" they usually just command linguistic modifications to how people frame their research plans. Finally, there's no actual enforcement of the research conduct itself, so this is a huge reason I doubt the ERS prevents harm. If I'm evil enough to conduct an experiment, say, covertly injecting a novel synthetic hormone into the testicles of non-consenting senior citizens, I'm probably evil enough to obtain ethics approval by simply omitting the part where I plan to secretly stab senior citizens in the balls.

Next, the reasons why the ERS looks more like a state-sponsored system to promote some human lives over others.

The key thing to understand is that — and you'd be amazed how quickly and frankly they will admit this explicitly, if you ask them, as I did! — "ethics" really means a kind of "quality control" for the purpose of university image-maintenance, in order to ensure the flow of money from government research councils. My trainer told me that, straight up.

The examples they gave us of ethics violations that have actually occurred recently under our system's monitoring — rather than legendary historical cases like the Stanford Prison Experiment — are not primarily ethical violations. They are intellectual 'quality' violations. For instance, one case was of a student who emailed out a bunch of survey questions written with very poor grammar. This was brought to the attention of the university because it reflected poorly on the university's brand as an education provider. This could lower the status of the university, which could lower the likelihood of government councils giving money to our university instead of others. Now it starts to make sense why so much time, energy, and manpower are invested in these "ethics" review systems. Is it well known that this is the real purpose of these systems? I have not read this anywhere else...

Another case they gave us was a case where a student sent their survey to the email address of someone who is now deceased. The wife of the deceased man was upset that a student would send an email to her deceased husband. Is it an ethical violation to send a letter to someone who you did not realize is now dead? Could anyone say with a straight face that this is an example of unethical research practice? I don't think so. The only problem here is that someone in the public was upset about something they associated with the university. It's a PR problem, and that's about it. There was no principle given for what would distinguish a case of mere subjective dislike of the study from an unethical study. This isn't even seen as a relevant question, and I'm afraid to say that the appearance of unquestioning conformity in this system does not bode well for the ERS's promise that it is totally not the Third Reich.

Therefore, ethics review bureaucracies in contemporary universities are systems the primary purpose of which is to keep money pumping from taxpayers into the coffers of high-IQ people shielding themselves from economic competition. It is the PR wing of a massive fleecing system.

This also reminds one how education, manners, and aesthetic refinement (e.g. the grammar in a research survey questionnaire) are moral performances. And moral performance is essentially status competition, and money flows to the winners of status competitions.

In other words, the relationship between the state-sponsored genocidal research systems of the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century and the state-sponsored research systems of the liberal democracies in the 21st century is more like a parent-child relationship than an ethically-enlightened-opposition relationship.

Anyone who's ever been to an administrative meeting in a contemporary university will likely find my interpretation to have much more face validity than the other one...

Some personal reflections on Jordan Peterson

If you've been following me for some time, you'll know that current affairs commentary is not exactly my strong suit. I don't really keep up on the news and my own thoughts and ideas are quite untimely — not in the cool Nietzschean sense, but in the lame way: a day late and a dollar short. For any topic du jour, if I even have any thoughts, they will come a few months late after every possible thing has already been said by someone, somewhere.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I just heard about this guy named Jordan Peterson...

For anyone interested in contemporary ideological fragmentation, themes related to exit and escape from institutional oppression, the increasing social power of autonomous intellect relative to gatekeepers, it's hard for me to see how you could find the Jordan Peterson phenomenon uninteresting and unexciting. I probably have a personal emotional bias insofar as I only recently went through a turbulent transition away from pretty hardcore, long-term SJWism. I’m not a Peterson fanboy but I also would be lying if I said that Peterson's Stern Father persona did not strongly resonate with me — and help me — when I found him about a year before his meteoric rise.

For young urban people working to establish themselves in any one of the culture industries (academia, journalism, entertainment of any kind), current levels of SJWism are highly depressogenic, unless you're in the subset of people temperamentally inclined to SJWism (often people already vaguely depressed). The transition from "I'll say and do whatever will get me laid," to "What should I say and do to make the next 50 years good, now that I'm not trying to get laid?" felt incredibly difficult when all I had to go on were deeply unhelpful myths that I had been socialized into believing. Peterson's main messages are just an undeniably potent medicine for this type of socio-cognitive pathology. Peterson's main message, for the millions among whom it resonates, very likely decreases depression — not severe clinical depression, but certainly the vague depressiveness (non-clinical or pre-clinical) that characterizes so many lives today. And I suspect that this vague depressiveness is a much larger problem for the prospect of social movements than severe clinical depression, because it suppresses a much larger quantity of human potential (in a much larger group) than severe clinical depression — and its much more tractable.

From any genuine (i.e. non-SJW), radical left-wing perspective, it seems to me that Jordan Peterson would have to be seen as a massive net-gain for any serious emancipatory political program. If you believe in such a program — say, for instance, you're a supporter of the Democratic Socialists of America, and not for the dubious motives that some critics allege — I don't see how you could not be delighted by the amount of human potential lifted out of confused depressive paralysis by Peterson. The internet is filled with at least hundreds, if not thousands, of testimonies to this effect. I see no reason to doubt them.

I am somewhat biased in that I’m an academic political scientist who spends a lot of his time writing and making things online — probably due to a violent narcissistic masculine immortality project — so to see a random Canadian political psychologist produce such an unprecedented global impact certainly excites some of my own idiosyncratic emotions and interests. But still, if you lean towards a radical leftism such as mine, if you believe the oppression of humanity today is enforced in large part via false and oppressive institutions, then anytime any human being finds a way to speak what they authentically believe to be true, and this breaks through what established gate-keepers want and expect — it's almost by definition an unambiguously positive development in the direction of collective liberation.

I would disagree with Peterson about probably dozens of things but agreements and disagreements are much less important than authenticity and sincere intellectual drive, the drive to seek truth in your own tongue... And if there’s one thing you can’t take from the guy, it’s that.

People criticize Peterson by saying "it’s all clichés," or it's "pseudo-intellect," or that he's even a "fraud," but the odor of resentment is the only unmistakable residue leftover from such claims after you consider that the dude's given the bulk of his life to doing non-popular, not-immediately-useful, hard, patient, social science research, to very little public acclaim. People can disagree or dislike how he boils his cultivated worldview into useful dicta, that’s fine, but one thing I've never heard anyone note in this debate is just how incredibly difficult it is to develop an integrated worldview that you can also speak freely, against an unlimited supply of opponents, even if it's just clichés. (I don't think Peterson's messages are merely clichés.) Integrating psychology, philosophy, religion, neuroscience, etc., into a high-level worldview that is disciplined and in your own unique tongue, that can generate precise and consistent answers to many questions in conversations with normal people? It is very difficult and time-consuming for academics to achieve this kind of will and perspective, and it's one way you know Peterson's longer-term intellectual project is authentic.

Yet Peterson is belittled by mid-tier thinkers and writers who couldn't even give clichéd answers to half of the questions that Peterson's worldview is at least able to parse honestly and flexibly.  To be able to do that even half-competently is a rare feat. And as a young academic, as someone who has, I guess, always been driven by certain public-intellectual aspirations — although I've always understood them in the radical left register of the revolutionary intellectual — when I see someone like Peterson blow up and become the nexus of extraordinary ideological confusion and also power re-distribution in some sense… I think... "Well, damn... Good for him, and good for the prospects of all patient and dedicated thinkers." One reason why someone might not have this emotional response is if they are ambitious intellectuals, but playing a different kind of game. For some, Peterson is an alarming indication that maybe the leftist social climbing method of intellectual influence is not the only game in town, and maybe there are better and truer and more impactful ways to constitute an intellectual life.

I always like any smart people who take up interesting and serious anti-Leftist lines, because it gives my left-leaning instincts meaningful stimulation and motivation. My intellectual energy toward theorizing collective emancipation has generally been negatively correlated with my immersion in left-wing subculture. And again, I don't think I'm alone. The reason I did some data analysis on Jordan Peterson's followers is because I had a hunch that he’s giving inspiration to many left-leaning deserters of SJWism. And I was right. A lot of people still don’t really understand this, but they will eventually.

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