12 Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is a book by Jordan B. Peterson.

He’s a controversial figure and I’ve written about this before. I can’t really work him out. He says some thought-provoking things and a lot of people who I respect have a lot of time for him. However, he also says a lot of silly things and digs himself into holes. Some would argue that people are misinterpreting him. But he makes a huge deal out of picking your words carefully, so saying he has been misinterpreted seems a feeble defence.

In any case, I read the book. He wrote a more academic book, Maps of Meaning and openly talks about the lessons he learnt from that, making this one a more popular and accessible read. That said, it’s not for those with a lack of concentration. There is a lot of philosophy in here and he doesn’t always do a good job of explaining what he means. Other parts are just a ramble.

He talks about hierarchies and how they are inescapable. Why? Because lobsters have them. And we’re only very distantly related to lobsters. Which is true. But then we also see a lot of rape and killing in the animal kingdom. Should we also accept these things are inevitable and just live with it? I see no such reason to be pessimistic. Society has been an incredibly powerful tool in overcoming these evils. Of course, we should strive to find a way that is compatible with human nature rather than fighting against it. But we often already do this.

Many of his rules I am on board with. Telling the truth, even when hard, is something I strive for. Sam Harris makes a similar argument in Lying. Pursuing what is meaningful in the long-term is another great rule. And assuming the person you are talking to knows something you don’t is good advice for anyone who doesn’t want to look really stupid at a later point in the conversation.

I think this is a book for fans. Peterson rose to prominence because he sticks by the evidence, even when the left tried to make that politically unsayable. And he continues to do that in this book. But he goes beyond that into ideology. And in a way so complicated that you have to like him to bother to keep reading.

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 17th, 2019 at 11:00 am and is filed under Books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.