Jordan Peterson

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Competence can step in where popularity cannot go.

Jordan Bernt Peterson (born June 12, 1962) is a Canadian clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (1999), 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2017) and Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life (2021).


  • One of the things that struck me as near miraculous about music, especially in a rather nihilistic and atheistic society, is that it really does fill the void that was left by the death of God. And it's partly because you cannot rationally critique music. It speaks to you, it speaks of meaning, and no matter what you say about it, no matter how cynical you are, you cannot put a crowbar underneath that and lift it up and toss it aside.
  • Jordan B. Peterson: The earliest political memory I have, it was when Robert Kennedy was shot. I don't know how old I was, probably four or five. I watched his funeral and I thought, "I'm going to have a funeral like that."
    [question from off-camera]: What made you think you would have a funeral like that?
    Jordan B. Peterson: I have no idea—I have no idea why I thought that.
    [question from off-camera]: What struck you about the funeral?
    Jordan B. Peterson: That it was—well, that it was a very large public event. That there was a lot of grief that was associated with it. That was the first thing that really, kind of, had an impact on me, I suppose, that was part of the outside political world, but I was pretty young when that happened.


  • You might think, "Well, compassion is a virtue." Yes, it's a virtue, but any uni-dimensional virtue immediately becomes a vice, because real virtue is the intermingling of a number of virtues and their integration into a functional identity that can be expressed socially. Compassion can be great if you happen to be the entity towards which it is directed. But compassion tends to divide the world into crying children and predatory snakes. So if you're a crying child—hey, great. But if you happen to be identified as one of the predatory snakes, you better look the hell out. Compassion is what the mother grizzly bear feels for her cubs while she eats you because you got in the way.
  • And the fact that in the United States [...] the students have been essentially handed a bill of indentured servitude here for their student loans is absolutely beyond comprehension. It seems to me that the bureaucracy has basically conspired to determine how to pick the pockets of the students' future earnings and they do that by offering them an extended adolescence with no quality control.
  • I believe that when these podcasts work properly, the reason they are compelling, to the degree they manage to be compelling, is because what people are observing and participating in is the process by which two people mutually transform one another towards a higher good, so we are both struggling to make things clear and to approach something that we don't have yet, but it's in that struggle that motivation rises.
  • I would say with regard to critical thought, and to some degree with regard to productive thought, an indeterminate proportion of that is dependent on speech. I don't think it's unreasonable to point out that thought is internalized speech. And that the dialectical process that constitutes critical thinking is internalized speech. […] The quality of our thoughts is actually dependent on our ability to speak our minds.
  • When you try to analyze the operation of the set of ideas, you ought to find out first who the current proponents are in the conversation that's going on now. But then you need to trace it back to deeper ideas and the philosophers, and sometimes the theologians even (depending on how deep you go), from whom those ideas flow. And in order to understand the entire structure of the system of ideas and its interrelationships, so that you can understand its motivation and its nature, you have to delve deeper into the underlying history of the ideas.
  • The question is: In these societies, cross-culturally, who is elevated to the status of elder? And you might say 'Well, it's the roughest, toughest, most dominant chimp, oppressive, patriarchal male.' and that actually happens to not be the case at all. And so what you do see is that productive males who are older, they have to be productive, who are simultaneously generous and reciprocal, and are recognized as such in their communities, hold the status of authority and help govern properly. And so we could say that there's no evidence whatsoever on the scientific or anthropological front that the doctrine that the prime human motivation for the construction of social relations is power. And I would add to that further that if you think that power is the fundamental motivation of humankind, that is a confession not an observation. And so look out for people who make that claim because they're making that claim to justify to themselves their own use of psychopathic and narcissistic social mediation strategies. And so I don't see that the leftists who make the claim that power is the fundamental motivation have a shred of evidence on their side sociologically, scientifically, anthropologically, politically, economically, theologically or ethically.
  • Lex Fridman: How often do you gaze upon death, your own? How often do you remember, remind yourself that this ride ends?
    Jordan Peterson: Personally?
    Lex Fridman: Personally.
    Jordan Peterson: All the time.
    Lex Fridman: 'Cause you as a deep thinker and philosopher, it's easy to start philosophizing and forgetting that you might die today.
    Jordan Peterson: The angel of death sits on every word. How's that?
    Lex Fridman: How often do you actually consciously—
    Jordan Peterson: All the time.
    Lex Fridman: —notice the angel?
    Jordan Peterson: All the time.
  • I've tried to maintain a relatively balanced view of the excesses on both sides of the political spectrum, but one thing I have clearly experienced repeatedly is that the Left will shun and exclude to a degree that's almost unknown on the Right. I've never had anyone on the Right, that I've talked to, refuse to talk to a hypothetical guest, for example. And I've had people on the Left, they just do that all the time. And I don't get that exactly. I think maybe it has to do with the association in personality between agreeableness and Leftist's proclivity. So the socialist types, the Lefties, are technically more agreeable. And I think maybe among agreeable people, if you don't go along with the agreeable game you are much more likely to be categorized as a predator.
  • Part of the reason that politicians have come to believe that the public is stupid and has no attention span is that television had a 30-second attention span. So you had to assume your audience remembered nothing, knew nothing, and could flip out to a different channel at any moment. Plus the bandwidth was insanely expensive. Now all that is gone. I think that will be a revolution in political discourse.
  • A huge problem on the social media side is that we put undue access to status in the hands of people who will misuse accusations to garner attention.


  • Why would a dragon hoard gold? Because a dragon represents everything that you're afraid of. What's embedded in everything that you're afraid of? Absolutely everything that you need to find. Run from what you're afraid of? Run from exactly what you need to find.
  • I regard free speech as a prerequisite to a civilized society, because freedom of speech means that you can have combat with words. That's what it means. It doesn't mean that people can happily and gently exchange opinions. It means that we can engage in combat with words, in the battleground of ideas. And the reason that that's acceptable, and why it's acceptable that people's feelings get hurt during that combat, is that the combat of ideas is far preferable to actual combat.
  • You can kill people with compassion. That's the Freudian Oedipal situation. Think about working in a nursing home. There's a rule of thumb that we can use as a guide when interacting with people in general. It is this: Do not do anything for anyone that they can do themselves. You just steal it from them. Imagine that you're working with elderly people. It might be easier to do something for them than to let them struggle through it. But you just speed their demise by taking away their last vestiges of independence. People do the same thing with kids. The answer is: struggle through it.
  • The kids are starting to burn this place and to trash it. They're dragging a grand piano down the stairs. It's the destruction of high culture, about which they're nothing but cynical, because they don't believe that hard work and sacrifice can produce something of any value. They want to bring it down and destroy it.
    You can see it in the story of Cain and Abel. Abel is hard working and everyone likes him, and he makes the proper sacrifices, so his life goes really well. And that's part of the reason that Cain hates him. He's jealous and resentful, but worse than that—if you're not doing very well and you're around someone who is doing very well it's painful, because the mere fact of their Being judges you.
    And so it's very easy to want to destroy that ideal so that you don't have to live with the terrible consequences of seeing it embodied in front of you. And so part of the reason that people want to tear things down is so that they don't have anything to contrast themselves against and to feel bad. And that's exactly what's happening here. Kids are destroying all of this culture, because the fact that it exists judges them.
  • You can't have the conversation about rights without the conversation about responsibility, because your rights are my responsibility. That's what they are, technically, so you just can't have only half of that discussion. And we're only having half of that discussion. Then the question is, "Well, what are you leaving out if you're only having that half of the discussion?" And the answer is, "Well, you're leaving out responsibility." And then the question is, "Well, what are you leaving out if you're leaving out responsibility?" And the answer might be: "Well, maybe you're leaving out the meaning of life."
    Here you are, suffering away. What makes it worthwhile? Rights? It's almost impossible to describe how bad an idea that is. Responsibility: that's what gives life meaning. Lift a load. Then you can tolerate yourself. Look at yourself: you're useless, easily hurt, easily killed. Why should you have any self-respect? Pick something up and carry it. Make it heavy enough so that you can think, yah, well, useless as I am, at least I can move that from there to there.
    For men, there's nothing but responsibility. Women have their sets of responsibilities: they're not the same. Women have to take primary responsibility for having infants, at least, and also for caring for them. They're structured differently than men for biological necessity. Women know what they have to do; men have to figure out what they have to do. And if they have nothing worth living for, then they stay Peter Pan—and why the hell not? The alternative to valued responsibility is impulsive, low-class pleasure. Why lift a load if there's nothing in it for you?
    And that's what we're doing to men and boys that's a very bad idea. "You're pathological and oppressive." "Fine, then! Why the hell am I going to play? If I get no credit for bearing responsibility, then you can be sure I won't bear any." But then your life is useless and meaningless, and you're full of self-contempt and nihilism, and that's not good. And so that's what I think is going on at a deeper level with regard to men needing this direction. A man has to decide that he's going to do something: he has to decide that.
  • It's so interesting to watch the young men when you talk to them about responsibility. They're so goddamned thrilled about it. It just blows me away. It's like, "Really?!" That's the counterculture: Grow the hell up and do something useful! "Really? I can do that? Oh, I'm so excited by that idea! No one ever mentioned that before!" It's like, "Rights, rights, rights, rights…" Jesus! It's appalling. People have had enough of that. And they better have, because it's a non-productive mode of being. Responsibility, man: that's where the meaning in life is.
  • The thing that's so interesting about being alive is that you're all in. No matter what you do you're all in; this is gonna kill you. So I think you might as well play the most magnificent game you can while you're waiting—because, do you have anything better to do, really?
If you are not capable of cruelty, then you are absolutely a victim of anyone who is.
  • If you are not capable of cruelty, then you are absolutely a victim of anyone who is. For those who are exceedingly agreeable, there is a part of them crying out for the incorporation of the monster within them, which is what gives them strength of character and self-respect, because it is impossible to respect yourself until you grow teeth. And if you grow teeth, you realize that you're somewhat dangerous, or seriously dangerous. Then you might be more willing to demand that you treat yourself with respect and that other people do the same thing.
    That doesn't mean that being cruel is better than not being cruel. What it means is that being able to be cruel, and then not being cruel, is better than not being able to be cruel, because in the first case you're nothing but weak and naïve, and in the second case you're dangerous but you have it under control. If you're competent at fighting, it actually decreases the probability that you're going to have to fight, because when someone pushes you you'll be able to respond with confidence, and with any luck a reasonable show of confidence, which is a show of dominance, will be enough to make the bully back off.
  • Life is suffering.
    Love is the desire to see unnecessary suffering ameliorated.
    Truth is the handmaiden of love.
    Dialogue is the pathway to truth.
    Humility is recognition of personal insufficiency and the willingness to learn.
    To learn is to die voluntarily and be born again, in great ways and small.
    So speech must be untrammeled, so that dialogue can take place,
    so that we can all humbly learn,
    so that truth can serve love,
    so that suffering can be ameliorated,
    so that we can all stumble forward to the Kingdom of God.

Biblical Lectures

One of the things Jung said is that everybody acts out a myth, but very few people know what their myth is, and you should know what your myth is, because it might be a tragedy, and maybe you don't want it to be.
  • To know that the biblical stories have a phenomenological truth is really worth knowing, because the poor fundamentalists are trying to cling to their moral structure and I understand why, because it does organize their societies and it organizes their psyches so they've got something to cling to. But they don't have a very sophisticated idea of the complexity of the idea of what constitutes truth, and they try to gerrymander the biblical stories into the domain of scientific theory, promoting Creationism, for example, as an alternative scientific theory. That just isn't going to go anywhere, because the people who wrote these damn stories weren't scientists to begin with. There weren't any scientists back then. There's hardly any scientists now! Really, it's hard to think scientifically. Even scientists don't think scientifically outside the lab, and hardly even when they're in the lab. You've got to get peer-reviewed and criticized. It's hard to think scientifically.
    So, however, the people who wrote these stories thought more like dramatists think, like Shakespeare thought. But that doesn't mean that there isn't truth in it; it just means you have to be a little more sophisticated about your ideas about truth. And that's okay. There are truths to live by. Okay, fine—then we need to figure out what those are, because we need to live and maybe not to suffer so much. And so if you know that the Bible stories in general are trying to represent the lived experience of conscious individuals, then that opens up the possibility of a whole different realm of understanding and eliminates the contradiction that's been painful for people between the objective world and the claims of religious stories.
  • I know that the evidence for genuine religious experience is incontrovertible, but it's not explicable. So I don't want to explain it away. I want to pull back from that and leave it as a fact and a mystery, and then we're going to look at this from a rational perspective, and say that the initial formulation of the idea of God was an attempt to abstract out the ideal and to consider it as an abstraction outside its instantiation. And that's good enough. It's an amazing thing if it's true. But I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
  • The way that we behave contains way more information than we know. And part of the dream that surrounds our articulated knowledge has been extracted as a consequence of us watching each other behave, and telling stories about it over thousands and thousands and thousands of years, extracting out patterns of behavior that characterize humanity, and trying to represent them party through imitations but also through drama, mythology, literature, and art, and all of that, to represent what we're like so we can understand what we're like. That process of understanding is what we see unfolding, at least in part, in the Biblical stories. It's halting and partial and awkward and contradictory and all of that, which is one of the things that makes it so complex, but I see in it the struggle of humanity to rise above its animal forebears and to become conscious of what it means to be human, and that's a very difficult thing.
  • Everyone woke up and said, or thought, something like, "How is it that we came to believe any of this?" It’s like waking up one day and noting that you really don’t know why you put a Christmas tree up, but you’ve been doing it for a long time, and that’s what people do. There are reasons Christmas trees came about. The ritual lasts long after the reasons have been forgotten.
  • A good work of fiction is more real than the stories from which it was derived. Otherwise it has no staying power. It's distilled reality. And some would say "it never happened," but it depends on what you mean by "happened." If it's a pattern that repeats in many, many places, with variation, you can abstract out the central pattern. So the pattern never purely existed in any specific form, but the fact that you pulled a pattern out from all those exemplars means that you've extracted something real. I think the reason that the story of Adam and Eve has been immune to being forgotten is because it says things about the nature of the human condition that are always true.
  • You plunge into that underworld space, and that's also where you begin to nurse feelings of resentment and aggrievement and murder and homicide—and even worse. If people are betrayed enough, they become obsessed with the futility of Being itself, and they go to places where perhaps no one would ever want to go if they were in their right mind. And they begin to nurse fantasies of the ultimate revenge, and that's a horrible place to be. That's hell. That's why hell has always been a suburb of the underworld, because if you get plunged into a situation that you don't understand, and things are not good for you anymore, it's only one step from being completely confused, to being completely outraged and resentful, and then it's only one step from there to really looking for revenge.
    And that can take you places—well, that merely to imagine properly can be traumatic. And I've seen that with people many times. And I think that anybody who uses their imagination on themselves can see how that happens, because I can't imagine that there is a single person in the room who hasn't nursed fairly intense fantasies of revenge, at least at one point in their life—and usually for what appear to be good reasons. It can shake your faith in Being to be betrayed, but if it shakes it so badly that you turn against Being itself, that's certainly no solution. All it does is make everything that's bad even worse.
  • What happens in the story of Adam and Eve is that when people become self-conscious, they get thrown out of Paradise and then they're in history. And history is a place where there's pain in childbirth, and where you're dominated by your mate, and where you have to toil like mad like no other animal because you're aware of your future. You have to work, and sacrifice the joys of the present for the future, constantly, and you know that you're going to die. And you have all that weight on you. How could anything be more true than that? Unless you're naïve beyond comprehension. There's something that's echoed about your life in that representation. We're such strange creatures, because we don't really fit into Being in some sense, and that's what's expressed in the notion of The Fall.
  • Something that's everything lacks limitation. There are advantages to not being able to do things. If you had everything you wanted at every moment at your fingertips, then there's nothing. There's no story. It's like Superman being able to bounces hydrogen bombs off of him. The whole series died because he didn't have any flaws. There's no story without limitation.
  • The proper path of life is to take the tradition and spirit that is associated with consciousness as such, and to act it out in your own personal life in a way that is analogous with the way Christ acted it out in his life. What that means, in part, is the acceptance of the tragic preconditions of existence. That's partly betrayal by friends and by family and by the state, it's partly punishment for sins that you did not commit (the arbitrary nature of justice), and the fact of finitude. Your duty, and the way to set things right in the cosmos, is to accept all those details as necessary preconditions for being and to act virtuously despite all that. That's a very, very powerful idea.
  • Without the support of your father—practically and metaphorically—without that behind you, without the knowledge of you as both a biological and cultural creature, without that depth of knowledge, you don't have the courage to do it, because you don't know what you are or what you could be. You're a historical creature, so you need all this collected wisdom, and all this dream-like information, and all this mythology and all this narrative, to inform you about what you are beyond what you see of yourself.
    You're pummeled down, and people pick on you, and there's 50 things about you that are horrible, and you have a self-esteem problem, and you're sort of hunched over—you've got all these problems, and so it's not easy to see the divinity that lurks behind that. Unless you're aware of the heroic stories of the past—the metaphysics of consciousness—I don't think you can have the courage that regards yourself as the sort of creature that can stand up underneath that intense existential burden and move forward in courage and grace.
  • It's an open question, the degree to which the cosmos would order itself around you properly if you got yourself together as much as you could get yourself together. We know that things can go very badly wrong if you do things very badly wrong—there's no doubt about that. But the converse is also true. If you start to sort yourself out properly, and if you have beneficial effect on your family, first of all that's going to echo down the generations, but it also spreads out into the community. And we are networked together; we're not associated linearly; we all effect each other.
    So it's an open question, the degree to which acting out the notion that Being is good, and the notion that you can accept its limitations and that you should still strive for virtue. I don't think we know the limits of virtue. I don't think we know what true virtue could bring about, if we aimed at it carefully and practically. So the notion that there is something divine about the individual who accepts the conditions of existence and still strives for the good—I think that's an idea that's very much worth paying attention to. And I think the fact that people considered that idea seriously for at least 2000 years indicates that there's at least something to be thought about there.
  • Our ideas emerged out of the ground of our action over thousands and thousands of years. And when philosophers were putting forth those ideas, what they were doing wasn't generating creative ideas—they were just telling the story of humanity. It's already there. It's already in us. It's already in our patterns of behavior.
  • The dragon is the imagistic representation of the functional category of predator. It's like this: If you're a monkey, then a bird will pick you off, like an eagle. That's the wings. If it wasn't an eagle, then it was a cat (dragon claws), because they climb trees and give you a good chomping. And if it wasn't a cat, then you go down to the ground and a snake would get you, or maybe the snake would climb up the tree. So a dragon is a cat-snake-bird. And that's the thing that you really want to avoid. And the other thing is that it breathes fire, which is interesting because fire was both greatest friend and greatest enemy of humanity.
  • St. George is the hero who goes out to confront the dragon, and he frees the virgin from its grasp. I would say that's a pretty straightforward story about the sexual attractiveness of the masculine spirit that's willing to forthrightly encounter the unknown. It is a straight biological representation to me, and it's a really, really old story. It's the oldest written story we have, and it's basically the ancient Mesopotamian creation myth, the Enuma Elish, which basically plays out that story. You've seen this story played out a hundred different ways, and you never get tired of it, because it's the central story of mankind.
  • Embodied imitation and dramatic abstraction constituted the ground out of which higher abstract cognition emerged. How else could it be? Clearly we were mostly bodies before we were minds. Clearly. And so we were acting out things way before we understood them.
  • And then Snow White has to wait for the Prince to come rescue her, and you think: "How sexist can you get, that story?" Well, seriously, because that's the way that that would be read in the modern world, like, "She doesn't need a prince to come rescue her." That's why Disney made Frozen, that absolutely appalling piece of rubbish.
  • There's an insistence that the Being that's spoken into being through truth is good. This is the most profound idea ever. It is also the most believable idea ever. What cures in therapy is truth. Of course, you must encounter the things that you're afraid of, but this is enacted truth, because if you know that there's something you need to do by your own set of rules and you're avoiding it, then you're enacting a lie. You're not speaking the lie, but you're enacting it, and that's the same thing: untruth.
    If I can get you to face what it is that you know you shouldn't be avoiding, then what's happening is that we're both partaking in the process of you attempting to act out your deepest truth. That improves people's lives radically. The clinical evidence for that is overwhelming. We know that if you expose people to the things that they're afraid of and are avoiding, they get better. You have to do it carefully, cautiously, and with their approval and participation. Of all the things that clinicians have established that's credible, that's #1. It's redemptive insofar as both people are telling the truth.
    The difference between deception and repression is very small. People can handle earthquakes and cancer and even death, but they can't handle deception. They can't handle the rug being pulled out from underneath them by people who they love and trust. This does them in. It makes them ill, it hurts them psycho-physiologically, and worse than that it makes them cynical, bitter, vicious, and resentful. And then they also start to act all that out in the world, and that makes it worse.
Your values have to be hierarchically organized with something absolute at the top, because otherwise they do nothing but war.
  • Your values have to be hierarchically organized with something absolute at the top, because otherwise they do nothing but war. This is true if you're an individual and it's true if you're a state. If you don't know what the next thing you should do is, then there are 50 things you should do. Then, how are you doing to do any of them? You can't. You have to prioritize. Something has to be above something else. It has to be arranged in a hierarchy for it not to be chaotic, so there is some principle at the top of the hierarchy.
  • Jung said that science is nested in a dream. The dream is that if we investigated the structures of material reality with sufficient attention and truth, we could then learn enough about material reality to then alleviate suffering—to produce the philosopher's stone, to make everybody wealthy, to make everybody healthy, to make everyone live as long as they wanted to live or perhaps forever. That's the goal—to alleviate the catastrophe of existence.
    The idea that the solutions to the mysteries of life enable us to develop such a substance, or multitude of substances, provided the motive force for the development of science. Jung traced that development of the motive force to over the period of 1,000 years. Jung went back into alchemical texts and interpreted them as if they were the dream upon which science was founded. Newton was an alchemist, by the way. Science did emerge out of alchemy. The question is, What were the alchemists up to? They were trying to produce the philosopher's stone, which was the universal medicament for mankind's pathology.
  • The lion lying down with the lamb is the idea that is either projected back in time, saying that there was a time, or maybe that there will be a time, when the horrors of life are no longer necessary for life itself to exist. And the horrors of life are, of course, that everything eats everything else, and that everything dies, and that everything is born, and that the whole place is a charnel house. It's a catastrophe from beginning to end.
    This is the vision of it being other than that. There's a strong idea that human beings can interact with reality in such a way that the tragic and evil elements of it can be mitigated, so that we can move closer to a state of being where we have the benefits of existence without the catastrophe that seems to go along with it.
A thing isn't quite real until you name it.
  • Without that forward-going, courageous consciousness, a woman herself will drift into unconsciousness and terror. It's the sleep of the naïve and damned. She needs to wake herself up and bring her own masculine consciousness into the forefront so she can survive in the world. Unless woman is taken out of man, then she isn't a human being—she's just a creature.
  • Snake predation was no joke. It shaped our evolutionary past. We're attuned to snakes. We are really good at detecting the camouflage pattern of snakes in the lower half of our visual field. There's evidence that the reason human beings have such acute vision—which means that our eyes were opened—is that we co-evolved with snakes and we learned how to see them. And then the price we paid for seeing was that our brain grew, because you need a lot of brainpower to see. And the consequence of our brain growing was that one day we woke up and discovered the future. And the future is where all the snakes might live instead of where they live right now. I already made the case that there's a tight link between what you eat and information—conceptual link as well as a practical link. But it's also the case that we can see colors. The question is: Why? The answer is: We evolved to see ripe fruit. In the story of Adam and Eve human beings are given vision by the snake and the fruit. That turns out to be correct.
  • The woman offers the man fruit. Maybe that's how our female ancestors enticed males to join them in caring for offspring: "I'll offer you food, and in response we're going to make a team. That's the deal." And that's the human deal. That's why we're more or less monogamous and why we more or less pair-bond, and why something approximating marriage is a human universal. You can find exceptions, but who cares? Look at the vast pattern.
    The price we pay for having very large brains is that we're very dependent, and it takes a long time for us to get programmed, and because of that we need relatively stable family bonding, and that's basically what we've evolved. You don't get that without making males self-conscious. Why not impregnate and run? It's not "Why do men abandon their children?" that's the mystery. It's "Why do any men ever stick with them?" Just look at the animal kingdom. The simple and easiest thing is always the most likely thing to occur. It's the exception—the long-term commitment—that needs explanation.
  • What do people do that animals don't? Work. What does work mean? It means you sacrifice the present for the future. Why do you do that? Because you know that you're vulnerable, and because you're awake. From here on in, from this point forward, there's no return to unconscious paradise. I don't care how many problems you've solved so that today's okay. You have a lot of problems coming up. No matter how much you work, you're never going to work enough to solve all the problems. All you're going to do from here on in is to be terrified of the future. That's the price of waking up. It's the end of paradise, and that's the beginning of history.
  • The selection pressure that women placed on men developed the entire species. There's two things that happened. The men competed for competence, since the male hierarchy is a mechanism that pushes the best men to the top. The effect of that is multiplied by the fact that women who are hypergamous peel from the top. And so the males who are the most competent are much more likely to leave offspring—which seems to have driven cortical expansion.
  • The intellect is the most incredible human capacity. It is the highest of all human capacities, actually. However, it is also the thing that can go most terribly wrong, because the intellect can become arrogant about its own existence and its accomplishments, and it can fall in love with its own products. That's what happens with ideologies. You become obsessed with a human-constructed dogma of which you believe is 100% right, and it eradicates the necessity of anything transcendent.
  • The Bible presents a cataclysm at the beginning of time, which is the emergence of self-consciousness in human beings, which puts a rift in the structure of Being. That's the right way to think about it. That's given cosmic significance. You can dispense with that and say that nothing that happens to human beings is of cosmic significance, that we're these short lived, mold-like entities that are like cancers on this tiny little planet, rotating out in the middle of nowhere on the edge of some unknown galaxy in the middle of infinite space, and nothing that happens to us matters.
    This is not a road that you can walk down and live well. For all intents and purposes, it's untrue. If fact, if you really walk down that road, and you take it really seriously, you end up not living at all. The kind of conclusions suicidal people draw about the utility of life, prior to wishing for its cessation, are very much like the conclusions that you draw if you walk down that particular line of reasoning long enough.
  • The idea is that you could sacrifice something of value, and that would have transcendent utility. That is by no means an unsophisticated idea. In fact, it might be the greatest idea that human beings ever came up with.
  • If the mother doesn't make the sacrifice, then you get the horrible Oedipal situation in the household, which is its own catastrophic hell. If the maternal sacrifice isn't there, then that doesn't work. If the paternal sacrifice isn't there, if the father isn't willing to put his son out into the world, then that's a non-starter because the kid doesn't grow up. And if the son isn't willing to do that, then who the hell is going to shoulder the responsibility? So if those three things don't happen, it's chaos, it's cataclysmic, it's hell.
    If they do happen—is it the opposite of that? Well, maybe you could say it depends on the degree to which they happen. And it's a continuum. How thoroughly can they happen? Well, we don't know, because you might say, "How good of a job do you do of encouraging your children to live in truth?" Well, that's part of the answer to this question. And the answer likely is that you don't do as good a job of it as you could. So it works out quite well, but you don't know how well it could work if you did it really well, or spectacularly well, or ultimately well or something like that. You don't know.
"Is it right to bring a baby into this terrible world?" Well, every woman asks herself that question. Some say no, and they have their reasons. Mary answers 'yes' voluntarily. Mary is the archetype of the woman who says yes to life knowing full well what life is.
  • Mary is the Great Mother. She is the Mother. That's what Mary is. Whether she existed or not is not the point. She exists at least as a hyper-reality. She exists as the Mother. What's the sacrifice of the Mother? That's easy: If you're a mother who's worth her salt, you offer your son to be destroyed by the world. That's what you do. And that's what's going to happen. He's going to be born, he's going to suffer, he's going to have his trouble in life, he's going to have his illnesses, he's going to face his failures and catastrophes, and he's going to die. That's what's going to happen, and if you're awake you know that, and then you say, "Well, perhaps he will live in a way that will justify that." And then you try to have that happen. And that's what makes you worthy of a statue like the Pieta.
    "Is it right to bring a baby into this terrible world?" Well, every woman asks herself that question. Some say no, and they have their reasons. Mary answers 'yes' voluntarily. Mary is the archetype of the woman who answers yes to life voluntarily. Not because she is blind. She knows what's going to happen. So she's the archetypal representation of the woman who says yes to life knowing full well what life is.


  • Of course, my socialist colleagues and I weren’t out to hurt anyone. Quite the reverse. We were out to improve things—but we were going to start with other people. I came to see the temptation in this logic, the obvious flaw, the danger—but could also see that it did not exclusively characterize socialism. Anyone who was out to change the world by changing others was to be regarded with suspicion. The temptations of such a position were too great to be resisted.
    • p. xiii
  • Behavior is imitated, then abstracted into play, formalized into drama and story, crystallized into myth and codified into religion—and only then criticized in philosophy, and provided, post-hoc, with rational underpinnings.
    • p. 78
  • Every explorer is therefore, by necessity, a revolutionary, and every successful revolutionary is a peacemaker.
    • p. 179
It took untold generations to get you where you are. A little gratitude might be in order. If you’re going to insist on bending the world to your way, you better have your reasons.
  • We require routine and tradition. That’s order. Order can become excessive, and that’s not good, but chaos can swamp us, so we drown—and that is also not good. We need to stay on the straight and narrow path.
    • p. xxxiv
  • When the aristocracy catches a cold, as it is said, the working class dies of pneumonia.
    • p. 4
  • If you can bite, you generally don't have to.
    • p. 23
  • To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order. It means adopting the burden of self-conscious vulnerability, and accepting the end of the unconscious paradise of childhood, where finitude and mortality are only dimly comprehended. It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality (it means acting to please God, in the ancient language).
    • p. 27
  • So, attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.
    • pp. 27–28
  • Standards of better or worse are not illusory or unnecessary. If you hadn’t decided that what you are doing right now was better than the alternatives, you wouldn’t be doing it. The idea of a value-free choice is a contradiction in terms. Value judgments are a precondition for action. Furthermore, every activity, once chosen, comes with its own internal standards of accomplishment. If something can be done at all, it can be done better or worse.
    • p. 87
  • The first step, perhaps, is to take stock. Who are you? When you buy a house and prepare to live in it, you hire an inspector to list all its faults—as it is, in reality, now, not as you wish it could be. You’ll even pay him for the bad news. You need to know. You need to discover the home’s hidden flaws. You need to know whether they are cosmetic imperfections or structural inadequacies. You need to know because you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken—and you’re broken. You need an inspector. The internal critic—it could play that role, if you could get it on track; if you and it could cooperate.
    • p. 93
  • The Bible is, for better or worse, the foundational document of Western civilization (of Western values, Western morality, and Western conceptions of good and evil). It's the product of processes that remain fundamentally beyond our comprehension. The Bible is a library composed of many books, each written and edited by many people. It's a truly emergent document—a selected, sequenced and finally coherent story written by no one and everyone over many thousands of years. The Bible has been thrown up, out of the deep, by the collective human imagination, which is itself a product of unimaginable forces operating over unfathomable spans of time. Its careful, respectful study can reveal things to us about what we believe and how we do and should act that can be discovered in almost no other manner.
    • p. 104
  • Was it really a good thing, for example, to so dramatically liberalize the divorce laws in the 1960s? It’s not clear to me that the children whose lives were destabilized by the hypothetical freedom this attempt at liberation introduced would say so. Horror and terror lurk behind the walls provided so wisely by our ancestors. We tear them down at our peril. We skate, unconsciously, on thin ice, with deep, cold waters below, where unimaginable monsters lurk.
    • p. 119
  • If your child is the kind of determined varmint who simply runs away, laughing, when placed on the steps or in his room, physical restraint might have to be added to the time out routine. A child can be held carefully but firmly by the upper arms, until he or she stops squirming and pays attention. If that fails, being turned over a parent’s knee might be required. For the child who is pushing the limits in a spectacularly inspired way, a swat across the backside can indicate requisite seriousness on the part of a responsible adult. There are some situations in which even that will not suffice, partly because some children are very determined, exploratory, and tough, or because the offending behaviour is truly severe. And if you’re not thinking such things through, then you’re not acting responsibly as a parent. You’re leaving the dirty work to someone else, who will be much dirtier doing it.
    • p. 141
  • There is little difference between sacrifice and work. They are also both uniquely human. Sometimes, animals act as if they are working, but they are really only following the dictates of their nature. Beavers build dams. They do so because they are beavers, and beavers build dams. They don't think, "Yeah, but I'd rather be on a beach in Mexico with my girlfriend," while they're doing it.
    • p. 164
  • It took untold generations to get you where you are. A little gratitude might be in order. If you’re going to insist on bending the world to your way, you better have your reasons.
    • p. 242
  • Freud was, after all, a genius. You can tell that because people still hate him.
    • p. 243
  • People organize their brains with conversation. If they don't have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds. Like hoarders, they cannot unclutter themselves.
    • p. 250
  • Group identity can be fractionated right down to the level of the individual.
    • p. 316
  • And let us not forget: wicked women may produce dependent sons, may support and even marry dependent men, but awake and conscious women want an awake and conscious partner. It is for this reason that Nelson Muntz of The Simpsons is so necessary to the small social group that surrounds Homer’s antihero son, Bart. Without Nelson, King of the Bullies, the school would soon be overrun by resentful, touchy Milhouses, narcissistic, intellectual Martin Princes, soft, chocolate-gorging German children, and infantile Ralph Wiggums. Muntz is a corrective, a tough, self-sufficient kid who uses his own capacity for contempt to decide what line of immature and pathetic behaviour simply cannot be crossed. Part of the genius of The Simpsons is its writers’ refusal to simply write Nelson off as an irredeemable bully. Abandoned by his worthless father, neglected, thankfully, by his thoughtless slut of a mother, Nelson does pretty well, everything considered. He’s even of romantic interest to the thoroughly progressive Lisa, much to her dismay and confusion (for much the same reasons that Fifty Shades of Grey became a worldwide phenomenon).
    • p. 330
Main article: Beyond Order
I had to force myself to concentrate, and to breathe, and to keep from saying and meaning “to hell with it” during the endless months that I was possessed by dread and terror.
  • I had to force myself to concentrate, and to breathe, and to keep from saying and meaning “to hell with it” during the endless months that I was possessed by dread and terror. And I was barely able to do it. More than half the time I believed that I was going to die in one of the many hospitals in which I resided. And I believe that if I had fallen prey to resentment, for example, I would have perished once and for all—and that I am fortunate to have avoided such a fate.
    • p. xxiii
  • Much that is great starts small, ignorant, and useless. […] But today’s beginner is tomorrow’s master.
    • pp. 18–19
  • Ambition is often—and often purposefully—misidentified with the desire for power, and damned with faint praise, and denigrated, and punished. And ambition is sometimes exactly that wish for undue influence on others. But there is a crucial difference between sometimes and always. Authority is not mere power, and it is extremely unhelpful, even dangerous, to confuse the two. When people exert power over others, they compel them, forcefully. They apply the threat of privation or punishment so their subordinates have little choice but to act in a manner contrary to their personal needs, desires, and values. When people wield authority, by contrast, they do so because of their competence—a competence that is spontaneously recognized and appreciated by others, and generally followed willingly, with a certain relief, and with the sense that justice is being served.
    • pp. 26–27
  • You do not choose what interests you. It chooses you. Something manifests itself out of the darkness as compelling, as worth living for; following that, something moves us further down the road, to the next meaningful manifestation—and so it goes, as we continue to seek, develop, grow, and thrive. It is a perilous journey, but it is also the adventure of our lives. Think of pursuing someone you love: catch them or not, you change in the process.
    • p. 65
  • Who dares wins—if he does not perish. And who wins also makes himself irresistibly desirable and attractive, not least because of the development of character that adventure inevitably produces. And this is what makes us forever more than rabbits.
    • p. 80
  • Those who break the rules ethically are those who have mastered them first and disciplined themselves to understand the necessity of those rules, and break them in keeping with the spirit rather than the letter of the law.
    • p. 85
  • That is the nature of our ancestors: immensely courageous hunters, defenders, shepherds, voyagers, inventors, warriors, and founders of cities and states. That is the father you could rescue; the ancestor you could become.
    • p. 124
  • There is a high goal, a mountain peak, a star that shines in the darkness, beckoning above the horizon. Its mere existence gives you hope—and that is the meaning without which you cannot live.
    • p. 133
  • We have been telling [young people] for decades to demand what they are owed by society. We have been implying that the important meanings of their lives will be given to them because of such demands, when we should have been doing the opposite: letting them know that the meaning that sustains life in all its tragedy and disappointment is to be found in shouldering a noble burden.
    • p. 161
  • Perhaps communism may even have been a viable solution to the problems of the unequal distribution of wealth that characterized the industrial age, if all of the hypothetically oppressed were good people and all of the evil was to be found, as hypothesized, in their bourgeoisie overlords. Unfortunately for the communists, a substantial proportion of the oppressed were incapable, unconscientious, unintelligent, licentious, power mad, violent, resentful, and jealous, while a substantial proportion of the oppressors were educated, able, creative, intelligent, honest, and caring.
    • p. 167
  • Like God, however, ideology is dead. The bloody excesses of the twentieth century killed it.
    • p. 177
  • If you aim at nothing, you become plagued by everything.
    • p. 184
  • To write something long, sophisticated, and coherent means, at least in part, to become more complex, articulate, and deeper in personality.
    • p. 185
  • It is far better to become something than to remain anything but become nothing.
    • p. 188
  • It was the bringing together of a warring multiplicity under the unifying doctrines of Christianity that civilized Europe.
    • p. 191
Although Christ commits many acts that might be considered revolutionary, as we discussed in Rule I, He is nonetheless explicitly portrayed in the Gospels as the master of tradition.
  • Although Christ commits many acts that might be considered revolutionary, as we discussed in Rule I, He is nonetheless explicitly portrayed in the Gospels as the master of tradition.
    • p. 197
  • Making something beautiful is difficult, but it is amazingly worthwhile. If you learn to make something in your life truly beautiful—even one thing—then you have established a relationship with beauty. From there you can begin to expand that relationship out into other elements of your life and the world. That is an invitation to the divine. That is the reconnection with the immortality of childhood, and the true beauty and majesty of the Being you can no longer see. You must be daring to try that.
    • p. 202
  • Buy a piece of art. Find one that speaks to you and make the purchase. If it is a genuine artistic production, it will invade your life and change it. A real piece of art is a window into the transcendent, and you need that in your life, because you are finite and limited and bounded by your ignorance. […]
    It is for such reasons that we need to understand the role of art, and stop thinking about it as an option, or a luxury, or worse, an affectation. Art is the bedrock of culture itself. It is the foundation of the process by which we unite ourselves psychologically, and come to establish productive peace with others. As it is said, “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). That is exactly right. We live by beauty. We live by literature. We live by art. We cannot live without some connection to the divine—and beauty is divine—because in its absence life is too short, too dismal, and too tragic.
    • p. 203
  • I exposed myself to a larger number of paintings, I like to think, than anyone else in history. For at least four years, starting in 2001, I searched eBay, looking at roughly a thousand paintings a day, seeking the one or two in that number that were of genuine quality.
    • pp. 219–220
  • Beauty leads you back to what you have lost. Beauty reminds you of what remains forever immune to cynicism. Beauty beckons in a manner that straightens your aim. Beauty reminds you that there is lesser and greater value. Many things make life worth living: love, play, courage, gratitude, work, friendship, truth, grace, hope, virtue, and responsibility. But beauty is among the greatest of these.
    • p. 226
  • That is what happens two people fall under the spell of love. For a while, both become better than they were, and see that, but then that magic fades away. Both receive that experience as a gift. Both have their eyes open and can see what is visible to no one else. Such love is a glimpse of what could be, if the relationship remained true. It is delivered as a gift initially, from fate, but requires tremendous effort to realize and maintain. And once that is understood, the goal is clear.
    • p. 269
Romance requires trust—and the deeper the trust, the deeper the possibility for romance.
  • Romance requires trust—and the deeper the trust, the deeper the possibility for romance.
    • p. 271
  • There is an ancient conceit in the book of Genesis (2:21–22) that Eve was taken out of Adam—created from his rib. Woman from man: this presents something of a mystery, reversing, as it does, the normative biological sequence, where males emerge from females at birth. It also gave rise to a line of mythological speculation, attempting to account for the strangeness of this creative act, predicated on the supposition that Adam, the original man produced by God, was hermaphroditic—half masculine and half feminine—and only later separated into the two sexes. This implies not only the partition of a divinely produced unity, but the incompleteness of man and woman until each is brought together with the other.
    • p. 273
  • That ghostly figure, the ideal union of what is best in both personalities, should be constantly regarded as the ruler of the marriage—and, indeed, as something as close to divine as might be practically approached by fallible individuals.
    • p. 275
  • There are three fundamental states of social being: tyranny (you do what I want), slavery (I do what you want), or negotiation.
    • p. 278
  • I have camped where the grizzly bears were plentiful. It is nice that they are on the planet and all that, but I prefer my grizzlies shy, not too hungry, and far enough away to be picturesque.
    • p. 315
Nature is beautiful in its mystery.
  • We could use a poetic metaphor to represent the elements of experience that we have so far discussed (this is in fact how the world I am describing is usually considered). Imagine the realm of the Dragon of Chaos as the night sky, stretching infinitely above you on a clear night, representing what will remain forever outside your domain of understanding. Maybe you are standing on a beach, looking up, lost in contemplation and imagination. Then you turn your attention to the ocean—as grand in its way as the starry cosmos, but tangible and manifest and knowable, comparatively speaking. That is nature. It is not mere potential. It is there, in its unknowability, instead of removed from comprehension entirely. It is not yet tamed, however; not brought into the domain of order. And it is beautiful in its mystery. The moon reflects on its surface; the waves crash eternally and lull you to sleep; you can swim in its welcoming waters. But that beauty has a price. You better keep an eye out for sharks. And poisonous jellyfish. And the riptide that can pull you or your children under. And the storms that could destroy your warm and welcoming beach house.
    • pp. 329–330
  • I think it is reasonable to posit that it is often the people who have had too easy a time—who have been pampered and elevated falsely in their self-esteem—who adopt the role of victim and the mien of resentment.
    • p. 339
  • Grief must be a reflection of love. It is perhaps the ultimate proof of love. Grief is an uncontrollable manifestation of your belief that the lost person’s existence, limited and flawed as it might have been, was worthwhile, despite the limitations and flaws even of life itself.
    • p. 372


  • The motivation that drives the commission of the worst human atrocities is an inevitable social consequence of the refusal of the self-conscious individual to make the sacrifices appropriate to establishing a harmonious life, and their consequent degeneration into a kind of murderous and resentment-filled rage propagating endlessly through its variations in society until everything comes to an end.
  • You want to have a meaningful life? Everything you do matters. That's the definition of a meaningful life. But everything you do matters. So you're going to have to carry that with you.
  • I think the idea of white privilege is absolutely reprehensible. And it's not because white people aren't privileged. You know, we have all sorts of privileges, and most people have privileges of all sorts, and you should be grateful for your privileges and work to deserve them, I would say. But the idea that you can target an ethnic group with a collective crime, regardless of the specific innocence or guilt of the constituent elements of that group—there is absolutely nothing that's more racist than that. It's absolutely abhorrent.
  • The logical conclusion of intersectionality is individuality. There's so many different ways of categorizing people's advantages and disadvantages, that if you take that all the way out to the end you say, "Well, the individual is the ultimate minority"—and that's exactly right. And that's exactly what the West discovered. The intersectionalists will get there if they don't kill everyone first.
  • 12 principles for a 21st century conservatism:
    1. The fundamental assumptions of Western civilization are valid.
    2. Peaceful social being is preferable to isolation and to war. In consequence, it justly and rightly demands some sacrifice of individual impulse and idiosyncrasy.
    3. Hierarchies of competence are desirable and should be promoted. 
    4. Borders are reasonable. Likewise, limits on immigration are reasonable. Furthermore, it should not be assumed that citizens of societies that have not evolved functional individual-rights predicated polities will hold values in keeping with such polities.
    5. People should be paid so that they are able and willing to perform socially useful and desirable duties. 
    6. Citizens have the inalienable right to benefit from the result of their own honest labor.
    7. It is more noble to teach young people about responsibilities than about rights. 
    8. It is better to do what everyone has always done, unless you have some extraordinarily valid reason to do otherwise.
    9. Radical change should be viewed with suspicion, particularly in a time of radical change.
    10. The government, local and distant, should leave people to their own devices as much as possible.
    11. Intact heterosexual two-parent families constitute the necessary bedrock for a stable polity. 
    12. We should judge our political system in comparison to other actual political systems and not to hypothetical utopias. 


I have rarely read a tract that made as many conceptual errors per sentence as The Communist Manifesto.
  • [First opening statement:] To read something you don’t just follow the words and follow the meaning, but you take apart the sentences and you ask yourself at this level of phrase and at the level of sentence and the level of paragraph, “Is this true? Are there counter-arguments that can be put forward that are credible? Is this solid thinking?”
    And I have to tell you, and I’m not trying to be flippant here, that I have rarely read a tract that made as many conceptual errors per sentence as The Communist Manifesto. It was quite a miraculous re-read. And it was interesting to think about it psychologically as well, because I’ve read student papers that were of the same ilk in some sense, although I’m not suggesting that they were of the same level of glittering literary brilliance and polemic quality. And I also understand that The Communist Manifesto was a call for revolution and not a standard logical argument, but that notwithstanding I have some things to say about the authors psychologically.
    The first thing is that is doesn’t seem to me that either Marx or Engels grappled with this particular fundamental truth, which is that almost all ideas are wrong. And it doesn’t matter if they're your ideas or someone else’s ideas; they’re probably wrong. And even if they strike you with the force of brilliance, your job is to assume first of all that they’re probably wrong and then to assault them with everything you have in your arsenal and see if they can survive. And what struck me about The Communist Manifesto was akin to something Jung said about typical thinking and this was the thinking of people who were not trained to think. He said that the typical thinker has a thought; it appears to them like an object might appear in a room; the thought appears and they just accept it as true. They don't go the second step, which is to think about the thinking. And that's the real essence of critical thinking. And so that's what you try to teach people in university, to read a text and think about it critically—not to destroy the utility of the text, but to separate the wheat from the chaff.
    And so what I tried to do when I was reading The Communist Manifesto was to separate the wheat from the chaff. And I'm afraid I found some wheat, yes, but mostly chaff, and I'm going to explain why, hopefully in relatively short order.

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Quotes about Jordan Peterson

  • Countless men are grateful to Jordan Peterson for having the courage to speak his mind on a contentious social matter. This temporal issue brought him many enemies, but his timeless messages earned followers that vastly outnumber them. The sheer numbers testify that he is the right man at the right time, someone capable of showing young men that cleaning up their room has cosmic significance, and that imposing a little order upon chaos is good for the soul, which in turn is good for the world.
  • For all the bizarre but now-familiar attempts to smear him as ‘far-right,’ Jordan Peterson is just a centrist liberal, with all the uninterestingness that that entails. But he’s a centrist liberal who has been demoralized by the officialization of polite falsehood enough to loudly speak what should be insipid truths. Platitudes like ‘Enlightenment values are worth preserving’ and ‘science is true even if when produces discomforting results’ now qualify as bomb-throwing.
  • The startling success of his elevated arguments for the importance of order has made [Jordan Peterson] the most significant conservative thinker to appear in the English-speaking world in a generation.
  • The more you hear Peterson babble about anything that isn’t himself, the more it becomes apparent that he’s simply not very intelligent or very well-read.
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