Jordan Peterson understands your suffering

A lot of people love Jordan Peterson. A psychology professor at the University of Toronto and current social media phenomenon, he has an extremely enthusiastic fan base. For his readers and listeners, he is a father figure and guru who helps them make sense of their lives amidst the wreckage of the postmodern collapse of the family, state and religion. He is a dispenser of hard sayings that illuminate new possibilities. He is a breath of fresh air in a stale public discourse that privileges being “nice” over discovering truth.

For others, Peterson is a dilettante dabbling in areas outside his expertise. He is dangerously wrong about the “cultural Marxism” he claims has corrupted our society. He preaches patriarchy, misogyny and illiberal politics. He willingly misrepresents his critics’ views, ripping to shreds anyone expressing the slightest dissent from his controversial ideas.

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Through his lectures, podcasts and public stands on contested political and social issues, Peterson has built an internet platform that extends well beyond academia. It includes 21,000 followers on Quora, 1.5 million followers on YouTube, and over 2 million copies sold of his 2018 book 12 Rules for Life.

Peterson urges his followers to seek deep meaning in life rather than superficial happiness. But can he create a community?

But the polemic that brought him fame does not bring out the best in Peterson, nor does it seem to be his true passion. As the New Yorker notes, Peterson “remains a psychology professor by trade, and he still spends much of his time doing something like therapy…. Peterson’s goal is less to help his readers change the world than to help them find a stable place within it.” Indeed, he has an uncanny gift for tapping into the deep suffering of millions and their search for meaning in that suffering.

Peterson’s therapeutic approach also strikes at the heart of an ancient dilemma: whether or not human beings are fundamentally social creatures, and thus whether our fulfillment ought to be sought through community, or in spite of it. Whether he grapples sufficiently with this problem is a crucial question.

Peterson on Suffering

Peterson first gained international fame in 2016 when he entered the fray over the protection of gender-inclusive language under Canadian law. In three videos released on YouTube entitled “Professor Against Political Correctness,” Peterson outlined his concerns with Bill C-16, a Canadian bill that would add gender identity and orientation to antidiscrimination provisions of Canadian federal law. Peterson argued that the proposed law would limit freedom of speech and legislate compelled speech, requiring Canadians to use the preferred pronouns of transgender persons or risk prosecution for hate crimes.

While some disputed Peterson’s analysis of the bill, his fame was secured.

Yet the driving concern in his work is not centered around political issues, but basic realities of human existence. Suffering is chief among them. Peterson’s concern with suffering goes to the root of this thought, showing how psychology and politics often intersect for him. One of Peterson’s longest-running fascinations, for instance, concerns persevering in one’s ethical commitments in the face of widespread evil, as in Stalin’s Russia or Nazi Germany. When faced with complicity or resistance, Peterson notes, most people in such regimes chose complicity. We would likely be no different, he argues. And so he formulated his question: “Psychologically, how is it that you must conduct yourself in the world so that if the opportunity to participate in such things arises you won’t?”

Peterson’s concern with suffering goes to the root of this thought, showing how psychology and politics often intersect for him.

Part of resisting such complicity, Peterson thinks, involves carving out ethical individual agency from moral chaos: taking responsibility for one’s own actions and refusing to be complicit in “hell,” as he calls much of the modern experience. To take a stand of your own forces you to take a hard look at the realities you would rather avoid. One must “follow one’s blisters” rather than one’s bliss, as the comedian Russell Brand put it in an interview with Peterson. For this reason, Peterson urges his followers to seek deep meaning in life rather than superficial happiness.

In that effort, Peterson returns again and again to the reality of suffering. In his book 12 Rules for Life Peterson counsels us in the title of the first chapter to “Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back.” That is the only way to “accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open.” One must confront the “chaos” of the world in order to turn its “potential into the realities of habitable order.”

Peterson wants his followers to change their attitudes and behaviors, to develop maturity, purpose and order.

That chaos includes a world in which the weak regularly lose to the strong, the vulnerable are bullied, and even the little things people do in their daily lives worsen that tyranny.

Peterson is not simply describing the world for his audience; he wants them to change their attitudes and behaviors, to develop maturity, purpose and order. He identifies grievances but emphasizes that people need to take responsibility for them, to recognize harmful ideas but also eschew self-deception and victimization. As Peterson says of Jung, “That which you most need is found where you least want to look.”.

This dynamic emerges throughout 12 Rules for Life. Peterson argues that it is not surprising that things go wrong. Most people live with disease, tragedy and pain. What is a surprise, however, is how many people persevere through suffering. Such perseverance is an “everyday heroism” that “is the rule...rather than the exception,” for which the “only appropriate response” is “dumbfounded gratitude.”

Peterson clearly means to pull in his readers with this description, to see this reality as their own. “There are so many ways that things can fall apart,” he counsels a sad, unhappy world, but “it is always wounded people who are holding it together.” Peterson emphasizes both the reality of suffering and the possibility of persevering through it. This is his signature move to his fans: a measured sympathy, but also tough fatherly love.

Through these vignettes, Peterson reveals himself as only a few steps ahead of his audience. That is part of his power. In an age in which everyone is selling something, Peterson seems to many of his devotees to be in a selfless and honest pursuit of truth.

Like many of his fans, Peterson adopts a strikingly individualistic approach to society’s problems.

Peterson also mirrors his followers’ disillusionment with established social institutions. He left his childhood church because he felt what he “was being told was lies” that the pastors did not believe. In a heartfelt moment in a recent interview with America, he lamented: “You can’t teach those lessons and not think they’re true.”

Indeed, that Peterson first gained notoriety through the website Quora says a great deal. Quora is a place where people come to look for answers. These are often people distrustful of or isolated from normal channels of knowledge. Somehow, Peterson has managed to reach such an audience.

If Peterson is a step ahead of his fans, however, he is only one step ahead of them. Like many of them, he adopts a strikingly individualistic approach to society’s problems. This seems to follow from his desire to resist structures of oppression and sin. After all, he wants to empower the individual to resist complicity with structures of evil.

But it is unfortunate that he sees this resistance by oppressed people as an individual act, one not supported by family, friends and intermediary institutions like churches.

Beyond the Individual

Jordan Peterson is addressing a world in which modern life often appears as an unappetizing choice: freedom or belonging.

Belonging to the teeming global society could look, at its worst, like being an anonymous figure in a faceless mass. And thus so many in our society yearn to be, above all else, free. But the freedom to do what one wants without being beholden to a community seems itself to disintegrate into fearful, powerless isolation.

Few of us want to be just another person in the crowd. But perhaps even fewer of us want to take the risk of existing completely alone in the world, even that it means we could maintain our freedom. So which do we choose: the individual or the collective?

Peterson is addressing a world in which modern life often appears as an unappetizing choice: freedom or belonging.

Most modern thinkers have taken up the cause of the individual. Much of our art and literature valorizes the individual struggling against brute forces: the lone person manipulated by the “Matrix” beyond our sight and control; the Bojack Horseman figure trapped in a virtual prison of pop culture and technology.

We fear collectivism: being subsumed into a social system that renders us anonymous cogs in a larger, sometimes sinister social fabric, like Stalin’s Russia or Hitler’s Germany. Peterson has entered the public eye as someone who forces us to face the cost of collectivism. Recall Peterson’s quotation of Jung: “That which you most need is found where you least want to look.” Peterson emphasizes what you need to do so that you can confront what keeps you from being innocent of the sins of society.

The you, the individual, has the positive agency. Society, on the other hand, is primarily a problem to be solved or avoided. Perhaps that is why Peterson does not imagine the individual’s resistance giving rise to new, healthier social structures. Indeed, while Peterson has been embroiled in many political debates, he takes much of what he does to be nonpolitical, and thinks society today focuses too heavily on politics.

That may well be true, but at times he almost veers too far from politics, missing the genuinely social nature of humans. The book 12 Rules might be impressive for its ability to steer clear of polemical political issues, but it also tends to remain on the level of ethics. It never contemplates the need to build new kinds of community and practices. One question for Peterson is whether the high value he places on individualism gives rise to something beyond the lonely individual, or collapses back into a new collectivism, leaving us alone together.

Peterson Contra Mundum

The individualistic ethos that has made Peterson so popular has helped to earn the ire of many of his detractors. For Peterson, much of modern culture is composed of totalitarian systems of indoctrination. Peterson attacks academia for what he perceives as the excesses and overreach of identity politics, multiculturalism and the politics of universities. At times he seems to embrace a mission to reform modern culture, a task that puts him on a collision course with academia at large. Critiques of Peterson are legion. He opines on a bewildering number of subjects, betraying disciplinary boundaries, correcting colleagues and diagnosing what he takes to be deep illnesses in academia. For such critics, Peterson is dangerously wrong about the “cultural Marxism” he claims has corrupted our society. To them, it seems he preaches patriarchy, misogyny and illiberal politics. Even conservatives will find much to fault in him, as when Matthew Schmitz refers to his “potted accounts” of modernity.

Peterson connects people to the suffering that is at the root of their deepest desires.

But this pushback only confirms for Peterson a major flaw of group politics in our time—namely, the refusal to compromise on even the most extreme of positions. Further, as important as it is to scrutinize Peterson’s intellectual claims about identity politics, those arguments do not alone explain his popularity. He is popular because he connects people to the suffering that is at the root of their deepest desires. I do not know that any of his critics have offered a similar response to the pain and isolation of many of his followers.

Toward a New Community

Peterson names the reality of suffering and the tremendous psychological and spiritual task that is persevering through and against it. He names institutions and structures of power, moreover, as pre-eminent agents of that suffering. What Peterson does not name, however, is the need for new communities.

C. S. Lewis argues in his essay “Membership,” found in The Weight of Glory, that this opposition between individualism and collectivism is a false choice, and proposes that Christianity offers a third way beyond both. Taking St Paul’s language of “membership” in the body of Christ, Lewis writes that to be a member is to be part of a “harmonious union,” not as interchangeable parts of a machine but as distinct yet complementary members who all have their nature and place within the whole.

Lewis argues, in other words, that our deepest desire is not to be free of community but to be free in community, to live in relationships that make us more ourselves.

In Lewis’s terms, Peterson favors solitude over inclusion, which is to say individualism over collectivism. Such individualism is preferable to the collectivism of Nazi Germany, but neither is a good description of humans or their social life. The individual might be able to resist the dangers of a corrupt society. But one cannot build a new society by oneself. And that is clearly what we need in our own time.

The origins of the social ills of our times are complex, but clearly they will not be solved by more individualism. Our institutions are crumbling, whether Congress or the media or schools or American religion or even the family. And the results are not liberating. They are rather the sort of isolation and alienation that leads to opioid abuse, school gun violence and the ever-increasing need to find a scapegoat for our problems.

The ripping of our social fabric shows that we all need new communities of freedom and virtue as much as we need freedom from oppressive ones. Not only must we escape from bad structures, as Peterson would counsel, but we must build new structures where individuals can encounter and rebuild communal life.

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J Cosgrove
3 weeks 4 days ago

I believe Peterson says we can be an individual and also a member of many institutions. But it is individuals that make the difference in our society. Equality is not the normal condition of man kind so don't try to force it.. The accomplishments of individuals are the norm. He constantly points to the pareto distribution as the usual outcome of human nature. The pareto distribution indicates that it is a few persons in each field that will excel and most will be ordinary. So avoid any form of collectivism if possible.

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 1 day ago

People want the perfect form of government and in the process many are continually tearing apart anything they do not like as if the opposite will be the answer. The closest form of perfect government in this world is a democratically elected republic of free market capitalism using Catholic/Christian morality as its guide for individual behavior. Celebrate the individual whose personal behavior is morally guided but let him do his/her thing.

Fred Keyes
2 weeks 4 days ago

"The accomplishments of individuals are the norm."

Man, that's a lonely existence, never mind contrary to the cooperative nature of real progress. Perhaps you're called to be a hermit? To the desert, Cosgrove!

Cosgrove, you continually camp out here and respond to any new America article with a 'gospel' any observant Christian should find antithetical to Catholic teaching.

Toby Gillis
2 weeks 2 days ago

Fred K, any "observant Christian" should find most Catholic teaching antithetical. Your church needs many more like Mr Cosgrove.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 2 days ago

find most Catholic teaching antithetical

I do not find Catholic teaching antithetical. It is just what a lot of people here call Catholic teaching was not part of any Catholic education I ever received. I find it the best way to lead one's life.

Aristarchus French
2 weeks 2 days ago

Bravo,..well done sir!

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 2 days ago

Man, that's a lonely existence, never mind contrary to the cooperative nature of real progress..

Who is arguing against cooperation. I am certainly not. You seem to rush to judgments on a lot of things. I would refrain from your critical remarks of others. However, the pareto distribution is the norm in human accomplishment. That doesn't mean they did it alone.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 2 days ago

with a 'gospel' any observant Christian should find antithetical to Catholic teaching.

There is nothing I have said here that the nuns, Christian Brothers and Jesuits who taught me would object to. All encouraged their students to excel. Strange that you should object to that.

Stanley Kopacz
3 weeks 4 days ago

The ultimate uncollectivised individual is the feral child.

Derrick Kourie
3 weeks 4 days ago

The first two questions in the so-called penny-catechism that I learned as a 5 year old child encapsulate everything that Peterson has been trying to say and more. They are:
Q. Who made you? A. God made me
Q. Why did God make you? A. God made me to know, love and serve him in this world and be happy with him forever in the next.

That says it all. Happiness in this world not the goal, but doing God's will is --- even in the face of suffering. In this world we may have more or less ra-ra type happiness, and hopefully we will have a certain deep peace through doing God's will, even if we are to endure much suffering. To the extent that Peterson avoids talking about our lives culminating in something good in the hereafter, about God as person rather than as some abstraction topping all hierarchies, to that extent he leaves those suffering with little hope that the universe is just; that suffering ends in resurrection; that, as Julian of Norwich says, "All will be well and all will be well and thou shalt see for thyself that all manner of thing shall be well".

And, yes, I agree with the Bill McCormick's assessment that Peterson undervalues the human need of community. The African philosophy of Ubuntu is perhaps relevant: 'A person is a person through other people'. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_philosophy)

But by and large, I think Peterson introduces many interesting themes into contemporary thinking that are well worth noting.

Patrice Lamoree
3 weeks 3 days ago

Thank you for adding this rich meditation upon empirical human themes that so many of us have been and continue to make the effort to authentically address right now.

Let's welcome others into this effort at every opportunity.

Phillip Stone
3 weeks 1 day ago

This author is insufficiently knowledgeable on the message coming from Jordan Peterson and betrays a thinly veiled collectivism obliquely criticising him through repeated unfounded assertions.

The cause of the ills AND evils of humanity are not complex to disciples of Christ - human nature is flawed and irreparable by any natural means. JBP is clear on that.
All humans need to live as individuals and to live in some sort of relationship with other humans. BOTH AT THE SAME TIME!
Have Jesuits forgotten the individual judgement and only have in mind the General Judgement. Beware, Jesuit, you will stand alone before the Lord as soon as you die, and the gang will not be with you, you will be alone and your own single unique personal choices and state will be judged.

Where is the humility in your position?

Long before you and I were born, the Lord had been choosing men, women and children ALREADY existing in communities older than 2000 years and commissioning them to STAY in the existing communities and be a transforming presence therein through the metaphors of yeast in a loaf and salt in a recipe as signs of contradiction.
Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci set the high mark for Jesuit missions to the pagans, it has all been downhill since then.
Where is the fruit of the Jesuit missions to the Americas today? Not very edifying.

I see cultural Marxism as the most potent and powerful corrupting presence in US academia as it is in the most of the other countries which have inherited the best of Western Christendom in the arts and the sciences and the social institutions.

Get your own house in order - I mean, root it out of your Jesuit Universities first - and then get back to us.

JBP message to youth - clean your room, get a job, respect yourself, become a bearable social being, contribute to the sum total of human good, etc.

Peterson is baptised and was catechised in Sunday school and then grew up in a rough neighbourhood with tearaway friends; fat and alcohol abusing and mouthy, up for a scrap. He has grown up and blossomed within marriage to a good woman and fatherhood. Sound familiar?
He is moving towards deeper faith under grace, he needs prayers and support and not criticism and condemnation.
Do not despise his prophetic gifts and role. There is already available numerous testimonies from people who have been inspired by his teachings and example to get their act together and then are free to re-connect to their already abandoned Christianity.

F C
3 weeks 1 day ago

Phillip Stone
In support of 'individualism' you consistently use ideal types and abstract situations. In doing so, for all your talk of individual cases, you loose sight of actual people in all their concrete messiness. This might be why you missed the import of the challenge contained in McCorminck's last paragraph: "The ripping of our social fabric shows that we all need new communities of freedom and virtue as much as we need freedom from oppressive ones. Not only must we escape from bad structures, as Peterson would counsel, but we must build new structures where individuals can encounter and rebuild communal life."

J William Pope
3 weeks 1 day ago

Father Bill is mistaken. "Collectivism and community" is the coin of the realm in today's politics and culture. That individualism often forcefully emerges out of our cultural and artistic edifices only proves that it is an essence that cannot be subdued under any circumstance.

I have been harangued with notions of "community" and "togetherness" all of my life. I rejected them every step of the way, and I will continue to do so.

Dolores Pap
2 weeks 5 days ago

And then there 's this..:-(
Peterson on women: “[Society is] increasingly dominated by a view of masculinity that’s mostly characteristic of women who have terrible personality disorders and who are unable to have healthy relationships with men.” (Slate)
Peterson on femininity: “[That] terrible femininity…is undermining the masculine power of the culture in a way that’s, I think, fatal.” (Slate)
Peterson on misogyny: “The idea that women were oppressed throughout history is an appalling theory.” (Toronto Life)
Peterson on abortion: “Abortion is clearly wrong. I don’t think anyone debates that. You wouldn’t recommend that someone you love have one.” (Bridgehead)
Peterson on inclusion: “It’s not the role of society to make people feel included. That’s not the role of society.” (CBC)
Peterson on protecting people from gender discrimination: “[It is an] assault on biology and an implicit assault on the idea of the objective world.” (C2C)
Peterson on how women are neurotic: “Women are higher when it comes to Agreeableness — wanting everyone to get along…and Neuroticism — higher in negative emotion…” (The Spectator)
Peterson on LGBT people: “They’re power-mad people who use compassion as a disguise.” (The Star)
Peterson on being impolite: “There’s this strong compulsion to be polite. And not to purposefully offend someone. And I think that polite compulsion is being hijacked by power-mad leftists. In fact I’m certain of it.” (The Star)
Peterson on not caring if he’s offending anyone: “I think that people need to be able to say whatever they want no matter how outrageous.” (The Globe

F C
2 weeks 4 days ago

Dolores Pap
Thanks for this list! I'm puzzled by Peterson's adherence to psychometric methods and Jungian depth psychology, despite their tendency to undermine each other.

Theresa Willox
2 weeks 4 days ago

The fact that the article mentions the criticism of Peterson as a misogynist without substantiating and engaging it as this commenter does only confirms this article as a superficial and somewhat apologetic treatment. Peterson might have some insight into some of society's ills. But he doesn't get a pass for his human indecency.

Theresa Willox
2 weeks 4 days ago

The fact that the article mentions the criticism of Peterson as a misogynist without substantiating and engaging it as this commenter does only confirms this article as a superficial and somewhat apologetic treatment. Peterson might have some insight into some of society's ills. But he doesn't get a pass for his human indecency.

Pamela O'Connell
2 weeks 3 days ago

Thank you Dolores for this list that shows where Peterson's "philosophy" leads, and Theresa for so succinctly identifying the analytical -- and might I add, theological! -- problem with this article.

Jim MacGregor
2 weeks 4 days ago

“Jordan Peterson understands your suffering”
Wow! What a lead in! Is that a quote from St. Paul? Or from St. John?
Regardless of the details of the article, the theme is arrogantly unChristian.

arthur mccaffrey
2 weeks 3 days ago

Peterson is a psychologist and there is plenty of psychological theory to support the notion that in order to construct we often have to destruct, to give us a chance to go thru break down in order to re-emerge with a better, more integrated view of life. His notions of individuality and collectivism are perfectly in harmony with the idea of breaking down your life into individuality to allow you to go back into to society to rebuild it on your terms. This article errs, I think, in making the choices advocated by Peterson too either/or, one or the other. Individualism and collectivism are not inherently or mutually incompatible--I can think of many ways in which our individualities can be combined in society so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. But in 2018 America, Peterson is correct that it is society that needs to be deconstructed more than the individual. This leads him to argue for putting your own house in order before changing the world.

Pamela O'Connell
2 weeks 3 days ago

Father McCormick, I am deeply disappointed with and upset by your article -- beginning with the headline. Who is the "you" implied by "your suffering"? Certainly not me. You may not realize how highly condescending the title, and entire piece, actually is -- this is priest-splaining. We are not to take Peterson at his word about where his "philosophy" inevitably leads (I refer you to the list of misogynist and bigoted quotes posted by Dolores). Are you really unaware of the ways in which his writings and influence are used as a cudgel against women and minorities? Your passing reference to these issues, without further analysis or even a token attempt to hold Peterson accountable, is somewhat shocking. Yet somehow his critics have no right to speak, according to you -- "I do not know that any of his critics have offered a similar response to the pain and isolation of many of his followers." -- unless we solve the problems of the alienated men to whom he appeals. This piece failed as an analysis of a controversial philosophy, as journalism, and as a Christian response to the suffering of those whom Peterson's words and ideas have hurt, not helped.

F C
2 weeks 1 day ago

Pamela
Superb post! I agree with every line.

kevin spear
2 weeks 2 days ago

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Aristarchus French
2 weeks 2 days ago

Father Bill, I assume you mean well, however, it seems the obvious ex-cathedra Catholic thread running through the middle of your entire narrative is an obvious call to return to the "church" community. Tantamount to your Pontiff it seems the CC is so far off base as to its original task of spreading the Gospel, it is now out of the park almost entirely. This why I wish there should be a pre-requisite to writing an article on JP that includes reading both books, viewing the Biblical series, the Personality course and the Maps of Meaning course at minimum. Jordan wants what you want, freedom" in" communities. He realizes, however, communities are made of individuals (as a house is made of many bricks to over simplify) and urges change in the individual first, family next, then community and so forth.

As a wise Jesuit educator (I do so love many of the Jesuit thinkers) once told me (I no longer attend CC since they stopped sharing the Gospel, you know, the one Paul explains so succinctly in Galatians) "son, the world changes one person at a time." Therein lies the crux.

F C
2 weeks 1 day ago

Aristarchus French
Individuals come from somewhere - they are the product of endless socialisation from the first moment of birth. They therefore cannot be the 'bricks' you are thinking of - despite the apparent individualisation of names etc. An alternative way of thinking that does not drive a wedge between individual and social is therefore required. Required, that is, if one wants to deal with things as they come, rather than how we'd prefer them.

Not even Peterson is the individualist you suppose. We know this because he is a follower of Jung and Jung's depth psychology (archetypes etc) operates at the level of the whole human species, not individual members. For the same reason, one could say that Peterson's particular problem is that even he is not the individualist he supposes and seeks to evince.

Alan Norman
2 weeks ago

F C
I am halfway through 12 Rules for Life and I heard Peterson speak last week (a much appreciated treat for my wife - so much for the misogyny alleged elsewhere in this thread!). Your comment suggests to me that your exposure to his thought has been less than mine.

Nobody could be more aware that he is standing on giants' shoulders. Equally, he is acutely aware of the difference between living in a comparatively benign social structure and a thoroughly malign one, and of the reality that some of the most malign have been created by revolutionaries claiming to be motivated by the righting of injustices - the latter an unforgivable sin for some on the left.

Rule 5 is all about the socialization of young children, but precisely there the stress is on how critically the choices of individual parents and carers matter. Society can influence those choices for good or ill, but it can't relieve the individual parent of his or her responsibility.

Alan Norman
2 weeks ago

F C
I am halfway through 12 Rules for Life and I heard Peterson speak last week (a much appreciated treat for my wife - so much for the misogyny alleged elsewhere in this thread!). Your comment suggests to me that your exposure to his thought has been less than mine.

Nobody could be more aware that he is standing on giants' shoulders. Equally, he is acutely aware of the difference between living in a comparatively benign social structure and a thoroughly malign one, and of the reality that some of the most malign have been created by revolutionaries claiming to be motivated by the righting of injustices - the latter an unforgivable sin for some on the left.

Rule 5 is all about the socialization of young children, but precisely there the stress is on how critically the choices of individual parents and carers matter. Society can influence those choices for good or ill, but it can't relieve the individual parent of his or her responsibility.

F C
2 weeks 1 day ago

Aristarchus French
Individuals come from somewhere - they are the product of endless socialisation from the first moment of birth. They therefore cannot be the 'bricks' you are thinking of - despite the apparent individualisation of names etc. An alternative way of thinking that does not drive a wedge between individual and social is therefore required. Required, that is, if one wants to deal with things as they come, rather than how we'd prefer them.

Not even Peterson is the individualist you suppose. We know this because he is a follower of Jung and Jung's depth psychology (archetypes etc) operates at the level of the whole human species, not individual members. For the same reason, one could say that Peterson's particular problem is that even he is not the individualist he supposes and seeks to evince.

Alan Martin
1 week 6 days ago

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Alan Martin
1 week 6 days ago

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Barry Fitzpatrick
1 week 6 days ago

Excellent piece on Peterson, Fr. Bill. I think Peterson has been good for all who take the time to read him, engage him in thought and discussion, and reflect on his message. This doens't require agreeing with everything he says. It does require an open mind willing to see his analysis for what it is, one man's take on the human condition in 2018. Peterson does point to communal signs as sources of his own amazement. He writes: "In my own periods of darkness, in the underworld of the soul, I find myself frequently overcome and amazed by the ability of people to befriend each other, to love their intimate partners and parents and children, and to do what they must to keep the machinery of the world running." Surely, that is where community finds its roots.

Randal Agostini
1 week 5 days ago

This is a very important subject for our time, but unfortunately Fr. McCormick misunderstands much of what Prof. Peterson is exposing.
We cannot escape suffering, which is a human condition, but we could do a great deal more to understand it, through the eyes of God and Jesus in particular, who embraced it and made it the focus of his ministry.
If we keep viewing the Catholic Church as a human Institution we will keep failing ourselves and the world as Christians - continuing in a misguided philosophy of collective human compassion.
We suffer on our own, except as Christians we have Christ to carry the burden, but for that to happen we have to believe and to trust and as is shown recently - not in a secular church, but in a sacramental Church.
There are three rules that we can follow to understand Peterson and improve our lives.
The first is to Love God above all and our neighbors as ourselves. This requires a change in ourselves and makes us responsible to ourselves to become Children of God. This requires a change in direction of Self not to promote self for oneself, but for others - to be the best for Others.
Another rule is to understand the Church teaching with respect to subsidiarity - this will change our individual thinking towards politics and government.
The last is to change our attitude regarding our Church and Faith. All of us have to assume greater responsibility for our Church as an Institution and allow our clergy, all the way to the Pope, to concentrate on our evangelical ministry. The outcome of this is to live and look like Christians instead of hollow moralists.
Peterson is digging into the fabric of society and is noticing, by the way, that The Way explained by Jesus is not only a theological, but also a supremely practical way of life, which is a pertinent message for Catholics.

Alan Martin
1 week 3 days ago

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Alan Martin
1 week 3 days ago

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Alan Martin
1 week 3 days ago

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Something that happened more than 2,000 years ago will draw all of time, all of the longings of the human heart, into itself.
Terrance KleinNovember 21, 2018
The only Americans under review for canonization to attend a public university, Day’s indiscretions and confusions, those awkward discoveries and repeated failures of youth, are our own.
Nathan TyeNovember 21, 2018
Father Keating left us a powerful but unlikely solution to our current national crisis: centering prayer.
Tim ShriverNovember 21, 2018
Pope Francis eats lunch with poor people

This week on “Inside the Vatican,” Gerry and I look into some new developments in the stories surrounding the U.S.

Colleen DulleNovember 21, 2018