COURSE MATERIALS for 2018
12 Rules for Life
My attempt to decode Peterson is for both groups of people. I believe that if one can get past his transgender pronoun battle and understand his complicated language of using metaphors, myths, and riddles in articulating his ideas, one will discover that he has something original and significant to contribute to the academic dialogue on such important topics as the meaning of suffering and the pathway to living a good life. His recent book actually covers the same terrain as Viktor Frankl’s (1985) Man’s Search for Meaning but within the current political and cultural context.
From my perspective, the Person phenomenon can be primarily attributed to three things. First is his ability (powerful intellect, formidable debating skills, and verbal facility) to be a courageous authentic voice for the voiceless majority and their discontents. Second is his fearless and compelling arguments against totalitarianism in any form or shape. Third is his compelling argument against new atheism for the existence of God and Christian worldviews in a sophisticated intellectual way that appeals to Christians and seekers dissatisfied with “shallow Christianity.” In certain sense, he is like a Francis A. Schaeffer for the 21st century of university students.
More specifically, Peterson’s battle is to reclaim: (a) personal freedom and responsibility against the political correctness of democracy and the slavery of communism; (b) masculinity against radical feminism and Marxism; (c) spirituality and/or religion against secularism, materialism, and scientism; (d) realism and facts against social constructivism and postmodernism. These recurrent themes run through the entire book.
And you should know what your myth is, because it might be a tragedy.
And maybe you don’t want it to be. — Jordan Peterson
More importantly, his 12 rules are based on time-tested ancient wisdoms from the East (Taoism and Buddhism) and the West (the Bible and Aristotle) as well as his own life experiences as a parent, husband, professor, and clinical psychologist. His existential-spiritual-dialectical view of the good life is the same as my existential positive psychology or PP 2.0 (Wong, 2011, 2012). A few days ago, I actually dreamed of a great showdown pitching Martin Seligman’s (2011) positivist binary approach against the existential dialectical approach of Peterson’s 12 Rules and Wong’s 12 Steps (Wong 2016b) to determine which approach produces the most lasting positive change in people through a series of real life challenges. This could be a great study as well as an exciting reality show!
Although Peterson’s book has a wealth of valuable information, it is not easy to understand because of the complex subject matters it attempts to tackle and his complicated way of weaving together different threads of arguments from various domains. It can be frustrating to those not familiar with the Bible, mythology, existential literature, and his metaphorical language. It can also be frustrating to those who disagree with his endless ramblings on his political views.
Peterson is no stranger to our group. He has spoken four times at the INPM’s International Meaning Conferences. He was one of the keynote speakers in Meaning Conference 2016; at that time, he was still an obscure psychology professor, known primarily for his esoteric book Maps of Meaning (1999) and his lectures on YouTube. What a difference the last 20 months have made! He also did an interview on the meaning of life for us at the end of taping our Meaningful Living Meetup several years ago; in this interview, one can hear his basic view of meaning, based on his 1999 book.
I invite to join me on an intellectual and spiritual journey to discover what Jordan Peterson actually says. After all, “if Peterson is right, you have nothing to lose but your own misery” (Grainger, 2018). I am looking forward to seeing you all in this new series of meetups.
- Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning (Revised & updated ed.). New York, NY: Washington Square Press.
- Grainger, J. (2018, January 22de). Jordan Peterson on embracing your inner lobster in 12 Rules for Life. The Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/2018/01/22/jordan-peterson-on-embracing-your-inner-lobster-in-12-rules-for-life.html
- Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Free Press.
- Smith, E. E. (2017). The power of meaning: Crafting a life that matters. New York, NY: Crown.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology, 52(2), 69-81. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022511
- Wong, P. T. P. (2012). Toward a dual-systems model of what makes life worth living. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 3-22). New York, NY: Routledge.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2016a). Integrative meaning therapy: From logotherapy to existential positive interventions. In P. Russo-Netzer, S. E. Schulenberg, & A. Batthyány (Eds.), Clinical perspectives on meaning: Positive and existential psychotherapy (pp. 323-342). New York, NY: Springer.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2016b). Meaning centered positive group intervention. In P. Russo-Netzer, S. Schulenberg, & A. Batthyány (Eds.), Clinical perspectives on meaning: Positive and existential psychotherapy (pp. 423-445). New York, NY: Springer.
Next Meetup: July 15, 2018
12 Rules for Life