Playing the Indian Card

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Jordan Peterson: Sounding the Tocsin

Nietzsche in his final madness.

Suddenly Jordan Peterson is everywhere. On YouTube, he offers hours of lectures. He is being interviewed by everyone. His book is top of the NYTimes bestseller list, and similar lists in Canada, Australia, and Britain. How did this happen, so quickly?

A lot of us feel we owe Peterson admiration and support for his principled stand against Bill C-16 and compelled speech. I myself recently gave him high praise for his performance in a debate/discussion with William Lane Craig on the meaning of life.

But now that I have seen more of what he says on YouTube, I begin to be alarmed. He obviously has a lot of positions on a lot of other issues beyond free speech, and he is eagerly exploiting his new fame to push them. It is almost as if the free speech thing was a gambit to get the publicity and the opportunity. It is almost as if he had it all waiting to ship.

And these other views look alarming.

To begin with, I am concerned with the simple and basic fact that he is giving out “Rules for Life.” That is a pretty pretentious thing to do. What gives him the authority? Or, more precisely, what makes him think he has the authority? It speaks of narcissism. He now seems to have an opinion on almost everything, and his opinions do not seem on the whole to be backed up with reasoned arguments, but are stated as if intuitions or revelations of the truth.

I have checked him on a few now, and they seem to be unsupported by the facts or by the current research. Some are, some are not. It does not seem to matter.

But the big red banner is that Peterson keeps quoting Nietzsche. And with high praise. Good people, quite simply, do not cite Nietzsche as their authority or inspiration.

Nietzsche leads by a pretty direct path to Nazism.

Yes, I know, you will have heard he has been exonerated of this accusation. The Nazis misinterpreted him. His sister, his literary executor, was a Nazi, and she twisted things. He was not an anti-Semite at all. No, no! He was against anti-Semitism.

This misses, or deliberately avoids, the datum that Nazism was about more than anti-Semitism. No, it would not have all been okay if Hitler had just left the Jews alone.

There is no way, surely, to read Nietzsche as other than a bad man promoting evil.

The core of Nietzsche’s philosophy, his key assertion, is that all philosophers before him were not actually seeking or asserting truth. No, they were just asserting what they wanted to be true. Philosophy was wish-fulfillment.

If Nietzsche is right, then this must also apply to his own philosophy. Including this assertion, this claim about other philosophers. We have a right, therefore, to dismiss it; Nietzsche just wants it to be true.

But then, we need to accept that everything else in Nietzsche’s own philosophy is just wish-fulfillment. This is necessarily true whether or not Nietzsche is right about anyone else. If Nietzsche is right, his philosophy is just wish-fulfillment, and has nothing to do with reality. But if Nietzsche is wrong, his philosophy is just wish-fulfillment and has nothing to do with reality. It is perfectly self-refuting.

But Nietzsche’s core assertion here, nonsensical as it is, is the central premise of all narcissism: Things are true because I want them to be true. Things are good because I consider them good for me.

This, then, is the essential rule for living Peterson is promoting.

It is also strikingly similar to Hitler’s basic argument in Mein Kampf. But perhaps I digress.

One you hold this view, that you are the ultimate arbiter of truth, and truth and good is whatever you want, you face an obvious and immediate problem. What about everybody else? There appear to be other human beings around you, and some of them do not accept “your truth,” or are not giving you whatever you want. So what are you supposed to do?

Given Nietzsche’s assumptions, you have every warrant and right to either silence or destroy them.

There is no way this does not end in Holocaust.

Among other fun ideas, Nietzsche despised Christianity and Judaism as “slave morality.” The superior man follows a “master morality” instead. This is much better. It basically means he gets what he wants, if necessary by subjugating others. Being master, he gets to make all the rules, and they get to be whatever he wants.

According to Nietzsche, of course, most famously, “God is dead.” He has been defended as not really an atheist by people claiming that he was not happy about this. Does not stand scrutiny: to assert that it is possible for God to die is to deny he ever existed. It is to presume he is a human creation.

“Christianity,” Nietzsche wrote, “is called the religion of pity. Pity stands opposed to the tonic emotions which heighten our vitality: it has a depressing effect. We are deprived of strength when we feel pity.”

Hitler was on about pity in the same way. The goal is to be pitiless—and to destroy anyone weaker than yourself. It is a direct appeal to resist your own conscience.

Nietzsche titled a book “Beyond Good and Evil,” and declared the division of acts into good and evil a “calamitous error.” If this is not a clear call to do evil, I cannot imagine what is. This is the devil talking, with a contract in his hand, and urging you to sign on the dotted line.

If good and evil, or conscience, or compassion, are not to guide our actions, what is?

Nietzsche says “the will to power.” Hitler took this one to heart: “The triumph of the will.” Life is all about trying not just to achieve your own will, but to ensure others do not achieve theirs. That is what “power” consists of. Making others do things they do not want to do.

And then there is Nietzsche’s concept of the “ubermensch,” the “superman.” He based this on Darwin, and this is the reason so many religious people have for so long been so concerned about Darwin. No, it has nothing to do with a literal interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis. It has to do with the risk of seeing Darwinism as a moral guide. Based on Darwin, Nietzsche explicitly rejected the concept of human equality. Of course humans are not equal; some are smarter, stronger, than others. The logic of evolution says these smarter, stronger people have the right and the duty to kill all the weaker ones so that only they reproduce. They are creating a new species, the “superman.” And, indeed, everyone has the natural right to assume they are this “superman,” and to destroy everyone else with whom they cannot breed. Their success in this endeavour is enough to prove their righteousness in this endeavour.

“The superman does not follow morality of common people since that favors mediocrity but instead rises above the notion of good and evil and above the ‘herd.’”

So, by declaring yourself a superman, you get to do whatever you like, and have a moral right to take whatever you consider in your own interest from anyone else. And, if you do not do this, you are simply proving yourself inferior and worthy of destruction. You, and other such weaklings, are only pissing in the gene pool.

It worries me in this context that Peterson is so big on “bucking up” and taking personal responsibility.


“You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape... The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth... Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss ... what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.”

This is a direct and explicit rejection, not just of Christian morality, but of all morality. Kant said, morality consists in treating other human beings “not as a means, but an end.” “Love thy neighbour as thyself” says essentially the same thing in different words; as does “do unto others.” Nietzsche says the opposite: treat all others as a means, not an end. They exist only to be useful to you in your struggle. Your kampf.

Nietzsche went full-tilt mad, psychotic, in his later years. His supporters are adamant that this had nothing to do with his philosophy. It was long claimed that this psychosis was all due to syphilis. More recently, however, it has been pointed out that his symptoms were not consistent with syphilis. Had he had syphilis, for example, he should have died within months of the onset of psychotic symptoms. He lived like this for eleven years.

I think it is only too obvious that his madness was directly related to his philosophy. I was simply the philosophy stated plainly; the philosophy is mad. Nietzsche had set himself up as God: he had the right to do whatever he liked, and since reality was a matter of will, he had created the world, the universe, himself. Perfect narcissism. This is exactly what he says, in what are called his “mad letters.” He declared himself the god Dionysus, and Jesus Christ, and simply “God.” He says he created the world. He orders the pope jailed and the Kaiser shot. After all, both have impudently claimed power over him. It all follows.

“God is on the earth. Do not you see how all the heavens rejoice? I have just taken possession of my empire, cast the Pope into prison, and let Wilhelm, Bismarck, and Stöcker be shot. [signed] The Crucified.”

I hope I am wrong, but it looks as though this is what Jordan Peterson is pushing. This is apparently what he has to sell.

It may be that he is not a “white nationalist,” as is so often claimed. Just as Nietzsche was no anti-Semite. But we seem to be missing the forest for the trees. Peterson actually looks far more dangerous, to his followers and to everyone else, than a mere “white nationalist.”

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