What’s next for Jordan B. Peterson, 'the world’s most influential public intellectual'?
Jordan Peterson recently penned a spectacular op-ed to announce his resignation as a tenured professor at the University of Toronto. The piece was a scathing takedown of the woke monoculture of universities -- but he made no mention of what his life will look like beyond academia.
Peterson’s critics likely view his latest decision as a retreat from the public spotlight and a step towards retirement. The man has made his millions and managed only a slow comeback from a major health scare in 2020. Perhaps his fade to obscurity will provide relief for everyone?
The New York Times and the Washington Post seem to think so at least. The world’s most influential public intellectual (according to economist Tyler Cowen in 2018) has barely made a headline in either paper since 2019.
But Jordan Peterson has been as busy as a bee on Twitter. And in a move that seems more strategic than coincidental, Peterson appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast this week. The Joe Rogan Experience garners over 10 million listeners per episode, with recent shows reaching 50 million streams.
Their 4-hour, 15-minute conversation took in topics as diverse as nuclear energy, mass shooters, the boundaries of comedy, psychedelics, the woke obsession with skin colour, and the transformative power of podcasts in an age of fake news.
Two particular excerpts of their discussion went viral. The first — which attracted a tidal wave of negative press from the usual suspects — was a wide-ranging discussion on climate change.
Peterson observed that making energy more affordable, not less, is what’s best for the environment — since it lifts the poor into the middle class, where they can afford to care about the environment rather than just their next meal. Rising energy costs impacts the rich minimally, he argued, while keeping the world’s most marginalised dependent on inefficient sources and environmental mismanagement.
Another much talked-about segment was his comments on the centrality of the Bible. Not only was the Bible the West’s first physical book, said Peterson, it is the original book of Western civilisation — or more precisely, the foundation of the Western canon of literature:
It isn’t that the Bible is true — it’s that the Bible is the precondition for the manifestation of truth. Which makes it way more true than just true. It’s a whole different kind of true. And I think this is not only literally the case; factually, I think it can’t be any other way. It’s the only way we can solve the problem of perception.
For those curious about where Jordan Peterson is planning next, the podcast provided some strong hints.
He has been working with a musician and arranger to record his own music — an endeavour about which he was somewhat coy, though he promised Rogan a sample of it would be shared publicly soon.
Peterson has also been working a “very dark” poetry series, written mostly during his dark-night-of-the-soul recovery. It will be illustrated by Juliette Fogra, whose dramatic work punctuated the pages of Beyond Order.
He mentioned a new book he is working on, We Who Wrestle With God, in which he explores the weaponisation of guilt — namely, “What we should do in the face of the fact that we walk on soil soaked with blood. How do we atone for that? Because we have to or we get guilty about it and then we’re exploitable — even by ourselves.”
Has also spoke of an app he is soon to launch with his son Julian called “Essay” — designed to teach people how to write, and specifically how to conceptualise and construct an essay. “Words are authority,” Peterson mused as he described the app. “Without having your words in order you have no legitimate authority.”
Peterson will also be chancellor of a new university, Ralston College, in Savannah, Georgia. Ralston’s motto is “To think is to be free,” and the college describes its mission as, “A revival and reinvention of the traditional university. A fellowship for anyone, anywhere, who seeks the truth with courage.”
After his re-emergence from the shadows last year, I penned a piece called “The Second Coming of Jordan B. Peterson” — though if I’m honest, I was unsure how bright his future would be given the severity of what he had faced.
I’m glad to have been proven wrong. Welcome back, Jordan Peterson.
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