Friday, January 26, 2018

Is The Chaos Jordan Peterson's Book Is Intended To Combat "The Eternal Feminine"?

I wrote a post earlier about Jordan Peterson's views and his great influence, especially on men. You should read it if you are not familiar with Peterson's arguments.  In that post I predicted that Peterson would loom large, very soon, among social conservatives.

But I never expected that both Peggy Noonan and David Brooks would already be writing about him!  Peggy loved Peterson's book (which I have not read yet), and didn't seem to notice that its message wasn't exactly intended for her.

David had a more complicated take on Peterson's arguments.  I'd like to single out one quote from him, this one:

All of life is perched, Peterson continues, on the point between order and chaos. Chaos is the realm without norms and rules. Chaos, he writes, is “the impenetrable darkness of a cave and the accident by the side of the road. It’s the mother grizzly, all compassion to her cubs, who marks you as potential predator and tears you to pieces. Chaos, the eternal feminine, is also the crushing force of sexual selection. Women are choosy maters. … Most men do not meet female human standards.”

So.  Chaos is the eternal feminine.  And what is the name of Peterson's book?

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Now that is fascinating.

Brooks doesn't like everything about this new brutal worldview Peterson espouses:

Much of Peterson’s advice sounds to me like vague exhortatory banality. Like Hobbes and Nietzsche before him, he seems to imagine an overly brutalistic universe, nearly without benevolence, beauty, attachment and love. His recipe for self-improvement is solitary, nonrelational, unemotional. I’d say the lives of young men can be improved more through loving attachment than through Peterson’s joyless and graceless calls to self-sacrifice.

I would agree.

But let's return to the first quote above.  What does it mean that "most men don't meet human female standards?"  Most adult men in this world do marry, right?

And that "women are choosy maters" bit.  I smell  evolutionary psychology behind this way of thinking, the assumption that women are the only ones who are choosing in the mating game, that men either exert no choice, somehow, or that men aren't picky at all, perhaps willing to mate with every single woman around them.  

This sounds like confusing short-term mating (one night stands) with long-term relationships.   It also  smells of the older views that women choose resources while men choose youth and fertility, based on the assumption that such behavior has been hard-wired into us during some postulated Era of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA).*  Recent evidence suggests otherwise.

A later PS:  I have purchased the book and have read four chapters this evening.  The treatment of chaos as feminine and order as masculine IS in the book, but Peterson appears to ask the reader to walk the path at the border of the two. 

Labeling chaos and order that way is similar to the Taoist yin-yang circle where the yin is associated with female, darkness, softness and so on and the yang is associated with male, light, hardness and so on.  Peterson readily borrows from all sorts of places, to make the legs for his grand theory, including from evolutionary psychology (with some not-so-great links) and from the patriarchs of the Old Testament to create his how-to-live-today manual.

A review will be forthcoming next week, either here or elsewhere.

*  The problem with that EEA concept is that its environment is either left unspecified altogether or when it is specified, the assumption is that humans then lived in small nomadic kinship groups.

How does a nomadic kinship group create men who have more resources than what are built into their bodies?  And wouldn't those embodied resources consist of youth, health and strength? In other words, I'd argue that if anything is hard-wired in humans in terms of mating preferences, it would be the preference for youth and health, in both women and men.

An additional — and serious — problem is that we have no actual proof of any human hard-wiring of this type.  Women's historical preference for wealthier men can alternatively be explained by the fact that marrying up was about the only generally available way for women to accrue wealth during those historic eras when women were not allowed to inherit wealth, to own certain kinds of businesses or to attend university as a way up in the society.