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In my opinion

Jordan Peterson’s personal crusade against the postmodern left

His characterization of postmodernism, however, appears rather suspect.


On occasion, an academic becomes so preoccupied with discrediting a specific position that his efforts turn into a personal crusade. A perfect example, in my mind, is University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson. His great obsession with postmodernism – the belief that interpretations of reality are contingent – was on display during an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, a podcast that recently garnered widespread interest, with over one million views in just four days.

During the interview, Dr. Peterson was adamant that anyone who subscribes to postmodernism will, at best, “emerge nihilistic” or, at worst, become an “anarchical social revolutionary,” adding that postmodernism “rips out the ethical foundations” of students, leaving them “depressed.” His characterization of postmodernism, however, appears rather suspect.

First, what postmodernism says is that we only have access to the material world through human descriptions of it. Since we do not come equipped with a God’s-eye view of the universe, we must make do with the vocabularies that we have developed historically, such as those established in law, science, philosophy, ethics, politics, anthropology, sociology, etc. Since these vocabularies are often in competition with one another, various groups vie for the most correct interpretation of truth.

According to Dr. Peterson, what constitutes truth has shifted radically on university campuses. Referencing Nietzsche, Dr. Peterson claims that since God is dead and “all value structures have collapsed,” doctrinaire postmodernists have interpreted this to mean that truth is up for grabs. One’s version of truth is simply a “power game” – the product of a specific group’s interests, rather than a consensus. This, Dr. Peterson notes, was the “logical conclusion” postmodernists derived from the Nietzschean dilemma.

With all due respect, this is not an accurate description of Nietzschean philosophy. The “death of God” simply refers to the death of absolute values, not the negation of competing values. Yes, postmodernism teaches that immutable truths – those fixed for time and eternity – do not exist, but this does not lead to the relativist nightmare dreamed up by Dr. Peterson in which truths are “equally valid” or “anything goes.” The “death of God” does not mean all knowledge is suddenly deemed untrustworthy.

To resolve the relativist dilemma, claims are challenged in an open, adversarial forum, the purpose of which is to locate more nuanced interpretations of truth. Whenever competing claims are exposed to scrutiny, those lacking merit will be rejected while those with more credibility win out. In other words, the ideas of postmodernists cannot escape judgment. Since claims still require the marshalling of evidence to test their legitimacy, truth cannot be established by fiat or by the mere fact of one’s group identity.

Dr. Peterson also claims that postmodernists reject dialogue because they already possess the truth, so from their perspective, there’s no need to deliberate over complex moral quandaries or to achieve a negotiated understanding. Undoubtedly, this may be an accurate description of some of the activists that have confronted Dr. Peterson, but their entrenched positions are anathema to postmodernism.

As American intellectual Stanley Fish points out about intransigent individuals, “their way of talking and thinking couldn’t be further from the careful and patient elaboration of difficult problems that marks postmodern discourse.” Those who embrace rigid dogmatic beliefs are known as perfectionists, individuals who suffer from what Nobel prize-winning author Amartya Sen terms “the illusion of singularity.”  Whenever someone posits self-evident truths and acts violently or aggressively to impose them, they are embracing perfectionism, not postmodernism.

Moreover, Dr. Peterson appears to believe that postmodernism’s most insidious quality involves the undermining of Enlightenment values, such as reason, but he is attributing to postmodernism a political agenda it does not possess. The subversion of logical analysis is certainly not one of its core objectives. Since truth values remain contested and contextual, human beings must continue to search for better ways to interpret their social, political, economic and legal environments. This quest for higher truths easily complements the Enlightenment’s emphasis on rational thought.

Dr. Peterson, it seems, remains convinced that the most extreme form of moral relativism – the idea that anyone can defend any behaviour by claiming it is important to their identity or culture – represents postmodernism’s true character. It doesn’t. But over a million people who watched Dr. Peterson on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast may now think otherwise.

Undeterred, Dr. Peterson continues his personal crusade against what he feels is the spread of postmodern propaganda by left-leaning professors. As a result, he has adopted a public persona that has become increasingly cynical and divisive, ironically, an outlook he now shares with the social justice warriors he vehemently despises.

Stuart Chambers is a professor in the faculties of arts and social sciences at the University of Ottawa. 

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  1. Lorne Carmichael / June 14, 2017 at 14:31

    If Truth exists as a direction, as you seem to believe, then it matters not if it can be reached as a destination.

    Dr Peterson, I believe, would have no real issues with you or what you are saying. He is fighting the folks who believe logic and fact must be rejected as tools of the oppressors.

    Maybe they are not True postmodernists, but either way he could use some help from his colleagues.

    • Professor Stuart Chambers / June 14, 2017 at 21:22

      First, the destination of truth does matter. The outcome of Hitler’s truth killed millions of people, whereas the outcome of Gandhi’s truth freed millions of people. The different directions of truth (truth claims) still have to be negotiated because as social beings, the outcome can affect others detrimentally.

      Second, Dr. Peterson falls into the same trap as the social justice warriors he despises. Both make sweeping generalizations of philosophical and theoretical concepts. They adopt positions with no practical value or that are patently false. Read Dr. Peterson’s views on Islamophobia; they are just as dismissive as the social justice warriors who dismiss his views, and many of his views ignore fact and logic. They are simply ideologically driven (see

      Third, one can only help a colleague by pointing out the error of his ways, not by supporting a personal crusade, which has consumed Dr. Peterson.

      • Lorne Carmichael / June 15, 2017 at 23:39

        Sorry, if truth has a direction, or a destination, then there is only one. To me, that’s what the word means. All the rest is just belief. Your first paragraph makes no sense to me.

        I suspect we are too far apart to even start a conversation, but I’d love to share a quote from Lewis Carroll. It was at the top of the course outline of my very first graduate class.

        “I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

        “Can’t you?” said the Queen in a pitying tone. “Try again. Close your eyes”.

        Alice tried. “It’s no use,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

        “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.

        We’ve all had way too much practice.

        • Professor Stuart Chambers / June 16, 2017 at 14:02

          Lorne, if truth has one direction, then that would be liking having a God’s eye view of the universe. That’s what perfectionists or ideologues claim. They have “the” truth, and then they impose it on others so that it goes in the “one” direction they wish. The history of religious wars tells us that that is not a good idea for an efficient society. All postmodernism says is, this is the truth “for now,” until a new event of being, such as Martin Luther King Jr., comes along and shifts the social, political and ethical landscape. Once our comfort zones have been interrupted by a higher truth, we then renegotiate our moral/ethical boundaries. Truths have to be worked out because the acceptance of one versus another can cause massive suffering. For instance, one’s allegiance to the sanctity of life ethos in the euthanasia debate caused millions to suffer longer, which was one reason the sanctity of life principle fell out of favour in bioethics. We found a more compassionate way to address suffering, and the law in Canada changed, but it did not change on a whim. There exists volumes of evidence that showed how much patients suffered by having to stick out intolerable pain. And we will find better ways in the future to address other instances of suffering. That is the essence of the first paragraph. Higher truths need to be worked out. The alternative is imposition and violence. I would suggest reading two great books: Perfection by Michael J. Hyde and Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny by Amartya Sen. Both highlight what happens when one attempts to enforce one truth rather than negotiate opposing views.

          • Doug / June 20, 2017 at 14:21

            Professor Chambers, I appreciate your replies to commenters as much as the article itself. You are articulating ideas that I have been gradually working out myself. There is an irony in praising Jordan Peterson as a “champion of free speech” that his fans seem not to grasp. I have watched videos of Peterson angrily denouncing entire fields of study as useless or harmful, and saying that, if he had his way, contemporary humanities and social science programs would be “de-funded.” It is a strange champion of free speech who would silence whole fields of study that don’t conform to his own worldview. He constantly warns that leftist-liberal ideas will lead to totalitarianism, but when Peterson works himself into paroxysms of self-righteousness, he is unable to mask his own irrational resentments and totalitarian impulses.

          • Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. / June 20, 2017 at 21:18

            Doug, instead of Peterson crying “free speech,” he should be asking: “What is the substance of my speech?” It’s substantive speech that should worry him more (or lack there of). This is what I mean by free speech versus substantive speech.

            “Free expression: A means to substantive speech.” SAFS Newsletter: Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship, April 2017:

          • Rayner Rolfson / September 9, 2017 at 10:23

            It is really amusing to read your comments about the negotiation of truth claims, while the examples you provide constitute an unabashed black/white-good/evil dichotomy. A hearty KEK indeed

        • Professor Stuart Chambers / June 17, 2017 at 12:17

          Lorne, I guess I am not the only one writing about how individuals mislead their audiences about the postmodern left. Here is a great op-ed from the Globe and Mail. Jordan Peterson fans need to read it.

          • Lorne Carmichael / June 22, 2017 at 14:51

            OK, I’ll try a response.

            I believe Truth exists. I don’t believe that anyone knows or will ever know what it is exactly. I believe there are techniques like careful observation, rational thought and repeatable experiment that can get us closer to it. So if you say an argument is “higher” and I say it is “closer to the Truth” I think we are saying the same thing.

            To me, your examples of the terrible things done “in the name of truth” read like an argument that we should not let anybody believe that Truth exists in case a small number of terrible people mistakenly start to believe they know what it is and start to do terrible things. I think it’s pretty clear that the terrible people are not listening and even if they were, terrible people will do terrible things regardless – even if all they believe is that their “truth” is slightly better than yours.

            Most of all, I think it is essential to separate positive from normative. Positive is about what is, normative is about what ought to be, and you can not logically derive an “ought” from an “is”. Positive truth is utterly devoid of normative implications.

            This is where, in my opinion, many arguments from both the left and right fail miserably. To paraphrase Steven Pinker: “If you believe everyone should be treated the same because deep down inside everyone really is the same, you are putting your normative beliefs into a situation where they might be contradicted by the facts.” Of course if you believe the fact that people are different justifies their different outcomes in society you are making exactly the same mistake.

            We’re all educators here. I think we will do a lot more good teaching our students to keep positive and normative separate than we will by teaching them that truth (in particular, positive truth) does not exist because we are worried about the normative implications they might mistakenly draw from it.

          • Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. / June 25, 2017 at 15:54

            Lorne, your “closer to the truth” and my “higher truth” are similar, and I do not disagree with your distinction between normative and positive. However, if higher truths exist, they must be worked out over time, and they are not absolute. They shift with the social, political and ethical landscape.

        • Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. / June 22, 2017 at 17:46

          Lorne, sometimes positive truth (i.e., data, surveys) is not enough to convince them of your truth. The data indicates that Muslims in overwhelming numbers reject violence (and reject ISIS), but people still fear Muslims, hate them, or demonstrate overt prejudice against them. Dr. Peterson, Mark Steyn, Bill Maher and Ezra Levant are perfect examples. To them, Islamophobia does not exist, and data has not convinced them otherwise (I guess Norway mass murderer Anders Breivik did not convince them either). In another example, how would one decide the euthanasia debate in Canada? One can make a normative judgment of right or wrong, and both qualitative evidence and quantitative evidence can guide our answers (positive truths). But the interpretation of these truths shift depending on one’s moral foundations and normative assumptions. If you believe in the “sanctity of life” ethos, you will come to a different conclusion about data than someone who believes in the “quality of life” ethos. A sanctity of life advocate will view a “slippery slope” simply by the fact that society is going to allow mature minors access to medical assistance in dying. You can present all the data you want (positive truths) that shows the slippery slope is a myth, but if I believe in the sanctity of life, then mature minors being euthanized is de facto reckless policy. That’s why a conversation must continue. Data alone is often not enough; you need to be persuasive in dialogue with others, and rhetorical eloquence is part of that. You have to keep framing your argument using different angles. People are often not convinced by the first data chart they see. They need to keep talking to internalize an argument. Various disciplines kick in here, including history, philosophy, ethics, sociology, etc. Truth can even be found in irony, hypocrisy, and oxymoronic situations.

        • Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. / June 23, 2017 at 08:09

          Lorne, just to reiterate, we are closer in terms of our understanding of truth. “Higher truths” and “closer to the truth” is essentially the same thing. I just do not believe in absolute truths fixed for time and eternity because that is not a human reality. Those who do believe in capital T truth often do violent things. The Hitler/Gandhi comparison was just to illustrate that point. When it comes to ethical issues, like the current euthanasia debate, getting closer to the truth is what we have been doing for decades. But nothing happens too quickly because of competing claims/political needs. That is the reality of life. In euthanasia (assisted suicide), different people require different needs, so different solutions may be required to resolve their suffering. But these solutions are still bound by constitutional law. In a pluralistic society, the individual can decide this good within legal boundaries. I do not disagree with your normative/positive distinction in teaching, but ideologues require more than data charts to be convinced that their version of truth causes more suffering or inefficiencies. My two cents.

          • Lorne Carmichael / July 9, 2017 at 19:38

            Hi Stuart,

            Some time back I said I suspected we were too far apart to even start a conversation, and I’m happy to admit I’ve been proven wrong. (Although, I suppose, what I really might have meant is that we will never finish it – in which case I’m still right!)

            I’m happy with almost everything you say about “truth” so long as I substitute the word “belief” every time it appears – Hitler’s “belief”, Ghandi’s “belief”, and so on. I don’t understand why concepts such as “beliefs” and “lived experience” have been elevated into “truths”, or even “personal truths”. To me that just demeans the idea of truth, and at the same time it demeans the academic mission.

            Some years back I was chair of a PhD defense in one of the disciplines that Jordan Peterson finds so troubling. The student had a well defined hypothesis and had collected and analyzed some data. The external examiner was particularly tough, and in my opinion had punched some significant holes in the argument. At the end, however, the external examiner asked the student if they still believed the hypothesis. The student said yes, and the examiner said, basically, “Well. OK then. If you believe this strongly enough, then that’s fine. That’s all that matters.” The committee then voted unanimously to pass the student.

            It’s not my place to tell colleagues in another discipline how to conduct their affairs, any more than I would accept their criticism of mine, so I said nothing. But I was appalled. If given the opportunity to influence a young student entering that discipline I would certainly try to explain why I thought it was not in their own best interest.

            I should say that when I relayed this experience to my wife, who is smarter than me in a hundred ways, she just said “Lorne, you don’t understand. To lots of people, feelings are Real.”

            So call me a dinosaur. Or autistic. Or a male. Whatever.

            I’ll keep checking this space, but the editors may soon run out of patience. Anyway, it’s been fun.

      • Bill / June 16, 2017 at 13:32

        Do you see a distinction between muslimphobia and islamophobia?

        Peterson isn’t putting ideas into people’s head like SJW’s do, it’s the fact he’s saying what people can’t articulate as eloquently that makes him so popular.

      • Professor R. Craigen / January 25, 2018 at 13:57

        Wait a minute. “Hitler’s truth”? Hitler “had” a truth? This I thought you were arguing that postmodernists only hold that INTERPRETATION of truth is contingent. Your phrasing here appears to imply something much stronger about your own position — and the same language rolls off the tongue of those who regard themselves as postmodernists at all levels.

        You don’t have your own truth. You have an opinion. Truth respect your contingencies. Hitler had a worldview, a systematic opinion about the grand scheme of the world. Parts of it, no doubt, as with everyone’s, happened to correspond to truth. Much of it, as with everyone’s, fell short of reflecting the truth. But he did not have a proprietary, perspective-contingent, brand of truth. No more did Gandhi “have” a truth. He had a worldview, different from that of Hitler. And to some degree Gandhi’s worldview corresponded to truth. In other respects, it did not.

        • Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. / January 30, 2018 at 10:53

          Hi Professor Craigen. Call it what you want. Hitler’s “truth” or worldview was contingent on what he knew, which was very limited and distorted. The good news is that once his worldview competed with others, his was rejected. In other words, competing truths need to be worked out in dialogue with others because we are all tied to our own contingencies or disciplines of understanding the world. Last I checked, Hitler’s “opinion” or worldview was discredited. Gandhi’s “opinions” are respected. Sounds about right to me. 🙂

          • Dr.RTFM / January 31, 2018 at 14:23

            “Hitler’s “truth” or worldview was contingent on what he knew, which was very limited and distorted. The good news is that once his worldview competed with others, his was rejected.”

            You mean he lost the war.

            “In other words, competing truths need to be worked out in dialogue with others because we are all tied to our own contingencies or disciplines of understanding the world. Last I checked, Hitler’s “opinion” or worldview was discredited. Gandhi’s “opinions” are respected. Sounds about right to me.””

            Wow. Just a few points worth noting: (1) “Hitler’s truth” wasn’t a “competing truth” that needed “to be worked out in dialogue. It was a bloody great war! (2) On the basis of what you have written, Hitler’s truth would have been just peachy if he’d won the war instead of losing it, which given even a crude knowledge of history, was a distinct possibility (all he had to do was no declare war on America and the outcome would have been different …).

            All I can say is that you have pleasantly explained to me exactly why so many academics are perfectly willing to countenance Communism even though Stalin killed more people than Hitler ever would before Hitler even got started, to say nothing of Mao, Pol Pot, …. I think I’ll stick to a world in which truth matters, thanks.

          • Greg Taylor / February 23, 2018 at 21:21

            Using the term Islamaphobia is an attempt to protect Islam from criticism, or from competing worldviews.

            Yes, there are people who will latch on to criticism of Islam in an attempt to reinforce their bigoted views, but they are no worse than someone such as you who cannot believe that Islam could be an extremely poisonous set of teachings and religiously sanctioned bigoted attitudes.

            If you have PhD then you just be a researcher; however, I consider your research into the foundational texts of Islam to be shallow. Do you have some underlying bigoted views that are stopping you from taking your research deeper?

          • Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. / February 26, 2018 at 09:04

            Greg, please keep the discussion civil. Be specific with a clain you are making rather than resort to juvenile comments of bigotry.

    • Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. / September 11, 2017 at 12:31

      Lorne, thanks for e-mailing back. We are basically talking about the same thing, but it is only a matter of word choice. “Beliefs” or “feelings” are not really adequate substitutes for truths because intution is often just a “gut feeling” based on myths. Feelings have no basis in fact. Stephen Colbert would call this “being truthy.” If it feels right, it must be true. I can believe (or have the feeling) that mediation or prayer cures cancer, but that is not the case. So perhaps we can settle on “higher truths.” They are based on the best evidence we have for now, but we know they can shift in the future. That is a postmodern way of looking at life.

    • Jerky LeBoeuf / October 12, 2017 at 23:08

      The problem is that science and “logic” HAVE been used (and abused) by the Powers That Be to lord over others. As a matter of fact, science and “logic” have also been twisted and altered beyond all recognition in order to achieve the goals of the Powers That Be. And THAT is what postmodernists want us to understand, to see… that it’s almost never so simple and reductive as the scientific worldview would sometimes have us believe. Two great texts re: this subject are The Dialectic of Enlightenment by Horkheimer and Adorno, and Voltaire’s Bastards, by John Ralston Saul.

      • Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. / October 24, 2017 at 16:18

        Yes Jerky, any foundation can be used and abused. It is important to be aware of the many ways this is done. But none of this negates the need to weigh truth values, which is the hard work in postmodern thought.

  2. Jonathan Strand / June 14, 2017 at 19:30

    There are more moderate views which go under the banner of ‘postmodernism’—views which are not incoherent, which do not lend themselves to destructive behaviour, and which are eminently sensible and well-founded. “[T]he belief that interpretations of reality are contingent” is the weakest, most innocuous form. Who doesn’t believe that?! But there are also stronger versions which are incoherent, destructive, and nonsensical—and are unfortunately not rare or uninfluential. It is these which Dr. Peterson warns of. Perhaps he can be faulted for not clarifying that there are less-problematic views also called ‘postmodern.’ And perhaps he can be faulted for not discussing this in the nuanced academic manner of careful distinctions, rather than the manner of clearly-more-effective-public-rhetoric. But then, given the nature of what he is warning of, this may be the most appropriate response. Fight fire with fire. Though it feels like fighting a forest fire with a lighter, at least this lighter believes in the import of rational argument.

    • Professor Stuart Chambers / June 15, 2017 at 11:25

      Jonathan, I understand where you are coming from, but Peterson falls into a trap of his own making. If the social justice warriors he despises are rigid in their beliefs–and are unwilling to listen to and be influenced by opposing viewpoints–then they are in good company. Dr. Peterson refuses, as you say, to accept the nuanced ways in which postmodernism is defined and applied. He does not tell his audience what it generally means, which is an egregious error in itself; he just generalizes by claiming it leads inevitably to a relativist nightmare. That is like saying “multicultural theory” eventually leads to a relativist nightmare of everlasting tolerance–for instance, that immigrants with violent political or personal beliefs must be tolerated under a multicultural ethos. Multiculturalism does not say that and never has, but prejudice people might believe it, so I guess anyone can make that bogus claim too. Dr. Peterson has shifted gears and and now targets anyone who believes in Islamophobia (they too are postmodern radicals who believe in “tolerating anything.” Really? Peterson just dismisses Islamophobia out of hand and is not willing to listen to the evidence that Islamophobia is a reality that can be proven empirically. In this regard, he shares a stubborn reluctance with social justice warriors to avoid honest debate, or as you say, “rational thought.”

  3. Christina B / June 15, 2017 at 08:47

    When one criticizes the interpretation of someone it is helpful not committing similar errors oneself. I agree that Dr. Peterson is incorrect when he applies a label [postmodernism] to the views he opposes. That does not put him on a ‘personal crusade’ however. The specific practices Petersen objects to are reprehensible indeed, regardless of the label one attaches. Furthermore, Stuart Chambers seems to imply that postmodernism is just one well defined set of beliefs. It is not. Depending on which of the many authors who consider themselves postmodernist [or are so labeled] one prefers, one can come away with very different views of postmodernism. Chambers is correct to point out that not all postmodernists propose the ideas Petersen objects to. But he is incorrect to imply that none do.

    Chambers claims: ‘To resolve the relativist dilemma, claims are challenged in an open, adversarial forum, the purpose of which is to locate more nuanced interpretations of truth. Whenever competing claims are exposed to scrutiny, those lacking merit will be rejected while those with more credibility win out.’ One would wish that were so. However, the recent events on university campuses in North America have clearly shown that the willingness to even listen to views one considers in conflict with one’s own truth has been diminished to the point that proponents of those views are physically attacked. In my opinion it would be helpful to address THIS problem.

    • Professor Stuart Chambers / June 15, 2017 at 11:39

      Okay Christina, let’s address the issue of radicals on campus who shut down debate. We would need to know a few things: What is their discipline of study? Did they even take philosophy? Do they know what postmodernism means? Who were their biggest academic influences? Peterson can claim that all of life’s ills are due to postmodern philosophy, but unless a study is conducted that answers these questions above, then he is just guessing.

      In terms of Dr. Peterson’s latest crusade (and by that I mean any view he dismisses out of hand repeatedly for ideologically driven reasons), see: Instead of taking a cynical, dismissive view of postmodernism and Islamophobia, perhaps he should start by examining his own subject limitations and prejudices (psychologist, “know thyself”).

      • Rafael Carvalho / March 5, 2018 at 03:28

        When you tell us that post-modernism says that “truth is contingent”, that “there are no absolut truths” and “only by confrontation of ideas can we came at higher ideas”, does that apply to these principles as well? Let’s say, “there’s no absolut truths”. Is it possible to challenge that ideia? If we do so and find out that a higher one says the opposite, would’ve we be destroying the basis is post-modernism.

        In fact, would not these affirmations, by themselves, be show that post-modernists actually believe in some absolut truths (that there are no absolut truths)?

        How can you affirm any of these principles without them being absolut truths in the universe? And in case they aren’t (which your claim ultimately leads to) they’ll will end up being replaced by a higher ones, ultimately destroying the “foundations” of post-modernism.

        • Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. / March 5, 2018 at 08:22

          Hi Rafael. When you say, “How can you affirm any of these principles without them being absolute truths in the universe? And in case they aren’t (which your claim ultimately leads to) they’ll will end up being replaced by a higher ones, ultimately destroying the “foundations” of post-modernism,” you are, in fact, describing a process of positive nihilism supported by the postmodern philosopher Gianni Vattimo (in his book “Nihilism and Emancipation”). Truths once posited as solid then weaken over time, only to be replaced by truths with more credibility, truths that are more life-affirming, efficient, and humane. Your observation does not undermine the foundations of postmdoernism; they confirm them. Another book that explains this–one that is short but it is a gem–is the following: Kazantzakis, Nikos. Friedrich Nietzsche on the Philosophy of the Right and State. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

  4. Denise H O'Donnell / June 15, 2017 at 14:15

    I would ve very interested to hear your definition and defence of the philosophy of postmodernism. In fact Peterson encourages and in fact demands that each person partake in such rigorous inquiry before arriving at their opinion.

    To disagree or take issue with Peterson’s definition and concerns with postmodernism is fine. But unless you are able to present your own definition and defence of your position; ie what it means to YOU and what value YOU believe it has offered society, I would suggest it is YOU who is “so preoccupied with discrediting a specific position.”

    • Professor Stuart Chambers / June 16, 2017 at 14:17

      Sure Denise. I defend postmodernism because it reminds us that knowledge is historical: it all came from some human or era somewhere. It does not claim a God’s eye view of the universe. If anything, it promotes humility. Since postmodernism rejects absolute values–and the impositions derived from them–it avoids both metaphysical spats, which cannot be proven, and ideological/self-evident claims of radical activists. Postmodernism also demands that since truth claims are historical, they need to be worked out and that knowledge is important. Hence, postmodernism complements politics, rational thought and acknowledgment. Overall, it takes hard work and nuance to create shifts in the political, social and ethical landscape, and postmodernists contribute positively to these kinds of debates. Jordan Peterson adopts a glass-half empty approach to postmodern philosophy, and I am not convinced he has studied it with any real sense of balance. His approach is reactionary, not mature.

      • Dr.RTFM / January 31, 2018 at 14:29

        “Jordan Peterson adopts a glass-half empty approach to postmodern philosophy”

        If your academic subject isn’t 99% full, perhaps you need to revisit your subject, since it is clearly lacking.

        • Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. / February 1, 2018 at 07:46

          Dr. RTFM, unlike Peterson, my approach is glass-half full. I always attempt to see how a specific discipline complements another one or can make a life-affirming contribution to society. Postmodernism is a perfect example. I do not see it as a threat to humanity; I see it as a benefit. Peterson does not. Here is what I think happened to him. When Peterson was a child, a postmodernist walked up to him and yelled “BOO.” Since then, he has been frightened to death by their presence. 🙂

        • Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. / February 6, 2018 at 09:01

          Dr. RTFM, when you say that “so many academics are perfectly willing to countenance Communism,” I am not sure what this assertion is based on. I am not one of them, and I have no idea why you would assume this.

  5. Canard / June 15, 2017 at 20:23

    The issue with Peterson characterizing bad behavior as postmodernism is that postmodernism’s logical end comes out to self-skepticism, nuance, humility – all of these things that the campus radicals lack. They are the opposite of postmodernists; they become absolutists, brimming with certainty.

    • Professor Stuart Chambers / June 16, 2017 at 14:35

      Canard, I agree. Peterson’s determination to blame one philosophical discipline for the actions of campus radicals is too simplistic. Here is his basic methodology: A) Jordan Peterson dismisses Islamophobia outright (see:; B) this is a radical stance that is very rigid and without compromise; C) postmodernism is to blame for this “anything-goes” attitude. Perhaps Peterson’s dismissal of Islamophobia is rooted in a Christian bias, or perhaps it is rooted in an anti-Islamic bias. Who knows? But blaming a philosophy for those who shout down free speech is unconvincing. Speech was shouted down long before anyone ever heard of the word “postmodernism,” a philosophical belief system that most students do not read or even understand, so how could it be influencing them? We cannot blame Nietzsche for the actions of ideologues. Peterson needs to work this out for himself.