By Jonathan Rowson
On January 16th I chaired a recorded public event with Jordan Peterson at the RSA in London. That discussion was released unedited and has been viewed over 135,000 times, which is modest compared to over 6 million views for his interview with Cathy Newman for Channel Four, but I hope we covered some fresh terrain in a more constructive manner.
We began the RSA discussion by exploring Peterson’s dream in his overture to 12 Rules for Life because I think that is the key to understanding the Peterson phenomenon – it’s’ about our responsibility to understand the relationship between the sacred and the individual. We moved on to some charged but civil exchanges on issues where I feel his ideas are less well developed, for instance we spoke about activism in the context of his sixth rule: Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world. I have been writing an extended piece to clarify my thoughts on Peterson’s ideas and impact more generally which I will publish shortly.
For now, the following interview was squeezed in just before going on stage and time constraints focused the mind. I sought Peterson’s reflections on two things in particular that are of central importance to Perspectiva. First, the philosophy underlying Piagetian development and whether and how it manifests in adulthood. Secondly, whether that maturational perspective on life can help unlock intractable debates relating to identity politics, by clarifying what we, including Peterson, are ‘subject-to’ in our perspectives.
That context helps explain why the interview begins with a ‘ very direct’ question that took me 50 seconds to get out. A rewarding conversation followed, featuring Jung’s final book, completed when he was 81 – Mysterium Coniunctionis – which is about oppositions in alchemy and psychology. Then, as with the RSA conversation, we moved into some more challenging political terrain. Enjoy!