Peterson preaches a message of self-responsibility - that individuals have the potential and ability to improve their lives and to deal with the crises and chaos that are inevitable in every human life - and he has been surprised to discover his lectures appeal particularly to young men. He puts this down to a social crisis of confidence in masculinity, which is a consequence of the post-modernist philosophy that drives group identity and victim-mongering in Western societies today. We teach young men that masculinity is toxic and that it must be sublimated to more worthy feminine traits. Peterson defends masculinity, pointing out that it is also about courage, nobility and resolution, and questions whether women really want to emasculate men (and as an amusing aside, he wonders why the fastest selling paperback book of all time, purchased almost exclusively by women, is about a sado-masochistic relationship between a dominant man and a submissive woman).
Peterson has been in the news again this week, this time for an interview he did with television news presenter Cathy Newman on Britain's Channel 4. Newman is a typical contemporary journalist, who doesn't see her role as being a presenter of truth and balance, but rather as an advocate for victim groups and a warrior against their oppressors. The interview focused on Peterson's belief that women in Western countries are not, for the most part, still discriminated against in the workplace. He rebutted Newman's contention that the disparity of female representation in some highly paid but stressful jobs, such as chief executives of public companies, is largely due to discrimination, responding that in his considerable experience of counselling people at the top of their professions, women often make different (and in his view more sensible) choices about what is important to them.
Newman wanted to portray Peterson as a sexist, misogynist defender of the oppressive patriarchy but Peterson didn't respond as most interviewees would. He didn't apologise, concede or allow his views to be misrepresented. Instead, he stuck to his guns, challenged Newman's premises, corrected her misrepresentations, and supported his own claims with evidence from his years as a clinical psychologist. Most of all, he remained good-humoured throughout the interview. It worked spectacularly - without any apparent effort or intent, he made Newman seem ill-prepared, irrational and inarticulate.
I think the best thing that Peterson has done is to show how the post-modernist worldview that dominates so much of today's public discourse, and that seems so daunting to those of us who try to challenge it, is built on intellectual sand. Truth and logic are adamantine weapons that when wielded by a skilled master, will cut through even the most formidable casuistry and cant.
You can watch the interview here.