June 12, 1962
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
- Known For:
Views on culture and society
Mikhaila Peterson, Julian Peterson
Monotheistic or Christian
University of Alberta, McGill University
About Jordan Peterson
Jordan Bernt Peterson was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on June 12, 1962. He grew up in the small town of Fairview, Canada. He is the oldest child of Walter and Beverly Peterson’s three children. His mother was a librarian and his father was a school teacher. As an adolescent, Peterson was an avid reader. Due to his skill in reading, Peterson skipped a grade in elementary school.
Some of the authors who had an early impact on him included George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Ayn Rand, and Carl Jung. Some of his first jobs upon entering college included being a dishwasher, beekeeper, and railroad worker.
Peterson graduated from Fairview High School in 1979 and began attending Grande Prairie Regional College but transferred to the University of Alberta, where he earned his BA in political science in 1982. He then took a year off to study abroad and travel through Europe.
While traveling through Europe, he became interested in studying the psychological origins of the Cold War. This inspired him to return to the University of Alberta, where he earned his BA in psychology in 1984.
In 1991, Peterson received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from McGill University and spent two years at McGill’s Douglas hospital, where he researched familial alcoholism and its effects on children.
From 1993 to 1998, Peterson worked as an associate professor at Harvard. His main area of research was personality. He also spent his years at Harvard conducting studies on psychopharmacology and neurology. Peterson’s clinical research papers have been cited more than 12,000 times. For the majority of his career, Peterson has also maintained a clinical practice, seeing about 20 patients a week.
Peterson was a popular teacher while at Harvard. In 1998, he was nominated for the Levinson teaching award. Harvard psychology professor Shelley Carson, a former student of Peterson’s, describes how he developed a cult following among students. She said, “Taking a course from him was like taking psychedelic drugs without the drugs . . . I remember students crying on the last day of class because they wouldn’t get to hear him anymore.”
Peterson left Harvard in 1998 to become a full-time professor at the University of Toronto. During his time in Toronto, he co-published over 100 clinical research papers. “His work in personality assessment . . . is very solid and well respected,” says David Watson, a psychology professor at Notre Dame.
Peterson achieved internet fame in 2016 after his viewpoints on gender went viral. He posted YouTube videos criticizing Canadian Bill C-16, which banned discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Peterson claimed the bill would make the use of certain gender pronouns, like “zhe/zher” mandatory and said this was a freedom of speech issue.
He stated: “These words are at the vanguard of a postmodern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the twentieth century. I am, therefore, not going to mouth Marxist words. That would make me a puppet of the radical left, and that is not going to happen. Period.”
His videos received tons of media attention, and his newfound popularity allowed him to monetize his content creation. After his videos went viral, revenue generated from his content grew from a few thousand dollars per month to roughly $80,000 a month.
At the end of 2016, Peterson started The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast. Since 2022, the podcast has been hosted by The Daily Wire.
In 2021, Peterson resigned from his role as a tenured professor at the University of Toronto, becoming professor emeritus. In an article in the National Post, Peterson explained the primary motivation for his resignation was his disagreement with diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. He explained that he believed these initiatives were causing discrimination against non-minority students.
Peterson explains, “These facts have rendered my job morally untenable . . . I had envisioned teaching and researching at the University of Toronto full-time until they had to haul my skeleton out of my office. I loved my job and my students. But that career path was not meant to be.”
After leaving the University of Toronto, Peterson was named Chancellor of Ralston College. In 2022, he also went on a speaking tour to promote his book Beyond Order. Peterson’s ideas have spread as he has appeared as a regular guest on The Joe Rogan Experience, The Rubin Report, and The Russell Brand Show.
In recent years, Peterson has also developed courses, online content, and a personality test based on his psychology research. His personality test, “Understand Myself,” is an in-depth assessment of your personality compared to a proprietary sample of 10,000 people. After completing the test, you are given an individual percentile ranking across 15 traits to help you better understand your strengths and how to mitigate negative emotions that may predispose you to depression or anxiety.
Peterson’s “Self-Authoring” program helps you learn more about your strengths and weaknesses and how to live a meaningful life. The program’s first module enables you to understand and rectify your personality faults. The second helps you understand and develop your personality virtues.
Jordan Peterson Books
Peterson published his first book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief in 1999. The book gives a comprehensive analysis of how people create meaning in their lives and form their beliefs. A thirteen-part TV series was created based on the book and aired in Canada in 2004.
In 2018, Peterson published his second book 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos. The book immediately skyrocketed to the top of international best-seller lists. It has 10 million copies in print and has been translated into more than 50 languages. The book explores psychology, mythology, religion, literature, philosophy, and neuroscience. He encourages readers to build character, pursue truth, take responsibility for their own lives, learn to think for themselves, and have an aim in life.
In 2021, Peterson released Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life, a follow-up to 12 Rules for Life. Suzanne Moore of The Telegraph says about the book and Peterson that he is “at his best when telling stories of his clinical practice” and finding the book, like its predecessor, is full of “hokey wisdom combined with good advice.”
Jordan Peterson’s Views and Beliefs
Religion and Christianity
In a 2017 interview, Peterson was asked if he was a Christian. He said, “I suppose the most straightforward answer to that is ‘yes.’” However, Peterson has also stated he doesn’t like the question because it is often used in a manipulative way, and being a “Christian” can have different meanings.
Peterson said identifying as a Christian can be difficult for him because of how many Christians and Christian institutions have acted. In an interview with Jonathan Pageau, he says the way many believers live their lives is “not a sufficient testament to the truth.”
In an interview with Dennis Prager, Peterson explains what faith in Christ means to him. He says, “Many protestants think believing means stating something.” Peterson then states he believes to have faith in Christ is to follow him and “to act it out, you take up your suffering and carry your cross.”
On The Joe Rogan Podcast in 2022, Peterson explained his belief in the Bible. He said, “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 that this is not only literally the case—factually—I think it can’t be any other way.”
In 2018, Peterson explored the Bible in depth in his lecture series, The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories. In this lecture series, he explained his views on Christ. He explains, “Christ is the archetypal perfect man who gives up his own life (an ultimate sacrifice) for the sake of the greatest good for all. Christ rejects expediency, rejects the lie, and rejects a comfortable but meaningless existence.”
The New York Times characterizes Peterson as conservative-leaning. Peterson describes himself as a classic British liberal. While many people refer to him as a right-wing thought leader, he says some of his views lean right and some lean left.
Peterson recognizes the Left for “giving a voice to those who aren’t served by the status quo.” While he supports many conservative viewpoints, he also supports universal healthcare, redistribution of wealth, and decriminalizing drugs, which are commonly considered liberal beliefs. However, generally, Peterson supports less government involvement.
Peterson never openly supported or denounced Republican U.S. President Donald Trump. He said, “It’s possible that the worst thing Donald Trump does is trolling and using some of the offensive language that he uses. Trump is noisy, divisive, and disagreeable. The Trump phenomenon worries me less than most people think it should.”
Peterson was critical of the government’s involvement during the COVID-19 crisis, stating that mandates were driven by opinion, not science. He says, “The thing that surprised me the most, probably, was how rapidly we stampeded to imitate a totalitarian state in the immediate aftermath of the release of COVID.”
While Peterson believes abortion is wrong, he thinks it’s a complex situation. In a 2018 lecture, he stated, “Abortion is clearly wrong. I don’t think anyone debates that. You wouldn’t recommend that someone you love have one. That mere statement does remove the complexity of the situation. The next question is, should everything wrong be illegal? Everything that is wrong isn’t illegal. But I think this could be the wrong question. In a massacre, there is nowhere good to stand. I think the best question is, ‘How did I get here?’”
Peterson believes identity politics, including diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and critical race theory, are dangerous. He says diversity, inclusion, and equity policies are destroying academia and the broader culture. He refers to these policies with the acronym DIE.
Peterson said, “Diversity, Inclusivity, and Equity—that radical leftist Trinity—is destroying us. Wondering about the divisiveness that is currently besetting us? Look no farther than DIE. Wondering—more specifically—about the attractiveness of Trump? Look no farther than DIE. When does the left go too far? When they worship at the altar of DIE and insist that the rest of us, who mostly want to be left alone, do so as well.”
Peterson says people on the right are also at fault for promoting identity politics. He explains: “Identity politics is a sick game. You don’t play racial, ethnic, and gender identity games. The Left plays them on behalf of the oppressed, let’s say, and the Right tends to play them on behalf of nationalism and ethnic pride. I think they’re equally dangerous.”
In a 2022 statement, Peterson expressed his disapproval of Bill 67, which he says promotes critical race theory. He stated, “A warning to citizens of Ontario and Canada: Bill 67, which purports to be nothing but an ‘anti-racist’ bill, is, in fact, the most pernicious and dangerous piece of legislation that any Canadian government has attempted to put forward. It will make mandatory the subversion of the entire education system in Ontario, K-12 as well as colleges and universities, to the radically leftist doctrines known as critical theory—a thoroughly anti-western ideology, both post-modern and Marxist in its derivation, based on the idea that all our extant institutions are racist, sexist, and discriminatory in their essence.”
Freedom of Speech and Cancel Culture
Peterson believes free speech is the foundation of Western civilization. He says censorship and the loss of freedom of speech could be the greatest threat to society.
In 2017, he said, “I regard free speech as a prerequisite to a civilized society because freedom of speech means that you can have combat with words . . . And the reason that that’s acceptable, and why it’s acceptable that people’s feelings get hurt during that combat, is that the combat of ideas is far preferable to actual combat.”
Peterson says cancel culture is a feminine form of bullying that goes after reputation. He explains, “It’s a form of bullying that goes after reputation, and that’s a feminine form of bullying . . . It gives malevolent Machiavellians the opportunity to bully in a manner that destroys reputations without repercussion.”
He believes cancel culture can be a greater threat than fascism because “the fascists are more straightforward about it . . . they basically come out and say, ‘Shut up or we’ll beat you.’ Whereas the narcissistic compassionate types, they come out and say, ‘Well, we’re really trying to save the world, and we’re acting in everyone’s best interest, and we think it would be better if you should just regulate what you say because if you don’t, you’re not a good person.’”
Peterson says with cancel culture “You will be held to a higher and higher and soon impossible to maintain ethical standards by the very mob you currently wish to please. Then you will make a mistake, and they will devour you.”
Peterson has been outspoken against Postmodern ideology because it ignores the wisdom of ancient religions the Western World was founded upon, like the Judeo-Christian faith. He criticizes postmodernism for teaching that absolute truth does not exist and that all ideas, morality, and truth are relative.
He says, “Since the 1970s, under the guise of postmodernism, we’ve seen the rapid expansion of identity politics throughout the universities . . . We’ve been publicly funding extremely radical postmodern leftist thinkers who are hell-bent on demolishing the fundamental substructure of Western civilization.”
Peterson warns against the dangers of postmodernism. He claims this ideology is primarily about a struggle for power rather than morality, stating: “[Postmodernists] do not communicate with one another because they can’t. All there is, is a struggle for power, and if you’re in the predator group, which means you’re an oppressor, then you better look out because you’re not exactly welcome. Not exactly welcome, and neither are your ideas.”
Gender Identity and Expression in the Trans Community
On many occasions, Peterson has stated his disagreement with mandates to use transgender individuals’ chosen pronouns. He explains his reasons, saying, “My refusal to use pronouns because left-wing activists want me to use them has nothing to do with whether or not trans people are having difficulties in society.”
He further explains, “The idea that referring to someone by the pronoun of their choice is going to radically improve their status in society or their mental health is a completely unproven assumption. I think it will have exactly the opposite effect.”
Peterson has also been an outspoken critic of gender reassignment surgery for children. In a 2022 article about gender reassignment surgery, Peterson wrote, “We are sacrificing our children on the altar of a brutal, far-Left ideology.”
In the same article, Peterson referenced the American Psychological Association’s guidelines on trans-affirmative care: “These guidelines first read like a manual of indoctrination written by Marxist ideologues, and second like a document designed to undermine and destroy the practice of therapy itself.”
Masculinity and Femininity
According to Peterson, the differences between men and women are natural. He explains, ‘“There are biological differences between men and women that express themselves in temperament and in occupational choice and that any attempt to enforce equality of outcomes is unwarranted and ill-advised as a consequence.”
Peterson believes men in our society have become more feminine, and this is a dangerous problem. He says, “If you suppress man’s masculinity, it leads to mental issues and takes their energy and courage.” He continues, “If you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of.”
In an interview with Channel 4, Peterson explains that the gender pay gap is related to inherent differences between men and women rather than discrimination, saying that women are more likely to choose lower-paying roles and take time away from work to have children.
He debates that “Men and women won’t sort themselves into the same categories if you leave them to do it of their own accord . . . Those are ineradicable differences . . . if you leave men and women to make their own choices, you will not get equal outcomes.”
Criticisms and Controversy
Peterson has racked up his share of critics. Many critics point to Peterson’s fans among extremist groups as cause for concern. Soon after his popularity took off, columnist Tabatha Southey wrote an article titled “Is Jordan Peterson the Stupid Man’s Smart Person?”
Southey explains why she believes Peterson grew in popularity among white supremacist groups. She says, “You’ll never hear him use the phrase ‘We must secure a future for our white children’; what you will hear him say is that, while there does appear to be a causal relationship between empowering women and economic growth, we have to consider whether this is good for society.”
In 2019, Catherine Thorleifsson, a researcher who studies extremism wrote, “Numerous of Peterson’s ideological critics characterise him as an ”alt-right” figure. Peterson himself rejects the label, claiming that his theories and rules for life can hinder the continued growth of the far right and radicalisation of disenchanted men dissatisfied with the present.”
Despite his rejection of the alt-right label, Thorleifsson writes, “Peterson might be reluctantly hijacked by the radical right. At the same time he does not seem to sufficiently distance himself from them either.”
In 2019, Ira Wells, a fellow University of Toronto professor called Peterson “the professor of piffle” and criticized his ideas for being dangerous. Wells wrote, “In a conversation with Camille Paglia, [Peterson] lamented that men can’t exert control over ‘crazy women’ by physically beating them.”
Wells was referring to the following Peterson quote:
“I know how to stand up to a man who’s unfairly trespassing against me . . . we talk, we argue, we push, and then it becomes physical. If we move beyond the boundaries of civil discourse, we know what the next step is. That’s forbidden with discourse with women.”
Some of Peterson’s proposed solutions to violence against women have been controversial. After a 25-year-old man in Toronto who self-identified as part of a misogynist group drove his van into a crowd, killing 10 people, Peterson stated, “He was angry at God because women were rejecting him. The cure for that is enforced monogamy. That’s actually why monogamy emerges.”
Comic book writer Ta-Nehisi Coates added himself to Peterson’s list of critics in 2021 when he portrayed Peterson as the villain Red Skull in Marvel’s Captain America comic book series. In the comic book, Red Skull references Peterson’s ideas as he manipulates young men to do his bidding.
In 2022, Peterson made headlines for inflammatory posts on Twitter and YouTube. He was criticized for describing a plus-sized Sports Illustrated model as “not beautiful.” He defended his tweet by saying, “’Beauty is an ideal. Almost all of us fall short of an ideal. I’m not willing to sacrifice any ideal to faux compassion. Period. And certainly not the ideal of athletic beauty.”
He was later suspended from Twitter for referring to transgender actor Elliot Page as Ellen Page, the actor’s former name, and calling Page’s gender-reassignment surgery criminal. Twitter said the tweet violated rules on hateful conduct. YouTube demonetized Peterson’s videos where he spoke on the same topic. Peterson refused to remove the tweet or take down the YouTube videos.
In 2023, Peterson’s problems on social media escalated when The College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO), received a disciplinary letter ordering him to complete a social media retraining program or have his psychology license revoked. The CPO stated that Peterson’s comments regarding transgenderism being a “social contagion” could cause harm.
Health and Nutrition
In 2018, Peterson explained his diet on Joe Rogan’s podcast. He eats primarily animal products, avoiding grains, fruits, and most vegetables. He was introduced to the diet by his daughter Mikhaila, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, bipolar disorder, Lyme disease, psoriasis, and hypersomnia. She says an animal-based diet sent these sicknesses into remission.
Peterson told Rogan that he saw many benefits from the diet, as well. He says, “I lost 50 pounds. My appetite has probably fallen by 70%. I don’t get blood sugar dysregulation problems. I need way less sleep . . . my gum disease is gone.”
According to Peterson, the diet also helped him stop snoring, improved his mental sharpness, and his anxiety and depression disappeared.
In 2019, Peterson went to rehab to manage a dependency on clonazepam, a benzodiazepine. His doctor initially prescribed the drug in 2017 to help with anxiety, but he began taking a larger dose in 2019 when his wife was fighting kidney cancer.
Despite his experience in rehab, Peterson was not able to break his dependency and continued to suffer from extreme withdrawal symptoms. He says, “I went to the best treatment clinic in North America. And all they did was make it worse. So we were out of options.”
Peterson then decided to pursue treatment in Russia in January 2020, where he was put in a medically-induced coma and remained in intensive care for four weeks.At the same time, he developed pneumonia, which worsened his physical condition. After his condition improved, he went to Serbia for further treatment to break his drug addiction. At the end of his treatment in Serbia, Peterson says he was “back to his regular self.”
Personal Life and Family
After having known her since they were kids, Peterson married his wife Tammy in 1989. The Petersons have two children together, a daughter Mikhaila and a son Julian. They live in Toronto, Canada. Mikhaila Peterson is a podcaster and writer, while Julian Peterson is a software developer and entrepreneur.
In 2019, Peterson’s wife Tammy was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer and was told she would not survive. She underwent two surgeries but developed a rare complication during recovery. However, she has since experienced a full recovery.
Jordan Peterson Quotes
- “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”
- “Set your own house in perfect order before you criticize the world.”
- “Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens.”
- “It is more difficult to rule yourself than to rule a city.”
- “The better ambitions have to do with the development of character and ability, rather than status and power. Status, you can lose. You carry character with you wherever you go, and it allows you to prevail against adversity.”
- “When you have something to say, silence is a lie.”
- “The light that you discover in your life is proportionate to the amount of the darkness you are willing to forthrightly confront.”
- “Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).”
Daily Wire Teachings
In 2022, the Daily Wire announced its new subscription based DailyWire+ would become home to Jordan Peterson’s content. DailyWire co-CEO commented on the addition of Peterson to DailyWire+, saying, “The addition of Dr. Jordan Peterson, the pre-eminent public intellectual of our time, should indicate exactly how serious we are about bringing quality counter-cultural voices to the fore.”
Soon after joining the Daily Wire, Peterson released “The Exodus Seminars,” a 16-part lecture series covering the themes in the book of Exodus. In this series, Peterson joins several scholars including Cambridge University Professor Douglas Hedley, social critic and author Os Guinness, Cambridge Assistant Professor James Orr, PragerU co-founder Dennis Prager, Ralston College President Stephen Blackwood, and Christian thinker and artist Jonathan Pageau. The series addresses themes of freedom vs. tyranny, transcendence, Jewish traditions, faith, and why God allows evil.
In addition to “The Exodus Seminars,” soon after joining The Daily Wire, Peterson released a four-part tv series, Dragons Monsters and Men, which explores, masculinity and the pursuit of greatness. Also available through DailyWire+ is Peterson’s documentary Logos and Literacy, in which Peterson interviews historians and scholars about the impact the Bible has had on the world and its continued influence today.
In 2023, Peterson announced he would soon be launching Peterson Academy in conjunction with his daughter, Mikhaila Peterson. According to Petersonacademy.com, this online education platform aims to provide higher education devoid of ideology, while reducing the cost of receiving a Bachelor’s degree. In anticipation of the launch Peterson is pursuing accreditation, so students can earn their degree for roughly $4,000. Youtuber Curtis Pyke reports that students at Peterson Academy will be paired with individuals in a developing country to help bring education to the third world.
Jordan Peterson Today
In 2023, Peterson is continuing his Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life Tour with events scheduled throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. He continues to share his ideas through his podcast, YouTube videos, and Twitter (after Twitter CEO Elon Musk reinstated Peterson to the platform).
Peterson also announced a new project in 2023 called the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC), a coalition of international business leaders, politicians, and public intellectuals. Peterson says, “ARC is being established as a new movement of hopeful vision, local, national and international in its aim and scope, aimed at the collective, voluntary establishment of an alternative way forwards in a time when the stories which once provided our societies with coherence have been picked apart by corrosive cultural criticism and governing elites are taking ever more power to themselves.”
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