I agree entirely that Peterson’s motives are good, my disagreements with him are far more specific than the ways I think that he is right. I agree with him when he says that ‘although we have to defend our beliefs, we can’t afford to do that by killing each other; our technology for killing people is too powerful for us to survive if we do that.’
My father spent years of his life trying to make sure that we didn’t have a nuclear exchange in the 1980s, and (together with thousands of other hardworking people) I think he deserves some credit for the fact that it didn’t happen. I don’t think World War Three is inevitable; I think it’s less likely than it was when Peterson and I were both learning to be afraid of it. But I think it’s a very real possibility, and it’s one that we must guard against.
The far more urgent and pressing threat in today’s world is terrorism. Right-wing terrorism, left-wing terrorism, Christian terrorism and Islamic terrorism. What these things have in common is a belief that the opponent is malevolent in nature, and that desperate, violent measures are required to deal with them. Peterson is opposed to using desperate, violent measures, and I agree with that position. Peterson identifies his opponents as malevolent, and that’s dangerous; it is also (mostly) untrue.
Malevolence is real; malevolent people will look for a cause and an enemy and use it as an excuse to act out the evil that has taken hold in their hearts. But (as Peterson himself points out) average people who just want to do the right thing are easily caught up in an evil movement, and are capable of unspeakable evil. Here, I disagree with Peterson when I say that ‘cancer is evil’, and I distinguish between malevolence and evil. All too often, I have seen positive intent produce evil; I disagree with his assertion that the difference between ‘tragedy’ and ‘evil’ is intent.
Tragedy: The profound and unhappy loss or lack of a good thing
Evil: To take a good thing and make it into a bad thing
Malevolence: The intent to do evil
My understanding of his definitions:
Tragedy: When a really bad thing happens
Evil: The intent to make bad things happen
Malevolence: Another word for ‘evil’
I’ve seen the personality lectures, and the Maps of Meaning lectures, and I’ve made an attempt at reading Maps of Meaning. Now that I’ve seen the lectures, I’m thinking of trying again. I’m up to episode 3 of the biblical lectures. I agree that he’s worth studying, and that any worthwhile criticism will be well-informed.
However, when he fuels terrorist sentiment by claiming to know the motives of the postmodernists, he is wrong. He’s taking his body of good (often excellent work) and using it to do something bad. I don’t accuse him of (my definition of) malevolence, but I think it’s tragic that he hasn’t found a better way of handling his disagreements with postmodernism.