Jordan Peterson’s psychobabble


This article was originally published at on July 24, 2018, where Adam Piggott publishes regularly and brilliantly. You can purchase Adam’s books here.

Vox Day links to an article about Jordan Peterson’s deceitful tactic of attempting to redefine words when it suits him in order to mask the meaning of what he is supposedly attempting to say.

“Communication becomes extremely difficult if we allow ourselves repeatedly to be drawn into a labyrinth of semantic distinctions. That is precisely why there has to be some fundamental agreement about what words actually mean at the beginning of any conversation. This is something Peterson can be particularly bad at doing, when the mood takes him—just listen to his excruciating two-hour conversation with Harris that never managed to get past the disputed meaning of the word ‘truth.’

‘When the mood takes him’ is an extremely generous way of describing such opportunistic behavior.

Peterson’s legions of mindless followers will no doubt rush to their guru’s defense with claims that it isn’t Peterson’s responsibility to define words, repeat ad nauseam. Or perhaps they will shout something along the lines that Peterson is attempting to answer infinitely complex questions and thus has some sort of special leeway to turn common language inside out and upside down. After all, complex questions require complex answers, and if you’re not complex enough to grok the meaning then that’s your problem, isn’t it.

Peterson’s answers are incredibly complex because Peterson deliberately constructs them in such a way that his answers are opaque and clouded in obscurity. Nicholas Taleb holds particular disdain for those who deliberately confuse and complicate language in order to seem more intelligent, worldly or knowledgeable on any given subject manner.

Which is a rather long-winded way of saying that Peterson is full of shit.

Vox has this to say on the subject:

“As I call it, bafflegarble. It’s nonsense that baffles the insufficiently comprehending.”

I’m not a fan of bafflegarble, particularly as there is already a perfectly good term to describe this condition: Psychobabble, which was defined by writer Theodore Dalrymple as “the means by which people talk about themselves without revealing anything.”

There’s a cool song on the subject by Alan Parsons too!

Photo by Gage Skidmore

  • John Sheppard

    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

    Or if you prefer, simplicity is the trademark of genius.

    • Addelad

      And of simpletons

      • John Sheppard


  • I’m starting to like Peterson’s talks.

    At the end of most of them I’m not exactly sure what if anything I’ve gotten out of them but his delivery is such I feel like I’m eating churros with melted chocolate.

    Still undecided on him, but gosh it’s comfy.

    • Carl White

      This is largely a result of his meandering speaking style .He touched 3 subjects every 20 seconds. It’s honestly too much for passive consumption and processing. You kind of have to watch him with a goal in mind .If your interested in personal development, social theorizing, actual psychology, or quotes knocking SJW s you kind have to decide that’s what your listening for at the beginning and be willing to pause and think or take notes as you go .His speaking/lecture style is very entertaining, but not the most informative .

  • I disagree, but I’m not surprised why people might get that impression, based on a superficial reading. Peterson’s answers are certainly not as simple as some might LIKE them to be, but actually as clear and precise as questions to complex questions require to be.

    A good way for me to test if a statement is psychobabble or not is to see if I can still disagree with it and find counterarguments. With Peterson I always can – regardless whether I am in actual disagreement or just checking.

    With people like Sam Harris it’s different: he argues with the simplicity and clarity of a very intelligent 14 year old. That’s actually very useful too, since it cuts through a lot of bullshit. It just doesn’t always get to the bottom of things.

  • Tyson Clarke

    The reason Peterson does so much prefacing is because when you really get down to it, he says only what he can be confident is absolutely true ; which is very very little.

    This is what happens when you read a lot of research. Research articles have fantastic amount of prefacing, and in the end say very little at all. It’s always “when xyz are met, then ABC, but strictly under these conditions, and further research is required “.

    But I guess if there’s a problem with Peterson, you should probably mention or quote it in the spirit of effective and accurate discussion.

    There are other critiques of Peterson that hold water, but unless you actually have something to say, maybe don’t write an article about it?

    Otherwise this article is a perfect example of what it claims to be against – bafflegarble.

  • Heather Mary Kell

    Mindless followers ?
    You have lost me with that

  • Patrick Cole

    To even suggest that Dr Jordan Peterson is a guru and is spilling gobbledygook similar to that of Deepak Chopra is absolutely hilarious. Yet another article Miss representing Jordan Peterson the man has over 1000 hours of legit psychology lectures on YouTube I suggest you watch them first before writing an article. See you in 2 years.

    • Carl White

      At the same time though Deepok Chopra- while I agree lies in a totally different category. Is not without academic and professional accolade.

  • Harry Stottle

    Guys, it’s all bullshit. Some of it helps and some of it doesn’t, and never in the same way for any two people. Academics frequently lay claim to a higher level of insight, all the while knowing that they don’t truly understand anything at a fundamental level. Everything is a best guess.
    Of all the academic best guesses, it’s the outrageous fantasy that social engineering could ever work.
    We are sentimental, tribal and easily pissed off humans and it should be obvious by now that different cultures and different races rub one another up the wrong way. We don’t want to blame, argue or harm anyone. We just want to be left alone. Why is that so hard to understand?

  • Bronson

    There was a criminal case some time back where the man charged had
    violently assaulted trans-gender man whom he had at first thought was a
    woman only to realize he was a man. He had allowed himself to be deluded
    and projected his self-disgust onto the trannie, then assaulted him to rid himself of feeling disgusted..

    I can’t but help feel that something similar is behind Mr Piggott’s hit pieces taking down Dr Peterson and his wife.

    Mr Piggott initially seemed favourably disposed towards Dr Peterson, based on his handling of that obnoxious feminist, whose name escapes me, ‘interviewing’ him on Channel, ahh now I remember, Cathy Newman.

    However he then saw an article wherein (1) Dr Peterson was described as an ‘alpha male’ by (2) a feminist scribbler. Taken together this seemed to have been the catalyst for Mr Piggott to re-appraise his assessment of Dr Peterson. Instead of being a “man’s man” AKA alpha-male Dr Peterson was instead a “woman’s man” AKA beta-male. Thus came his original article to which Dr Peterson responded demonstrating his beta-credentials. Outed.

    There is visceral disgust among some alpha males for beta males and sometimes Mr Piggott displays this characteristic in his insightful pieces, in these cases being an insight into himself as subject rather than the people or institutions which are the objects of his pieces.

    A Dr Peterson based psych-babble analysis of the anima displayed in these hit pieces from Mr Piggott is that he is following the script in Macbeth ‘out damned spot’ as he attempts to expunge himself of the self-disgust he feels for having allowed a beta-male into his circle of approval, like a Nazi discovering he had been unwittingly entertaining a Jew in his home.

    • gwallan

      “There is visceral disgust among some alpha males for beta males”

      I wish men would stop being sucked in by this classing. The alpha/beta binary is a female imperative aimed at separating the desirable men from those assumed undesirable. Men actually create far more complex and fluid hierarchies which are primarily driven by ability. They have acted collectively to achieve incredible things throughout our history as a consequence. Our species’ survival is very much a consequence of that behaviour.

      • Bronson

        Very true.

        • Mike Champion

          I find that hard to believe from this article. It is simply critical without justification or argument. If the author had any intellect, he would support his criticism with reasoned argument or examples. I won’t be searching him out as I am too busy enjoyjng Jordan Peterson.

          • Bronson

            You would have to check his other articles for that, and his blog and podcasts. In the former he speaks about JP’s wife being fair game for attack by virtue of JP having brought her and his relationship into the public domain, and having driven a stake into JP’s heart, as if JP was a vampire to be slain. Very disturbing comments using archetypes coming from Mr Pigott’s sub-conscious would be a JP conclusion.

          • Mike Champion

            Frankly, Bronson, I couldn’t be bothered. I’m just tired of unsupported and unconstructive criticism.

          • Bronson

            Wise move Mike.

            You had first responded by saying this piece from Mr Piggott did NOT indicate he had it in for Dr Peterson for subconscious reasons. Very true. Also very true is your observation that this piece offers little by way of intellectual criticism from Mr Piggott.

            But in previous direct hit pieces on Dr Peterson he took Dr Peterson down: first to ‘situational alpha’, then to ‘beta’ and even to ‘gamma’ male status based on his observation of Dr Peterson’s relationship with his childhood sweet-heart then wife. i.e. Mr Piggott declared Dr Peterson to have pussy worshipped her and claimed she knows deep down that he, Mr Piggott, is correct in his assessment. Playing the (beta)man instead of the ball, mocking his marriage and rejoicing over having struck Dr Peterson in his heart, does indicate that Mr Piggott has it in for Dr Peterson, not for rational reasons which someone else might intellectually take on board, but for deeply personal subconscious reasons .

            Those pieces and his blog are best left unread, as they are quite disturbing.

  • Steven Marinic

    Dumb cunt you didn’t provide any of your own thoughts here. You just repeated what actual smart people have said and the misapplied the term psychobabble. Nice journalism degree dipshit.

  • Peter Harris

    To use an appropriate saying that we have in Australia, Jordan Peterson is a colossal wanker.

  • zadaki

    I thought the lobster was perfectly cooked and very tasty.

  • Peroxcide Flowers

    Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist and university professor who has been cited at least 6000 times. Let’s not forget the “legions of mindless followers”.
    Adam Piggott is a little known author and blogger with few followers and a small handful of published books.
    Both authors discuss politics, relationships and various other topics to different degrees.
    The Vox Populi blog, cited in this article, was written by someone called “VD” at the beginning of July and is, well, just a random blog about Jordan Peterson with naught but a homepage.

    I’m just going to go out on a limb here: Piggott’s article smells a bit like jealousy for the evidently more successful Jordan Peterson.

  • Addelad

    You have to wonder what is eating away at the soul of this XYZ writer; was his wife seduced by a smooth, handsome and articulate Canuk, or what? Clearly his unrelenting campaign against Peterson emanates from deep within the id.

  • gwallan

    “excruciating two-hour conversation with Harris that never managed to get past the disputed meaning of the word ‘truth.’”

    Unfair. Philosophers have been arguing the meaning of “truth” for thousands of years. Nobody’s won that argument yet.

  • gwallan

    Psychobabble. One of Parson’s better pieces. Nice bass line.

    My great uncle did a bit of production work for Parsons a bit earlier. He reckoned Parsons to be one of the most work obsessed people he’d ever met.

  • Kade Drury

    What a dreadful and reckless load of drivel – and I’m not even a Peterson fan. But judging by the amount of cringe in the author’s bio this isn’t surprising.

  • John Sheppard

    Not sure why the hate on Jordan Peterson. I like listening to him on some topics, and others I don’t agree with him on. In both cases he puts a lot of thought behind his responses, and generally has some study to back it up. Not all studies arrive at the correct conclusion though, hence why I don’t always agree with his position.

    The way he tore apart Cathy Newman on Channel 4 in the UK was pure gold.

  • MarkinMelbourne

    Well that was an utterly disappointing read.

  • Nick Goodall

    To the person that wrote this extended psychobabble…..everybody seems to want a shot at the title, Jordan Petersons holds his own on what “HE” believes. The fact you cant out argue his intelligence causes you to write nonsense like this. Everyone wants to claim they’ve found his weak spot and have have outwitted one the most intelligent men in our era, it’s only natural you feel threatened. Your small group of friends tell you how smart you are, your killing it at life, everybody reads your articles…..your on top of the world. Then the Great White comes along (Peterson) and makes you realize your not the super star that you and your friends have built you up to be. You then become jealous, a tiny piss weak (in comparison) bull shark that snaps at everything in its territory, trying to regain dominance in the food chain but failing because the Great White is second to no other shark. Thats what I take from the childish words in this “psychobabble”. A disenchanted, second rate human. Move on author, Peterson is a target out of your league.

  • Ben Campbell

    This doesn’t strike me as a work of great effort.