Partial Q&A transcript from Jordan Peterson live lecture (3/17)
While the audience questions were submitted electronically to be read by the moderator (and are thus word for word), no audio recording was allowed. To the best of my ability, I have transcribed Jordan’s responses (not bolded) using my own personal notes, condensing and paraphrasing certain portions as necessary.1
Q: How is a young man to meet a feminine woman these days?
You’re making several assumptions in asking that question. For starters, what do you mean by “feminine woman”? And what makes you think it will be particularly difficult for you to find one now? I don’t buy any of these assumptions.
Mikhaila Peterson, moderating: You don’t think the average woman is less feminine now than they were 20 or 30 years ago?
No I am not convinced of that… and anyway the idea of the average woman is not all that useful—are you going to meet one? Like ‘look over there is the average woman!’ There’s also the matter of, what is your evidence for that on account of you weren’t around then? Most women used to be farm laborers, which was devastating physical work. My mother, she actually lived in a log cabin so this is something I have some understanding of… There wasn’t exactly a lot of time for “femininity” in those days.
I think what I’m objecting to is that that there’s an ideal lurking in that question that the person doesn’t exactly know. You wouldn’t be bemoaning the absence [of a feminine woman] if you didn’t want to find it. It’s a fantasy. I’m not making fun of that but it’s important to realize.
I had this client, he told me he wanted to put away enough money by age 50 to retire on a Caribbean beach with a mai tai, just spend every day there like that. He was smart but that was really stupid. That’s no vision of retirement! That’s a poster you saw when you were 12. All you’ve got in front of you is a life of sunburn and alcoholism.
Relating that to the question, you should ask yourself if your vision of femininity is a 13-year old’s fantasy? You need to give serious thought to this over a period of several months to arrive at something that’s going to be more than just a superficial image and worth pursuing. And anyway, once you find someone aren’t you ultimately going to jointly create a vision of romantic love and the “ideal woman” together with her?
Q: Is it important to pursue a college degree given the state of today’s society?
Again what do you mean by today? While I do think the university has in some sense become corrupted, it’s also the case that when I went to university many of my classes were not very good either. What I had to do was largely seek out the people I could learn from and the experience I needed to get to where I wanted to go.
Your question is too ideological. It obscures what you really need to figure out which is, what experience do you need to get where you want to go? What does [a college degree] mean to you specifically? How does it relate to your goals? What do you want to do with your life?
This is a decision that really needs to be particularized, and remember there are many kinds of degrees, they are not all the same. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, even though the university has been corrupted in some ways.
Q: Much to my chagrin, I find myself to be an atheist (albeit reluctantly). I wish I had belief, but it seems contrived. What do you think atheists are missing?
Knowledge? The people I’ve met who are explicitly atheistic usually don’t know anything about religion. There is endless depth in religious stories.
Their thought process tends to be “Religion is stupid superstition and I’m not stupid and superstitious therefore I’m not religious”. That’s all you have to say about the bedrock of society beneath you? You’re not very sophisticated.
I’ve been studying the story of Cain and Abel for 25 years and it’s one paragraph long. It’s inexhaustible. There have been innumerable great minds who have worked on those stories to understand what they mean and never got to the bottom of them.
There are second-rate Marxist explanations for religion in which priests created these stories to trick people and oppress them. This is scarcely better than a conspiracy theory in my view. People have worked on these stories for centuries with real devotion.
So another answer to the question might be humility. I approached it as a mystery. Why is the foundation of society a book and not a fortress or a city? It’s far from obvious that should be the case.
There are profound questions for you to wrestle with. The meaning of Israel is those who wrestle with God. Israel is His chosen people and they struggle with doubt and uncertainty. Many atheists are struggling with God like mad.
From your question, you seem to be wrestling with all of your soul on the questions of highest significance. In the Biblical story, Jacob wrestles with God so intensely he dislodges his hip.
Maybe you’re not so much of an atheist, maybe you’re just wrestling with God.
Though five audience questions were asked, I omit #1 (How do you bridge the gap between your inherent personality and self improvement? Where do you draw the line and say “that’s just how I am”?) and #4 (What is the best advice you can give to a young married couple?) here.