Public Intellectuals

Gagi

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Alright, some of you may know them. Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Ben Shapiro, Slavoj Zizek...name your own.


I was actually following Jordan Peterson, and watching some of his lectures, various appearances, debates and so on. Even read his book (12 Rules for Life), and found it quite full of advice "that I already kinda knew but didn't know I knew it (if it makes sense)". It seemed like sound advice that was actually helpful for me, but of course it was littered with pseudoscience (lobsters etc) and ADD writing - it was all over the place at times.

I really followed him for a while (ever since that Cathy Newman Channel 4 interview), but then I thought I'll read some of his critics. Now, I discarded most of the accusations (right-winger etc), and went for something that criticises his methods, his actual content rather than imply something that isn't there while being clearly pissed off at him. And I really agreed with some of that as well.

A couple of his scientific claims (like the lobsters) serve as analogies, but aren't based on actual research. Which makes me question the other stuff he claims. Also, he just goes everywhere and appears like he knows a lot about everything. And some of his statements (like "carbs are poison") really do seem like he has watched a questionable podcast rather than spend hours researching that. Ok, carbs for him may be poison, but he didn't specify that.

His writing and lectures are a bit all over the place. And sometimes it seems it's overly complex for the sake of the reader feeling smart, when it's just a clear over-analysis and looking for something that isn't there.

And then there's the followers, which are often right-wingers, and that implies that his message is suitable for them. That's nothing to be looked over. His daughter is annoying as hell too, going into the podcast world to interview everyone with an opinion.


Counter those with really usable advice and interesting theories, and now I don't know if I should really read his new book or not. Is there a point after reading advice is just unnecessary and a waste of time? Is the sequel book going to be as good, given that he was seriously ill for the past year and a half, when he was writing it? Is he just chasing cash and work? I really don't know.


Out of the mentioned, Shapiro seems annoying like a mosquito and I can't listen to him for more than 60 seconds per day - he's also traditional, which I get but not entirely, Zizek is incomprehensible with his heavy accent and speech, and Sam Harris really feels like the best of the bunch because he's so calm and composed, even though I haven't listened to him a lot (besides his meditation app, which is amazing).


So I thought I'd ask your opinions of such people. Who do you follow, find useful and whatnot? Who would you criticize and what for?
 

dmgtz96

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I've had "12 Rules for Life" sitting on a shelf for a while. I think it was one of the top books in 2018, but I haven't read it yet.
The thing with guys like Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro is that whatever good advice they provide is likely going to have their own bias embedded. Ben Shapiro has also had a few hiccups (the Andrew Neil incident, the dry vagina meme) that make me wonder if he's a true intellectual or just a troll.
Both have very good academic credentials. Jordan Peterson has a PhD in psychology, and Shapiro graduated cum laude (~top 30%) from Harvard Law. In any case, I have not yet read or seen enough of their work to have an un-biased viewpoint about them.
I have not heard about the others you mentioned.
 
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Gagi

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The book is good and bad in a lot of ways. I mean, it actually helped me "put my life in order", because it's quite dark, and I enjoy that kind of stuff anyways. When I was reading one of the rules, my heartbeat was up constantly - I felt it! It's no light/motivational reading. It all seems sensible, but then again, the credibility of some claims is questionable, even if the advice, which is more important, seems reasonable. And yes, there's bias. That's why we have a lot of them, debates and such.

The book is aimed at a demographic, so I don't think, say, my dad would enjoy it. It's aimed at people who seem a bit lost, who didn't have values instilled in them from young age, or those who don't believe in them anymore. One thing I thought while I was reading it is, this is exactly what my parents would say. It's Judeo-Christian wisdom, with some interpretations from The Bible (which I believe you would enjoy - I did even though I'm not religious - Cain & Abel first and foremost).

As for the bias... JP thinks he knows how people and the society work, and he presents the advice in that light. His other book, Maps of Meaning, which I didn't read, is more about the actual philosophy etc. You can't do a lot of research on that because it is way bigger than just psychology. It's his understanding of the world, with which you can agree or not. That said, he's got some great ideas in the book regardless, and the advice is sound. It's not a waste of your time, anyways.

So I'm kinda torn. There's the good and the bad. But I think you'd be able to read it and form an opinion, because you're educated and I think you're able to think constructively. If anything, this book has really made me think more.

Shapiro graduated law, but is out there speaking about other stuff. JP has a PhD in psychology, but this isn't a strict psychology book. There's some, but there's also philosophy and what have you. Maybe they are just highly intelligent beings who can just learn new stuff faster than the rest of us mortals. But then again, maybe there's someone more qualified to write about what they are.
 
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jetflag

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And then there's the followers, which are often right-wingers,
I come across this claim a lot, and never, ever seen any real evidence for it. I have friends who vote GroenLinks (green-left) and PVDD (animals wellfare) of all political parties available to them who have 12 rules for life hardcopies on the book shelve whereas I only have the pdf version.

I can think of a reason why it exists though, its because the far left absolutely despise him, and therefor continue to paint him with the stigma of their enemy, namely the right. Jordan has adressed this several times infact.

now if by "right winger" everyday normal people who aren't all that on board with the communist manifesto are meant, then yes. But personally if think a far more accurate description would be:

"most of his followers aren't radically left (or right) wing" who he continuously keeps calling out and criticizing.
 
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jetflag

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As for public intellectuals.
fully agree on Sam, despite disagreeing with him on several points.
Steven Pinker is another one I follow.
Franscico Ayala another.
Eric Weinstein and his brother are.
I used to follow Matt Dillahunty on the rational/atheist side a lot, but i've stopped since, like Dawkins, he's beating a dead horse IMVO. There is simply more to reality and the human condition then logic and reason/ science, which is where they both seem to be stuck. Which is fine. its just not all that interesting to me anymore.
 

Gagi

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I know JP isn't, but I've heard he often attracts such people. Or anyways, it's not exactly rational people all the time. If anything, it's usually people who aren't very well off, lost their beliefs or just feel lost and are open to anything.

The other part of your last post is quite interesting, they kinda are, and JP fills that void quite easily with his theories. Even though I'm not religious, I'm sort of inclined to believe what he's saying. Anyways, maybe I don't even care anymore as well. The world is more practical than that.
 
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dmgtz96

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I know JP isn't, but I've heard he often attracts such people. Or anyways, it's not exactly rational people all the time. If anything, it's usually people who aren't very well off, lost their beliefs or just feel lost and are open to anything.

The other part of your last post is quite interesting, they kinda are, and JP fills that void quite easily with his theories. Even though I'm not religious, I'm sort of inclined to believe what he's saying. Anyways, maybe I don't even care anymore as well. The world is more practical than that.
I'm just starting to read 12 Rules, but according to this WSJ article Jordan Peterson holds pretty strong beliefs about hierarchical structures in society. That rhetoric would most likely turn off liberals who believe in social equality/identity politics and attract conservative-minded people.
I was very impressed at his "self authoring-suite," btw. I'm still understanding what he specifically did, but it had good results with underrepresented minorities at McGill (Canada) and Eramus (Netherlands) universities.
 
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Gagi

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I'm just starting to read 12 Rules, but according to this WSJ article Jordan Peterson holds pretty strong beliefs about hierarchical structures in society. That rhetoric would most likely turn off liberals who believe in social equality/identity politics and attract conservative-minded people.
I was very impressed at his "self authoring-suite," btw. I'm still understanding what he specifically did, but it had good results with underrepresented minorities at McGill (Canada) and Eramus (Netherlands) universities.

I haven't read the article, but he does. He doesn't put it in terms of hierarchy by race, gender or whatever (which is often badly interpreted and serves as a criticism against him), but hierarchy of competence, which seems logical to me.

I've never tried the Self-authoring suite because I can't be bothered to pay that much, even if it's not really that expensive, I always have some more necessary things to buy with the money. Anyways, I don't think I need it now that much anymore. But it seems quite useful, and according to the feedback, people seem to get really depressed (especially after completing the past-authoring), but get better quickly after.
 
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