Liberals, conservatives and the Jordan Peterson thesis

Why Liberals are always wrong about everything but cannot see the error of their ways nor even accept that there are other opinions, is a constant frustration for the right-thinking man.

Jordan Peterson provides the answer, in part, in a number of his online videos.  You might want to sit down for this:  they are not wrong as such but seeing the world through different eyes.  This has implications for how we consider the choice of our political leaders, but more fundamentally how we treat our neighbours in a fractious society.

Peterson suggests the difference between “liberals” and “conservatives” may even have a biological element, which would be eye-opening; biologically determined socio-political views would take some swallowing.  His thesis needs serious consideration.

I am not a psychologist and am not the great Hobbes himself, so a take a great deal on trust from Hobbes, Smith and Peterson. I want to say “essentially, Peterson is not talking about our political parties but about…” but I here in my voice echoes of Cathy Newman saying “So what you are saying is…” and getting it wrong every time.   I have no right to reinterpret his words, but I can say what I think in accepting them.

The thrust of Peterson’s thesis is that liberals and conservatives have come to their positions not so much from different axiom and reasoning, but from having very different personality types. It is even possible, Peterson suggests, that part of that difference is inherent in our biology rather than learned.  (It would be a radical change in our usual view if we found that socio-political views are genetically determined.)

In essence:

  • Liberals have a personality trait of “openness,” which is to say that they have an affinity for abstraction and aesthetics
  • Conservatives have a trait of “conscientiousness” but not creativity.

Putting it as bluntly as Peterson does suggests two a human race cut in two, but it is obviously not that and it is instead a sliding scale between two extremes. Perhaps social expectations cause any individual to gravitate to one side of the divide and identify himself or herself there, deserting the centre.

(Incidentally, it is not at all a male-female split:  each sex exists in strength on both sides; otherwise there would be a shortage of conservative brides for conservative men and vice versa:  a conservative will prefer to marry a conservative and a liberals to shack up with a liberal. If there is a genetic element, this would sharpen it.)

It is natural to lack respect for someone who obviously has the wrong approach to life.  However if that is because they see the world through different eyes, and theirs is not a wrong view but a different view, then we are committing an injustice.

Naturally conservatives see conscientiousness as key to reliability and trustworthiness, and naturally liberals see conservatives as repressed and dull.  We cannot live without each other though.  The world does not work without conscientious people to keep it running, and it runs into the ground unless there are open-minded, creative people to find the new ideas to keep it renewed.

In politics we need both, but we tend to have small-c conservatives in dominance. Liberal-minded and conservative-minded voters alike value reliability and trustworthiness, and a lack of surprises, in those entrusted with government, so this dominance by those of conservative-temperament in all main parties is to be expected.

Sometimes we need a different approach, and liberal-temperament rulers.  Whenever the system of government becomes moribund, a new, creative approach is needed. Whenever there is a crisis which the normal way of doing things cannot solve, then we need an original mind which thrills to take risks.  It may be a disaster or it may be a roaring success, depending on the individual.  Benjamin Disraeli, David Lloyd-George, Randolph Church, Winston Churchill – they achieved through creativity and abandoning timidity.

I have got all the way through so far without mentioning Brexit; here is a situation where a tunnel-visioned approach has brought an impasse, and it needs someone who can step back outside the tunnel and fix it a new way.

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Author: LittleHobb

Solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short

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