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Instead he argues that because similar tenets underlie a broad range of religions Christianity, Buddhism, etc. But given the complexities in life, not everything can be proven, and often you just have to act according to what you intuit is best. Thus acting out the 12 Rules for Life requires a bit of faith. Most humans crave order and meaning in their existence, to deal with the terrifying uncertainty of the world.
For much of history this function was served by religion, with rules handed down by gods and supernatural surveillance of behavior. Historians Durant agree with this. Despite differences in the beliefs, they drew on common themes, and the need for rules and order was universal. The ubiquity of this suggests something biological or evolutionary. The developed world is moving to greater secularism, as a result of: But there is no scientific code of ethics to inherit the stabilizing role of religion.
In the absence of clear rules and a moral compass, people are prone to nihilism, existential angst, misery, and indulging their instincts. In 12 Rules for Life , Peterson rejects the value of moral relativism that good and evil are subjective opinion, every view is generally acceptable.
This also ignores thousands of years of development of virtue and how to live.
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In this vacuum, many are drawn to group-centered belief instead, because it gives them identity, purpose, and a shared code of conduct. It simplifies the world. Inequality of ability occurs through natural variation, and those higher in ability command greater resources:. Recognizing your position in the social hierarchy, signaling it, and competing for position are deeply evolved, biological behaviors. Its commonality in species as divergent from us as crawfish suggests that it was strongly selected for in natural selection , very early on in life, and has a very functional role.
The function of this signaling and recognition behavior is to distribute scarce resources between individuals, without the need for costly conflict. The neurotransmitter serotonin is thought to be the internal mediator of social status. If you feel or are dominant in status, more serotonin circulates in your bloodstream. Administering SSRIs antidepressants to lobsters makes them adopt the dominant body posture and fight longer before retreating. Makes sense since high-status people have much to lose with violence, while low-status ones do not. It recognizes behavior from others sometimes triggered by your own behavior and infers your social standing.
It then adjusts your perceptions, values, emotions, and actions. Thus Peterson suggests that you need to signal your higher social status through external body language, first of all, but also internally in your self-beliefs. People will then treat you as competent and able, which will kick off a virtuous cycle. People are better at filling prescriptions for their dogs than for their pets, even though taking drugs is literally life-saving.
No one has more reason to see you as pathetic, and by withholding something that does you good, to punish yourself for your failings. You have a vital mission in this world, you are important in this world to others, and you are morally obliged to take care of yourself. This means taking care of yourself, getting healthier physically and mentally , expanding your knowledge, pursuing goals you want, articulating your principles.
But consider the other insidious, malevolent factors that could be at play:. But this is hard to discern, so reflect and see if any of the above elements are true. The above attributes may not apply — instead, you might all be bound by an implicit contract aimed at nihilism and failure. No one mentions it, but everyone knows what the game is. Pick one or two bad habits and indulge, and you can fall into a deep chasm. They override your accomplishments with their own, real or imaginary.
Instead, surround yourself with people who support you and want to see you succeed. You will push each other to greater heights.
Best Summary + PDF: 12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson | Allen Cheng
We used to live in small tribes of hundreds. Chances were you were good at something, and you got serotonin signals from people acknowledging you were good.
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Now you might never get this feedback. Standards are useful to guarantee a level of quality like building bridges , and to keep pushing us up to better things. Being unsatisfied with your present world is a useful impetus to improve your situation. Another response to this was to shield children from it — the delusionally positive thinking of constant praise. This merely blinds people to the truth, and when reality hits, people are unprepared to deal with it. Instead, In 12 Rules for Life , Peterson argues that a total reworking of your goals is needed , starting with understanding yourself as though you were a stranger.
Break it down to something tractable you can do today. There is evil to overcome, suffering to ameliorate, and yourself to better.
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This means children need training and feedback to understand how to navigate the social world. Children, curious and exploratory as they are, constantly test limits to figure out where the boundaries are. They will not bloom into perfection if left to their own devices. If you dislike your child at times, imagine how other people will react.
Other people will swiftly judge and punish your child mercilessly, with nowhere near the tolerance and patience that you show your child. In school, other children will reject a temperamental, unsociable child. Teachers will run out of patience and focus attention on more pleasant children, causing learning differences. Parents will refuse her presence at their playtimes. If these habits persist into adulthood, employers will fire them; relationship partners will reject them.
All this sets off a vicious cycle of chronic maladjustment — a maladjusted child will act poorly; she will receive negative feedback from the world, often without understanding why; she will withdraw and feel rejected, causing anxiety, depression, and resentment. This further receives negative feedback from the world. This can last for a lifetime. Shielding your child from corrective feedback is in effect crippling them in the long run. And early exposure matters — a child not taught to behave properly by age 4 will have lasting social difficulties.
As a parent, your purpose is to serve as a proxy for society. This should be done with both rewards and punishment — leaving one out most parents omit punishment removes a tool from your toolkit. Punishments and negative emotions are natural, evolved reactions to events — sadness and shame train people to avoid the situation that led to those painful emotions. Also, a good reward program requires continuous vigilance, since the behavior needs to be reinforced quickly with the reward.
Think not about having your child avoid all pain, but rather to maximize their learning at minimal cost. In 12 Rules for Life , Peterson has 4 principles for raising kids:. There is inevitable suffering in life. People are born unequal in ability and attributes. Disaster strikes unpredictably — cancer, a car accident, a mass layoff.
You never get quite exactly what you want. Life is an unjust joke. Peterson argues this underlay the beliefs of the Columbine killers, who sought to punish those who had wronged them. But there is still potential for redemption, to learn from misfortune and do good despite it. Many who are abused by their parents in turn abuse their own children; but most choose not to. Before blaming the universe for your misfortunes, first consider — what personal responsibility did you have in your misfortune? Did you do everything within your power to improve your situation, or were you a passive accomplice to your sabotage?
He was then arrested and imprisoned by his own people. His misfortunes seemed out of his control. He realized his unquestioning support of the Communist Party contributed directly to his misery, and he decided to correct his mistake. Look at it this way — if your suffering is your own fault, then you can actually do something about it.
Which worldview would you rather espouse? Peterson argues lack of preparation is a sin. When times are good, we get complacent and forget our commitments and responsibilities. Then when disaster strikes, we omit our personal responsibility in causing it. We may learn our lesson and soldier on, but inevitably we forget, and so the cycle repeats. The New Orleans flood, Peterson argues, could have been prevented with legislation passed in In contrast, the Netherlands protects its borders with dams built to withstand a once-in,year storm.
Before blaming the universe, or a political faction, or an enemy, put your own house in order. Have you taken full advantage of every opportunity available to you? Are you working hard at your career? Outside of work to improve yourself? Are you doing anything you know is wrong?
Stop when you feel when an inkling that you should stop.
Stop saying things that make you feel ashamed and cowardly; start saying things that make you feel strong. Do only those things about which you would speak with honor. As you continue doing this, you will continue discovering further wrongs that you can right. Your life will become simpler and more honorable. Then you might see existence as naturally good and worth maintaining.
And imagine if all people did this — how magnificent would the world be then? So suffering in life is inevitable. The universe can be unfair. In a hundred million years, nothing we do will likely matter. What does one do in the face of this knowledge? One response is to take the expedient path. Indulge short-term pleasures and put off long-term commitments.
Do what feels the best today — indulge your basest desires all the time. Even lie, cheat, and steal to get what you want. Do these things even if you know it makes your future self worse off than better.
Best Summary + PDF: 12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson
We know we should be doing the hard things today to make our lives better in the future. We should suppress our immediate impulses to bring future rewards , like studying today and putting off partying to become a medical student. In 12 Rules for Life , Peterson tackles it this way: Auschwitz, mass shootings, enslavement, knowing torment of others — these are all things most people believe are bad, even without having to read a philosophy book. You likely believe the world is better off without these things happening.
If there is such a thing as Evil, then Good must be the antithesis of Evil — Good is whatever stops Evil from happening. Good alleviates unnecessary pain and suffering. But all actions exist on a spectrum, and resolving even little bits of bad are good. This could mean counseling a friend to get out of a bad situation. This could mean improving your own health, so that you have more ability and time to do good. This could mean empowering others to do good — even by helping people understand what good and evil is, like Peterson is doing.
Doing good has Meaning. When you act with Meaning, you will attain more security and strength than would be granted by a short-sighted concern for your own security. What you do will matter to you. Remember Socrates who, believing his principles to be right, retained the strength to speak true at his trial and accepted his death with resolve.
Meaning is the mature substitute for expedience. Meaning regulates impulses and recognizes the value of making the world better. By providing deeper meaning, Meaning gratifies all impulses. Ask yourself — how can I make the world a little bit better today? Fix what you can fix.
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