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Maps of Meaning 1 Notes

My Notes For Maps Of Meaning 1 (2017) – Jordan Peterson

Maps of Meaning 1
Maps of Meaning 1

Maps of Meaning 1 (Order vs Chaos)

In my Maps of Meaning 1 notes, I summarize the introduction to Peterson’s lectures by following his arguments that start with a historical journey that includes the political war between Capitalism and Communism and the archetypal war between Order and Chaos.

Communism vs Capitalism: 

You can’t increase the IQ of someone who has a low IQ, but you can decrease the IQ of someone who has a high IQ by not educating them properly. Since intelligence is unequal, outcomes are unequal. Smart people get to the edges of knowledge faster – that’s why they become successful. And in Wigan Pier, Orwell brilliantly describes the horrid working conditions of coal miners, for example. They had to work for 8 hours in harsh conditions and commute for up to 4 hours and receive very little pay. However, despite the harsh outcomes that have resulted from capitalism, we don’t have a better system.

The Road to Wigan PierMaps of Meaning 1 Notes 1

Even the Eastern Europeans believe that to be the case. The show Dallas – which portrayed capitalism at its finest – was immensely popular in countries like Romania – where a rebellion took place. This indicates that there aren’t any fundamental, axiomatic differences between the east and west.

The Chinese have a mix between the two systems.

The lesson is that greed is a surprisingly stable force that has been able to hold societies together. In the last fifty years, more people have been pulled out of poverty than in the history of mankind.

The Problem with Communism 

Peterson struggled to understand what motivated something like the cold war to take place. How come world came so close to mutual destruction?

Stalin, for example, was a sadistic dictator who killed millions of people. He wanted to bring about the destruction of the world.

There were two camps. West (Christians, Romans, Greeks, Enlightenment) vs East ( Rationalism, Anti-Western Axioms). Each camp organized their societies according to their own belief systems.

Political Scientists and economists think that people compete over resources. But that’s not necessarily true. People live under a shared system of beliefs. That system represents order and when someone rebels against their system – they produce chaos. That’s why people are defensive about their belief systems. If you were in a classroom where a fellow student stands up and breaks your laptop for no reason – you would be thrown into a state of chaos. The perpetrator has explicitly signaled that he doesn’t share your belief system. This puts you in unexplored territory. You freeze the same way a prey animal would.

It’s not your belief system (in isolation) that throws things into chaos. It’s the mismatch between your belief system and others that can cause conflict between people.

The western system was something that evolved.  The communist system was a rationalist construction that was imposed. Western culture was grounded in stories. 

The Invisible Gorilla 

The Invisible Gorilla Test involves black and white teams passing basketballs back and forth. If you pay attention, and you count the passes – you might get it right.  But in over half the cases – when you are asked if you saw the gorilla, you’re stumped. Amazingly, you miss the conspicuous image of a hairy gorilla pounding his chest in the middle of your screen. You weren’t paying attention to it.  The experiment yields important insight about the nature of how we perceive things. We only see what we’re paying attention to. 

The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive UsMaps of Meaning 1 Notes 2

Why Do You Behave The Way You Do? 

Belief systems structure your perceptions and guide your actions. You act according to your values. But not always consciously. You get impressions about people or activities. You procrastinate. You’re complex – there are a lot of layers that underlie your thinking.

You cannot derive an ought from an is – David Hume

Knowing the objective facts about something doesn’t tell you how to behave in the world. Sam Harris would argue that you can, but it’s very difficult to buy that argument. It’s too complex. You wouldn’t know how to prioritize which facts are worth paying attention to. If you had a sum of money, where would you invest? Education, cancer, aids? There’s no logical way of making that choice.

The Death of God 

Nietzsche believed that the west was running on the fumes of Christianity. We presume that something divine inhabits each individual. The law has to bow to it even if you’re convicted for doing something reprehensible. This idea was derived from Christianity. 

It’s a miracle that humans were able to come up with that idea. It’s anything but automatic. People take it for granted that the law recognizes your value as individuals. And that – according to Nietzsche – is nested in metaphysical beliefs. When you knock out the beliefs, everything else will eventually fall. 

Evolutionary truths 

Pragmatic truths are deeper than scientific truths. They allow you to act in a manner that maximizes the chances of you living and reproducing. The Darwinian theory states that you don’t have privileged knowledge of the world – because you’re not immortal (if you did you wouldn’t die). 

The best you can manage is to live for eighty years and die. Your world conceptions are nested inside the Darwinian system. And that’s what you have after three billion years of evolution. Your metaphysical constructions are those tools that have helped keep you alive. 

You have a human nature – you are not infinitely malleable by culture.

Why Great Dramas Shape Our Lives 

Imagine a friend of yours was describing his morning in excruciating, minute detail. You’d get bored very quickly.

But then imagine he adds a twist to the tale. A problem that he had to solve. And then he explained to you how he solved that problem. You’d get interested. He’s giving you a free lesson.

Now imagine ten people telling you about their experiences where something exciting happens. Stories distill the most exciting and interesting parts of people’s experiences. You might think fiction isn’t true. But in a sense – it’s truer than reality. It’s hyper true or meta true. It’s telling you something that you can apply universally.

We’re told that scientific truth is the ultimate truth. But people don’t act as if that’s true. You’re captivated by things that inform how you should act – not by things that tell you what the world is made of.

The Meaning of Life 

The meaning of life is proportionate to the amount of responsibility you choose to adopt. People need to have a load. Since life is suffering, we need a way to alleviate that suffering. If we take responsibility, we become positively and meaningfully engaged. That reduces undue suffering. It may even rectify suffering.

You inhabit a story. You are doing something and aiming for something better. You are always in a state of insufficiency and trying to rectify that state of insufficiency.

The Fundamental Story

  • Order: Explored territory – you get what you expect
  • Chaos:  Unexplored territory – you don’t get what you expect
  • Mother: Nature – feminine – selection – productive biological force
  • Father: Culture – judgmental
  • Heroes: Aiming for the highest good
  • Villains: Aiming for the highest evil

If you are self-conscious – you can conceptualize yourself as a being. You know what hurts you and what doesn’t. Therefore, you know what hurts other people. Animals just want to eat you but they don’t think about torturing you because they have no self-conception

The Classic Comedy is: 

  1. Order
  2. Descent into chaos (Paradise Lost) 
  3. Regain order (Paradise Regained) 

That’s the story of life. You’ll pay money to see that story even if you’re not conscious of why that is. You understand things you don’t think you understand in ways you don’t understand

The Start of Pinocchio

The first couple of lines are: Wish upon a star. There’s some mystery here. What’s a star?

It could be the stars in the sky but it could also be people who embody something you find admirable.

Take the night sky. When you see the stars with clarity, your natural response is that of awe. That’s how you feel when you meet or see someone admirable. 

What makes some people admirable and others not so? There’s something within you that admires something within that person. It’s like when kids try to emulate someone who’s a little older than them. They’re just within distance but they’re not there yet – and they know they would like to be like them. That’s how we develop.

What do you find admirable? It’s a question. And it’s not always so obvious. If you’re lucky you get an idea of what your ideal is.

A light that shines in the darkness is a deep metaphor. People wish upon a star because they have some intuition that aiming above the mundane has the potential to transform themselves. They make a wish and aim at something high – as they should when making a wish. Just aiming at that is more likely to make the wish come true.

The Maps of Meaning Lectures 

Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of BeliefMaps of Meaning 1 Notes 3

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