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Maps of Meaning 2 Notes

My Notes For Maps Of Meaning 2 (2017) – Jordan Peterson

Maps of Meaning 2
Maps of Meaning 2

Maps of Meaning 2 – Fallible Conscience

The introduction to Jiminy Cricket appears in Maps of Meaning 2. He is Pinocchio’s clumsy fallible conscience. While imperfect, the conscience (bug) is the symbolic key to your moral and psychological development.

Characters in Pinocchio (Representations)  

  • Blue fairy = mother nature, fate
  • Jiminy Cricket  = Conscience, bug, has initials of Jesus Christ
  • Gepetto = father, culture, the wise king
  • Pinocchio = puppet (no individuality, no autonomy)

The Relevance of Culture

Many animals live in dominance hierarchies. In a sense, these hierarchies are the most real things. They predate us by millions of years, and have been present across all societies for all of human history. Human beings have multiple hierarchies that they can compete in while animals usually have one.

Becker (author of The Denial of Death) thought that belief systems regulate our emotions but he’s not taking the power of shared belief systems seriously enough.

The Denial of DeathMaps of Meaning 2 Notes 1

To him, what we believed in determined our own psychological state. That’s true, when there is a mismatch between our belief system and that of other people – it will affect our emotions. But the mismatch doesn’t only disrupt us psychologically – it literally disrupts our lives. If someone acts erratically in a public place by throwing objects at people around him, it’s not just your psychological state that’s affected, your physical safety is compromised. That person is signalling to you that he doesn’t share the same belief system as you do, and that is literally threatening to you. This might explain why you tend to overreact when you argue with people over seemingly trivial things.

Rousseau thought that culture corrupted people. Hobbs thought that society’s social contract strayed people away from conflict.

Learning to play fairly is more important than winning a particular game. The goal is to be able to play again in the future. Winning one game isn’t as valuable as winning the largest set of possible games. If you cheat, for example, you might win the current game you are playing. But you risk excluding yourself from all future games.

Pursuing Goals 

Pursuing a goal is necessary to experience positive emotion. Find the goal that matches your personality, temperament. Achieving an easy, meaningless goal satisfies you temporarily. Pursuing a long-term meaningful goal gives you constant engagement. The most meaningful state is found at the borderline between order and chaos.

Moral Development

There are many types of stories. They involve order, chaos, and heroes. Similar stories exist across multiple societies. All of them have contributed to our survival (protecting mothers and children, for example).

Jung was skeptical of our moral development – especially in comparison to our scientific advancement. Studying the humanities is key to personal development. Uniting yourself with your past situates you properly. Nietzsche would say that it imbues you with a historical sense.

Divorcing yourself from your past situates you in a void. That’s why stories are important. They provide you a structure on which to base your morality. Otherwise, you deny yourself the ability to profit from the experiences of your ancestors. They have distilled their most important moral lessons in these stories. Wanting to create your moral system from scratch is arrogant, unwise, and impractical.

One of the common themes  found across stories is to pursue a meaningful life. A meaningful life requires taking on responsibility. More responsibility  means a more meaningful life. Aim for the best possible thing. If you are going to do anything at all, why not do that?

The Cricket starts out looking like a tramp (undeveloped conscience). The conscience represents potential, but needs a home (a body) – befriends Pinocchio. Conscience is not deterministic (you can choose to not listen to your conscience – Pinocchio doesn’t)

Nature and Culture 

If you’re a scientific rationalist, there’s only nature and culture. You are simply a by-product, and you have no free will. For example, Sam Harris ( a scientific rationalist) thinks we’re deterministic machines, that our sense of freedom is nothing more than an illusion, and all our choices in life are determined by the environment we live in and the genes we inherited. This short video from Waking Life cleverly explains the problem of free will discussed here. 

But in Mythology, there’s nature and culture and then there’s you. In other words, you have a choice to make.

The Good Father

Gepetto gives Pinocchio a mouth. This is derived from a Biblical idea. The word (logos) is used by God to bring order out of chaos. Humans can also create order out of chaos – they have a spark of divinity within them. Pinocchio can choose to be a puppet or be free. He can manifest the divine within him, or choose not to.  Pinocchio then gets a voice, and everyone is happy and celebrates with a jubilant dance.

Gepetto wants Pinocchio to have a voice. That’s an example of the good father who wants his son to manifest his own individuality- but fathers can also be tyrants. Gepetto happens to be a father who isn’t one, but a statue of an evil king frowning is next to a happy Jiminy Cricket. That statue is an indication of the tyrannical father who is upset by the fact that Pinocchio has a voice.  Before they go to sleep, we learn that Gepetto has an obsession with clocks (culture is time obsessed). The cricket (conscience) is also most attuned, sensitive to time.

On Finding Your Aim 

Carl Rogers has a concept called “genuineness”. It’s when your goals and physical and biological well being are properly aligned. The blue fairy takes the strings away from Pinocchio and tells him to follow his conscience, but Pinocchio doesn’t know what a conscience is. So the Cricket Intervenes – and communicates an unintelligible explanation of morality. He’s all puffed up with his shallow knowledge – and he looks like a moron . The lesson is that morality is too complex to explain in simple, static statements.

The Cricket (Conscience) is underdeveloped and arrogant. He thinks that he can successfully explain morality to Pinocchio in a few sentences. And that’s exactly how our conscience starts out. We are uninformed about the world, and tend to be overconfident in our simplistic ideas and beliefs. We foolishly try to distill fundamental questions about life into brief statements. And we do so confidently. It isn’t until we realize the self-contradictions implicit in our ideas that we take the question more seriously. That’s what happens to the cricket. As soon as he begins with his explanation, he runs into multiple contradictions. A bewildered and confused look appears on his face, until he’s finally humbled, and shuts up.

Gepetto celebrates after he sees Pinocchio without the strings (telling of his good nature, wants his son to be autonomous). The encouragement of your father is the precursor to your individuality. And this allows the feminine to play the role both as nature and your mother. The combination of both allows the creation of the autonomous individual who pursues their highest goal.

The Maps of Meaning Lectures 

Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of BeliefMaps of Meaning 2 Notes 2

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