Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, and the author of the bestselling book 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos. WUSF's Robin Sussingham caught up with Peterson by phone from Miami during his book tour. He said the book is not necessarily a map for finding happiness. Rather, he says, he’s more interested in the pursuit of meaning.
Peterson, who has attracted more than a million subscribers on YouTube, says that happiness doesn’t bring meaning to life, but responsibility can. “And sometimes that means sacrificing happiness,” he says, “as anyone who’s ever had children knows.”
One of the chapters of his book, “Set Your House In Perfect Order Before You Criticize The World,” deals with the kind of meaninglessness and a kind of “corrupt hopelessness” that Peterson says can lead to events like the mass shootings that have plagued the U.S. in recent years. He says he wrote the book, in part, to help people who are in such an existential crisis to “figure out ways of improving their life and of moving away from a pathway of destructiveness.”
Peterson became the subject of controversy when he opposed Canadian legislation on the use of gender-neutral pronouns, arguing that the government does not have the right to compel speech. The brouhaha catapulted him to international prominence within a matter of two years; his YouTube videos, podcasts and books now have a wide audience. 12 Rules For Life has sold more than a million copies and will be translated into 40 languages.
Peterson will be speaking Sept. 15th at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.