We are conscious enough to destabilize our beliefs, and our traditional patterns of action, but not conscious enough to understand them. If the reasons for the existence of our traditions were rendered more explicit, however, perhaps we could develop greater intrapsychic and social integrity.
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson
Maps of Meaning (1999), p. 234.
After the amazing feedback I received for Land of Meaning (an illustrated map based on Dr. Jordan B. Peterson’s lectures) I decided to go in a little deeper and use the same visual metaphors to represent the content of JBP’s first book, Maps of Meaning.
As the quote at the top suggests, the purpose of this website is to make it easier for people to understand our motivations for acting the way we do, hoping it will allow us to become more balanced. This is not intended to be a replacement for the book Maps of Meaning. JBP carefully goes through the evidence from psychology, literature and neuroscience that backs up his statements in the book, and you won’t find that aspect of the book in here. That is why I included the page number for each of the quotes and I encourage you to read the reasoning behind them, so you can build your own informed opinion.
If you had to take with you only one thing from this website, I recommend you choose section 5.2.1 The Adversary in Action: Voluntary Degradation of the Map of Meaning. That section describes the pathology behind the ideological possession that divides the world into extreme right and extreme left. If we could recognize and avoid those behaviors within ourselves, I’m convinced the world would be a better place. The rest of the site, however, provides the background to fully understand that section.
I hope you enjoy the content, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments or suggestions.
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If you prefer the original book quotes, here are some points to help you interpret the diagrams:
The world can be validly construed as aas well as a We describe the world as a using the formal methods of science. The techniques of narrative, however – myth, literature, and drama – portray the world as a The two forms of representation have been unnecessarily set at odds, because we have not yet formed a clear picture of their respective domains. The domain of is the “objective world” – what is, from the perspective of intersubjective perception. The domain of is “the world of value” – what is and what should be, from the perspective of emotion and action.
The world as place of things.is “composed,” essentially, of three constituent elements, which tend to manifest themselves in typical patterns of metaphoric representation. First is nature, and source and final resting place of all determinate things. Second is culture, and cumulative ancestral wisdom. Third is that mediates between unexplored and explored territory – the Divine Son, the archetypal individual, and We are adapted to this world of divine characters, much as to the objective world. The fact of this adaptation implies that the environment is in “reality” a as well as a
No complete world-picture can be generated, without use of both modes of construal. The fact that one mode is generally set at odds with the other means only that the nature of their respective domains remains insufficiently discriminated. Adherents of thetend to regard the statements of their creeds as indistinguishable from empirical “fact,” even though such statements were generally formulated long before the notion of objective reality emerged. Those who, by contrast, accept the – who assume that it is, or might become, complete – forget that an impassable gulf currently divides what is from what should be.
We need to know four things:
• that there is between knowing what there is, and knowing what to do about what there is
• and what is.
We may construct models of “objective reality,” and it is no doubt useful to do so. We must however, in order to survive. Our most fundamental maps of experience – maps which have a narrative structure – portray the motivational value of our conceived of in contrast to a accompanied by which are our pragmatic notions about how to get what we want.
Description of these three elements – and – constitute the necessary and sufficient preconditions for the weaving of the most simple narrative, which is a means for describing the valence of a given environment, in reference to a temporally and spatially bounded set of action patterns.
Getting to point “b” presupposes that you are at point “a” – you can’t plan movement in the absence of an initial position. The fact that point “b” constitutes the end-goal means that it is valenced more highly than point “a” – that it is a placewhen considered against the necessary contrast of the It is the perceived improvement of point “b” that makes the whole map meaningful – that is, affect-laden; it is the capacity to construct hypothetical or abstract end points, such as “b” – and to contrast them against “the present” – that makes human beings capable of using their cognitive systems to modulate their affective reactions. The “domain” mapped by a (one that, when enacted, produces the results desired) might reasonably be regarded as as events that occur “there” are predictable.
Any place where enacted plans producethreatening or punishing consequences by contrast, might be regarded as What happens “there” does not conform to our wishes. This means that a familiar place, where unpredictable things start happening, is no longer familiar (even though it might be the same place with regards to its strict spatial location, from the “objective” perspective).
We know how to act in some places, and not in others. The plans we put into action sometimes work, and sometimes do not work. The experiential domains we inhabit – our “environment,” so to speak – are therefore permanently characterized by the fact of the predictable and controllable, in paradoxical juxtaposition with the unpredictable and uncontrollable. The universe is composed of “order” and “chaos” – at least from the metaphorical perspective. Oddly enough, however, it is to this “metaphorical” universe that our nervous system appears to have adapted.
The process of creative exploration – the function of the knower, so to speak, who generates explored territory – has as its apparent purpose increase in the breadth of(skill) and alteration of representational schema. Each of these two purposes appears served by the construction of a specific form of knowledge, and its subsequent storage in permanent memory. The first form has been described as knowing how. The motor unit, charged with when (when they produce undesired results), produces alternate action patterns, experimentally applied, to bring about the desired result. of the undertaken if the behavior is successful, might be considered development of new skill. Knowing how is skill.
The second type of knowing, which is representational (which is an image or model of something, rather than the thing itself) has been described as knowing that – I prefer knowing what.of a novel circumstance, event, or thing, produces during active or abstracted interaction of the exploring subject and the object in question. This new sensory input constitutes grounds for the and of a permanent but modifiable four-dimensional (spatial and temporal) representational model of the experiential field, in its present and
(Nothing in this section yet)
(Nothing in this section yet)
Following in the footsteps of others seems safe, and requires no thought – but it is useless to follow awhen the terrain itself has The individual who fails to modify his habits and presumptions as a consequence of change is deluding himself – is the world – is trying to replace itself with his own By pretending things are other than they are, he undermines his own stability, destabilizes his future – transforms the past from shelter to prison.
The lie is willful adherence to a previously functional schema of action and interpretation – a moral paradigm – in spite ofwhich cannot be comprehended in terms of that schema; in spite of which cannot find fulfillment within that previous framework. The lie is of information apprehended as anomalous on terms defined and valued by the individual doing the rejection. That is to say: the liar chooses his own game, sets his and then This cheating is failure to grow, to mature; is rejection of the process of consciousness itself.
The lie is therefore not so much a sin of commission, in most cases, as a sin of omission (although it may take the former condition as well). The lie is a matter of voluntaryand to update.
The lie is easy, and rewarding, as it allows for the the lie as a mode of adaptation inexorably manifest themselves.– at least in the short term. In the long run, however, the lie has terrible consequences. The of which is the abstract equivalent of running away, transforms it perforce into (is the categorical equivalent of labelling as threat). The domain of unprocessed novelty, defined prima facie by inaction and avoidance as “threat too intolerable to face,” with time, when the past is held as absolute. More and more experience is therefore rendered intolerable, inexplicable, and chaotic, as the cumulative effects of using
The lie transforms culture into tyranny, change into danger, while sickening and restricting the development and flexibility of adaptive ability itself. Reliance on the lie ensures – as fears grows – heightened, pathologized identification with the past (manifested as fascism, as personal and political intolerance), or decadent degeneration (manifested as nihilism, as personal and social deterioration).
The heroic attitude is predicated on the belief thatstill exists, to be encountered and assimilated, regardless of the power and stability of the This belief is further based upon in human potential – upon faith that the individual spirit will respond to challenge, and flourish. Such belief must be posited – voluntarily, freely – prior to participation in any heroic endeavor. This is the necessary leap that makes courageous and possible; that makes religion something real. Humility means, therefore: I am not yet what I could be – an adage both cautious and hopeful.
The personality of the adversary comes in two forms, so to speak – although these two forms are inseparably linked.sacrifices his soul, which would enable him to confront change on his own, to which promises to protect him from everything by contrast, refuses to join the and clings rigidly to his own ideas – merely because he is too undisciplined to serve as an apprentice.
The fascist and the decadent regard each other as opposites, as mortal enemies. They are in actuality two sides of a bent coin.
The adversarial position, deceit, is predicated on the belief that theis all necessary knowledge – is predicated on the belief that the unknown has finally been conquered. This belief is equivalent to denial of vulnerability, equivalent to the adoption of omniscience – “what I do is all there is to do, what I know is all there is to know.” Inextricably associated with the adoption of such a stance is denial, implicit or explicit, of the existence, the possibility, and the necessity of – as has as all problems have been solved by the who predeceased us, as paradise has already been spread before us.
The fascist adapts to the group with a vengeance. He builds stronger and stronger heroic aspect of the individual, he does not see the of the social world, and he cannot visualize the of chaos. He is frightened enough to develop the discipline of a slave, so that he can maintain his protected position in the group, but he is not frightened enough to transcend his slavish condition. He therefore remains twisted and bent.around himself, and those who are “like him,” in an ever-more futile attempt to keep the ever-more-threatening at bay. He does this because his world-view is incomplete. He does not believe in the
The decadent, by contrast, sees nothing but theSince the of the individual remains conveniently hidden from his view, he cannot perceive that his is nothing but avoidance of He views chaos as a seeing the source of human evil in because he cannot imagine the Terrible Mother, as soul-devouring force. So he abandons his father in the belly of the beast, unredeemed – and has to rely on when he finally faces a true challenge.
The decadent looks to subvert the process of maturation – looks for a “way out” of “the journeyto the land ofliving water.” The decadent makes his intellectual superiority to the “superstitious of the past” an instead, and shirks his responsibility. [That is to say – it is the desire to shirk that responsibility (and the “heroic sacrifice” it entails), that constitutes motivation for belief in “intellectual superiority.”] The “suffering rebel” stance that such adoption allows, as a secondary consequence, also serves admirably as mask for cowardice.Group membership requires adoption of at-least-adolescent responsibility – at least of the responsibilities associated with – and this may seem too much to bear, as a consequence of prolonged immaturity of outlook. The decadent therefore acts “as if” – as a consequence of environmental, cultural or intellectual change – and refuses to be the fool who risks belief. The “proper” response to “the illness of the father,” is, of course,
The decadent believes that freedom can be attained without that some things are real, because acceptance of that would force him to believe and to act (would force him as well towards painful realization of the counterproductive and wasteful stupidity of his ).because he is ignorant of the of “the undifferentiated ground of reality,” and is unwilling to bear the burden of order. When he starts to – as he certainly will – he will not allow the reality of his suffering to prove to him
But he is living on borrowed time – feeding,on the If he works sufficiently hard, and saws off the branch on which he is sitting, then he will fall, too, into the jaws of