Sarah Constantin wrote a fantastic post perfectly cutting out a recent phenomenon: Psycho-Conservatism. Roughly speaking, psycho-conservatism is an approach to philosophy and politics building on knowledge about what people are like. Mainly, this means that human personalities are both flawed and varied and there’s less we can do to change that than we would hope. Today, I would like to defend psycho-conservatism, especially the brand espoused by Jordan Peterson.
The first thing I want to do is add another name to the list of wildly famous psychologists who have a centrist/conservative leaning: Fyodor Dostoevsky. I’d also argue that Scott Alexander belongs to this pantheon, but not today.
Second, this post is by duality a criticism of the Rationality movement. The areas that Jordan Peterson addresses well and that make him popular are woefully neglected by rationalists. What characterizes Peterson’s psycho-conservatism? Realism about the darkness of the human soul, and respect for religious language and metaphor.
Doing these two things right (and then some) means that Jordan Peterson has about a hundred times as many views as anything produced by the rationality community. Then, when you really listen to what he has to say, his lectures sound like CFAR workshops. Something something rationalists are those who actually win.