Roundtable: Peterson's talk shows Queen's is a healthy university

Celebrities with controversial opinions are nothing new. What sets Jordan Peterson apart and makes his celebrity status unexpected, is that his controversial cultural criticism is founded on serious academic work.

For example, Peterson’s 1999 book Maps of Meaning explores the psychological processes that lead human beings to oppress one another through totalitarian regimes. Here, Peterson theorizes that there’s a monster within us all; we are all potential SS officers, or Soviet slave-drivers. We must face that potential, overcome it and strive against societal trends that bring out the oppressor within.

To Jordan Peterson, postmodern gender theory is tied to Marxist ideology. On his views towards Bill C-16, which added “gender expression” as a prohibited ground of discrimination to the Canadian Human Rights Act, I believe Peterson is less concerned by gender-neutral pronouns themselves than by what he sees as the dangerous development of postmodern ideology.

This coming Monday, Peterson will be on stage with Queen’s Law Professor Bruce Pardy. In his own views, Pardy believes that because the Law Society of Ontario demands its licensees prepare a statement endorsing equality, diversity and inclusion, they’re compelled to make ideological commitments. Though he lacks professional expertise in law, Peterson has plenty to say about ideologies enforced by the arms of the state.

I share some of Peterson’s concerns, but I don’t think Queen’s has succumbed completely to postmodern ideology. Sadly, some of his opponents have been doing their best to prove this thesis. Students and faculty have decried Queen’s for giving him a platform. Protestors have threatened to prevent him from speaking by any means (see McMaster and Toronto). In response to this backlash, Principal Daniel Woolf and Law Dean Bill Flanagan have responded with commitments to academic freedom.

Students concerned about this event should consider Woolf’s statement. Why shouldn’t we forbid the expression of ideas we disagree with? As Woolf put it, “A university cannot sustain its ancient mission of inquiry into the true, the good, and the beautiful under such circumstances, nor can it exercise its responsibility to pursue knowledge free of constraint.”

Jordan Peterson doesn’t avow hatred. However misguided some consider him, he’s a serious psychologist with ideas about how truth, goodness and beauty, as well as falsehood, evil and ugliness, are manifested in the human psyche. Consider his ideas; engage them in debate; ignore them, if you wish. But don’t seek to censor Peterson’s search for truth.

Rafe is a third-year law student.

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