So this guy came up in another thread recently.
He’s often touted as being a controversial figure.
I don’t see it that way.
Mostly, he’s not coming from a political perspective, though political pundits keep trying to put him one box or another. He claims for himself to be a classic liberal (much of which influences Pirate economic policy incidentally), he’s a strong free speech advocate (another Pirate value), describing it as the foundational right that we need protected just to be able to think clearly as a group, like we actually speak our beliefs into reality, and transparency (“Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie”).
He’s a psychologist first, but his insights into the human condition tend to address foundational political questions. I haven’t heard him suggest any actual political policies. He’s quite critical of the “radical left”, by which he means the emerging ideology of politically correct identity politics, who in turn cast him as the “darling of the alt-right”, but there’s nobody over there buying into him either, because they too are playing identity politics, and he’s against it, so he cops it from both extremes of politics, but the MSM is mostly left-leaning so you tend to see more of that. Some of media outlets have tried some quite remarkable hatchet jobs on the guy, but nothing sticks, because basically he’s an open book and that seems to protect him.
Incidentally, I have also heard him make a strong case for the left side of politics, and why it must exist. It’s like the left and right in politics need each other. Navigating our civilisation forward requires that we constantly explore diverse new possibilities (that mostly won’t work) and represent the large number of people that naturally accumulate at the bottom end of our hierarchies of cooperation (just because of the geometry of hierarchies ). This is the role of the progressive left. It’s right there in the name. The right are there to represent the legacy of everything we have already found to work. Again it’s right there in the name “conservative” - to conserve the traditions and institutions that work, even if they’re not perfect. These two groups are supposed to work together to navigate our way forward, not changing so rapidly that it all falls apart, and not clinging so tightly to tradition that we can’t adapt to change or improve our lot in life.
Thinking of politics this way, just imagine how well this doesn’t work out if we act as though these two sides are fighting some kind of ideological war?
Some of his work has drawn from Christian religious history and mythology, but he’s not actually religious in any conventional sense that most people would recognise. It’s more like a study of the value systems that were encoded into religions, and analysing from a psychological perspective why they worked, though if people really push on the question of his religion, his answer is that he advocates “living as if god exists”. His reasons for this are complex, and if you really care, you can probably find video of the many hours of him publicly debating the professional atheist philosopher Sam Harris on stage.
There’s a lot of people listening to him. His new book (12 Rules for Life) has sold over 2 million copies since January, and translated into 45 languages. He’s been touring the world, talking to sold-out concert halls in hundreds of cities, each with many thousands of people coming along to just sit quietly and listen as some old Canadian Professor talks about life, purpose and meaning.
At one level, it’s reads like simple self-help, but the core message is about how we establish meaning. It’s derived from his original academic tome “Maps of meaning”.
So, here he is addressing the Cambridge Union:
Make up your own mind.
Seriously, think for your self.