Excerpt from Jordan Peterson’s talk at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, March 5, 2018


(starting at 49:38)

Questioner: . . . I think most people here believe that it’s extremely important in everything that we’re doing to speak our mind, to speak freely. That’s why we’re here. But, in terms of practicality, there’s a lot of things that get in the way of our lives as students. You know, we have our GPA to look out for, job prospects, so in terms of practicality, what are, kind of, maybe, your tips and your perspective on the steps that students can take to, kind of, speak their mind while not sacrificing, kind of, you know, their future prospects.

Jordan Peterson: Well, I can tell you a couple of things that are very practical. Don’t write in your essays what you think the professor wants to hear. There’s absolutely no excuse whatsoever for doing that. Now first of all, most professors — even those who have descended into a state of ideological possession, let’s say — most of them still have enough character to grade an essay that’s well-written properly. So you’re actually taking less of a risk than you would think by stating what you have to state.

But look: If you start practicing when you’re in university, when the stakes are rather low, pandering to the audience, let’s say, and saying what you think will get you by, you’re going to train yourself to do that, and what that means is you’re going to train yourself in the falsification of your character. And your character is the only thing you have to guide you through life. You know, people dream of riches and they dream of luxury and all of that. But that’s a thin defense against the harsh realities of the world.

You have your character, and so what you do when you go to university is you learn to say what you think as clearly as you can, and to take the slings and arrows that come along with that. Not in an arrogant manner, right. . . You’ve got plenty to learn, but you want to formulate your thoughts carefully. You want to write what you think. Well, why? Because when you’re writing, you’re thinking. You’re laying out the arguments that you’re going to use to structure your existence in the world throughout your entire life.

And if you start to twist and bend those for expedient reasons, you’re going to warp your soul. And I mean, I can talk about that neurophysiologically if you want to, you know, you become what you practice. You automate what you practice. So if you automate expedient speech for the sake of short-term gain, then that’s what you’re going to produce. You’re going to produce expedient speech for short-term gain. Well, God help you if you do that.

Like, there’s nothing that you will possibly do in your entire life that will serve you better than to get control of your voice in university. . . . You do that by reading. You read great people. You do that by writing what you think, you stay true to yourself while you write what you think, and you take the risks and you gain the benefits that go along with that. You learn to stand up and speak, and to listen carefully. And that makes you a negotiator of unparalleled power. And if you’re a negotiator of unparalleled power, there’s nothing in the world that won’t open itself up to you. So that’s what you’re doing in university.

And if you find professors who reject that — and there’s fewer of them than you might think — then it’s your sacred obligation to stand up for yourself against that. Because it’s going to happen to you throughout your whole life and you might as well start practicing how to do it right now. So, that’s how it looks to me.

(starting at 1:26:30)

Jordan Peterson: Well, it — you know, one of the things I’ve learned strategically, and this is really worth thinking about too, is that when you’re engaged in a public dispute like this, it’s not obvious when things are going your way. You know, you think, well, this protest is not such a good thing. It’s like, I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

You know, what’s happened to me in the last eighteen months is that virtually every time that I’ve been attacked, and some of the attacks have been quite — well, I wouldn’t say brutal, because we haven’t got to that, thank God — but they’ve certainly been — they’ve taken me aback. You know, it’s a not a straightforward thing to be in a hall with — this happened at McMaster [University in Hamilton, Ontario] — with a hundred people yelling at you and blaring air horns and all of that. But that wasn’t a bad thing, as it turned out. Because it was filmed, and it was put on YouTube, and it was terrible for the people who protested. You know, it wasn’t good.

And so you’ve got to detach yourself too. You know, if you say what you think and you’re careful about it, it’s going to have some short-term effects, and it’s going to have some medium-term effects, and it’s going to have some long-term effects. And one of the things that you need to do, I would say, and this is an element of courage, is you have to have faith that the medium-to-long-term consequences of you saying what you have to say as clearly as possible is going to be positive, and you have to act on that supposition. You don’t know, right? You can’t know. That’s the existential leap of faith. You can’t know, but you act anyway.

And my experience has been that you don’t want to make judgment too quickly because it’s not always clear when things are going your way. So, and you know, you might stand up in a class and say something that people react negatively to, and you might get pilloried for that by some people but you never know who you’re touching in the crowd, and you don’t know how that’s going to unfold across time. That might be a defining moment in someone else’s life to watch you stand up and say what you have to say. So don’t underestimate the power of truth and courage. Really.

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Preview YouTube video The Queen’s University Talk: The Rising Tide of Compelled Speech

The Queen’s University Talk: The Rising Tide of Compelled Speech