Jordan Peterson - Do not write things that you don't agree with.

MediocrePublished: January 18, 2018
Published: January 18, 2018

One of the most ancient ideas that human beings have had is that, in some manner, our spirits speak being into existence. It's like the hallmark of consciousness; it's one of the reasons individuals are valuable. It's a very deep idea, and a very necessary idea, and I believe one that's fundamentally true. But it carries with it certain 'mortal perils', you might say. If you falsify your speech in the service of a proximal goal, you corrupt your soul. Or I could say more technically that you damage your psyche - those are very similar ideas. The evidence for that is crystal clear. Because what happens to people who say things they don't believe is that they come to believe the things they say.

We talked a little earlier about the fact that a lot of 'you' is unarticulated. So there are things you know, but you don't know that you know them, and you don't know how to talk about them. So then what you do is you decide that to reach a proximal goal - like getting a good grade - well, you have to say what the professor wants, so you write out an essay. There's no soul in it, and you feel sick while you're writing it, and you're not interested in it, and you feel small - which are all hints from your being that you shouldn't be doing that, but you do it anyway. And then at the end, you've got two choices: You're either a liar and a coward, or you believe what you wrote. And there's plenty of psychological evidence for this: what people do is decide that they believe what they wrote because it's less painful than noting that you're a liar and a coward.

And not only that, you've articulated a counter-argument! And so your original conviction remains unarticulated, and the counter-argument is articulated, so you've built yourself your own enemy, and you will pay for that. You pay for that with a diminishment of your character. And your character is what sustains you through life. In a fundamental sense, you don't have anything else, because that's the thing that enables you to master the continual onslaught of chaos and uncertainty that you'll be faced with for your entire life. You do not pollute your character! You pay for it, and so does everyone else! And if it goes far enough, then everyone else pays horribly for it! That's the lesson of the twentieth century.

So don't do that. And if you do that in university, it's like a mortal sin. It runs absolutely contrary to the spirit of the institution. It's the absolute polar opposite to why you're there. Do not do it!

And it's also a kind of second-rate cynicism. Because even though there is a fair bit of rot in the academic institutions, most of the time if you write an articulate essay that the professor doesn't agree with, you will not be punished with a failing grade. It's very rare that that actually happens. Now, there is the odd professor who's so damned corrupt that that's going to be the case, but I've talked to lots of students and counselled them to write down what they think, and their grade generally surprises them quite spectacularly. Because they're invested in the damned essay, and they do the work. They put a little passion into it, and they're not bored by it, or made sick by what they're producing. And then they end up with a grade that's far better than they think.

Often it "Well, I'm going to take the easy route out, but I'm going to justify it by relating it to my career progress." Really, guys? That's pretty pathetic! Seriously, it's pathetic, and I don't mean to be morally judgemental, I mean that it's pathetic in that what it will do is make you weak and craven. And probably you don't want that. Why would you want that when you could be strong and forthright instead? That's a way better choice.

So don't say things that you don't believe, and especially don't write things that you don't agree with. It's a bad idea! It's a terrible idea, so don't do that! Ever!

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