Five Mistakes Jordan Peterson Made in 12 Rules for Life 

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  • Post last modified:November 1, 2022

#4 Mistaking Unfreedom for Discipline

“A long period of unfreedom is necessary for the development of a free mind.”

Here’s how I interpret it. 

One of the best ways to understand freedom is that it’s the opposite of slavery — understand: complete dependence. 

A free man can be a slave to his desire. In this case, he is not free. 

Jordan Peterson believes that unfreedom can help you develop a free mind. What that means is that it’s by not being able to get something you want that you’ll learn to control your desire for it. 

The idea it calls on is that the one who’s free isn’t the one who satisfies his desires. It’s the one who can control them.

I totally agree with this. But unfreedom won’t get you there. 

Long periods of unfreedom are more likely to drive you crazy and make you abuse freedom when you reach it than they are to help you free your mind. 

It’s not unfreedom that you need. It’s discipline.

What’s the difference?

Essentially, choice and responsibility. Discipline is a choice that depends solely on your responsibility. If you respect it, you alone harvest the fruits of your discipline. Eg: working out. 

If you don’t, you alone pay the price. Eg: you’re fat. 

This is raw experience with maximum skin in the game. And experience (reality) is the best teacher there is. 

Unfreedom, on the other hand, depends on someone else. When you’re unfree, it’s because someone (your parents) or something else (the government) prevents you from being free. There is a third party compelling to do or not do. 

When someone holds the key to your freedom in their hand, you can blame them. 

“My parents don’t want to”, “my government is a dictatorship”. Whether these excuses are valid or not isn’t the point. The point is that excuses don’t help you solve your problem — they hinder its solving.

I’ll give you another example. 

Why is weed allowed in the Netherlands? Because the Dutch, these smart bastards, know that people are less likely to consume something like weed when it’s freely available than when it isn’t. 

Translation: you’re less likely to consume weed if this is your conscious decision not to. 

With free weed everywhere, kids are directly exposed to it and make their own decision consciously. Whatever they do, they do it willingly. They’re given a chance to use discipline instead of being shielded from the possibility altogether. 

As a result, the Dutch smoke less weed than the countries where people are “unfree” to smoke it.

Discipline is what helps you develop a free mind. 

Your parents won’t be always there to prevent you from doing something you can’t. 

Remember, we were born in a free environment. We come from an African jungle with no rules, no laws, no taxes, no police, no government, no borders, no immigration laws, no lawyers, no judges, and no debt. 

We were born free to enjoy our freedom. Peterson doesn’t see this as good. He sees this as inherently chaotic, so you need religion to put some order in this chaos. 

But he is wrong. Chaos (understand: the need for laws) arose in far higher need when society from nomadism to sedentarism. This explains why the main religions didn’t precede the agricultural revolution but followed it. 

Sedentarism considerably complexified society. It created new questions that demanded new answers, and religion evolved with it. 

I digress. 

A prison won’t train you to get a free mind. 

Only discipline will. 

#5 “The Bible Is the Foundational Document of Western Civilization”


See? It’s not because you’re a worldwide Ph.D. in psychology that you don’t make any mistakes. 

Here’s a crash course in Ancient European history to help you understand better. 

Let’s first speak about the Bible. The Bible is made out of two parts: the Old Testament, which is the Torah, written by the Jews, and the New Testament, which is the Jesus era, written by the Apostles (allegedly, but not historically).

The Bible isn’t Western. It’s originally Jewish. Jews aren’t Westerners. They’re Middle-Eastern people. 

Abraham was from Ur, a city in Mesopotamia, in the southeast of Iraq. 

Source: Google Maps

Canaan, the Promised Land, was modern Israel, Palestine, and south of Jordan. 

Source: Wikipedia

If Yahweh really exist(ed), he didn’t care about Europeans. 

For God (the Christian one) though, it was another story. 

Christianity was started by a prophet named Jesus…a Jew!

Christianity is some sort of reformed Judaism, with Jesus as a half-holy being, the existence of the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), the Church as a mediator between people and God, and other minor differences. 

In Christianity, the Holy Spirit manifested during Pentecost and told Jesus’ followers to go into the world and tell his story, which is how Christianity came to Europe. 

The purpose of Christianity was to spread, it was a religion of conquest. Judaism wasn’t. It was attached to a people. 

The main idea Christianity shares with Judaism is monotheism. 

But ouch, monotheism itself isn’t a Jewish idea! 

It’s Persian. It comes from a prophet called Zoroaster, which may have lived two millennia before Christ. 

Historians are divided regarding the dates of Zoroaster so it’s unclear whether Zoroastrianism did influence Abraham or not.

But when we look at the structure of Zoroastrianism (which started as duotheist and ended as a monotheist faith), it fits perfectly in the evolution of religion, from paganism with multiple gods to a monotheist faith (observe the original decentralized structure of religion moving towards centralization as time goes by…). 

As far as I am concerned, the Jews did not invent monotheism. The Persians did. 

To simplify: Abraham heard about Zoroaster and added his own touch by making it fully monotheist. Compared to the Paganism of the time, it was a revolution. 

So, what were the Europeans doing during that time? 

They were building Athens, Plovdiv, Rome, and Lisbon. They were writing their own philosophy in Greece (with Thales (626 BC), the first philosopher, then Socrates, the most important one) and making their own laws in Rome. 

They were building the cultural structure of Europe, and later, of what was supposed to be the Western world. 

The structure was based on two principles. 

  1. Questioning (Socrates)
  2. The Rule of Law (Rome, as phrased by Cicero)

These two principles as foundations are enough for the flourishing of a respectable society. 

Questioning leads to the rejection of religious (or any) dogmas. It’s an invitation to a quest for knowledge. 

This quest for knowledge, for “better”, leads to innovation (or at least improvement), which leads to the idea known as “science”: the existence of a body of knowledge acquired after trial and error.

The Rule of Law forces trust by getting people’s skin into the game and guarantees punishment in case the trust is broken (societies with a low or an absence of trust cannot flourish). 

It is veritably these two principles that made the Western World what it is today. 

None of this was brought by the Bible as it far preceded it. 

The Jews arrived in Greece in -300, far after the Rule of Law had been established in Rome (-753) and far after Socrates’ death (-399). 

I am not negating the impact that the Bible (Catholicism would be more accurate) had on Europe once it reached its shore. 

It would be like pretending that the churches and cathedrals, the art, the crusades, the wars, and the flock of Catholic thinkers and philosophers didn’t happen. 

They did, and they’re part of our DNA.

But they’re not the foundation, and thank God for that. 

This explains why and how Europeans introduced a separation of the spiritual power (handled by the church) and the temporal power (handled by the state), also called separation of the state and the church. 

It is this uniquely European characteristic that enabled the flourishing of our civilization(s) and made it what it is today. 

It’s also interesting to observe that outside of geographic Europe, this principle has seldom been applied as it should have (the US president swears on the Bible…).


Jordan Peterson never opened an ancient history book. 

Too obsessed with communism and fascism in the 20th century, he focused on only a very small part of history to look for answers. 

He’s read a lot, but strangely only quotes a handful of authors: Jung, Freud, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and Solzhenitsyn. 

That doesn’t mean that his teachings should be rejected. 

The main thing Jordan Peterson taught me was to take religion as a metaphor, not literally. 

I grew up with a catholic education but never embraced it because they were lies: no one can turn wine into water. 

If you look at it from Jordan’s perspective, then religion makes a little more sense and can reveal itself as an interesting moral compass. 

That doesn’t mean that religion precedes everything else. Peterson is persuaded that the principles we should follow to lead a good life come from religion, and that nothing precedes it. 

He’s wrong. 

Someone in a previous article I have written about Peterson commented the following.

JP seems to believe in hierarchy, which is from nature, but does not believe in nature, which is in all of us, and inseparable.

Dead on! 

These religious principles (such as fairness and love) are natural (they come from Nature). They were embedded into religion by early humans for an easier transmission — not the other way around! 

In regard to what we know about evolution, that wouldn’t be possible. 

The Universe precedes life. Life precedes natural principles, natural principles precede consciousness, and consciousness precedes religion.

Religion is a human invention. Peterson is right when he says its primary function is to help us put some order into chaos. 

But it’s not the only way to do it because it’s not the only tool at our disposal. 

God would have never existed had we not been there to invent Him. 

Remember what Yuval Noah Harari (and Nassim Taleb) have said: it’s not so much religion that helps us make sense of this world. 

It’s stories. 

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