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The Best Quotes from Jordan Peterson’s '12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos'

Jordan Peterson’s much-discussed book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is an interesting read. Peterson weaves together talk about society, men’s rights, Christianity, and life advice in a unique circuitous writing style. Peterson seldom goes straight from point A to point B in his writing. He’ll wander off in seemingly odd directions, but more often than not he’ll veer back on the path to a profound revelation or at least a helpful bit of advice. The book contains a number of outstanding quotes. Here are the best of them.

1. “Even more problematic is the insistence logically stemming from this presumption of social corruption that all individual problems, no matter how rare, must be solved by cultural restructuring, no matter how radical. Our society faces the increasing call to deconstruct its stabilizing traditions to include smaller and smaller numbers of people who do not or will not fit into the categories upon which even our perceptions are based. This is not a good thing. Each person’s private trouble cannot be solved by a social revolution, because revolutions are destabilizing and dangerous.”

2. “And even if it were possible to permanently banish everything threatening—everything dangerous (and, therefore, everything challenging and interesting), that would mean only that another danger would emerge: that of permanent human infantilism and absolute uselessness. How could the nature of man ever reach its full potential without challenge and danger? How dull and contemptible would we become if there was no longer reason to pay attention? Maybe God thought His new creation would be able to handle the serpent, and considered its presence the lesser of two evils.”

3. “I have had many clients whose anxiety was reduced to subclinical levels merely because they started to sleep on a predictable schedule and eat breakfast.”

4. “Consider this, as well, in regard to oppression: any hierarchy creates winners and losers. The winners are, of course, more likely to justify the hierarchy and the losers to criticize it.”

5. “Chaos, the eternal feminine, is also the crushing force of sexual selection. Women are choosy maters (unlike female chimps, their closest animal counterparts). Most men do not meet female human standards. It is for this reason that women on dating sites rate 85 percent of men as below average in attractiveness.”

6. “Success: that’s the mystery. Virtue: that’s what’s inexplicable. To fail, you merely have to cultivate a few bad habits. You just have to bide your time. And once someone has spent enough time cultivating bad habits and biding their time, they are much diminished.”

7. “You might object: I should be winning at everything! But winning at everything might only mean that you’re not doing anything new or difficult. You might be winning but you’re not growing, and growing might be the most important form of winning.”

8. “There’s some real utility in gratitude. It’s also good protection against the dangers of victimhood and resentment. Your colleague outperforms you at work. His wife, however, is having an affair, while your marriage is stable and happy. Who has it better? The celebrity you admire is a chronic drunk driver and bigot. Is his life truly preferable to yours?”

9. “Imagine a toddler repeatedly striking his mother in the face. Why would he do such a thing? It’s a stupid question. It’s unacceptably naive. The answer is obvious. To dominate his mother. To see if he can get away with it. Violence, after all, is no mystery. It’s peace that’s the mystery. Violence is the default. It’s easy. It’s peace that is difficult: learned, inculcated, earned.”

10. “The only time no ever means no in the absence of violence is when it is uttered by one civilized person to another.”