Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Artists Do

I had a commentator complaining recently that I always seem to have it in for academia. Well, I often do, yes, and I think they entirely deserve it! But, in point of fact, there are some brilliant and wonderful people in academia, some of whom I had the great priviledge to study and work with. I recall a terrific philosophy professor from my undergraduate days and a truly great violinist from my teaching days. I recently ran across someone that really exemplifies what academia should be, at its finest. This is psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson of the University of Toronto giving an impromptu talk about an artist named Tadeusz Biernot on the occasion of an exhibit of his work in Toronto. In the process he gives a brilliant explanation of who artists are and what they do and why it is so valuable. This clip begins with two and a half minutes introduction to the artist and the exhibit. The rest is the talk by Peterson.

Just about everything in the talk is interesting and unusual. Prof. Peterson recently became very notorious for criticizing new legislation in Ontario that requires that people in many walks of life must use the pronouns that individuals request. He put up a couple of videos pointing out that individual identity is NOT a subjective whim, but a negotiation between the individual and the people that surround him (or do I mean "her"?).

But Peterson is so very much more than a political gadfly. He is a genuinely brilliant scholar who is very learned in myth, philosophy, history and literature. Here is an excerpt from a lecture in which he talks about the mythology of ancient Egypt and what it might mean to us today:

He is a bit Jungian, but knows his Nietzsche as well. He just seems brilliant and very learned in all sorts of areas. Here is a TED talk he gave on, well, what? Being human?


Will Wilkin said...

It must be nice to get paid for studying the art of being human, for commenting on art and artists. I realize it is inevitable that man will become one field of man's studies, but psychology will always be to me either a pseudoscience or, at its very best, one of the humanities --not quantifiable or subject to studies of exact causation. This despite how much they have tried to turn it into first behaviorism and now pharmacology receptors. To me, Freud is still the best of them, not a scientist but rather a poet, however prosaic.

Will Wilkin said...

This is TOO MUCH coincidence! A minute ago I was reading a blog article by Mark Sisson on his "Mark's Daily Apple" and he cites...psychology professor Jordan Peterson!

Bryan I haven't clicked any videos linked by you or by Mark Sisson (there's somebody sleeping 15 feet from this computer) --and I hardly ever watch anything except live opera-- but maybe later I'll check these Peterson lectures out. With everything had a transcript, I so prefer to read.

Bryan Townsend said...

I sometimes call myself an apostate of modern psychology because I decided two or three decades ago to completely reject everything they say. It got rid of my neuroses because I no longer believed that neuroses existed! But Jordan Peterson has turned this around for me. If this is modern psychology, then I'm all for it. But I think that you could call him a philosopher as much as a psychologist except that he seems more engaged with the lives of ordinary people than most philosophers. I recently watched a 45 minute talk he gave on the first paragraph of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil and it was truly sobering. This is one brilliant man and, when you get a chance, you should watch a clip or two. Here is one clip, just two and a half minutes long, in which he explains exactly what is wrong with intellectuals in universities: