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The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast

376. Truth and Adventure as an Antidote to Suffering | Douglas Murray

Thu Jul 20 2023


The episode explores the question of purpose, the importance of gratitude, the role of faith in finding meaning, the relationship between philosophy and tragedy, the dangers of self-deception and the importance of taking responsibility, the psychology of identity and confronting fear, the transformative power of facing terrifying things, the admiration for courage and speaking up, the significance of living in truth and humor, the advantages of comedians over social justice activists, the power of poetry and encountering beauty, and the terror and gratitude associated with beauty.


The Importance of Gratitude

Gratitude is crucial in avoiding misery and finding deeper purpose. It needs to be practiced and acquired through effort.

Faith as a Source of Meaning

Faith is a decision to act, encourage, and trust. It doesn't rely on evidence and can lead to deep pleasures and meanings.

Confronting Tragedy and Malevolence

Philosophy plays games of deliberate distraction to avoid asking difficult questions about human participation in terrible acts. Understanding tragedy requires journeying to the heart of darkness.

The Power of Facing Fear

Voluntarily confronting danger and facing fears can lead to fundamental changes within oneself, revealing inner strength and overcoming weaknesses.

Admiration and Speaking Up

Admiration is a manifestation of awe and the religious instinct. Courage provokes admiration naturally, even among bad guys. Surrounding oneself with courageous people can inspire courage in oneself.

Living in Truth and Humor

Acting in accordance with truth allows for an adventure and engagement with life. Engaging in falsehood means not being true to oneself. Comedians who dare to tell the truth can reveal truths that others recognize but may be afraid to admit.

The Transformative Power of Poetry

Poetry can guide one's life, provide insights into living an ideal life, and inspire change. Beauty is not just aesthetically pleasing, it has meaning.

Terrified of Beauty and Gratitude

People are often terrified of beauty because it judges their lives. Gratitude is the proper attitude towards beauty.


  1. The Question of Purpose
  2. Gratitude and Purpose
  3. Faith and Meaning
  4. Philosophy and Tragedy
  5. Self-Deception and Responsibility
  6. Psychology and Identity
  7. Confronting Fear and Finding Meaning
  8. Facing Terrifying Things
  9. Admiration and Speaking Up
  10. Living in Truth and Humor
  11. Comedians and Social Justice
  12. Poetry and Beauty
  13. Translating Poetry and Encountering Beauty
  14. Terrified of Beauty and Gratitude

The Question of Purpose

00:03 - 08:04

  • The question of purpose is underneath almost all questions in our day.
  • Many people find misguided purpose in things that don't bring satisfaction but drive them to act malevolently.
  • The meaning crisis is something that many people we have problems with are addressing, albeit ineptly and malevolently.
  • Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget identified a messianic stage where individuals seek a sense of universal purpose.
  • There are shallow purposes and deep purposes, as well as shallow enjoyments and deep enjoyments.
  • The issue of deeper purpose is dangerously unaddressed in our day.
  • The left often offers cosmic social justice and saving the planet as sources of meaning, driven by envy and resentment.
  • Resentment can't be dismissed on a technicality; the alternative is gratitude.
  • Gratitude is something that needs to be practiced and acquired through effort.
  • We should have a developed sense of gratitude for the fortunate circumstances we live in.

Gratitude and Purpose

07:48 - 22:08

  • Gratitude becomes easier to feel if you know what the alternatives are.
  • Meeting second or third cousins in their country of origin can change one's view of their own country.
  • Ignorance and willful blindness contribute to ingratitude.
  • The book of Job explores purpose and the internalization of deity.
  • Job maintains faith despite suffering, refusing to curse God.
  • Job maintains faith in the goodness of being despite his suffering.
  • The story of Job is an injunction to never lose faith in the essential goodness of being.
  • Gratitude is important in avoiding misery.
  • The speaker is suspicious of legalized euthanasia.
  • There is something fundamental about human beings not wanting to give up life prematurely.
  • Endurance of birth and death is part of the cycle, but suicide breaks that pact at a fundamental level.
  • The power to euthanize people should not be in the hands of the state or doctors.
  • Bitterness and resentment make tragedy even worse.
  • Material wealth does not determine one's attitude; gratitude can be found in those with little material possessions.

Faith and Meaning

14:49 - 29:22

  • Faith is a decision to act, encourage, and trust.
  • It is a practice that doesn't rely on evidence.
  • People with everything can still be bitter and resentful, while those with nothing may not be.
  • Facts don't speak for themselves in a deterministic manner.
  • There needs to be a leap of faith towards deep pleasures and meanings.
  • Religious axioms are the deepest fundaments by definition.
  • Profound things shift large sections of perceptual and conceptual structure simultaneously.
  • Music speaks to us in a register we understand but can't quite reach.
  • Meaning is not solely derived from semantics and descriptions.

Philosophy and Tragedy

29:00 - 43:20

  • After World War II, philosophy departments focused on language games and trivial topics to avoid addressing the atrocities of the war.
  • Philosophy lost its importance as a means of moral guidance and understanding.
  • The belief that civilization was the problem arose as an explanation for the worst actions committed by civilized societies.
  • Philosophy plays games of deliberate distraction to avoid asking difficult questions.
  • The speaker has spent their life trying to understand how normal people could participate in terrible acts like those in Nazi Germany.
  • The crucifixion story is seen as an archetypal tragedy where the most unjust thing happens to the most adventurous person.
  • Facing the ultimate tragedy of existence is not enough; one must also confront hellish malevolence.
  • Philosophy degenerated into triviality because it was easier to avoid these burdensome problems.
  • Understanding Nazism requires journeying to the heart of darkness, but even then, one may learn nothing new.
  • Lessons from the Holocaust often devolve into banalities like being nice to people, without truly grappling with its complexities.
  • Martin Amos' novel Time's Arrow presents a reversed timeline where sickness is cured and abuse becomes soothing, allowing for a fresh perspective on difficult subjects like the Holocaust.

Self-Deception and Responsibility

42:52 - 50:08

  • Living a life with exceptional care allows for wise decision-making in complex situations.
  • Deceiving oneself can lead to fuzzy-mindedness and regrettable decisions.
  • Arguments involving personal regrets are often unsolvable.
  • Some individuals care deeply about certain issues because they have done something regrettable related to that issue.
  • People often deceive themselves unless someone challenges their self-perception.
  • Few adults are willing to hold others accountable for their actions and choices.
  • Challenging individuals to take responsibility for their own happiness can provide them with an avenue for improvement.
  • Rejecting the idea of being a victim of circumstance is necessary to avoid perpetuating a competitive grievance culture.

Psychology and Identity

49:45 - 57:31

  • Psychologists should teach people how to negotiate their identity effectively.
  • Exposing people voluntarily to things that frighten them is beneficial and helps prevent psychopathology.
  • Visiting dangerous countries can foster gratitude for one's own society and provide valuable learning experiences.
  • Violent deaths were higher in tribal societies than in the 20th century European male average.
  • Exposure therapy transforms people's conceptualizations of themselves from passive victims to active contenders with challenges.

Confronting Fear and Finding Meaning

57:01 - 1:04:11

  • Exposing oneself to optimized challenges leads to learning and meaning.
  • Meaning puts you on the edge of transformation and chaos.
  • The heroic path involves rescuing forefathers from the belly of the beast.
  • Exposure to optimize challenge activates new genes and turns on dormant parts of oneself.
  • Voluntarily confronting danger changes a person in a fundamental way.
  • Cheating death is an enlivening feeling, but there is more to it than that.
  • Facing one's fear of death leads to a fundamental change within oneself.
  • Confronting fears can help overcome weaknesses and reveal inner strength.

Facing Terrifying Things

1:03:43 - 1:11:25

  • A woman faced her neurotic concerns and overcame her fear by looking at something that terrified her
  • Looking away from what terrifies us is a natural instinct, but training ourselves to face it can lead to stillness
  • In a novel, a character observes that at the top of a fairground ride, in the center, there is stillness amidst all the chaos
  • The host discusses his observation that some people remain silent when they should speak up, but others like himself do not
  • The host attributes his proclivity to speak up to his low tolerance for lies and admiration for courageous people
  • Surrounding oneself with courageous people can inspire courage in oneself
  • Admiration is a manifestation of the religious instinct

Admiration and Speaking Up

1:10:59 - 1:18:19

  • Admiration is a manifestation of awe, which is primarily a religious experience.
  • The truth will set you free, and morality is grounded in something like the religious instinct.
  • Courage provokes admiration naturally, even among bad guys.
  • People who speak their minds and pay the price for it tend to aggregate around each other.
  • Meeting people from different backgrounds who have done extraordinary things is a great reward.
  • The next generation has seen through the dogma of the day and looks up to people like Joe Rogan.
  • Language can be used instrumentally or authentically; Rogan chooses authenticity in his interviews.

Living in Truth and Humor

1:18:08 - 1:25:15

  • Acting in accordance with truth is the best thing that could have possibly happened.
  • Letting go of the consequences of your words allows for an adventure.
  • The search for meaning is driven by the hope to get somewhere.
  • Following your instinct towards truth may result in missteps, but the orientation is correct.
  • Engaging in falsehood means what you say and think isn't truly you.
  • Humor and common sense are intertwined, as laughter recognizes reality at a higher speed.
  • Comedians who dare to tell the truth can reveal truths that others recognize but may be afraid to admit.
  • People who try to dictate what we find funny or how we should act don't stand a chance against comedians.

Comedians and Social Justice

1:24:46 - 1:31:56

  • Comedians have an advantage over social justice activists in the long run.
  • Meaning is a navigation guide and helps you recognize opportunities and problems.
  • The interaction between opportunity and problem can lead to a sense of calling.
  • Drive is often presumed to be innate, but vocation is not encouraged in our era.
  • There is a lack of agreement on what constitutes a meaningful life.
  • Demoralization exists due to the devaluation of providing for one's family.
  • Contemplating a positive vision of the future can lead to positive outcomes.
  • A vision-based exercise resulted in decreased dropout rates and increased GPA.

Poetry and Beauty

1:31:29 - 1:38:36

  • Conjuring up a positive and invitational vision of the future on an international scale
  • The era wants people to be harmless and unnoticed
  • Human beings are seen as the problem, but they are also the point
  • Barry Weiss invited the speaker to contribute to her new enterprise, which led to the idea of writing a column about poems he has memorized
  • The speaker is writing about poems he loves and explaining why they are worth remembering
  • He started doing this because certain readings had a strong impact on him
  • One example is Terry Waite's sermon where he recited T.S. Eliot's 'Four Quartets'
  • Another example is Tatyanic Nadej, a Russian woman who translated Lord Byron's 'Don Juan' while in prison

Translating Poetry and Encountering Beauty

1:38:15 - 1:45:19

  • A woman spent two years in a cell writing a translation of Byron's work
  • She was given paper and typed up three copies, one of which she kept
  • She was then sent to Gulag for eight years
  • After coming out of Gulag, she revised her manuscript and it was published
  • The translation became the standard version of Byron in Russian
  • Young men should be encouraged to master language and read well
  • Literature can guide you in life and help you make better choices
  • Reading poetry can provide insights into living an ideal life
  • Beauty is not just aesthetically pleasing, it has meaning and can inspire change
  • People are often terrified of beauty because it judges their lives

Terrified of Beauty and Gratitude

1:44:54 - 1:46:41

  • Terrified of beauty in proportion to distance from what's beautiful
  • Selfie culture should be about being lucky to stand in front of something beautiful
  • Gratitude is the proper attitude towards beauty
  • Thank you for watching and listening
  • Continuing conversation on biographical issues and calling on Daily Wire Plus side
  • Appreciation for time, attention, and film crew in New York
  • Excitement of sirens in New York
  • Goodbye until next time