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Beyond Order Book Summary – Jordan Peterson

What you will learn from reading Beyond Order:

– The importance of rules and why sometimes it’s important to break them.

– Why the world we live in can be described as a world of potential.

– What it means to be a great player of life.

Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life Book Summary:

Beyond order is Jordan Petersons sequel to the popular 12 rules for life. Building on the principles and ideas from the first book, beyond order takes us deeper into morality, rules and what it means to a good player in life. It also offers loads of interesting insights into rulebreaking, religious symbols and there meaning, dealing with the past and much more.

 

Sanity and social constraints:

People exist among other people and not as purely individual minds. An individual does not have to be that well put together if he or she can remain at least minimally acceptable in behavior to others. Simply put: We outsource the problem of sanity. People remain mentally healthy not merely because of the integrity of their own minds, but because they are constantly being reminded how to think, act, and speak by those around them.

If you begin to deviate from the straight and narrow path-if you begin to act improperly-people will react to your errors before they become too great, and cajole, laugh, tap, and criticize you back into place. They will raise an eyebrow, or smile (or not), or pay attention (or not). If other people can tolerate having you around, in other words, they will constantly remind you not to misbehave, and just as constantly call on you to be at your best.

Social Constraints:

The fact that we are deeply social adds another set of constraints to the situation: We must perceive and act in a manner that meets our biological and psychological needs-but, since none of us lives or can live in isolation, we must meet them in a manner approved of by others. 

This means that the solutions we apply to our fundamental biological problems must also be acceptable and implementable socially.

These universal constraints, manifest biologically and imposed socially, reduce the complexity of the world to something approximating a universally understandable domain of value.

 

Problem Solving and Hierarchies:

If there is a problem to be solved, and many people involve themselves in the solution, then a hierarchy must and will arise, as those who can do, and those who cannot follow as best they can, often learning to be competent in the process. 

If the problem is real, then the people who are best at solving the problem at hand should rise to the top. That is not power. It is the authority that properly accompanies ability.

 

Authority isn’t always about Power:

Authority is not mere power, and it is extremely unhelpful, even dangerous, to confuse the two. When people exert power over others, they compel them, forcefully. They apply the threat of privation or punishment so their subordinates have little choice but to act in a manner contrary to their personal needs, desires, and values.

When people wield authority, by contrast, they do so because of their competence-a competence that is spontaneously recognised and appreciated by others, and generally followed willingly, with a certain relief, and with the sense that justice is being served.

 

Transforming rules:

Highly social creatures such as we are must abide by the rules, to remain sane and minimize unnecessary uncertainty, suffering, and strife. However, we must also transform those rules carefully, as circumstances change around us.

So too is creative transformation. It must strain against limits. It has no use and cannot be called forth unless it is struggling against something. It is for this reason that the great genie, the granter of wishes-God, in a microcosm-is  archetypally trapped in the tiny confines of a lamp and subject, as well, to the will of the lamp’s current holder. Genie-genius–is the combination of possibility and potential, and extreme constraint.

 

The link between Freedom and Responsibility:

Limitations, constraints, arbitrary boundaries–rules, dread rules. themselves–therefore not only ensure social harmony and psychological stability, they make the creativity that renews order possible.

What lurks, therefore, under the explicitly stated desire for complete freedom-as expressed, say, by the anarchist, or the nihilistis not a positive desire, striving for enhanced creative expression, as in the romanticized caricature of the artist. 

It is instead a negative desire-a desire for the complete absence of responsibility, which is simply not commensurate with genuine freedom.

This is the lie of objections to the rules. But “Down with Responsibility” does not make for a compelling slogan-being sufficiently narcissistic to negate itself self evidently-while the corresponding “Down with the Rules” can be dressed up like a heroic corpse.

 

When to break the rules:

It sums up the meaning of Rule I perfectly. If you understand the rules-their necessity, their sacredness, the chaos they keep at bay, how they unite the communities that follow them, the price paid for their establishment, and the danger of breaking them-but you are willing to fully shoulder the responsibility of making an exception, because you see that as serving a higher good (and if you are a person with sufficient character to manage that distinction), then you have served the spirit, rather than the mere law, and that is an elevated moral act.

These stories portray the existential dilemma that eternally characterizes human life: it is necessary to conform, to be disciplined, and to follow the rules-to do humbly what others do; but it is also necessary to use judgment, vision, and the truth that guides conscience to tell what is right, when the rules suggest otherwise. It is the ability to manage this combination that truly characterises the fully developed personality: the true hero.

 

Rules vs Behavioural Patterns:

The scientist might first relate a series of anecdotes about animal actions emblematic of the general behavior of the species. 

He or she might then abstract even further, attempting to generalize across anecdotes with rule-like descriptions. I say “rule-like” because the animals are not following rules.

Rules require language. Animals are merely acting out regularities. They cannot formulate, understand, or follow rules.

 

How Moral Rules Emerge:

Here is how this might happen. We all react judgmentally when a child or adult-or, indeed, a Society-is acting improperly, unfairly, or badly. The error strikes us emotionally. We intuit that a pattern upon which individual and social adaptation depends has been disrupted and violated. We are annoyed, frustrated, hurt, or grief-stricken at the betrayal.

This does not mean that each of us, reacting emotionally, has been successful at articulating  a comprehensive philosophy of good and evil. We may never put one finger on what has gone wrong. However, like children unfamiliar wirh a new game but still able to play it, we know that the rules are being broken.

Remember: Every society is already characterised by patterned behavior; otherwise it would be pure conflict and no “society” at all. But the mere fact that social order reigns to some degree does not mean that a given society has come to explicitly understand its own behavior, its own moral code.

If there had been no behavioral base for those rules-no historical precedent codified in traditional ethics, no conventions, and no endless hours of observation of the moral patterns-the commandments simply could not have been understood and communicated, much less obeyed.

 

The world is full of potential:

What does it mean that the world can be usefully considered as potential or information?

Think about what happens, for example, when you stop by the mailbox and pick up your mail. Consider, as well, what that mail is “made of” Materially speaking, it is merely paper and ink. But that material substrate is essentially irrelevant. It would not matter if the message was delivered by email or voice-or in Morse code, for that matter. What is relevant is the content. And that means that each piece of mail is a container of content-of potential or information, positive, neutral, or negative.

Maybe, for example, it is a notification of investigation from your country’s tax department. This means that, despite its apparently harmless presence in your hand, the letter is tightly and inextricably connected to a gigantic, complex and oft-arbitrary structure that may well not have your best interests in mind.

And now you will have to decide: are you going to open the letter and face what is “inside”? And, having done so, are you going to think your way through the problem, terrible as that might be, and begin to address it?

Or are you going to ignore what you now know, pretend that everything is all right (even though you know, emotionally-as a consequence of your anxiety-that it is not), and pay the inevitable psychological and physical price?

It is the former route that will require you to voluntarily confront what you are afraid of-the terrible, abstract monster-and, hypothetically, to become stronger and more integrated as a result. It is the latter route that will leave the problem in its monstrous form and force you to suffer like a scared animal confronted by a predator’s vicious eyes in the pitch of night.

 

Chaos as a Symbol:

Atop the round chaos perches a dragon. This is because what is  interesting and meaningful (and novel and unexpected, as those all go together) manifests itself in a form that is both dangerous and promising, particularly when its grip is intense and irresistible. 

The danger is, of course, signified by the presence of the immortal, predatory reptile; the promise is hinted at, as a dragon archetypally guards a great treasure. Thus, the drawing represents a psychological progression.

 

The meaning of the Christian Cross:

The cross, for its part, is the burden of life. It is a place of betrayal, torture, and death. It is therefore a fundamental symbol of mortal vulnerability. 

In the Christian drama, it is also the place where vulnerability is transcended, as a consequence of its acceptance. This voluntary acceptance is also equivalent to victory over the dragon, representation of chaos, death, and the unknown. 

By accepting life’s suffering, therefore, evil may be overcome. The alternative is hell, at least in its psychological form: rage, resentment, and the desire for revenge and destruction.

 

Voluntarily face that which you are scared of:

It has been known for decades, explicitly (and forever, implicitly) that self-initiated confrontation with what is frightening or unknown is frequently curative. 

The standard treatment for phobias and anxiety is therefore exposure to what is feared. That treatment is effective-but the exposure must be voluntary. It is as if the anxiety systems or the brain assume that anything that is advanced upon must not be a predator (or, if it is a predator, it is the sort that can be easily kicked to the side and defeated).

 

Don’t hide things in the fog:

The fog that hides is the refusal to notice-to attend to-emotions and motivational states as they arise, and the refusal to communicate them both to yourself and to the people who are close to you. A bad mood signifies something.

In the short term, perhaps you are protected from the revelation of your insufficiency by your refusal to make yourself clear. Every ideal is a judge, after all: the judge who says, “You are not manifesting your true potential.” No ideals?

No judge. But the price paid for that is purposelessness. This is a high price.

 

Adopt Responsibility:

It appears that the meaning that most effectively sustains life is to be found in the adoption of responsibility. When people look back on what they have accomplished, they think, if they are fortunate: “Well, I did that, and it was valuable. It was not easy. But it was worth it.” It is a strange and paradoxical fact that there is a reciprocal relationship between the worth of something and the difficulty of accomplishing it.

“What is a truly reliable source of positive emotion?” The answer is that people experience positive emotion in relationship to the pursuit of a valuable goal. Imagine you have a goal. You aim at something. You develop a strategy in relationship to that aim, and then you implement it. And then, as you implement the strategy, you observe that it is working. That is what produces the most reliable positive emotion.’

 

Awareness of the future:

Animals cannot conceptualize themselves across the temporal expanse. But human beings not only manage such conceptualization, they cannot shake it. We discovered the future, some long time ago-and now the future is where we each live, in potential.

We treat that as reality. It is a reality that only might be-but it is one with a high probability of becoming now, eventually, and we are driven to take that into account.

 

How to become a great player of life:

There is a proper way to behave-an ethic and you are destined to contend with it. You cannot help but calculate yourself across time, and everyone else across time, and you are reporting back to yourself, inevitably, on your own behavior and misbehavior. 

What works across multiple time frames and multiple places for multiple people (including yourself)- that is the goal. It is an emergent ethic, hard to formulate explicitly, but inescapable in its existence and its consequences, and an ineradicably deep part of the game of Being. Great players are attractive. Attractive people attract mates. The closer we match the pattern the emergent pattern-the more likely we are to survive and protect our families.

And we are therefore biologically prepared to  respond positively to and to imitate the Great Player-and to disapprove, even violently, of the deceiver, the cheat, and the fraud. And it is your conscience-your instinct for moral virtue-that indicates deviation from the path.

 

Don’t do what you hate:

It is, of course, the case that being required to do stupid, hateful things is demoralizing. Someone assigned a pointless or even counterproductive task will deflate, if they have any sense, and find within themselves very little motivation to carry out the assignment. Why?

Because every fiber of their genuine being fights against that necessity. We do the things we do because we think those things important, compared to all the other things that could be important. We regard what we value as worthy of sacrifice and pursuit. That worthiness motivates us to act, despite the fact that action is difficult and dangerous.

 

Value and Reality:

It is also by no means self-evident that value, subjective though it appears to be, is not an integral part of reality, despite the undeniable utility of the scientific method. The central scientific axiom left to us by the Enlightenment-that reality is the exclusive domain of the objective-poses a fatal challenge to the reality of religious experience, if the latter experience is fundamentally subjective (and it appears to be exactly that).

The psyche-the soul-that produces or is the recipient of such experiences appears incontrovertibly real: the proof lying not least in our actions. We all axiomatically assume the reality of our individual existences and conscious experiences, and we extend the same courtesy to others (or else). 

It is by no means unreasonable to suggest that such existence and experience has a deep underlying biological and physical structure. Those with a psychoanalytic bent certainly assume so, as do many who study biological psychology, particularly if they focus on motivation and emotion.

 

Abandon Ideology:

They are all monotheists, practically speaking-or polytheistic worshippers of a very small number of gods. These gods are the axioms and foundational beliefs that must be accepted, a priori, rather than proven, before the belief system can be adopted, and when accepted and applied to the world allow the illusion to prevail that knowledge has been produced.

The process by which an ism system can be generated is simple in its initial stages but baroque enough in its application to mimic (and replace) actual productive theorizing. The ideologue begins by selecting a few abstractions in whose low-resolution representations hide large, undifferentiated chunks of the world. Some examples include  “the economy,” “the nation,” “the environment,” “the patriarchy,” “the people,” “the rich,” “the poor,” “the oppressed,” and “the oppressors.”

The use of single terms implicitly hyper simplifies what are in fact extraordinarily diverse and complex phenomena (that masked complexity is part of the reason that the terms come to carry so much emotional weight). There are many reasons, for example, why people are poor. Lack of money is the obvious cause-but that hypothetical obviousness is part of the problem with ideology.

After breaking the world into large, undifferentiated pieces, describing the problem(s) that characterize each division, and identifying the appropriate villains, the ism theorist then generates a small number of explanatory principles or forces (which may indeed contribute in some part to the understanding or existence of those abstracted entities). Then he or she grants to that small number primary causal power, while ignoring others of equal or greater importance.

The attraction of doing so is, however, obvious: simplicity, ease, and the illusion of mastery (which can have exceptionally useful psychological and social consequences, particularly in the short term)-and, let us not forget, the frequent discovery of a villain, or set of villains, upon which the hidden motivations for the ideology can be vented.

Ressentiment-hostile resentment-occurs when individual failure or insufficient status is blamed both on the system within which that failure or lowly status occurs and then, most particularly, on the people who have achieved success and high status within that system. The former, the system, is deemed by fiat to be unjust. The successful are deemed exploitative and corrupt, as they can be logically read as undeserving beneficiaries,

Such division of the world into the devil without and the saint within justifies self-righteous hatred-necessitated by the morality of the ideological system itself. This is a terrible trap: Once the source of evil has been identified, it becomes the duty of the righteous to eradicate it. This is an invitation to both paranoia and persecution.

A world where only you and people who think like you are good is also a world where you are surrounded by enemies bent on your destruction, who must be fought.

 

The Messianic Path:

To take the world’s sins onto yourself-to assume responsibility for the fact that things have not been set right in your own life and elsewhere-is part of the messianic  path: part of the imitation of the hero, in the most profound of senses.

This is a psychological or spiritual rather than a sociological or political issue. Consider the characters fabricated by second-rate crafters of fiction: they are simply divided into those who are good and those who are evil. By contrast, sophisticated writers put the divide inside the characters they create, so that each person becomes the locus of the eternal struggle between light and darkness. 

It is much more psychologically appropriate (and much less dangerous socially) to assume that you are the enemy-that it is your weaknesses and insufficiencies that are damaging the world-than to assume saintlike goodness on the part of you and your party, and to pursue the enemy you will then be inclined to see everywhere.

 

Pragmatic memory removes the magic of reality:

It is as if when I walk down the street and glance at a local house, I think of “house” as an icon (because, really, what practical difference does it make to me what particularities characterize each house?), and then my attention is turned to something else. I do not see the house, with its specific shingles, colors, flowers, and architectural details, despite the interest that might have been elicited in me had I paid careful attention.

By this point in my life, that I know what a house is likely to do when I walk by it-which is I have seen so many houses in so many places very little. Thus, I ignore the engaging idiosyncrasies and beauties of its details-its unique character, for better or worse-and see just enough to stay oriented as I walk past and continue to think and be elsewhere as I do so.

Perception has been replaced for me with functional, pragmatic memory. This has made me more efficient, in some ways, but the cost is an impoverished experience of the richness of the world.

I was narrow, sharp, and focused, and did not waste time, but the price I paid for that was the blindness demanded by efficiency, accomplishment, and order. I was no longer seeing the world. I was seeing only the little I needed to navigate it with maximum speed and lowest cost.

 

Make the pasts mistakes explicit:

Learn from the past. Or repeat its horrors, in imagination, endlessly.

It is a psychological truism that anything sufficiently threatening or harmful once encountered can never be forgotten if it has never been understood.

We map the world so that we can make the move from where we are-from point A-to where we are going-to point B. We use our map to guide our movement, and we encounter successes and obstacles along the way.

The successes are both confidence building and exhilarating. Not only are we moving toward our ultimate desire, we appear to be doing so properly (and are therefore not only moving ahead but validating our map). The obstacles and failures are, by contrast, anxiety provoking, depressing, and painful. They indicate our profound ignorance.

You know that when something does not go well, you should analyze the problem, resolve it, apologize, repent, and transform. An unsolved problem seldom sits there, in stasis. It grows new heads, like a hydra. One lie– one act of avoidance-breeds the necessity for more. One act of selfdeception generates the requirement to buttress that self-deceptive belief with new delusions.

 

You don’t find the one, you make them:

There are seven billion people in the world. At least a hundred million (let us say) might have made good partners for you. You certainly did not have time to try them out, and the probability that you found the theoretically optimal person approaches zero. But you do not find so much as make, and if you do not know that you are in real trouble. 

 

Do you want freedom of no responsibility?

The part of you that claims to desire freedom (but really wants to avoid any permanent and therefore terrifying responsibility) desires a trapdoor through which escape might be made, Ii and when it is necessary.

 

The three states of social Being:

There are three fundamental states of social being: tyranny (you do what I want), slavery (I do what you want), or negotiation. Tyranny is obviously not so good for the person enslaved, but it is also not good for the tyrant because he or she becomes a tyrant, and there is nothing ennobling about that. There is nothing but cynicism, cruelty, and the hell of unregulated anger and impulsivity. Slavery is not good either, likewise for the slave and the tyrant. Slaves are miserable, wretched, angry and resentful.

 

The Evil Triad:

You need to understand your motivations for evil-and the triad of resentment, deceit, and arrogance is as good a decomposition of what constitutes evil as I have been able to formulate.

 

What could be? – Life is possibility:

What could be? Attempting to answer that question-that is life. 

That is the true encounter with reality. What is? That is the dead past, already accomplished. What could be? That is the emergence of new being, new adventure, brought about by the conjunction of living consciousness with the great expanse of paradoxical possibility.

And if it is possibility that is most real, rather than actuality (as evidenced by the fact that it is possibility we are destined to contend with), then it is the investigation into possibility that is the most important of all investigations.

When you depict a person’s actions in the world, you describe how they perceive, evaluate, think, and act-and, when you do so, a story unfolds (and the better you are at such descriptions, the more story like your accounts are). 

Furthermore, we experience the world as populated by figures that represent exactly what we must contend with. The unknown, unexpected, and novel-the world of possibility-is represented in dramatic form, as is the world that we expect and strive to bring into being, and ourselves, as actors faced with the unknown and the predictable alike. We use the story to represent all of this.

They hope that their learning (disinterested though it may be, as at present it has no specific aim except that of learning) will have some genuinely positive outcome: making the world a better place. That provides the entire pursuit with a narrative element, the motive that accompanies any good plot, and the transformation of character that the best of stories.

We conceptualize what we experience as a story. That story is, makes roughly speaking, the description of the place we are at right now, as well as the place that we are going to, the strategies and adventures that we implement and experience along the way, and our downfalls and reconstitutions during that journey. You perceive and act inside a structure like that all the time, because you are always somewhere, going somewhere else, and you are always evaluating where you are and what is going on in relation to your goal.

 

Motivational pattern can be described as spirit:

Mephistopheles is the devil in Goethe’s play-the adversary. The adversary is a mythical figure; the spirit who eternally works against our positive intent (or, perhaps, against positive intent generally). You can understand that psychologically, as well as metaphysically or religiously. 

We all see within ourselves the emergence of good intentions and the repeated instructions to ourselves to act accordingly, yet we note distressingly often that we leave undone what we know we should do, and do instead what we know we should not.