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Maps of Meaning
Course Description:
Maps of meaning looks at society, religion, stories, individuals, groups and connects the threads together brilliantly. The content is familiar because it relates directly to the human experience. His extensive knowledge of philosophy and religion combined with twenty years of practitionership experience in clinical psychology makes him the perfect tour guide.
Context and Background
151 minutes
Peterson discusses the context within which the theory he is delineating through this course emerge: that of the cold war. What is belief? Why is it so important to people? Why will they fight to protect it? He proposes that belief unites a culture's expectations and desires with the actions of its people, and that the match between those two allows for cooperative action and maintains emotional stability. He suggests, further, that culture has a deep narrative structure, presenting the world as a forum for action, with characters representing the individual, the known, and the unknown -- or the individual, culture and nature -- or the individual, order and chaos.
Marionettes & Individuals (Part 1)
143 minutes
He begins using a particular piece of dramatic art -- the Disney film Pinocchio -- to provide a specific example of the manner in which great mythological or archetypal themes inform and permeate narrative.
Marionettes and Individuals (Part 2)
146 minutes
He continues with the analysis of the Disney film Pinocchio to illustrate the manner in which great mythological or archetypal themes inform and permeate both the creation and the understanding of narratives.
Marionettes and Individuals (Part 3)
56 minutes
He concludes the analysis of the Disney film Pinocchio, which is conducted to illustrate how archetypal/mythological themes permeate popular culture.
Story and Metastory (Part 1)
142 minutes
Peterson makes the case that we each inhabit a story, describing where we are, where we are going, and the actions we must undertake to get from the former to the latter. These inhabited stories are predicated on an underlying value system (as we must want to be where we are going more than we value where we are). In addition, they are frames of reference, allowing us to perceive (things that move us along; things that get in our way), make most of the world irrelevant (things that have no bearing on our current frame), and determine emotional significance (positive: things that move us along; negative: things that get in our way)
Story and Metastory (Part 2)
147 minutes
Peterson discusses uncertainty, or anomaly. We frame the world -- or the world reveals itself to us -- as a story, with a starting point, a destination, and the behavioral means to move from one to the other. The destination is valued more highly than the starting point, and constitutes the point of the story -- the aim of the individual. Reality manifests itself within that story as what is relevant for forward movement, what gets in the way, and what is irrelevant and can be safely ignored. The largest category, by far, is the latter. Unfortunately, sometimes what has been happily classified as irrelevant rears up and gets in the way. That's a manifestation of chaos. Chaos can undermine the story, or break the frame. The degree of undermining or breakage is proportional to the time and space over which the story in question extends its operations.
Images of Story & MetaStory
131 minutes
Peterson discusses how the basic or archetypal categories we use to frame the world are represented in image, where they existed long before their nature could be articulated. These categories include the individual (hero/adversary), culture (wise king/tyrant), and nature (destruction/creation). The heroic individual (the knower) is typically masculine, as is culture (the known), while the unknown is feminine. These categories can be conceptualized, as well, as explorer, explored territory, and unexplored territory. The most abstract category is the dragon of chaos, the monster who guards what is most valuable. It is from this most primordial of categories that the other three emerge. Our existence as prey and predator is reflected in the ambivalent representation of the absolute unknown.
Neuropsychology of Symbolic Representation
141 minutes
Peterson discusses the relationship between the basic categories of imagistic/symbolic representation and brain function, noting that the very hemispheres of the brain are adapted, right/left to the environmental or experiential permanence of chaos/order or unexplored/explored territory, with consciousness serving the Logos role of communicative explorer (a function related in one of its deepest manifestations to the function of the hypothalamically grounded dopaminergic systems).
Patterns of Symbolic Representation
136 minutes
Peterson discusses the manner in which the fundamental symbolic archetypes (particularly those dealing with the Wise King and Tyrant) are hijacked for the purposes of propaganda. Ideologies are parasites. Their hosts are archetypes. Knowledge of the underlying archetypes can produce immunity against ideological possession.
Genesis and the Buddha
138 minutes
Peterson discusses the creation stories in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, and describe the parallels with the stories of the development of the Buddha from childhood to early adulthood, using the archetypal schema developed previous in the course.
The Flood and the Tower
152 minutes
Peterson continues the discussion of the archaic stories at the beginning of Genesis, including Cain and Abel, and the flood story of Noah (the return of chaos), and the story of the Tower of Babel (which I am reading as a very old warning about the danger of erecting something akin to a totalitarian/utopian secular state -- so that is pathological order).
The Divinity of the Individual
145 minutes
In this, the final Maps of Meaning lecture for 2017, Peterson reviews the year and its offerings: What is a belief system? Why are people so inclined to engage in conflict to protect their belief systems? It's partly because our belief systems are not only systems of belief, but structures that serve to render everyone who participates in that belief and its dramatization and acting out in the world predictable, trustworthy and cooperative (even when competing).
Is there a hierarchy of rank or value among belief systems, or are they merely arbitrary?
What is the relationship between descriptions of the objective world and moral guidelines? How do you determine how to conduct yourself in the world? What should you do (and is that question even genuine -- or answerable?)
What inbuilt structures do you bring into the world, as a consequence of biological evolution, that help you orient yourself in life, in the face of its overwhelming complexity? What is the relationship between the games that children learn to play when becoming socialized and the cultural structures that guide us in broader society? How is all this related to the underlying symbolic structures (religious structures) that sit at the base of our societies and belief structures?