Jordan Peterson and Human Action

When a psychology professor at the University of Toronto publicly rejected the forced use of a set of pronouns, it catapulted him into the news feeds and conversations of millions of people. Jordan Peterson’s enduring renown, however, has been sustained by the immense interest in what he has to say about the deepest questions.

His lectures on YouTube cover archetypal interpretations of the Bible, the meaning of life, human personality, and even five hours’ worth of dissecting Disney’s Pinocchio. Many of his lectures have hundreds of thousands of views, despite them being two and half hours of covering dense material quickly.

In his “Maps of Meaning” course, based on his book with the same title, he presents a framework for human action with many similarities to that of Mises and Rothbard. Peterson is not an economist, however, and so his framework includes some of the particulars of action that are outside the purely praxeological framework.

Peterson’s Framework for Human Action

Peterson’s framework applies to small, quick actions like grabbing your car keys as you walk out the door but it is scalable to much bigger applications like making big life choices and the archetypal hero’s journey. No matter the scale, the way we go about interpreting and acting upon the world can be described like a map or a story: “I was in some undesired state or location and then I moved toward a desired state by making use of certain tools and overcoming certain obstacles on my way.”


What motivates our action is a “chronic dissatisfaction with the way things are.” This is not necessarily a bad thing, because if we did not have this, we would cease to act. Dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs is the only thing that…

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