My Letter to Jordan B. Peterson

Jordan Peterson is an insightful and provocative thinker. During his recent podcast with Konstantin Kisin (approx. minute 1:19), he discussed concepts similar to the ideas explored regularly on this blog. I’ve posted the following response to his subreddit page ……


Dr. Peterson,

My daughter recently urged me to listen to your (excellent) podcast with Konstantin Kisin, saying “I think they discuss your theory near the end.” She was referring to your description of horizontal and vertical political axes, which is a subject I’ve explored extensively and have even written a couple of books about.

I found your discussion enlightening but was also left with unanswered questions. They can be summed up with one meta-question: If the Logos applies to our words and our intuition etc., should it not also apply to the visual forms we conceive of?

If your answer is “yes” then other questions follow regarding the internal logic of the axes you described ……

…… Have you taken the opportunity to draw the two axes you spoke of and to label each of their components? Where were labels lacking? Where did the axes cross? Did you ascribe any significant meaning to that location?

…… You described the entities at the top of the vertical axis but did not discuss what sits at its lower end? (If God is at the top, is the devil at the bottom? If the king is near the top, are commoners near the bottom?)

…… One of the entities on the vertical axis was transcendent (God). The other exercises practical top-down power within everyday society (the king). What then is the true nature of the vertical axis? (i.e.: What label would you place on it, if you had to give it a name?)

…… You used phrases like “altruistic” and “go along to get along” to describe the horizontal axis. Some of those qualities are noble, while others are pragmatic and potentially compromised. What is the moral nature of that axis?

To many folks, these questions might seem like intellectual cul-de-sacs of no real value. And if the two-axis idea stands alone as a concept, they would be right. However, if these visual forms function as the foundation on which our verbal and written political terminology is built, as I posit they do, then distortions will occur within collective discourse when that language is supported by a poorly constructed model.

I believe we’re seeing the ramifications of an ill-conceived model within today’s dysfunctional political discourse. Terms that are strictly horizontal, like “left”, “center”, “right”, “far left”, and “far right” are either logically flawed or they’re defined so broadly that no common meaning can be agreed upon by all contending parties. This prevents the proper vetting of important ideas on the public square. A well-constructed two axis framework would allow adequate vertical qualifiers to be added to today’s too-flat language.

Thank you for considering these ideas.

Blake Pagenkopf

My Conversation with Charles Marohn

Chuck Marohn has been advancing our understanding of citizen-centric approaches for many years. He leads Strong Towns, an organization that empowers local communities. Here’s a link to my recent chat with Chuck about the political circle ……


You can also access the conversation I had with James Howard Kunstler in 2019. Like Chuck, Jim’s books and blog contain important insights that we all should consider.