Individual and Society: Gabor Maté and Jordan Peterson on Addiction

Jordan B. Peterson - IMDb
Dr. Jordan Peterson
Dr. Gabor Maté (@DrGaborMate) | Twitter
Dr. Gabor Mate

Dr. Olexs and I discussed the recent article: Trump as an Agitator: Prophets of Deceit. Our discussion highlights some of the social theories that stem from the Institution of Social Research and specifically the rather pessimistic view of mass society that I have. What is needed is a philosophical architecture for understanding the role of the individual and society.

Outlined in the following discussion is the origin of the way that depression and addiction are related phenomena, and that they are symptoms of a more general malaise of the corruption of what could be more innocent frameworks of private, social, and political parts of our existence. Specifically, my assertion is that mass society creates conditions which not only corrupt our private, communal and political lives, but open a crack to a kind of metaphysical disparity which plays out as politically “right vs left” in front of our eyes.

Conversation with Dr. Olexs

I take two currently active public figures, both clinical psychologists with enormous followings, as representing this disparity: Dr. Jordan Peterson (who thinks addiction is a matter of personality) and Gabor Mate (who thinks addiction is a response to the pain of unfulfilled childhood needs, frequently trauma). Through our discussion, Dr. Olexs and I take a crack at explaining the origin of addiction from a medical perspective. Listen to our conversation, and then watch the two videos following to see Dr. Peterson’s and Dr. Mate’s perspectives on the origin of addiction.

Notice how Dr. Peterson, in the following short clip, talks about dealing with addiction as a “rebuilding of the personality”, which is conceived from the standpoint of the atomized individual. Ultimately, it is an incredibly self-responsible activity.

Jordan Peterson on the Psychology of Addiction

Contrast this with Dr. Gabor Maté, who asserts in the following video that it is compassionate presence – essentially a caring presence of other – which works at the origin of addiction and deal with it.

Dr. Gabor Maté: What is Addiction?

One take away from this contrast for me is one serious debate that goes to the heart of a widespread social malaise, and that is depression. It is my belief, that the political “left”, in other words, the ones who believe in the importance of community need to be clear about the mechanics of how they contribute to building resilient individuals. And the “right,” in other words, those who believe in the primary of the individual towards self-responsibility, need to be absolutely certain that the individual has sufficient tools to take self-responsibility.

The consequences for both sides are enormous, and as political societies, such clarity is needed to avoid being prepared for totalitarian rule, as “Trump as an Agitator” states. That it has taken 70 years for such an awareness to to catch widespread attention may be equated to the blindness that we have been the cause of climate change; the world-ending consequences may be of our own doing.

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