Maps of Meaning Book Summary - Maps of Meaning Book explained in key points
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Maps of Meaning summary

Jordan B. Peterson

The Architecture of Belief

4.6 (533 ratings)
26 mins

Brief summary

Maps of Meaning by Jordan B. Peterson is a thought-provoking book that explores the complexities of human belief systems and the meaning we derive from them. It offers a comprehensive analysis of the role of myth, religion, and culture in shaping our understanding of the world.

Table of Contents

    Maps of Meaning
    Summary of 9 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 9

    Humans explore their environment out of a fear of the unknown.

    If you place a rat in a new cage, its first reaction is to freeze. The rat is afraid – and understandably so. After all, grave danger could lurk in this new, unfamiliar territory. Only slowly, will the rat begin to explore its new surroundings – sniffing, licking, and scratching its way through the cage. The more it gets used to the new environment, the calmer it becomes.

    Humans are much more complex animals than rats, but we navigate the world in a similar way.

    The key message here is: Humans explore their environment out of a fear of the unknown.

    For humans, just as for rats, the world is divided into two parts: the known and the unknown.

    The known is the familiar cage. It comprises all things we can easily make sense of, either because we’ve encountered them before, or because we can access shared cultural knowledge about them. In this explored territory, we feel calm and safe.

    The unknown, on the other hand, is everything we don’t understand yet: a novel situation, an unexplained phenomenon, an unexpected behavior – in short, an anomaly. Just as the new cage terrifies the rat, anomalies tend to stop us in our tracks.

    Since we have no way of knowing what we’re dealing with when we encounter the unknown, anomalies evoke dual feelings in us. They’re both threatening and promising.

    Imagine, for example, you received a letter with unknown contents in the mail, with the words Open at your own risk written on it. Is it blackmail? An unclaimed inheritance? Probably, you would feel both anxious and excited to open it.

    Whether fear or curiosity dominates an encounter with the unknown depends on just how unexpected and unfamiliar the anomaly really is. If you knew the letter was sent by a friend, for example, you would probably be less nervous about opening it.

    Either way, you would likely be bursting to see what’s inside. Just like rats, once we’ve overcome our initial fear, humans have a natural inclination to explore the unknown. In doing so, we hope to turn unfamiliar into familiar territory. This helps us reduce our emotional tension and regain our sense of safety.

    Unlike rats though, we can explore the unknown not just through action, but also through thought. You would probably spend just as much time examining the letter as theorizing about who sent it and why.

    Our thoughts and actions are the tools we have to turn the unknown into the known. With their power, we’re actively creating the world we know.

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    What is Maps of Meaning about?

    Maps of Meaning (1999) argues that myths provide the key to understanding the human psyche and our shared culture. Combining classic psychoanalysis with psychology, social and historical analysis, Jordan B. Peterson reveals how myths convey morality and create meaning in our lives – and what we can learn from them to reach our individual potential.

    Maps of Meaning Review

    Maps of Meaning (1999) by Jordan B. Peterson is an exploration of the human psyche and the role of mythology in shaping our lives. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through a combination of psychological insights, philosophical explorations, and interdisciplinary research, it offers a profound understanding of the complexities of human behavior.
    • It delves into the archetypal patterns that underlie our beliefs, values, and actions, providing a framework for understanding the meaning and purpose of our existence.
    • The book challenges conventional wisdom and offers thought-provoking perspectives on topics like religion, morality, and the nature of good and evil, keeping readers engaged and intellectually stimulated.

    Best quote from Maps of Meaning

    Fix yourself, fix the world.

    —Jordan B. Peterson
    example alt text

    Who should read Maps of Meaning?

    • Psychologists interested in ancient history, and historians interested in human nature
    • Jordan Peterson devotees who want to dive deeper into his system of thought
    • Skeptics who want to better understand the author’s controversial theories

    About the Author

    Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist famous for his controversial views on human nature, culture, and politics. He’s a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He gained notoriety with his popular self-help book 12 Rules for Life.

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    Maps of Meaning FAQs 

    What is the main message of Maps of Meaning?

    The main message of Maps of Meaning is the exploration of the role of belief systems and mythology in shaping human behavior.

    How long does it take to read Maps of Meaning?

    The reading time for Maps of Meaning varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Maps of Meaning a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Maps of Meaning is a thought-provoking book worth diving into. It offers valuable insights into the nature of meaning and its influence on our lives.

    Who is the author of Maps of Meaning?

    The author of Maps of Meaning is Jordan B. Peterson.

    What to read after Maps of Meaning?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Maps of Meaning, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Beyond Order by Jordan B. Peterson
    • Beyond the Pleasure Principle by Sigmund Freud
    • Hardcore Self Help by Robert Duff
    • Licence to be Bad by Jonathan Aldred
    • 12 Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson
    • Excellent Advice for Living by Kevin Kelly
    • Factfulness by Hans Rosling
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Olivia Telford
    • Born For This by Chris Guillebeau
    • Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche