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Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief Paperback – March 26, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0415922227 ISBN-10: 0415922224
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The book reflects its author's profound moral sense and vast erudition in areas ranging from clinical psychology to scripture and a good deal of personal soul-searching and experience...with patients who include prisoners, alcoholics and the mentally ill.
–Montreal Gazette

This is not a book to be abstracted and summarized. Rather it should be read at leisure...and employed as a stimulus and reference to expand one's own maps of meaning. I plan to return to Peterson's musings and mapping many times over the next few years.
Am J Psychiatry

...a brilliant enlargement of our understanding of human motivation...a beautiful work.
–Sheldon H. White, Harvard University

...unique...a brilliant new synthesis of the meaning of mythologies and our human need to relate in story form the deep structure of our experiences.
–Keith Oatley, University of Toronto

From the Inside Flap

Why would people in different places and times formulate myths and stories with similar symbols and meanings? Are groups of people with different religious or ideological beliefs doomed to eternal conflict? Are the claims of science and religion truly irreconcilable? What might be done to decrease the individual propensity for group-fostered cruelty? Maps of Meaning addresses these questions with a provocative new hypothesis that explores the connection between what modern neuropsychology tells us about the brain and what rituals, myths and religious stories have long narrated. Peterson's ambitious interdisciplinary odyssey draws insights from the worlds of religion, cognitive science and Jungian approaches to mythology and narrative. Maps of Meaning offers a critical guide to the riches of archaic and modern thought and invaluable insights into human motivation and cognition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 564 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (March 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415922224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415922227
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.3 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #812,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Deal on March 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
I am also a former student of Professor Peterson's, taught on the manuscript of this book, and it made such an impression on me that here I am, tracking it down three years later to reread. There are many significant positives to this book, as you can guess from the other reviews here. My main complaint is that the 400-odd pages could be vastly condensed and more tightly organized without weakening the thesis. When the subject matter is this dense, there is some argument for restating important points, but I do think the author sometimes errs on the side of excessive restatement.
Another area where the book could have been improved is in the use of more anthropological data to support its various hypotheses. An interesting follow-up read to Maps of Meaning is Wandering God by Morris Berman, which spends more effort tying the factual aspects of human and societal evolution to the way modern-day society is organized and the way people relate to the world around them. He also has some very strong opinions about comparative mythology a la Jung and Campbell.
Overall, Maps of Meaning is highly original, thought-provoking, and very well worth reading. Expect it to make a permanent mark on the way you see the world.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Steven E. Romer on March 10, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this is THE book to read! This puts into perspective any of the other books you might read, including religious books like the Bible! This book unlocks the symbolism used in profound writings of history. Talks about the deep symbolism of the deepest human aspirations--unlocks what has been hidden under these murky symbols. Jordan shows us the true nature of the heroic impulses for the individual and for mankind in general, and the failure and fear of the heroic that causes both individual and social atrocities. I cannot say enough about his genius for elucidating these things--gives me new hope for the world. I accidentally met the man at a conference on consciousness, and it was like I met a long lost brother--before I read his book! This is because he has tapped into a great ocean of truth underlying our most cherished symbols. If you are a truth-seeker--whether in science or about yourself and your soul--this is the book you have been looking for. These ideas are a large part of the keys to eliminating the most greivous ills of humanity. One of my top 10 books of all time, if not #1.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
In these days where the academic reinforcement schedule is such that reward comes from knowing more and more about less and less, it is wonderful to see someone tackle the big problems in a grand theory - and Jordan Peterson does address some big problems. He aims his analytical lens at the motivational and behavioral dynamics behind evil and meaning. These issues seem to be most often addressed by theogians whose presuppositions are difficult for a rational person to digest whole, or by New Age fuzzy thinkers. This book is most definitely not New Age (Joe Campbellites beware - meaning is not simple bliss!) in its hard look at what mythic narrative, as a phenomenon devoted to motivation and behavior, is about and what it can tell us today.
I found the book taught me lessons in the neuropsychology of emotion, moral philosophy, and the deep structure of mythic narrative - and weaved these disparate fields into a coherent, powerful tool of interpretation (which is what a good theory should be). Undoubtedly there are weaknesses in Jordan's understanding of each of these individual fields, but his synthesis is pretty interesting, at worst, and profound, at best. This is a challenging read, both in the scope and difficulty of the material and in the way your thinking about your self and the world is challenged. For those with a good attention span and a synthetic curiosity about the world, I would recommend this book highly.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
One of the most influential books I've ever read, Maps of Meaning takes an unflinching look at what truly drives human behavior, and human choices. Drawing on an incredible range of material, from philosophy to literature, from cognitive psychology to religion, it manages to weave a rich tapestry of the issues underlying the human condition. Essential reading for any intellectual.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By alisonnurmi on December 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
I am going to take Prof. Peterson's "personality and its transformation" class next semester......expecting and excited............

This is a brilliant book, thought provoking and challenging...challenging not in the sense that the language is hard to read, but the thinkings involved are profound and require an open mind to understand and appreciate. Great Work...
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
I had the opportunity to read his original manuscript when I was a student at Harvard. His class, text, and brilliant insights into the human condition truly expanded, challenged, and forever changed the way that I view religion, psychology and meaning. This book remains a "must read!"
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