You will recall the disgraceful act of Cambridge University in 2019, when it withdrew an invitation for Jordan B. Peterson, one of the world’s most important public intellectuals, to lecture at the university because he had been photographed standing next to someone wearing a t-shirt with an anti-Islamic slogan. Well, the past two weeks, Peterson returned to Cambridge in triumph. This didn’t just happen by accident; in Cambridge, admirers of Peterson and lovers of free speech got busy fighting for him to be allowed to come back. Arif Ahmed, a devout atheist, was one of those brave fighters, and celebrates the victory in Spiked Online.
And so we began a long and at first lonely campaign to realign this ancient and great institution with freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of thought.
Our battle has borne fruit. In late 2020 Cambridge adopted a new, liberal free-speech policy that protected our right to invite speakers of our choosing, and prevented the university from cancelling an invitation that had been accepted. In May this year, the vice-chancellor took prompt and decisive action to remove a policy aimed at policing ‘microaggressions’. And then in the autumn, Jordan Peterson announced that he was planning to visit the university, at the invitation of Dr James Orr at the Faculty of Divinity.
That visit has now occurred. And thanks principally to the courage and energy of Dr Orr it has been a tremendous success.
I saw Peterson speak twice on his Cambridge visit. He spoke passionately, at length and without notes, to rapt audiences. He engaged the crowd with care and warmth. His seminars were a model of academic engagement. There was a lively, disputatious and often rigorous battle of ideas that ranged from the neuroscience of perception via William Empson and 17th-century counterpoint to Mesopotamian creation myths.
It seemed that everywhere Peterson went in Cambridge there were students who wanted to learn from him, to argue with him and sometimes to be photographed next to him (I advised him to check their t-shirts before posing). There were no protests, unless you count one silly but brave student popping up in a lecture wearing a lobster outfit.
Do read the whole thing. Prof. Ahmed, a philosophy lecturer at Cambridge, reports that Peterson spoke to a jam-packed hall of receptive students, and the university proctors rose to assert their traditional role in protecting the right of people to speak freely at the university. Amazing! It is a great and glorious occasion when the good guys win against the woke, for once. God bless James Orr and all the rest who made this possible.
Just this morning, the Cambridge Union has posted a video of JBP’s talk. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, but I wanted to get it to you as soon as possible:
Dr. Orr, who is a friend, sent me this photo he took of JBP with a recent book of note. This image delights me. I hope Peterson will read the book, and find something in it of value: