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The profession can change, the venue can change, but the gender-woo methodology remains the same.  Personally attack the person who dares to speak about biological reality, libel and defame their character while poisoning the well as to prevent discussion of an import issue facing women.

The bullshit doesn’t change.  It is especially disheartening to see professionals whose business is to be thoughtful and charitable completely abandon those principles in order to defend normative patriarchal values.

 

“A debate has arisen among philosophers concerning a couple of papers published recently in the prestigious journal Philosophical Studies. The first paper, “Are women adult human females?” by Alex Byrne (January, 2020) attempts to refute what Byrne identifies as “the orthodox view among philosophers,” that “the category woman is a social category, like the categories, wife, firefighter, and shoplifter,” rather than a biological category, like the categories vertebrate, mammal, or adult human female.” Byrne argues woman is a biological category, that to be a woman is to be an adult adult human female. The second paper, “Escaping the Natural Attitude About Gender,” by Robin Dembroff (forthcoming, but available already online), attempts to discredit Byrne’s argument.

The controversy surrounding the two articles does not concern the arguments themselves but the fact that Dembroff’s article includes an ad hominem against Byrne in which Dembroff effectively accuses Byrne of bigotry against transsexuals despite the fact that there is nothing in Byrne’s paper to support such a charge. The editor of the journal, Stewart Cohen, resigned in protest because he wanted to publish an apology for printing an article that included defamatory rhetoric, rhetoric which should never have made it past the journal’s referees, but the publisher of the journal, Springer, refused to allow him to do that.

Philosophers are not generally known for being warm and fuzzy. But Dembroff’s paper represents a new low in levels of civility. Usually, philosophers aim their barbs at an opponent’s cognitive abilities. Even then they aspire to some subtlety. They’ll intimate that an opponent is feebleminded, but they rarely say so directly. It’s not simply that it’s rude. It’s unprofessional. It’s rare, for the same reason, for a philosopher to directly accuse another of being a “shoddy scholar.” It’s rarer still, again, for the same reason, for a philosopher to accuse another of being immoral. Yet Robin Dembroff has advanced both charges against Byrne.

The debate amongst philosophers surrounding what Byrne has dubbed GenderGate, focuses on a brief passage at the end of Dembroff’s article. The line is:

Byrne’s paper fundamentally is an unscholarly attempt to vindicate a political slogan [“women are adult human females”] that is currently being used to undermine civic rights and respect for trans persons. And it is here that I return to Byrne’s advice to question the motivations behind this debate.”If someone is personally heavily invested in the truth of [some proposition] p,” Byrne writes, “it is prudent to treat [their] claim that p is true with some initial caution.” I agree. So we may ask: What are the motivations of someone who would so confidently insert themself into this high-stakes discourse while so ill-informed?

That is, Dembroff is insinuating here that Byrne has an anti-trans agenda that he is trying to advance in an scholarly paper published in an academic journal even though, again, there is nothing in Byrne’s paper to support such a charge.”

The Gender-woo really needs to stop. :/

 

Catch the rest of the essay on Counterpunch.

 

 

 

Is the cost of embracing the reality of our existence sadness and misery?  These are excerpts from an insightful essay found over at Aeon magazine by Julie Reshe. I would recommend you follow the link and go read the full essay, as Reshe’s writing and conclusions she has reached seem to be quite compelling.

For instance, this passage eloquently speaks to the emotional fracture I felt back in 2018 when my wife decided to end our long term relationship and marriage.  It’s like, ‘whoa, right there with you Julie’…

 

“The reason for my depression was a breakup. But what led to depression was not so much the reaction to our split, but the realisation that the one you believed loved you, who was closest to you and promised to be with you forever, had turned out to be someone else, a stranger indifferent to your pain. I discovered that this loving person was an illusion. The past became meaningless, and the future ceased to exist. The world itself wasn’t credible any more.”

[…]

 

“Although the depression following my breakup doesn’t rise to the level of existential angst, it was the strongest perspective-shifting experience of my life. It irreversibly changed and traumatised me at the core of my being, and I am now generally sadder and more withdrawn than I used to be.

Alas, what if this is the cost of losing our illusions and learning infinitely more about reality itself? We might be getting there. Some studies suggest that existential suffering and mental distress is rising worldwide, but particularly in modern Western culture. Perhaps we chase happiness precisely because it is no longer attainable?

The vicious cycle in which we find ourselves – the endless pursuit of happiness and the impossibility of its attainment – hurts us only more. Perhaps the way out is actually accepting our raised level of consciousness. In our melancholy depths, we find that superficial states of happiness are largely a way not to be alive. Mental health, positive psychology and dominant therapy modalities such as CBT all require that we remain silent and succumb to our illusions until we die.

In closing, I must address you, my dear reader. I realise that, as you were reading this essay, you must have experienced a ‘yes, but…’ reaction. (‘Yes, life is horrible, but there are so many good things too.’) This ‘but’ is an automatic response to negative, horrifying insights. Once exposed to these forces, our positive defence mechanisms kick in. I myself was caught in the drill while writing this essay (and pretty much during the rest of my life). Without this protective measure, we would all probably be dead already, having most likely succumbed to suicide for relief.

A small proposal of mine would be to explore disillusionment and refuge from positivity as a new space to experience life, hopefully before a suicidal reaction follows. Next time, before you plunge into alcohol, or make appeals to loved ones, friends, psychotherapists or to any other of the many life-affirming practices, remember that almost all constructions of meaning – from work to sport to opening our hearts to Jesus – are inherently illusory. An alternative to running away from life through illusion is to explore an illusion-free space for as long as possible, so as to become more capable of bearing the reality of a disillusioned and concrete life. If successful, you’ll free yourself from your faux-positivity and your chains.

In the end, of course, we might not be able to liberate ourselves, either from suffering or from illusions. Life is hell, and it looks as though no heaven awaits us, to top it off. This, in itself, might be a path to liberation since, after all, we have nothing to lose.”

Age old question really, ignorant and happy or informed and discontent?  Which is better?

 

 

 

  Holly Lawford-Smith’s work in its entirety because it so precisely encapsulates what is going in the gender debates.

 

Earlier this year, the Institute of Art and Ideas invited scholars and activists to consider the question, How Can Philosophy Help Us Understand Transgender Experiences? Following the publication of this article, three of the authors withdrew their contributions and issued a statement of retraction outlining their reasons for doing so. In this third article, one of the original contributors Holly Lawford-Smith responds to arguments raised in the retraction with her own perspective on the debate around gender.

Radical and gender critical feminists think the best way to understand gender is as a set of harmful norms, which are applied to people on the basis of their sex. A female person, for example, is subjected to norms that tell her to take great care over her appearance, to be helpful, kind, caring, and warm. A male person is subjected to different norms, for example telling him to be strong, bold, clever, and stoic, to not care much about his appearance. What’s key here is the subjection part: norms are applied to us by others, throughout our early childhood socialisation, both inside the family and in school and by peers and extended family members, and all the way through our lives. Some kinds of violations of the norms are tolerated; people are not generally too bothered about a kind boy. Other kinds of violations are policed: a boy likes to play with dolls, and his uncle berates him for being ‘gay’ or a ‘sissy’; a girl is full of ideas for play and takes the lead with other kids, the parents of the other kids call her ‘bossy’ or ‘too big for her boots’. Understanding gender as a set of harmful norms has a lot of explanatory power. It accounts for why particular male or female people are subject to bullying, social sanctioning, or victimisation—namely because they fail to conform to the norms applied to their sex. Feminists have for a long time preferred to understand gender in this way, and to advance the claim that those norms are pernicious and constraining. There’s nothing that one has to be like simply because one is female, or because one is male, they say. Be whatever you want to be.

Recently, this view of gender, and this ‘advice’ dispensed to male and female people, has become contested. Some insist now that gender is not harmful norms but rather is identity. Gender-as-identity is the view that everyone has an internal, subjective sense of their own gender, and that this—rather than their sex—is what determines how they should be treated by other people, and by the law. In the state of Australia where I live, the parliament has just passed a law that replaces sex with gender identity on birth certificates, in a way that is likely to be authoritative for other parts of the law which deal with what was previously sex discrimination. So gender-as-harmful-norms is not only contested, but its contestation has had serious social uptake in some places.

You might think this is a reasonable disagreement. And if it is, there’s a lot for both sides to discuss. Do we need both of these concepts? Does it make sense to get rid of the concept of gender as harmful norms while the norms are still in operation and harming people, in particular female people? Can both concepts exist side-by-side, or will the contestation have to be settled with only one victor? How exactly can the concept of a gender identity be made coherent? (See also this piece, where I say more on the topic of gender identity).

What is peculiar about this issue is that one side, radical and gender critical feminists, approach it as a reasonable disagreement. They argue for their views in popular and accessible venues, and defend the views on social media. They are willing to debate with their opponents, and they are willing to read what their opponents have to say. They are able to articulate what the concerns of their opponents are, accurately, and give responses to those concerns.

The other side, however, approach it as an unreasonable disagreement. For them, radical and gender critical feminist speech is hateful speech or harmful speech. Those who utter it are reprehensible humans and should be treated as such. Engaging with such speech only dignifies it, which makes engagement into a kind of complicity. People with this view will tend to block on social media rather than engage; and will tend to refuse to read what the other side has to say because they believe it to be beyond the pale. The inevitable result is mischaracterisation and straw-(wo)manning. If you don’t read what a person has to say, you cannot be in a position to give an accurate reconstruction of it, let alone to be charitable to it, to ‘steel-(wo)man’ it (to make it into the strongest possible version of itself before responding to it).

There was an example of this clash of perspectives recently, with a retraction statement authored by several academics on the side of gender-as-identity. The Institute of Art and Ideas had asked academics and activists to contribute to a forum, giving 200-word answers to the question “How can philosophy change the way we understand the transgender experience and identity?” The forum featured contributions from Kathleen Stock, Julie Bindel, and myself, on the gender-as-harmful-norms side, and Robin Dembroff, Rebecca Kukla, and Susan Stryker, on the gender-as-identity side. As soon as they found out they were “co-platformed” alongside (which, note, merely means appearing on the same page as) us, Dembroff, Kukla, and Stryker called for their contributions to be withdrawn, and made statements on social media to this effect. In their co-authored statement they went a lot further, accusing the gender-as-harmful-norms side of speech acts that are “acts of violence”, as well as comparing engagement with us to participation in conversation with holocaust deniers, white supremacists, and over the question of “whether corrective rape should be used to cure lesbianism”.

If this is not hate speech, then it’s something awfully close to it. Stock, Bindel, and I are all lesbians. The choice to use that example was obviously intended to target us with violent, lesbophobic, and degrading imagery; to put us in our place. Our conception of gender-as-harmful-norms helps to explain it: we have violated the gender norm “be accommodating of males” by refusing to accept the claim that when a male asserts that he is a woman, he is in fact a woman. We are being subject to misogynistic policing (in this case, even more disappointingly, by two female people) in the form of a reminder of what male people can do to female people who don’t conform to the norms. This kind of policing is completely unacceptable in any context, and certainly in a disagreement between academics over what the right conception of gender is.

It’s also completely unacceptable to appropriate other social groups’ genuine and horrific suffering, including the genocide of the Jewish people, slavery and colonization of people of colour, and rape of lesbians, for political point-scoring against people who hold a philosophical position you don’t like. In making the last move against lesbians, Dembroff, Kukla, and Stryker use speech that is more hateful than that they accuse us of using. Buried underneath the hyperbolic and incendiary rhetoric, there is a reasonable disagreement over what the correct conception of gender both is and should be. Kathleen, Julie, and I will continue to articulate our side of that disagreement in accordance with the norms of our respective professions. We look forward to Dembroff, Kukla, and Stryker doing the same in the future. If not, we request that they at least leave the rape talk out of it.

It isn’t just on Twitter where transactivists go blithely on ignoring arguments, nope.  Parallels exist in academia as well.  Holly Lawford-Smith writing at the Quillette illustrates the divide between gender critical and establishment (woke) philosophers.

 

“Perhaps another reason why things have gotten ugly is that the underlying disagreement is not one that can be settled by reason alone. Perhaps there is simply a fundamental moral disagreement over the extent to which a person’s internally experienced identity matters, and should be respected and affirmed by others. If you can’t settle things with reason, yet you think they must be settled somehow, you’ll have to deploy other tactics. Is this the explanation we’ve been looking for?

Let’s start with the idea that identity matters. In almost all the cases of identity we’re familiar with, there’s some fact that underwrites the corresponding identity. A white-appearing person who identifies as indigenous is accepted as indigenous because of her ancestry (and perhaps her cultural ties, acceptance by indigenous communities, and so forth). There are facts that make her identification true (and that, if absent, would lead to her identification being rejected). But when a male-born person asserts that they are a woman, what are the facts at issue? There are many answers we could give here, such as that the person has dysmorphia about their sexed body, or has dysphoria in regard to gender roles, or has lived life “passing” as a female person for some length of time, or is accepted as female by other members of the community. Unfortunately, establishment feminist philosophers—following trans activists in the wider society—tend to reject all such answers, and assert that subjective identity is all that matters: If someone asserts with apparent sincerity that they feel like a woman—or is a woman—then the person is a woman. But that’s like saying that a person is indigenous if she says she is, and that any questions about ancestry are tantamount to the denial of one’s humanity.

But we can supplement the claim that identity matters, and thereby get closer to fully explaining the ugliness of this debate.

Add to it the claim that trans people are one of the most vulnerable social groups in society; and that one of the most humane and effective means we have for lessening their vulnerability is to affirm their gender identity, and thereby lessen the suicide risk associated with dysmorphia and dysphoria. To the extent that questioning the veracity of gender identities may be said to interfere with the social acceptance of transgender people, such questioning may be cast as morally reprehensible, uncaring and dangerous.

If true, this would explain the abusiveness of establishment feminist philosophers—and the wider trans-rights activist community. This view presumes such high stakes that it can be invoked to justify even the most uncivil and abusive forms of discourse. But it also undermines the very idea of truth-seeking, since embedded within the argument is the idea that it doesn’t really matter whether transwomen are women: All that matters is that we act as though they are women, because the focus is on the instrumental value of assertions supplying trans women with a certain kind of emotional and moral support, not determining the existence of an objectively real truth.

Under this analysis, when gender critical feminists show up and argue that transwomen are not actually women, or that they shouldn’t be treated as women for all social and legal purposes, they miss the point and talk past the establishment feminist philosophers. The point of the discussion, as the establishment feminist philosophers see it, isn’t to determine the truth of the underlying claims, but to provide succour to a vulnerable community. They are doing politics and calling it philosophy.

Adding to the frustration and anger of the establishment feminist philosophers is the fact that there’s literally no way they can communicate their real argument—namely that we should act as if trans women are truly women, even if we know they are not—because if this argument were said out loud (or, worse, stated in print or online), the whole project would collapse. Transwomen would know what even their most vocal allies secretly believe. The only possible strategy is instead to yell out conclusory slogans and then protect them from contradiction with all available methods—insults, attempts to deplatform, social ostracism, reputational damage, complaints to employers, online harassment, the lot.”

Well it’s good to know that bullshite still flows downhill, I suppose.

I have not seen any episodes of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.  And for me, that is quite shocking as I am very much a fan of decluttered, organized living.  I say ‘fan’ because in reality I’m stuffed into a small house that has entirely too much stuff and most of it is not mine, so I cannot purge away my clutter demons.  C’est la vie.

Olberding rasies the point that much of the success of Tidying Up has to do with the latent Orientalism still present in our North American culture.  Our internalized mystic notions are somewhat problematic to say the least.

 

“At a practical level, as a professor who regularly teaches East Asian philosophies, I die a little inside every time we experience a cultural phenomenon with a veneer of ‘wisdom from the East’ on it. Having imbibed pop culture’s mystical Orient, students will arrive to my classes craving a deeper initiation into Eastern mysteries. Teaching these seekers of wisdom then becomes deflationary.

I was once at an art fair where there was a booth selling temporary tattoos. One of the tattoos was a Chinese character that was translated on the tattoo’s plastic label as ‘bitch’, an appealing bit of body art for the tough girls among us, I suppose. Except a far more straightforward and accurate translation of the character would be ‘prostitute’, or maybe ‘whore’.

Teaching students who fell in love with ‘Eastern philosophy’ via our culture’s myriad Mr Miyagis is like being the one to tell someone her tattoo says ‘whore’. The tattooed will be better off knowing, but she won’t thank you for telling her. Pop-culture-induced orientalism usually does wash off, but the cleanup is far less alluring than wearing the myth. At least, I console myself, Kondo’s target market is the middle-aged, so maybe my young college students won’t show up with this particular ‘tattoo’.

In some ways, I admire the impulse to reach outside familiar cultural traditions in order seek wisdom, or even household aesthetic advice. Both the urge to improve ourselves and the curiosity to look beyond our own boundaries seem salutary. The problem, though, is when doing so looks like one more iteration of what started our troubles in the first place. The distracted impulse to acquire the new and shiny, as well as the desperate hope that novelty might alleviate anhedonic consumerist malaise – these are why Kondo’s clients have houses overwhelmed with stuff. We have homes joylessly cluttered by the artefacts of a fruitless search for joy, or at least a reprieve from bathetic numbness. And wisdom from the ‘East’ has long been marketed to Westerners hoping to escape their existential maladies by seeking what is exotic, what promises to be more meaningful than what they have or can find locally.

My cynical concerns, to be sure, are not about Kondo herself. I assume that she is sincere in what she offers, and indeed I expect some might find her counsel truly useful. It is the nature of her attraction to Westerners that gives me pause. This registers most powerfully for me when I re-imagine what she offers in a distinctly American guise. Before I became a professor, I sometimes earned my keep as a maid. And this class-conscious part of me is more oppositional still where the fascinations of ‘tidying’ are concerned.”

The level confusion that Olberding presents, I think, is yet more evidence of the need to teach philosophy earlier, rather than later in the educational process.

 

This is one of my favourite talks. It presents a very important perspective.

One lesson I’ve tried to take from this involves dealing with those I might view as more wrong than me. It is common to wonder at how people can possibly be as stupid as they are. I have heard this sentiment expressed by many different people in many different situations. It is so easy to just think of the offending idiot as a moron and be done with it. It is not the most charitable of moods. The proper thing would be to recognize that we are all idiots, and we should deal with the stupid people in our lives as we would like our own stupidity addressed: with patience and courtesy. I admit, I don’t live up to this standard very often, but I’m working on it.

As a Physicalist, I can get behind some of what Rachlin says.  I think I’ll have to read some more regarding his thoughts on pain though, because I’m finding it hard to take out the direct connection our nervous system has with the world out there and replace it with the notion that it is simply an interaction over time.

Interesting article none the less, and of course the three questions that get you thinking about what Teleological Behaviourism is reproduced here:

 

“As far as I am concerned, our minds are not mysterious entities in our brains but rather equivalent to the long-term patterns in our overt behaviour. This view stems from Aristotle’s philosophy of teleology, in which the end, not the means, is the most important part. For a psychologist, the viewpoint is known as teleological behaviourism, and that’s where I fall.

The concept might be difficult to accept at first, but give it a chance. Following are three questions and answers that are hard to resist; they might not convince you to become a teleological behaviourist, but they should demonstrate that teleological behaviourism is not as crazy as it might seem at first:

QUESTION: It is the far-distant future. Knowledge of the brain has progressed to the point where our brains can be removed from our bodies and stored safely in a room while communicating wirelessly with our bodies; such disembodied brains can control our movements as they do now in situ. American football teams use this brain-separation technique to protect themselves from concussions. Yet there are still broken arms and legs, and players writhing on the ground. Where is the pain?

ANSWER: The pain is in the players’ behaviour. The brains in the locker room contain the pain mechanisms, but pain itself is not an internal mechanism; it is an interaction over time between a person’s overt behaviour and the environment. It is the player writhing on the field, not his or her brain, that needs assistance; pain can function as a signal for that. For the hurt football player, as for us all, the pain of the moment exists in the context of a wider relationship over time between harmful stimuli (such as a hot stove) and overt and generally functional behaviour (such as pulling your hand away).

QUESTION: Again, it is the far-distant future. Suppose you lived then and married a wonderful person and had a great life together with perhaps children and grandchildren. After 50 years of marriage, on his/her deathbed, he/she tells you that he/she is a robot, manufactured rather than normally born. Would you be disappointed?

ANSWER: I would not be disappointed. If anything (say, a non-physical soul or some neural circuit in her brain) had been left out of my wife’s composition, that thing would have been entirely irrelevant to me. If her behaviour after all these years was that of a normal human being, her consciousness must have been that of a normal human being, by definition. Otherwise, consciousness would be a truly trivial thing. Consciousness evolved as did our less-extended behavioural patterns. The separation of consciousness from long-term behavioural patterns allows you to say that a normally behaving person, normal in every way (perhaps, over the long run, a better behaving person than you are), is ‘really’ inferior to you because his or her in-principle non-detectible consciousness is faulty or non-existent. Such a notion is not just wrong but destructive, and can underlie racism and prejudice of every kind.

QUESTION: Two people in a room are asked to imagine a lion. One closes her eyes and says: ‘Yes, now I see it; it’s walking around; I see the mane and the tail.’ The other person runs screaming from the room. Which one is imagining a lion?

ANSWER: Clearly the person running out of the room is imagining a lion. The other is imagining a movie of a lion. There are no sense organs in our brains; if there were, we would see nerves and not lions. To imagine something is to behave in the absence of that thing as you would normally do in its presence – as you would do if you perceived that thing. Thus, as Aristotle said, imagination depends on perception. Actors on the stage are performing acts of imagination. Good acting is not a consequence of good imagination but is itself good imagination.”

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