What we are seeing around us today may well turn out to be a transition from decadent democratic egalitarianism to tyranny, as Plato described the process in The Republic. I spell it out in a new essay at The American Mind.
Friday, July 17, 2020
Plato predicted woke tyranny
Posted by Edward Feser at 4:12 PM
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great essaay dr.feserReplyDelete
You, like many other conservatives, appear to be living in an altogether different reality. That's why you're losing in my book. I literally simply cannot wrap my mind around how you are thinking.ReplyDelete
According to you, what's going on has exactly nothing whatsoever to do with systemic police brutality and criminality, expropriation of the middle class and poor by the rich over the past few decades (such that we have millions without health care coverage in one of the wealthiest nations in the world), or the realization that the "heritage" of the Confederacy and Jim Crow deserves no loyalty whatsoever (and even alleged "good guys" like Jefferson and Washington were hardly that). According to you, the REAL problem is that these things are being protested, and that only because the protestors are libertines. Any "reasonable" person accepts all these things as American as apple pie, right?
And Trump has a base to placate, and wants to be re-elected, which means he can't go full-bore tyrant even though he would like to. Against the "wrong" people (protestors in Lafayette Square or in Portland), he is certainly willing to do so. He'd probably like to declare martial law except he'd meet with resistance from the Armed Forces and he'd be told he could kiss all chance of reelection goodbye
>Let's Go FishingDelete
I have some questions for you.
Is your idea of "protesting" is destroying both private and public property and attacking innocent people?
If police brutality and economic exploitation is the problem, then how will tearing down statues of people who have been dead for hundreds of years help your cause?
Do you consider bohemian anarchists forming violent mobs to be "American as apple pie"?
Thank you for answering these questions. I do agree with you though: we do live in completely different realities. We believe that the Left is the delusional ones, however, as winning elections isn't a sign of being truthful.
Perhaps the reason you can't wrap your head around these things is precisely because you live in a fantasy. What systemic police brutality? None of the statistics support this claim. They also don't support the claim that black Americans are being hunted down by the police. I you want a real hotbed of brutality, look no further than the black community itself. Black-on-black murder rates are 500 times greater than the number of police shootings (the vast majority of which involve armed perps). Instead of looking around for imaginary problems, how about we cool it, use our brains, and focus on real issues? Oh, and perhaps white Americans can stop treating black Americans with a condescending "mother knows best" attitude. Ultimately, communities can only solve their own problems (they can ask for assistance, but it is best when the initiative comes from within). The road to hell is paved with good intentions and liberal whites have managed to pave the moral equivalent of US Route 20.Delete
W.r.t. statues, no one is claiming the heritage of slavery was a good thing. There is a civil way of resolving disputes over monuments, but even there, the history is complex, so no categorical answer may be given. However, your insistence that statues should only ever be built for the morally spotless would leave you with virtually no monuments. Even the saints were sinners, though today, even saints are slanderously accused of misdeeds they never committed (St. Junipero Serra comes to mind). Religious statues, including those of Jesus, are being destroyed. You want to sit there and tell me that makes sense to you? Get you head checked.
The mob is full of poorly educated fools, many of whom are vice-ridden and many of whom probably suffer from mental disorders. How are these vandals solving anything? They aren't. They're useful idiots for Marxist activists like BLM (the founders are quite open about it, so it's not like I had dredge a river to find that information; they also openly admire Marxists like the wanted fugitive Marxist terrorist Assata Shakur who fled to Cuba in the 70s after murdering a state trooper and escaping prison).
So do yourself and all of us a favor and pull your frontal lobe out of your posterior and put your life to some good end instead of blowing it on delusions. Civilization, not savagery.
This seems troll-ish. Anyone else think so?Delete
You literally don't know what "literally" means if you can't "literally wrap [your] mind" around Professor Feser's thinking. But he has a book that can help you with your mind-wrapping problems.Delete
Use your old moniker LonelyProffesor!Delete
"But he has a book that can help you with your mind-wrapping problems."
This guy does not need books, he needs therapy, a padded cell and a straight jacket, and prayers.
The proportion of those killed by police (on any given year) who are black is almost exactly equal to the proportion of those arrested (on that year) who are black. For example in 2018 27% of those killed by police were black and 27% of those arrested by police were black. The same relationship holds for whites and hispanics, in 2018 50% of those killed by police were white and 50% of those arrested by police were white. So the reason blacks are killed by police disproportionately is simply because they are arrested disproportionately. Now you could claim that their disproportionate arrest rate is "institutional racism" but of course it isn't. We know this because the proportion of blacks arrested for crimes like rape, assault, and robbery line up almost exactly with victim surveys. For example from 2000 to 2008 34% of those arrested for rape were black and over that same time period 34% of surveyed victims of rape said their rapists were black. The fact that the numbers line up so perfectly is a clear refutation that blacks are being arrested more frequently than they deserve. In fact considering blacks are 40% of cop killers and 38% of violent criminals generally we would expect them to be 38-40% of those who instigate potentially lethal conflicts with the police and so we would expect them to be 38-40% of those killed by police, the real number is much lower, afaik never cracking 30%. So yea the problem is actually just black criminality. You've been duped by people who hate white people and want to see them disenfranchised and so try to stir up racial resentment as often as they can.Delete
I should realized from the outset that Dr. Feser wasn't even really pretending to be making a serious argument and getting it published in a serious journal. (The article right below his was on COVID denialism, FFS.) It was just performance art for the right-wing crowd with his cries of "Tyranny!!!" (Yes, his books on proofs for the existence of God, etc., are serious work. This is not. And was never intended to be.)Delete
As for the rest of you, you don't think I've heard all these right-wing talking points a million times before? Maybe if you got out of your right-wing echo chamber just a little bit you'd realize they aren't nearly as strong as you think. (And, maybe grow up a little. You ARE LOSING, and you know it, based on your overall attitude of panic. Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, it might have something to do with YOU, your worldview, and the policies you advocate?)
Unfortunately, (though quite predictably), none of you actually address the real points I made. Your responses are either denialism, whataboutism, deflection, sloganeering (e.g. "violent mobs" when only a very small fraction of protestors were in fact violent), or personal insults. Your worldview simply cannot admit that systemic abuse by law enforcement is a real problem, that economic inequality is a real problem, or that destruction of statues dedicated to malefactors is justified (because they should never have been erected in the first place). Thus you have to pivot to "violent mobs" and "tyranny". You simply refuse to believe people who tell you these things are real problems, even from first-hand experience, and comfort yourself with easy platitudes. (If the cop beat him up, he deserved it. The cops aren't the problem, black-on-black violence is. The problem for the poor isn't lack of economic opportunity, it's laziness. Robert E. Lee was a wonderful, wonderful man fighting "Northern Aggression". Etc., etc.)
Especially noteworthy is, when I mention police brutality, you immediately pivot to race. Apparently, the idea that whites can also (and frequently) are the victims is just alien to you.
I have a question for you. You think asking these kinds of loaded questions helps your cause? Your categorization of the protests as "violent mobs" just shows you have no real respect for the truth. Yes there was SOME violence at some of the protests,
What an incurable buffoon you are. If you have actually looked at the evidence (you say "talking points", which says to me that you have not, but I'll grant that you have for the sake of argument), then you're in even worse shape because it means you're impervious to the evidence. The fact that you're misconstruing what people have written above further proves there's no point conversing with people like you. Let's hope it's just mental defect and not malice. For your sake.Delete
We've been caught. The public face of conservatism has been losing, of course it has. But that's so that us evil conservatives can stir up hatred and intolerance so that we can take over the world!Delete
Why do you think we go on and on about tyranny and free speech? We're hypocrites! We don't wont people to be able to choose between gender studies or race studies. We want to be tyrants. We don't want to allow for people to speak their minds about whether the statue of Abraham Lincoln can stay up or not. Forget free speech!
Its time we come out of the shadows. What's the pinky? What are we gonna do tonight? Why, what we'll do every night from now on;
Try to take over the world!
Pinky and the Brain
@Let’s Go FishingDelete
They certainly expose you as being an unthinking partisan.
Let's stop this charade of pretending that the morally obtuse want their "points addressed". They never make any points worth addressing. This is war, shrapnel is flying everywhere. Talks will be resumed when our boot is over their necks.Delete
The Left is right about some things. But you have terrible PR; nobody forced
y'all to, e.g., call a subtle and complex issue as depersonalized racial discrimination through institutions and jobs "WHITE SUPREMACY", or calling those who come from the other side "WHITE SUPREMACISTS" or "FaScIsTs". This kind of moronic thinking will always guarantee that important leftist points will be forever defaced, misinterpreted, and so on. Good job.
The other problem is that the Right is also correct about many things, but your partisanship blinds you. What makes you think that only you can say "you don't think I've heard all these right-wing talking points a million times before????"? Well, you don't think we've heard all these left-wing talking points a million times before? The Left is also a bubble (an even worse bubble than the Right, I'd say, when we compare the intellectuals and see which ones are more moderate, temperate and prudent than the other).
"As for the rest of you, you don't think I've heard all these right-wing talking points a million times before?"
Yet you provide no specific refutations for the fine work of statistical analysis done by Anonymous July 18, 2020 at 6:39 AM.
Although, there are a number of reforms and adjustments I think we should pursue in the criminal justice system.
1.Increased training and equipment of police in non-lethal conflict resolution techniques.
2.Increased opportunity for diversionary programs where appropriate, especially for drug possession charges.
3.Better standards of evidence the recognize the weaknesses of eyewitness accounts and other sorts of evidence that is actually very weak and can lead to a wrongful conviction.
4.Reinstatement of probation in the federal system to allow for old aged prisoners who have been in prison for decades to be released under supervision if they earn that privilege with positive behavior in prison.
5.Legalize weed and treat low level possession of other drugs primarily as a health and medical issue in the context of a criminal diversionary program.
6.Increased mental health services for the many prisoners with genuine mental health problems.
As far as systemic racism as a motivation for unjustified police violence? The rate is below the margin of error of available statistics.
Jessie Jackson Syndrome indicates that it stands to reason that some white cops will be more prone to over-react with a black man as opposed to a white man. Cops sometimes get trigger happy or panic with white guys too, but black men are in general more feared than white men, so we cannot rule out race as a factor in some number of unjustified police shootings, but the charge of widespread systemic racially motivated police violence against black people is not supported by the statistical facts, as Anon described well.
Yeah, regarding your "black criminality myth"
Anonymous July 21, 2020 at 1:29 PMDelete
Your videos and articles are garbage.
Black people commit murder per capita 6 times more often than white people. That is just a fact of life in the USA.
Black violent criminality is vastly greater per capita than it is for whites. If you don't understand that basic fact of life you do not have the foggiest idea what you are talking about.
Of the sorts of crimes, street crimes, the kinds of crimes that typically lead to police contact, the actual per capita commission of those crimes is vastly higher for blacks than it is for whites.
Sigh, you didn't even look at the articles/videos did you?
Here's something more:
gonna quote this as well:
"It’s racist in three major ways: 1. The wording of the statistic itself has racist connotations, 2. The only reason you would even use this statistic is if you were trying to prove an inherently racist argument, and 3. This “statistic” itself is misrepresentative and inaccurate due to systemic and individual racism. Some may disagree with #2, but my opinion is that generalizing a whole entire RACE is morally wrong, prejudicial, and the textbook definition of racism. I know people are going to disagree with #1 and #3, so please listen to my explanation.
The statistic itself has racist connotations. A statistic itself is an interpretation of data. Not the truth, but rather a small, biased slice of the world that is then interpreted with more bias. Not saying that numbers don’t lie, but it also doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the absolute truth. Saying “black people commit more crimes statistically” is linking only race with crime. By using race as the only factor in criminality and neglecting so many important factors (childhood trauma, education level, geographic location, personal ethics/beliefs, mental health, outside pressures, and income, just to name a few) is narrow-minded/ignorant at best and flat out racist at worst. Just some food for thought: if race were truly a factor in how likely someone is to commit crime, every country would have crime rates proportional to race. I promise that just because someone has white skin does not mean they’re inherently less likely to commit crime by virtue of their skin color. It has everything to do with their environment, which comprises of the factors I listed above. Not to mention many of the factors I listed exist in majority-black communities almost purely out of systemic racism, but I digress.
The only reason you would even use this statistic is if you were trying to prove an inherently racist argument. This is self explanatory, I hope.
The statistic that “black people commit more crime” is misrepresentative due to systemic and individual racism. We will never know for sure whether black people commit more crime; the only fact we know for sure is that black people have more documented crimes, which speaks to the systemic and individual racism that is detrimentally rampant in our country. Due to racial profiling (which is reinforced by the very statistic you posed) and a higher volume of police in low-income communities, which are predominantly black (again, due to systemic racism, one being redlining, and again I digress) black people are more likely to be caught for their crimes. One example I like to point to is marijuana usage. Studies suggest that by proportion, white and black people use marijuana around the same amount, but black people are 3.5x more likely to be charged for using marijuana. On top of that, black people almost always receive longer sentences compared to their white counterparts. But that’s not even the end: when they eventually leave prison, they’re sent into a society that is relentlessly unaccepting of ex-cons.
Instead of using the saying “Black people commit more crime” as a point against BLM, we should actually use it as a way to expose the racist, insular attitude of many Americans."
Anonymous July 23, 2020 at 12:13 PMDelete
“@SP,Sigh, you didn't even look at the articles/videos did you?”
Of course I did, every single link, they are all garbage, I know because I opened them all.
“The statistic itself has racist connotations.”
Your connotations are your problem. The statistic that black people commit murder at a per capita rate 6 times that of whites is a statistical fact. Period. Facts don’t care about your connotations.
“if race were truly a factor in how likely someone is to commit crime, every country would have crime rates proportional to race.”
You are confusing nature with nurture, genetics with culture.
The fact of the murder statistic is best explained by a large black American subculture that is extraordinarily violent. Some white American subcultures are also extremely violent such as the mob, biker gangs, and the KKK. But overall the size of the hyper violent black subculture is a much larger proportion of total black population compared to the case for whites.
“The only reason you would even use this statistic is if you were trying to prove an inherently racist argument. This is self explanatory, I hope.”
Yes, the obvious explanation is that you have some extraordinarily bigoted, narrow, and limited views.
“We will never know for sure whether black people commit more crime; the only fact we know for sure is that black people have more documented crimes”
The bodies are the bodies, just count them. Most murders leave a body to be found.
The victim of an assault, robbery, carjacking, shooting, stabbing, or rape is very likely to be able to identify the race of the perpetrator. As Anon showed, victim racial identification tracks almost identically with arrests by race. This isn’t a mystery, except to the authors of your garbage articles and you with your garbage “arguments”.
Once again you're proving you didn't even LOOK at the links. I mean the twitter thread alone refutes all your "points". You're just wilfully ignoring anything which refutes your belief in "black pathology".Delete
Also I love how you used the whole "you're bigoted for thinking I'm a bigot" talking point. You're a sophist.
I never used the term "black pathology". That is a straw man, your words, not mine.
The fact that you would attribute to me a term I did not use, and a belief I do not hold, indicates your bigotry.
The Twitter thread, like every provided link, is littered with such straw men nonsense "arguments".
You have said nothing to refute the logical arguments of Anonymous July 18, 2020 at 6:39 AM.
All you can do is make the absurd assertion that you can "prove" what I did or did not open and look at.
Your "reasoning" seems to be that the links provide arguments that are so strong that anybody who is exposed to them will be immediately convinced of their correctness, and since I am not convinced of their correctness, you draw the inane conclusion that I must not have looked at them.
Regarding that twitter link:Delete
"We will never know for sure whether black people commit more crime; the only fact we know for sure is that black people have more documented crimes, which speaks to the systemic and individual racism that is detrimentally rampant in our country."
How about this sentence: We will never know for sure whether blacks earn less; the only fact we know for sure is that black people have less documented income.
The guy's rhetoric is self-defeating. To believe it means he has to dismiss every other statistic that supports his ideology. But the mere presumption that statistics could be right in the case of crime is, of all random things, racist. That's the long and winding road to racism these days. It used to be racism manifested itself through lynchings or "whites only" signs. Today it's about epistemology and how to interpret data. It's a degeneration in the concept of racism. It's why I have a hard time taking their rhetoric seriously.
Does anyone else think that things turned chaotic circa 2012? It seems like the world changed significantly around that time, and it's when the left started obsessing (and I mean REALLY obsessing) over identity politics, even to the detriment of their focus on economic issues. LGBTQmania became the new civil religion around that time, then gay marriage followed in several countries, and race relations became worse and worse every year (culminating in the shitfest of 2016 and the following years of Trump derangement syndrome).ReplyDelete
Am I alone in thinking that there was a sharp change around 2012?
What caused it? My theory is that social media is behind it. The last decade saw the real, widespread popularization of social media, and along with it we saw the birth of social media politics. Boring discussions of economics, political governance and so on don't look as exciting on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube as the personalized struggles of minorities, etc., hence the exaggerated boom in discussion around those topics. Even now, social media is at the root of what is going on - cancel culture is only a thing because of social media. And it is also through these media that protests get organized and propaganda is spread. It is also much, much easier to become an advocate for X (insert minority) "rights" than it is to actually discuss growth, money, political systems, law, and so on.
I feel like all hell broke loose some 8 years ago, and we still haven't been able to deal with any of it.
Don't mind the name I just like Frozen. Also, I have been reading Dr. Feser's Blog for years.
(I guess the Mayans saw it coming). Aside from the joke, well, let's remember that all of these leftist ideas have been fostering and circulating for decades. Still, this past decade has been quite ferocious.
Actually John McWhorter has said something very similar: that the sudden advent of the smart phone a few years ago allied to Twitter and youtube created a new mental world in which isolated outrages by individual police officers suddenly became embedded in people's phones all around the world. The mental impression and electronic image people have is far more powerful than the actual reality.Delete
I'd disagree about 2012 being so noticeable and major of a downslide.
While the year may likely mark the beginning of this chaos becoming socially widespread, it's not when it became generally noticeable in culture or mature. In fact, the early 2010's are viewed by many people as having been much more calm and normal compared to what happened mid-decade.
I think the rise of the current chaos is more continuous than discrete, and happened across several years - with the middle of the last decade being a crucial turning point and cementing it into culture.
I agree that the early 2010s were much more calm, this is why I chose 2012 as a year in which things started getting out of hand. It was still manageable, it was still relatively normal. But it's when I started noticing that things were changing. It also was the year Obama got reelected with a platform that made a big deal out of gay marriage and stuff. It's when social media started getting REALLY big. By 2015 the world was already quite insane, and in 2016 things were just escalating more and more.Delete
It's impossible to pinpoint an exact year, but I think 2012 might have been our last "normal" year.
I'd like to provide a few explanations as for why things seemed to go crazy in 2012. There were really a confluence of factors behind "the Great Awokening," but I believe that they can be boiled down to just four.
1. Barack Obama was re-elected on culture war issues. This showed that culture war issues were useful for Left-wing politicians (or, at least, didn't hurt them).
2. The Democrats began to believe they could start winning based on demographics. Identity politics became a much, much larger factor within the Left.
3. The Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation died/retired out of leadership positions, creating sea changes within various institutions.
4. It became obvious that gay marriage was going to win; this, in turn, established that a) civil rights was a continuously moving target and b) once an issue was identified as a “civil rights” issue, it would win and anyone on the wrong side would be punished.
I hope this helps!
Superb essay, Dr. Feser. You are one of the great diagnosticians of the ills of our time.ReplyDelete
Excellent piece. Plato's perspective reminds me of the essay The Fate of Empires by Sir John Glubb. Having never studied Plato at depth I did not realze the connection when I read the essay years ago.ReplyDelete
What a terrific, albeit unsettling, essay. Thanks Dr. Feser.ReplyDelete
There is nothing new about rioting in American history.
I'm not sure the argument that was leveled in the article hinges on supposing that rioting is new...Delete
Either way, I'd appreciate elaboration.
Feser drones on about "class warfare."
The idea of the perfect society has a long and remarkably consistent history from the wobbles of ancient Israel, to Plato, to Augustine's City of God, to Immortale Dei of Pope Leo XIII. The diagnosis of the ills that befall a given society follow common fault lines too—not surprising since human nature is what it is. But I wonder if the trend is ever reversible short of the inevitable painful collapse and eventual return to virtue (simple reality!) as the way to stave off chaos. It seems not. Appeals to reason (much less virtue) fall on deaf ears. The barbarians pay lip service to reason, but only as fodder for their passions. But as every first-year novitiate learns (or at least should learn), the problem isn’t intellectual anyway.
Disregard if you're a universalist, everything is just swell.
Very thought-provoking essay. I admire Plato, and I've noticed a sort of "so much freedom that nobody is really free" element to modern society, though I don't think I'm ready to give up on egalitarianism just yet. At least not entirely.ReplyDelete
I'm as "woke" as I have ever been right now, though in a way that would get me attacked by Antifa if I ever went to a protest. I just fell into gender identity politics as a radical feminist, and the whole thing just gets more nightmarish by the day. All I see are misogynistic slurs, the normalization of violence against any woman who has been deemed insufficiently virtuous, and a chauvinistic disregard for any and all concerns. We are told to shut up and sit down, because otherwise the conservatives will win. (Maybe I'm okay with that? The conservatives aren't trying to demolish the very notion of sex-based protections, after all.) I took my radfem identity politics out for a test drive, and basically hit a wall. We care about feminism, until there's a higher priority interest at stake, and then the mask comes off and the misogyny starts up. If you're lucky, you get written off in a somewhat cavalier fashion. The radfem activists who won't be silenced are almost certainly receiving death and rape threats daily. This is apparently who we are: we care about oppressed minorities, until they suddenly say something we don't want to hear. Then we shut them down.
I've been paying a fair amount of attention to transgender Youtubers recently to get a fuller picture of everything, and what I see there is absolutely wild. One wrong word, and Twitter just pounces, tearing them and anyone who will not disown them to shreds. It's as if the more vulnerable a population is, the more policed they are by the social justice horde. Some of the insults they get from outraged SJWs are outright transphobic. It's like watching a snake eat its tail--is egalitarianism even a concern at all anymore? I kind of think it's just pure blood sport at this point.
What is the goal? What are you looking for? What is your motivation? What do you want to see accomplished?
As a radical feminist, you mean? I'm liberal Anglo-Catholic, so one of the more moderate ones--some are into stuff like the abolition of the institution of marriage, lesbian separation, and the complete eradication of gender roles. I disagree with the first, don't care about the second (my interest is in the liberation of women through celibacy), and the third is a nice fantasy in the same way that communism is--we will never be equal because biology exists.Delete
One of the major things that distinguishes radical feminism from liberal feminism is hostility towards the Sexual Revolution. We lost that war, but we believe that sexual liberation was about giving men easier access to women's bodies. (I wasn't always a radfem, but I think #MeToo has vindicated them--it was always about serving men.) We object to pornography and hyper-sexualization, and we're fighting tooth and nail to keep prostitution illegal, since it's seldom all that consensual, leads to human trafficking and domestic violence, and further demeans and objectifies people, especially women. This is a fight we appear to be losing--our opponents even have an exciting new slur to use against women who oppose prostitution (SWERF), since why have a discussion if you can just say everyone else is a bigot?
I've moved over to the trans-exclusionary radical feminist camp since the last J.K. Rowling firestorm, which has been... traumatic. I support trans rights to social acceptance, housing, work, services, medical care, and so forth and so on, but their insane ideology has denied us the ability to organize as a distinct oppressed class by claiming the right to be accepted as a member of said class. Whenever we try to reorganize with a different set of words, they come to appropriate those words too. They tell us that the reason behind our historic oppression (biology) is a social construct. It's an ironically masculine thing to do, honestly. Their ideology is a hot mess that hurts everyone, including themselves, and it's going to blow up in their faces entirely sooner or later. Until then, we get to be collatoral damage, since we're always collatoral damage when the left loses the ability to think straight, but it's particularly ugly this time.
Not sure if that answers your question? I live at the intersection between traditionalism and radicalism in a way that usually makes it easier to get along with conservatives. It's usually best if there's only one intense social theorist in the room, lol. Especially if they're out slaughtering all the sacred cows.
Have you read Saint Edith Stein? She has some very good stuff; I am convinced there is a place for a kind of feminism - one which is founded upon the specific female virtues. Women are valued equally when society starts valuing actual feminine traits as much as it values masculine traits. This does not mean women are all meant to be housewives - though it is important to value Motherhood and those who choose to serve their families as women -; like feminists understand, it should also be natural for women to pursue careers and make a name for themselves in science, medicine, arts, and all other areas of knowledge. But women can add a unique value to the workforce (and science, arts, etc) precisely if they maintain their unique female traits and perspectives, instead of being shaped into "men with different bodies".
The "traditional", "conservative" view has erred in limiting the role of women - a tendency to think that women should not be career-oriented, and that having a career and such, even if acceptable, is "less natural" than being a mother and housewife.
The leftists, and typical feminists, go the other way. They downplay biological differences, downplay the value of Motherhood, of housewives; and think that the liberation of women involves making women indistinguishable fronm men. "We can be men, too! We can do all the stuff men can do!"
Both sides downplay the fact that women have real potentialities for work, science, arts, etc., and that these potentialities flourish in ways unique to women. Women can bring unique advantages and traits to professions. Society stands to gain from having both men and women - both the male and female perspectives and traits of humanity - working together in many areas. Femininity is not to be diluted as a social construct, it is to be valued and given its proper recognition.
I have read Edith Stein, actually. I really did like her, and though I'm not a complementarian, I have had similar concerns to what you're describing for a while. We were right to demand access to the traditional masculine sphere, but in doing so, we never successfully challenged the idea that what was masculine was also the default. We've been more or less allowed to operate within a man's world now, but everything that is associated with us is still devalued. People have argued that this is the real reason the pay gap exists--any field that women go into is automatically viewed as less prestigious.
I'm not much of a gender essentialist, but it doesn't really matter whether or not it's true ontologically, because the problem exists either way. I don't know if "feminine virtues" really exist, but there are definitely virtues that are associated with femininity, and they're clearly devalued specifically because of that. Why are competition and aggression viewed as better than cooperation and reconciliation? Because they are coded as masculine. Are they actually better? I'd say that the current political polarization would imply otherwise.
I do have concerns about housewives, though. Not because I think there's anything wrong with it--my best friend is one, so I can see some of the tensions that arise out of economic inequality between the partners. I am... uh, really far left in some ways, since as uninterested as I am in building sand castles in the air, communist style, I don't see how issues like this could be resolved without abandoning capitalism entirely.
Sorry, the other posts didn't show until after I posted my last.Delete
You said: "Why are competition and aggression viewed as better than cooperation and reconciliation?"
I'm very interested in that. What is your take? What is a change for the better to your mind?
You attribute "competition and aggression" to maleness, and "cooperation and reconciliation" to femaleness. How would those attributes not be complementarian?Delete
I think a trait like aggressiveness, which shows more in males, accounts for a large part of the wage gap. I'm sure aggressive females do better in wage negotiations than passive males. I say that as a passive male. I have never counter-proposed in a wage negotiation. I wonder if women are much less likely to aggressively negotiate their wages. If not, that is not necessarily the fault of the employer.Delete
My sister is an executive at a major corporation and we have this discussion occassionally.
We don't want to eliminate "competition and aggression", nor do we want to eliminate "cooperation and reconciliation"; doing either would have undesirable effects. So what do you think? I have my ideas, but I'm wondering about what you think.
As far as competititon and aggression, cooperation and reconciliation, I'd say these attributes are not necessarily complementarian because they might not be essential to what it means to be a man or a woman. As far as I'm aware, the jury is still out on whether these types of traits are innate or the result of socialization. I spent a while picking fights with New Atheist types to get more comfortably confrontational--I can hold my own just fine now, but I don't know if it's less natural to me because of socialization or because of estrogen. I'm not sure it even really matters, since my major concern is the hierarchical understanding we have of them, where confrontation is viewed as superior.
To be honest, I don't think either extreme is ideal. Perhaps all of this Aristotelianism is rubbing off on me, because I think when it comes to gendered attributes, moderation is key. This is my major frustration with the left right now, for example, because the two biggest virtues, diversity and inclusiveness, are problematic when not approached carefully. The second one in particular finally set off my own radfem identity politics, since it's ultimately a male idealization of a traditionally feminine virtue--one that is important in moderation but can turn parasitic if you're socialized to always give yourself away entirely. (I'm increasingly convinced that women have been left in a position where we're morally required by progressive ideology and intersectionality to constantly put the needs of everyone else first, and if we refuse, we are cast out.)
I think it's also important for people to draw lines between what they will and will not compromise on, which would also require a mixture of competition and cooperation. It seems to me that we're in a situation right now where everyone's identity is tied up into winning and never giving ground on anything. People appear to be taking even the idea of discussion as an existential threat.
The problem is two-fold. Women are less likely to negotiate and push for raises or promotions than men, but professions coded as feminine are also viewed as less valuable. Here's an interesting article on it: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/upshot/as-women-take-over-a-male-dominated-field-the-pay-drops.html
Being aggressive can be difficult for women, since it's really easy to come across as shrill, or pushy, or any number of other stereotypes tied to not being appropriately passive. Some can pull it off (I certainly think Angela Merkel does), but it's the sort of thing that's just as likely to backfire in the workplace.
One way I have tried to make sense of current progressive attitudes towards women is thinking about the compulsion to continually disrupt any kind of (as they see it) established power relationships. There may have been a perception that debate around women's rights and status was becoming too 'safe' and conventional and was no longer as much use as a way of provoking some kind of revolution. This could explain the rush to embrace trans-rights and all that that involves, to simultaneously be positive about traditional Islam and silent about the status of women in that context and finally to marginalise TERFs and all the women they believe have internalised misogyny, are suffering from white fragility and so on (the thing about 'white women's tears' may be peak bizarreness in this respect). Pushing all of these things in a persistent, uncompromising way helps create a cultural environment of disorientation and instability.
A number of things that appear to be particularly taboo for progressives at the moment, celibacy, monasticism, Catholic Social Teaching.
I actually think it's the other way around. Feminism had a lot of trouble getting off the ground in the first place, and has always picked up steam in the wake of another movement. One problem has always been organizing, since women are isolated from each other politically in a way that other oppressed groups aren't. And once you ask for too much, society pushes back (like the Comstock laws, for example). I think that some of the claims of radical feminism, like "men are not entitled to sex," were too revolutionary for leftist men, and so the radfems were banished and liberal feminism has been peddling pornography and talking about sexual liberation ever since. I don't believe that leftist men really want to challenge established power relationships--at least not in a way that would actually backfire against them.
The trans rights issue is very strange. I think the fact that the group in question is so small is part of why the movement is so powerful--it just turns into activism for its own sake when the SJW horde outnumbers the marginalized community to such an extent. The trans-activists call the shots, the SJWs line up for their virtue signaling, and actual transgender people are terrorized into silence. If they have any opinion other than the party line, the SJWs attack. It seems that the SJWs' new favorite activity is bullying lesbians into sleeping with pre-op trans-women, since sexual orientation rather than gender identity based orientation (whatever that is) is now bigoted. What's interesting to me is that the SJWs' preferred target is a vulnerable population that is marginalized twice over (homosexual, female)--I doubt they're intentionally going for the most vulnerable group, but I also don't think it's an accident. They know who is isolated enough to be bullied and who isn't.
I don't think most people care about revolutionary politics at all, except insofar as it makes them feel good to care about them. At this point, I think progressivism is primarily about being able to abuse people while feeling self-righteous. It's a game for white people--they can identify as allies, take their privilege and attack whomever they wish to, all the while believing that they're fighting the good fight. Whenever they come up against something that doesn't fit the narrative--the black conservative, the radical feminist (or our canceled transsexual allies)--their reactions take a colonial twist or end up at classic misogyny. There are good people in the mix also, but I think the Twitter mob is only in it for the power high.
I’m not asking questions to be a pest, but I am very curious about what you’re saying. I want to know about the meta narratives out in the world today that motivate so many people and you are very articulate and have views that are well thought out.
You said you aren’t a “gender essentialist”, but you also indicate that your aversion to confrontation may be “because of estrogen”. Surely social conditioning doesn’t happen in a vacuum and grounding traits in chemicals that have a certain “essence”, rather than saying that sex itself has a certain “essence” is distinction without a difference isn’t it?
This is precisely the sort of behaviour conservatives have been noting for years. The famous "diversity totem pole", wherein whether or not the concerns of a vulnerable group matter depends on whether they're higher or lower than others in the "hierarchy". I genuinely feel for you - the people you thought were on your side have turned out to be traitors. It's a real pity.
No worries, you can ask questions.
Yes, if estrogen makes a person naturally less confrontational, I would consider that gender essentialism. I was trying to say that I wasn't sure whether my innate discomfort with confrontation was due to socialization or gender essentialism, since it's certainly possible that hormones play a role there. I'm not sure to what extent they do, though, especially since confrontation is a bit more complex than animal aggression.
It's also unclear to me just how robust a form of gender essentialism you would need to actually get complementarianism off the ground, since hormones making a person more or less likely to be aggressive doesn't easily map onto specific characteristics or gender roles.
We noticed it too, to be honest. Or at least some of us did. It's hard not to notice how the media downplays violence against women whenever the attacker is viewed as more oppressed.
This one I didn't see coming, though. I suppose I just wasn't paying attention, since we usually just assume that there aren't bad actors in our various movements. I had no idea people were trying to eliminate sex-based protections, had reduced the notion of gender identity entirely to feelings (no hormones required), were putting men who hadn't even bothered to transition into women's prisons and shelters, were pushing the people they were supposed to be protecting into prostitution, were inciting violence against feminists, and so forth and so on. It's like a conservative conspiracy theory come to life. Every situation we were promised would never happen has in fact happened, and people either don't know or don't care. What happens to sex discrimination laws if there is no longer any meaningful way to talk about sex? There's no answer except to not think too deeply about it.
I feel like a cult victim. Complete with the "you are evil if you question our dogmatic statements that make not one lick of sense" subtext. So I guess I'm a fascist now, haha.
Sorry if this seems redundant. Such a nuanced topic is difficult via an electronic medium.
By rejecting “gender essentialism”, I wonder if what you mean is that you reject a sort of raw material determinism rather than what an Aristotelian means by “essence” of femininity/masculinity. We certainly don’t want a world absent all “aggression” where nothing moves forward. But we also don’t want a world absent cooperation where males are trying to burn everything down every 5 minutes. These, of course, aren’t hard categories—women can be aggressive, and men can be passive—but they must be essential; the radfems are fighting against something.
To what extent do you subscribe to the idea that men and women are identical/interchangeable, and their bodies are just accidental “wrappers”?
What is the essence of the “radfem” complaint? Is it centered around access to social power structures? Is any philosophy of gender that doesn’t center around access to power immediately dismissed as bourgeoisie?
I'm very atypical for a radfem, since I'm in open dialogue with Catholicism and pretty comfortable with John Paul II's take. Being able to accept the possibility that the Catholic Church is right and I am wrong is a salvation issue for me.
Generally speaking, radical feminism denies gender essentialism. It views gender as a hierarchical class system rather than something that is value neutral--femininity is imposed upon women in order to better control them. The goal of liberal feminism is equality within the system; the goal of radical feminism is revolution. Their blood feud with the transgender movement derives in large part from the fact that transgender ideology views gender as an egalitarian spectrum with no connection to biological sex, and claims that one ought to be free to be wherever one wishes on it, whereas the radfems see gender as a system of oppression with no connection to biological sex, and wish to do away with it entirely. Many of them are quite happy with gender non-conforming males dressing like women as long as they do not claim to literally be women, since the former option weakens gender norms, whereas the second option reinforces them. Which very much seems to be happening, since we've been moving from "boys can play with dolls" to "if you play with dolls, you might be a girl" over the past decade.
Personally, no. I don't believe that men and women are identical and that our bodies are just wrappers--that reeks of dualism to me, and I lean more in a phenomenological direction. I do, however, believe that we're so deep into socialization, with millennia of baggage concerning what masculinity and femininity mean, that talking about gender essentialism is inherently dangerous. We can't really differentiate between where nature ends and nurture begins, and tend to immediately jump from a minimalistic form of gender essentialism to a more reified one that has all the bells and whistles of a class system. In certain circumstances, biological sex disappears entirely and all that remains is hierarchical gender. For an example that I'm sure everyone here is familiar with, Sam Harris has claimed that women are not drawn to New Atheism because it has a more aggressive, "masculine" argumentative style. This is true, but it's also true that every time I've engaged with that crowd, it's been a textbook example of toxic masculinity, if coded atheist/theist instead of male/female: "I am more rational than you because it is an essential part of my identity as an atheist," so let the gaslighting begin. They have actually managed to build a hierarchy that looks--and feels, if you're a woman on the receiving end of it--an awful lot like gender, since it's one of the same dichotomies: reason/emotion. There's nothing value neutral about how they look at that dichotomy, so they view themselves as the ruling class and use it as a justification for abuse. It's no accident that this happens; even they know that their movement is coded masculine.
So to answer the question of how precisely I approach gender essentialism, I would probably say that unless we can properly deconstruct gendered structures of power and stop coding stuff as of higher or lower value depending on whether it is perceived as masculine or feminine, gender essentialism itself is irrelevant, since it will always be weaponized and lead to error. Is it possible to combat gender as a class structure with a non-hierarchical form of complementarianism? I don't know. I think it's a more promising approach than the direction the left has chosen to take, though I'm still coming to terms with how horribly we've screwed up and don't have much of a take on what in particular went wrong, besides "everything."
Yes, very nuanced and complicated subject. I have some things to say, but it'll have to be later today. Thanks for the reply.
In the meantime, can you recommend a source to learn more?Delete
I haven't read any official radical feminist literature since school, and I was less sympathetic to it at the time, but two of the biggest figures are Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon. A modern big name (if you can call someone who has been canceled a big name) is Julie Bindel.
If you want a taste for it at the journalistic level, there are Feminist Current and 4W, infamous TERF hangouts extraordinaire. The second has a lot of stuff on "sex positivity" too, which is amusingly full of articles on how exploitative and awful modern culture is.
Also at the more popular level, Marina Strinkovsky is a British radfem writer who has got a blog full of interesting things. Including one entry that specifically addressed the issue of whether or not gender essentialism was compatible with radical feminism. I tend to agree with her take on it:
I actually agree with feminism in its most basic premise. In fact, I think it’s not wrong to say that Judaism/Christianity was the original advocate for feminism: “your desire shall be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16); Mary as the “New Eve”; etc. I know it’s much more complicated than that, but that’s a difficult conversation over the internet.
I have no doubt that being down with JPII is “atypical” for a radfem! (ha, ha). You are familiar with “The Theology of the Body” (TOB)? Any legitimate attempt to address the concerns of feminism must take place within a proper understanding of the meaning of the human person, otherwise nothing good will happen (as we see with 3rd wave feminists endorsing pornography, for example). What are your thoughts on the TOB? Have you read “Love and Responsibility”? (I find it very difficult)
Three years ago, I took a course on Feminism for personal interests (I like to know my enemy! Ha!), and I read some stuff by MacKinnon (I think it was a polemic against pornography). In the same course we had to read a [serious] defense of pedophilia. I got yelled at . . . A LOT!
I’m sure you’re not surprised that I would have strenuous objections against claims that gender (femininity in particular) is reducible to an instrument of oppression. Touching on what I said above, I would claim that the oppression part is real, but it can only truly made right by a proper understanding of the human person as made to be a gift to others, and to accept the gift of others (ala JPII and TOB).
I agree about the problems brought into the question by our social presumptions. You wrote above that the sexual revolution was just a front to give males permission to use females, and I think that is totally correct: contraception and abortion absolve males of any responsibility toward females (thus Humanae Vitae and the unpopular Catholic position on contraception).
I’ve been dealing with New Atheists for a very long time; I think I’m pretty good at it now. 😊
Are you saying that Genesis 3:16 itself is feminist? I read that whole passage as meaning that the subjugation of women to men was the result of the Fall and wholly unnatural. I'm not sure if you mean that or something different, though I do agree that Mary as the New Eve is pretty profoundly feminist, if under a very different analysis than the normal secular one.
To be honest, I'm a lot more radicalized right now than I usually am. The left's totalitarian craziness has hit way too close to home this time, so I've been running on fumes and identity politics for a while now. My normal stance is that radical feminism gets quite a bit right, but like any secular philosophy, puts too strong an emphasis on personal autonomy.
To switch from a radfem perspective into a Christian feminist one, I think the key is the overturning of all of our normal hierarchical understanding--"The last shall be first and the first last." I think this applies to gender too, since everything that is coded feminine, including service to others, is no longer secondary but the essence of what it means to be human. Mary obediently saying "yes" after so much rebellion is profoundly meaningful. Incidentally, something I always find interesting is how mystical language often uses sexual metaphors, with the soul being coded as feminine. There is this tendency to identify femininity as the human default--I think a lot of feminists overlook this, but it's one of the reasons I still prefer using masculine language to refer to God. It's masculinity that has been recast as the ultimate Other.
So yes, I agree that what is associated with femininity is ultimately good. The problem, of course, is that there's still sin. Men *should* be oriented towards serving the other in the same way that women often are, but that's usually not the case. Mutual submission is something we're not very good at, so things quickly turn hierarchical and parasitic. Self-giving is the ideal, but there is only one relationship where that's perfectly safe. I'm currently applying this sort of gendered analysis to a political movement that seems intent upon sucking everyone dry while offering only the illusion of consent, but I think it's a much broader problem than that.
I've read a popular level introduction to TOB, though I've been told it doesn't do justice to the real thing. I thought it was beautiful, and a helpful corrective to my radfem rage, haha. (I didn't 100% buy it as an argument against contraception, but I didn't hate it either, which I think is the best you're going to get, lol.) I've only been a theist at all for about 3.5 years, and I've spent most of that time dismantling naturalistic presuppositions. It's been a wild, very Augustinian style adventure (complete with a Neoplatonic detour), so I'm really all over the place with what I've read so far.
Sorry for the delay. I’m having a difficult time keeping up right now.
Yes, the “subjugation of women to men was the result of the Fall and wholly unnatural”. “Love and Responsibility” (and TOB) is a phenomenological analysis of the meaning of the communion of persons (particularly the deepest form of personal communion: sex).
According to JPII in “Love and Responsibility” (and TOB which followed), Adam and Eve’s original state was one of total self-gift to the other. That is why Genesis tells us that they were “naked and unashamed”—there is no need to be afraid or ashamed when you aren’t being used. But the original sin was a rift in this state of total self-donation: Adam figured out that he could get more for himself (pleasure, pride, etc) if he worried about “the good” of Eve a little less. But Eve figured this out too. Then we are told “they realized they were naked”. In other words, they realized that the other no longer sought only their good; now the other person could use them for selfish reasons. Now Adam and Eve (i.e. all men and women) can only trust each other with great effort; they must be guarded and suspicious of the other’s motives.
Christ, of course, repairs the rift of Adam by his death. Mary—as “the woman” referred to throughout scripture—restores by her “yes” the self-donation that Eve negated. Mary is, therefore, the highest human being that could ever be, and worthy of hyperdulia. Read the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Litany of Loretto; higher praises you will never find.
You said: “There is this tendency to identify femininity as the human default”. Yes. A male can only be a virgin in relation to the female; without the female, the male makes no sense.
You said: “It's masculinity that has been recast as the ultimate Other.” Yes. Male terms are appropriate to signify that God is outside creation.
I have more to say, but this is too long.
There is an immutable law of human consciousness both at the individual and collective level. Namely that you become what you put your attention on.ReplyDelete
You could therefore possibly say that America is now reaping what it has been sowing for the past 70 years of so. Perfect karmic justice!
Violence is of course as American as apple pie.
Rather than refer to Plato it seems to me that the most prophetic statement re the future of institutional violence in the USA was given by President Eisenhower in his speech warning about the rising power of the military-industrial-"entertainment"-complex.
The Complex its "culture" of death is now the most powerful cultural formative force in America. Its "values" now permeate every aspect of American culture including most of its "entertainment". Its "values" are also embedded in the 800 or so overseas military bases, and all those "beautiful bombs" (etc) that the US sells to the rest of the world. The US is easily the largest maker, seller and user of weapons of all kinds including WMD's.
Young boys, adolescents and young men spend hundreds of hours playing deeply violent and misogynist video games.
"...egalitarianism to tyranny, as Plato described the process in The Republic."ReplyDelete
A warranted question, have we already reached a tipping point. Given the underlying institutional and general socio-cultural rot, in my estimation the answer is not clear. It's defeatist to take an affirmative answer too seriously, but plan for the worst is good advice.
I see a possible false dichotomy lurking here (Dr. Feser not so much in what you wrote, but a de facto disposition that could arise from your emphasis). I see the disorder you analyze as equally applicable to both the SJW mob and the Tea Party mob (the latter already existing and with political influence prior to the rise of Trump but greatly increased in political power by his ascendance to the presidency). I had filled in a lacunae in my education by doing some serious reading of the history of the Roman Republic about 2 years ago (combination of the Edinburgh and Routledge series). The century or so leading to the fall of the Republic indeed had some significant parallels to the rise of populism in our time (no such historical analogy is perfect but certain parallels to me were, as I say, striking). The structural weaknesses of certain aspects of the Republic(especially as it had expanded into an empire), the rise of "strongmen" in reaction to cracks appearing in the structure, the cultural and class antipathies arising, etc. One difference being the quality of the "strongmen" (Julius Caesar or Augustus vs. Trump is an embarrassment. The global nationalist/populists such a Putin don't fare much better). Was the fall of the Republic inevitable or even necessary? I am not so sure but one can never know. Cicero failed but perhaps a better politician (or rather coalition of such politicians) could have saved the day against the many forces pulling the Republic apart. Is the collapse of our Republic inevitable - I don't think so but the forces Ed depicts and the other forces I have referenced are pulling it apart and putting it in grave danger. I would suggest to my conservative friends that Trump and /or the Tea Party is not the answer.ReplyDelete
Dr. Feser, I wonder how your (and Plato's) analysis of different character types overlaps with the prevelance of the 4 traditional temperaments (melancholic, sanguine, etc.) in a particular society.ReplyDelete
"For instance, when you understand that a triangle is a closed plane figure with three straight sides, you grasp its nature or Form, and the study of geometry deepens your understanding of that nature. You learn, for example, that the sum of the internal angles of a Euclidean triangle is equal to two right angles, that the length of one of its sides is always shorter than the sum of the other two, and so on.
These are objective facts rather than artifacts of human convention. "
Triangles do not exist independent of a mind,
Triangles are abstractions.
There are no examples of real existent triangles in the universe.
The language used to communicate about triangles is a human convention.
The properties of the abstractions we call triangles are such as they are only by human convention (potential alien intelligent beings notwithstanding).
Since Dr. Feser has made such a fundamental error so early in his article it is no surprise that the rest of the article makes so many erroneous assertions.
Folks, please don't feed the StardustyPsyche troll.Delete
Everything is conventional except what conventionalists say about everything.Delete
Unargued arbitrary conventionalist claims (like solipsism, relativism, and all other flavors of reductionistic demonizing) get a pass in order to pass judgment on everyone else.
Notice, for example, the lengths people will go to objectivistically ape Ayn Rand in that very process of opposing her views.
What the I'm-so-objective-about-how-you're-so-subjective losers don't realize is that the conversation is over.ReplyDelete
While the gun control movement was histrionically screeching about guns guns guns for decades, the right wing was quietly [censored] (Example: 10,000-lot reinforced-cardboard Stinger missile tubes at 25 cents each, all of which were of course empty). Ted Turner's next-door neighbor was reported by mainstream media in the early 80s to have built 3 complete attack helicopters from parts bought in such "salvage" sales.
The left has no idea what's going on---much less what's coming. They're not just lost. They're light years from the next exit.
The bonus is that it will all be blamed on them due to their current actions.
And people say comedy's dead.
Plato's "archaeology" of tyranny doesn't accord with what is generally concluded about the history of the 6th and 5th centuries BCE.ReplyDelete
" In the early period, down to about 400 B. C., tyranny was a response to aristocratic control of the city-states. Only through tyranny were the Greeks able to destroy the strangle-hold of the aristocracy on the middle and lower classes. Individual tyrants usurped power with "popular" support, sometimes but not always by force, and subordinated, or exiled, or executed the aristocrats of their city. Modern historians have generally believed that this period of tyranny was a necessary step in the evolution toward democracy." ~ Arthur Ferrill
I.e. tyranny from aristocracy or oligarchy, not from democracy.