Wednesday, October 13, 2021

From Socrates to Stock

Socrates is a model for all philosophers, not only because he pursued the truth through rational argumentation, but because he did so uncompromisingly, even at the cost of his life.  And he was executed, not by religious authorities and not by a dictator, but by democratic, egalitarian, purportedly tolerant Athens.  This would lead his student Plato to warn us, in the Republic, that the unruly passions spawned by egalitarianism are by no means the friends of reason and philosophy.  Woke politics and cancel culture provide the latest confirmation of this thesis.

Prof. Kathleen Stock has for some time now been under siege from the spiritual heirs of Socrates’ persecutors.  She is a feminist and no conservative, but she has dared through rational analysis and argumentation to defend the proposition that the difference between the sexes is objectively real rather than a mere social construct, most recently in her book Material Girls.  Until about twenty minutes ago no one would have thought this controversial, but for the cultural revolutionaries seeking to take over our institutions, it merits hemlock.  The fanatics are now trying to get her fired, though so far her university is standing by her.

A number of UK philosophers have signed a letter of solidarity with her university in its determination to uphold her academic freedom.  They have done so not because they all agree with her, but because they have not forgotten what philosophy is.  It makes demands on our wills as well as our intellects, and in particular requires courage no less than wisdom.  Prof. Stock has exhibited both, and for that she deserves the respect and support of all true philosophers, whether they share her views or not.

106 comments:

  1. "If we would all activate our inner honey badgers, we could get rid of all this by next Tuesday. If not, it's going to be a slow ride to hell." -- Gad Saad

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  2. Abigail Schrier, Debra Soh, JK Rowling, Kathleen Stock, let's keep making this list longer.

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  3. People who have a public voice have an obligation to speak against this mob lynching. Sometimes, the only thing that you actually need to win those cultural wars against bullies, is not to allow yourself to be bullied. If just enough people stand fearlessly, this fight other issues can be won. Make no mistake, the issue at hand is, sadly, whether you can even disagree with the social construct theory of gender. That's the state we have reached due to the cowardice of politicians, philosophers and thinkers on the conservative side who haven't been standing up against the unhinged left.

    The enemy's weapon is not argumentation, but insults, yelling, and ultimately silencing of anyone who dares not to conform. Brave men standing up will shut this effort down and then we can debate and of course the actual debate can be won fairly easily (at least this one).

    Of course Ed would be amongst those to stand against the attempted tyranny in the sphere of ideas and public dialogue; I'm very glad to be seeing all those names though, including Arif Ahmed, a humean atheist, whom I knew mostly due to his debate with Ed on the existence of God! Hopefully more and more academics will speak out in support of Stock and others like her.

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  4. It is sad that these views seems the dominant ones on the Academy, hope that the support that Prof. Spock is receiving will end up helping her stay with her job.

    Now that we said what everyone here will agree with, lets get philosophical: on A-T, are things like making a academic lose her job because of certain views really necessarily wrong? I can't really see any grounds to a obligation to protect very wrong views besides prudential considerations. Plato itself would be the first to say that.

    Notice that i'am not even involving the State, i'am talking of things like boycott or even the dreadful cancelling. Would a strongly thomistic society need to welcome diverse views and defend libertarian-like free speech or would the citizens not rather had the liberty to be a bit more energetic if they knew that something needs to be done and that only arguments would not be enough?

    I'am asking that because a lot of conservative-minded folks seems to confuse christianity with classical liberalism and the fact than both views oppose this detestable woke pathology is making the confusion stronger nowdays, but how similar are these two views on matters of free speech?

    Seeing most traditional societies, it seems that most ancient thinkers would say to the woke something like "do not do that, YOUR views are wrong", not something like "do not do that, she has the right to defend this opinion".

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    1. Talmid,

      When I re-read Ed's post closely, I do not think he is approving of Stock or her academic defenders out of a love for liberal "free speech" or even "freedom of academic inquiry" ideals. Note he first paints a portrait of Socrates as a philosopher who was executed for “pursuing the truth through rational argumentation” by a society which purported to be “democratic, egalitarian, tolerant.” I suspect Ed intends to say that Socrates is admirable not just because he PURSUED the truth, but that he ATTAINED the truth and defended it against falsehood. His executioners showed their hypocrisy in claiming to be liberal, but in fact brutally defending falsehood(s) they wished to preserve as (illusory) objective truths.

      So, his analogy of Prof. Stock with Socrates tracks these parallel lines. She too has used philosophy to pursue, ATTAIN, and defend truth – the truth that sex is objective (even if “gender” may vary somewhat between cultures beyond the minimal aspects of gender which are necessarily entailed by sexual difference, and that “sexual orientation” inasmuch as it exists has no necessary link to either sex or gender).

      Ed ends by praising the academics who signed the “letter of solidarity” not necessarily because they are defending free speech (though he mentions “academic freedom”), but because “They have done so not because they all agree with her, but because they have not forgotten what philosophy is [i.e. the explication of objective truths].” I think Ed and other traditionalists automatically think that terms like “freedom of speech” or “academic freedom” should mean “freedom to speak the truth” and “academic freedom to explicate the truth,” rather than the liberal meanings common in the United States, e.g. freedom to say whatever filth or falsehood I want, freedom to push dubious ideologies on others, etc.

      So, he is praising them for defending truth, not really for defending free speech. It does make for some confusing reading, and I do think many popular conservative writers conflate the traditional sense with the liberal sense. Trads defend the liberal constitution of the US only because it permits individuals the ability to pursue the good and the true, free from state interference – not because they think liberty is an intrinsic good in itself (they certainly do not think that).

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    2. I think Talmid's question is pertinent. The notion that we should defend Stock in defense of "academic freedom" is, in general, pretty much how we got here to begin with. The universities invented a notion of "academic freedom" that became COMPLETELY UNTETHERED to any underlying relation to truth, which (should be) the university's real goal. We are now seeing the 100+years later result of that modernist untethering: a form of control that is not primarily political, but is exercised through means that cannot be met (usefully) with reasoned discourse - the very antithesis of the Socratic ideal of the pursuit of truth.

      In reality, academic freedom must exist within a hierarchy of goods that is commonly agreed upon, and is appropriately placed below other goods to which it is a servant, for academic freedom, (along with legal rules of evidence) are TOOLS that aim at higher goods.

      It is inevitable that there must be an adjudicator of the relations of goods in the hierarchy and a decider of when pursuing one good damages a higher good. Unless these powers (adjudication and decision) are by their structure rational authorities, they will be taken by irrational agents or agents not properly authorized: e.g. the mob. Society CAN'T avoid this choice. The liberal pretense that you can merely pushes the choice onto informal social "structures" and wreaks havoc because they are not rational and/or they do not exercise power regulated by the formal lines of authority. A tool whose purpose is to pursue (and get us closer to) truth, being "controlled" by non-reasoning powers, is a tool out of control.

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    3. @Anonymous

      Good analysis of Dr. Feser post. I was no thinking about him but i admit that i had founded is language a bit liberal in this post, so you helped me get the good Professor better.


      @Tony

      Exactly, that is what i think is lacking on the usual objections to woke totalitarism.

      Some oponents of the woke, mostly secularists but not only they, seems to defend that free speech is a absolute right that can't be controled in any way and i don't see how that would fit on classical natural theory.

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    4. Tony:

      The notion that we should defend Stock in defense of "academic freedom" is, in general, pretty much how we got here to begin with. The universities invented a notion of "academic freedom" that became COMPLETELY UNTETHERED to any underlying relation to truth, which (should be) the university's real goal.

      I agree on all counts, but think about the premises that academia would need to accept en masse to reground their mission in a dedication to a pursuit of truth. Namely:

      1) There is such a thing as real, objective truth to be found, which is the same for everyone regardless of what anybody thinks of it.

      2) The human intellect is capable of grasping and knowing that truth.

      3) By proper use of our human rational faculties, we are able to seek and attain the truth.

      4) We have a moral obligation to use our rational faculties to seek truth and reject falsehood and lies.

      But to accept those premises is tantamount to a rejection of atheism and materialism, and entails acceptance of both intrinsic teleology and Natural Law morality.

      And that in turn would entail rejection of the entire modernist project which has dominated academia for well over a century now, which would reverberate through and upend basically every academic discipline.

      It would of course entail a rejection of the materialism and reductionism that dominate psychology, sociology, anthropology, archeology, neurology, literature, philosophy of religion, and more for starters. It would entail an abandonment of computationalist theories of mind in AI and computer science. It would entail affirmation that the appearance of function and purpose in biology are real, and a concomitant rejection of Darwinian mechanism as a primary or significant explanation for their appearance. And these things would reverberate further through cosmology and much more.

      The overhaul would be so all-encompassing, so dramatic, and so comprehensively antithetical to the modernist cancer that has infected every cell of the body academic that I do not see how such a thing is even remotely possible without almost completely replacing what we call academia with something very different.

      But at the same time, as you say, this wholesale abandonment of truth and mob takeover of academia is the inevitable, inescapable result of modernism and its notion of "academic freedom." There's no going backwards in this train of cause and effect, no putting the toothpaste back in the tube.

      As such, I see no way of salvaging this mess. We can only watch as academia burns itself down and point out why it's happening, and try to build alternatives to shelter those who genuinely seek the truth for the future.

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  5. People can't legally murder today, but they're going for the kill of reputation anyway. In fact, the bad character since Socrate's times is the most evident thing that prevails till nowadays in the liberal mind - certainly logical thinking is not.

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    1. "People can't legally murder today,..."

      Well, I think that would come as a surprise to the roughly one million innocent unborn humans, slaughtered, en masse, every year in the USA. approximately one million of them, per year.

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  6. (Continuation of the other post)

    This got worded weird, i need to work on my communication, my question is something like: do something like the liberal views on free speech have any grounds on A-T or no?

    The woke folks that are trying to make Prof. Stock lose her job probably see her views as dangerous. While they are completely wrong on this judgment, is the action of cancelling someone that could be a problem to the common good because of certain views really wrong?

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    1. Humans are obligated to use reason for the good of society and thus cannot be impeded from doing so. Perhaps that’s an explanation?

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    2. Exactly, Jorney, but what if the person is using reason in a way that damages society? It does seems that something like cancelling this person could be a possible way to act if things had gotten bad.

      Suppose, for instance, that there is a reasonably conservative society and that pro-abortions academics start having dominion on Academia. They are starting also to have connections with important persons on the media and some small politicians. It is certain that these academics will have a massive influence on the population in the next generation thanks to their connections and that there is a danger of abortion lobby winning some day.

      Seeing that pro-life arguments are not that well received on Academia, "pro-choice" being the consensus, should the people say "we hope ithey listen to us" or could they push for a more radical way of combating?

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    3. Interesting counter though, Talmid. Maybe taking something Feser said in his previous blog post will help: one is obligated to follow his conscience. Thus, if you believe society is headed for disaster, even if it is really headed for a golden age, maybe you could argue that said person ought to have a right to speak his mind. Interesting question to think about!

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  7. Zeno writes: "That's the state we have reached due to the cowardice of politicians, philosophers and thinkers on the conservative side who haven't been standing up against the unhinged left."

    I'm afraid a lot of this awful mess, at least in philosophy, is due to the contemptible cowardice and hypocrisy of the center-left mainstream. Not long ago, many of the same people who are now cowering in fear of these insane leftist mobs had no qualms at all about openly and viciously attacking Christian philosophers and conservatives who dared to challenge the dominant views on sexuality and marriage.

    Those simpering hypocrites could fight like lions when they were up against decent, mild-mannered people like Richard Swinburne and Francis Beckwith- people they knew would not fight back in kind and with the same degree of malice. But now they are confronted with a threat to liberalism and even reason itself that is exponentially worse and these weenies sit quiet for fear of reprisal and just hope for the best. They know that SJWs, unlike the Christian conservatives they loved to bully, will actually fight back at the institutional level and will try to match them affront for affront.

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    1. Swinburne did argue against same sex marriage. Republicans tried to use same sex marriage as a wedge issue in elections. It worked for a while, but times have changed. Now it's the law of the land and the world didn't end. I live in Deep Red Alabama and same sex couples go out in public and they are accepted. So will the transgendered.

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    2. Anon,

      So we can destroy the family but the world won't end . . . at least right away. Good to know.

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    3. The family has not been destroyed. Traditional families are very much around.

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    4. Anonymous,

      The norm of the traditional family is what's being eroded. We're talking about the moral center of a community. History is littered with examples of great civilizations collapsing after they fall into moral decadence. The Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs...

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    5. Anon,

      "The family has not been destroyed."

      Really? What planet are you from?

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    6. The family has not been destroyed. As Anonymous states , there are plenty of traditional families around , but also many other kinds of family too. Stop confusing the family with one particular version of it TN and Geocon, or thinking there is any necessary connection between the family and the marrage ceremony of your bizarre religion.

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    7. "bizarre"

      There is the "I" and the "we" which must be together in the proper balance for society to function in a healthy way.

      Then there is plain, destruction oriented, hatred.

      Tom Cohoe,
      A Roman Catholic.

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    8. FreeThinker,

      When conservatives say "the family is under attack" or "the family is being destroyed", what we're talking about is a NORM. There's no longer a moral norm in society for men and women to marry, stay married, and have kids. In fact, your comment is further proof of this. You admonish us for thinking that our view of the family, the default for most of Western history, is somehow bizarre. The mere fact that alternative family structures (co-habitation, divorce, polygamy, homosexual pairings, etc.) are held up as being equal to the traditional standard shows that the traditional standard of family no longer exists. Yes, there are people who still around that form traditional families, but it's no longer an institutionalized norm, and you'd call it oppression or bigotry to argue for restoring that traditional norm.

      Let's be honest here.

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    9. Stop confusing the family with one particular version of it

      Hahahaha! A word means what I say it means, an nothing else!

      FreeT, until a moment ago "family" had a clear and specific meaning in our language and culture. For your information (and that of all the other users of newspeak methods), a language is a social construct formed by centuries of concerted action by millions of participants, and the meanings of existing terms are not yours to play with at whim. There is room, in any living language, to invent NEW terms for new realities. That's what neologism is all about. To take an old, existing term, and re-define it by mere personal choice to have a new meaning - and demand others accept it - is to defeat communication. This goes all the more strongly the older and more universal that old term is.

      or thinking there is any necessary connection between the family and the marrage ceremony of your bizarre religion.

      Marriage vows and their intent bear a great deal of similarity among many different cultures and religions. The notion that the current western formal trappings of the marriage ceremony constitute marriage is silly, they are merely one way to instantiate something more substantive than the outward trappings.

      And your attitude shows just how it is that new so-called "marriages" will in fact undermine society, by treating the essential connection between marriage and (true) family as unreal.

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    10. Imagine watching in real time the absolute destruction that single-motherhood has done to society, the amount of domestic abuse prevalent in lesbian relationships, watching biological men who identify as a women trying to breastfeed their child, and still seriously claiming the traditional family structure is just one structure among other equally legitimate and "normal" ones.

      It shows the level of self-deception some will go to in order to 'own' their ideological enemies. Those who think marriage has nothing to do with procreation sex and the natural family can't even give any coherent reason why incestuous marriage is wrong. They should be deeming it a human rights violation to forbid it. But obviously, deep down, they know the problem with it, which is that they know these relationships and family structures are simply not on par with the traditional family and relationships.

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    11. Hey Billy

      Who has a problem with incestuous marriage? I certainly don't, and it is clearly a human rights violation to forbid it. Of course, the number of close relatives who would wish to become betrothed is vanishingly small which is why the appalling legal prohibition against incestuous marriage is not a campaigning issue. We have more pressing issues on the agenda and have been extraordinariy successful in relegating your reactionary views to the irrelevant crank rump that they are.

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    12. Freethinker,

      "many other kinds of family too"

      The only kind I'm aware of is the kind that starts when one ovum from a female, meets one sperm from a male.

      You know of another kind? Do tell.

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    13. @ Freethinker,

      Incest hurts people as inbreeding increases the probability of genetic disorders. Are you willing to compensate the victims of a policy of denouncing to the world social disapproval and legal prohibition of incest? I am talking about bearing a personal burden based on love, which always sacrifices personal interest for the good of the other.

      Tom Cohoe

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    14. It is bizarre that a "bizarre religion" built Western civilization and gave you all the privileges you have the luxury of taking for granted: the scientific method, technology, philosophical advances that enable liberal society, healthcare, etc, etc, etc.

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    15. I can't tell if "Freethinker" is being serious or not.

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    16. But now they are confronted with a threat to liberalism and even reason itself that is exponentially worse and these weenies sit quiet for fear of reprisal and just hope for the best.

      I think we can take this further. Those on the center-left ARE THEMSELVES a threat to reason itself. As Ed and others have long pointed out, materialist atheism implies eliminativism, which implies the total nonexistence of reason and truth.

      Secular liberals have of course always ignored this fact and continued to bloviate about "reason" and "logic" despite their worldview's incompatibility with such things, but the rational nihilism of their view is reflected in the vicious and unreasoning way they attacked Christians.

      The SJWs are not only using the liberal left's *tactics* against them, they're also taking the liberal left's philosophical views to their logical conclusion by openly rejecting reason, logic, and truth themselves.

      In other words, the liberal left laid both the tactical AND the intellectual groundwork for the monsters that are now consuming them.

      And because of that, liberals lack not only the courage to fight back against the aggression of the SJWs, they also lack the intellectual wherewithal.

      They can sneer at and dismiss a Christian who politely argues that materialism is incompatible with truth and reason, but they have no means of rationally explaining to a post-modernist SJW who is using their own premises to attack them why truth is real, accessible to the human intellect, and why it's morally obligatory to seek it with reason. The most they can do is whine and cry about "the rejection of liberal values," which of course is nothing more than blood in the water to the SJWs.

      And until a critical mass of academics and intellectuals reject the materialism and atheism that led to this, they have no means of fighting back, and the inevitable implications of their worldview will continue to work themselves out.

      So with all due respect to Ed, I myself don't see much reason to try to save these individuals from the consequences of their own behavior and beliefs, nor to shore up the institutions that they've poisoned and corrupted now that the rot has metastasized.

      The most we can do is continue to speak the truth about God and the human soul, and let the liberal left repent and embrace the truth, or continue to flail about helplessly and be consumed by the monster they've created.

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    17. Mister Geocon:

      The mere fact that alternative family structures (co-habitation, divorce, polygamy, homosexual pairings, etc.) are held up as being equal to the traditional standard shows that the traditional standard of family no longer exists.

      Precisely. Also notice also how Freethinker makes the argument above that because "gay marriage" supposedly had no negative consequences, therefore transgenderism won't either.

      Yet, when "gay marriage" was sold to the West, nearly everyone would have been horrified at the prospects of men competing in women's sports teams and traipsing around naked in female locker rooms, sexual predators teaching toddlers about gender-bending in public libraries, schools covering up rapes of girls by "genderfluid" boys in their bathrooms and tarring their enraged fathers as "terrorists," small children being injected with puberty blockers and teens getting castrated when they're too young to legally drink, child "drag queens" being promoted by the media, people being censored, fined, fired, and/or even jailed for refusing to deny basic biology and use novel pronouns, etc.

      The large majority of people STILL regard this stuff as horrific, despite the constant drumbeat of pro-trans agitprop from mass media demanding that they accept it, but they have little recourse to stop it after the store was given away to a degenerate elite with the precedents set by "gay marriage," and they must contend with the constant threat of censorship, loss of livelihood, and mob targeting if they actively resist.

      In fact, not only have these negative consequences occurred, they are the very sorts of insanity that we warned would would follow from the fundamental break with reality represented by so-called "gay marriage."

      Of course the sophists like "Freethinker" who agitated for it mocked those warnings as absurd, insisted that such extreme consequences would never come to pass, and accused us of employing the "slippery slope fallacy" out of pure bigotry.

      And now that those negative consequences have come to fruition, the same people who swore that they wouldn't are demanding that we pretend that they are neither negative nor consequences, and from there they conclude that since there were "no negative consequences" from "gay marriage," therefore there will be no negative consequences from the negative consequences of it, and that anybody who disagrees is a bigot.

      You have to wonder how much longer this can go on. The societal wreckage and misery that have followed from single motherhood, "gay marriage," transgenderism, and the rest of the secular left's lunatic sexual "innovations" have reached a chaotic boiling point that is becoming impossible for them to paper over, and the left's own institutions are melting down in the midst of it as this episode with Kathleen Stock illustrates.

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    18. "shows that the traditional standard of family no longer exists."

      Translation: since some people deny reality, this shows that reality no longer exists.

      The thing about reality is that it doesn't care if you deny it exists.

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    19. Anonymous @ October 14, 2021 at 6:25 PM:

      "Now it's [same-sex marriage] the law of the land and the world didn't end. I live in Deep Red Alabama and same sex couples go out in public and they are accepted."

      The assertion that "the world did not end" with Obergefell v. Hodges is a strawman of what conservatives argued against same-sex marriage -- as if conservatives meant we would collapse into a post-apocalyptic world like that of the Walking Dead if same-sex relationships were treated normatively equal with opposite-sex relationships. It also betrays a myopic, ideological blindspot of the average progressive liberal: That any social "innovation," or radical change could have any substantive negative effect on society, a possibility which any conservative worth his salt is wary.

      Consider the horrid ordeal in Loundoun County, Virginia. We have a predatory deviant who sexually assaulted a young girl by taking advantage of the outrageous policies implemented by the "enlightened" municipal government bureaucrats of the school board. When the father expresses righteous anger at the blase attitude taken by these "education experts" in handling the perpetrator (transferring him to another school where he, lo and behold, defiles another girl using the same exploitative tactics) and their role in facilitating this preventable evil while denying its existence, he is arrested and treated as dangerous. Moreover, "moderate" Merrick Garland, as Biden's attorney general, is mobilizing the might of the federal government in dealing with the increasing numbers of incensed parents demanding accountability for the shambolic policies and lewd curricula being imposed on their children.

      Why is that? Why are public servants and government officials working in opposition to parents, treating them as akin to "domestic terrorists," when it comes to the protection and education of their own children?

      Well, in redefining marriage as non-heterosexual, castrating procreation and the rearing of children as inherent to the institution, Obergefell v. Hodges redefines, not in reality, but by legal fiat and normative imprimatur, what is a family. Instead of family being an institution defined by objective blood ties, it now is defined by subjective volition -- family is whatever one wills it to be. Thus, there is nothing objective, inherent, natural (in the Aristotelian-Thomist sense of the term that has been explained ad infinitum on this blog) to ground a norm of presumptive parental right to their biological children that government officials ought to respect.

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  8. I wonder whether Nietzsche's legacy and reception are not a more fitting parallel than Socrates.

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    1. That is interesting, why Nietzsche?

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    2. Fr. Thomas Joseph White made a similar point in a recent lecture. He said that philosophers who, not only have ideas but, build a particular lifestyle are more powerful. Although Nietzsche's philosophy has problems, his philosophy certainly seeks to build a particular way of life, like Socrates.

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  9. What I really love about this piece is how things that are not the same get treated as if they were. That really makes you think...It makes you think: what if everything was the same thing and also not. And that, at the end, is what the woke culture hates and loves; which is the same if you think about it...and not the same if you don't (or do)...

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  10. She's just the most recent example in a long trend of gender-critical feminists being targeted for thinking for themselves. Julie Bindel, Selina Todd, Suzanne Moore, Helen Joyce, Abigail Shrier, Maya Forstater, and J. K. Rowling of course are others. All of those have been threatened with physical assault; some have been subjected to it.
    It's the first movement allegedly fighting for rights to be opposed to freedom of speech. I think this is not coincidental: the African-American civil rights movement, for example, had nothing to fear from hearing the opposite side as they knew that their arguments were superior. Whatever you think of him, Malcolm X didn't have to avoid confronting his opponents, because he firmly believed that his position would always triumph. Trans activists won't interact often because they know they'll be exposed.
    This might sound unfair, but case-in-point: Helen Staniland is a U. K. feminist on Twitter who's asked countless people, including journalists and politicians, "Do you believe that male-sexed people should have the right to undress and shower in a communal changing room with teenage girls?" The most frequent response is that she gets blocked. If they do respond, they'll often say things like, "Why are you so obsessed with this issue?" or "That question should not be asked" or something like that. Only in very rare cases will they actually answer, "Yes"- because they know that if they do, they'll expose the ridiculousness of their position. But they can't really answer "No", because otherwise they've gone to the other side.

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  11. There is a deep human impulse for order, but the most ancient and ingenious method, call it pagan or satanic, is to establish it through collective expulsion, "unanimity minus one".

    This accusatory spirit first depends on division and crisis (of which it may itself be the real, diabolical cause), from which a "guilty" party may be drawn, and, when quartered, will bring catharsis to the maddening crowd.

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  12. Interesting interview given by Prof. Stock a few months ago:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cnUzmQ4VVI

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  13. Ed you might reach out to Prof. Stock and have her read "Memoirs of a Happy Failure" by Alice Von Hildebrand. The secularist ideologues have their ways and it is nothing new. This idea that liberalism allows for freedom of thought is akin to the idea that communism allowing for freedom of religion.

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  14. I totally agree that Professor Stock is being treated unfairly although I think she is off target in her views on gender. My question is to Professor Feser and others: Let's say a group of morally astute students and professors sought to have a pro-abortion professor fired. Now the fact that this is unlikely in today's climate is beside the point. Let's imagine today's dominant ethic was Thomist. Under those circumstances would you stand up for a beleaguered pro-abortion professor?

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    1. I absolutely would be on the professor's side, because I support free speech and debate. I strongly suspect that Dr Feser and others who read this blog will feel the same. Right or wrong, support for abortion is a legitimate position to take, because whether or not it is murder is less clear, and thus more debatable, than whether stabbing an adult is, say, and I would firmly oppose anyone trying to stop this important issue being discussed. Erudite philosophers have defended the pro-choice position, just as erudite thinkers defend gender-critical feminism (Kathleen Stock being one of them, of course)- obviously, people on neither side of these issues should have their careers threatened because of their opinions.
      Why do you disagree with Stock, out of interest?

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    2. I would stand up for a professor who is wrong on important things (like abortion), if said professor stuck to fundamental principles of the pursuit of truth. These principles (1) do not mean that "everyone has a right to SPOUT their opinion to everyone and everywhere"; and (2) grant that there are times and places for (certain) authorities to adjudicate when a professor has exceeded the proper boundaries of that pursuit. One example (pertinent to the example here on abortion) would be for a pro-abortion professor to continue to argue as if the medical profession STILL had not established that the 2-week old fetus is, already, a distinct human being. Such an argument would be an unjust way of pursuing the truth, and (at least IN THEORY) it might possibly arise to so severe an injustice that it would be actionable.

      (Libel, slander, and spying laws all point to the fact that the government not only may, but indeed must, sometimes be an arbiter of "what is true", or what truth may be spread about, in some contexts.)

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    3. I wouldn't because I believe that said Professor is openly supporting murder. Disagreeing with trans on their gender identity, or believing that homosexuality is immoral, may be wrong to some, offensive, but nobody can reasonably argue that this by itself is a call to murder anyone.

      It's not like my personal view matters since being pro abortion or "pro choice" as they call it is mainstream now, but no, personally I wouldn't care if someone faced such issues for supporting abortion, just like I wouldn't be very sad if someone was marginalized for supporting the Holocaust. In a properly functioning society, people who support the murder of babies would be treated as any other lunatic.

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    4. Thanks Zeno. And by your principle we would have to remove *alot* of Marxist professors.

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    5. jmchugh,

      Truth and error are not equal partners at a bargaining table. From there, there are lots of questions about how we know truth and who is to decide, but at first glance, do you think it is coherent for one side to claim that objective truth does not exist, that truth claims are merely machinations to gain power, and then claim that their opponents are the hypocrites who have violated some objective standard?

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    6. Why is it not "free speech" and academic freedom to discuss killing toddlers? Or killing a given racial group? If you can justify the killing of one group of human beings, why can't you justify the killing of another?

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  15. Anonymous-I admire your reply and your defense of free speech and inquiry. Thank you. On professor Stock, I said I think she is "off-target." It is true that gender is objective and not "socially constructed" but that does not mean that there aren't more than two genders or that a person can't be born with male genitalia, for instance, and still have otherwise female wiring. There is a lot that can happen biologically.

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    1. jmchugh,

      Can you name a type of human being that produces a reproductive cell that is neither a sperm nor an ovum?

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    2. TN. To answer your question, certainly not. But I think their are valid concepts to identify people in your two categories whose configuration of chromosomes and (arguably) hormones make the identification of their gender more difficult to identify.

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    3. jmchugh,

      So the hormones that produced either one gamete or the other (and no other type) are "difficult to identify"? You're either one that can impregnate or one that can be impregnated no matter what your "configuration of chromosomes" is.

      It's not hard to figure out.

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    4. The percentage of people with unusual chromosome configurations is very small. Are you then claiming that there is no confusion about the majority with typical configurations? If not, then how is your argument not incoherent?

      If the number of people claiming gender fluidity exceeds the very small number of people with unusual chromosome configurations, how do you explain that?

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    5. Thank you for your response jmchugh. As I understand it, there are three main positions on this issue:
      Conservatives like Dr Feser believe that sex is observed at birth and that it determines, or at least is closely connected to, gender.
      Feminists like Dr Stock agree that sex is observed at birth but think that gender is at least mostly social constructed.
      Trans activists like Judith Butler believe that whether people are men or women is determined by their gender identity, and sex is irrelevant and something merely assigned at birth.
      So feminists and conservatives agree that sex is observed at birth, and conservatives and trans activists agree that gender is innate.
      Trans activists try to pretend that it's them vs us- i.e. that conservatives and feminists are just the same old bigots under slightly different guises, and often caricature feminists as having conservative views, which are less socially acceptable (at least here in the U.K.), to make them seem less plausible to people who aren't particularly well-informed on the issue.
      My problem with what you're saying is that you say a person can have male genitalia, say, but still be in some other ways female. But a) as has already been said, genitalia do not necessarily determine sex- it could be gametes, and b) in my view, if you have male gametes, you are a man, and if you have female gametes, you are a woman- it doesn't matter if in some other respects you have attributes that typically are associated with opposite sex, say.
      As for, "gender is not binary", I'm not really sure Kathleen Stock, being a feminist of the type defined above, would disagree with that (although a conservative like Dr Feser probably would). She's more hostile, I think, to the more radical claim that sex is a spectrum- one which Dr Feser ages ago wrote an excellent post debunking.
      Thanks again for the comment.

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    6. jmchugh,

      Sure there is a lot that can happen biologically, but it doesn't follow that anything that can happen means that it is how an organism ought to be. Humans are bipedal, but the fact that some people are born missing a leg or being unable to walk doesn't mean that humans can also be non-bipedal. It just means that person has some kind of injury, disorder, disability or defect. These terms imply that there is a certain way that humans are naturally ordered to be, and someone who has such a disorder is not that way.

      The same applies with biological sex. It's also true to say that humans are living, thus they reproduce. Some humans have the ability to develop the male gamete, while others develop the female gamete. When these come together, it produces a new human organism. This is what is meant to by sex. From this, we can determine the proper roles, behaviors, and even the psychological association of the sexes. This is basically what gender identity initially was. For some people it might be difficult to determine their sex, such as some people with XY chromosomes who develop female reproductive organs, but it doesn't follow that they don't have one or that its something other than male or female. It just means they have some kind of disorder. Similarly, the fact that some people don't psychologically "align" with the activities and behaviors associated with their sex, it doesn't follow that they must be a different gender. We can simply say that their gender identity is simply incorrect. Just as there are people with body integrity identity disorder who genuinely believe that one or more of their healthy regular limbs is not meant to be there, we recognize their identity related to bodily integrity is simply incorrect. The fact that these people have a deeply rooted, overwhelming urge to have that limb removed doesn't change that.

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    7. So feminists and conservatives agree that sex is observed at birth, and conservatives and trans activists agree that gender is innate.

      The phrasing around and about "observed at birth" is a complete red herring. Nobody ever thought that EVERY ASPECT of a person's sex was "observed at birth". Ovaries cannot be directly observed at birth, nor can a uterus. Once we learned more about the body, we became aware of more aspects, and that by itself implies more aspects that cannot be observed easily and directly: you cannot tell, by mere visual observation at birth, what hormones are present. Or what chromosomes are present. "OBSERVED" at birth (by mere visual inspection with the unaided eye) only ever applied to a certain limited subset of physical sexual apparatus.

      Furthermore, some aspects of sexual function are not physical (or not wholly physical), including mental and emotional behaviors, which are (most likely) also affected by brain neural pathways that are constructed AFTER birth, in part. Under the activity of hormones, in part. The "at birth" is just as much a red herring as the "observed" part of the phrase.

      Whether there is a REAL difference between being the two distinctions (1) "woman" and "man" and (2) male and female, is not something that could even in principle be decided by "feelings" in the sense of "I feel like I am a man, even though I have female organs". For one very simple reason, (if you need one): if the term "man" in the phrase "like a man" is indeterminate in meaning, then "feel LIKE a man" is also indeterminate: how do you KNOW what it means to feel like a man, to be able to correctly state that's how YOU feel, if "man" is fluid? At best, you could only say "I feel like the old-fashioned socially-constructed gender category "man" used to mean to them - an inherently dated, historical assertion that might or might not have any validity if the category "man" is really just a region on a graph of "feelings", smaller or larger according to different views.

      trans activists agree that gender is innate.

      No, only some trans activists say that gender is innate. Some insist that it is not only fluid in the sense that there is a "continuum" of genders from the extreme male to the extreme female, it is also fluid in the sense that last year "he" felt like a man, but this year "she" feels more like a woman. Some go further and declare that it is subject to choice, as well. Others declare that there are not merely 2 poles on the coninuum (like a number line, one two directions), but there is an infinity of directions, (more like a 3-D graph). Thus, being "red-headed, mathematical, Democrat, garden-loving" might be my "gender" today, whereas tomorrow my gender might be blond, tall, book-loving, out-doorsy.

      In order for "my gender" to be found to mean something that OTHERS should care about one way or another, it is not sufficient for me to say that I care about it. And that means, effectively, that it has to be a reality that is attested by something that everyone can agree on. External sexual organs are pretty easy to agree on. Brain wiring...not so much. Hormones, sort of in the middle: you could come to an agreement upon proof of testing, I suppose, but hormones ARE subject to some variation over time etc. - much more so that external physical organs.

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    8. Thanks for your reply, Tony. As I said, that was just me explaining the debate as I understand it, but you do bring up some interesting facts that are apropos in this debate, so thanks for that.
      As to the first two paragraphs, bear in mind I was just giving a short, one-sentence summary of each position- I wasn't trying to explain all the nuances of each position. As to the third, I would tend to agree with what you write and never contradicted it.
      As to the fourth and fifth, you make good points in both. In my defense, it's difficult to keep up with all the gender stuff given that it seems to change on a daily basis (as I wrote in another comment on this page, even an organization like Stonewall can't define simple terms like "trans" properly, for fear of offending someone by not being inclusive enough. The only problem is that when you get as inclusive as they're being, the words cease to mean anything at all.)
      Have a good day.

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  16. jmchugh,

    You wrote:
    "On professor Stock, I said I think she is "off-target." It is true that gender is objective and not "socially constructed" ......."

    This is not what gender critics such as professor Stock believe. It is sex that is objective and not socially constructed. Humans are a sexually dimorphic species. There are only two sexes: male and female. It is gender that is socially constructed. GC's (gender critics) are critical of the gender roles that have been created by patriarchial societies. Ironically, it is trans ideology that affirms some of these regressive roles by saying a male who takes on these roles is really a woman. A GC has no objection to a male taking on feminine roles such as wearing a dress or playing with dolls but they do object to the belief that doing so negates the fact that they are still a male.

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  17. TN. It might be worth mentioning where we agree. I don't believe that gender is "socially constructed." That's modern madness. And I support Professor Stock's keeping her position. That being said there are people born with a mismatch between their internal chemistry and their outward organs such that, at a minimum, they feel ambiguous about their gender. What their numbers are I don't know but it is perfectly proper to attach a concept to such people. Why do you object to that? I didn't make it up.

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    1. Jmchugh,

      That gender dysphoria exists is not controversial. Everyone has psychological disorders of one type or another and to one degree or another. The claim that transgenderism is natural, and therefore normal to a given person because of their “chemistry” is disingenuous and untrue. Psychological defects, like thought itself, have some foundation in both material (biological) causes and immaterial causes, but that does not mean defects are not defects.

      You cannot ground your position in biological reality where is suits you (i.e. atypical “chromosome configurations”) and then just deny it when biological reality doesn’t suit you (i.e. gametes and the hormones that produce them). Not only is such an attempt patently wrong, but you have the burden of showing how it is that some people with gender dysphoria do not have atypical chromosomes, and others who do are not gender dysphoric. It just isn’t so simple as to say that boys can turn into girls because we found some funky chromosomes.

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    2. I'm no biologist, but as I understand it, there are (somewhat rare but not EXTREMELY rare) disorders in which a person's external sex organs are clearly abnormal, in that they unusually large or small (or something else) that may seem to verge in the direction of being "too" far off and maybe not even sexually functional. Say, 1%. A considerably smaller number (so, yes, "rare" in any normal meaning) of these have external sexual organs that are so far off from normal that it is impossible to really say what sex they are from the appearance of those organs, at least without more, specialized knowledge. It is (again, as I understand it) also very rare for a person to have muddled chromosomes like XYY and XXY.

      If one addresses this situation from the perspective of Aristotelian concepts (not Aristotelian knowledge of biology), there is simply NO DIFFICULTY admitting that sometimes nature messes up, and that some people fail to express fully one sex. Their condition is a disorder. They are human, but they are damaged humans. It may (for some of them) be fairly possible to say "this person is a female whose body failed to FULLY express female-ness." In other cases, it may be simply impossible to say that either way: we simply DON'T KNOW which sex their body ought to have expressed, and failed. That doesn't mean that they don't HAVE one, it means we don't know.

      But even if it meant, for those very rare cases, that their bodies are so messed up that they simply DON'T HAVE one definite sex in any standard meaning, that doesn't imply they have some third (or 76th) other sex specific to them. That's an unwarranted position to take. There are only two physical kinds of reproductive cells, and nobody produces BOTH of them, and nobody produces a third kind.

      In the past, doctors (or midwives) were called on to IDENTIFY the sex of a newborn by inspection of external sexual organs, but that task may be either difficult or even impossible. In the case of the difficult, the doctors (in the old days) might have asserted a specific sex on the basis of their best judgment as to (a) what sexual capacity for those organs is MOST LIKELY to be achieved, or (b) what will be socially least embarrassing / troublesome for the child. Doing so is not "assigning" a sex as if this constitutes "society's decision about what this person 'is' in his innermost recesses of their self-awareness", or anything like that. After all, what this person "is", physically, is abnormal and potentially damaged. The doctor's guess or attempt, in the cases where the sex is utterly ambiguous and absolutely cannot be determined from visual observation of external organs, is a different matter.

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    3. But in either of these (manifestly physical disorder) cases, if one of these people was (at birth) guessed to be a girl, and later on thinks this is a mistake, they can attempt to correct the issue with such things as additional biological testing. If it turns out that the biology is CONCLUSIVE that the person is (and always was) a boy, I have no problem with that person claiming that status, and society accepting it. If a person is in the truly rare case of having an absolutely indeterminate sex decides as an adult "I recognize that the doctors and my family did the best they could with the ambiguous evidence at hand that cannot be resolved to one definite sex, but I think I would do better being considered more like a man than like a woman", that too I can see society accepting, if the person can demonstrate some reason they think they would do better that way.

      But in the latter case this would not imply that they get to be "treated like" a man IN ALL RESPECTS: dorm situations, for example, may still need to be adjudicated on the basis of appearances - which might mean the person gets assigned to a "dorm" consisting of exactly one person, being inappropriate for residing in either sex's dorms. Similar results for athletics.

      And, by the way, the same people who have a right to be told that "I have had my sex re-evaluated and the result is a change in designation" would, by that very fact, be entitled to know that this is because this person has physical defects that made it REASONABLE to have a re-evaluation, and to know (for example) things like "well, it's really impossible to tell what sex I am physically because the disorders are really pervasive, and I was able to show why I would do better treated as a man, all things considered."

      None of that justifies changing gender because of "how I feel", without any physically demonstrated disorder.

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  18. Anonymous and Hal. Your comments contain important clarifications and I appreciate them.

    Anonymous writes: "Conservatives like Dr Feser believe that sex is observed at birth and that it determines, or at least is closely connected to, gender." I would like to hear the evidence that sex alone determines gender rather than say hormones and chromosomes. I'm not saying that's wrong but I would like to hear the evidence.

    And "Feminists like Dr Stock agree that sex is observed at birth but think that gender is at least mostly social constructed." I would disagree with Dr. Stock and others. Sex is observed at birth but how you are inside is determined not by socialization but by biological processes within the body.

    And finally Anonymous "Trans activists like Judith Butler believe that whether people are men or women is determined by their gender identity, and sex is irrelevant and something merely assigned at birth." Ok, but how is Butler defining "gender identity". In her mind, what facts of reality give rise to this concept? To me, that is the decisive question.

    You conclude Anonymous by saying "In my view, if you have male gametes, you are a man, and if you have female gametes, you are a woman- it doesn't matter if in some other respects you have attributes that typically are associated with opposite sex, say." Yes, but what is your evidence that gametes are the decisive factor in determining gender?

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    1. "I would like to hear the evidence that sex alone determines gender rather than say hormones and chromosomes. I'm not saying that's wrong but I would like to hear the evidence."
      I'm not supporting a position here, but just explaining the debate as I see it. Feser wrote a blog that deals with this near the end a while back- see it if you want to see how conservatives defend this view: https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/12/byrne-on-why-sex-is-not-social-construct.html
      "I would disagree with Dr. Stock and others. Sex is observed at birth but how you are inside is determined not by socialization but by biological processes within the body."
      "How you are inside" is gender. There seems to be a confusion here- feminists say that gender roles are a social construct (an uncontroversial example would be boys liking blue and girls liking pink). As for whether a person is born fitting into a gender commonly associated with a certain sex, I suspect answers would vary amongst feminists (the position as I've illustrated it is indifferent to the issue). But Stock is actually one of the milder advocates of feminism in this context, so she might well have some sympathy with your position. For example, she's fine using the word "cis" in a way someone more radical like Jane Clare Jones is not.
      I'm confused as to which position you'd ally yourself with. You're clearly not a trans activist, as you agree that sex is observed at birth. But you also reject feminism- which leads me to assume that you're a conservative, albeit of an unorthodox kind, because you agree that gender is innate. Thoughts?
      "Ok, but how is Butler defining "gender identity". In her mind, what facts of reality give rise to this concept? To me, that is the decisive question."
      This is a great question, and one that should be asked to Butler, as the answers she gives in her books are completely different to the ones she does in interviews! From her books, you'd think she'd be against trans-activism, but that's not the way she behaves in public life.
      It's a question she, like so many people, avoids answering. Look on the website of the British LGBT charity Stonewall- on the glossary of their website, they won't define words like "trans" (they don't write "trans people are", but "trans people may define themselves as..."). For "gender identity", they write, "A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else (see non-binary below), which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth." As I'm sure you can see, that's not a very convincing answer to your question.
      "Yes, but what is your evidence that gametes are the decisive factor in determining gender?"
      I'm just going to be lazy and refer you to Feser's article on the subject, because I don't disagree with anything he says in it: https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/11/byrne-on-why-sex-is-binary.html.

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    2. jmchugh,

      Translation of your question: Other than physical reality . . . what else ya got?

      And you claim it's the moderns who are mad?

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    3. "Yes, but what is your evidence that gametes are the decisive factor in determining gender?"

      Because, while the term 'gender' is relatively new, if we take the original meaning, the behavior, activities, and psychological associations ascribed to such things as gender roles and gender identity are derived from the kinds of human flourishing associated with biological sex.

      To explain, biological sex is natural and it exists for the sake of reproduction, which is also natural. Thus, it is part of human flourishing to procreate, which is through sex between a male and female, and both our biology and psychology is naturally directed toward that. Thus, right off the bat, it can be established that if someone is unable to reproduce or has an aversion to performing hetero-sexual sexual activity, or has an aversion to reproducing, we can recognize that there is some kind of injury, disorder, disability, or defect going on.

      But, moving forward, we recognize there is more to it than just reproduction. Humans naturally develop in a way that makes them socially dependent on others, namely their parents, especially before birth and as infants. This is also completely natural and proper human development, thus making this social dependency complete natural, and thus the parents have a natural duty of care for their children.

      Now, when it comes to reproduction and the nurturing of children, clearly the different sexes have different roles to play here. It’s not a social construct that the mother will be the one to be pregnant, to give birth, to breastfeed, and perform various other unique nurturing activities that the father cannot do so naturally. This is a unique role connected specifically to her being female, thus its natural for her to have a psychological identification associating her biological sex to these activities. The female body clearly also gears her toward doing these too. Because these are natural, if a female has an aversion to such activities and identifying with such activities, we can recognize this as some kind of defect or disorder as well.

      Since the mother's body, time and effort will be spent focusing on these particular activities, which puts her in a vulnerable position and less capable of gathering resources for the family, it is a matter of justice and nature that the father will need to spend his body, time and efforts on other activities focused on counteracting that vulnerability. He will need to be a protector and provider, which involves taking on a more holistic role, making overarching decisions for the family, becoming the head of the family. Thus there are roles and activities that are uniquely associated with being of the male sex by objective nature. Thus, it is a natural part of the flourishing as a human for males to psychologically build an identity associating these activities and roles to their biological sex. These are gender roles which are unique related to biological sex.

      So, to bring this all the way around, because of these specific roles that are associated with biological sex, we can recognize that this plays a role in how we properly socialize and educate boys and girls. Thus, raising girls to identify, behave and perform roles associated with being female, and raising boys to identify, behave and perform roles associated with being male, basically having a gender, is not just some made up social fiction. It's grounded in objective nature specifically related to biological sex and human flourishing. Thus, if there is a male who has a psychological disassociation and aversion toward male-specific biology, activities, roles, and behavior and more of an association and identification with female-specific biology, activities, roles, and behavior, it doesn't follow that they are of a female-specific gender. We can simply say that they are identifying themselves incorrectly and have some kind of psychological disorder.

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    4. Billy

      You are being very unbiological and simple minded i'm afraid.

      If there is one thing that is ubiquitous in the biological world it is variation, and so it is hardly surprising to observe this in the area of sexual orientation, prediliction and behaviour, and behavioural disposition within a given biological sex. That is of course why the notion of what is normal is merely a statistical one, absent human prejudice and prescriptivism born of ideology and theology. Your constant refrain of ' we can recognise that there is some kind of injury, disorder, disability or defect going on' is deeply reactionary, ignorant and bigoted and should be ( and indeed is being ) opposed at every turn.

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    5. Well there ya go, Billy, just be fact free like ol' Freefromthinker.

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    6. Freethinker, you are unaware of the usages of terminology in Billy’s post. When billy is using “nature” he means it in the way Aristotle would use it. “Nature” in the way you use it is referring to the unconscious forces of the world. Thus, cancer is “natural” in this sense. Billy is using “nature” in the way we’d say “this is the nature of the situation,” that is, the definition, the essence, the kind of thing it is. In this sense, a cell has a clear nature to reproduce, it is the kind of thing that replicates itself. Thus, cancer would be, as a fact, a malfunction or deformation of the cell’s proper nature.

      The idea that there is no injury or disorder or defect that you seem to stand by is based on a conflation of two definitions of nature. That’s ok, I hold no blame against you because most are unaware of this. But once we look at things as types of things, objects that have some nature or essence or definition to them, then what is “natural” for them becomes easily definable. A calculator calculates. If it does not calculate, it is not living up to its nature. Simple as that. You must affirm that humans can recognize things as being types of things, or else even “human” has no meaning and thus any reference to humans is meaningless. However, if we recognize human beings are a certain type of thing with a certain nature or definition or essence that distinguishes them from other things, then we must also recognize the same of their various functions and faculties. Reason has a nature, to think; the digestive system has a nature, to absorb nutrients; sexual organs have a nature, to reproduce. Give study of this idea and it will change your life. Try Feser’s Aquinas a Beginners Guide as a start. Cheers!

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    7. TN- You described my arguments as "disingenuous" and my thinking as "mad". I don't mind but I think it's bad for your soul to be insulting people. I understand that this is a sensitive topic but you might want to consider why it makes you so angry. Many blessings but I shan't be reading any more of your replies.

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    8. FreeThinker,

      Reactionary is a good thing, because being reactionary is general indicator of correctness.

      The view that same-sex attraction is a defect follows from both the Thomistic view of teleology and basic biology. From a purely biological point of view, sexual organs and appetites have a heterosexual function. Specifically, sexual organs have the biological function of enabling copulation with someone of the opposite sex, and sexual arousal has the biological function of prodding people actually to copulate with someone of the opposite sex. The fact that some animal in the wild engages in same-sex activity is not a refutation of the argument that it's a defect. By that logic, cancer and other diseases aren't defects either since they also happen in the wild. Rather, the determining factor is the telos or purpose of a natural kind.

      The Thomistic notion of what is normal is not determined by statistic majority, but based on an examination of what a thing is. It's a teleological and essentialist worldview.

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    9. FreeThinker,

      There is nothing ignorant about it. We can either know when a biological organism is functioning correctly, or we can't. Are you implying that all claims of defect, disability, or disorder is just mere social fiction?

      Just as a dog who refusing to eat or drink anything to gain nutrients, we can say there is something defective in the dog. Similarly with sex. We know what the function of sex is. If a dog has aversion toward reproduction, we can also recognize that as something defective. Human's are also sexual beings, like dogs, and so we can determine the proper functions related to sex and reproduction.

      As I said in in a previous comment: Sure there is a lot that can happen biologically, but it doesn't follow that anything that can happen means that it is how an organism ought to be. Humans are bipedal, but the fact that some people are born missing a leg or being unable to walk doesn't mean that humans can also be non-bipedal. It just means that person has some kind of injury, disorder, disability or defect. These terms imply that there is a certain way that humans are naturally ordered to be, and someone who has such a disorder is not that way.

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    10. Freethinker,

      If, by statistical majority, humans suddenly had wild overwhelming cravings for ingesting oven cleaner and bleach above anything else, are you seriously going to say "That's just another variation in the biological world on par with cravings for anything"? No of course not. You will say "large numbers of humans have developed some sort of eating disorder."

      Did you know there are people in the deaf community who have children who are deaf also, but they could actually allow their child to hear, but they refuse to because they don't think being deaf is an actual disability. By your logic, its "bigoted" to say that anyone has a disability or disorder in any circumstance whatsoever. Obviously that should make you recognize the silliness of your claim. Obviously, simply thinking something is a disorder or disability doesn't mean you have any prejudice against anyone.

      Your appeal to variations just makes all talk of disability or disorder completely imaginary social fiction we tell ourselves. You couldn't even say that sociopaths and psychopaths suffer from any disorders. These are just different neuro-biological variations which are perfectly on par with variations that don't produce these, according to your reasoning, and if you think these are disorders, well that's just proof of your ignorance and bigotry.

      See the problem?

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    11. That's pure obfuscation. Speaking biologically people produce AT MOST one type of gametes from which reproduction can occur, and people who (as young adults) produce no gametes are damaged, as the human form is normally capable of reproduction.

      The variation of human predisposition toward certain behaviors is well known, but so is the fact that there are statistically clear differences between that portion of the population that is biologically female and that portion of the population that is biologically male, on a WIDE RANGE of behaviors - that is, that each sub-population has a mean value (on a quantitative measure of some behavior or disposition) that is clearly separated from the mean value of the other sex's mean value. (This applies to physical stuff, too: there are certainly women with upper body strength higher than 80% of men, but the mean value of strength of women is a LOT less than that of men.)

      There is no biological or psychological reason to suppose, a priori, that the differences noted in behavior and disposition have absolutely no connection to the differences in biology. The fact of the matter would have to be determined piece by piece, one by one, by evidence. The notion that there is no such thing as a real difference between that part of the population that is male and that part that is female, that bears on "sexual orientation, prediliction and behaviour, and behavioural disposition" is not only not proven, it is ludicrous to imagine that the evidence that we have so far is leaning in that direction.

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    12. Well jmchugh, the burden of sound reasoning and discernment of truth is just much harder than merely inventing any ol world you'd rather have. Sorry.

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  19. FreeThinker,

    Billy is right and you know it. Biology couldn't be clearer on that. Living organisms that reproduce sexually are males or females. One sex make small gametes called sperm (males) and one sex make large gametes called ova (females). Without that dicothomy: no sexual reproduction. This is biology 101. Males invest little energy in each gamete and females invest much more energy in each gamete. This simple fact leads to a whole suite of consequences in terms of mating strategies, behaviors, and "gender role". This is evolutionary biology 101.

    And yes, there are some individuals that suffer various psychopathologies, some of them associated with sexual reproduction and "gender role". This is psychiatry 101. And the notion of normal is absolutely crucial to the existence of medicine. Without it, there couldn't be medicine because there would be no way to distinguish pathology from physiology. This is medicine 101.

    You should try to learn a little about the natural world before spouting nonsense.

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  20. Tony,Anonymous,Billy, FreeThinker. I appreciate your remarks. I think what the question boils down to is, what is the essence of gender? And before that we need to define what an essence is.These are not easy questions. I define essence as being that characteristic of a concept that best explains what differentiates it from all other concepts. In the case of gender what are we talking about? What is the essence of gender? What makes it necessary as a concept? Is it the reality of genitalia? Is it the line up of chromosomes in the body-a combination of the two? And what happens if they don't match. We clearly can identify two genders (I don't think there are more). So, it's a valid concept. But how do we define it? "A male is a living being with a penis?" That definition doesn't seem to capture it to me.

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    1. "I define essence as being that characteristic of a concept that best explains what differentiates it from all other concepts."
      That's reasonable.
      "We clearly can identify two genders (I don't think there are more). So, it's a valid concept. But how do we define it? "A male is a living being with a penis?" That definition doesn't seem to capture it to me."
      Gender is to do with masculinity and femininity. A person has a male-gendered if they fit the conventional role of masculinity; a person is male-sexed depending on their biology (whether that be based on genitalia, hormones, gametes or something else is up for debate; I would say gametes, as it seems to me sex is intrinsically linked to reproductive function). I believe that all three groups, even conservatives like Dr Feser, admit that there's a theoretical distinction between them, even if practically one determines the other, or at least is closely linked to it. Nobody, so far as I know, says that gender is in-and-of-itself about genitalia.
      But you are right that this is what the question boils down to, and thus it boils down to feminists vs conservatives (i.e. is gender socially constructed, or is it intrinsically linked to sex?) That's because trans-activism and the idea that sex is assigned, not observed, makes no sense at all.
      That said, the differences here might not be as big as they initially seem. Everyone agrees that certain aspects of gender are socially constructed- like boys liking blue and girls liking pink- and everyone agrees that certain aspects of women's social function has something to do with biology- breastfeeding and so on. It's all a matter of degree, and it's difficult to explain in a short comment exactly where the boundaries are- and aren't.

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    2. Gender is to do with masculinity and femininity. A person has a male-gendered if they fit the conventional role of masculinity; ...I believe that all three groups, even conservatives like Dr Feser, admit that there's a theoretical distinction between them, even if practically one determines the other, or at least is closely linked to it.

      I fear that you are trying to have it both ways, and it doesn't quite work. Take "conventional role" out of the equation, and maybe, just maybe, we have something to discuss.

      Take the humans who have male genitalia, and XY chromosomes. Now measure them on a broad scale of innate capacities, dispositions and tendencies - things like aggression, preference for physically energetic activity, attention span at each age, etc. You will note a clear divergence between in measured results for that population versus the other: even though, on each such measurable trait, the curve has a "normal" shape, there will be a mean value, and (for many of the traits) there will be a CLEAR divergence in mean values for the two sexes. (Even though the two normal curves will have large areas of overlap, where there are significant numbers of individuals in each group that match individuals in the other group for degrees of that trait.) These are not "conventional roles", they are innate traits. They are not "assigned" by society as a mere cultural standard, they exist independent of culture. They are not "roles."

      Now take a female who scores 1/2 of a standard deviation higher than the the mean value for MALES on a given trait. Does that make the female "masculine"? Wait, before you decide, let's go further, and suppose that the female scores 1/2 of a standard deviation higher than the mean value of males on MOST of the measured traits on the list. Does that mean the female has a "masculine gender"? Why? Can you answer that independently of whether you ask things like: "Does this female desire to conceive, bear, give birth, and nurse a baby?" Or let me ask that another way: how could you establish that it even makes any sense to say that this female "IS" of the "masculine gender" if she desires (and accomplishes) fruitful sex with a male to conceive a child? What foundation could be used that clearly establishes a "gender" that disregards a perfect match between her biological sex and her desire to employ that biological sex in the manner in which it will be biologically fruitful? And, if you were to locate some thing, on what basis are you sure it represents something ALL OF US should also receive and accept? (E.G. a person's "firmly held belief" is not adequate: there are plenty of people who have a firmly held belief that they are George Washington, President, and we don't accept their assertions.)

      So, whether there is a THEORETICAL distinction is part of what is in dispute. A person might propose that "there is a theoretical distinction between the concept "two" and that of "dos" and that of "due" (Italian) and of "duo" (Latin). But proposing it doesn't make it so.

      Everyone agrees that certain aspects of gender are socially constructed- like boys liking blue and girls liking pink

      Nobody who has half a brain calls the social CONVENTION to use pink for girls part of "gender" as such. (For one thing, we know perfectly well other cultures don't use that color, but we know those other cultures mean the same thing by "men" and "women".) That there are social conventions ABOUT gender doesn't even begin to establish that "aspect OF gender" are social constructs - it's a category mistake. Most (not all) social roles are social conventions ABOUT gender, and putting those roles INTO "gender" is, again, a category mistake.

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    3. Hi Anonymous. You are quite right that this is a huge topic and not amenable to being solved in a combox. Part of my complaint about this whole subject is that neither side seems to take into account the complexities. Let me clarify my point. You say, "Gender is to do with masculinity and femininity. A person has a male-gendered if they fit the conventional role of masculinity; a person is male-sexed depending on their biology." I agree certainly that sex is biological. And I agree with with your definition of gender. My position, and perhaps it's unusual, is that gender too is biologically based. However, it is not always aligned with the biological sex. This is a very unfortunate genetic mismatch.It happens sometimes. These people are not "choosing their gender". They are wired in an unusual way. So I guess to me it isn't always the Feminists vs. the Conservatives but in my case it's the Conservative vs. the Conservatives. I know it is very common to regard gender as being largely a product of socialization. I haven't seen the evidence. And in the case of my own children-one a boy, one a girl- I see counter-evidence. From their earliest moments their personalities were male and female respectively.

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    4. With the greatest respect, Tony, I've already made quite clear that I am not advocating a position- I'm not sure whether feminism or conservatism is correct, although I think trans activism makes no sense. So please stop saying things like, "You're trying to have it both ways." I'm not trying to have it any way at all.
      I would also be grateful if you stop putting forward implicit insults (e.g. "Nobody with half a brain would think this")- they add nothing to your case or the discussion and just seem intended to cause frustration. Which is a shame, as you're clearly much more knowledgeable on this topic than I am, so you don't need to resort to such tactics
      Your first few points are very interesting, but alas they have nothing to do with what I actually said. My point was that there is a distinction in theory, even if a masculine female is practically impossible. The fact that you even talk about them separately shows that there is such a distinction.
      Let me use an analogy: God's goodness and his omniscience are inseparable and the same thing. That said, distinguishing between them in theory can be useful. In the same way, being female and being feminine may be inseparable and the same thing, but there's still a theoretical distinction to be made.
      As to your last two paragraphs, I'm afraid I'll have to disagree with you. Again, this returns to the subject of what gender is, and as I'm sure you know, there's a big debate over it. But given that Jane Clare Jones and others have defined such things which obviously are social conventions as part of gender, I'd say you're way off the mark in saying that such a definition is indefensible and objectively wrong.

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    5. Anonymous, on "implicit insults" there does seem to be enormous anger in many of the comments here. I'm not sure I understand it. We have a group of people who exhibit unusual characteristics. As social scientists we need to study this phenomenon dispassionately. If we're Christians we need to love them.

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    6. I'd say you're way off the mark in saying that such a definition is indefensible and objectively wrong.

      I do not say that the thing, whatever name you want it to go under, that is being described as a social construct, has no reality, and therefore cannot bear a name. I am OK with naming it something. I am OK with noting and naming the socially formed customs associated with the sexes being an aspect of the world - an aspect that, because formed socially, may potentially be modified.

      I am saying that naming it "gender" in contradiction to the old meaning of gender, has no clearly defensible basis. There was no reason (other than ideology) to give it THAT name, i.e. to force an already existing name/concept to accept a very different definition. And since that fatefully bad judgment, the debate has fruitlessly circled round and round whether there are socially formed customs associated with the sexes instead of what is the RIGHT WAY TO DEAL with the socially formed customs associated with sex.

      What would have been wrong with arguing, instead of co-opting the word "gender", that "there are some females whose aptitudes, dispositions, and desires don't fit very well within the confines of the socially formed customs for females, and it is appropriate to discuss to what extent these females should, or should not, feel free to disregard those customs, and to what extent the rest of society should, or should not, accommodate their aptitudes, dispositions, and desires that are not compatible with the socially formed customs"? It doesn't take a forced re-writing of the term "gender" to address that question.

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  21. A couple of points of clarification. My belief in the existence of "the mismatch" doesn't imply any politics or opinion on mixed locker rooms and such. Anonymous-I think "unorthodox conservative" is a good way to describe me. LOL.

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  22. FreeThinker-I disagree with Billy too but would not name-call him. Is it really necessary to call his views "reactionary, ignorant and bigoted?" Just explain why you differ with him.

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  23. On the topic of labeling, I too disagree with labeling a gender confused person as "disordered" or "defective." Now, these terms may be technically accurate but I don't see where they help and they lack charity. Let's say a depressed person goes to the doctor. And the doctor says "Your brain is defective." That's not helpful snd it's cruel. The doctor should explain what is happening in the brain and why medication would be helpful. I see the Catholic church has stopped using the term "Intrinsically disordered" to describe homosexuality acts (while still maintaining that they are sinful.) Good.

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    1. Let's say a depressed person goes to the doctor. And the doctor says "Your brain is defective." That's not helpful snd it's cruel.

      The first step in getting a person treated is to recognize they need treatment. And they cannot need treatment if they are not ill. That just is "in a state of disorder." Pretending an ill person is well (and not helping them toward health) is stupid and cruel.

      A person born with a condition that is damaged is in a state of disorder. E.G. a person born with only one arm - like a cousin of mine. It is stupid and cruel to treat this person as if they had both arms, like by expecting them to do something that takes 2 arms. In cases where the disorder is from birth, it is a birth defect. A person born with a heart valve problem that can kill them, is a person with a birth defect - and sometimes the surgeons can repair it. If it isn't a defect, though, it doesn't make sense to repair it.

      I see the Catholic church has stopped using the term "Intrinsically disordered" to describe homosexuality acts

      Where? As recently as JPII, the Church was still calling deliberately willed homosexual sex acts intrinsically disordered, and the Church has not disowned or formally suppressed those documents. The only reason the Church can call them ALL "sinful" is because they are sinful as a class, and they are sinful as a class precisely because they are intrinsically disordered. As are, by the way, acts of adultery and fornication. The ACTS aren't "intrinsically" disordered because the same-sex-orientation is "intrinsically disordered," (the homosexual acts are disordered even in those who are inclined to heterosexuality), the acts (that is, both the homosexual acts and the adultery and fornication acts) are intrinsically disordered because they all depart from the proper order of the sexual faculty in a fundamental way. The Church has not departed from teaching this.

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    2. Tony-Surely a missing arm or a defective valve is different from a person who has, say, a personality disorder or a person who is experiencing a gender mismatch. In the latter two cases the sufferer is not only facing an issue of a physical problem but a question that pertains to their identity, their sense of self, their very being. In such a case while you may be technically correct in saying "you are defective" to say such a thing to people or about people is just cruel. Now mind you you can, if possible, still treat these problems you just do it in a way that is not dehumanizing. No sensible therapist starts treating someone by declaring, "You are defective." (Come to think of it, I wouldn't say to a person with a missing arm, "You are defective." That would be pretty cold. At most, if I say anything at all, I might say "you have a disability."

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    3. In such a case while you may be technically correct in saying "you are defective" to say such a thing to people or about people is just cruel.

      Ah, I see: you are ascribing to the use of the term "defect" the sense that "you are a defective", meaning "you are only defectively human", i.e. part human, part monster. Lacking humanity, sub-human.

      But of course, that's not the only way the term "defect" is used and can be used. A child born with a severe harelip sometimes cannot suckle properly, and in the old days could easily die from it. Now we can do surgery on the birth defect, and they can live a normal life. The surgery corrects the defect. To deny the defect is to deny their need for surgery. We don't call them "defectively human" and deny basic human rights: the child is 100% human, just damaged. It isn't cruel to admit that defects damage our ability to function.

      Now mind you you can, if possible, still treat these problems you just do it in a way that is not dehumanizing.

      Right, treat them as a human being in need of medical help because they have a disorder. That's not cruel. Refusal to treat them because you have refused to call their condition a disorder is cruel. That is NOW HAPPENING in the psychological profession.

      No sensible therapist starts treating someone by declaring, "You are defective."

      No sensible therapist starts "treating" someone by declaring: "you are fully healthy in every respect. See you again next week when I will repeat that you are fully healthy in every respect." To treat some problem is to say that the person is in a state of disorder.

      At most, if I say anything at all, I might say "you have a disability."

      You are a cruel, heartless person! To call someone like that "disabled" instead of "other-abled". And to stand there refusing to help them do something that takes two hands, because you wouldn't be so callous as to TAKE NOTICE of their lacking two hands! Cruelty again!

      You see how the "cruel" card can be played? I don't mean it above, and you should stop using it here too. A person who is unhealthy because they have a "personality disorder" (your words, not mine) have a disorder. Refusal to accept the meaning of the term doesn't help people who are sick and need help. Nobody here means by "have a disorder" a sense remotely like "you are a disorder" or "your very humanity itself is disordered, so you are a sub-human". You are projecting stuff that isn't here.

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    4. Tony-The vast mass of people are not going to hear your distinction between the two meanings of defective. Moreover, I think that it is very important to point out that there may be no solution to this problem, assuming my theory that the issue is a genetic problem and not a psychological delusion. If there is no easy solution and it's a long term problem what do we do? Stamp our feet and yell "defect"! Or, do we love these people, tr0eat them with dignity, and help them to love themselves as they are? Sure, in the beginning a doctor would need to find out what's going on and see if there are psychological factors but once those are ruled out, I say love and acceptance are in order.

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  24. If a masculine male, a masculine female, a feminine male, and a feminine female can all identify as, and thus be considered, a man, then the concept of a "man" effectively does not exist. There is no cohesive and non-circular definition of "man" that could include all four individuals, yet now state and federal law, and corporate policy, are codified to punish for not conforming to this nonexistent standard.

    That's insane.

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    1. This may be the point. Ex falso quodlibet.

      Recall that this ideology holds that (all?) categories are fictions that exist to maintain power (this can, of course, be the case, especially when a category is indeed fictional). Perpetual revolution is needed to break up these calcifications of power. The way you do this is through a dialectical method.

      Gay marriage is another example. Gay marriage is a contradiction in terms. In order to reconcile both "marriage" and "gay marriage", you need to gut the term "marriage" of its meaning, which of course entails redefining it into nonexistence. If I say that circles are just round triangles, then I've destroyed the meaning of triangle and redefined "triangle" to mean "shape".

      Gay marriage is not about expanding the institution to be more "inclusive", but about destroying the very notion of marriage altogether.

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    2. That is correct, Zamoyski. All these iniciatives to change language are intended by political reasons, if meaning gets on politics way them to hell with it. To give a example, here on my country there is on the woke left a silly push to turn all the pronouns gender-neutral. If the phrase allows the subjects genders to be know, it has to go. The least i can say is that it makes phrases very ugly. It clearly is there because they want to influence how the people think.

      A case that happened a few days ago is of a doctoral student on one of the biggest universities here who wrote a text about the asiatic identity on the country and used the woke language to refer to some nationalities. The necessity of changing language was so great that she changed the word "árabes"(arabians) to "arábus" when "árabes" is ALREADY a gender-neutral word!

      Fortunately, this particular madness still only gets laughts. The student article got famous as a meme, being mocked and mocked. The sad part is that the university clearly is contaminated already, for the article got recomended on the college Facebook! Seeing how the progressists are slowling having their wins here, maybe this will become a respectable opinion here...

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  25. Anonymous,
    You wrote:
    "But Stock is actually one of the milder advocates of feminism in this context, so she might well have some sympathy with your position. For example, she's fine using the word "cis" in a way someone more radical like Jane Clare Jones is not."

    You appear to be more familiar with the gender critics' views than many of the other posters on this thread.
    Am currently working my way through Stock's book "Material Girls". I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in learing more about the issues involving gender identity and trans ideology. I also follow her and Jane Clare Jones on twitter. Though Jane can be harsh at times, I find myself agreeing with most of her postings.

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  26. Tony-I made a mistake in my remarks on the Catholic church. That language does still stand. What is happening is that many want to change it. I agree with them although it may be a technically accurate description of the act.

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  27. Tony,
    You wrote:
    "That there are social conventions ABOUT gender doesn't even begin to establish that "aspect OF gender" are social constructs - it's a category mistake. Most (not all) social roles are social conventions ABOUT gender, and putting those roles INTO "gender" is, again, a category mistake."

    I am reluctant to describe this as a category mistake. I think what you are overlooking is that the word 'gender' is being used differently. That is there is a disagreement regarding the meaning of that word.
    At one time 'gender' was just used as a polite way to talk about sex. But it now is also used to refer to the social conventions that have traditionally been assigned to each sex. And social conventions are cultural constructs.
    I don't understand what you mean by putting the roles 'into' gender. Gender does not refer to a thing (a substance) in the way that sex refers to a thing (a substance).

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    1. At one time 'gender' was just used as a polite way to talk about sex. But it now is also used to refer to the social conventions that have traditionally been assigned to each sex.

      So, the word had one meaning, and then some people chose to take it and change it to be used differently.

      On whose authority do they get to give it a different meaning than the meaning it had already? If they needed a term for a concept not yet named, there's a method for that: make a NEW WORD. It's a time-honored activity. If people agree with the usage, it becomes part of the language.

      You get a problem by doing it your way: confusion. You (or "they") use it to mean some new concept, but in speaking I hear it under the old concept, and then we are talking at cross-purposes, without actual communication.

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  28. Thankfully, the world does not listen to you reactionaries. Some of u write LONG posts as if u think they mattered. They don't.

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    1. Do the short ones matter? I'm just asking for a friend.

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    2. It’s true! That’s why our opponents are so ignorant

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    3. "The world does not listen to you reactionaries."

      You say that as if that's a good thing.

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    4. And yet you feel the need to come here and comment on them...

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  29. We've now reached a special kind of materialism: one that denies matter exists.

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