Saturday, May 06, 2017

A Problem With Trivialization And Counterproductivity Arguments

In brief, or I'll never get around to it at all:
   They often accept false/questionable presuppositions of their target and ignore other considerations that are at least as important, and ought to be given at least equal weight/attention.
   For example, I agree that a lot of extremist / gender feminism undermines good / egalitarian / liberal feminism. But problems with the former view go deeper than that. Commonly, the only way to get people on the left to listen to criticisms of feminism is to try to out-feminist them. Title IX insanity on campus treats men unjustly. But people often leap right over that point and go for something like a self-refutation argument: Title IX insanity is bad for women / violates feminist principles by (e.g.) infantilizing women. True enough, says me...but the argument, in a non-trivial sense, accepts the overall flawed framework of illiberal feminism by suggesting that injustice against men doesn't matter. It's consistent with and suggests that the only acceptable type of criticism is a criticism that demonstrates harm to women. Harm to men is irrelevant.
   Similar points can be made about arguments against the PC Words = Violence view. That view does trivialize violence. But here's a very much more important problem with it: words do not equal violence. The thesis is simply false--and not a little bit. It's flat-out crazy. That is the most important point. It's also worth making the trivialization point...but less so. Even if you manage to win that skirmish against the Dark Side, it leaves the general problem in place. It also suggests an acceptance of the PC/pomo thesis that harm matters but truth doesn't. And that's bad.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is really easy to explain behaviorally. If you are a feminist, and you see a more nutty, self-obsessed group of feminists spin up policies that simply are injustices, you suddenly need to confront the fact that feminism can be unjust. That is uncomfortable for everyone (that matters in your mind), so you focus on how it is counterproductive to feminism instead of the injustice. Don't want to scare the horses.

A similar line could be given regarding identity activists and PC malarky. You don't want to be confronted with the fact that a lot of identity politics is just subrational. So you simply tell them they are doing identity politics wrong.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yo--that's a good explanation for why the PCs, feminists, etc. tend to argue in the relevant ways--but it doesn't explain why saner people do so.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think so. A lot of people see themselves as allied with those groups ideologically. The discomfort is just as real in that case.

Also, just a playing on this some more, it seems that ideological ingroup loyalty works differently than the usual types, since it is always appears more like selfish butt-covering (don't make us look bad) than prosocial mutual support. Not sure what can be concluded from that.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Josh Stowers said...

It is worth acknowledging that different folks are more/less responsive to particular arguments based on how it may reinforce/challenge their own strongly held beliefs/group loyalties. You'd want to adapt whatever rhetorical strategies which are most effective given a certain audience, naturally. That doesn't make them good arguments.

If an argument accepts false/questionable presuppositions and is therefore more persuasive over a given subgroup we can reasonably suspect there's something rotten in Denmark.

2:46 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Wait...*the* Josh Stowers????

8:19 PM  
Blogger Josh Stowers said...

Class of 2007, math+philosophy, still owes you a paper on philosophy of logic?

9:44 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well I'll be damned.

It's good to make contact, again, man.

You should email me and fill me in on your life.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

As for the paper...if your other comment about finishing that up is serious, I think sending it via email would be best.

10:07 PM  

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