Tuesday, May 09, 2017

'Neutral Sex' Designation Is Struck Down In France, or: Let's Make Sure We Get It ALL Wrong (Plus! Animadversions On The PC/PoMo Axis of Crazy!)

A cynical sort might worry that we're working hard to achieve maximal falsehood on these issues...
   Intersexed-ness (?) is an actual, real, biological state. It is (assuming the accuracy of the reporting, and that we're getting a full accounting of the biological story) a fact that Mr. Schmitt is neither male nor female. To refuse to recognize this is (unless we're missing something), to simply refuse to acknowledge that this fact is a fact. 
   And those reasons! Lord have mercy:
The court upheld the Orléans court’s decision, ruling that the distinction between male and female was “necessary to the social and legal organization, of which it is a cornerstone,” and that the “recognition of a neutral gender” would have “deep repercussions” on French law and would entail “numerous legislative changes.”
That last bit about legislative changes seems true.
However:
   (a) Nothing in this case in any way undermines the distinction between male and female. Recognizing borderline cases between A and B doesn't show that there isn't a real, natural difference between A and B. Ligers don't show that there's no real difference between lions and tigers. Viruses don't show that there's no real difference between life and unlife.
   People commit the fallacy of the continuum almost every time they talk about such issues. It's frustrating as hell seeing this mistake in every damn conversation on the topic.
(Of course there might be translation problems afoot.)
   This leads to:
   (b) While loss of the distinction between male and female, man and woman, would be legally earthshaking...acknowledging that the distinction is not exclusive...not so much. 
   And:
   (c)  The right response to inconvenient facts is not ignoring them. To make roughly the same point in a different way: the right way to defend a "cornerstone" is not to argue that it's deep--it's to argue that it's true. And if it isn't true, then it's even worse that it's deep.
   Well...as for more specifically legal questions about the refusal to modify the law to reflect certain facts...that I don't know anything about. So perhaps there are arguments in that vicinity that support the ruling. Maybe it's more like a practical point: legally speaking, the best / easiest way to deal with this kind of case is to assimilate it to one of the two more common cases. It's possible... 
   But refusal to acknowledge the biological facts in such a case is basically the flip side of the other craziness that's in the air: pretending that paradigmatic males and paradigmatic females can change to the opposite sex simply by declaring the change. I'd say it's magic...but it's much, much crazier than magic. Magic would be a power to make real changes in non-standard ways. This PC/PoMo hocus pocus is beyond magic. It's way, way weirder. It's the delusion that it's possible to make real changes without making any changes. It's roughly an attempt to make a purely verbal change that is, simultaneously, not purely verbal. It's about as confused as it's possible to be.
   So anyway, one kind of error is to refuse to face up to the biological facts. A roughly opposite kind of error is to spin out fables about a mysterious realm of categories that are simultaneously factual and fictional.
   As usual, I think the latter is, philosophically speaking, worse. A refusal to acknowledge a fact as a fact is a fairly straightforward matter, and it's the kind of thing that is destined to eventually be overcome. The deranged obfuscation at the heart of the PC/PoMo view (and its position, specifically, on transgenderism)...that's the sort of thing that is wrong not just about one question, it's wrong about the entire method of settling questions. It's wrong about science, wrong about logic, wrong about reason, wrong about philosophy, wrong root and branch. It's more like insanity than it is like a stubborn refusal to admit that this spade is a spade. It undermines people's very ability to think about things--destroys the very abilities that are required to overcome the error. And it goes hand-in-hand with a derogation of reason and suppression of free expression and free thought. It's dangerous...but not dangerous like Socrates is dangerous...dangerous more like Alzheimer's is dangerous...

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually have a different take on intersex. The proper categorization is that they are both male and female, and it just shows that there is in fact an incredibly small intersection between the biological genders. This does not undermine anything, the idea that properties (just sets) cannot have intersections is an artifact of the innumeracy of pomo gender theorists and the sloppy, sophistic arguments they use to trip people up.

It also definitely doesn't mean there is immense difference between the categories, after all there are billions of elements exclusive to each of the sets. And there are all sorts of biological facts that correlate with them (hormone levels, upper body strength, devotion to classic cars).

1:34 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, good point--"both" might in some cases be as good an answer as "neither"...I've never thought about that, so it could be as good or better for all I know. But I think it's, formally speaking, an option.

Also, there can't be any doubt that male and female humans are more similar than different. It'd probably require a whole lot of training for certain types of alien zoologists to be able to tell us apart.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Notice it also preserves the seeming analytic truth that a human is either a man or a woman as well (although there must be some poor soul born without genitalia somewhere that breaks this). Just saying.

I only bring it up because it is such an example of how pomo theorists obfuscate when they are in a deconstructionist mood. They will oftentimes focus on bizarre operations you can do on categories (are they mutually exclusive, is their count this number - usually binary because they want to seem computer-sciency, - etc.) to justify abandoning the category. The response should really be: can we reliably establish a truth value for the claim: "x is a member of category C"? If so, the category is valid, and the deconstruction is nothing but parlor tricks.

Obviously we can determine if someone is male or female. So the question is settled.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Really smart points, A.

I appreciate these comments.

2:27 PM  

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