Saturday, August 03, 2019

Transgenderism And Harm Arguments Against Inquiry (With Reference To Lance)

Well, this again.
   Nothing new about this case, so I've articulated most of the responses before. But to sharpen them and add a bit:
   1. The harm argument is unsound because it's predicated on a falsehood: that criticism of transgender ideology causes (or constitutes) violence against members of the relevant group. This simply isn't true.
   1'. You might prefer to note, rather, that the violence assertion is completely unproven. There's simply no good reason to believe that honest inquiry causes (much less constitutes) harm against the relevant people. The progressive left deploys the violence variation on the harm argument against basically every position that disagrees with theirs, almost never with any empirical evidence whatsoever in support of the crucial assertion. In this particular case (and ignoring the stronger claim that it's obviously false) there's simply no reason to think that discussing whether someone is a man or a woman will increase the odds of violence against them. So the argument cannot be accepted.
   2. Note also that Lance et al. are wrong about the burden of proof. The above makes it clear that they believe that merely asserting such harm/violence claims is all it takes to carry their burden of proof, or shift it onto their opponents. They may think something like: such harm is so bad that we must prove that we cause no harm when we undertake inquiry into such issues. In fact, exactly the reverse is true: calls to suppress inquiry are such serious matters that they come with an extremely heavy burden of proof. Only if you can prove more-or-less conclusively that there are very significant harms that cannot be avoided in any way other than by stifling inquiry can such arguments even be considered.
   3. In fact, of course, this is a general confusion / defect / despicable tactic afflicting / deployed by many influential sectors of the left: they move rapidly to arguments for suppressing speech and inquiry, on many fronts, at the drop of a hat and on the basis of little or no empirical evidence. To some extent this is a mere dialectical / political tactic--but to some extent they really accept such an approach--it's a view that's endemic to such leftist thought: free speech is not particularly valuable, the very idea of truth is suspect, and (so) truth should be subordinated to leftist political doctrine when the two conflict.
   Finally: Lance describes opposition to TI as a "parlor game." This is dishonest. It's nothing of the sort. Rather, it's inquiry. Furthermore, it's inquiry into questions that affect society in fundamental ways. In fact, it is Lance, if anyone, who is engaged in a "parlor game"--a game of "what if"? What if we faced a case in which inquiry would inevitably cause great harm? Might that not give us practical reasons to stifle inquiry? It might--and it's an interesting philosophical question. But a question that has nothing to do with actual inquiry into transgender ideology. In actual fact, the relevant assertions of harm are unfounded and false. They are mere rhetorical tactics.
   Lance et. al are not only promulgating falsehoods, but attempting to advance a dangerously antiliberal and antirational philosophical and political position.


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