Thursday, September 06, 2018

The Sad State Of Contemporary Philosophy

If you want to become depressed about contemporary philosophy, here's a good place to go. I mean the Daily Nous in general, and that post in particular. There are often bright spots at DN. There are often a fair number of good comments...though also a distressing number of shitty ones. But there does seem to be a clear tendency for a large majority of upvotes to go to the more reasonable side of the disagreement. I'm not sure there's much of a reasonable side here, though. Transgender ideology is completely daft. But I also don't see much of a case for the claim that "TERF is a slur." Not that I care much, to be honest, The really eyeroll-inducing thing about it all, however, is that 'transphobic' raises basically the same issues but gets no such attention. 'Transphobic' isn't really a's just a bullshit category. No one's afraid of the "transgendered." They might find them revolting, or they might hate them...but they're not afraid of them. But, more to the point: the term is most often used as a kind of shorthand to convey a false accusation of bigotry against people who don't believe that men can become women (nor vice versa) by fiat. Like a false accusation of racism leveled in order to silence opposition, it's bullshit, and it's morally wrong...but it's not really a slur exactly.
   But, furthermore: as with the Stock incident: I think it's really telling that only feminists are allowed to challenge "trans" ideology. Disagreement is barely tolerated if it comes from female feminists...whereas that's actually a very narrow slice of the relevant theoretical space. The vast majority of views that have anything to say about the issue at all are at odds with trans ideology. And yet no criticism is tolerated from any non-feminist quarters. That tells you a lot about the ideological state of contemporary philosophy. The identity politics left absolutely controls the playing field.
   And remember: these are philosophers speaking on whether or not men can literally become women by fiat. This is a question that should take less than ten seconds to answer. If any question is easy and obvious, this one is. And yet... In fact, intelligent non-philosophers could almost certainly handle this question better that philosophers. What training in philosophy seems mostly to have done is allow absurd but politically correct views to obfuscate sufficiently to make politics the deciding factor. 


Anonymous darius jedburgh said...

Certainly depressing for the reasons you give; but perhaps also affording a glimmer of hope. I know you hate 'counterproductivity' arguments, and radical feminism is a 'narrow slice of the relevant theoretical space'. But the premises of the relevant arguments against trans ideology are actually expressions of a 'moderate' feminism that's widely accepted even outside of academia, which might provide sensible people with a kind of 'trojan horse' in the battle against loony trans nonsense. The basic feminist point here is simple and, I think, devastating: women are oppressed qua biological kind, not qua 'performers' of a certain 'gender identity'.

Some of the comments by the authors of the letter to PPR even induced in me a moderate glow of solidarity with the feminism I grew up with. These are people who are refusing to be cowed by exactly the authoritarian bullying you're refusing to be cowed by:

About 5 years ago trans ideology started making claims about the non-existence of sexual dimorphism, and attempting to erase the language that marks the sexed differences between trans and non-trans women. My long held political beliefs, which until a few years ago were considered to be a respected part of the left-wing political agenda, have been redefined as hate-speech by a political movement that does not share my political aims.

And, in response to a bunch of boilerplate apocalyptic trans rhetoric ('Denying people’s gender literally kills them.... These kinds of conversations make our community literally toxic for trans people'):

I’m sorry, but this is not a reasonable response to discussion in any political context, and certainly not within academic discourse. We have a serious theoretical disagreement with aspects of trans ideology and with its political effects on women, homosexuals and potentially gay children. There are manifold issues that need to be considered before we make public policy that has far reaching consequences, and your response is ‘no one must disagree with us or we will kill ourselves.’ It is, to be blunt, emotional blackmail. And that’s not how public discourse is conducted when there are multiple parties with conflicting interests.

I was like, 'You go girl!'

11:28 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I absolutely agree with absolutely all that that 100%, DJ. Though I hadn't recognized it as hope-glimmery, because I hadn't recognized the Trojan Horse possibility. That's a good point.

But I, too, was really glad to see the point about feminism holding that women are discriminated against in virtue of their *sex*. I can't believe every feminist in existence isn't screaming that from the rooftops. How did that absolute cornerstone of sane feminism get kicked over without even a peep from anybody??? Well, except for the TER...uh...gender-critical feminists?

(I actually think both terms are pretty bad. But whatever.)

And I couldn't agree more about the fucking emotional blackmail move. I was just thinking of trying to write something for Quillette about that. That general move has to be fucking crushed in order for the dam on this shit to burst. Besides, I don't even think it's "else I'll kill myself." I think it's "else others will kill me." Though, of course, any port in a storm...

This is the death of philosophy, and liberalism, and rationalism. Just declare your position unassailable on the grounds that assailing it is tantamount to killing you. It does Christianity one better. Instead of *doubt my doctrine and you die,* it's *doubt my doctrine and _I_ die*. It's not mere prudence that constrains you from doubting morality...

Anyway, good points, and I'm with you 10000%.

5:12 PM  

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