I am writing a review of J. P. Moreland's The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism (SCM Press, 2009). It is a very good book, and J. P. Moreland is one of my favorite philosophers. I don't know the man personally, but I rather doubt that he is politically liberal. And yet throughout his book one find sentences like the following: "If a naturalist is going to admit into his/her ontology an entity whose existence cannot be explained naturalistically, then he or she must adopt a dismissive strategy that in some way or other shows why it is no big deal that we do not have such an explanation." (p. 169)
Why the political correctness as indicated by "his/her" and "he or she"? The PC jargon might have been foisted upon him by an editor, but if so, Moreland could have removed it. For Ed Feser's adventures with a PC copy editor, see here.
1. Let us first note that the subject matter of Moreland's book is not male-female relations or work place discrimination or anything in the vicinity. The subject matter is a set of abstruse questions lying at the interface of philosophy of mind and philosophy of religion. The PC jargon is out of place and distracting. I'm reading along, trying to take in a subtle stretch of argumentation, and suddenly a political flag is being waved in my face. Now my thoughts turn away from the subject matter towards the topic of PC and various speculations about the author and his motivations.
I have a conservative friend about 20 years younger than me, and I asked him if he also finds PC language distracting in contexts like these. He said he did. So I don't think this is a generational matter. I'm a Boomer and indeed I am younger than Moreland. My first point, then is that PC jargon is distracting and out of place, especially in contexts that have nothing to do with sexual or racial matters.
2. Connected with this point is that the use of PC jargon aids and abets the Left's tendency to inject politics into everything. The Left is totalitarian by its very nature and so it cannot leave any sphere of human concern unpoliticized. For a conservative to employ PC jargon is therefore very foolish. As I have said dozens of times in these pages, conservatives should not talk like liberals. Battles in the culture war are often fought and won on linguistic ground, and we conservatives should not acquiesce in the Left's acts of linguistic vandalism.
3. I am all for respect for persons, and equality of treatment. I sympathize with the people who want to use this supposedly 'inclusive' jargon, but surely standard English does not have the power to exclude anyone. It didn't exclude Ayn Rand. Every other word in her corpus is 'man.' I exaggerate, but you catch my drift. So my third point is that there is nothing 'sexist' or 'exclusive' about standard English.
4. Suppose you disagree with me about that. Fine. People disagree about all sorts of things. You are free to believe what you want and to write any way you like. I defend your right to free expression. But no double standards! If lefties have a right to free expression, then so do conservatives. We will tolerate you but you must tolerate us. What we will not tolerate is your dictating to us how we must speak and write, thereby violating our free speech rights.
5. Those who use 'herself' instead of 'himself' implicitly concede that the latter can be used gender-neutrally. So there is nothing inherently sexist about 'himself.' And if there is, then 'herself' is equally sexist. In truth, neither is inherently sexist. Both can be used gender-neutrally.