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Thursday, November 10, 2016

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I would call the statement
"Women are Better at Looking After Children'
a categorical proposition in the same sense as the statement
"man is a two-legged animal".
As such, it refers to the nature of man or woman. Thus, the sentence itself is normative in the sense it refers to what is normal to woman (being better than men at looking after children).
Thus, it is also normal that women belong in the house.
You speak of "the right of women to pursue careers outside the home."
I am not sure of the provenance of this right. Perhaps it can be maintained that women should not be forbidden to pursue careers outside the home without being over-encouraged to do so.

Very good. Just a minor correction: the female family member was not defriended because she agreed with that particular statement, but rather because she Facebook-liked a post by a friend who was complaining that the ‘intellectual fascism of the Left’ was the root cause of Trump’s victory. Note that her friend is emphatically not a supporter of Trump, but rather (rightly or wrongly) was arguing that the Left should return to its roots, and that the PC and safe-space agenda is ‘not true Leftism’. Perhaps he ought to read this post of yours.

On your question to me, I reply that if I made that remark, even in context, to any group of London chattering classes, I would get some strange looks, and would probably be ‘defriended’ in reality. That’s a fact.

Good comment, Bedarz.

Here is a related question that puzzles me. Presumably you will agree that it is in the nature of a human fetus to have various potentialities, such as the potentiality to speak and to reason. But suppose a particular human fetus is anencephalic. It lacks "the largest part of the brain consisting mainly of the cerebral hemispheres, including the neocortex, which is responsible for cognition." (Wikipedia)

Would you say that that particular anencephalic fetus has the potential to speak and to reason?

Another interesting example. You have heard of William Lind, yes? You can read a lot of negative things about him on the web (including a supposed connection with Trump), including his statement (about the Frankfurt School) that “These guys were all Jewish”.

What he actually says here is

The members of the Frankfurt School are Marxist, they are also, to a man, Jewish. In 1933 the Nazis came to power in Germany, and not surprisingly they shut down the Institute for Social Research. And its members fled.

So he is stating a fact, moreover he is stating it in a historical context: the Nazis (well known anti semites) shut down their institute in Germany, so they fled to America. Whether he meant something else by it is beyond my abilities to judge.

What else might he have meant?

>>What else might he have meant?
Can't say, but other people thought he meant something anti semitic.

At the core of the far right's concept of cultural Marxism are the Jews. Lind made this plain in June 2002, when he gave a speech on the subject to a Washington Holocaust denial conference hosted by the anti-Semitic journal, Barnes Review.
Despite the fact that Lind stated explicitly he did not believe in holocaust denial. What he said has been used against him time and again. (Which goes to prove you should be careful what you say).

There is what you mean by something, then what other people think you mean, as well as what you think other people will think you mean, and some practise this to the third or even fourth degree.

Feminist philosopher Sally Haslanger has written on this issue here: http://sallyhaslanger.weebly.com/uploads/1/8/2/7/18272031/haslangerigcgf.pdf

Abstract: "Drawing on work by Sarah-Jane Leslie and others, I consider how generics such as ‘Women are submissive’ and ‘Blacks are violent’ might implicate false claims about the nature of women and Blacks. Once these implicatures are accepted into the common ground, they become part of the ideology that sustains racist and sexist social structures. One form of critique, then, will be to take aim at such implicatures and block them through meta-linguistic negation and other linguistic and non-linguistic interventions."

Drawing on work by Sarah-Jane Leslie and others, I consider how generics such as ‘Women are submissive’ and ‘Blacks are violent’ might implicate false claims about the nature of women and Blacks. Once these implicatures are accepted into the common ground, they become part of the ideology that sustains racist and sexist social structures. One form of critique, then, will be to take aim at such implicatures and block them through meta-linguistic negation and other linguistic and non-linguistic interventions.
Is this some sort of parody of post-modernist academic criticism? Perhaps the meta-linguistic negation bit is an example of Marcusian dialectical or negative thinking, which exposes then overcomes by revolutionary action ‘the contradictions by which advanced industrial societies are constituted’.

Thank you for that, ML.

Dear BV,

I have some querries in regards to your anencephalic example. I know that you would answer in the negative that this fetus has the potentiality to speak and to reason. I think we can agree that a human being is a human being at the moment of conception. But in these first stags of life there is nothing even resembling a brain, yet wouldn't you still want to say that embryo has the potency for speech and reason?

The response might be that that embryo is not anencephalic, so it will have the capacity to develop into a normal functioning human being. Yet the anencephalic fetus, never having the capacity to develop speech and reason given its condition, would do so given the kind of thing it is, had it not been anencephalic. We can recognize it as a defective instance of a human being, but that does not make it less of a human being. What my point seems to be relying on here is that it COULD have the capacity to reason, given normal circumstances, which indicates to us its kind and specific difference as a rational animal. Not sure whether that has any philosophical merit or not.

Opponent,

If you read the abstract of the Haslanger article at the end of the hyperlink, you will see that it considerably different from the abstract ML provides, and doesn't sound crazy. Is ML baiting us?

In any case, the logic of generic statements in relation to stereotypes and other topics relevant to the culture war is a fertile field of study for people like you and me.

Thomas writes,

>>Yet the anencephalic fetus, never having the capacity to develop speech and reason given its condition, would do so given the kind of thing it is, had it not been anencephalic. We can recognize it as a defective instance of a human being, but that does not make it less of a human being.<<

Right. It is a defective human being, ergo a human being. But if the right to life is grounded in the potential to develop into a full-fledged person, then the anencephalic human fetus does not have a right to life.

>> What my point seems to be relying on here is that it COULD have the capacity to reason, given normal circumstances, which indicates to us its kind and specific difference as a rational animal.<<

What you are saying is that the anencephalic fetus could have the capacity to reason if it were not anencephalic. True, but trivial. Fact is, this particular anencephalic fetus does not have the capacity in question.

Why not avoid potentiality altogether and just say that it is wrong to kill innocent human beings; human fetuses are innocent human beings; ergo, it is wrong to kill them, anencephalic or not.

>>Is ML baiting us?

I was worried for a moment, but he/she is quoting from her web page.

“Ideology, Generics, and Common Ground.” In Charlotte Witt, ed., Feminist Metaphysics: Essays on the Ontology of Sex, Gender and the Self, pp. 179-207. (Dordrecht: Springer 2010). Abstract: Further discussion of the problem of ideology critique (see Haslanger 2007 below), however, not pursuing the relativist strategy proposed there. Drawing on work by Sarah-Jane Leslie and others, I consider how generics such as ‘Women are submissive’ and ‘Blacks are violent’ might implicate false claims about the nature of women and Blacks. Once these implicatures are accepted into the common ground, they become part of the ideology that sustains racist and sexist social structures. One form of critique, then, will be to take aim at such implicatures and block them through meta-linguistic negation and other linguistic and non-linguistic interventions.
The concept of Feminist Metaphysics is a giveaway. (Likewise of Ontology of gender).

There is some other interesting stuff on that page, e.g. how education contributes to the creation of race.

That said, this paper of hers about internalist/externalist theories of meaning is well written, in clear analytic style. It’s about the meaning of ‘race’.

I have read Haslanger on non-ideological metaphysical topics, and she's good. I read most of "Ideology, Generics, and Common Ground," yesterday and it is something you should read too. Perhaps we could discuss it. It's heavy going but relevant to your interests. One of her examples is 'Women are nurturing' which is close to the example that excites you.

On pp 188-189 we learn what metalinguistic negation is: "Even if a statement made in conversation is literally true, one can deny the statement as a way to block what the statement conveys (either the implicature, or the presupposition); this is known as metalingustic negation. (Horn)"

I should read her MONIST paper. Thanks for the link.

I had forgotten that Haslanger is one of those who received feces in the mail, some think from the feculent Brian Leiter. See here: http://www.critical-theory.com/brian-leiter-did-not-mail-someone-shit-says-brian-leiter/

Dear BV,

just because a thing's potency is never actualized does not mean it does not have that potency. Does the fact that the anencephalic fetus can never beome rational mean it does not have the potency for rationality? Here, I think I would disagree with you. I don't think a thing's potencies stem from its physical matter or constitution. Its potency for rationality does not originate from the brain, even if it is dependent on it in some way. The form of a thing is what actualizes the potencies of its matter. Matter abstracted from form is just pure potency. Form corresponds to actuality, and it is a thing's form that provides it's inherent capacities and powers. Whether its form is fully realized in its matter is, I think, besides the point.


I

http://www.critical-theory.com/brian-leiter-did-not-mail-someone-shit-says-brian-leiter

Thank your for that link, Bill, and the nice picture inside, which I received just before lunch. My fault for clicking it, I suppose.

>>just because a thing's potency is never actualized does not mean it does not have that potency.<<

That's right. My point is that the anencephalic fetus does not have the potency.

The potencies of that particular individual fetus are grounded in its matter, which is what individuates it.

You would do better to argue that the defective fetus could be repaired somehow.

But then I would answer that this aptness for repair is not an active potency in the fetus, but involves an agency external to it.

Thomas,

I discuss this matter in great detail here: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2015/07/potentiality-and-the-substance-view-of-persons.html

That's my final word on the subject.

BV,
I am afraid I do not know the answer to your question about the potentials of an anencephalic fetus. You have linked to a previous discussion where I found this statement:

"neo-Scholastics tend to conflate a primary substance such as Socrates with his individual(ized) nature."

But what is an "individual nature"? Is there such a thing? I would have thought that the term "nature" pertains only to the species.

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