Political Vaginae

Earlier I was writing about God, liberty and self-legislation. I wanted to add an extension to that post, because I’m writing a series, but I was sidetracked by a case with the Human Rights Tribunal in British Columbia, Canada. I am unsure if Americans have any counterpart to the Human Rights Tribunal, but think of it as an inquisition for progressivism, but with dumber people. The case that sidetracked me is Dawson v. Vancouver Police Board, which is a case about a transgender “woman” who had some hard dealings with a police officer and a nurse. Here are some of the claims from the Human Rights Tribunal that sidetracked me:

The surgery, also called a vaginoplasty, involved using Ms. Dawson’s male genitalia to create female genitalia, including a vagina. The surgery is a very delicate procedure and can only be performed by a highly-skilled physician.

Therefore, it is critical to keep the surgical site clean and to avoid infection. Maintaining the vagina in its proper form requires lifelong maintenance. This includes dilating the neovagina with specially designed instruments on a strict schedule.

One of Ms. Dawson’s community home care nurses testified that dilating involves inserting a long, tube-like instrument called a dilator into the vagina and leaving it there for a period of time. There are different sizes of dilators that are used at different times during the healing process. Dilations are necessary to keep the vagina open and to help it heal with the correct length, girth, and depth. Stopping dilations can result in the loss of the vaginal canal, which would be irreversible without further surgery such as a skin graft or a bowel transposition.

Ms. Dawson admits that she refused to show Nurse Cheung her vagina. Ms. Dawson says that she was complying with very clear instructions by the medical staff in Montreal not to show her vagina to any males.

Ms. Dawson argues that Nurse Cheung actively marginalized and dehumanized her by refusing to believe that she was a woman with a vagina, and by referring to her using male pronouns. She says that she cannot imagine language being employed by a medical professional that would have a more significant adverse impact on a transwoman’s dignity than that used by Nurse Cheung.

A real vagina, eh? Hmm. Yeah, that’s some bullshit. Vaginae are natural objects developed in accordance to the human female form, with its various natural functions and telos. That’s not to say that every instance of a vagina looks or functions as it ought to, for disease or injury can impair or impede vaginal development and function, but that’s no challenge to what I just said. Similarily, the Aristotelian categorical that cats are four-legged is not challenged by a 3-legged cat, for we are here speaking about natural normativity, not a universal generalization or an average (See page 210). So a vagina, just like any other natural, bodily part of a human female, has a nature and a telos, both of which that cannot be created through the mutiliation of a penis.

Sadly, we lost sense of form and telos, understanding the world in terms of nominalism and material and efficient causality. On this philosophy, natural objects, even organisms themselves, are just configurations of matter (See the difference between classical and modern philosophy); but worse still, in the absence of a lived theism, we have come to act as if we ourselves are apt to configure this matter into our own creations. We act as gods, thinking that nature and matter are there for us to conquer and manipulate rather than something that is created, orderly, sacred, and directed to the good. We act as though we, our unbridled wills, are apart from both nature and our bodies, somehow transcendent (Read from Kalb. Seriously.) But that’s bullshit—it’s just more self-idolatrous madness typical of the modern mind.

Might I suggest to the reader that the reason why the aforementioned “vagina” needs “life-long maintenance” to retain its “proper form” is that it is not an actual vagina? Instead, the doctor merely mutilated a deluded man’s penis to look as if it were a vagina, and now this man’s body is responding to the impropriety and abuse to which it has been subjected. His body is trying to heal; hence, he has a wound, not a vagina. Similarly, I don’t obtain a mermaid’s tail upon sewing my legs together and mutilating my feet into the shape of a caudal fin. We know this. That’s reality, though we abandon our commitment to reality while dealing with some deluded people and their enabling progressives.

So then if it is not a real vagina, then what is it? It’s a political vagina. Most people implicitly know that it is not a real vagina, but many of those same people call it a vagina because our public philosophy is too lost and confused to deal with this madness, and perhaps it is also because we want to appease the sensibilities of trans-people, lest they keep committing suicide at significant rates. Or maybe it is also some other reason, but whatever the reason, it is likely tied into politics and metaphysics of liberalism. And that’s cool, really. If individual liberals want to refer to this wound as if it were a vagina because they want to be inclusive, or whatever else, then that’s their prerogative, but they shouldn’t expect everyone else to follow along with that fiction, or their false compassion, and they shouldn’t codify that nonsense into the law, because the conceptions of law creep into public understanding, which, in this case, only furthers public confusion and delusion about men, women and sex.

That’s a bane of liberalism, by the way. In its endeavour to liberate the individual from heteronomy, liberalism surrendered the public realm and our shared understanding of nature, the good, right, and so forth; consequently, there is now a great deal of public confusion when individuals try to speak to each other while making public policy and the sort—we speak in significantly different moral tongues. We have created so much space for individual differences that we are now miles apart, each man an island unto himself. We are thus left with a dictatorship of relativism, where nothing is universally definitive; where the mortar that builds and sustains a nation is eroded, replaced by the pursuit of one’s individual ego and will, and where we have the absurd “right” to do evil. Abortions? Sure. Euthanasia? Certainly. Same-sex marriage? Love wins. Gender fluidity? Duh. Homemade vaginas? You betcha. Disagree? You’re a bigot.

I don’t like to curse, but fuck that, because that’s not okay. It’s deluded, nihilistic and creepy. Instead, we should insist on truth, the good, right living, and yes, real vaginas. If you don’t agree, then you’re just wrong about the world and you’re wrong about what’s good. You might also be a bit weird, but that’s not my business. Seriously though, read through that Dawson case and reflect upon everything else going on in the world. Isn’t it time that we look back and ask, “What the fuck happened to us?”

 

 

 

 

 

52 Comments

  1. Things are indeed spiraling out of control.

    Isaiah 5:20 all around us.

    Sin is not love; accepting evil is not tolerance; and encouraging others to destroy themselves is not kindness. But in our age, that’s what many would have us believe.

  2. What does nominalism have to do with any of this? How does denying the existence of properties contribute to what is happening now?

    • Hi. I’ve never heard of a nominalism that denies properties, though there nominalism mentioned here is just that position that denies the existence of universals, natures, etc.

      • Thanks! In my use of ‘property’, I’m referring to those abstract objects that are either universals or tropes (modes).
        I can see how the denial of natures could contribute to the problem you highlight. But, I’m not sure that the vagina must be a natural object to resist this madness. I can, however, see how their being a natural object could help resist the ethos of the day.

  3. Catholic Hulk,

    You shouldn’t confuse moral disagreement with moral relativism or nihilism.
    Your claim that “we speak in significantly different moral tongues” would seem to imply a kind of relativism – i.e., instead of disagreeing, people would be talking past each other -, but I guess you didn’t mean that. If so, then what did you mean? That there is vast moral disagreement? If so, you are correct of course. But that’s not the same as moral relativism, or nihilism. Very few people are nihilists, a larger number relativists, but most of the people who disagree with you on the matters at hand – and surely most philosophers – aren’t.

    • I don’t think he was claiming that any of those people actually identify as nihilists. I take it that he thinks those people’s views, particularly their rejection of teleology, commit them to nihilism whether they realize it or not. And if that’s what he’s getting at, then I happen to agree.

      • I disagree that denying teleology (i.e., purpose, which requires a creator, it seems) commits one to a moral error theory (i.e., nihilism). But that aside, why do you think he was saying they were committed to nihilism?
        He was talking about nihilism and also relativism, which are very different stances.
        At any rate, he can clarify what he meant, and if he did mean that people who deny teleology are committed to nihilism, I would then ask for an argument supporting that claim, which seems so counterintuitive to so many of us.

      • “But that aside, why do you think he was saying they were committed to nihilism?”

        Because that’s the charitable way of interpreting him, in contrast to the way you were reading him? I don’t really know what else you expect me to say here.

  4. “whatever the reason, it is likely tied into politics and metaphysics of liberalism”

    Liberalism has a metaphysics? Ha. Well, one thing we should do is to distinguish liberalism in its original Lockean sense, the one that informed the vision of the U.S. Framers, from the contemporary perversion of such, which now takes on the label “progressive.” (It used to take on the label “liberal” until recently; it might not even have been an apt label, then. In any case, it is a perversion that took on the “liberal” label.) In the Lockean sense – a view about rights and the role of government – there isn’t a specification within its narrow definition about a broader vision of the good, virtue, teloi, functions, family, community, spiritual life, and so on. On the other hand, the Framers appeared to recognize that some broader vision of these things is necessary to sustain the liberal order in a desirable form.

    Do today’s so-called progressives offer any such vision? The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt identifies primary driving moral (it’s hard to call it ethical, as it pertains primarily to the interpersonal, social and political rather than as a broad and deep vision of the kind of life humans ought to lead) criteria for the progressives today: fairness and harm. Only then can we grasp what is up with the way progressives argue for same-sex marriage. (Pursuant to a comment on a previous blog post: Are the legal demands of same-sex couples at any level legitimate, in the views of social conservatives? Is there any concession whatsoever short of granting marriage rights that the conservatives are willing to make? After all, how *fair* is it – and fairness *is* a legitimate (ethical-)moral consideration after all – that same-sex couples be marginalized as social conservatives would have it?) But do the so-called progressives offer some broader moral vision, one that might much better sustain the liberal order? Do they offer any metaphysical vision at all? Do they offer any broader vision about the good, virtue, etc.?

    Heck, do they even offer a vision of what the liberal order should be all about? Do they, say, offer a Lockean vision about rights and government, or do they subordinate such principles (if they even accept them at all) to some social-political order that achieves an ideal of “fairness” and “equality” above all, whatever these turn out to mean? They seem to have and maybe even express (however ineptly, or in rare cases more astutely) some specific idea about what these values mean in application. They’re pretty sure that fairness and equality lead to same-sex marriages. They somehow get out of these terms a right (and what is *that*?) to abortion. How do they answer questions about how the same justification they offer for a right to abortion – it’s the woman’s body, the woman’s choice – not undermine all their efforts at expanding the size and role of government in people’s economic lives? (I mean, you read Judith Thomson’s ‘A Defense of Abortion’ and you then wonder how you don’t end up with an extreme libertarian version of Lockean liberalism. Why don’t so-called progressives take that version a lot more seriously than they typically do?)

    Now, what you, Catholic Hulk, have been suggesting in terms of a broader ethical vision, complete with a metaphysics, is something in the Aristotelian mold. Do today’s so-called progressives have anything to say about Aristotelianism, or is their focus so much on the political that their main intellectual context is Rawls, Dworkin, and the post-classical-era version of “liberalism” that arose in the era of Dewey, Keynes and FDR? Did the Deweyite pragmatists have any metaphysical vision to speak of? Does Rawls’s essay “Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical” advance exactly the kind of case it sounds like it’s advancing? And even if the best of the contemporary liberal (i.e., Rawlsian) philosophers do offer a deep substantive moral vision (something arising from Kantian practical reason, say), just how well is that vision trickling down from the academy to the so-called progressive population at large? IOW, how are the academics doing at making their vision more appealing and useful to a wider population?

    If you look at the *public intellectuals* of the so-called progressive Democrats today, what is there? They can’t possibly get by, long-term, with a political economist such as Paul Krugman as their leading voice. Chris Matthews is a journalist dealing in mid-level abstractions, not the large-scale ones that a philosopher is supposed to cover. Hillary Clinton is a politician and it would be either a sad day or a glorious day (viz., Jefferson) if a politician were a leading fount of the ideas of a political movement. As it is, HRC didn’t appear to offer much more than glorified policy-wonk-ism. By *public intellectuals* I mean folks that offer a widely-accessible and yet abstract-idea(l)s-based platform, usually or often in newspaper columns, periodicals, and books. If all that the Right had public-intellectual-wise was Ann Coulter (low-level) or Charles Krauthammer (mid-to-higher-level) and no Thomas Sowell (higher level still) much less the Aristotelian-capitalist Ayn Rand (bingo! 😉 ), they’d be in deep doodoo intellectually. Heck, the most venerated public intellectual of “the Left” in America these days – Chomsky, an anarchist – doesn’t buy into a big-govt vision in which at the end of history is the ideal of the Scandinavian welfare state (really inspiring, huh?).

    The so called liberal progressives (of the Left) today seem to be more or less cloistered in academia, and even then they don’t seem to be doing all that compelling a job rejecting the Nozickian or Randian(-inspired) competition, just at the level of political philosophy (without getting into broader issues about the good, metaphysics, etc. – where the Rawlsians’ Kantianism has to really face up against the Aristotelian vision offered by Rand and others). (One name springs to mind here – Nussbaum – who seems to have feet both in Aristotelian philosophy and left-liberal/progressive-ish politics; so where is *her* public-intellectual voice, where is she promoted and cited in the mainstream progressive-media outlets, etc.? And if she were cited, promoted, etc., wouldn’t she have very helpful things to say about how, e.g., intact family structures are better for children’s capabilities-development, a point that the progressives quite clearly and blatantly neglect amid all their one-dimensional fairness/harm chatter?)

    As for real vaginas, I agree that they’re hot. (Also, we can agree that lesbianism between hot chicks is hot, however supposedly “unnatural” that is?) Artificial ones, um, eww. I do have to wonder about the mindset of the surgeons performing these, uh, mutilations. Of course, the term “surgeon” has a telic connotation; how exactly does this mutilation fall under the definition of surgery rather than, oh, butchery? And is this mutilation really an acceptable means of dealing with trans-identity issues? (If trans-identity is a real thing – I’ll grant for now that it is – then trans people are just as much creatures of Nature as hetero folks. Same with gay and lesbians. Maybe, just maybe, a modification of the Aristotelian-teleological picture of the world is in order, as an alternative to the traditional “teleology shows that gay/lesbian self-identification is disordered, contrary to nature, etc.” dogma.)

      • “Do you deny that liberalism has a metaphysic? Just curious.”

        As for liberalism in its original Lockean sense, I don’t know if it expresses any deep metaphysical positions, but there may be such positions implicit in any successful defense of the liberal project. (There’s a similar distinction going on in the world of Randians/Objectivists, between what’s been called libertarianism, as a political vision, vs. Objectivism as a systematic worldview that libertarianism isn’t expressly committed to, in spite of the ostensibly/presumptively shared political vision.)

        As for contemporary so-called liberalism and progressivism, the term “metaphysics” hardly ever comes to mind in connection with it. If there is a metaphysics involved, it’s a thin one, whatever would help to prop up the contemporary liberal/progressive notions of (predominantly social-political) morality, namely some idea of (justice-as-)fairness along with wrongness of inflicting harm (which might be all that their substantive conception of individual autonomy amounts to, I’m not sure). It seems to me that a representative figure such as Rawls is working on the basis of supposedly widely-understood concepts in relation to justice, an understanding that is distinctively modern, and not doing much in the way of deep metaphysical commitments. His moving away from a conception of the good in part 3 of ATOJ toward a more narrow conception of political liberalism later on, would indicate where his commitments were focused.

        The contemporary conservatives in the broad national dialogue are (in)famously committed to a (theistic) worldview greater than politics, which the contemporary so-called libs/progs find this worldview threatening or otherwise unwelcome in discussions of politics (i.e., that the Jefferson-touted wall of separation between Church and State can be construed to mean that religion and politics ought to be kept separate). This of course raises the legitimate question of whether the progs/libs have any worldview, period, much less a theistic one, and how they could defend a conception of the politically right (I almost said “politically correct,” groan) without such a deeper normative or other structure. I don’t hear conceptions of virtue or the good life from prog/lib mouthpieces, and in the academy I don’t think it was liberals or Rawlsians who ushered in the virtue-ethical revival, either.

        All I know is, if contemporary libs/progs were more on about Aristotelian themes, the Nicomachean Ethics, virtue, family, community, culture, and such ideas/values, vs. a more single-minded focus on the political and on what values (fairness/harm) should be enshrined in the political, I’d have a lot more respect for them. At least they’d know what the proper areas of focus would be. (As for the Right, as long as its voices also appreciate philosophy and Aristotelianism in particular, and offer decent reasons for thinking that an Aristotelian worldview requires God (much less the Christian deity), then I don’t have a problem with the Right. Short of there being compelling justification for theism, there is still however plenty in an Aristotelian worldview on which much of the values of civilization rests. (I find Feser-style arguments from teleology to theism to be questionable, certainly not knock-down from what I’ve seen.))

        So to answer your question: liberalism, to be successful as a political vision, requires a metaphysical underpinning. Classical liberalism – with a more modern and not exactly Aristotelian understanding of the human – is ambiguous about metaphysical commitments, or non-committal to them qua political vision. Contemporary liberalism (so-called, and progressivism, so called) seems more aggressive about *not* embracing metaphysical commitments, or embracing only thin ones.

        Do you see liberalism (in whatever sense) differently?

    • Ultimate Philosopher,

      Your post is long, but I would like to discuss your ruminations about same-sex marriage and homosexuality, if that’s ok? I gather you’re sympathetic to the recognition of same-sex couples as married. That is where I think our exchange can be the most fruitful.

      “Are the legal demands of same-sex couples at any level legitimate, in the views of social conservatives? Is there any concession whatsoever short of granting marriage rights that the conservatives are willing to make? After all, how *fair* is it – and fairness *is* a legitimate (ethical-)moral consideration after all – that same-sex couples be marginalized as social conservatives would have it?)”

      Maybe some are. Personally, I’m not for a civil union compromise. Neither are ssm’s most ardent proponents either. The left is insatiable. Give ’em an inch, they take a mile. I think it foolish to give them a beachhead, which of course what civil unions was, from where to push for ssm, the normative implications of which are an unacceptable loss, in my mind.

      With that said, I’ll justify this a bit. It’s important to think clearly on the marriage debate — something most on the left refuses to allow — so I’ll put forth a few considerations.

      The marriage debate ultimately comes down to whether same-sex couples are categorically different than opposite-sex couples in a relevant sense when it comes to marriage. I answer that in the affirmative. There is a huge metaphysical difference, namely homosexual coupling is categorically infertile — for all its members, procreation is at least nomologically impossible, though I tentatively assert its probably stronger in a metaphysically impossible sense — while heterosexual coupling is not only categorically possible but likely — for many of its members, procreation is probable. Heterosexuality is inherently procreative; homosexuality is inherently not. Marriage exists to regulate the procreation between couples. So saying same-sex couples are married is saying, “square peg, meet round hole,” an utter contradiction in terms.

      So I put to you, how is it unfair to treat fundamentally unlike things differently in virtue of a relevant distinction as a matter of public policy, especially when it positively codifies a metaphysical contradiction? On the contrary, to treat fundamentally unlike things as one and the same, ignoring the relevant distinction, is unfair. Mind you, let us not forget what Obergefell formally enshrines — the death of the traditional family. Marriage, as an institution, was understood fundamentally to be a child-centric union, given its grounding in human sexual complementarity. In a post-Obergefell world, marriage is now officially a adult-centric union. It puts the desires of adults, first and foremost, over the needs of children and the rearing of the next generation in an orderly manner. It’s not too far off to say Anthony Kennedy’s florid prose threw the baby out with the bathwater. Was that fair to our children? I read that you recognize the sort of social ills that flow from the destruction of that most important of mediating institutions, the family. How are these repercussions good?

      In the age of abortion, no-fault divorce, IVF, a multi-million dollar surrogacy industry, same-sex marriage, “gender confirmation surgery” and demands for “reproductive equality,” I say the West is on the precipice of something not far too different than that Brave New World Aldous Huxley warned us about. I predict it will become in vogue, as a luxury of the rich (Katy Perry’s thinking about doing it), to create children, renting out women’s wombs for the express purpose of selling the child, i.e. human trafficking. Is that not a horrifyingly unfair future that we are morally obligated to prevent?

      Moreover, as a social conservative, I don’t want to “marginalize” homosexuals. I just don’t think it’s the role of the state, nor the in the common good, to recognize homosexuality as normatively no different than heterosexuality. Gay persons have always had the right to marry, under my view; they refused to exercise it by their own volition, which is their prerogative. I could care less. Not recognizing something is not in the same moral or ontological category as marginalizing something. The latter is actively and pursuant toward its object. The former is neutral toward it.

      • Jan,
        [I asked: ““Are the legal demands of same-sex couples at any level legitimate, in the views of social conservatives?”]
        you write:
        “Maybe some are. Personally, I’m not for a civil union compromise. Neither are ssm’s most ardent proponents either. The left is insatiable. Give ’em an inch, they take a mile. I think it foolish to give them a beachhead, which of course what civil unions was, from where to push for ssm, the normative implications of which are an unacceptable loss, in my mind.”

        So you are not for a civil union compromise, not on its own merits but rather because the left is insatiable? Sounds more like a ‘realpolitik’ sort of answer than a principled one.

        What I’m trying to get at is, what kind of compromise, concession, legal recognition, are social conservatives willing and ready to grant to same-sex couples, such that they won’t be unjustly stigmatized and marginalized in an age when the mainstream view of homosexuality is no longer that it is disordered, immoral, etc. (or so disordered, immoral, etc., that *legal and political* institutions should continue on as before, treating their orientation/lifestyles/relationships as substandard, not on par with hetero ones in relevant ways, etc.)? Try as they might with all kinds of arguments from ‘nature,’ from Scripture (well, is that an argument exactly?), the social conservatives aren’t going to convince the George-and-Brad couples that their loving commitments are beyond some pale (especially a *political* pale).

        I have suggested in this thread and others that a political liberalism worthy of being pursued requires an intellectual/ethical/moral/cultural backdrop to reliably sustain it, and that this intellectual context is likely to be more of a classical or Aristotelian one than a stereotypically modern one. At the same time, I among others wish to avoid a certain sort of reduction of the political to this cultural backdrop, i.e., that since we require a moral order to sustain a political order, that the political is rightly in the business of legislating everything in the moral or ethical domain. It is wrong or bad to lead certain kinds of lives, and this *at some level* informs us about the normative order that can sustain a political one, but this doesn’t thereby imply that it is the business of the state as an institution to “make people live moral lives” or some such notion. That is rightly the business of institutions that are essentially voluntary (for adults) to participate in. (Parents are in the business of raising their children to lead good and moral lives. Does the state rightly play a role of parent to adult citizens?) The mediating institutions. Family, businesses, churches, community organizations. The state is the legalized wielder of force, and its force-based functions need to be limited only to what is absolutely necessary for sustaining the political order. (If the people are going behave licentiously, that is a problem in the wider normative order, i.e., the very natures of the people involved, not with the political order. We couldn’t expect such a licentious people to *govern* virtuously, could we?)

        Now, the reason that same-sex couplings become an issue here has to do with what values a desirable political order reflect, and in this case it has do with equality under the law based on relevant considerations, treating similar cases similarly insofar as they are similar.

        You raise a number of considerations about full legal equality (with respect to *marriage* specifically) recognized for all couplings, hetero or homo, that I still need to think through. My question is regards what compromise short of ssm the social conservatives are willing to make (while still retaining a commitment to the principles of a viable, desirable, just, etc., political order).

        You write: “Moreover, as a social conservative, I don’t want to “marginalize” homosexuals.”

        The phrasing I used was about marginalization of *same sex couples*, or if you will, same sex couplings. Clearly without question the cultural hardliners on the Right are in favor of a marginalization of same sex couplings, at least as long as they aren’t willing to make appropriate legal/political accommodations that don’t relegate their couplings to that of second- or lower- or no-class status in a day and age (this not being the ’50s) where that hardly seems appropriate. If we get creative enough we can probably make such accommodations that don’t threaten sacred institutions like marriage. (The courts – most of them at the appellate level anyway – didn’t seem to think there was a clear-cut line from ssm to the institution of marriage as such being threatened. What arguments were they considering and rejecting?) In other words the cultural conservatives need to do a better job of explaining exactly what role GLBT people, their relationships, etc., can be expected to have in a just social and political order, that doesn’t in effect come off as Scripture-mongering (“America is a Judeo-Christian nation that is best governed by biblical values”), selective arguments from ‘nature’ (“homosex it isn’t procreative, *therefore* it’s immoral/disordered and therefore committed same-sex relationships are beneath social/cultural/political/legal recognition”), or other approaches that evidently rationalize, for political ends, a distaste or disfavor of non-hetero couplings.

        Is that at all possible without some slippery slope into “liberal” (in the current sense) cultural destructionism and decadence, the obliteration of traditional meanings, denial of natures, and basically epistemic and moral anarchy? This *seems* to be territory in which the traditionalist conservatives are loath to tread, and a *lot* of it seems to hinge on homosex not being procreative. (How much should truly hinge on that, exactly? For some it looks like saying “tough shit” to George-and-Brad is one consequence.) And apparently it’s not just diehard cultural leftists who find that to be a dialectically unsatisfactory approach.

      • Ultimate Philosopher,

        “So you are not for a civil union compromise, not on its own merits but rather because the left is insatiable? Sounds more like a ‘realpolitik’ sort of answer than a principled one.”

        “Realpolitik,” huh? Well, why is the state involved in some personal relationships over others? What justifies its involvement in any type of personal relationships whatsoever? What justifies its recognition of only two-partnered relationships over polygamous, inter-species relationships, friends or even roommates? You assume that the state is under an obligation to recognize same-sex couples based on an assertion of formal equality under the law. But I argued same-sex couples — no matter what virtues or personal fulfillment its partakers find in such joinings — are fundamentally unequal to heterosexual coupling in respect to the reason why the state has interest in this particular type of relationship. From what I can glean, you offer no rebuttal of that or an argument as to why social conservatives are obligated to extend an olive branch to same-sex couples outside an appeal to popular opinion. In other words, “Sounds more like a ‘realpolitik’ sort of answer than a principled one.”

        Likewise, you don’t address why the refusal to recognize legally something, i.e. same-sex couples, is in itself a relegation of that something to “second- or lower- or no-class status.” That is not marginalization unless you can show that it’s unjust discrimination, to which I provided a reason as to why it isn’t. Also, since when has marriage become a group right instead of an individual one? Everyone, outside of a few examples, has had access to it.

        As for marginalization culturally, sure, there are hard-liners but I don’t see them as influential in socially conservative circles. I’ve gone to church nearly my whole life — I’ve never heard a sermon decrying homosexuality, that gays are subhuman or they deserve hell. Plus, there are powerful institutions in the West that treat being gay as a virtue, which they are and ought remain to be free to do so in spite of my disagreement with such a view. Gays relegated in status? I just don’t believe that’s what the social right truly wants. I certainly don’t. They’re persons, rights-holders deserving of full enfranchisement and equal rights before the law.

        You bring up a significant point about how best to overcome the totalitarianism of the sexual revolutionaries. On top of teaching what marriage actually is, as believed by that vast majority of cultures throughout history — not just Christian ones — but by bringing to the forefront of political discourse the victims of their policies: children. Talk about second-class citizens who have not enough defenders in the public square. The evil of abortion is a much more grave concern than telling George and Brad “tough shit.” What’s the bigger injustice that profoundly affects more lives, broken homes or “marriage inequality.” This is how to stem and turn back the tide of social and cultural disintegration: Showing those who suffer the most from it and demonstrating the implementation of progressive mores are the cause of it. Gay “rights” identity politics would be pushed to the side for what really matters.

        If you want someone who walks in between “marriage equality” and child rights, I suggest you check out Robert Oscar Lopez: http://englishmanif.blogspot.com/
        He’s been instrumental in my thinking on the matter.

      • And when I mean gays being marginalized, I’m including same-sex coupling. It will have no shortage of defenders and mainstream institutional praise. I feel like you need to put forth some argument that shows same-sex coupling is morally no different than opposite-sex coupling to justify social conservatives extending affirmation to such unions, effectively refuting the conservative position on the matter, to justify this assumption of equality underlying much of your comment.

  5. Christopher S.,

    I don’t think that’s the most probable interpretation, but I also don’t think it’s the one that makes his post looks the best (or any better than my interpretation), because he mentioned both nihilism and an alleged “dictatorship of relativism”. But his opponents are generally neither nihilists nor relativists. If he was saying that his opponents were committed to nihilism, then what was he saying about relativism? The claim about relativism does not seem to fit.

    That said, there is no point of arguing about that. If Catholic Hulk prefers not to clarify and you think he meant that, then I will take into consideration your interpretation as well, and reply as follows:

    Catholic Hulk,

    First, you shouldn’t confuse moral disagreement with moral relativism.
    Your claim that “we speak in significantly different moral tongues” would seem to imply a kind of relativism – i.e., instead of disagreeing, people would be talking past each other -, but I guess you didn’t mean that. If so, then what did you mean? That there is vast moral disagreement? If so, you are correct of course. But that’s not the same as moral relativism. Most of the people who disagree with you on the matters at hand – and surely most philosophers – aren’t relativists.

    Second, with regard to nihilism, if you’re saying that your opponents on this matters are usually nihilists, then the same objection I raised above with respect to relativism applies, only even stronger, since nihilists are less common than relativists.
    On the other hand, if you claimed that your opponents are committed to nihilism, I would ask you to provide an argument in support of your claim.

    • The charge of nihilism pertains more to the political systems or state that allows for nothing to be universally definitive, where the mortar that builds and sustains a nation is eroded, replaced by the pursuit of one’s individual ego and will, and where we have the absurd “right” to do evil, and so forth. What was once furnished with a robust moral philosophy and public virtue has been eroded and hollowed. What is left is empty space for individuals to do and think whatever, for the individual and his will is triumphant. That’s nihilistic because there is just is no public moral framework, principle and moral trajectory, just restrictions on interference with other individuals.

      • Catholic Hulk,

        While I disagree with you about what’s evil and what’s not (in at least most of the relevant cases), there is nothing absurd about a right to do something wrong, in a usual understanding of the word “right”.
        More precisely, agent A has a moral right to X iff it would be immoral (for some other agents; which ones is usually implicit) to prevent A from doing X.
        In a legal sense, a person A has a legal right to X iff it would be illegal (for some other agents; which ones might or might not be implicit) to prevent A from doing X. [here, “legal” is used in a broad sense, including the constitution]

        There is nothing absurd about saying that – for example – people have the moral right to engage in the promotion of false and unwarranted moral beliefs, racist views, etc., even if said promotion is morally wrong.
        At any rate, it has been traditional in the US and other Western countries to hold that there is such a moral right, and to recognize a legal right to free speech, even if it’s immoral speech.

        As for a public moral framework, the law does not have to embrace a specific moral theory, but regardless of whether it does so, laws are usually motivated by moral assessments, among other considerations, and so are court rulings.

        On that note, it’s not the case that present-day legal frameworks (in America or Canada or other Western countries) are such that the individual and her will are always triumphant. If the bar owners want to exclude gay couples, or interracial couples, or Black couples, etc., they’re not allowed to (well, in the gay couples case, it depends perhaps on the jurisdiction).

        What happens is that the cases in which the individual and her will are triumphant is changing, alongside moral beliefs on which restrictions are imposed. Those are not cases of nihilism, but of moral disagreement. People – including lawmakers and judges – are not abandoning morality, they’re changing their moral beliefs, or having different beliefs from their predecessors from earlier generations.

        Even libertarianism, which does try to expand the autonomy of the individuals to a much greater extent – and which is certainly not triumphant – is based on moral considerations.

        I understand that you disagree with many of the trends in law and prevalent moral beliefs, but even assuming you’re right about the moral matters at hand, your opponents – and the legal framework their support – would not be nihilistic, but engaged in a moral disagreement with you and your framework.

  6. Although I am very likely not saying anything that is novel or new to the commentators here, it is interesting to note that the left’s whole push of this trans-gender issue is, for those leftists in positions of power and authority, merely another tool by which to yield power over the right and traditionalists. It has little to do with transgenderism itself (although, obviously, at the low-level of the power spectrum, there are “true-believer” leftists in this whole issue). And one way that we know that this is the case is because if I, for example, painted myself, day in and day out, with black body paint, and then called myself an African-American, and claimed that I genuinely felt that way, we all know that I would not receive tolerance or understanding, but rather I would be fired and/or sent to re-education training.

    The fact is this issue is about power, and it is just another means by which the left can use lawfare, human-right-fare, and other forms of cultural and social warfare to beat down their opponents, all while wrapping their oppression in a layer of “love, tolerance, and respect for diversity”.

  7. “Do you see liberalism (in whatever sense) differently?”

    I dunno what you consider thick and thin, but any robust political philosophy will make some metaphysical commitments, particularly when it comes to its understanding of mankind. The concept and immense importance of the individual, the self, has a metaphysical background that has long been assumed by modern liberalism, though that doesn’t make it any less reliant on metaphysics.

    • “is it a real vagina?”

      This is where much of the discussion should lead, since one’s conclusion here carries a lot of argumentative weight for both the OP’s main issue as well as related ones.

      I’d like to hear Angra’s take on this because he is one of the better blogosphere commentators I’ve seen whom is also progressive (or so it seems).

      *FWIW, I’m a big Haidt sympathizer, as well as a die-hard centrist (in many ways).

      • Jordan,

        Thanks, but I’m afraid I’m not a progressive.

        It tends to go like this:
        Usually, when people on the right learn some of my views, they classify me as a left-winger, liberal and/or progressive.
        Usually, when people on the left learn some (not the same!) of my views, they classify me as a right-winger and/or conservative.

        As a result, people on the right end up attributing to me the kind of intentions, beliefs, etc., that they usually attribute to people on the left, and people on the left usually end up attributing to me the kind of intentions, beliefs, etc., that they usually attribute to people on the right. That is seriously not good.

        Am I a centrist?
        Maybe, but then again, that might suggest I’m more or less midway between left and right on most issues in which there is disagreement. That is the case on some issues, but I don’t think most. There are plenty in which I’m much closer to the left, and a good number of others on which I’m much closer to the right.

        So, if you would like to have a progressive view on that, I would recommend raising the issue in a progressive venue – though you’re likely to be mistreated, as it usually happens on line when you challenge an ideology, be it left or right.

        Side note: I’m thinking about right and left broadly and in terms of the US. Other countries have different lefts and rights (well, there are different lefts and rights in the US as well; I’m being very broad here), but my views do not match or significantly approach any ideology I’m familiar with, from any country.

        Still, for what’s worth, my position on the matter you ask about is – roughly:

        1. That is not a vagina, in the most common sense of the term “vagina” in English. It’s not a vagina as I use the word.
        2. It seems to me that some people on the left probably use the term “vagina” in a different manner, and on their usage, that may well be a vagina. But even if that’s the case, I don’t know how common that usage is, among left-wingers. I can’t rule out that they are mistaken in their belief that it’s a vagina – even by their usage of the word “vagina” -, but at least it seems probable to me that some actually use the word “vagina” in a way in which that is in fact a vagina.
        3. I don’t think this matter is so important, actually, when it comes to the legal and moral issues at hand. In fact, if Dawson hadn’t had any sort of surgery, Dawson would very likely still claim discrimination on the basis of having been “misgendered” by a number of officers. Then, the question would be whether Dawson is a woman. I don’t think that one depends on whether Dawson has a vagina.
        Whether Dawson is a woman probably depends – as I understand the word “woman” – not on whether Dawson has a vagina, but on whether Dawson has a female or a male mind. I’m not sure whether she’s a woman, or he’s a man, because I don’t know enough about Dawson’s mind (or generally, the minds of transgender people). More research is needed, though it’s difficult because it seems that research on those matters is a minefield due to ideological hostility or other reasons (depending on the country).
        Also, I don’t know whether the way I understand the word “woman” (and “man”) is prevalent in the US, or in Canada.
        4. As for one of the matters the ruling is about, the fact is that regardless of whether that’s a vagina, and regardless of whether Dawson is a woman, it seems that the dilation in question was necessary to prevent a higher risk of a number of complications. The police failed to take that into consideration, which they should have even if they believed that that wasn’t a vagina and Dawson wasn’t a woman. The ruling covers a lot more ground, but it would take too long to comment on all of that (I haven’t read it in full; I don’t find it so interesting).

    • Not a real vagina. Unless defective, a real vagina comes (ahem) with a cervix and uterus, and also a certain sort of lining that provides extra stimulation for the penis. I have a hard (ahem) time imagining how the procedure that creates this, uh, orifice recreates this special lining. Without that lining, how can it be a vagina?

      Somehow the metaphysics dingbats on the Left should have the tables turned on them. A suggestion: take out an essential property from some thing/person/institution they hold dear, and then ask them whether it’s still really that thing, however similar-seeming it might otherwise be. They seem to want to get *really specific* about what does or doesn’t qualify as social justice, and warn against foils.

      (BTW, what is aggression? The SJWs have managed in their addled minds to conflate – whether through removing an essential property or introducing some new pseudo-essential property – *aggression* with certain speech acts that give *offense* whether intended or not. (Actually, this is a double-whammy: in order to conflate a speech act with aggression they (a) remove the essential feature of physical violence from the concept “aggression” and/or (b) introduce a pseudo-form of physical violence into the concept of a certain sort of offensive speech act.) What amazes me is how the philosophy professors in the midst of all these SJWs haven’t spoken up about this metaphysical-conceptual pathology. Surely they aren’t so busy focusing on publications, course work, faculty meetings/politics, etc., to make all of a 30-second refutation of these loony-left dingbats? Even just one faculty member out of the whole department?)

  8. Anony, I think the issue is the degree to which one can alter one’s body before society has the justification to step-in and try to persuade you otherwise. Or, at very least, at which point is society justified in not supporting you in your endeavors (treating you like a female, etc.).

    The problem for progressives is distinguishing the societal justification for endorsing all the trappings of a gender dysphoric’s lifestyle, but not in the case of body integrity identity disorder.

    • Jordan — You say that’s “the” issue, but I think others on this blog would say that its resolution depends upon the resolution of the prior metaphysical question about vaginas. You’re right about the problem for progressives, but I don’t think that counts against progressivism. A moral/political stance should have the implication that this is a hard question, and that it can’t be solved without consulting the empirical human sciences. If your moral/political stance implies that you can settle the question through the metaphysics of vaginas, that’s a strike against the stance.

  9. The distinction real and unreal are not appropriate categories for the social ontology Catholic Hulk wanted to explore about vaginas. Following Butler, sexual orientation is performative, the property exists insofar as it is acted upon. In this way, gender is much like air power. Air power in a war is only as effective as a country’s ability to field planes in the air, and gender is only as efficacious in our continual construction of those behaviors associated with masculine or feminine.

    The problem with CH’s view is and always has been the teleological view of nature in light of the discoveries of modern biology, which is not undergirded by the same account of nature and essentialism of gender he desires from Catholicism. To think that a theistic ethics is what fixes the standards of morality is bullshit. I’m sorry, but elevating and privileging Catholicism’s moral metaphysics without really trying to give all of us non-theists reasons to adopt that point of view is to simply not do philosophy. There are better ways to get at moral realism than uncritically whaling on and on about how we’re not Christian/Catholic.

    If we take the phenomenology of many transgendered persons seriously — that is, if there lived-experience is deeply revealing about the nature of their experience, I see nothing wrong with using technology and medicine to help restore some equilibrium and balance to their own self-conceptions. I think in the future we will discover natural properties of those mechanisms responsible for gender construction.

    I’m glad to form a resistance to all of you, to embrace Nietzsche’s correct assessment about how much the transvaluation of all values is needed, and how he was correct in how religious people use God to make others sick and mediocre. Christianity is a will-to-nothing, and people like CH are a good example of the ressentiment.

  10. Anony, I agree that it doesn’t count against progressivism, but I do think it should temper progressive’s language at times, even though right wing people can be rude and block-headed at times when it comes to the transgender topic. My impression is that Rightly Considered is very much a reaction/response to the seeming heavy-handedness caused by the progressive monoply in philosophy and academia at large. CH’s post seems to me to be no better or worse than any number of political rants (no offense CH) one finds on any number of philosophy blogs. Rather than having unargued for assumptions regarding the primacy of egalitarianism/equality to other values, CH has a different set.

    You write:

    “I think others on this blog would say that its resolution depends upon the resolution of the prior metaphysical question about vaginas.”

    I think the Aristotelian crowd would likely try and link empirical evidence, of surgical alteration on-balance being a negative for that person, to that metaphysical question. In which case, the Aristotelianism becomes a helpful guide in the directing of one’s cumulative conclusion/case, rather than the single argumentative arbiter. *This is me trying to stretch the Aristotelian defense into the shared conceptual territory Jim mentions.*

    Jim,

    I agree with a lot of what you wrote, especially about providing good reasons for non-theists. I think there are two things to note here:

    (1) Many conservatives might not object to someone transitioning if they knew the person had a severe, prolonged struggle with gender dysphoria, and other treatment options didn’t work. Moreover, they simply believe such instances of struggle are less common/frequent.

    (2) Many conservatives are less concerned about the cases mentioned in (1) than they are about a gender-neutralizing social-shift (caused by the progressive desire to be equally welcoming to all types of people) which they see as increasing the number of people suffering from these types of issues and affecting broader negative trends. An example might be the over-zealous parents sending their son off to a camp where the boys play dress-up and wear make-up because it’s a chance for the young boy to ‘explore who they are,’ but then he just becomes confused, etc. Alice Dreger, a progressive, even warns about this type of thinking (i.e. not dealing with real cases of dysphoria because the faculties haven’t developed). This is likely some of the madness CH is referring to.

  11. Angra writes:

    “Still, for what’s worth, my position on the matter you ask about is – roughly:

    1. That is not a vagina, in the most common sense of the term “vagina” in English. It’s not a vagina as I use the word.
    2. It seems to me that some people on the left probably use the term “vagina” in a different manner, and on their usage, that may well be a vagina. But even if that’s the case, I don’t know how common that usage is, among left-wingers. I can’t rule out that they are mistaken in their belief that it’s a vagina – even by their usage of the word “vagina” -, but at least it seems probable to me that some actually use the word “vagina” in a way in which that is in fact a vagina.”

    No one asked how you or others use the word ‘vagina’. The question is whether it is a vagina. You answer concerns English conventions, not with vaginas themselves. Likewise, if I ask whether some specific shape is a circle, you don’t answer me by telling me it is that it is not a circle by your meaning of the word “circle” , for that only tells me the object doesn’t match up with your word use–it doesn’t tell me whether it is, in fact, a circle. Likewise, you didn’t here tell us whether it is, in fact, a vagina.

    • Catholic Hulk,

      You say: “No one asked how you or others use the word ‘vagina’. The question is whether it is a vagina. You answer concerns English conventions, not with vaginas themselves. Likewise, if I ask whether some specific shape is a circle, you don’t answer me by telling me it is that it is not a circle by your meaning of the word “circle” , for that only tells me the object doesn’t match up with your word use–it doesn’t tell me whether it is, in fact, a circle. Likewise, you didn’t here tell us whether it is, in fact, a vagina.””

      Actually, if there were reason to believe that different groups of people use the word “circle” in different ways, while group A using it in the traditional sense in English, but a significant number of people (group B) using “circle” to mean “square”, I would take that into account.
      I mentioned a different usage because while in the most common sense of the words, that’s not a vagina – which I said -, I’m not sure whether leftists who claim otherwise are mistaken, or are using the word “vagina” to mean something else, which results in miscommunication rather than actual disagreement.

      • Blah blah blah. You still haven’t answered whether it is a vagina. I don’t care about your English use, or the left’s use, or whatever. I’m talking about the thing itself–vaginas. Is it a vagina?

  12. Angra writes: “While I disagree with you about what’s evil and what’s not (in at least most of the relevant cases), there is nothing absurd about a right to do something wrong, in a usual understanding of the word “right”.
    More precisely, agent A has a moral right to X iff it would be immoral (for some other agents; which ones is usually implicit) to prevent A from doing X.

    Yeah, we don’t share the same understanding of moral right. In fact, your idea seems quite flawed, since it doesn’t consider the varying reasons why it might be immoral to prevent someone from doing x. For example, the prevention of x might lead to a greater evil, but that would not suggest that the person doing x now has a moral right to do x. Indeed, we can still say, quite consistently, that the person himself is obliged to not to do x, but we cannot prevent him from doing x, for that would lead to a greater evil.

    I’ll add that the idea that someone has a moral right to do a wrong is, in fact, a recent development in the intellectual history of the West. Beforehand it would be nonsense, for all laws would be subject to natural and eternal law, gaining their power and authority from them. As such, no one could claim a right to do an evil. We might still allow them to do an evil, since its prevention might lead to greater vice, or evil, but we wouldn’t say that such a person has a right to do it.

    “In a legal sense, a person A has a legal right to X iff it would be illegal (for some other agents; which ones might or might not be implicit) to prevent A from doing X. [here, “legal” is used in a broad sense, including the constitution]”

    Yeah, again, this only make sense on legal positivism.

    “There is nothing absurd about saying that – for example – people have the moral right to engage in the promotion of false and unwarranted moral beliefs, racist views, etc., even if said promotion is morally wrong.
    At any rate, it has been traditional in the US and other Western countries to hold that there is such a moral right, and to recognize a legal right to free speech, even if it’s immoral speech.”

    Nope. We can tolerate lies and deceitful speech, but we would not say that the person has a moral right to say lies and deceitful speech. The moral freedom we have in our expression is just so that we freely choose to express the good, true and just. When we don’t do that, or at least not try to, we misuse our freedoms. I spoke about this sort of stuff in other blogposts.

    “As for a public moral framework, the law does not have to embrace a specific moral theory, but regardless of whether it does so, laws are usually motivated by moral assessments, among other considerations, and so are court rulings.

    On that note, it’s not the case that present-day legal frameworks (in America or Canada or other Western countries) are such that the individual and her will are always triumphant. If the bar owners want to exclude gay couples, or interracial couples, or Black couples, etc., they’re not allowed to (well, in the gay couples case, it depends perhaps on the jurisdiction).

    What happens is that the cases in which the individual and her will are triumphant is changing, alongside moral beliefs on which restrictions are imposed. Those are not cases of nihilism, but of moral disagreement. People – including lawmakers and judges – are not abandoning morality, they’re changing their moral beliefs, or having different beliefs from their predecessors from earlier generations.

    Even libertarianism, which does try to expand the autonomy of the individuals to a much greater extent – and which is certainly not triumphant – is based on moral considerations.

    I understand that you disagree with many of the trends in law and prevalent moral beliefs, but even assuming you’re right about the moral matters at hand, your opponents – and the legal framework their support – would not be nihilistic, but engaged in a moral disagreement with you and your framework.”

    We differ on this assessment. What is happening here is the gutting of a once public morality, freeing up space and removing intereference within the public domain. The aim is to remove the barriers of a once common morality for the sake of the individual, though in creating that “elbow room” for individuals, they hollow out what was once there and restrict substitution. Public domain, space and so forth therefore becomes nihilistic, since they are bereft of a morality. It’s an empty space for atomistic individuals, with laws serving as negative freedoms; there is nothing that points the individual, community and nation to the good. There is no common good.

    • Catholic Hulk,

      You say: “Yeah, we don’t share the same understanding of moral right. In fact, your idea seems quite flawed, since it doesn’t consider the varying reasons why it might be immoral to prevent someone from doing x. For example, the prevention of x might lead to a greater evil, but that would not suggest that the person doing x now has a moral right to do x. Indeed, we can still say, quite consistently, that the person himself is obliged to not to do x, but we cannot prevent him from doing x, for that would lead to a greater evil.”

      That’s a different concept of “right”, which also seems to be in use. But it does not make the use of “right” (in the moral sense) that I mentioned “flawed”. For that matter, one might say that the concept you propose it’s flawed because it would deny that when dictators incarcerate people for speaking, they’re not violating their right to free speech as long as the people who spoke and were incarcerated should not have said what they did (e.g., they promoted a false religion, but that also annoyed the dictator).
      The fact is that there appear to be at least two different concepts of “right” in English. It’s important not to equivocate.
      One of those concepts is the one I mentioned, which is captured (or approximated closely) by the following definition:

      Right-1: Agent A has a moral right to X iff it would be immoral (for some other agents; which ones is usually implicit) to prevent A from doing X.

      The other concept is the one you’re talking about here, which is:

      Right-2: Agent A has a moral right to X iff A has no moral obligation to refrain from X.

      “I’ll add that the idea that someone has a moral right to do a wrong is, in fact, a recent development in the intellectual history of the West.”
      No, that’s not the case, in the sense of right-1. If the usage of the word “right” to mean right-1 is recent, that’s another matter (though it’s not at all clear that it’s recent, but let’s say so). Languages change over time.

      “Yeah, again, this only make sense on legal positivism.”
      No, that’s what it means, in English, to say that someone has a legal right. Or at least, it’s one of the meanings in English.

      “Nope. We can tolerate lies and deceitful speech, but we would not say that the person has a moral right to say lies and deceitful speech. The moral freedom we have in our expression is just so that we freely choose to express the good, true and just. When we don’t do that, or at least not try to, we misuse our freedoms. I spoke about this sort of stuff in other blogposts.”
      It would be correct to say they have that moral right in the sense of Right-1, not in the sense of Right-2.

      “We differ on this assessment. What is happening here is the gutting of a once public morality, freeing up space and removing intereference within the public domain. The aim is to remove the barriers of a once common morality for the sake of the individual, though in creating that “elbow room” for individuals, they hollow out what was once there and restrict substitution. Public domain, space and so forth therefore becomes nihilistic, since they are bereft of a morality. It’s an empty space for atomistic individuals, with laws serving as negative freedoms; there is nothing that points the individual, community and nation to the good. There is no common good.”
      That’s not true, as the previous examples I gave indicate. What happens is a shift in moral beliefs. The individual will is still restricted, but in different fashions.
      For example:
      1. In the past, different-race marriage was not allowed in much of the US. But race-based discrimination in bars, etc., was. Now, the opposite is true.
      2. In the past, same-sex marriage was not allowed in the US or Canada. But discrimination against people in same-sex relationships by employers, etc. (who could fire them for that reason) was allowed. Now, same-sex marriage is allowed, but the discrimination in question (at least in part of the US) is not.
      3. In the past, abortion was not allowed (in much of the US, at least). But chaining a chimp and putting her in a circus, or hunting polar bears for sport was allowed. Now abortion is (with lesser restrictions) allowed, but the latter are not allowed. And so on.

      You seem to be preaching your religion/ideology (Catholicism + Thomism), but not taking a look at the evidence.

      • I don’t see those examples as morally based, and you have not argued that. Even if you could argue that morals coincide, that’s not to say that those examples are morally based.

        In your first example with race, you see the individual will restricted but in different fashions. No doubt there is a restriction, but I see the scenario as the removal of barriers in public space and businesses open to the public. Business owners are given restrictions so that individuals can access and move about public space freely without barrier and imposition, which is what I’m talking about when I talk about the hollowing out of public space.

        Your second example is no different than what I said above. Justive Kennedy said so himself, seeing similar such laws as religious hostility against homosexuals. This is not moral disagreement with Christianity, but kicking out its public influence, giving more freedom and access to homosexuals to live as they see fit. This isn’t the moral furnishing of public space, but its emptying.

        The animal welfare laws are not about public space and access, so I’m unbothered by it. Abortion laws can also be understood in terms i speak of, for the right to privacy was affirmed. The government was , yet again, kicked out of the lives of private individuals. More space. More emptying.

      • Also, you wrote: “For that matter, one might say that the concept you propose it’s flawed because it would deny that when dictators incarcerate people for speaking, they’re not violating their right to free speech as long as the people who spoke and were incarcerated should not have said what they did (e.g., they promoted a false religion, but that also annoyed the dictator).”

        The freedom of speech is a good only so that we can freely express that which is good, learn and move towards the good in understanding, etc. If a person chooses to use his speech for lies and deceit, then he misuses his freedom, and he doesn’t have the right to say lies and spread deceit (likewise, freedom of speech does not mean we can slander and libel).

        If a dictator imprisoned someone for promoting *knowingly* false religion, then we can still say such a sanction is wrong even if it might not be a violation of free speech. Unless you wish to argue that it *must* be seen as a violation of free speech, I don’t see he eight of your objection.

  13. Catholic Hulk,

    “I don’t see those examples as morally based, and you have not argued that. Even if you could argue that morals coincide, that’s not to say that those examples are morally based.”

    It is clear that the reason people support such changes is to a great extent moral assessments. In the cases of laws, the reason for that is in fact to prevent what is seen as injustices, etc., which are moral considerations. Even in the cases of court rulings, matters of reasonableness, legitimate interests, freedom, etc., often involve, explicitly or implicitly, moral considerations.

    “In your first example with race, you see the individual will restricted but in different fashions. No doubt there is a restriction, but I see the scenario as the removal of barriers in public space and businesses open to the public. ”
    But it’s coercing business owners to accept people of all races, interracial couples, and so on. It’s a restriction to the freedom of business owners to do whatever they feel like doing in their own property.

    However, if you prefer different examples, no problem: there are also anti-discrimination laws in the US (federal and state laws) that ban employers from discrimination on a number of grounds, such as race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. Here, we’re not talking about public spaces. We’re talking about specific restrictions to the freedom to hire and fire people, imposed by the law. Of course, that restricts individual will in a number of ways. Some of those restrictions are quite recent (e.g., sexual orientation, gender identity); others are older, but still, in the past those did not exist in the US, either.

    Such changes have also happened in Canada (e.g., Canadian Human Rights Act, Employment Equity Act); even presently, there is a debate over imposition of further restrictions (Bill C-16, 2016, which would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act). The considerations behind the proposed changes are mostly moral ones, and the same applies to previous pieces of legislation (broadly speaking, including constitutional changes). You may agree with some of those restrictions to individual freedoms and disagree with others, but that’s moral disagreement, not lack of concern about moral matters on the part of your opponents and/or the proponents of such changes.

    “The animal welfare laws are not about public space and access, so I’m unbothered by it. ”

    Whether you’re bothered or not is not the point. Rather, the main points here are:

    1. It’s not the case that moral considerations are disregarded. Mostly, the people supporting the laws that we’re discussing either increase or restrict individual freedoms are doing so on the basis of moral assessments.
    2. Just as some things that were banned before now are allowed, other things that were allowed are now banned. Individual will faces fewer restrictions than in the past sometimes, and more some other times, depending on the situation.

    “Your second example is no different than what I said above. Justive Kennedy said so himself, seeing similar such laws as religious hostility against homosexuals. This is not moral disagreement with Christianity, but kicking out its public influence, giving more freedom and access to homosexuals to live as they see fit. This isn’t the moral furnishing of public space, but its emptying.”
    No, this is to a considerable extent moral disagreement. Some quotations from the “Obergefell” ruling:

    a. ‘The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.’
    b. ‘In Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12 (1967), which invalidated bans on interracial unions, a unanimous Court held marriage is “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.’
    c. ‘[T]he right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them.’

    But it’s not just this court ruling. If you just take a look at the arguments and claims made by proponents of bills legalizing same-sex marriage in different US states before the ruling (some of which passed and became laws, also before the ruling), you’ll see moral considerations all over the place.

    “Abortion laws can also be understood in terms i speak of, for the right to privacy was affirmed. The government was , yet again, kicked out of the lives of private individuals. ”
    Yes, in the case of abortion, the government was kicked out of the lives of private individuals. In the case of animal welfare, the government kicked its way into the lives of private individuals. And so on.

  14. Catholic Hulk,

    “The freedom of speech is a good only so that we can freely express that which is good, learn and move towards the good in understanding, etc. If a person chooses to use his speech for lies and deceit, then he misuses his freedom, and he doesn’t have the right to say lies and spread deceit (likewise, freedom of speech does not mean we can slander and libel).”
    In the sense of Right-2, he does not have the right. But in the sense of Right-1, usually, he does.

    “If a dictator imprisoned someone for promoting *knowingly* false religion, then we can still say such a sanction is wrong even if it might not be a violation of free speech. Unless you wish to argue that it *must* be seen as a violation of free speech, I don’t see he eight of your objection.”
    If a dictator imprisoned someone for promoting a false religion that the person should know not to promote, then what the person was doing was wrong, but still the dictator behaved immorally. Now, we clearly disagree about whether promoting Christianity after reflection is immoral. But how about promoting Marxism?
    It seems to me that after reflection, people ought to know better. But in several countries in Latin America, dictators used to imprison (or worse) people who would peacefully argue that Marxism was true, even if those people were not involved in any plots to bring about a Marxist Revolution.

  15. Catholic Hulk,

    “Blah blah blah. You still haven’t answered whether it is a vagina. I don’t care about your English use, or the left’s use, or whatever. I’m talking about the thing itself–vaginas. Is it a vagina. ”

    I have already answered the question. To give a more precise answer is not at all the same as not to give a answer. Not that I had or have any obligation to answer that question. But I did, and in considerable detail.

    Again:

    1. That is not a vagina, in the most common sense of the term “vagina” in English. It’s not a vagina as I use the word.
    2. It seems to me that some people on the left probably use the term “vagina” in a different manner, and on their usage, that may well be a vagina. But even if that’s the case, I don’t know how common that usage is, among left-wingers. I can’t rule out that they are mistaken in their belief that it’s a vagina – even by their usage of the word “vagina” -, but at least it seems probable to me that some actually use the word “vagina” in a way in which that is in fact a vagina

    That aside, language changes over time; words sometimes change their meaning, etc. Those changes do not happen overnight, and don’t have to spread to an entire linguistic community. I don’t know whether there are enough leftists – if any – using “vagina” in a way in which that would be a vagina for that to be an alternative usage. Maybe there are too few (if any), and so they’re mistaken about the meaning of the word. Or maybe they all use “vagina” as most people do, and then, either they do not have the belief that it’s a vagina, or they are mistaken in their belief that it’s a vagina.

    However, as I explained carefully, I cannot rule out that there might be enough leftists using the word “vagina” differently to cause a case of miscommunication, in which arguing over whether it’s a vagina would be pointless, since it would be a vagina under some usage of “vagina”, and not under another.

    Is Pluto a planet?

    As some people use the word “planet” it is (technical definitions notwithstanding; the meaning of the words is given by usage); under some other usage, it’s not. In case of different usages of “planet”, there is no point in debating it, because people who call Pluto a planet and people who deny it, are speaking past each other.

    Again, I do not know that this is the case. It may well be that it’s not a vagina, and there is no common usage under which it is. It’s definitely not a vagina as I understand the word, as I have already said, despite your false claim that I haven’t answer whether it’s a vagina.

    • Actually, no, you didn’t answer the question. You only said that it was not a vagina in the most common sense of the term “vagina” used in English. You said that it is not a vagina in the sense that you use the word “vagina”.

      You thus deny that the referent (the person’s genitals) corresponds to or properly matches the common English meaning of the word ‘vagina’ and your use of the word ‘vagina’. But you’re not telling me whether it is, in fact, a vagina. You are just telling me about your evaluation of the correspondence between the person’s genitals and whatever linguistic convention. But I don’t care. Seriously, I don’t, because that was not the question.

      If you want to actually answer the question, then, firstly, define what a vagina is. I’m not looking for the definition of the word ‘vagina’ but a definition of the thing itself; and then tell me whether this person has a vagina.

      In the case of a Pluto and whether it is a planet, then you’re defining what a planet is. You’re not interested in the various used definitions of the word ‘planet’ (that’s a different referent), but this idea or abstraction of planet-hood itself. In case you’re still muddled by the difference between things and words, the word ‘vagina’ has 7 letters but a vagina does not. The word ‘vagina’ has linguistic meaning in English, but vaginas do not. The word ‘planet’ begins with the letter /p/. Planets do not.

      • Catholic Hulk,

        Actually, yes, I did answer the question, and in fact gave considerable detail:

        “Actually, no, you didn’t answer the question. You only said that it was not a vagina in the most common sense of the term “vagina” used in English. You said that it is not a vagina in the sense that you use the word “vagina”. ”
        That’s clearly an answer, since:
        a. If the question of whether it’s a vagina uses “vagina” in the most common sense in English (which is very likely), that’s that.
        b. Additionally, I point out that I use “vagina” in that most common sense.
        c. I gave more details in the reply because I wanted to specify that I do not know that those who say is a vagina are all mistaken, or there is another use of “vagina”. But given more info is not not answering.

        “You thus deny that the referent (the person’s genitals) corresponds to or properly matches the common English meaning of the word ‘vagina’ and your use of the word ‘vagina’.”
        The most common usage.

        ” But you’re not telling me whether it is, in fact, a vagina. You are just telling me about your evaluation of the correspondence between the person’s genitals and whatever linguistic convention. But I don’t care. Seriously, I don’t, because that was not the question. ”
        You seem to be missing the point. You’re saying that I’m not telling you whether it’s in fact a vagina. In that question, are you using “vagina” in the most common sense in English? If so (very probably), then I’m telling you (obviously, if you’re being reasonable) that it’s not. If you’re not, then I do not understand the question.

        “If you want to actually answer the question, then, firstly, define what a vagina is. I’m not looking for the definition of the word ‘vagina’ but a definition of the thing itself; and then tell me whether this person has a vagina.”
        No, that’s mistaken.
        If you ask the question, it’s not up to me to decide what “vagina” means. It’s not my question. So, I consider a very likely meaning – the most common one -, which we most people learn in the way people generally acquire language – whatever that is.

        Again, if you want to give a definition, it’s up to you.
        Also, there is no such thing as a definition of “the thing itself” beyond the definition of words. When you say “the thing itself” you mean “a vagina”, and then the issue comes down to the meaning of the word “vagina”, if you want definitions.

        “In case you’re still muddled by the difference between things and words, the word ‘vagina’ has 7 letters but a vagina does not. The word ‘vagina’ has linguistic meaning in English, but vaginas do not. The word ‘planet’ begins with the letter /p/. Planets do not.”
        I’m not doing any of the sort. You’re the one confusing things.

  16. Catholic Hulk,

    In case you still do not understand that I answered the question, here’s a brief summary of my reply:

    a. In the most common English sense of the word “vagina”, the answer to the question “Is that a vagina?” is “No, that is not a vagina.”
    b. I do not know whether that most common sense is the only correct usage, or whether all people who would assert “It’s a vagina” are mistaken, or are used the word “vagina” to mean something else (which might or might not be a mistake, depending on how common that usage is).

    You ask: “I’m talking about the thing itself–vaginas. Is it a vagina?”.
    The answer is – again, as I have repeatedly answered – that it’s not a vagina, provided that in your statement “Is it a vagina?”, you are using the word “vagina” in the sense that it’s the most common in English (which is very, very probable). Again, that answers the question. If you still believe it doesn’t, or that I’m making some mistake, then you’re still wrong I’m afraid, though I have apparently no way of persuading you of that.

    • holy crap. Define the thing itself. Just what is that *thing* that is between the legs of the average woman? Don’t tell me the word English users commonly assign to it. I want to know what it is. Define it.

      • Catholic Hulk,

        I have no obligation of defining anything, but in any case, you still do not understand.

        Let me try again:

        1. It only makes sense to define words, like “vagina”. Now, if one were to give a stipulative definition, then one would no longer be talking about vaginas, but about something else, unless the stipulative definition happened to match usage. If one were to give a definition intended to match usage, then the definition might be correct or incorrect, and if the latter, closer or more distant to the truth. If you want to define the word “vagina” in the context of your question, feel free to do so.

        2. The word “vagina” has at least one very common usage in English that is relevant to the discussion at hand. Under that common usage, the word “vagina” refers to something, namely a vagina – the thing itself. It’s not possible to define the thing itself, the vagina, because it’s not the kind of thing that can be defined. Words can be defined, but vaginas are not words, or anything else capable of being defined. Your request is impossible – sorry, your demand, since you’re commanding me to define it. But even if I wanted to obey your command, I would not be able to do so. No one would be able to do so. If God existed, he would not be able to do so.

        3. Dawson does not have that thing, namely a vagina, under the most common usage of the word “vagina”, which might or might not be the only usage relevant in the context of this discussion.

        4. There might or might not be another usage of the word “vagina” that is relevant to the discussion at hand. If there is, then probably there is another referent of that word. That would be another thing itself, namely a vagina but under another meaning of “vagina”, and Dawson might well have a vagina – the other thing itself – under that other usage, in case there is that other usage, which again might or might not be the case for all I know (it might be that despite there being two different meanings, the referent would be the same, but that is very improbable).

  17. Angra writes: “It only makes sense to define words, like “vagina”. Now, if one were to give a stipulative definition, then one would no longer be talking about vaginas, but about something else, unless the stipulative definition happened to match usage. If one were to give a definition intended to match usage, then the definition might be correct or incorrect, and if the latter, closer or more distant to the truth. If you want to define the word “vagina” in the context of your question, feel free to do so.”

    There we go. Now the differences of our philosophies are more transparent. In classical realist philosophy, which any informed person on philosophy should know (indeed, this is philosophy 101 stuff), we *do* define things themselves, which is typical when we try to offer their nature, Socratic definition, per genus et differentium, and so forth. I’m not looking for some nominal definition, but looking for you to tell me about the thing itself. if all you have to offer is commentary on nominal definitions, then you’ll have to excuse me, because I rather stare at paint drying.

    • “There we go. Now the differences of our philosophies are more transparent. In classical realist philosophy, which any informed person on philosophy should know (indeed, this is philosophy 101 stuff), we *do* define things themselves, which is typical when we try to offer their nature, Socratic definition, per genus et differentium, and so forth.”
      No, that’s not true. You’re just misconstruing my words. I’m a realist on many domains – most – but I realize that it’s impossible to define things themselves…except, of course, when the things in question are words, sequences of words, or other symbols.

      “I’m not looking for some nominal definition, but looking for you to tell me about the thing itself.”
      As I already told you, I can’t define the thing itself. In fact, there might be more than one thing itself. But if there is only one, I still can’t define it. My immediately previous post I very specific and my position ought to be crystal clear to you by now. You continue to misconstrue it, but that’s not my fault.

      “if all you have to offer is commentary on nominal definitions, then you’ll have to excuse me, because I rather stare at paint drying.”
      I have never offered a nominal definition. I have not offered any definition, nominal or otherwise. But I did answer your question very carefully and in great detail – even if you do not realize that.
      I did not follow the command to define the thing itself – rather than the words -, but then, that’s a command that is metaphysically impossible for me to follow. I cannot define the thing itself – a vagina – any more than I can eat the colorless green ideas that I have while I sleep furiously.

      • Angra,

        “Words can be defined, but vaginas are not words, or anything else capable of being defined.”

        What is so special about words that they are the only things that can be defined? Words are things just’s as much as vaginas, or anything else are. Why are they unique? All they do is allow us to refer to things.

        If you cannot define things, other than words, then would you agree then that you can’t define things as able to be referred to using words? But then you couldn’t refer to words themselves.

        Maybe I am misunderstanding your position though.

      • Billy,

        Sorry, to correct myself. Word do more than just allow us to refer to things, but referring to things is what words allow us to do.

  18. Billy,

    I didn’t say that only words can be defined. If we use “word” narrowly, other symbols can be defined as well (but then again, in a broader sense of “word”, those symbols would be words). The difference with vaginas is that in order to give a definition, something needs to have a meaning, so that one can give a definition intended to match the meaning.
    Alternatively, one can define something in the sense that one makes it a symbol, so in that sense, you could say that a vagina means “car”. But it would be difficult to write “the car is parked outside”, if you needed to form the sentence placing an actual vagina between the other words! (not to mention that this is not what Catholic Hulk wants me to do).

    It’s really odd that he insists on such a demand, and moreover, that he calls that “philosophy 101”, when it’s actually impossible – and it should be clear to philosophers that it is.
    Perhaps, he does have something coherent in mind and is simply misspeaking repeatedly. But I don’t know what it is that he may have been attempting to say.
    One hypothesis is that he asks me to give an informative identification, of the sort of “water is H2O”, or “heat is molecular motion”, so “vaginas are X”.
    I don’t know if that’s what he’s trying to do – he’s not saying that but something impossible, but I’m thinking something that he might have come up with, given his beliefs about natural kinds and the like -, but that would be of no help, for the following reason:

    Even if I have a theory about what vaginas are (i.e., vaginas are X), that would be what vaginas are in the most common English sense of the word “vagina” that is relevant in this context. If there is another sense (which might or might not be so) in a sub-linguistic community (namely, leftists), then the referent of “vagina” in that other sense (very probably) is not the same as the referent of “vagina” in the most common sense, so “vaginas are X” would be false in the other sense, and by providing that theory about what a vagina (in the most common sense of “vagina”) is, we would have gained nothing.

    All that said, given that you say you may not understand my position, perhaps you understand Catholic Hulk’s?
    If so, could you please give me an example of any definition of something that is not a word or symbol?
    Any definition of a vagina, or a planet, or a chimp or a person will do.

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