philosophy meta-forum

The Inquisition is coming for you

Hippolyte

26 day(s) ago

Repent your sins before it is too late

https://globalnews.ca/video/3867811/extended-excerpts-from-secretly-recorded-meeting-between-wilfrid-laurier-university-grad-student-and-faculty

Kwasi

26 day(s) ago

Lol. Love it when leftist principles get pushed to their logical conclusions. Of course there's always a group that's happy to accept the implication of the principle: "This TA got what she deserved." "She was causing HARM." "She was TARGETING trans people." "This is VIOLENCE against trans BODIES." But most of us can see that this is madness.

Kwasi

26 day(s) ago

Also, can we please have more respect for trans people? Like, they're not so fragile that they're just gonna crumble when they hear people who don't accept their descriptions of themselves. They don't need you to rescue them from every challenge. Attempts by universities to do so strike me as at least as great an insult to them as anything Jordan Peterson has said.

Cheng

26 day(s) ago

Also, can we please have more respect for trans people?

Kwasi

No.

Yu

26 day(s) ago

It’s trans activists themselves who argue that using the wrong pronouns is literally violence.

Yu

26 day(s) ago

Well they don’t really argue it. They assert it, along with threats and intimidation.

Leonard

26 day(s) ago

It's like satanism for third graders. Oh, and by force of civil law. It's going to be very times ahead for those who aren't mentally deranged.

Leonard

26 day(s) ago

*sad times

Duns

26 day(s) ago

Also, can we please have more respect for trans people?

Kwasi

No.

Cheng

As a premium-quality meta-forum bigot, I blame trans people for all their problems (and my problems) because they make me uncomfortable!

Yu

26 day(s) ago

Also, can we please have more respect for trans people?

Kwasi

No.

Cheng

As a premium-quality meta-forum bigot, I blame trans people for all their problems (and my problems) because they make me uncomfortable!

Duns

Said without a hint of irony in a context in which “wrong” pronouns make some people so uncomfortable that they are going to make it illegal.

Noah

25 day(s) ago

Sometimes I look out at academia and feel so discouraged, like the whole thing is just totally irrevocably fucked. I try to teach my students to be thoughtful decent people, but so much of the academic machine is pushing them against being either of those things. Stories like this don't disabuse me of this discouraging outlook :(

Everett

25 day(s) ago

Well they don’t really argue it. They assert it, along with threats and intimidation.

Yu

If intentionally and avoidably causing a person psychological harm is a form of violence, this certainly seems like an argument for the position in question (note the absence of threats and intimidation):

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/hypa.12259/full

Nishi

25 day(s) ago

On a related note, why can't a thread on this forum acknowledge that what happened at Wilfrid Laurier University was a ridiculous violation of academic freedom without devolving into immature and reprehensible trans-bashing?

Baltasar

25 day(s) ago

If intentionally and avoidably causing a person psychological harm is a form of violence, this certainly seems like an argument for the position in question (note the absence of threats and intimidation):

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/hypa.12259/full

Everett

Trans people have it bad a lot of the time and I, for one, have no problem calling them by whatever they want to be called. But that's just because I care about being a good person and try not to cause unnecessary offence, not because misgendering constitutes "violence." Violence is definitionally something physical. The real question is whether it causes harm, after which it's necessary to ask whether that harm ought to be regulated in some official way. (Not all harm should be.)

My suspicion is that it does cause genuine harm to misgender people, which is why I try my best not to do it. But I also reject the notion that (classroom) speech debating this issue ought to be regulated. There are lots of things people say and do that offend and even harm me. Usually there's nothing I can do about it. That's life. More to the point, freedom of speech is more important than this specific harm (though it's worth pointing out that regularly referring to someone by the wrong pronoun could eventually become like giving a bullying nickname in certain circumstances, in which case an argument could be reasonably made that the act in question has now become a sort of workplace harassment).

I hope it's clear that none of what I've written means that we shouldn't protect trans people from actual violence and discriminatory policies. And it's also not meant to say that you should go around refusing to call people what they want to be called - you're plainly a jerk if you do that. The point is that it's just sad to see universities blurring the lines between offence, harm, and actionable harm, especially when they do so by sacrificing free speech.

Anatoliy

25 day(s) ago

Hi Jazz!

Yu

25 day(s) ago

On a related note, why can't a thread on this forum acknowledge that what happened at Wilfrid Laurier University was a ridiculous violation of academic freedom without devolving into immature and reprehensible trans-bashing?

Nishi

I don’t think anyone here said anything about trans people generally. Just the activists. Trans activism is a disgrace. Plenty of threats of violence, especially against women.

Yu

25 day(s) ago

On a related note, why can't a thread on this forum acknowledge that what happened at Wilfrid Laurier University was a ridiculous violation of academic freedom without devolving into immature and reprehensible trans-bashing?

Nishi

I don’t think anyone here said anything about trans people generally. Just the activists. Trans activism is a disgrace. Plenty of threats of violence, especially against women.

Diana

25 day(s) ago

Baltasar, if I 'identify as' a doctor or general or judge or duchess, but am not one, and you decline to refer to me by the honorific that goes with that identity, are you being a jerk? Are you, in effect, giving what amounts to a 'bullying nickname'?

Arthur

25 day(s) ago

My suspicion is that it does cause genuine harm to misgender people

I agree with your suspicion, but I believe that misgendering happens when we refer to trans- women as 'she'. The harm is that we encourage voluntary transgenderism, which is a preventable mental illness that has become an epidemic only a few years ago.

Misunderstanding a New Kind of Gender Dysphoria

Christopher

25 day(s) ago

This is utterly insane. If you played this for ordinary, intelligent people who had not been indoctrinated with--or at least inured to--this social "justice" madness, I really do wonder whether they'd believe it's real. The fact that things have advanced to this point is chilling. Is it alarmist to suggest that, were these ideas to win out, it would likely mean the end of the university and ideas central to Western intellectual tradition? I'm honestly not sure.

As for the specific ideas about transgenderism (partially in response to Baltasar, above): concerns about giving offense carry a certain amount of weight; but it seems to me that the considerations on the other side are much, much weightier. I think it's extremely clear that 'woman' is a term for adult female people, and that 'she' and 'her' refer on the basis of sex. The arguments alleging to show that 'woman' and 'she' are concerned with gender (a dangerously protean term, incidentally...) not sex, are, I think, so bad that the only plausible explanation for them is that they're motivated by predetermined political and philosophical preferences. And then the rickety conclusions are enforced by rabid accusations of prejudice--and by the coercive power of institutions that have been captured by the PC left. My God, the horrifying cult-speak of the people on that review board... I honestly don't have the words to express my revulsion. It's like one of those movies in which the lunatics really *have* taken over the asylum. And the sole remaining sane person must justify her actions to them. (But wait...of course that analogy itself is now impermissible...)

The questions here could hardly be more important--especially to philosophers. Are we going to allow political dogma to be enforced on us? And when it's obviously rationally indefensible, to boot? Are we going to agree that the least-rational wing of the left gets to tell us what we can even *discuss* in class? And (per the Tuvel case) even in the journals? (And can there be any doubt that prohibitions against discussing these issues anywhere on campus is (are?) the further aim?) Are we going to allow ourselves to be coerced into abandoning fundamental aspects of sane metaphysics, conceding that you are whatever you say (or think) you are? Or are we, rather, conceding that we can legitimately be forced to utter obvious falsehoods? (Both?) It seems like what we're being asked--or, rather, told--to do is to agree that avoiding offense is more important than speaking the truth, and more important than rational discussion.

I honestly fear that we're being ordered to help set the cornerstones of totalitarian irrationalism. And the argument on the other side is: some people will be offended if we refuse to help out. And we're so worried about being accused of newly-invented prejudices that we're actually a bit conflicted about how we ought to respond.

Mark

25 day(s) ago

Baltasar here.

Hi Jazz!

Anatoliy

Is this in reference to me? I am not that person, whoever it is, if that's what this is supposed to imply.

Baltasar, if I 'identify as' a doctor or general or judge or duchess, but am not one, and you decline to refer to me by the honorific that goes with that identity, are you being a jerk? Are you, in effect, giving what amounts to a 'bullying nickname'?

Diana

This seems like a false analogy. The honorifics you just mentioned all imply an assumption of some sort of deference to or respect for the person's skill or authority. That's clearly not what's happening when I refer to someone as "they." But if someone were hospitalized for some disorder and for whatever reason thought they were a duchess? Well, in that situation there's no mistaking what I'm doing by others (no authority, even implies, is actually given in the act of calling them as that), so I see no problem in indulging such a person in order to prevent their distress.

As for the specific ideas about transgenderism (partially in response to Baltasar, above): concerns about giving offense carry a certain amount of weight; but it seems to me that the considerations on the other side are much, much weightier.

Christopher

Right, which is why I explicitly said that "freedom of speech is more important than this specific harm." What are we disagreeing on?

I think it's extremely clear that 'woman' is a term for adult female people, and that 'she' and 'her' refer on the basis of sex.

Christopher

Ok, and it's your right to believe that! I'll defend your right to hold the view, even if I happen to agree with all of it, only parts of it, or none of it! Free country, etc., etc.

The arguments alleging to show that 'woman' and 'she' are concerned with gender (a dangerously protean term, incidentally...) not sex, are, I think, so bad that the only plausible explanation for them is that they're motivated by predetermined political and philosophical preferences. And then the rickety conclusions are enforced by rabid accusations of prejudice --and by the coercive power of institutions that have been captured by the PC left.

Christopher

Something like this could only be written by someone who doesn't in fact know any transgender people. We don't live in a conspiracy. People like to be called something, it's really not harmful to indulge them on this, and nothing happens after that. If some sort of retaliation does happen (e.g., pretend you indulge them but otherwise have said openly that you disagree with the usage), then I think it becomes a question of free speech and I'm on your side. That's why Laurier is getting heat on this - because they're wrong for censoring the grad student. Let's all just calm down. Step away from the ledge.

Mark

25 day(s) ago

The above line, without typos, should have read "no authority, even implied, is actually given in the act of calling them that."

Ted

25 day(s) ago

Female cats are referred to as 'she'. Cats don't have gender roles. QED

Christopher

25 day(s) ago

Quote function won't work, so:

Me:

"The arguments alleging to show that 'woman' and 'she' are concerned with gender (a dangerously protean term, incidentally...) not sex, are, I think, so bad that the only plausible explanation for them is that they're motivated by predetermined political and philosophical preferences. And then the rickety conclusions are enforced by rabid accusations of prejudice --and by the coercive power of institutions that have been captured by the PC left."

Mark:

"Something like this could only be written by someone who doesn't in fact know any transgender people. We don't live in a conspiracy. People like to be called something, it's really not harmful to indulge them on this, and nothing happens after that. If some sort of retaliation does happen (e.g., pretend you indulge them but otherwise have said openly that you disagree with the usage), then I think it becomes a question of free speech and I'm on your side. That's why Laurier is getting heat on this - because they're wrong for censoring the grad student. Let's all just calm down. Step away from the ledge."

No, that's not even vaguely right. First, it has nothing to do with knowing or not knowing any actual person. It has to do with the unsound arguments to the effect that e.g. 'woman' is a gender term rather than a sex term--it simply isn't, and the arguments that allege to show that it is are terrible. There are matters of principle at issue that don't reduce to personal relationships.

Second, there are arguments that allege that e.g. 'woman' is a gender (rather than a sex) term and, therefore, no special requests are being made: using the terms in the ordinary way would mean that we should call e.g. Caitlyn Jenner a woman. Those arguments aren't sound.

Once that's been settled, it becomes clear that what's at issue is either a *request* that we say what's false or a *demand* that we do so. Again, independently of what any particular person might do, at least a significant portion of the vocal PC left is *demanding* that everyone comply. (It's apparently also been enshrined in law in Canada, and in some parts of the U.S.) The shrill accusations of "transphobia" and whatnot aren't consistent with mere requests. So what's the proper response to a demand that we say false things (or say things that presuppose false things)? I'd say that, under such conditions, refusal to comply is obligatory--but it is at least permissible. (None of this has anything to do with conspiracies, incidentally.)

Men can choose to dress and act in feminine ways--what business is it of mine? I don't see any way to defend the view that clothing traditions should be enforced. I'm committed to defending people's right to do as they like on that score. More power to them, I say. For a man to ask that I pretend he's a woman is a completely different thing, and not a small one, contrary to your suggestion. Though you're right that it's different than complying with a request to be called e.g. 'doctor,' it's more like a request to always be referred to as a spiritual being or a child of God. It's contrary to fact, so far as I can tell, and contrary to my deeply-held metaphysical beliefs, according to which representing x as F doesn't make x F. It's really not something you should even ask people to do, and it's certainly not something you should make an issue of if they refuse. The reasonable thing to do is to let everyone apply the relevant concepts and terms in the way that seems most reasonable to them. And when we face ever-more-intrusive efforts to control our words and thoughts, such requests aren't best viewed in isolation.

So you might want to step back from the ledge yourself, actually. We're discussing a situation in which a request is made of me, and in which I'm inclined to refuse. So far as I'm concerned, no harm done. If you want to make a further issue of it...well...it's not me who's moving toward a ledge.

Gadadhara

25 day(s) ago

I commented last time these issues were discussed, but in short, Christopher's post strikes me as a super uncharitable way to construe the sorts of requests at issue. Which pronouns we call people needn't reflect deeply held metaphysical beliefs. When people introduced "Ms." in the 70s, it was rightly understood as a linguistic change, argued for on broadly political grounds. Using "Ms." didn't require novel or unusual metaphysical beliefs. Only political ones.

I suspect you'll say this is different, because we're being asked to say false things using old terminology, rather than merely saying new things with new terminology. Fwiw, I think a lot of people would prefer it if we actually would switch over to new terminology (e.g., gender neutral pronouns, maybe ze/zim, or singular they, etc.), which would avoid that complaint, and make the case that much closer to switching to Ms. over miss and Mrs.

But even when we're talking about calling people with penises "she", or people with vaginas "he", it's more charitable, I think, to construe people as requesting that we collectively decide to change in what certain words mean, rather than asking that we regularly say false things. Collectively deciding to change our minds about what words mean sounds dramatic and serious, but when you remember that "penis," "vagina," "sperm", "X chromosome", etc. etc., will all continue to mean the same things even if we use "he" "she" "man" and "woman" differently, I think worries about Orwellian newspeak should look histrionic and overblown; we're still able to make the same conceptual and biological distinctions, and nobody is asking us to pretend those distinctions don't exist. Only to attribute different social/linguistic significance to the distinctions.

All that said, I completely agree with Mark above--this stuff is eminently debatable, and the treatment that TA got is indefensible.

Juan

25 day(s) ago

I don’t understand a theory of pronoun use according to which they ‘refer on the basis of sex’. That’s too much descriptive content. ‘She’ does not mean ‘previously mentioned person with a vagina’. It picks up a reference from prior speech or by ostension. That’s all it means, if I understand (personal) pronouns at all.

It’s equally hard for me to imagine that there are deep linguistic issues in the transgender debate. We have certain pronouns in the language, and all of them work basically the same way.

Kwasi

25 day(s) ago

I don’t understand a theory of pronoun use according to which they ‘refer on the basis of sex’.

Juan

Juan, what do you say to Ted's comment above about cats? He wrote: "Female cats are referred to as 'she'. Cats don't have gender roles. QED"

The point, of course, extends to all animals. We refer to them by the "he" or "she" pronoun depending on their sex--not on their gender roles. Doesn't this suggest that our pronouns do in fact refer to people and animals on the basis of their sex? Or do you think that the standards of correct pronoun application is disunified such that there is one standard for animals and a totally different standard for humans?

Noëlle

25 day(s) ago

Now they’re coming for Heather Evans http://www.heather-brunskell- evans.co.uk/thoughts/public-statement-to-the-womens-equality-party/

Philip

25 day(s) ago

Gadadhara said: "we're still able to make the same conceptual and biological distinctions, and nobody is asking us to pretend those distinctions don't exist."

Not true: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWVRzGMVXbM

And Riley Denis isn't some kind of outlier. Riley represents mainstream trans ideology.

Parmenides

25 day(s) ago

(Gadadhara here) Fair enough, I shouldn't have said nobody.

But the fact that lots of bad arguments can be given for a default practice of using people's preferred pronouns doesn't mean there aren't also good arguments for that practice.

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