Stock Replies to Bettcher


Kathleen Stock (Sussex), whose recent writing about trans women was discussed in “‘When Tables Speak’: On the Existence of Trans Philosophy” by Talia Mae Bettcher (Cal State, Los Angeles), has written a response essay.

It can be read here.

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Andrew
Andrew
3 years ago

Thanks to Professor Stock for this generous and thoughtful reply. It is a real service to the profession.Report

Philodemus
Philodemus
Reply to  Andrew
3 years ago

I see what you did there.Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

With every round, I admire Kathleen Stock more and more. Thank you for sharing the link!Report

TM
TM
3 years ago

“Would this show I was wrong about the stultifying atmosphere in the profession surrounding open discussion of these matters?”
Stock has, by now, been given ample room to air and defend her views on the two most widely read blogs in the profession. Maybe it’s time to drop the pretense that views like hers are being silenced. In contrast: The only other time that trans philosophy has been “covered” on this blog was in the context of the discussion about Rebecca Tuvel’s article. As far as I can see, it has never been the topic of a post here that treated it as a genuine and interesting philosophical subfield in its own right. Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  TM
3 years ago

While I appreciate the sentiment here, perhaps it’s important to keep these two claims separate:

(1) Up until now, open discussion of the Gender Critical view has been suppressed in various ways.
(2) Now that people like Stock have put their reputations on the line in order to remedy that situation, open discussion is no longer suppressed in quite the same way.

You’ve shown that (2) could be true, indeed, it appears to be true, as discussion is starting to flourish (though 2/3rds of commentators are anonymous, bear that in mind… as an untenured philosopher there is ZERO chance that I would ever sign my name to this comment). But Stock could easily be right about (1), right? And that’s something people need to acknowledge and account for, right? So why the resistance to even *acknowledging* the possibility that she is right about how things have been, in general?Report

TM
TM
Reply to  Joe
3 years ago

Sure, (1) could be true; it’s not a logical contradiction. But (2) is very good evidence that (1) is false. If all that it takes to get rid of the supposed suppression of these views is to voice them out loud, then it is very likely they weren’t actually suppressed before. Not to mention that there is lots of additional evidence that (1) is false – views similar to Stock’s have been voiced over and over again, both within academic discourse (see e.g. Bettcher’s discussion in part 3 of her SEP article) and on twitter (just look at some of the people that Stock herself retweets). Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  TM
3 years ago

Compare

“all that it takes to get rid of the supposed suppression of these views is to voice them out loud”

to

“open discussion is no longer suppressed in quite the same way”

Clearly, discussion can be LESS suppressed without being gotten rid of. You’re peddling in straw men. Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

Should read “…without the suppression being gotten rid of”Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  TM
3 years ago

Having thought about this, TM and anyone sympathetic to TM, I think you should think very hard about the testimony supplied by anonymous women philosophers to Stock herself, and about why you apparently are unwilling to count it as strong evidence that discussion was being silenced. A mere couple of days after the piece, Stock had (at least) ten women philosophers saying they felt similarly and were afraid to say so, and those are just the ten that Stock was willing to post. I say again: could anything possibly validate Stock’s concerns more clearly than the fact that non-trans-women’s perspectives aren’t even *counting* for you? Than the fact that apparently they don’t even warrant acknowledgement or response?

You are fighting back against a bunch of cisgendered dudes like me on sites like this, perceiving us as being unversed in the issues, as wading into a debate that doesn’t affect us. These are reasonable concerns, and I also am beginning to worry about the weird demographic dynamics of this conversation. But surely you owe *something* to the apparently numerous women who have felt silenced, yes? Otherwise you are a data point in favor of Stock’s hypothesis, that ” the current state of the debate is misogynistically skewed towards the interests of transwomen, to the exclusion of voices of women-who-are-not-transwomen”.Report

Edward Teach
Edward Teach
Reply to  TM
3 years ago

“Here are examples of people saying x and lots of people agreeing” is not a good measure of silencing. I’m not saying this article is knock down argument of how we should think about silencing, but it brings some nuance and has some interesting examples:
http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/05/23/can-things-be-both-popular-and-silenced/Report

Jimbob
Jimbob
Reply to  Edward Teach
3 years ago

Great Blog!Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  TM
3 years ago

Well, if the Stock-Bettcher exchange were indicative of the state of the conversation I might agree that we should drop the “pretense that views like [Stock’s] are being silenced”. But the problem seems to be, at least in part, self-silencing. And given how these conversations are generally conducted, I don’t think we should conclude from what Stock has said, or the way her critics have responded, that there’s not a lot of self-silencing going on.

Indeed, in the passage of Stock’s you quote she refers to a “stultifying atmosphere in the profession surrounding open discussion of these matters”. The existence of Stock’s essay, the response it’s elicited from some quarters, a rejoinder by Bettcher, and the fact that Stock has been able to “air and defend her views on the two most widely read blogs in the profession” just doesn’t do much to show that there isn’t a stultifying atmosphere, etc.

Nor is this local debate “very good evidence”, as you put it in your response to Joe, for the falsity of the claim that “[At least] up until now, open discussion of the Gender Critical view has been suppressed in various ways”. Again, the existence of self-censorship alone indicates that we should not take this exchange to be “very good evidence” that discussion hasn’t been suppressed in various ways. Sure, attitudes are changing. Maybe. We’ll see. The conversation here over the last few days has certainly been a breath of fresh air.

But without similar uptake in a range of other contexts, I don’t think we’ve seen any good evidence that Joe’s claim is false. To suggest otherwise is to make a mistake of the sort made a number of times here:

http://dailynous.com/2018/03/13/pc-college-students-vs-free-speech-narrative-baloney/

As people pointed out there, the fact there are pockets of free discussion about a subject doesn’t show there’s an overall-healthy conversational space for that subject (Scott Alexander gives a more involved defense of a similar position in the slatestarcodex post that Edward Teach links to). I can’t imagine that anyone looking over the state of the conversation today would think that the exchange between Stock and her critics is “very good evidence” that discussion of the sort Stock has elicited isn’t being (or hasn’t been) silenced.

And please note that I can say all of this without commitment to any view concerning the first-order metaphysical, biological, social, political, moral, etc. details. There’s common ground we can all occupy prior to settling any of that, and we’re not at that common Report

TM
TM
Reply to  Preston Stovall
3 years ago

If “self-silencing” just means that people who don’t have the expertise or epistemic position to contribute to the debate in a truth-conducive way primarily listen rather than speak, then I fail to see why that is a bad thing. The discussion above was about the *suppression* of views; so at the very least people would need to stay silent because they credibly fear, say, professional repercussions. What is the evidence for that? Again, Stock has her views broadcasted and praised by someone who is still one of the most influential people in the profession. If anything, she seems to benefit professionally.

In contrast, consider those who are purportedly suppressing views. As the discussion on Talia Bettcher’s post shows, most philosophers and participants in these discussions didn’t even know about trans philosophy or have any familiarity with the views and arguments represented there. Stock can claim that there has been no serious discussion of the issue she is raising without so much as a nod to people who have, in fact, discussing those issues for their whole careers (nod in the sense of an acknowledgment, not necessarily agreement). People are going through all sorts of contortions to justify why they in fact don’t need to read the literature and engage with the arguments of experts to contribute to serious philosophical debate. So who is supposed to have the power (professional or otherwise) to suppress views?? And how does that power manifest? Not unlike in the free speech debate, we are made to believe that people from the most marginalized and stigmatized groups are suppressing the views of others. Highly unlikely.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  TM
3 years ago

”The discussion above was about the *suppression* of views; so at the very least people would need to stay silent because they credibly fear, say, professional repercussions. What is the evidence for that? ”

Testimonies of people involved in the academic job market?

”People are going through all sorts of contortions to justify why they in fact don’t need to read the literature and engage with the arguments of experts to contribute to serious philosophical debate.”

It is symptomatic that, just like in the Tuvel debate, Stock’s critics are constantly complaining about her not consulting the relevant literature, but no one seems to be able or willing to extract a concise argument against her views from that literature. My interpretation of that fact, although contentious, I agree, is that people are by and large aware that the arguments present there are, shall we say, exotic and would not be particularly convincing for the auditorium at hand. I absolutely admit the possibility of being msitaken here.

”So who is supposed to have the power (professional or otherwise) to suppress views?? And how does that power manifest? Not unlike in the free speech debate, we are made to believe that people from the most marginalized and stigmatized groups are suppressing the views of others. Highly unlikely.”

What I think, and what I think most of the other people talking about this silencing problem think, is not that the repressed minority is suppressing the views of others, but that there has arisen a climate of political correctness, in which the majority took it upon themselves to protect the repressed minority (out of noble ideals, it should be noted, and I don’t mean this cynically), and is now punishing everyone who dares to call any of the claims espoused by the repressed minority into question. That isn’t as unlikely as the scenario you mentioned, I’d say.

”people who don’t have the expertise or epistemic position to contribute to the debate in a truth-conducive way primarily listen rather than speak, then I fail to see why that is a bad thing.”

It’s absolutely a bad thing, because the way terms like ”expertise” or ”epistemic position” have been used in these debates (see the Tuvel controversy) is an absolute disgrace and an insult to any kind of intellectual or academic community. There’s a philosophical problem. There are proposed solutions to that problem. There are arguments in favor of those solutions, and there are replies to those arguments and there are criticisms of the proposed solutions independent of the arguments offered. Each claim made in the course of this debate needs to be substantiated with argument or evidence. And that is all there is to philosophical debates. It should be completely irrelevant who produces the claims – their epistemic position should be evident in the claims and arguments they put forward. What happens in these debates is that people decide on the truth of claims and quality of arguments based on their perception of the epistemic position of the one making those claims and putting forward those arguments. And that is ridiculous.

To be clear, I’m not saying that it can’t be the case that people are saying things that they can’t possibly have evidence for, say as me now saying that there’s an even number of stars in the universe; of course that’s possible. That can happen everytime we are debating empirical issues or first-person issues (this is actually the crucial case, since empirical data is in principle accessible to all). When we’re debating more abstract issues, there shouldn’t be any principled differences in epistemic positions of normally intelligent people participating in that debate, or to put it like this, all such differences are such that they will manifest itself in the arguments put forward by the paritcipants. So calling attention to those epistemic positions is unnecessary. To me it seems that people use these references to epistemic positions wholly in the attempt to silence the opponent (”How dare you talk about that? Don’t you know that your inclusion in the social and historical class of X forbids you divulging such matters?”).

So I guess an important area of disagreement would be whether all questions in a certain area are first-person questions. I’d say the number of those questions is much smaller than the current climate seems to suggest.

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Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  krell_154
3 years ago

My interpretation of that fact, although contentious, I agree, is that people are by and large aware that the arguments present there are, shall we say, exotic and would not be particularly convincing for the auditorium at hand. I absolutely admit the possibility of being msitaken here.

= = =

I’ve read the arguments. That they are highly, easily contestable is an understatement. It’s hilarious that people understand and accept that there may be intractable, unresolvable disagreements between realists and anti-realists, consequentialists and deontologists, formalists and intentionalists, but in this one area, there can only be one reasonable, decent view of something as complicated and slippery as a concept like gender identity.

But you have to know that it doesn’t matter. When that trope is pulled — “you haven’t consulted the relevant literature” — it’s being used simultaneously to avoid and silence. After all, it’s not like if you went and read the literature and then came back and said the arguments are no good and here are my reasons why, as if your interlocutor would suddenly say, “Well that’s all right then. I will no longer accuse you of trying to ‘erase my existence’ or of ‘psychic violence’.”

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Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  TM
3 years ago

Well, some evidence that people “stay silent because they credibly fear, say, professional repercussions” is found in the responses to Stock’s essay she received from other academics:

https://medium.com/@kathleenstock/anonymised-responses-from-other-academics-to-my-articles-on-sex-gender-and-philosophy-f1cc0db04554

I can understand that you think self-silencing is a good thing, owing to your views about the need to have certain people stay silent if we’re to have a “truth-conducive” debate. But the existence of Stock’s essay, and the variety of responses it’s elicited from different people, is not evidence that there isn’t a “stultifying atmosphere in the profession surrounding open discussion of these matters”, which is what you were originally responding to. Nor is it “very good evidence”, as you later asserted, for the falsity of the claim that “[At least] up until now, open discussion of the Gender Critical view has been suppressed in various ways”. Maybe it’s a good thing that the atmosphere is stultifying and voices are policed out of the conversation. My point is neutral with regard to the normative question. Let’s begin by getting clear on the facts about what has been going on.Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  TM
3 years ago

Eh, I have a comment hung up in moderation. I want to amplify something I said there.

The position I’m defending is a narrow one. It concerns whether Stock’s essays and their replies over the last week are “very good evidence” that there isn’t a suppressed debate and a stultifying atmosphere around this topic. That position is consistent with the judgment that, as you suggested, the people silenced “don’t have the expertise or epistemic position to contribute to the debate in a truth-conducive way “. The normative claim that it’s not “a bad thing” when people meeting your description are silenced is orthogonal to the descriptive claim that Stock’s essays give very good evidence (or really any evidence at all) that there’s no silencing happening. It’s the latter I’ve been interested in here.

As to the suggestion that the people being silenced don’t occupy an epistemic standpoint sufficient for conttributing to the conversation in a truth-conducive way, it’s no doubt true that the culture of discourse surrounding some political issues on the left today tends to prevent uninformed people from speaking. That much is obvious. And this culture also tends to keep Nazi’s from spouting Naziism (or whatever). Also a good thing. But I’ve seen no good evidence that *only* uniformed people and Nazis (or whatever) are being kept quiet. And when we read Stock’s anonymized letters, it looks like there are at least a few informed people that would otherwise be conversing but are kept quiet by the way the conversation is policed.

As someone with no expertise in this area at all, I for one would like to hear more of those voices. It looks to me like a pretty serious indictment of the scholarly study of these things, qua scholarly study (note: not qua political activism), that scholars working in the area or related areas feel as though they cannot talk openly about the subject.Report

Eagle
Eagle
Reply to  TM
3 years ago

“If “self-silencing” just means that people who don’t have the expertise or epistemic position to contribute to the debate in a truth-conducive way primarily listen rather than speak, then I fail to see why that is a bad thing.”

A million times this.Report

Liz
Liz
Reply to  Eagle
3 years ago

Silencing need not just be in the form of removing posts, platforms, etc. A lot of people (myself included) have views about this issue that we do not feel comfortable sharing out of fear of professional retaliation. Trans activists go out of their way to find people’s employers and smear them. Those of us on insecure contracts cannot risk this happening to us and so we stay silent. Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Eagle
3 years ago

But self-silencing doesn’t just mean that people who “don’t have the expertise or epistemic position to contribute to the debate in a truth-conducive way” feel pressured by the atmosphere of the conversation to stay silent. That’s made clear by comments like the anonymized replies to Stock’s essay at Medium.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Eagle
3 years ago

So, because I’m Jewish and the son of two Holocaust survivors — one who was in Bergen Belsen — I’m in an “epistemic position” (or they are) such that gentile scholars of the Holocaust should “primarily listen rather than speak”?

Or do you only play that sort of epistemological game with the groups that *you* want people to shut up and listen to?Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  TM
3 years ago

When I’ve attended philosophy talks on transgender issues for years now, or browsed through the papers on the issues or through titles and abstracts of talks given on the subject at devoted philosophy conferences, etc., I’ve seen that everything in what i understand to make up “the literature” people are being asked to immerse themselves in completely excluded a number of views Stock suggests are being marginalized or silenced. That fact lends plausibility to what she says about the very unhealthy state of the discussion, for sure.

I’m aware that I’m very far from immersed in the literature, though. If Stock is mistaken, then presumably there are many philosophers who regularly argue against the central ‘orthodox’ positions, *and whose writings are accepted as an important part of the literature even by those who disagree with those writings*. Moreover, if this is correct, then presumably there are many working in the subdiscipline who teach courses on the subject that at least leave open the possibility that the dissenting views Stock claims are excluded are in fact viable conclusions for students to reach after exploring the literature.

Is that openness toward different conclusions on the points Stock mentions characteristic of the subdiscipline and its literature? If not, then aren’t her claims strongly corroborated? If so then could someone please direct us to good evidence of this?Report

Danny Weltman
Reply to  Justin Kalef
3 years ago

Your claim is that, if Stock is wrong about the silencing, then we should expect to see a good chunk of people publishing in support of the sorts of views Stock supports. This claim has a hidden premise, namely, that these views are defensible and not so ridiculous as to exclude practically any desire to publish on them on the part of people who are informed participants in the debate.

So for instance, there are plenty of possible views out in logical space that someone could hold with respect to all sorts of philosophical debates but which nobody publishes on. (The @possibleviews twitter account is a joking example of this.) But I take it that the lack of people publishing on these views is not evidence of exclusion. Rather, it’s just evidence of these views being so implausible that nobody bothers publishing on them.

Note that this is no reason to think these views are impossible to find on, say, the Internet, among lay people, etc. People who are not familiar with the literature will happily make all sorts of claims that strike them as perfectly fine but which strike people familiar with the literature as indefensible. I’m sure you’re familiar with, for instance, students making these sorts of claims when they’re just starting to learn about the topic.

So in effect, I think there are at least two plausible explanations for the sort of absence Stock is describing. One is silencing and exclusion. Another is the manifest implausibility of the absent views in the eyes of informed participants in the debate.

My understanding of Bettcher’s post on this website is that Bettcher would pick the second explanation – that in fact was the thrust of much of her post. Stock of course would disagree. But I think it’s important to note the disagreement here and the fact that there are at least two possible explanations of the lay of the land. Your post, as I understand it, seems to suggest there’s only one possible explanation, but this seems to me somewhat overhasty. We wouldn’t want to automatically say that the state of the literature corroborates Stock any more than we’d want to automatically say that the state of the literature corroborates the crank who claims that his pet theory is being excluded from philosophy journals because everyone has a grudge against him. I mean, yes, those are possible explanations! But we aren’t forced to pick those explanations. There are other possible explanations.Report

Edward Teach
Edward Teach
Reply to  Danny Weltman
3 years ago

Sure this is a logical possibility, but I think the worry is that the manifest implausibility *to the eyes of informed participants* is leading to a kind of silencing / gives us a reason to question whether these participants really count as informed. There seem to be worries that most of ‘the literature’ didn’t develop within the usual routes of philosophy and doesn’t meet our standards or hasn’t gone through intstitutionalized disagreement, it seems to include premises recognised to be very contentious and unsupported by other informed participants in those relevant areas (e.g. Wallace’s first comment on the other DN post) suggesting that there may be very basic foundational blind spots or at least the claims here are not continuous with other areas of philosophy at all, and even if having some contentious premises is acceptable (e.g. ‘let’s assume idealism is true’) these are very rarely acknowledged as such, instead being treated as unquestionable facts which everyone needs to get on board with in order to even count as informed. If Jordan Peterson’s fanclub started a journal and we wanted to know whether the publications counted as good philosophy, these seem to be the kind of criteria we’d use to judge that contrary views were being excluded from his latest take on say socialism.Report

Philodorus
Philodorus
Reply to  TM
3 years ago

Whether there is a stultifying atmosphere in the profession about these matters and whether views like Stock’s are being silenced are distinct questions. Suppose you thought that the open discussion of Stock’s essay shows that her view is not being silenced. That doesn’t show that the atmosphere is just fine, because there are lots of other views about gender, held by many people, that would probably not receive the same sort of open and (relatively) civil discussion.

The gender critical view, per Stock, “holds that what it is to be a woman is to have a certain biological and reproductive nature, involving female sex organs and a female reproductive system, and to be economically, socially, politically, and sexually oppressed on that basis.”

You disagree with this view if you think that the queen of England is a woman. You also disagree with this view if you think that the people with female anatomy in matriarchies are women. Indeed, on this view, people who define matriarchy as “rule by women” are conceptually confused, or at least guilty of a contradiction.

Imagine if someone had written an essay arguing that we should make room for the view that being a woman is just having a certain biological and reproductive nature, or having that nature and having been socialized to behave in certain ways. I don’t think someone advocating such a view would have received the same treatment Stock did. And imagine if they went so far as to say that women in Western countries like the UK aren’t even economically, socially, politically, and sexually oppressed.

So that Stock’s view got some open discussion doesn’t show that the atmosphere around these topics is just fine. She was advocating a position that’s fairly fringe among the general public (it’s a position held by people who call themselves *radical* feminists, for Pete’s sake), but agrees with the position held by trans activities on lots of essential points — gender is socially constructed and wrapped up in the oppression of women; trans women ought to be treated like women in almost all social contexts; gender roles are not justified on the basis of the sexes’ different roles in reproduction and child-rearing; etc. I don’t think that somebody denying *those* points would be viewed as a reasonable interlocutor with views to be taken seriously (much less treated politely or whatever). That the range of views one can have includes at least one view according to which trans women are not women wouldn’t show that nobody is being silenced.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Philodorus
3 years ago

”Imagine if someone had written an essay arguing that we should make room for the view that being a woman is just having a certain biological and reproductive nature, or having that nature and having been socialized to behave in certain ways.”

I don’t find it wholly unreasonable that someone would challenge the view you’re describing here, but I do find it wholly unreasonable that someone would consider it to be a particularly controversial view.Report

Doktor
Doktor
3 years ago

“Stock can claim that there has been no serious discussion of the issue she is raising without so much as a nod to people who have, in fact, discussing those issues for their whole careers ”

Who are these people? None of the texts that Bettcher cites address the question of non-trans women’s interests.

Also:
“The discussion above was about the *suppression* of views; so at the very least people would need to stay silent because they credibly fear, say, professional repercussions. What is the evidence for that?”

Have you forgotten the Tuvel affair? Report

Liz
Liz
Reply to  Doktor
3 years ago

Indeed, and as some of the comments on Feminist Philosophers and other posts on DN show, those who disagree with the gender critical view are very quick to call those of us who hold it “bigots” or say we are writing “drivel”, etc. How can we not fear that people using that kind of language will not, even subconsciously, let their opinions cloud professional judgements in hiring, etc?Report

octopus
octopus
Reply to  Doktor
3 years ago

Only Tuvel’s view wasn’t suppressed. It was published. In a respected journal. And kept in that journal over the protests of many, many others. Even though it didn’t engage in a deep way with decades of work on race or trans theory. She then became a darling of the right-wing branch of our discipline.

Free speech doesn’t mean you don’t get blowback. Tuvel expressed herself, as did her opponents.

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Philodemus
Philodemus
Reply to  octopus
3 years ago

Tuvel’s opponents attempted to have the Tuvel paper retracted for reasons that many, many in our discipline regard as flimsy (I guess you’d call them the “right wing” of the discipline, but I would not). That’s not merely expressing their view. That’s an attempt at suppressing another’s view. So while we can agree that her view wasn’t suppressed, people tried to suppress it and in a way that was calculated to humiliate her as well. Report

Sikander
Sikander
3 years ago

“Philosophers who in other contexts are highly creative in theorising about ontological matters tend in this area to state certain rather simplistic mantras [sic] dogmatically, no doubt partly out of fear of criticism.”

This is definitely true!Report

Komarine
Komarine
3 years ago

Just to add to what some others have said above: Stock is also talking about the way that gender critical views have recently been suppressed in the UK over discussion of the new Gender Recognition Act. Meetings where people have gathered to talk about worries with the GRA have been met with protests that have aimed to shut them down. Prominent gender critical feminists have been no-platformed. I’d certainly call that sort of no-platforming ‘suppression of views’. Report

MTC
MTC
3 years ago

I think it’s unfair for Stock to say that Bettcher’s intention was to shut her up. Bettcher raised legitimate and insightful criticisms, which Stock is trying to shrug off as epistemic injustice. If anything, Stock is refusing to engage with Bettcher. She says that Bettcher’s criticism aren’t legitimate because (1) they’re silencing, and (2) Stock wasn’t doing academic philosophy, so academic criticisms are off-limits. Is THIS essay academic philosophy? I really can’t tell. But if it’s not, then once again Stock evades philosophical criticism by virtue of ‘not doing philosophy.’
A couple other points:
I don’t think her statistic on trans murders can be right (8 in the last decade in the U.K.). In the U.S., 7 trans women were killed in the first 2 months of 2018 alone (on record).
https://www.google.com/amp/s/mobile.nytimes.com/2018/03/30/us/transgender-woman-killed-baton-rouge.amp.html
I think Stock’s responses unfortunately miss the point. For example, she criticizes Bettcher for focusing on rest rooms, but Bettcher says ‘rest rooms and so forth’ – the exact contexts of exclusion are unimportant. Bettcher’s main criticism, I think, is Stock’s metaphysical approach, on which there is a ton of literature, none of which is discussed.
Now Stock is saying that her approach is political, but her arguments are mainly anecdotal, and there are lots of anecdotes on the other side – I’m sure Bettcher has some.
Stock is an intelligent writer but I don’t think her response to Bettcher is without fault.
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Liz
Liz
Reply to  MTC
3 years ago

The UK has a much smaller population than the US so it is not surprising that the number of murders would be substantially lower. What is important to note is that the rate of trans women murders is lower than the rate of murders for the general population (in the US), the female population, and the male population.

https://medium.com/athena-talks/trans-murder-rates-the-data-120b60b19cb4

Furthermore, almost all murders of transgender women have been involved in the sex trade and/or transgender women of colour. This in no way excuses their murders, but the rate of murder for both groups (sex workers and people of colour) is already higher than the general population. The murder statistics do not indicate a particular problem of violence against transgender women. Report

Doktor
Doktor
Reply to  Liz
3 years ago

Here is an interesting essay written by a transwoman that scrutinizes the the claim that transwomen are at relatively higher risk of violence and murder and finds it to be unsupported, basically concluding that the deaths have more to do with poverty and racial discrimination than being trans: “I think we (white trans women) need to stop talking about how ‘victimizing’ it is to be trans and instead talk about socioeconomic oppression.”

http://www.lifeisgoodmakeitbetter.com/2015/03/the-appropriation-of-black-and-hispanic.html

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annie
annie
Reply to  Doktor
3 years ago

One might ask to what extent a person’s trans status makes impoverishment more likely in societies which are not exactly accommodating of trans people. I suspect it would be difficult to disentangle socioeconomic oppression from anti-trans oppression.Report

Doktor
Doktor
Reply to  annie
3 years ago

Not really because once you dis-aggregate the category of trans by race, the disproportionate risk of lethal violence only appears for racialized transwomen, not white transwomen. This is one of the central points of the linked essay. The author writes, “Notably, white trans women were killed less often per capita than cis white women. Yes, there are issues with applying one white trans death per year against the white trans population, and yes, there are other forms of violence (in addition to murder), but the point is that transphobic murder appears to be an issue almost exclusively affecting trans women of color.” This is what leads the author to explore the role of socioeconomic status as a causal factor as opposed to trans identity. If trans identity increased the risk of lethal violence the relationship would be evident among white and racialized transwomen as well (even if not to the same degree). Since it isn’t, the author draws the reasonable conclusion that it is actually an artifact of racial inequality not transphobia.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  MTC
3 years ago

The US murder rate is also about 5 times the UK rate. Homicide is very different (and way worse!) in the US than the UK; don’t assume you can transfer results between them.Report

MTC
MTC
Reply to  MTC
3 years ago

I’m not sure about the U.S. statistics, but in the U.S., 1 in 2 trans people are victims of sexual violence, compared to only 1 in 3 of all American women (https://www.ovc.gov/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html). In Canada, “transgender people are almost twice as likely to report ever experiencing intimate partner violence, compared to the average rate experienced by cis-gender women and men” (http://fede.qc.ca/sites/default/files/upload/documents/publications/wsc_by_the_numbers_vaw.pdf). In the U.S. as well, “21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males” (https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence).
Trans people also
These statistics UNDER-represent the actual amount of violence against trans people, because many crimes against trans people are not reported, and trans victim-survivors are often mis-gendered (https://www.glaad.org/publications/transgendervictimsofcrime).
One of the reasons for under-reporting is institutionalized anti-trans discrimination: In the U.S., up to 38% of trans people have been harassed by police, 26% have been physically assaulted by a healthcare professional, and 78% have experienced significant abuse at school, with 31% of that abuse coming from teachers (http://forge-forward.org/wp-content/docs/FAQ-10-2012-rates-of-violence.pdf).
Let’s not distort the reality of trans people’s lives, please.Report

MTC
MTC
Reply to  MTC
3 years ago

*Not sure about the U.K. statistics, rather. But I doubt the U.K. is a trans-friendly utopia. Report

StatsInterpretation
StatsInterpretation
Reply to  MTC
3 years ago

As someone with training in the social sciences, I have to chime in here to say there are many methodological factors to take into account when interpreting these stats. In many of the studies mentioned it is not just “trans” people being measured but gender non-conforming people in general, most of whom are not trans but gay or lesbian. This is a much broader category than just trans and we know that gay and lesbian people experience higher rates of violence. Thus, to describe these results as representative of trans victimization is inaccurate. What is being measured could easily be described as homophobic violence/discrimination. The lumping trans together with gender non-conforming in these studies makes it impossible to separate out trans victimization from homophobic violence. Another issue is that the studies lump transmen and transwomen together. Obscuring the difference between male and female rates of victimization in order to measure “trans” victimization is also problematic. For example, it’s true that the study from Canada found that transgender people are almost twice as likely to report experiencing intimate partner violence, compared to the average rate experienced by “cis” people. The comparator group (cis) includes males and females. This means that male and females rates of domestic violence have been combined despite the fact that males experience much lower rates than females. A better form of comparison would be to look at the rates experienced by transmen vs females separately from the rates experienced by transwomen vs males. This would give a more accurate picture of whether trans people are at a higher risk of victimization than their non-trans counterparts. The same study does this in other contexts, for instance noting that “Lesbian and bisexual women were 3-4 times more likely than heterosexual women to report experiencing intimate partner violence” (as an aside, if the point is to use these stats to argue that trans people are more victimized than cis people it would seem they could be used similarly to claim that lesbians are even more victimized than trans people. Does this mean we should automatically prioritize the interests of lesbians over the interests of others with a stake in these debates? I don’t think so). Finally, the psychiatric and psychological literature recognizes that many people with gender dysphoria have experienced childhood traumas, specially sexual and physical abuse. This is relevant because some of the studies mentioned look at rates of victimization over an entire lifetime (including childhood). This leads to a question that might be unpopular in the context of trans politics but is relevant from a mental health care delivery perspective, which is whether these early traumas are better understood as a cause of dysphoria rather than as examples of anti-trans violence.Report

ellen clarke
ellen clarke
3 years ago

On self-silencing:
A colleague who shall remain unnamed (because i don’t have permission to name them and because i’d need to check i haven’t scrambled what they said) gave me one explanation which i think pertinent:
Roughly: At some point feminist philosophers took stock of the tremendous harms committed against trans persons and also of the fact that questioning a trans person’s gender doesn’t only question their membership of any old social group – it questions their personhood (since gender is a category that we tend to treat as a prerequisite of personhood). In this way, questionning a transperson’s gender is analagous to querying whether a member of a racial minority is truly human. At that point, a decision was taken (implicitly, i assume) to no-platform such discussions. To declare that discussion of a trans person’s gender is just off the table – unaskable – since to ask the question in itself causes serious harm to trans persons.
I don’t know if the analogy is sound, but i do feel this sheds light on why non-initiates (such as myself) might sense a confusing and unexplained silence on the matter.
Add to this the argument that along with all their other disadvantages, the burden of explaining these things always falls on the members of minorities. Some, accordingly, have started to argue that carrying out this explanatory work is putting them at a further disadvantage and they shouldn’t keep doing it any more – hence Bettcher saying ‘go read the literature’ instead of patiently explaining it for the nth time. It doesn’t seem too unreasonable to suggest that someone else should do that work. That urges the question, why don’t non-trans feminists who are in agreement with Bettcher do the work – they might then worry about looking like they’re trying to speak for trans people, rather than letting them speak for themselves. while i can see the reasons behind all those positions in does create a rather frustratingly dim prospect of these issues being brought properly into the open for newbies-to-the-literature like myself.
Report

Liz
Liz
Reply to  ellen clarke
3 years ago

I find this unconvincing. It is a massive stretch to say that questioning someone’s ‘gender’ amounts to questioning their personhood. I haven’t seen a single gender critical person claim that transgender people are not persons worthy of respect. Report

jj
jj
Reply to  Liz
3 years ago

I think this revealing of the problem, in a way. Most people I know, including myself, had no problem with trans-gendered people, until recently – I am OK with using the pronouns they desire, of treating them just like any other person and so on. I only started to see the issue problematic once the demand was made that they should, for lack of better word, be afforded the same “distinctions” as any other biological women or, in fact, that feminism should be primarily concerned with problems that intersect all women (trans or no). Of course, the problem is that most problems/issues/hardships that women face as women stem from their being biologically women, a fact made historically unjust and unfair use of by (mostly) men. Take women’s reproductive rights/roles and the way they affect their employment, promotion, pay. Take women’s health issues, incl. reproductive ones and the way they are treated in society (say, planned parenthood in US). Take women’s position within traditional societies, access to education, or even to hygenic products, and so on. One can go on… This used to be the focus. It’s not anymore. Some of the loudest feminists are transgender advocates who focus on transgender issues which, frankly, have little to do with the issues that concern most biological women. It’s mostly about themselves and their special claims, not about women in general and what they face. They need access to women’s bathrooms! Well, how about – we need free tampons in the bathrooms for women? Or – changing tables in all bathrooms? Report

annie
annie
Reply to  Liz
3 years ago

“Gender critical” people often talk about trans people in disrespectful ways, and often in dehumanising ways too. Some common themes: trans people are “mutilated”, “fetishistic”, etc. Let’s not pretend that they are merely making dispassionate, “objective” arguments.Report

AAM
AAM
Reply to  ellen clarke
3 years ago

I missed the whole era/area of feminism wherein it was decided that to question someone’s gender was to question someone’s personhood, or that “gender is a category that we tend to treat as a prerequisite of personhood.” Is there any literature on this? I WILL read the literature, if it exists.

Like Liz, I haven’t seen any gender critical position, or any feminist position, that suggests that trans people are not persons. And as someone else in this or the other comment thread said (I’m paraphrasing), in a liberal democracy, all people, including trans people, have a right to self-expression, including gendered expression, and should be free from discrimination and harassment. This political position does not depend on our metaphysical claims about gender.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  AAM
3 years ago

What I find odd and disturbing is the degree of agreement and affirmation that is being demanded as a condition for an alliance. One would think that believing in and being willing to fight for one another’s full civil liberties would be enough to be in a coalition together. And yet, a Kathleen Stock can explicitly endorse full and complete civil liberties and protections for trans people, but because she doesn’t think they *are* men or women, she is reacted to in a manner that you’d think progressives would reserve for the Donald Trump’s of the world.

Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

What reactions are you referring to? I’ve seen a lot of disagreement and a medium amount of frustration expressed by progressives in response to Stock. Maybe I’m not looking in the same progressive spaces you are, but I haven’t seen, e.g., the suggestion that she is the worst thing that has happened to the world in my lifetime, or even calls for her to be thrown out of her job or personal attacks on her character.

Do you think progressives should criticize the views of no one to the left of Donald Trump? Or did you have other reactions in mind?Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
3 years ago

Stock has published a number of pieces now and there have been several different discussion threads on them, here and elsewhere. She has been accused of being “transphobic” / “trans-misogynistic,” engaging in “psychic violence,” etc. We all know the drill.

As for your last question, I think progressives are currently engaged in a kind of circular firing squad, within the broader liberal coalition. It seems to me that *especially* in the context of Trump and the radicalization of the Right, we would be best served by way of broad coalition building and maintenance, which means being satisfied with my coalition partners so long as they are advocating for my civil rights.

We dealt ourselves a crippling blow when we lost Labor to the Republicans, and now we are trying to make our ranks even smaller by going after classical and moderate liberals, as well as progressives who have some disagreements with contemporary gender identity activism. Report

Urstoff
Urstoff
Reply to  ellen clarke
3 years ago

“to ask the question in itself causes serious harm to trans persons.”

Possible, but what’s the evidence that it is in fact the case? Report

Erik H.
Erik H.
Reply to  Urstoff
3 years ago

I think there is ample evidence that “misgendering” or otherwise directly questioning trans identity makes trans people really upset, on average. I think pretty much every trans person around is clear on that point.

However I do not think that there is sufficient evidence that misgendering or questioning identity makes people upset in a materially different way from a variety of other things that also make people really upset. So I’m not sure that trans issues in particular deserve unusual treatment.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Urstoff
3 years ago

”“to ask the question in itself causes serious harm to trans persons.”

Possible, but what’s the evidence that it is in fact the case?”

Trans-activists saying it, and no one daring to question it?Report

Mohan Matthen
3 years ago

As a non-resident of the UK, I have a question about amendments to the Gender Recognition Act that are (as I understand it) under consideration by the UK Parliament. People are allowed to self-identify with respect to gender. Does this mean that whatever they say is their gender is what goes as their gender in state records, passport, driver’s licence, etc.? My question: Suppose that I want to book a sleeping berth on the Caledonian Express or apply for a female-only job or use a female toilet. Would it be legally permissible for me to do these things if my identification papers say that I am male? If not, objections based on intrusions into ‘women-only spaces’ seem to me to lose much of their force. It would be horrifying if I (as a male) could decide one Friday night to walk into a women’s change room by declaring myself a woman as hoc. Very much less so if I could do so only if my papers identified me as female. Surely, very few people would declare themselves female permanently and across the board for perverse purposes like this? Or am I missing the point? Report

Liz
Liz
Reply to  Mohan Matthen
3 years ago

There are two separate issues here. The Gender Recognition Act allows a person to change the sex on their birth certificate (i.e. their legal sex). You do not need a gender recognition certificate to get other documents (e.g. passport and drivers license) changed from M to F (or vice versa of course). Currently, the GRA requies a person to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and have lived in their ‘preferred gender’ for 2 years. The proposed changes are to allow the change of legal sex/birth certificates based on a self-declaration without a medical certification of gender dysphoria. So that’s one issue.

The second is that self-identification is becoming de facto practice in the UK. As it is, companies have the right to exclude transgender people from single-sex provisions if it serves a legitimate aim. All too often they are failing to do that due to social pressure. The provision allows the Caledonian sleeper train to require people to be housed according to their legal sex, but the company has decided to separate based on declared gender identity instead. The UK Labour party has the right to restrict all women short lists to female-born people, but chooses to allow self-ID instead. Becuase any business that does enact these provisions is hounded and harassed, etc they are very hesitant to do so. So self-ID is de facto norm now, meaning that yes, a man can decide to walk into a women’s change room and declare himself a woman, male children are being housed with female children on overnight trips (without parent knowledge), male prisoners (with penises) are housed with female prisoners, a male is a woman’s officer for a constituency on his say-so, etc, etc. All without any legal documentation.Report

AAM
AAM
3 years ago

Lastly: Bettcher writes: “Stock’s okay with a big, hairy trans guy using “female body-only spaces”? Even if he’s had phalloplasty and a hysterectomy? Just so long as he’s got xx chromosomes?”

To which Stock responds: “Yes, actually, since you ask.”

This suggests that Stock’s position is not essentially anti-trans since trans men, on the basis of natal biological sex/presumed natal biological sex (which tends to be what gender critical feminists wish to emphasize), would be allowed in “female only” spaces. Stock MUST answer this question in the affirmative if she is to be consistent, and she does. To understand why she does, we must look no further than the practical fact that if a person xx chromosomes sexually abuses/rapes another person with xx chromosomes, pregnancy cannot result. On the other hand, if a person with xy chromosomes sexually abuses/rapes another person with xx chromosomes, pregnancy may result. That trans women are ever raped is a horrid state of affairs. However that they will not potentially end up with a kid as a result of rape shows that the stakes of rape, even, are different for trans and non-trans women.

Could this possibly have something to do with Stock’s wish to discuss competing interests? (rhetorical question) Report

RG
RG
3 years ago

On the question of silencing academics, I’d like to add my own experience as a data point. I’m a junior academic based in the UK and I don’t feel comfortable expressing my views about these issues to my colleagues. However, in my case, the reason I don’t feel comfortable is because it seems to me that there are a large number of (often fairly powerful) people in the profession who agree with Stock’s views. If I were to refer to [“trans-exclusionary radical feminists,” particularly by acronym] for example, I would be accused of using a misogynistic slur. If I were to complain about the lack of attention that I think is being paid to the voices and experiences of trans men and women I would be sneered at and my position would be characterised as fetishising identity over arguments (or some other variation of “feels before reals”). If I were to express exasperation at what I regard as a failure to engage with the relevant literature, I would be accused of failing to engage in the debate despite the fact that I point to the literature precisely so that I don’t have to have the same exhausting debates over and over again. On top of that, as a member of the LGBT community, seeing my colleagues defend (to one extent or another) what seem to me to be [views hostile to trans persons] makes me feel further isolated as a result.

I don’t doubt that there are many on the other side who feel silenced and excluded. But it’s at least worth noting that people like me exist as well.

[Note from the editor: brackets in the above indicate where I’ve edited this comment in an attempt to keep the discussion from being derailed. Please don’t comment about this editing; I’ll consider that derailing and your comment will be deleted.]Report

Erik H.
Erik H.
Reply to  RG
3 years ago

The problem, as Stock notes, is that “point[ing] to the literature so I don’t have to have these debates anymore” only works if the literature actually is so logically powerful that it acts to foreclose debate. But w/r/t to trans-friendly literature (and many other non-trans-related philosophical debates) that is not the case. Nor will it ever probably be the case., for either side.

Look at four combinations of characteristics:

M) Cis men (male genotype, male physique, male identity)

T.A) pre-transition trans women (male genotype, male physique, female identity)

T.B) post-transition trans women (male genotype, partial female physique; female identity)

F) Cis women (female genotype, full female physique, female identity)

You can propose that a single one of those characteristics should be controlling, whether you prefer to rely on genotype, physique, or identity. But you cannot logically prove that a single one of those characteristics is controlling, without resorting to some sort of semantic tautology. Saying “go read the literature!” doesn’t solve that problem.Report

Liz
Liz
Reply to  Erik H.
3 years ago

I think that’s right. But I also think that perhaps which one is controlling depends on the circumstances. For example, many feminists (used to) think that women are oppressed because of their female biology. Reproductive labour is exploited by men, women are raped because they’re female not because they have an internal sense of being a woman, women lose out professionally because of their potential to reproduce, etc. Add onto those physical realities gendered expectations of women that start when a baby comes out looking female: that she will be caring, concerned with her appearance, kind, accommodating, etc. These expectations also exist because of biology (since they are imposed on those babies/children who are female from a young age) although they are not intrinsically related to existence of female biology.

A circumstance/opportunity that exists to recognise and compensate for women’s oppression on the basis of biology should see that biology as the controlling factor. E.g. changing rooms, women’s shortlists, etc. Transgender women, if they ‘pass’, may experience *some* of the gendered expectations put on women–e.g. a boss might worry she could get pregnant and not promote her, despite not knowing she can never be pregnant. However, a transgender woman is not actually female and does not experience the bulk of female oppression and certainly not the socialisation of gendered expectations that are a result of being born with female biology. Indeed she will have experienced socialisation as a male. Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Liz
3 years ago

“I think that’s right. But I also think that perhaps which one is controlling depends on the circumstances. For example, many feminists (used to) think that women are oppressed because of their female biology. Reproductive labour is exploited by men, women are raped because they’re female not because they have an internal sense of being a woman, women lose out professionally because of their potential to reproduce, etc. Add onto those physical realities gendered expectations of women that start when a baby comes out looking female: that she will be caring, concerned with her appearance, kind, accommodating, etc. These expectations also exist because of biology (since they are imposed on those babies/children who are female from a young age) although they are not intrinsically related to existence of female biology.”

Hi Liz. I agree that questions of female biology, and of the impact that female biology has on the way women are treated, should be more to the center in discussions of this sort. Precisely for that reason, I wonder about the grounds for saying that while gendered expectations “exist because of biology” they are not “intrinsically related to [the] existence of female biology”.

Bracketing ‘intrinsically’, there seems to be at least some evidence that gendered expectations about female preferences for various things are reliably correlated to sex independently of human socialization. I have in mind things like toy preferences, which show up at a very young age. Gad Saad has a pretty strong takedown of the ‘gendered toy preferences are solely learned’ side of the debate at Psychology Today). And in “Sex differences in children’s toy preferences: A systematic review, meta-study, and meta-analysis” Todd, et al. found that:

“Gender differences in toy choice exist and appear to be the product of both innate and social forces.

“Despite methodological variation in the choice and number of toys offered, context of testing, and age of child, the consistency in finding sex differences in children’s preferences for toys typed to their own gender indicates the strength of this phenomenon and the likelihood that has a biological origin.

“The time playing with male‐typed toys increased as boys got older, but the same pattern was not found in girls; this indicates that stereotypical social effects may persist longer for boys or that there is a stronger biological predisposition for certain play styles in boys.”

I don’t know of any good argument that overturns the growing consensus that gendered preferences in toy preferences operate via a biological vector whose modes of determination of preference function regardless of whether there’s any socialization in the picture. Sure, there will be socialization that comes along, and we have to be willing to think that socialization interacts with biology in important and complicated ways. But gendered preferences for trucks and dolls has also been observed in nonhuman primates, and no one seriously thinks that the solution is gendered studies courses for rhesus monkeys, right?

Anyway, we know that women and men are differentially represented across the academy, with more female than male students studying to be psychologists, social workers, art historians, and elementary teachers, and more male than female students studying to be engineers, mathematicians, physicists, and computer scientists. And in a takedown of the Leslie, et al. study from a few years ago that purported to show that ‘perceptions of brilliance’ are good predictors for the representation of men and women as professors in different disciplines, Scott Alexander at SlateStarCodex showed that quantitative GRE scoring was a *much* better guide for predicting what we see in the academy. Add to that the work on digit ratio and prenatal testosterone exposure, and I can’t help but feel that some of this discussion is hampered by insufficient attention to what the data shows about human preference.

Again, this isn’t to deny the importance of socialization when it comes to how human preferences are shaped. But I just don’t see what reason we have for thinking that biological forces affecting human toy preference not only do but would only operate through the influence of socialization. Does that all sound reasonable? Report

Skef
Skef
3 years ago

One wonders if the double entendre of the title is a subtle jab or a happy(?) accident … Report

R1prof
R1prof
Reply to  Skef
3 years ago

Trans-exclusive radical feminism hits public philosophy? How is this news or worthy or public discussion?

This thread reeks of confused cis folks desperate to put trans people back into some sort of genie bottle. Like it or not, trans rights are happening and trans recognition is happening. In ten years’ time, the thought that trans people aren’t the gender they identify with will seem silly, it will soon be relegated to the trash heap of history. Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  R1prof
3 years ago

Now, let’s all just a reflect on the fact that an expression of disgust directed at people in virtue of their gender identity has now appeared on Daily Nous. Flip the identity terms yourself if you want to see how hateful it is.

Add to this the fact that the comment (allegedly) originates from a high-ranking member of our profession, and I am officially starting to lose count of the number of people who have acted as living confirmation of Stock’s views on silencing in these threads.

Anyway, don’t mind me, R1prof, now that you’ve flipped the lights on, I’ll just scurry back under the fridge.Report

R1prof
R1prof
Reply to  Joe
3 years ago

I am cis, and I certainly don’t have “disgust” or “hatred” for cis people…

But, I think you know that already.Report

not satire
not satire
Reply to  R1prof
3 years ago

My comment has disappeared! Any reason why, Justin?Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  R1prof
3 years ago

“In ten years’ time, the thought that trans people aren’t the gender they identify with will seem silly, it will soon be relegated to the trash heap of history.”

The US just elected Donald Trump, with a rejection of so-called “political correctness” apparently being a significant factor. How academia will shift is impossible to predict, but there’s no way this will be a dead issue with the general public in the near future.Report

Skef
Skef
Reply to  Skef
3 years ago

I meant the title of this article here on Daily Nous.Report

Cautious Until Tenured
Cautious Until Tenured
3 years ago

There seems to me to be a fallacious pattern of thought common in contemporary moral and political issues that I call “denying the wrong premise.” Since I see so many instances of it, I feel like it’s worth discussing here, because this is a topic where people are particularly prone to deny the wrong premise.

The form of the fallacy is:
1. Descriptive claim with empirical support.
2. If (1), then [abhorrent moral claim.]
3. Therefore, [abhorrent moral claim.]
And then someone objects to premise 1.

Here are two instances of the pattern:
1. There are essential biological differences between men and women.
2. If (1), then women are not full persons and/or ought to be treated differently and accorded fewer rights.
3. Therefore, women are not full persons and/or ought to be treated differently and accorded fewer rights.
Premise 1 is not the premise that should be attacked here.

1. “Male” and “female” are natural kind terms that refer to the properties that causally regulate their use, and those properties are biological kinds. Accordingly, transwomen are not women, and transmen are not men.
2. If (1), then trans individuals ought not be referred to by their preferred pronouns, ought to be shamed for how they express themselves, are not full persons and/or ought to be accorded fewer rights.
3. Therefore, trans individuals ought not be referred to by their preferred pronouns, ought to be shamed for how they express themselves, are not full persons and/or ought to be accorded fewer rights.
Premise 1 is, again, not the premise that should be attacked here.

It’s particularly galling when those who attack the CORRECT premise are accused of accepting the abhorrent moral conclusions, even when they explicitly deny doing so.
It’s also galling that I know I’ll be labeled “right wing” for this comment. I think both instances of the conclusion 3 are abhorrent, and I’ve got nothing for disdain for social conservatives that try to force them on marginalized groups. But the bad premises in these arguments are the moral ones, not the descriptive ones! Indeed, it seems to me that denying the wrong premise is a huge source of political power for conservatives, since it makes the liberal case seem like it is entirely irrational and reality-denying. The best way to rebut the “reals over feels” taunting common on the right these days is to not deny the premise that describes reality.Report