Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Collectivist

The Law of Identity

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

This sounds like the anti-conceptual mentality.

Yes -- I think this hits closer to the mark, though I would not go so far as to describe it as a "mentality" (necessarily, in every case); but when we describe gender as a "social construct," insofar as it is one, I think that Rand's description of the process is fairly apt: "an indiscriminate accumulation of sundry concretes, random facts, and unidentified feelings, piled into unlabeled mental file folders."

I think this is what's going on, essentially, and this is why I referred to this as being "where the true debate lies."

5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Your hypothetical trans person defines "female" by the associations he's made with females.

Yes, I think this is accurate. With respect to gender, after all, how is one to know what it is "like" to be male or female? I suppose we might say that I must know what it is like to be male -- being me, being of male sex, whatever my experiences are must be the experiences of "maleness," of male gender, for whatever it's worth. Even supposing that it would be possible for my experiences to actually be "female" in nature, somehow -- even supposing that this would refer to something real -- how would I ever know it or become aware of it? At what point would I be justified in believing that my experiences were not of maleness?

But suppose I bought into this idea that being male must mean that I will experience the world in a particular way (or within some range) -- and then suppose that this is not true of my experience. If I'd also been told that being female means some set of other experiences (or associations), and if that seemed more reflective of my personal experience, then I could come to understand how someone would identify himself with the feminine, or even as female.

This is how I'd tried to describe it, initially:

22 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Probably because he buys into the idea -- at least on some level -- that "men are this way, women are that way." And if he finds himself being "that way," and if he believes "that way" to be female, then he comes to see himself as being "really a woman"...

So I think that the root of this is subscribing to the notion that "men are this way, women are that way." And I should note that I don't think this is something that my hypothetical trans person does, alone, or that it is strictly characteristic of an "anti-conceptual mentality" (however we come to regard "gender"). I think that it is endemic in society and throughout history (and actually well-represented on this very board).

5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

And that's a problem, because associations with females are only identifications of associations with females. They are not identifications of females themselves.

I think this is why it's stressed that gender and sex are separate -- we identify female (sex) through genitalia. But how do you identify a gender? How do you put your finger on it? Well, that's how someone winds up with "infinite genders" and so forth.

So is "gender" (apart from sex) an "anti-concept" then? I suspect that it might be. But I think it's worthwhile to look at what people are reacting to, to better understand the context in which people are developing these ideas. There's a lot that's "gendered" in the world -- things which have either nothing to do with biological sex, or if there is a connection, it is remote and tenuous and may have nothing at all to do with an individual's experience of the world. Yet this idea of gender, in many of these manifestations, is taken very seriously and enforced by all sorts of social codes. Sometimes legal codes as well. Whether or not one takes seriously that he identifies as "male" or "female," or even ascribes any meaning to it at all, there are many very real repercussions for how one presents oneself, with respect to "gender." I suspect that those repercussions might themselves inspire people to take the whole thing quite seriously, regardless of their actual, lived experience.

Maybe I can approach this by way of analogy...

Earlier I'd referenced the tie, and how I don't understand it (or fashion more generally). It boggles me in contemplation, but I do believe it that there are people in the world who actually believe that wearing a tie (that is to say, a strip of fabric dangling from the neck) carries with it some sense of professionalism. That isn't what I see, personally, when I see someone wearing a tie: I don't see a professional, I see someone "going along to get along" (if I'm describing it charitably); yet I also understand, again, that many of these folks are true believers. When they see a tie, or when they wear one themselves, they see/think/feel professional. It makes them feel like a big boy.

Well, where in the world are they getting that from? I suspect it is the same place that many of us get our ideas about gender. And since tie-wearing is so ubiquitous among the professional population, so well-represented in media, enforced by numerous dress codes, and etc., I think that it propagates itself, and even those otherwise inclined to be skeptical as to the actual relationship between tie-wearing and professionalism will often buy into the notion to some extent, or at least they will be content to let these ideas lie unexamined.

For after all, there are stakes. A rejection of professional dress code may mean losing business or one's job (and if I still worked in a career where tie-wearing was ubiquitous, which thankfully I no longer do, I likely would still wear one, accordingly). I suspect that for many people, the stakes of gender identity (whether one expresses himself in ways which are generally considered "male" or "female") are much, much higher.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, DonAthos said:

So I think that the root of this is subscribing to the notion that "men are this way, women are that way." And I should note that I don't think this is something that my hypothetical trans person does, alone, or that it is strictly characteristic of an "anti-conceptual mentality" (however we come to regard "gender"). I think that it is endemic in society and throughout history (and actually well-represented on this very board).

In a reply to epistemologue, I agreed with his approach of looking at form and function to differentiate the sexes, but I thought he started from non-essential traits. So I begin with the view that a male's sexual function as the inseminator of females logically follows from his sexual organs, a penis and testicles. But that is only a man's sexual form, which I believe identifies him as a male. He has many other aspects to his form, which identify him as other things too: a living entity, a conscious organism, a rational animal. He can be mentally parsed and classified in many different ways because he is a complex, natural system, a product of ages of evolution. Thus, there has been, and always will be, this fundamental problem of classification.

The problem of classification becomes unsolvable when you attempt to classify male by a man's man-made traits rather than his metaphysical ones. Man invents much of himself, and he does it in various, creative, unpredictable ways. But he doesn't invent his sex. That is a metaphysical condition.

Trying to classify a male by his chosen values, purposes, rituals, roles is simply asking for frustration. It's like trying to classify a philosopher by his hair color, penis size, and leg length. Unless this contradictory approach is reversed, it will necessarily lead to countless micro-classifications, one for every unique male individual. Since this approach no doubt grows tiresome, the irrational classifier must call it quits at some point, and will simply lump all the micro-classifications of male into a catch-all category called "the male gender." If, however, he micro-classifies beyond the point of no return, he ends up with yet another catch-all category--"non-binary"--for the people who reject both of the binary "gender" categories. I suppose if someone came along claiming to be all three at the same time, he'd then have to conceive of a "tri-gender" category for that one oddball.

The absurdity of classifying sex by man-made traits has thus led to the wacky realm of "gender theory." It is a fragile realm, whose existence depends upon rational people playing along with the fantasy and treating weirdos like royalty.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, DonAthos said:

There's a lot that's "gendered" in the world -- things which have either nothing to do with biological sex, or if there is a connection, it is remote and tenuous and may have nothing at all to do with an individual's experience of the world. Yet this idea of gender, in many of these manifestations, is taken very seriously and enforced by all sorts of social codes. Sometimes legal codes as well.

Yes, certain non-biological things are associated with men or women, maleness or femaleness. We have male and female dress and appearance, which change from culture to culture, and from environment to environment, but they generally serve critical human purposes. I don't know the history of a man's necktie, but it is a part of his dress, and dress can be important for many reasons. It can protect him from the elements or even physical attack from animals or other humans. It can serve as a colorful, stylish representation of one's personality, which will attract mates interested in similar values. The tie, itself, adds something interesting to one's attire. Visually it basically forms a line straight to a man's penis, calling attention to his sex. In a pinch, it could also be removed and used as a choking weapon or binding tool. If you dig into the history of any popular article of clothing, it usually started with some important function--or two--in mind. And that function can often be traced back to survival or reproduction.

I often hear about "gender roles," but people hesitate to describe them, perhaps because it's not politically correct to say things like cooking is a female role and driving is a male role within a family. Or being submissive is a female role and being aggressive is a male role in the bedroom. Pick any "gender-based" role you want, and it will probably sound a little strange, because not every person falls into these roles. Sometimes they are switched around. And stereotyping males and females gets even weirder when you talk about a social or workplace context. I wonder if talking about "gender roles" is just a way to maintain stereotypes without having to call them stereotypes, which has a kind of negative connotation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

The problem of classification becomes unsolvable when you attempt to classify male by a man's man-made traits rather than his metaphysical ones. Man invents much of himself, and he does it in various, creative, unpredictable ways. But he doesn't invent his sex. That is a metaphysical condition.

There is a fundamental problem with trying to form concepts of any kind without reference to the metaphysical as opposed to the man-made. This is the basic difference in the Objectivist and Aristotelian approach as opposed to nominalism.

On the basis of a materialist metaphysics and a nominalist epistemology, all concepts are simply man-made categories of convenience. They don't actually mean anything beyond a handy, stipulated point of reference, with no wider significance or implication. The result is that people can't think on the conceptual level; they can only talk about bundles of properties, and what they may or may not be correlated with.

They can't talk anymore about the nature of Man and his identity or his actions, and thereby draw any universal aesthetic, moral, or political conclusions. When you've reached the point of being unable to define man according to his nature, you're are at the point where you've logically disintegrated any universal human justification for individual rights, Objectivist virtues, objective aesthetics - any normative philosophy at all outside of your emotional whims (of which you can't make heads or tails, and are forced to take indiscriminately as an irreducible black box, since you've done away with any objective point of reference to ground your feelings in reality).

If that isn't a disturbing enough consequence for you to reconsider, then consider the following.

There's nothing objective or Objectivist left remaining. This is instead an Irrationalist, Romantic, Nietzschean philosophy of:

  • Nominalism in epistemology - where "identity" is made up, and metaphysics doesn't matter
  • Nihilism and relativism in ethics - a free-for-all of emotional whims, beyond any objective reference to good and evil
  • The will to power in politics - without any concept of individual rights based in a universal human nature

And with that philosophy, we enter the world where "truth", "reason", "good and evil", or "rights", are made up words that ultimately mean whatever it's convenient for them to mean, whatever best serves the will to power of yourself, or of the identity group to which you assign yourself.

If you want to see what kind of world this leads you to, look at Marxism and communism, where "truth" is whatever the Party says is the truth, "reason" is whatever argument the Party agrees with, "good and evil" is whatever serves or threatens the good of the Party, and your "rights" are limited to whatever speech or behavior is approved by the Party. This is exactly the world that the establishment Left intends for us: cultural marxism, codified in law, and enforced by the police power of government.

This is exactly the kind of world you are heading toward when you evade the necessity of a metaphysical basis for your concepts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

If you want to see what kind of world this leads you to, look at Marxism and communism, where "truth" is whatever the Party says is the truth, "reason" is whatever argument the Party agrees with, "good and evil" is whatever serves or threatens the good of the Party, and your "rights" are limited to whatever speech or behavior is approved by the Party. This is exactly the world that the establishment Left intends for us: cultural marxism, codified in law, and enforced by the police power of government.

This is exactly the kind of world you are heading toward when you evade the necessity of a metaphysical basis for your concepts.

Every time I see the phrase "cultural Marxism" I get the sense it's a cop out to avoid discussing the actual arguments at hand. Moreover, you make it sound like the position against Swig must be "Leftist".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

In a reply to epistemologue, I agreed with his approach of looking at form and function to differentiate the sexes, but I thought he started from non-essential traits. So I begin with the view that a male's sexual function as the inseminator of females logically follows from his sexual organs, a penis and testicles.

This is questionable. In one sense, it is true insofar as only a male is able to impregnate a female. For biological discussions, this is fine - we need to know how reproduction works. But in another sense, it is false insofar as we don't think the purpose of sex in one's life is essentially reproduction. If you think so, you need to explain how an alternative is not the essential for ethics. Why should we not say sexual function is primarily, as Rand put it, "an expression of self-esteem—a celebration of [one]self and of existence"?

As you said, this only tells us the particular form. We cannot, at this stage, go on to say that we can deduce how one ought to create a rational sense of this identity, or what psychological feeling it entails. I am not claiming that this feeling is arbitrary, or that one can alter these things only by declaring it. I am saying that there is good reason to say there are psychological aspects to being male or female. Doesn't need to be gender norms. Psychological state is inherently part of being male. I imagine even Epistemologue agrees up to here - there are important psychological factors of one's sex.

The disagreement seems to be what that state is. I think it's there, but doesn't matter past a mere feeling, similar to just being aware. Not any deeper than being alive. Epist would say there is A LOT more. I'd say since the psychological aspect can be broken, and if it looks like transitioning does help a lot of people with that issue, then transitioning is an appropriate fix. It would really only alter the dysphoria a transgender person feels - there is a cure. You wouldn't lose a lot in the process. Since Epist thinks the psychological aspect is very strong and robust, transitioning would be like destroying the physical aspect to fix a mind aspect.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

we don't think the purpose of sex in one's life is essentially reproduction... Why should we not say sexual function is primarily, as Rand put it, "an expression of self-esteem—a celebration of [one]self and of existence"?

Talking about self-esteem, the final emotional result, as the purpose of sex is basically a subjectivist way to talk about the issue. All you're talking about is the emotion; you're not saying objectively, substantively what the thing is in itself.

The purpose of sex, the purpose of your life, is not just the emotional end-result (self-esteem, or happiness) - not just in whatever form you can best find it. Your purpose is achieving the ideal form of your being; acting with self-consistency and in such a way as to fully express your nature. Your purpose in sex is carrying out the deepest drives of your nature, it's about self-fulfillment/self-actualization, carrying out the core functions of your being to their fullest extent. At the deepest level, the purpose of sex is the completeness of your being, in the unity of marriage, and in procreation.

This is the real substance, the real purpose behind the proper form of that emotional end-result. 

So it's superficial to say that the purpose is the emotion, after all that is the same emotional end-result that any corrupt person seeking casual sex is ultimately after, as Rand describes in Atlas Shrugged. Rand is still a D1 integrator here (using the DIM schema), she's just one step beyond the causal sex addict. They are both looking for the same emotional end-result, and they are both doing it in a corrupt, consequentialist manner, it's just that she is looking a little deeper and longer-range than he is. She fundamentally doesn't care about the self-consistency of the action, let alone the ideal form of being. It doesn't matter to her whether the emotion is corrupt and stolen - at least not completely, that's not the most important issue. The emotional reward is still the most important issue, it still trumps the substance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

Rand is still a D1 integrator here (using the DIM schema), she's just one step beyond the causal sex addict.. it's just that she is looking a little deeper and longer-range than he is. She fundamentally doesn't care about the self-consistency

i guess "just one step beyond casual sex" is true not just in the motivation like you mentioned, but even to the form relationships take in her novels. they're "a little deeper and longer range" than hook-ups: usually affairs, usually not lasting the whole book, never marriage for main characters. as long as the people have valid reasons for admiring each other and that's what the isolated interactions are based on, that's good enough for her. "about self-consistency".. there isn't any necessary longevity to it. it lasts while it lasts.

she doesn't seem to recognize any "directedness" to a sexual relationship; that a couple was sleeping together doesn't tell her anything about whether they will be together later on. so it's not a big issue for her when, dagny, say, switches lovers. nothing had to really go wrong for that to happen and it isn't difficult for the character, it's not seen as any kind of a tragedy. she engaged in them not expecting them to last.. which is really pretty contradictory to the whole activity, which naturally is bonding.

i think this issue may have been the intention behind a post of @Anuj's- "Romantic Love and Promiscuity"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

But in another sense, it is false insofar as we don't think the purpose of sex in one's life is essentially reproduction. If you think so, you need to explain how an alternative is not the essential for ethics. Why should we not say sexual function is primarily, as Rand put it, "an expression of self-esteem—a celebration of [one]self and of existence"?

I differ from Intrinsicist. I'm not here arguing purpose in the moral sense. I'm arguing form in the physical sense and function in the biological sense, the only senses, in my view, which are relevant to defining male as opposed to female. Obviously sex, the act itself, also serves a mental function/purpose, as Ayn Rand pointed out. The human organism is a complex system with many attributes and functions which serve our life on multiple levels, namely physical, biological, and mental. I don't see how our mental aspect relates to identifying a male versus female. Though I do believe in masculinity and femininity as important psychological traits. Whether these traits can be changed through hormone therapy, I don't know.

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I am saying that there is good reason to say there are psychological aspects to being male or female. Doesn't need to be gender norms. Psychological state is inherently part of being male.

We might agree here. Rand called femininity a kind of hero-worship. I'd say masculinity is a kind of heroism, the desire to be great. Do you have something else in mind? I'm not sure I would identify other mental qualities as inherently male or female. And, frankly, I'm not 100% on the two I mentioned. And, furthermore, I think this is much different than what the trans movement is about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My own theory is that there is a mental "likeness" to some characteristics that is non-conceptual. But with philosophy I'm saying that the law of identity only says that there are features of being male or female. It says nothing of how these features may "break" or when it is good or bad to change a feature. That requires training in psychological sciences. I'm a grad student in psychology but gender and sex are only side interests; I don't know enough to say why it gets screwy in some people.

I strongly disagree with Rand on masculinity and femininity. I think she fails to establish why they are objective. I think she fails the standards of rationality here, and is not careful to find out how "A" is grounded in reality. Perhaps she doesn't address well how and when A can become B. So it's hard for her to see or analyze when personal variations (a natural thing in any group of people) are good or bad.

I'm not concerned with what most trans people do. I don' t like when it's politicized. I just care about clarifying that there's good reason to say some people transition for the right reasons. Not all trans people even want reassignment surgery.

Edited by Eiuol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Eiuol said:

there are important psychological factors of one's sex... The disagreement seems to be what that state is. I think it's there, but doesn't matter past a mere feeling, similar to just being aware. Not any deeper than being alive... I'd say since the psychological aspect can be broken, and if it looks like transitioning does help a lot of people with that issue, then transitioning is an appropriate fix. It would really only alter the dysphoria a transgender person feels - there is a cure.

Again, you're looking to the emotion as the standard and the definition, but this is a superficial, and fundamentally subjectivist, approach. You are saying exactly the same thing as Diana Hsieh, that essentially "you can’t change the mind, but you can in fact alter the body" -- this view of one's own mind as an unreasonable force of emotions, emotions of which you can't make heads or tails, and are forced to take indiscriminately as an irreducible black box, since you've done away with any objective point of reference to ground your feelings in reality.

By contrast, there are no "mere feelings" in Objectivism; emotions follow from your prior thinking and value judgments, and so can be corrupted by a mistaken belief. Your position on this can applied to anything - take being alive as your example, someone might have suicidal feelings, does that mean it's proper to declare that "in this case the psychological aspect of living can be broken", and therefore that suicide might actually be a good solution for them since that is in fact how they happen to feel now? Or isn't it worth referencing the metaphysical grounding here, that they are a living being, that is implies ought, and that life is therefore the standard of value, and that their suicidal feelings must be following from some wrong belief about themselves or the world, and that they need therapy to bring them back in line with reality, and that they should not to be helped along this mistaken, self-destructive path?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

All you're talking about is the emotion; you're not saying objectively, substantively what the thing is in itself.

The purpose of sex, the purpose of your life, is not just the emotional end-result (self-esteem, or happiness) - not just in whatever form you can best find it. Your purpose is achieving the ideal form of your being; acting with self-consistency and in such a way as to fully express your nature.

I get the idea that you think what you're saying is consistent with Objectivism (correct if I'm mistaken)? But didn't Rand hold that man's "highest moral purpose" is the achievement of his own happiness?

11 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

Your purpose in sex is carrying out the deepest drives of your nature, it's about self-fulfillment/self-actualization, carrying out the core functions of your being to their fullest extent.

No, this is wrong. Wrong if you're talking about me, at least -- and inconsistent with my understanding of morality as well. My purpose in sex is not about "carrying out the core functions" of my being; I am not trying to "fully express my nature"; but I am seeking pleasure and intimacy, and (yes) happiness. If I thought that there were some conflict between "fully expressing my nature" and the pursuit of my own happiness (though I'm not certain that there is; it depends, perhaps, on what we believe "my nature" to consist of -- a fraught subject), then sucks to my nature.

11 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

At the deepest level, the purpose of sex is the completeness of your being, in the unity of marriage, and in procreation.

This is the real substance, the real purpose behind the proper form of that emotional end-result. 

So it's superficial to say that the purpose is the emotion, after all that is the same emotional end-result that any corrupt person seeking casual sex is ultimately after, as Rand describes in Atlas Shrugged. Rand is still a D1 integrator here (using the DIM schema), she's just one step beyond the causal sex addict. They are both looking for the same emotional end-result, and they are both doing it in a corrupt, consequentialist manner, it's just that she is looking a little deeper and longer-range than he is. She fundamentally doesn't care about the self-consistency of the action, let alone the ideal form of being. It doesn't matter to her whether the emotion is corrupt and stolen - at least not completely, that's not the most important issue. The emotional reward is still the most important issue, it still trumps the substance.

The "substance" you describe is barren and sterile. Meaningless.

We do not act so as to "fulfill our nature," or for the sake of "proper form." Who the hell cares about that? (And the implication that one requires either marriage or procreation to be complete is disturbing. This is why I caveat "my nature" above; people can slip in all sorts of stuff.)

Yes, "emotional reward" (i.e. happiness) is the most important issue. Happiness is the point to what we do. There is nothing more important than the individual's achievement of his own happiness -- no higher moral purpose than that.

1 hour ago, intrinsicist said:

Again, you're looking to the emotion as the standard and the definition, but this is a superficial, and fundamentally subjectivist, approach. You are saying exactly the same thing as Diana Hsieh, that essentially "you can’t change the mind, but you can in fact alter the body" -- this view of one's own mind as an unreasonable force of emotions, emotions of which you can't make heads or tails, and are forced to take indiscriminately as an irreducible black box, since you've done away with any objective point of reference to ground your feelings in reality.

Not going to speak to Hsieh, because I'm not sufficiently familiar with her arguments on this score, but there are aspects of "changing the mind" which are not necessarily straight forward, including "sense of life." I don't know where "gender identity" rests, but it may be fairly deep -- not to say that the mind is an "irreducible black box," but that I'm not certain that we know how to access such things, or change them directly, in later life.

See also: "sexual orientation." If you are straight, would you know how to "will yourself" to be gay, or vice-versa? If not, that doesn't make you a subjectivist.

1 hour ago, intrinsicist said:

By contrast, there are no "mere feelings" in Objectivism; emotions follow from your prior thinking and value judgments, and so can be corrupted by a mistaken belief. Your position on this can applied to anything - take being alive as your example, someone might have suicidal feelings, does that mean it's proper to declare that "in this case the psychological aspect of living can be broken", and therefore that suicide might actually be a good solution for them since that is in fact how they happen to feel now? Or isn't it worth referencing the metaphysical grounding here, that they are a living being, that is implies ought, and that life is therefore the standard of value, and that their suicidal feelings must be following from some wrong belief about themselves or the world, and that they need therapy to bring them back in line with reality, and that they should not to be helped along this mistaken, self-destructive path?

I cannot revisit this at the moment, not after the one bajillion threads dedicated to discussing it directly, but yes: sometimes suicide is a good solution. Some people do have wrong beliefs and need therapy, but that does not mean that all suicidal feelings must be following from some wrong belief about themselves or the world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Eiuol said:

But with philosophy I'm saying that the law of identity only says that there are features of being male or female.

My question now is: Do the features of being male or female include aspects of both the physical and the mental? When we speak of maleness or femaleness as a general concept applicable to all living things, does that concept include both physical and mental components?  Plants don't even have a mental aspect, and yet some reproduce sexually with male and female forms in the species. When we consider insects, must we examine their basic consciousness in order to determine male or female? How about fish or birds? Lower mammals?

Is it only with humans that the mental aspect matters with regard to the difference between male and female? And is it because we have free will, and lower animals don't (chimps possibly excluded)? Must we create a distinction between male and female for us humans, and male and female for the rest of the living world?

If we say that, for humans, maleness and femaleness include a mental aspect, then aren't we also saying that humans belong to an entirely different phylum in the animal kingdom?

Edited by MisterSwig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

On the basis of a materialist metaphysics and a nominalist epistemology, all concepts are simply man-made categories of convenience. They don't actually mean anything beyond a handy, stipulated point of reference, with no wider significance or implication.

Intrinsicist, I agree with some of what you say, and disagree with other parts. Let's begin with nominalism, because it's the subject I know least about, yet what you say strikes me as confusing.

My understanding is that even a nominalist will most likely retain some validly formed concepts, which he validly formed during childhood, before he learned to segregate them from the metaphysical. In essence, as a child, he naturally categorized his concepts as things that existed out there in the world. And maybe he even developed this category into a more sophisticated concept of natural things versus man-made things. But then, in high school or college, he is taught to one-by-one move all of his ideas into the man-made category. So his mind is now a frightful mess of concepts in flux or transition between these two categories. He really wants to put them all in the man-made category, but reality is so overwhelming that he struggles mightily with the task and tends to ramble incoherently or give in to emotional outburst.

Does that make any sense to you? I'm trying to distinguish between a nominalist in theory and a nominalist in practice. We should keep in mind that they probably weren't a nominalist from birth, and that in childhood they formed valid concepts, some of which they might still be using even as an adopter (or victim) of nominalist theory.

Edited by MisterSwig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

You are saying exactly the same thing as Diana Hsieh, that essentially "you can’t change the mind, but you can in fact alter the body"

Where did I say or imply that the mind cannot be changed?

6 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

By contrast, there are no "mere feelings" in Objectivism; emotions follow from your prior thinking and value judgments, and so can be corrupted by a mistaken belief. 

I should say I don't think in this case there is much emotion in it. A feeling like "being aware" doesn't take much to it besides just choosing to focus. That's my main point, that the identity as a feeling here isn't a rich and robust experience. It is a scientific claim though, and I fault anyone who acts as though this is just philosophy. Sure. there are a huge sum of choices, but you need to explain how you know that the solution to the issue is just mental. If form implies an ought, then you need to explain when individual differences sets a person apart from the norm naturally, or if the variance is due to a moral error.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

My question now is: Do the features of being male or female include aspects of both the physical and the mental? When we speak of maleness or femaleness as a general concept applicable to all living things, does that concept include both physical and mental components? 

You don't need to do a full examination of all features to say that someone is or is not female. All members of a category do not need to share the same features, or that the essential feature is to the same degree, but they do share at least one essential feature. Animals of all kinds have some degree of awareness. The issue from there is if maleness or femaleness might also be in that awareness, at a pre-conceptual level with minimal influence from any emotional content. Humans, with greater degree of consciousness, will be more affected by emotional content and a bit more malleable as a result. The thing we need to know is what this "sense of being" is, if it's there naturally, how or when it can be arbitrarily built, all this. The law of identity, without any inductive steps, cannot answer this.

If you found a new species, you'd need to think about how the animal reproduces. There's no need to find out how they feel, but if they were sentient, it'd be good to ask. More info is good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

All members of a category do not need to share the same features, or that the essential feature is to the same degree, but they do share at least one essential feature.

What is one essential feature that all males share? And is that feature physical or mental in nature?

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Animals of all kinds have some degree of awareness. The issue from there is if maleness or femaleness might also be in that awareness, at a pre-conceptual level with minimal influence from any emotional content.

Wouldn't maleness also have to be at the pre-perceptual level, since male clams, for example, have no brain to process sensations into percepts? Does maleness reside at the sensual level of awareness? Or should we exclude clams and other brainless animals?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The essential of maleness as a concept seems to be fertilizing eggs. It's the only apparent distinction. That's about it. It doesn't mean that doing this thing is essential, only that this is how to make the distinction.

All I claimed is that there can be a mental feature as well. Some animals might not have that feature. Anyway, it is not a topic philosophy can speak of in detail.

By the way, clams do have some kind of neurology. I doubt there would be much going on,  but strictly speaking, they perceive. Sensual level of awareness isn't really a thing. At best it'd be to say some organisms are really primitive, like paramecium.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

The essential of maleness as a concept seems to be fertilizing eggs.

I'd say it's the organ(s) which produce and deliver the fertilizer (sperm) to the eggs. You described the function, not the form.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, DonAthos said:

didn't Rand hold that man's "highest moral purpose" is the achievement of his own happiness?

In case it wasn't clear, that's a position that I'm criticizing, along with the corollary that "self-esteem" is the purpose of sex.

15 hours ago, DonAthos said:

We do not act ... for the sake of "proper form."

You do realize I was describing the proper form of happiness? My whole point is that there is something more substantive than just the emotion, something that underlies it, produces it and justifies it. That is our real moral purpose, not just the emotion.

But you're reaction is just - 

14 hours ago, DonAthos said:

No, this is wrong. Wrong if you're talking about me, at least -- and inconsistent with my understanding of morality as well...  "emotional reward" (i.e. happiness) is the most important issue

You're telling me the emotional reward is the most important issue, but the proper form of that emotion isn't; if getting your emotional happiness conflicts with your nature, then damn your nature. Well this is exactly what I'm criticizing as subjectivism. That's exactly the position of the man who is after casual sex, for example. It doesn't matter to him how fake and corrupt the act is, he's still getting the emotional result, the feeling of self-esteem, no matter that it's counterfeit, that it's not what he really wants as a man, that it's not actually fulfilling.

Aiming at the emotion as your ultimate purpose instead of at your metaphysical nature, and the consistency of your actions with that nature, is the basic mistake. Ayn Rand is saying basically that in the following quote:

"It is only by accepting “man’s life” as one’s primary and by pursuing the rational values it requires that one can achieve happiness—not by taking “happiness” as some undefined, irreducible primary and then attempting to live by its guidance. If you achieve that which is the good by a rational standard of value, it will necessarily make you happy; but that which makes you happy, by some undefined emotional standard, is not necessarily the good. To take “whatever makes one happy” as a guide to action means: to be guided by nothing but one’s emotional whims. Emotions are not tools of cognition; to be guided by whims—by desires whose source, nature and meaning one does not know—is to turn oneself into a blind robot, operated by unknowable demons (by one’s stale evasions), a robot knocking its stagnant brains out against the walls of reality which it refuses to see."

- Ayn Rand, The Objectivist Ethics

15 hours ago, DonAthos said:

not to say that the mind is an "irreducible black box," but that I'm not certain that we know how to access such things, or change them directly, in later life.

That's a pretty good description of the concept of a "black box". In this psychological black box, the only referent is an emotion - an emotion whose "source, nature and meaning one does not know" - free from any objective, metaphysical grounding. Nevermind the countless objective references to the physical and psychological basis of the male vs. female sexual distinction, nevermind the genetically, hormonally, anatomically, and psychologically distinctive male and female forms, nevermind the complementary and unifying physiological and psychological functions that males and females serve, nevermind the nature of the sexual intercourse from which you came into existence in the first place, and for that matter the entire historical existence of homo sapiens sapiens as a sexually reproducing species, and ultimately EVERY organism on Earth that has ever lived in the last billion years as a member of a sexually reproducing species. Nevermind all of that, you have a FEELING! (and in some kind of bizarre irony for the ages, you top it all off by describing these realities of human nature as "barren and sterile".)

This is doing exactly what Rand says should never be done, and it's taken so much further that she could have ever imagined. It's not just taking “whatever makes one happy” as a guide to action, but as an entire epistemology, as a metaphysics.

Your method isn't to question the origin of your emotions in your prior thinking and value judgments, identifying if your views are consistent with metaphysically given reality and therefore if your feelings make sense, and changing your views and ultimately your feelings if not -- you're instead taking the emotional end-result as the metaphysically given and unchangeable, rationalizing your value judgments from which they originally came in the first place, and then attempting to redefine reality, especially the nature of man, based on your feelings.

16 hours ago, DonAthos said:

sometimes suicide is a good solution. Some people do have wrong beliefs and need therapy, but that does not mean that all suicidal feelings must be following from some wrong belief about themselves or the world

All suicidal feelings must be following from some wrong belief about themselves or the world. I gave my argument as to why: they are a living being, is implies ought, and that life is therefore the standard of value, and thus suicide, an act which cannot be supportive of life but rather flatly contradicts it, is categorically wrong. You're asserting the opposite, but I'm not seeing any counter-argument here. Which part do you disagree with? That they are living beings? That is implies ought? That life is the standard of value? That suicide flatly contradicts that standard? Whichever option you pick, you're going to be leaving Objectivism for subjectivism.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

In case it wasn't clear, that's a position that I'm criticizing...

No, the nature of your critique was not clear to me.

21 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

You do realize I was describing the proper form of happiness? My whole point is that there is something more substantive than just the emotion, something that underlies it, produces it and justifies it. That is our real moral purpose, not just the emotion.

And actually, it still isn't. Whatever it is you are arguing centrally is not completely clear to me (even as I recognize clear errors along the way).

What do we care about "the proper form of happiness"? Is the reason why we care about such a thing because... we want to achieve happiness? If so, then I agree, and I think that you're wrong to criticize Rand's identification of happiness as man's highest moral purpose. It is that we wish to be happy that we care about the "proper form" to achieve it, or what underlies it or produces it. (Happiness is its own justification; we do not need a justification to seek out/pursue our own happiness; it is an end in itself.)

21 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

You're telling me the emotional reward is the most important issue, but the proper form of that emotion isn't; if getting your emotional happiness conflicts with your nature, then damn your nature. Well this is exactly what I'm criticizing as subjectivism.

Perhaps that's what you're criticizing, and the manner in which you're attempting it, but you are mistaken to do so.

The only reason why "proper form" matters at all is because the emotional reward (which is, again, happiness; "man's highest moral purpose") is the most important issue. In fact, we may call a given form "proper" only because it results in happiness.

21 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

That's exactly the position of the man who is after casual sex, for example. It doesn't matter to him how fake and corrupt the act is, he's still getting the emotional result, the feeling of self-esteem, no matter that it's counterfeit, that it's not what he really wants as a man, that it's not actually fulfilling.

Central errors will radiate outwards, and yes, you're also wrong to critique the fact that Rand's fictional heroes enjoy sexual relationships (if that is in fact your critique; as I say, it is still unclear to me...).

21 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

That's a pretty good description of the concept of a "black box". In this psychological black box, the only referent is an emotion - an emotion whose "source, nature and meaning one does not know" - free from any objective, metaphysical grounding.

But I provided you with some real life examples of the very sorts of phenomena I meant, including "sense of life," "gender identity" and "sexual orientation." So put some meat on those bones. I'd asked whether you know how to will yourself to be gay, if you are straight, or straight, if you are gay. Do you?

21 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

Nevermind the countless objective references to the physical and psychological basis of the male vs. female sexual distinction, nevermind the genetically, hormonally, anatomically, and psychologically distinctive male and female forms, nevermind the complementary and unifying physiological and psychological functions that males and females serve, nevermind the nature of the sexual intercourse from which you came into existence in the first place, and for that matter the entire historical existence of homo sapiens sapiens as a sexually reproducing species, and ultimately EVERY organism on Earth that has ever lived in the last billion years as a member of a sexually reproducing species. Nevermind all of that...

Yes. Exactly. Never mind all of that.

If we do not have the technology to change from straight to gay, or gay to straight, male-identifying to female-identifying, or back, then it does not matter about "the entire historical existence of Homo sapiens sapiens as a sexually reproducing species" (with respect to those issues, at least). It further doesn't matter whether you believe that such technology -- in medicinal form, or psychotherapeutic form, or what-have-you -- theoretically could (or should) exist.

What matters is that individuals must make actual choices, in their actual, specific context, for the sake of their own happiness. And thus far it seems as though straight people cannot will themselves gay, and gay people cannot will themselves straight. Thus, a gay man or woman must act as a gay man or woman, and damn whatever you think their "nature" to otherwise be.

21 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

This is doing exactly what Rand says should never be done, and it's taken so much further that she could have ever imagined. It's not just taking “whatever makes one happy” as a guide to action, but as an entire epistemology, as a metaphysics.

Your method isn't to question the origin of your emotions in your prior thinking and value judgments, identifying if your views are consistent with metaphysically given reality and therefore if your feelings make sense, and changing your views and ultimately your feelings if not -- you're instead taking the emotional end-result as the metaphysically given and unchangeable, rationalizing your value judgments from which they originally came in the first place, and then attempting to redefine reality, especially the nature of man, based on your feelings.

Don't settle for empty verbiage. Go ahead and provide some practical examples: demonstrate what you mean, for the sake of clarity, if nothing else.

Yes, in some cases, I would advise taking the "emotional end-result" (though this seems a poor label for the sorts of things I've mentioned) as the metaphysically given and unchangeable; homosexuality is my running example, so I would like to see you address it directly:

I presume* that you take homosexuality as being against "man's nature." So in such a case... you would recommend "changing your views and ultimately your feelings," rather than seeking happiness in same-sex relationships, etc.? Is that your sort of meaning? Cards on the table, please.

__________________________________

* It is the nature of such presumptions, of course, that I may be mistaken. And please advise me if I am. But given "the genetically, hormonally, anatomically, and psychologically distinctive male and female forms" to which you've referred, your cryptic reference to how marriage/procreation "completes" a person, and etc., I think my errant presumption -- if indeed I am in error -- is at least understandable.

21 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

All suicidal feelings must be following from some wrong belief about themselves or the world.

This is incorrect.

21 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

I gave my argument as to why: they are a living being, is implies ought, and that life is therefore the standard of value, and thus suicide, an act which cannot be supportive of life but rather flatly contradicts it, is categorically wrong.

Yes, I understand your argument. I'm deeply familiar with it. This sort of math depends upon a misunderstanding/equivocation of "life as the standard of value," which is, unfortunately, endemic throughout the Objectivist community. It is replacing "life" in the full sense Rand intended ("qua man") with "survival," which is a misinterpretation supported (again unfortunately) by some of Rand's writings, and developed at length, explicitly, by David Kelley.

It is mistaken.

21 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

You're asserting the opposite, but I'm not seeing any counter-argument here. Which part do you disagree with? That they are living beings? That is implies ought? That life is the standard of value? That suicide flatly contradicts that standard? Whichever option you pick, you're going to be leaving Objectivism for subjectivism.

LOL, oh you! :P

Well, when I leave Objectivism for subjectivism, I suppose I will be welcomed by Rand, Peikoff, et al., who have also endorsed suicide under certain conditions. But you're right that you don't see any counterargument here. I don't intend on arguing suicide again, or not for awhile, at least. Yet my arguments on this topic -- and the many rebuttals they've drawn -- are strewn all across the forum:

Choosing to Live, Choosing to Die
Spies Who Commit Suicide
Reification and Suicide

I'm certain there are others...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

Nevermind the countless objective references to the physical and psychological basis of the male vs. female sexual distinction

You see, this is part of the issue. How do you identify what is in fact an objective psychological basis of being male or female? You can't use "look at society", and the trouble is that gender norms, like moral norms, are so embedded into life that it's not as simple as looking with your eyes.

Also, what is in one's identity as in capability isn't proof that one must perform that capability. That many birds fly doesn't mean all birds must fly to meet their bird nature. That many people reproduce doesn't mean all people must reproduce to meet their human nature. To meet one's nature means to do the things that further your existence. If we introduce the idea that furthering the species is part of furthering one's existence, we leave the realm of egoistic ethics.

I don't agree with Don on all he wrote. I want more clarity on what the psychological traits of being male and female are. I suspect I know what you'll mention. For the sake of the thread, make your identifications specific to humans.

And I'll call you Epist since I think that's who you are.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/9/2017 at 3:55 AM, DonAthos said:

Yes, I understand your argument. I'm deeply familiar with it. This sort of math depends upon a misunderstanding/equivocation of "life as the standard of value," which is, unfortunately, endemic throughout the Objectivist community. It is replacing "life" in the full sense Rand intended ("qua man") with "survival," which is a misinterpretation supported (again unfortunately) by some of Rand's writings, and developed at length, explicitly, by David Kelley.

It is mistaken.

The "endemic equivocation" you seem to be calling attention to is the popular conflation of "man's survival qua man" with and reduction to "man's de facto survival". This conflation mistakes the literally derivable survival requirements from man's nature to be necessarily constituted also of those activities which might happen to promote immediate survival. But Rand is not a consequentialist; there is no legitimate distinction between the value of a life - and its species-specific identity - and the values in a life. A further (sufficient) condition must be met by those aforementioned activities - that they be concomitant with reason. How a man's survival qua animal can be achieved bears nothing directly on whether or not man's survival qua rational animal is achieved. I have never seen or read anywhere David Kelley's failure to appreciate these distinctions, and am curious to know where you think he does fail in this regard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×