Why was Raymond Tallis’s book Not Saussure largely ignored by literary critics? Here I present one response to this question: he does not offer a novel alternative system for literary interpretation. And I consider whether the situation is any different in other fields, introducing a rival to Simon Baron-Cohen’s empathizing-systematizing theory of gender differences when doing so.
According to Simon Baron-Cohen, having a male brain disposes a person to be more systematic than empathetic, whereas having a female brain disposes a person to be more empathetic than systematic. However, one can be a male human being with a female brain or a female human being with a male brain. Autistics have an extreme version of the male brain, says Baron-Cohen. In this paper, I present an “a priori” argument against the very idea of an extreme female brain.
Charlotte Witt has argued that gender is essential to women and men, in a way that unifies them as social individuals but precludes each of them from being identified with the corresponding person or human organism. We respond to Witt’s modal and normative arguments for this view, and we argue that they fail to support anything stronger than a moderate version of kind essentialism, which generally allows women and men to be identified with people. We finish by pointing out that (...) several of Witt’s central claims about gender roles and gender norms could be endorsed while rejecting her ontology of coincident individuals. (shrink)
The recently published ‘Scientific Review’ by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport about transwomen’s participation in female sport doesn’t deserve its name; it is wholly unscientific. This publication follows a familiar pattern. The body is not important anymore when it comes to categorisation and eligibility in sport; instead, it’s all about a psychological phenomenon: gender identity. This side-lining of the body (which makes the side-lining of female athletes and the inclusion of male-born athletes possible) is now reinforced by an (...) attack on the bio-medical sciences. (shrink)
Natural kinds is a widely used and pivotal concept in philosophy – the idea being that the classifications and taxonomies employed by science correspond to the real kinds in nature. Natural kinds are often opposed to the idea of kinds in the human and social sciences, which are typically seen as social constructions, characterised by changing norms and resisting scientific reduction. Yet human beings are also a subject of scientific study.Does this mean humans fall into corresponding kinds of their own? (...) In The Epistemology and Morality of Human Kinds Marion Godman defends the idea of human kinds. She first examines the scientific use and nature of human kinds, considering the arguments of key philosophers whose work bears upon human kinds, such as Ian Hacking, John Searle, Richard Boyd and Ruth Millikan. Using the examples of gender, ethnic minorities and Buddhism she then argues that human kinds are a result of ongoing historical reproduction, chiefly due to pre-existing cultural models and social learning. Her novel argument shifts the focus away from the reductionism characteristic of research about human kinds. Instead, she argues that they are “multiply projectable” and deserving of scientific study not in spite of, but because of their role in explaining our identity, injustice and the emergence of group rights. (shrink)
There is broad agreement among social researchers and social ontologists that the project of dividing humans into social kinds should be guided by at least two methodological commitments. First, a commitment to what best serves moral and political interests, and second, a commitment to describing accurately the causal structures of social reality. However, researchers have not sufficiently analyzed how these two commitments interact and constrain one another. In the absence of that analysis, several confusions have set in, threatening to undermine (...) shared goals for the responsible modeling of social kinds of humans. This essay first explains the source and substance of these confusions. Then, by distinguishing different value-laden investigative questions into the classification of social kinds of humans, it sets out specific relations of dependence and constraint between empirically-driven investigations and value-driven investigations into social kinds of humans. The result is a more detailed and fruitful framework for thinking about the classification of social kinds that respects both normative interests and mind-independent causal regularities. (shrink)
The professor of psychopathology Simon Baron-Cohen claims that males are on average stronger at systematizing than empathizing and females are on average stronger at empathizing than systematizing. Systematizing is defined as the drive to construct or understand systems. In this paper, I observe that Baron-Cohen overlooks certain examples of systems, examples which lead to doubts about his claim.
As sports have become more professional, winning has become more important. This emphasis on results, rather than sporting virtue and winning in style, probably explains the rising incidence of the Strategic Foul. Surprisingly, it has found some apologists among the philosophers of sport. The discussion of the Strategic Foul in the literature has produced subtle distinctions (e.g. Cesar Torres: constitutive skills versus restorative skills) as well as implausible distinctions (e.g. D’Agostino: ‘impermissible’ but ‘acceptable’ behaviour). In this paper I will review (...) Robert Simon’s defence of strategic fouling and conclude that his justification is not convincing. (shrink)
The professor of psychopathology Simon Baron-Cohen is well-known for his thesis that males are on average better at systematizing than empathizing and females are on average better at empathizing than systematizing. In this paper, I note an ambiguity in how he defines systematizing.
In this paper, I wish to reflect upon the insistence on the use of gender neutral language and its implications for freedom of speech in Canada. There has been much controversy in Canada over recent legislation that adds gender expression and gender identity as protected grounds under the Canada Human Rights Act- i.e. Bill C-16, Jordan B. Peterson, Professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, has expressed his dissatisfaction with Bill C-16 and its implications for free speech. Peterson argues (...) that free speech is the mechanism by which democracies have survived over the centuries! He has further argued that the imposition of language on people can have devastating effects. For example, there is a clear distinction between legislation concerning What one ought not to say, such as screaming "fire!" in a crowded cinema and mandating speech about what one must say, such as compelling the use of gender-neutral pronouns. In order to understand the background behind Bill C-16, and in order to gather insights as to what is motivating certain cultural trends and what is at stake, I will examine two distinct philosophical approaches. First, will examine the thought of Jordan Peterson, who I would dub the "defender of objectivity." Second, I will present some of the views of the postmodern epistemologist, Jacques Derrida, Derrida can be dubbed the "wishful mortician of the absolute" for his methodology of deconstructionism. Through examining these distinct approaches, I wish to put a clearer finger on the complex issues surrounding Bill C-16, political correctness, and free speech. (shrink)
There is growing support for the view that social categories like men and women refer to “objective types” (Haslanger 2000, 2006, 2012; Alcoff 2005). An objective type is a similarity class for which the axis of similarity is an objective rather than nominal or fictional property. Such types are independently real and causally relevant, yet their unity does not derive from an essential property. Given this tandem of features, it is not surprising why empirically-minded researchers interested in fighting oppression and (...) marginalization have found this ontological category so attractive: objective types have the ontological credentials to secure the reality (and thus political representation) of social categories, and yet they do not impose exclusionary essences that also naturalize and legitimize social inequalities. This essay argues that, from the perspective of these political goals of fighting oppression and marginalization, the category of objective types is in fact a Trojan horse; it looks like a gift, but it ends up creating trouble. I argue that objective type classifications often lack empirical adequacy, and as a result they lack political adequacy. I also provide, and in reference to the normative goals described above, several arguments for preferring a social ontology of natural kinds with historical essences. (shrink)
This book examines contemporary structural social injustices from a feminist perspective. It asks: what makes oppression, discrimination, and domination wrongful? Is there a single wrongness-making feature of various social injustices that are due to social kind membership? Why is sexist oppression of women wrongful? What does the wrongfulness of patriarchal damage done to women consist in? In thinking about what normatively grounds social injustice, the book puts forward two related views. First, it argues for a paradigm shift in focus away (...) from feminist philosophy that is organized around the gender concept woman, and towards feminist philosophy that is humanist. This is against the following theoretical backdrop: Politically effective feminism requires ways to elucidate how and why patriarchy damages women, and to articulate and defend feminism's critical claims. In order to meet these normative demands an influential theoretical outlook has emerged: for emancipatory purposes feminist philosophers should articulate a thick conception of the gender concept woman around which feminist philosophical work is organized. However, Part I of the book argues that we should resist this move, and that feminist philosophers should reframe their analyses of injustice in humanist terms. Second, the book spells out a humanist alternative to the more prevalent gender-focus in feminist philosophy. This hinges on a notion of dehumanization, which Part II of the book develops. The argued for understanding of dehumanization is used to explicate the wrongness-making feature of social injustices, both in general and of those due to patriarchy. Dehumanization is not another form of injustice-rather, it is that which makes forms of social injustice unjust. The book's second part then provides a regimentation of social injustice from a feminist perspective in order to spell out the specifics of the proposed humanist feminism, and to demonstrate how it improves some non-feminist analyses of injustice too. (shrink)
É muitas vezes aceite que certas categorias, tipicamente as de género, raça, orientação sexual ou doença mental, são construções sociais e não divisões naturais no mundo. A distinção entre categorias naturais e categorias sociais, como pretende ser a distinção entre o sexo e o género, tem servido no âmbito da crítica e ciência social para advogar a abolição de certas normas sociais, e para a implementação de políticas mais equitativas. Contudo, há aspectos centrais do construtivismo que são pouco claros. O (...) que é que se nega ao rejeitar que as categorias construídas socialmente são naturais? E o que significa dizer que essas categorias são construções sociais? E será de todo verdade que certas categorias, como o género, são sociais e não naturais? Não tenho a pretensão de responder a todas estas complexas questões neste artigo, mas espero pelo menos iluminar parte do debate contemporâneo sobre estes problemas. Por uma questão de espaço, concentrar-me-ei na noção de género. (shrink)
This paper critically evaluates the semantic externalist conception of Race and Gender concepts put forward in Sally Haslanger's 2012 essay collection "Resisting Reality". I argue that her endorsement of "objective type externalism" limits the options for critique compared to social externalist approaches.
Traditional debate on the metaphysics of gender has been a contrast of essentialist and social-constructionist positions. The standard reaction to this opposition is that neither position alone has the theoretical resources required to satisfy an equitable politics. This has caused a number of theorists to suggest ways in which gender is unified on the basis of social rather than biological characteristics but is “real” or “objective” nonetheless – a position I term social objectivism. This essay begins by making explicit the (...) motivations for, and central assumptions of, social objectivism. I then propose that gender is better understood as a real kind with a historical essence, analogous to the biologist’s claim that species are historical entities. I argue that this proposal achieves a better solution to the problems that motivate social objectivism. Moreover, the account is consistent with a post-positivist understanding of the classificatory practices employed within the natural and social sciences. (shrink)
The gender concept woman is central to feminism but has proven to be notoriously difficult to define. Some feminist philosophers, most notably Sally Haslanger, have recently argued for revisionary analyses of the concept where it is defined pragmatically for feminist political purposes. I argue against such analyses: pragmatically revising woman may not best serve feminist goals and doing so is unnecessary. Instead, focusing on certain intuitive uses of the term ‘woman’ enables feminist philosophers to make sense of it.
: Elizabeth Spelman has famously argued against gender realism. By and large, feminist philosophers have embraced Spelman's arguments and deemed gender realist positions counterproductive. To the contrary, Mikkola shows that Spelman's arguments do not in actual fact give good reason to reject gender realism in general. She then suggests a way to understand gender realism that does not have the adverse consequences feminist philosophers commonly think gender realist positions have.
Spelman has famously argued against gender realism (the view that women have some social feature in common that makes them women). Many feminist philosophers have accepted Spelman’s argument and gender realist positions are, generally speaking, rejected. I show that Spelman’s arguments are inadequate and do not give good reasons to reject gender realism per se. I also propose a gender realist position that makes use of David Armstrong’s work on complex universals.
It is always awkward when someone asks me informally what I’m working on and I answer that I’m trying to figure out what gender is. For outside a rather narrow segment of the academic world, the term ‘gender’ has come to function as the polite way to talk about the sexes. And one thing people feel pretty confident about is their knowledge of the difference between males and females. Males are those human beings with a range of familiar primary and (...) secondary sex characteristics, most important being the penis; females are those with a different set, most important being the vagina or, perhaps, the uterus. Enough said. Against this background, it isn’t clear what could be the point of an inquiry, especially a philosophical inquiry, into “what gender is”. (shrink)
It is a non-dogmatic philosophical treatment of a universally important area of human experience and is intended for a primary audience of all administrators, executives, managers, politicians and leaders, as well as those either aspiring to these ranks or engaged in a study of them.