Thursday, November 18, 2021

Best of 2021: Trans Philosophy

Trans Talk: Let’s Not Get Distracted By Philosophical Questions

Firstly, you can’t make the whole world agree with you anyway. It’s authoritarian to do so.

Adding Empiricism To The Trans Conversation

To be empirical is simply to be committed to the objective truth, and base our claims on observable evidence. In the empirical approach, observable evidence is taken to be the best representation of the truth. Empiricism is useful because it grounds our thinking in objective reality, and arguably protects us from sophistry.

The Philosophy Wars Over Trans Lives and Truth

What may surprise many people is that, the gender criticalists and the postmodernists actually share a fundamental worldview, that is, gender is a social construct created by the patriarchy to oppress women. In turn, this is a particular expression of the general critical theory worldview: that the ideas held to be true by most people are often a social construct to serve the oppressors of society.

Best of 2021: Trans Conversation

The Pointless, Dishonest Alliance of the Transphobic

On one hand, if the gender critical feminists win, there will be social changes much more radical than the longest and wildest trans rights wishlist. On the other hand, if the reactionary Right wins, they will turn the clock back so far for women that trans people would be the least of any feminist’s worry. In other words, gender critical feminists and the reactionary Right are essentially willing to enter a de-facto alliance with their worst enemies, the people who would destroy everything they hold dear, just to oppose 0.3% of the population!

Dave Chappelle and Free Speech: A Trans Woman’s View

Anyway, what I found most important about this episode is that, once again, some people are out to pit free speech and trans people against each other. It really feels like last year’s Harper’s Free Speech letter drama is being replayed all over again. It appears that, the people behind the cause of ‘cancel culture’ are finding trans people to be good fuel for their cause.

The Key to Winning Trans Rights

Today, I want to talk about an ugly truth: there is a trans moral panic out there. People are scared that trans people and trans issues are going to upset the order of society. It’s like how there was a major moral panic around gay marriage back when I was in college, which saw the majority of US states, as well as other Western countries like Australia, moving swiftly to ban gay marriage.
So how do we deal with the trans moral panic? I think it’s important to look at what causes moral panics.

Pronouns and Free Speech: A Trans Woman’s View

Free speech means that you are free to articulate any idea, in the free market of ideas. If you have read my other writing, you would know that I am a big defender of free speech. The way we take a stand for free speech is to be unafraid to voice our own beliefs, and hence take a meaningful stance, in the debate of ideas, even if unpopular. Deliberately refusing to use a trans person’s preferred pronouns is not this, however, because pronouns are not a debate of ideas, and no meaningful stance is actually being taken here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Best of 2021: Rethinking Sociology & Philosophy

The Real Problem with Repressive Tolerance by Herbert Marcuse

The conflation of liberation from oppression with liberation from Freudian repression in the work of Marcuse and others have had a long standing effect on the Theory Left, with the effect of wrongly assuming whatever is ‘repressive’, that is whatever requires emotional restraint, to be oppressive. However, this view is not only wrong, it is actually harmful to the cause of social justice.

The Antidote to Critical Theory: Consensus Theory and Empiricism

While conflict theory has dominated Western academic sociology in the past few decades, consensus theory was in fact the more dominant force before the 1960s. I think it’s time we revived the practice of consensus theory. I don’t mean to say that conflict theory has nothing to offer us. But what we have in Western sociology right now is a heavy imbalance, a very heavy tilt towards conflict theory, and this is making society sick. To cure society, we need to restore the balance. Conflict theory criticizes the current state of society, while consensus theory examines why things work when they work well, and what makes them work well. Conflict theory is good at finding fault, while consensus theory is good at appreciation. I certainly think the 21st century West could do well with a bit less finding fault and a bit more appreciation.

Why Gender Performativity Is Wrong and Anti Trans

Firstly, there is no evidence to support the idea that gender is a performance. In other words, this idea is not evidence-based, it has no observable evidence in the real world to clearly support it, and it is therefore incompatible with the spirit of empiricism. This is the problem with the ‘academic left’ in the late 20th and early 21st century West: a lot of their theories simply lack a solid foundation of observable evidence to back it up.

Best of 2021: On Free Speech

How to Defeat Cancel Culture and Save Free Speech

This is where elements of the free speech movement are basically kicking own goals all the time. They think they should ally with everyone who wants free speech for whatever reason, so they can get the biggest movement going. The fact that they aren’t selective about which people they consider allies, means that people who are dismissive of racism, or actively homophobic, for example, are welcomed into the tent. This, in turn, means that the free speech movement is discredited in the eyes of those who want social change.

Drawing The Line On Free Speech?

Going forward, I think we should stick to what has worked so far, and continue to use free speech and the free market of ideas to advance social justice. There is no need to re-draw the time honored classical liberal line on free speech. We never needed to do so to achieve the positive changes we have so far, and there is clearly no case to justify doing so going forward.

Cancel Culture is not a Myth!

The danger of half of the population not taking cancel culture seriously, is that cancel culture will win. There is no way we can defeat cancel culture without broad support and commitment from across the political spectrum.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Best of 2021: On Challenging Problematic Theories

A Justice Critique of Postmodernism, from a Psychological Perspective

Back in the 1950s, the psychologist Julian B. Rotter developed the idea that people could be placed on a spectrum of having an internal locus of control on one end, vs an external locus of control on the other end. People with an internal locus of control believed that they were in control of, and responsible for, the successes or failures in their lives, and Rotter observed that they had high achievement motivation. This, of course, is an essential ingredient for success in life, as well as a key factor in psychological health. This is why, if we want to be successful, we should aim to orientate ourselves to have an internal locus of control.
However, postmodern critical theories teach women and various minorities, including ethnic minorities and LGBT people alike, that their fate is being determined by an oppressive system that won’t let them succeed.

How the Theory Left Drove People to the Reactionary Right

Having read plenty of political history, and having reflected on the topic for some time, I have come to the conclusion that it all began in the late 1960s, when a faction of the Left turned away from the workers and towards intellectuals for their support. This became the critical theory-based New Left, which presented endless theory-based critiques of the existing society. Over time, the cultural changes arising from this theory-based Left led to a cascade of social effects, which steadily drove a substantial number of people towards hardline reactionary conservatism.

When Theory is Slavery

Anyway, the key point is, much of the Western Left today takes a theory-based approach to everything, and base their so-called progressivism on achieving the goals of their theory. They decide what is a good course of action, or what counts as success, not based on objective reality, not based on if the lives of people have actually been made better, but on their theoretical concerns. This, I think, is essentially being a slave to theory. Hence theory has actually become slavery, in the context of the 21st century Western Left.

Why Critical Theory & Echo Chambers are a Dangerous Combination

Of particular concern is the recent rise of postmodern critical theories, like critical race theory, critical gender theory and so on, and how these can exacerbate the echo chamber cognitive bias problem exponentially. Postmodern criticalism rejects the requirement of objectivity outright, and encourages the dangerous idea that each person can have ‘their own truth’. I’m concerned that people who have this worldview would be even less likely to keep their cognitive biases in check.

Best of 2021: On Social Justice

How To Avoid Another ‘Anti SJW’ Backlash

Let’s face it. The Anti-SJW movement was basically a backlash to the demands and tactics of the social justice activists at that time. Given that the backlash to certain social justice movements is still on the increase, there is real worry that there could be a much bigger backlash wave against all demands for progressive reform, in the not too distant future. Many people, including even moderate conservatives, are now truly worried that the pendulum would swing too hard the other way, leading to a period of severe reactionarism the likes we haven’t seen in the West for many decades. To prevent this outcome, I think we must study what has caused the backlash, and what needs to be done in order to calm it down.

How to End Racism Without Critical Race Theory

In conclusion, a cognitive based view of racism and discrimination in general demands an active approach towards ending racism, that requires equal commitment from everyone of us, regardless of race. It is much better than critical race theory, because it is evidence-based, it can improve things in a practical way without over-philosophizing the problem, and it can be practiced and applied regardless of anyone’s race, which makes it much less divisive, and hence more acceptable to many people.

Opposing Critical Race Theory Doesn’t Mean Ignoring Racism

Opposing critical race theory doesn’t mean ignoring racism. It doesn’t mean ignoring, or refusing to accurately teach, the role of racial oppression in the history of America, Canada, Australia, and other Western countries. It doesn’t mean ignoring the racial discrimination that still exists throughout the West today, or refusing to support the social change needed to end that discrimination. Opposing critical race theory (or other types of critical theory) merely means opposing a worldview that puts individuals into rigid ‘classes’ based on their immutable characteristics. And I believe that’s what’s actually needed to advance an anti-racist future.