Monday, May 8, 2017

Of Tuvel


So there's this issue, what has been referred to as the "Tuvel Controversy."

I link to a description of it above.

In a nutshell, if I've cracked the shell without splintering the nut, a philosophy professor in Tennessee argues in a recent paper that just as there is gender fluidity, transgenderism, as in the case of Bruce now Caitlyn Jenner, there ought by philosophical parity be racial fluidity, transracialism, as in the case of Rachel Dolezal. This has been caused massive and hysterical outrage and caused the journal in which the paper was published to write an abject letter of apology in which it vowed to reconsider its entire editorial policy.

I haven't read the article, the incendiary outrage against it or the apology, only a about them such as the below link.

But fwiiw, I have a quick thought about the notion of parity in the two cases.

I'd argue that in the case of transgenderism, there is an innate, intense, unnaturally suppressed if suppressed drive to identify one's self as the gender that is opposite to one's sex. My premises here are that this drive is a complicated mix of the genetic and psychological and that it turns on essential differences between male and female genders that also involve the blend of genetics and psychology. 

In the case of race, if one is wholly genetically one race or another, and the case of Dolezal assumes she was genetically white with some Indian ancestry as well, but with no Black ancestry, then I'd argue that there is no parity. The reason is that if, as I assume, gender involves some irreducible mix of the genetic and the psychological, then that irreducible mix makes it a different case than the case of race without a genetic basis for claiming to be of a different race. 

In another way of putting it, the physical or the genetic is a necessary condition of transgenderism and the absence of the physical or the genetic makes transracialism a different case and an impossibility: one cannot be what one is not.

Now what I say is only an immediate and slight stab, a nick, a cyber paper cut at best, at a complex subject and I can already imagine my meagre shot at a bit of an argument being overrun by counter examples, basic logic and by expertise in fields where I have none. I'd be happy to see and consider any of that.

But it is surely a sign of our times that, I assume, a well intended, written-in-good faith philosophical essay that makes a serious argument should be subject to the hysterical outrage that has been levelled against it and Professor Tuvel. I've read that a law prof, Brian Leiter, has said that she may have a claim for defamation for what has been said about her by some in response. 

I think there are a lot of sacred cows that need slaughtering.

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