I still am very interested in this question of an argument's being persuasive, as opposed to the quite separate question of its validity. I didn't find you persuasive when you spoke of murder, nor when you spoke of equality, but I do when you speak of faith. I suppose I could analyze that, but another time, perhaps.Blosser:
This is interesting. Since "faith" is usually divorced from rational content in the contemporary mind, this makes me wonder what "persuasive" means here. Of course I could be wrong in my assumption and, if so, I would wonder what (content) it is that you find persuasive. But in my current experience "faith" is usually associated by individuals with something like "sincerity" or "authenticity," which they seem to admire, but which has little if any identifiable rational content; and if that were the case I would wonder what "persuasive" means here. The only other possibility that comes to mind is that you didn't find my arguments "persuasive" because you disagreed with them, but then that doesn't reflect negatively on the soundness of the arguments but just only their cogency (or ability to persuade). Blaise Pascal (pictured left), of course, faced the same issue with traditional metaphysical arguments for God's existence, which he recognized to be impeccably sound but utterly ineffective, and therefore chose the approach of a "wager" that might appeal to the probability theories of his gambling buddies. Which makes me wonder what a similar strategy might look like in the abortion debate-- maybe an argument about how each of us is already up to our ears in gambling on the outcome of our choices, gambling that God won't be pissed off at the Last Judgment by our voting for a pro- abortion candidate, or whatever. Perhaps I'll have to think about that line of reasoning.Colleague:
The spectre of the anti-essentialist raises its savage head, finally. That's a term I have heard but am not real familiar with--it sounds like what one would get if one tried to go about reducing Lacan to something simple and practical and catch and generally applicable. The word must go back to the days before I started paying attention (or have come about since I stopped paying attention--that's possible, too.)Blosser:
The Greek term PHYSIS has a long history, just like OUSIA, and there have been those around, like the sophists, who refused to grant the existence of anything stable resembling 'natures' or 'essences' for a long time. So anti-essentialism is hardly anything new, though in its more recent forms (such as anti-foundationalism) it has a fairly short history from the late sixties in the Anglo-American philosophical academy, I suppose. I did find it interesting in the class you let me sit in on at the Taste Full Bean that you encouraged the class in your closing remarks to consider how Jacques Lacan (pictured left) might be applied or whether his thinking could be implimented in any practical ways. I'm still not quite sure what you may have had in mind by that invitation. I know several writers, like Julia Kristeva, who QUOTE Lacan in their work; but I can't help thinking you might mean something more than that.Colleague:
The gender thing, though, has to do with a person who was just a strong, athletic man until she had to submit to a chromosome test, which revealed an x chromosome. The claim was not that she has no essence but that it was scientifically impossible, or only unscientifically possible, to determine whether she is male or female. I suppose you could say that Lacan is an antiessentialist, since he, like Judith Butler and just about everyone else, wants not to think of one having a self, which would be one's essence.Blosser:
As I said in my remark about Buddhism, I find it interesting that Buddhism arrives at its ANATTA (or "non-self") doctrine by means of a kind of introspective phenomenological analysis of the empirical 'self,' which ends up dismantling any kind of Cartesian notion of an Ego Cogito. On a phenomenological level, I find this entirely compatible with the Christian notion that the self or soul is something unknowable in any self-subsistent way and can come to be known only indirectly or reflexively, as it were, as node or center of relationships with the world, with others, and with God. But I don't see how a moment that any of this leads to the conclusion that we have no self or soul. Why should we think that? The best discussion of this I've found is The Selfhood of the Human Person by the phenomenological personalist, John Crosby.Colleague:
But Fausto-Sterling's point about gender had to do with the very real inapplicability of labels. (At least, she says it's real.) This was a sort of macro-application of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle--you cannot reveal the truth of her sex but only determine it by choosing your criteria arbitrarily.Blosser:
I don't know much more about Heisenberg's uncertainty principle than the average non-physicist, I suppose. But I've always felt a bit uncertain (!) about the way in which such principles get applied outside the realm of physics by the laity. For example, I've seen Albert Einstein's Relativity Theory referenced in support of various spiecies (moral, metaphysical, epistemological, even religious) relativism, whereas I've always assumed that the whole theory hinged on the non-relativity of two ineluctable absolutes-- electromagnitism and gravity. But that's a mere detail.Colleague:
But tell me more about this spectre, the anti-essentialist. There are so many such spectres--two women this week have told me that they're not feminists because they think it's alright for a woman to be a stay-at-home mom. Find a feminist who doesn't! I mean, a real, living, breathing one, not the gothic hairy-armed beast in a gothic, undergraduate mind. Relativist is another spectre--have you ever met one of those? Someone who really believes as an article of faith that it depends how you look at it? (Fausto-Sterling, in the example cited, might seem to be one, but as she shows, it only "depends how you look at it" if male and female are somehow the only two possibilities. The athlete in question, she argues, is an intersexual. And I'm sure she goes in doors and looks out windows, same as us essentialists.) Deconstructionist--postmodernist--skeptic--nihilist--these are Halloween costumes. I'm not saying that all labels are, but that we have our list of ghosts we walking around talking about as if we've actually seen. Republican--that's different. I met one of those once.Blosser:
Ha! I thought I began hearing the strains of Dance Macabre some time ago ... I know how you like monsters and spectres. But these are your readings, not mine. You ask me to tell you more about "this spectre, the anti-essentialist." I find it much more interesting to talk about the nature of things, with Husserl, who used to say "Zu den Sachen selbst!" Why shouldn't we find our point of orientation in what is, rather than in what isn't, or in what seems capable of identifying itself only parasitically, reactionary-like, by way of opposition to any ostensible definition of what is? Who's to say, furthermore, that the shoe doesn't fit the other foot as well, if postmodernist recoils in horror from the spectre of the thing he hitherto thought harmlessly inanimate: "Aaaaaaaaaaaaah! It's ALIVE!"
Find you a feminist who doesn't think it's alright for a woman to be a stay-at-home mom? Sartre's mistress, Simone de Bouvoir (pictured left), for starters; and I don't recall any hairy arms in the video of the interview with her in our library.
Have I ever met a relativist? Well the more interesting question here might be whether anyone has met an absolutist-- these days, anyway. And I would define "relativism" more narrowly than the belief that it "depends how you look at it," which is quite compatible with absolutism or objectivism, in my opinion. I would define "relativism" as any view that denies the existence of any objective absolute that is not relative to time, place, or opinion. But even those are a dime a dozen. Allan Bloom writes in the opening paragraph of his book, The Closing of the American Mind, the only philosophy book I know of to make the New York Times bestseller list, "There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students' reaction: they will be uncomprehending. That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them, as though he were calling into question 2 + 2 = 4. These are things you don't think about." He wrote that in 1987.
And a Republican. Yeah, I suspect so. I remember Amy and I talking with the kids of the former LR dean of students at Wildacres this past spring, now with kids of their own. They were telling us how they weren't the least concerned about how their kids grew up, what influences they received in their schools, what sexual orientation they chose to embrace, etc., etc., etc. -- the quintessential picture of liberal urbanity-- with only one proviso: "provided they didn't become Republicans"! That -- ha-ha! -- seems to be one predictable absolute among a given cross-section of the population! Which does raise the question again about double-standards, doesn't it-- like Rousseau's insistence that he couldn't be expected to be "clear and consistent at the same time." But at least that has a certain charm about it, I suppose.