“Clump” theory Kant buy an abortion

Perhaps you’ve heard this feminist folly about a human embryo shrilly pronounced in defense of abortion: “It’s just a clump of cells!”

Well, I mean, so are you, dear feminist. If we assume a strictly materialistic and naturalistic account of human beings, each woman, whether pregnant or not, is also “just a clump of cells,” only bigger. Hence, why does a woman, as a clump of cells, have the right to terminate an embryo or a fetus, whom too are clumps of cells? Mere difference in size between “clumps” seems to be an arbitrary reason. For the naturalist and materialist advocate of abortion, the issue is not just how one gets the immaterial goodies of rights and value solely from the material cellular composition of bodies but also why only women-as-clumps (WAC) have them and the unborn-as-clumps (UAC) don’t, much to their lethal expense.

I will now consider some possible responses to these problems implicated by this “clump” theory:

A. WACs are rational beings; UACs are not.
Immanuel Kant famously held within one of his formulations of the categorical imperative that we ought never to treat rational beings only as means but as ends in themselves. So, in a Kantian deontological framework, the hurdle of human dignity and personhood must be overcome to justify abortion. Bifurcating between WAC as rational agents and UAC as non-rational agents accomplishes this as it allows the latter to be used solely as a means — in this sense, subjects to abortion — in service of the will of the former. Under this interpretation of Kant, UAC are not persons and thusly don’t possess rights, such as the universalizable right to life.

I see some troubles with this move:

  1.  It fails to take into account the potential for rationality that inheres within a freshly formed, normal human zygote, that, as being a member of the sort of natural kind that it is, if left unabated in the womb would likely further develop, be born and actualize that potential for rationality over time. This actualization of latent rationality has been, as a matter of common experience, if not scientific observation, readily justified a posteriori. Following from this, it’s arguable (as Bill Vallicella does here) that this inherent potentiality for rationality, “confers a right to life”and thereby Kantian personhood. Thus, treading on this right, as abortion certainly does, given this case, is a moral evil and violates Kant’s categorical imperative.Moreover, Vallicella also notes another issue to which I find myself concurring: The “post-natal,” the newly born, can’t be considered as rational agents. They are utterly helpless and dependent on adults to make judgments on their behalf. Several years must pass before they become apt for rationality and develop the cognitive faculties for reasoning, moral decision-making and the like to the extent they incur the mantle of rational agent. Yet, they are ascribed as persons and possessors of the right to life before all this occurs. This fact seems problematic for the proponent of abortion, especially given any time during pregnancy, say even in midst of labor, the pre-natal baby is still a “clump of cells” with no rights — as per the official platform of the Democrats — but somehow a second after birth becomes a person, fully fledged in inviolable dignity. Both the uterine wall and vaginal canal seem to be very thin membranes constituting the special threshold between personhood and non-personhood. But how and why? Why does the act of being born result in a sudden transformation in ontological status for the fetus-clump?
  2. Secondly, it errs in that Kant is neither a naturalist nor a materialist. Hence, it’s not at all obvious as to how his ethics are compatible with “clump” theory. This all goes back to the first part of the issue — how naturalists and materialists get the immaterial out of the purely material. They would have to provide a compelling materialist basis for rationality as well as value and goodness. These are challenging metaphysical and metaethical quagmires that go far beyond the scope here, and in my opinion, typical attempts at solving them are rife with difficulties. But once again, addressing those attempted solutions is not within the purview of this post.

B. UACs are inside of WACs, violating the latter’s bodily freedom to control their own inner physiological processes, thereby threatening their greater autonomy.
I believe there’s two ideas here: (A) There’s a right to control one’s bodily processes, and prohibiting abortion limits said right; (B) Given the nine months of physical and psychological demands of pregnancy and the years of responsibility caring for a new human person, unwanted fetuses hamper women from actualizing their aspirations, goals, desires and otherwise curtail their abilities to achieve economic and cultural parity with men. In other words, their autonomy — which literally means self-legislation — is diminished…

  1. …Or so the narrative goes. Implicit within A, there’s the assumption that the UAC don’t have the right to life, which is the matter of contention, and begs the question against the Pro-Life movement. It’s undoubtedly uncontroversial that people, regardless of sex, have the right to do with their individual bodies as they please. It’s also true that most everybody accepts there are legal and moral limits with what one can do with one’s meat suit. For instance, murder often involves using your body, whether it’s enacted with hands bare or wielding weapons, but both morally and legally, murder is an impermissible use of one’s body. Furthermore, it’s evident that abortion terminates life, i.e kills. So, once again why does the UAC’s size and location inside women’s wombs make abortion permissible and not murderous? A woman’s rights trump a fetus’ (that is if it’s even recognized as a person)? But that changes nothing, as both are clumps with only relative location and size differentiating the unborn from the woman. Isn’t it arbitrary to favor the woman, especially in lieu of  we often consider the innocent and defenseless — both of which the fetus instantiates — especially warranting special recognition and protection? Well, the fetus isn’t a person with rights. Yet, once more this begs the question against Pro-Lifers and takes us back to the post’s original dilemma about clumps.
  2. As for B, I don’t see how pregnancy impairs or — to borrow a currently infamous term — causes an “undue burden” on feminine autonomy. Women are CEOs, high-ranking government officials, academics, entertainers and all manner of active and successful contributors to society outside of the home. Taking away abortion as a last resort likely wouldn’t “relegate” the fairer sex to domestic servitude in the kitchens. With the mass accessibility of varieties of birth control, including abstinence, pregnancy can be forestalled, parenthood planned. Admittedly, everything doesn’t often occur as planned, but whose fault is that? If you play fast and loose and or gamble with the action that creates life, why should it be unjust that responsibility actually comes a’knocking to collect on that semen deposit with interest? Alas, this is the sort of moral dereliction and accompanying depravity that manifests when you sever freedom from personal responsibility.
  3. Lastly, how does A and B not violate Kant’s principle of universalizability? Is it not the case that aborting a fetus disrupts permanently its control of its bodily processes that grows more independent daily? Moreover, abortion doesn’t just ruin the UAC’s days. It rather definitively puts the kibosh on the greater future autonomy that belongs to the fetuses, many of whom are female. Thusly, A and B seem to be self-vitiating. There’s always the response UAC have no rights, but I hope it’s obvious now there’s a theme of begging the question and continual not moving past Go in such a such a retort.

See, abortion supporters who happen to be materialists and naturalists want morality and rights without invoking God, the supernatural or the transcendental. They love their Kantian dignity, autonomy and equality; that’s why I brought up der Alles-Zermalmer. Pity their precious social justice also faces pulverization but not from Kant. Their mores just are not very compliant to their preferred metaphysics. Atheism, let alone New Atheism, struggles to alchemize blood from this stone.

Clumps get in the way,

Modus Pownens


Confessions of a cis, straight, white, able Christian bigot of the patriarchy

My prompt. In the hope of facilitating better understanding in a lowish confrontational manner, what follows are the slightly tongue-in-cheek, slightly stern thoughts of someone on the other side of “social justice.”

  1. I too never have been on Tumblr. Sounds like a scary place where I would have my online head rended from my cyber shoulders and put on a pike as a prop for social justice selfies and other revels from the culture wars. I do have Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I’m pretty much comatose on them. With that said, I probably should revive myself and reconnect with some peeps from college I dearly miss.
  2. As a peer-proclaimed racist, sexist, homophobe, xenophobe, Islamophobe, transphobe, all-around horrible person, who’s among the worst of the worst — the proverbial villainous lord of social injustice to the gallant social justice warrior in the fairy tale narrative — I do find it insulting to be decried as the scourge of the earth. No one likes being the subject of slander. In accordance with my view, minorities are undoubtedly human beings worthy of respect. I just disagree with the self-appointed “experts” and their advocacy as to what’s truly best for these people’s participation in our democracy. Additionally, I emphatically disagree that everyone must comply by the dubious “wisdom” of these “enlightened” “visionaries” on these matters, especially from my perspective, after all the stupefying rhetoric is stripped away, the only reason to adhere to their dogmas precisely amounts to the triviality that they’re the ones who hold them, which of course is no legitimate reason at all.
  3. Every time I’m chastised for not being “respectful” but “hateful,” failing to “check my privilege,” not “treating others like humans,” i.e. not being politically correct (PC), I shrug. Sure, there is a small sting from being slandered, but that subsides.
    1. What remains after enduring a self-serving semantic cudgel is the absence of any real meaning in the epithet. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’mracist,” but so apparently are the Oscars, that Super Bowl Prius commercial, criticizing Cam Newton and Bing Crosby’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” There’s individual acts of racism like slurs, but also “institutional,” “structural” and “systemic” racism as well as “cultural oppression.” Yet, no effort is made from activists to distinguish between or define all these evils. We get it: Everything is racist from the bottom up; injustice is comprehensively sewn in the fabric of society. As a consequence, apart from the moral obtuseness of freaking out at perceived slights as “violence” normatively equivalent to the physical variety we usually associate with the word, all this overuse and linguistic stretching renders the term “racist” and others like it useless as descriptive labels of meaning. Instead, voided of semantic content, they have become merely prescriptive bludgeons of use, deployed to sabotage honest deliberation between disagreeing parties. As such, remedying injustice actually suffers because much of our civil lexicon is now defunct and non-descriptive. It doesn’t describe or indicate anything — perhaps expect one’s moral approval or disapproval of something — and if we can’t describe and accurately identify injustice, we can’t address it nor resolve issues birthed from it. “Bigotry/bigots,” “sexism/sexists” and “racism/racists” etc. are tokens of a very much valueless currency. As such, they are thrown as if business transactions have functionally devolved to individuals chucking coins, which no longer work like legal tender, as projectiles at one another. Sure, getting struck hurts, but the discomfort is minimal, while the act itself is an exercise in maximal puerility and futility. I strongly suspect this is the dysfunctional state of dialectical exchange in our “marketplace of ideas.”
    2. Abuse of these terms also anesthetizes people to more virulent and empirical injustices and problems, while demeaning those who had to and do suffer them. For example, you’re for same-sex marriage, but how does that exactly curb domestic violence, eating disorders and substance abuse for homosexuals? Likewise, is getting Dan Snyder to rename the Washington Redskins some type of silver bullet for ending alcoholism and widespread poverty in Native American communities? Moreover, deriding Israel as an “apartheid state” — it’s not, by the way, as Israeli Arabs are enfranchised and integrated citizens — degrades the experience of Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and other blacks who underwent Jim Crow, “separate but equal” and other similar-styled segregation in apartheid societies.
    3. Thusly, it’s amusing for me to see social justice warriors strut with a moral ascendancy and act as if observing PC orthodoxy is tantamount to “treating others as human beings.” Social justice analysis depends on categorizing people into groups or classes, fundamentally removing from them individuality and agency, phenomena that shouldn’t be flippantly dismissed from the human existential equation. Therefore, according to this framework, one is not a person able to forge his or her own path, bearing responsibility for one’s choices, but a victim or beneficiary of external deterministic forces beyond his or her control, nameless members in masses of blackness, whiteness, gayness, masculinity, femininity, etc. that are pitted against one another. One’s virtue in such conflicts is vicariously obtained from which group one is identified with. There are no complex individuals but statistics, urges or impulses. This seems like the dehumanization of people not the liberation thereof and all the while a perversion of the primary lesson of the civil rights movement: to be judged not by the content of one’s character but by the color of one’s skin or another superficial feature. Hence, as per 2, 3.1 and 3.2, social justice warrior confidence in their magnanimity seems to be largely unfounded and unearned. The views underlying it are just dubbed as “social justice,” and those who oppose their implementation are hastily ascribed as sociopaths. Calumny stemming from severe partiality for one’s own view hardly indicates foresight and rectitude but rather narcissistic shortsightedness and moral deficit.
  4. I agree that 7 billion people simultaneously can accomplish highly differentiated tasks of social importance. But it’s silly worrying about “privilege” — another term defined so broadly as to be useless and is only utilized to stigmatize any opposition, i.e. “check your privilege” — as morally more problematic than the actual empirical crises that defy mainstream media attention. It’s hard to see that demanding the removal of a bust of Thomas Jefferson from campus to combat white privilege and “cultural oppression,” for example, does anything to induce more black teenagers to graduate high school. Then why is this quixotic gesture a moral hill to die on? For mine eyes, it and other similar displays serve no greater purpose than further romancing a thoroughly inane cause, emotional masturbation for those delusional enough to believe in such grandstanding. Again, see 3.2.
  5. Neither am I a hippie nor an emotional wreck. I too have my issues, but I also try to be open-minded despite some of my polemics. I acknowledge that I’m ignorant on many subjects and concede the possibility I could be wrong in these matters. Ironically, I’m deemed emotionally stunted and psychoanalyzed as having irrational fears and prejudices for holding my views. It does not matter that I’ve tried to justify them with arguments — vehicles of reason and rationality. Historically, bigots tend not to attempt to reason with those they oppress and hate. They tend to sic dogs on or loose concussive torrents via firehose upon those they find subhuman.
  6. I must admit: I find trigger warnings to be the height of infantility. Pace our social justice warrior and her rather difficult-to-follow stream of conscious, they are not the equivalent to mere ratings of TV and film for a couple of reasons. Firstly, 18-year-olds, “adults” use them to censure both themselves and others in places like college where one is supposed to be exposed to ideas and worldviews that not only are different but perhaps are an anathema to one’s own sensibilities. Trigger warnings don’t preserve child-like innocence but perpetuate petulance instead of intellectual and emotional maturity. Secondly, trigger warnings are not stamped on truly inflammatory documents. Yes, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn feature slavery and “nigger,” but Twain’s classic is a literary case against slavery and racism. Likewise, Kant’s Critiques can be described as many things: A “Copernican” revolution, as I’m sure the sage of Koningsberg would have wanted, or boring to the typical philosophy undergrad. “Triggering,” however, is not among them and putting such a disclaimer on his work is asinine because Kant, who lived in the now extinct Prussia, could not abide by today’s PC categorical imperatives in his prose as he was blissfully unaware of them.
  7. On the contrary, I don’t hate anyone — even progressives with their benighted views — and I don’t feel any internal struggle to maintain such a demeanor. End of story. Though, as it’s very telling, this rant of a confession from my counterpart here really reads like psychological projection. For instance, on anti-feminists: “…it’s like they’re trying to be social pariah. Like, seriously. MRAs? Let’s insult as many people as possible and see how long it takes everybody to realise we’re nothing more than a hate group.” Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a men’s rights activist, as the justification behind the notion that men are really the oppressed ones uses just the same sort of broken analysis radical feminists rely upon, legitimizing the toxic methodology, yet the movement is the inevitable backlash to the type of intolerance so described. In other words, modern feminism, take a hard look in the mirror.
  8. Yes, I too have biases, but speaking for my bigoted self, I would never start from the assumption that, as a theist and social conservative, I’m predisposed against atheists qua atheists, feminists qua feminists or even social justice warriors qua social justice warriors, etc. Rather, I’m partial against atheism as a metaphysical position and feminism and other ideologies for “social justice” as philosophies and political movements. Obviously, there is a critical difference between the person and the view. So, I find it striking that this distinction seemingly is nonexistent for our social crusader here. As a professed atheist, feminist, LGBT activist, she is not biased against forms of theism, anti-feminism and traditional opinions on sexuality but against theists and those who are critical of feminism and have traditional view of sexuality. Her opposition is against people not positions. She does not distinguish between the two and cannot help but personalize things which are fundamentally not persons. Also note, she frames one debate as being only between two poles — feminists and non-feminists; there is no third option. Furthermore, she admits to wrestling with hatred against those she disagrees with and expresses what seemingly is irrational prejudice against heterosexuals. Again, all this is very telling, and thusly, I have reservations that she is fully aware of her bias. Now, how much of this Freudian slip is her being quirky with her writing? I don’t know, as much of what follows is rambling, but it’s in contrast to her proclamation of being “too logical.” One thing is for certain: These confessions, like many social justice manifestos, belie incoherence.
  9. I will “check my privilege” just as soon as social justice warriors “check their privilege” — the freedom to slander people without the fear or reality of suffering the social reproach it warrants. As per 3.1 and 4, this phrase is meaningless as it isn’t a description but a moral condemnation intent on beating possible ideological dissidents into line. Pray tell, should the black teenager living with two married parents check that privilege for the sake of the other 70% that don’t? Should said teenager prostrate him or herself in self-flagellation to the white trash, trailer park kid growing up with a single mother? After all, coming from an intact home is one of the most reliable metrics of individual success and financial independence.
    1. This term spurs further questions: How exactly does privilege or lack thereof confer de facto moral inferiority or superiority to such a person being who that person is? How is this is-ought gap crossed? Why should being white make me feel guilty? How is this blatant racist attitude justified? We’re equal, yes, in metaphysical worth, but variously unequal in physical and material terms. Naturally, some people are tall. Some are short. Many are average in height. Some are good-looking; some are ugly, but most people find mates. A few are rich; more are poor, but there’s also many who fall in between. There are the smart, the average and the gratuitously stupid. Each person is a composition of a myriad of these type of traits and can’t be merely reduced to a couple of them for accurate character evaluation. Anyway, I think you’re getting what I’m digging at. The concept of privilege, as referring to any unearned benefit from being who one is, is found to be so commonplace, so trivial, it describes nothing in particular, while the particulars its theorists do fixate on, e.g. sex, gender, skin color, weight, sexual orientation, etc., are too few and often too superficial to provide a comprehensive explanation as to why person A is well off while person B isn’t. Privilege is therefore descriptively useless. All that’s left is for it be another semantic bludgeon, but it remains very much a mystery to me as to why there should be any normative weight behind its swing.
  10. Of course we should avoid being hurtful and unnecessarily offending people. However, the problem is subjective grievance has become the basis of allocating millions of tax payer dollars at universities and making broad policy decisions for us all. The personal has become public. So, while we ought be courteous in our individual interactions, and I don’t doubt that social justice warriors nurse genuine hurt feelings, these aren’t nearly sufficient as reasons to cater to their large-scale demands. If they really want to have a conversation about race, the alleged patriarchy and such, they need substantially to invoke something more objective than anecdotal personal experience and outrage to change the world for the better. But if my above thoughts haven’t made it evident, I believe them to be incapable of the task. It’s not so much that I’m not unwilling to consider their case for “social justice,” but that I already have, and it frankly sucks.

Ah, it feels good to clear my conscious,

Modus Pownens

What is it like to be batshit crazy?: Nagel, qualia versus “Caitlyn” Jenner, transgenderism

Oh, boy–I mean oh, cisgender boy, behold the “T” in LGBTQ: transgenderism. It has become an especially prominent starlet of late thanks to the transformation of Bruce Jenner into “Caitlyn” Jenner. So, you know I’m about to put my hands on something I shouldn’t, the inviolate, the politically correct. As my saucy title illustrates, I relish tackling one of the Left’s sacred cows, but “tackling” is not the appropriate verbiage (I’m all about propriety when it comes to suitable word choice). Rather, I’m about to butcher the blessed bovine.

Before we can enjoy steak though, the proper niceties of a token disclaimer are to be observed in order for them to be sequentially disregarded by any rabid progressive nincompoops (Yeah, I said it!) who only see the world via outrage. Oh, and I probably should begin by explaining that naughty and meanspirited marquee offending Lady Social Justice from above.

In addition to all its key words and proper nouns primed for search engine optimization, the profanity works as crude click bait (After all, hasn’t it taken you this far, dear reader?). Granted, it’s a bat pun — a philosophical one at that — but if the average social justice warrior can’t understand a little provocative crassness in the solicitation of readers, well, I suppose it’s too late to issue a “Trigger Warning,” huh?

Frankly, I can’t help but despise political correctness. However, I do not hate transgender people, at least not in any accurate sense of the word that remains unmolested from the Orwellian manipulations of those who have already mauled the adjective by which they pharisaically and erroneously identify as — “tolerant.”

Really. Compare my obscenity with the sort of “polite” hospitality conservative writer Ben Shapiro faced — and not just from Robert Tur (“Zoey”), as what followed after 05:35 from everyone else made abundantly lucid — for dissenting from progressive groupthink. Whose transgressions surrounding this issue here are honestly more reprehensible and actually hateful?

Now, with such thuggish machismo displays out of the way, let’s give a brief account of transgenderism. By definition on Wikipedia, transgender “the state of one’s gender identity or gender expression not matching one’s assigned sex at birth

“Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender roles, but combines or moves between these.”[2]

I found the use of “assigned birth” rather question-begging of a radical position that is expressed on related transgender Wikipedia pages that “xx” and “xy” chromosomes and the broad sexual categories of male and female are social constructs and don’t reflect the empirical realities of sex variation found in humans. I’m not going to deal with such a position here.

Anyway, there typically is a critical distinction made between sex and gender, with gender notions of masculinity and femininity being socially constructed, while sex is determined by biology. For example, the color blue is associated with boys, while pink is girly and has cooties or something like that; at least I never liked it, you know, ‘cuz I’m a dude. I’m biologically male, but my reaction/rejection of pink is and was informed by cultural norms surrounding masculinity and femininity in youth.

Hence, the argument is made that there is no essence to masculinity and femininity outside of the changing attitudes of societies and people. At best, they’re subjective guidelines that can tested, bent and broken to the point that self-identification, i.e., personal whim, dictates an individual’s gender. If you’re born with he-parts, but believe yourself to be a she, then you’re a she, according to a traditional advocate for transgenderism.

The problem, however, is that what’s fundamentally subjective for a tiny, tiny minority — their wills — is a hard sell to impose on the whole of the body politic as public policy. So, current supporters of the movement, searching for an objective basis to advance their cause, have resorted to an oldie but a goodie from the gay activist playbook. Transgendered people are now “born that way.” In the mainstream, transgenderism suddenly has roots in the biological sciences, don’t ya know?

At The Public Discourse, for instance, Jennifer Gruenke claims:

“there are good scientific reasons for supposing that subjective experience of gender can legitimately diverge from the sex of one’s reproductive organs…, show(ing) that developmental biology demonstrates that there are multiple pathways of sexual development, that one of those pathways is in the brain, and that the pathways of sexual development can diverge from one another.”

Likewise, at Ethika Politika, Christopher Damian refers to chimerism, vanishing twin syndrome, unclear genitalia, contrasting levels of hormones, etc.

Nevermind that previously a clear demarcation had been struck between the social (gender) and the biological (sex), where the fact a person had a penis and testes had no sway in mandating one’s gender if said person wanted to identify as a woman. Well, intellectual honesty and logical consistency for the mainstream Left be damned! What the sociologists tore asunder so that no bigot could join in protest, let the neurologists and geneticists hastily mate together in blissful union, as we have a world of hearts and minds to conquer— er, change.

Also, nevermind that the phenomena Gruenke, Damian and others are bringing up are rare and varied medical cases. That, they are exceptions to the highly successful and overwhelmingly common results of biological reproduction that helped us become the dominant species on the planet. Prior to his assault on Shapiro, Tur mentions Klinefelter Syndrome, the condition of a male having two or more “x” chromosomes, which approximately occurs 1:500 to 1:1,000 male live births at its most frequent. Compared to CAIS (Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome), which affects an estimated 2 to 5 per 100,000 individuals, Klinefelter Syndrome is rather regular.

Moreover, if the word “syndrome” is any indication, these happenings are abnormal and aren’t considered typical of a functionally biologically healthy person. So, how these conditions can be used to justify or normalize gender dysphoria and its behavioral transitioning between male and female as copacetic like being left-handed is beyond me.

What all this amounts to is obfuscation, scientifically, as explained above, and metaphysically, as properties, which are known as accidents from my Aristotelian-sympathetic perspective, are not identical to essences but flow from them. Their failure to manifest in contrast to what’s regular or average, such as dogs having three legs instead of four or a man suffering from Klinefelter Syndrome, does not show that the essences of doghood and manhood are not what they are purported to be nor does it demonstrate that essences don’t exist at all.

What this explanation via science, as argued by transgender advocates, does, however, metaphysically demonstrate is a sort of presupposed determinism about social behavior like gender identification and a physicalism that underlies it all. In other words, the social is ultimately reducible to physical biochemistry and physiology and thereby explainable by it as well. Therefore, those feelings and thoughts of anxiety about really being a woman trapped in a man’s body can be completely accounted for via genetics, hormones and neurology.

Now, such a view is batty. Enter Thomas Nagel and his famous essay, “What is it like to be a bat?“. Here, Nagel draws a pivotal distinction in regard to experience, referring between its inherent subjectivity and attempts at equating it in objective physical terms, i.e, purely material or physical accounts of the mind. He writes:

It is impossible to exclude the phenomenological features of experience from a reduction in the same way that one excludes the phenomenal features of an ordinary substance from a physical or chemical reduction of it—namely, by explaining them as effects on the minds of human observers(4). If physicalism is to be defended, the phenomenological features must themselves be given a physical account. But when we examine their subjective character it seems that such a result is impossible. The reason is that every subjective phenomenon is essentially connected with a single point of view, and it seems inevitable that an objective, physical theory will abandon that point of view (2004, p. 2).

What Nagel means here is that the conscious mental states animals and persons have in life, the subjectivity embedded within instances of conscious experience, which are known as qualia, by their nature, remain elusive and indescribable by objective, external means. In other words, what’s experienced in the first person cannot be completely understood via third person methodologies, including empirical investigation.

That isn’t to say science has nothing to tell us about, to borrow from Nagel’s example, a bat echolocating, e.g., how it’s done, what sort of pitches or noises the bat makes, its range of effectiveness, etc., but that it remains incapable of translating for us what it is really like to echolocate as a bat; or as encapsulated by Nagel’s pithy and eponymous phrase, what is it like to be a bat?.

Then, circling back to transgenderism, all this poses the question, what is it like to be a woman? Or, inversely, what is it like to be a man? According to transgenderism, someone like the feminine “Caitlyn” Jenner, who, when he identified as the male “Bruce” Jenner, had access to the inner knowledge of what it was like to be a woman. Yet, given Nagel’s argument, this seems impossible. What is it like to be a woman can only be fully appreciated from the subjective experience of growing up as a girl and living as a woman, and Jenner’s understanding of the femininity he apparently identifies with was learned from his male, third-person perspective of it. So, it is utter rubbish to say that a man is indeed a woman because he feels like he’s a woman, and no amount of pointing to brain scans and the like makes such a claim any more intelligible.

The Federalist‘s D.C. McAllister astutely targets the same problem while candidly sharing some personal details about her childhood and her psychological development into a woman. She recounts the indignity of “the trials of growing up as a girl, of longing to be a beautiful woman”:

My development was particularly humiliating. While all my friends had developed nice, full breasts early, my boyish looks held fast—until the little buds began to grow in middle school. The thing was, with me, they didn’t exactly grow evenly. The right one developed before the left one. I was painfully self-conscious about it, and would wrap myself with tape when my mom had me wear a fitted shirt. Not knowing much about such things, I became convinced something was terribly wrong with me and that I probably had breast cancer…

…he (Bruce) will never know what it’s like to wait expectantly for that first period…Then…the magic happened. My heart raced, and my face flushed. I was so relieved, so happy. I was finally a woman like my friends. I wasn’t destined to be a freak like I was afraid I’d become…

…That early delight faded pretty quickly as the pain and drudgery of menstruation set in. I had heavy flows, cramps, and lots of accidents. The worst was in ninth grade, when I was sitting beside a boy I liked at school. It was an extended class because we were testing that day. I was wearing blue slacks and had lost count of my days between periods. As I sat there, pink-cheeked and stealing glances at the boy next to me, I felt that sudden warm flow, and knew I had to get to the bathroom. I raised my hand, and the teacher excused me.

When I got there, I realized I had leaked all the way through. Thankfully, my mom worked at the school, and she went home to get me a change of clothes. When I returned to the classroom and approached my seat, I looked down in horror to see blood smeared on it, now dry and browning. The girl who sat behind me snickered, and the boy wouldn’t look at me. I considered that a kindness. I sat down and tried to clean it off with my palms. I never looked at that boy the same way again.

Jenner won’t have to endure such humiliations. He’ll never know what it’s like to be a girl, to bravely face the realities, not the fantasies, of nature.

I think McAllister has made the point both graphically and rather eloquently, but I’d like to pile on a bit. For example, what about being the victim of sexism that feminist harpies like to harp on about. Surely, every woman knows what it’s like to be a woman living in man’s patriarchal world: The catcalls, you’re worth and success judged by your sex appeal, etc. I mean, it’s not like Jenner has been objectified like Alex Morgan of the women’s US national soccer team has been — as in posing for Sports Illustrated for ogling — prior to accomplishing great athletic feats like winning the Women’s World Cup, or in Jenner’s case, winning the men’s Olympic Decathlon. On the contrary, he’s been primarily valued for his achievements and not his looks, while Erin Andrews is more renowned for her fetching appearance, not her skills as a sideline reporter. Moreover, pregnancy, birth, menopause and a life growing up acknowledging and mentally preparing for these realities that most women face, are all phenomena of which “Caitlyn” Jenner is also intimately familiar, right?

On the flipside, for any woman “transitioning” to become a man, it’s also impossible for them to know what it’s phenomenally like to be manly. Like the experience of getting racked in the nuts: The pain, the tears streaming down the eyes, the sudden drop before rolling on the floor and the all the guys present howling with laughter while simultaneously offering solutions to assuage the discomfort like lying on your back and humping the air. Nor do they really have any clue what it’s like to have sexual thoughts and desires always lurking in the back of your mind like a shark, all day, every day. What’s that oft-cited statistic that men think about sex every 7 or 15 seconds? Or the what it’s like to have your first erection, fathering a child, etc., and how these experiences formulate the male psyche.

Admittedly, even all these relayed examples are still impoverished third-person accounts and fail to capture the richness of what it is like be a man or a woman. Yet, I think they do invoke the right kind of memories to “get” what I’m driving at.

All these qualia or these types of exclusively male and female subjective moments are necessarily elusive to the transgendered individual claiming to be a member of a club that requires this similarly shared, personal life experience to gain entry. Whatever is Jenner’s notion of what it means or feels to be a woman, it was inspired by a third-person, objective conception as created by culture like that found in TV, music and other forms of media — which are notorious for being littered with false and or misleading stereotypes; so the cues aren’t very accurate — and was unequivocally influenced by his perception of femininity while being a man. Hence, at best, transgendered individuals like Jenner can and only do is approximate their chosen gender based on unauthentic and corrupted experiential inputs. The facsimiles constructed from the best fake breasts, prosthetic penises, makeup, plastic surgery still fall incredibly short, as phenomenally, something inherent to being either male or female is very much missing.

So yes, thanks to Nagel, we have a good reason to not only suspect that transgender individuals actually can’t really be men or women in the wrong bodies but also that scientific justification for such a misconceived phenomenological event is also hokum. And with the latter conclusion, it’s not that the explanation is false. In “What is it like to be a bat?,” Nagel refuses to rule out physicalism as such. His critique is actually more withering, arguing we can’t claim it as false because currently we don’t actually have a comprehensible understanding of what it means when the physicalist asserts that the mind is exhausted by the brain and its accompanying physiology. It’s gibberish. Likewise, to assume as Gruenke does, that the feelings of gender dysphoria, i.e. qualia or conscious subjective experience, is at bottom just a chunk of grey matter composed of synapses and can be neurologically detected as such is also sheer nonsense.

Let me be forthcoming: I don’t argue this thesis to be mean or demean the struggles of transgendered people. Rather, I seek to savagely discredit those ideologues who, in my perspective, demand that we all indulge in the mass delusion of the emperor wearing the empress’s clothes and vice versa.

Therefore, with this in mind, we should empathize and look for real solutions for those afflicted with such psychoses instead of those false ones pushed by dogmatists hellbent on imposing their views on the rest of us at both the transgendered’s and our expense.

Now, wouldn’t that be something?

Modus Pownens

Unmanicured talons: Feminism’s mysoginistic outrage at anti-rape nail polish

Sometimes, the reasoning of feminists bamboozles me. Take this response to an innovative nail polish whose wearer can test her drink for date rape drugs in her drink by dipping her finger into the beverage. The nail polish changes color to alert a targeted women of the intentions of the devil grinning at her. Oh, but the precautionary genius of this product is lost on those who presumably should be its loudest supporters.

Yep, feminists argue unconvincingly that this nail polish is a well intended but bad idea. They posit that it limits the behavior of women and to curtail one’s actions means the fear of rape is controlling their lives, according to Rebecca Nagle, a co-director of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture. Alexandra Brodsky, a co-founder of Know Your IX, a group working to address campus sexual assault, and The Guardian‘s Jessica Valenti say this product can actually end up fueling victim blaming. Women who don’t use the product could open themselves up to criticism with the onus of culpability falling on them. ThinkProgress’ Tara Culp-Ressler also laments:

Women are already expected to work hard to prevent themselves from becoming the victims of sexual assault. They’re told to avoid wearing revealing clothing, travel in groups, make sure they don’t get too drunk, and always keep a close eye on their drink. Now, remembering to put on anti-rape nail polish and discreetly slip a finger into each drink might be added to that ever-growing checklist — something that actually reinforces a pervasive rape culture in our society.

And here are my favorites. Salon’s Jenny Kutner asks, “Is this really a market we should continue to applaud entrepreneurs’ (notably male ones) tapping into? Or might these resources be better allocated trying to teach people not to rape?” Elizabeth Plank, writing for .Mic,  makes “teach men not to rape” her first prescription on her list of 11 ways to solve rape better than nail polish.

Talk about sexism! So let’s nip this one in the butt first: Not all men are rapists. This “teach men not to rape” platitude implies all men are so vulnerable to our own sexual desires that we can’t help but rape, kind of like a pet that needs to be housebroken. Furthermore, Plank extols the Indian prime minister who said:

In every home, parents ask daughters lots of questions as to where she is going, when will she return, and ask her to inform them when she reaches her destination.

But have you ever asked your son where he is going, why is he going and who are his friends? After all, the person committing the rape is also someone’s son.

All men are seemingly presumed guilty of being a rapist before committing the qualifying act. This isn’t to say that men shouldn’t be educated on consent and sexual assault. They should! But Plank really doesn’t never makes this distinction between the need to inform or indict men. Instead, she and her feminist sisters come off extremely patronizing and — dare I say? — paternal. If this isn’t obviously offensive, how about I spew that we should “teach women not to sleep around” and as a woman, see if you don’t take umbrage.

Furthermore, “teach” is a poor word here not just because it conveys prejudice, but because it actually doesn’t correctly characterize the heinous act. “Rape culture” is similarly another misappropriated term on this issue. Simply, they aren’t authoritative enough and as such, don’t accurately identify what rape is, and this has actually hindered the feminist cause. Rape is not something that can be unlearned or taught not to do. It’s not like an error in etiquette, even an extremely grievous one. This is too generous to the bastards who rape. Likewise, whether there is a “rape culture” is irrelevant. Culture is a descriptive term and lacks normativity. Any discussion about stopping rape must be situated with the language that treats rape for what it is: an act of unmitigated, objective evil. This talk about teaching men to not be slaves to their carnal passions in an effort to change the rape culture endemic on college campuses is not framing the debate seriously enough. It understates the problem so completely, there is now a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s at issue, thereby directing the wrong sort of attitudes and actions against it, say I don’t know, like being feverishly opposed to a nail polish that can doubles as date-rape drug detector to protect women. This mischaracterization has been disastrous for women (more on this later).

The reason for this failure, I believe, is indicative of the moral presuppositions and sympathies that belie many feminists’ rage against rape. Most likely they’re believers in the moral relativism and emotivism rampant in Western society. And as Alastair Macintyre notes in his seminal work After Virtue, this inculcation has led to the breakdown of the moral argument and disagreement in Western civilization, which in turn has rendered true civil and political discourse on issues — take rape, for example — impossible. This truth, as important as it is, warrants tackling at another time.

Philosophy aside, as rape is blatant evil, its perpetrators can’t be reasoned with or persuaded. Men can’t be trained or conditioned in order for rape to disappear. It makes as much sense as outlawing murder on the basis it’s curable. You might as well just shoot down the moon. It’s delusional wishful thinking of a utopia that doesn’t exist. However, evil does, and…


Precisely, and the manner in which feminists deal with it is to pretend shit doesn’t happen, and that matters because they advise against exercising caution in the face of a very real threat. They assert that nail polish, self-defense classes and pepper spray don’t stop rape wholesale, but this is based on a misguided assumption that they are supposed to. Just like seat belts aren’t supposed to end all car accident deaths, the nail polish isn’t intended to cease rape forever and always. It’s designed to prevent a specific scenario where a woman is drugged. Hence, accusing the nail polish for it not being the master solution to the problem is a critical misfire.

I suspect feminists will object that welcoming the nail polish puts the culpability on the woman and enforces the victim stigma associated with rape. It permits a phrase like “if only you wore your nail polish.” First off, it is disconcerting and unacceptable for anyone to chastise someone for being the victim of evil. I’m actually deeply saddened by the existence of such a taboo. I repeat: Such behavior is unacceptable. However, equally inadmissible is the notion women should not take steps to protect themselves under the guise of feminine empowerment. This is the fault of feminists like Nagle, Brodsky, Valenti, Culp-Ressler, Kutner and Plank.

Perhaps the graver sin is that their brand of feminism has been a catastrophe. Sure, when it came to getting women in the workforce, feminism has been a positive force for change. But when it comes to sexuality, undoubtedly the whole social movement has been an abysmal failure. Liberal attitudes towards sex have not been the so-called liberator they were supposed to be; women are still sexual objects and not people, more so than ever, I believe. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have this twice a day on Sports Illustrated’s website. Or this. Or magazines and other forms of mass media that subliminally bombard girls, women and men that to be feminine is to look and act like this.

Is it any wonder we have a rape epidemic on our hands? As Plank notes, “men will confess to the act of rape as long as you don’t use the word ‘rapist’… you end up with a lot of them volunteering the information that they have [sexual assaulted], without realizing that this counts as rape.” You’ve trivialized sex to the point where the moral inhibitions involved also are reduced. This isn’t to make to make an excuse for boys who lack the self-control to be men or anyone who has committed sexual assault. However, it’s still true feminists helped facilitate this “rape culture” crisis they harp about. Sure, men have ignited the fire, but the feminism that encourages women to be promiscuous no matter the cost gathered the tinder.

What is deplorable is that feminists perpetuate the myth that recreational sex is a negative liberty. That, women have a right to sleep with whomever they want, whenever they want, in whatever circumstances. And any inkling of personal responsibility, even in the cause of reasonable concern about safety, is viewed as an infringement on this “pursuit of happiness.” Mind you, it’s a hedonistic, self-destructive chase that increases the probability that it ends in, well, go ask many of the alleged 20 percent of women on college campuses. Anyway, why else would they be in such a tizzy about something as useful as that resourceful little nail polish? That obstinance in spite of reality, my female friends who bothered to read to the end, is misogyny. And it’s been costly.

Happy mani-pedi day,

Modus Pownens