Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thaddeus Russell's Postmodern Denial of Reality

Thaddeus seems to be making two, not very connected arguments.

1) The first is that the categories of man and woman are so flawed that they are essentially meaningless.

"I think the category of man becomes meaningless...Neither Andy Dick or Yoel Romero are trans people right? They are so different though, physically in every way but we put them both in this silly category called man, what does that mean anymore?"

Thaddeus seems to be playing a little philosophic game where he describes some general characteristic of the category of man, then points to exceptions or variances to conclude that the category is useless.

Of course in reality, the majority of things which humans categorize do not fit into neat little definitional boxes. Thaddeus points to the physical difference between Andy Dick and Yoel Romero as proof that the category of man is problematic. But if that sort of variance is enough of a standard to do away with a category then we would have to do away with a great number of other categories such as dogs (Pug vs great Dane), cats (House Cat vs Lion), birds (Penguin vs Eagle), and so on.

I'm guessing this little bit of sophistry is enough to confuse most people into compliance but Rogan does a good job of pushing back. This forces Thaddeus into his next argument:

2) We shouldn't apply categories to humans if they could be somehow harmful.

"I'm not saying we shouldn't categorize anything ever because we must do that to live in this world. What I am saying is we should probably stop applying certain categories to human beings in the ways we have done, because there are certain inventions, certain social constructs that do nothing but bad things, that do no good and they're only social constructs, like race and gender."

Similar to his first point, I think the application of this standard would lead to some really silly places. For instance, what about the category of obese people. Numerous studies have found that overweight people have a harder time getting a job, are less likely to get salary increases, have less friends and are more susceptible to mental health issue due to social rejection. As unfortunate as this is does this mean we should banish the recognition of weight when applied to humans?

The same thing could be said for the category of unattractive people. They face many of the same problems that obese people face. Does this mean we should no longer distinguishes between beautiful and unattractive people?

All of this seems completely unnecessary as Thaddeus' primary concerns seem to be that prescribed gender roles may restrict an individual from living the way they want to live. He seems to believe the best way to deal with this is to simply deny objective truths. But as history has shown, gender roles are fluid and changing. Society's views on gender (at least in the West) are far more open than they have been at any other time and are likely to continue moving in this direction. No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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