Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wittgenstein and Transgenderism

1. What is it to be a man? We are constantly having to remind ourselves not to look at the subjective sense of the word, but at how we would say of someone else that he is a male.

2. Is it possible to be in error about this sort of thing? If I happened to say I were woman, that would be wrong.

3. If someone who appeared to be a woman insisted she were a man, what difference would it make? Perhaps she goes into the men's restroom. Of course, then the sign "Men's" would no longer function as it used to--the sign would have changed.

4. Suppose someone who appears to be a woman to me comes and tells me that she is a man. Under one use of the word, the one we are accustomed to using with infants, she is wrong. How would I convince her? I would explain, "No, you must not understand what you are saying, that word only applies in a context like..."

5. What do we do when we disagree about what a word means (how it is to be used)?

4. When the use of a word changes, the concepts associated with it shift, as it were, and we have trouble matching up what was said before with what is said after.

6. The words "man" and "woman" as they are used by those who affirm the possibility of transgenderism being, at worst, neutral, seem to be subjective terms, like "believe" and "pain". How do I know someone else is transgender? Perhaps there are indications--he acts like a woman. Of course, this requires us to agree on what it is to "act like a woman".

7. Suppose there is nothing it necessarily is to be a man or a woman. Then have these words lost all sense? What difference would it make, then, whether I were a man or a woman? Which bathroom I use? But then I should change whether I was a man or woman simply by changing which bathroom I used. And if we were to do away with the distinction between the restrooms and locker rooms and such...?

8. Why is it that a man who claims to be a woman wants to change his appearance to fit with what we think of women as looking like? Is that what it is to be a woman? But he didn't look like that when said he already was one.

9. If I were to wake up one morning to find I was a fully functional woman physically, would I be a woman? Well, that's how I use the word, and others, too, would be inclined to say "he's turned into a woman!"

10. If there is a particular way of using "man" then there are also a whole host of ways to misuse it. In the new way of using it, what would count as misusing it? If I were to tell someone they were a man, and they claimed otherwise, would I be misusing the word? Then no one can lie about whether they are a man or a woman?

11. I fill out a form which asks about my gender: male/female. At the end of the form, I sign, saying the information in the form is complete and correct to the best of my knowledge. To sign there, does it matter how I answered the gender question? Suppose that were the only question on the form. Then what sense would signing there make? Perhaps I am saying that this is how I normally answer, but why couldn't I be male one day and female on another (according to this new use of the words)?

12. I am giving testimony in court and I say "I saw a woman walk out of the store..." I later learn that she calls herself a man. If the court is now looking for a woman, because of my testimony, will they have trouble finding her? No...

13. Suppose the opposite case happens: I meet the woman and find out that she calls herself a man. I then testify that I met a man... What will they look for now? Someone who identifies as a man? (Perhaps I ought to say "I met someone who claims to be a man, but looks like women tend to look")

14. A burglar discovers he has been described to the police as "a man". He is approached by a detective, "excuse me, but you match this description of a man who burgled the bank last Tuesday" "Oh, that can't be, I'm a woman!" So do the terms "man" and "woman" no longer say anything about the appearance? Should the detective assume the description was just a bit off, or should he keep looking for someone who identifies as a man? Suppose he only has a warrant to arrest the culprit under the description of being a man, then can he arrest the burglar who calls himself a woman?

15. Perhaps we may say that someone is a man, even if he identifies as a woman, but then if he says otherwise we must change. But then, of course, to avoid being wrong we must great every new acquaintance with "Hello, my name is B. B., I'm a man, and you are...?" and the other person will respond in kind. But all this has to do with is what pronouns I use with this other person, and which restrooms, etc., we each use. It can have nothing to do with how I respond to her, according to our new language.

16. If I wish to refer to someone I saw, should I say that she looks like women tend to look? Or may I still say that she was a woman? If I must expand it in this way, perhaps we ought to come up with a shorter collocation.

17. I always think ideas are fishy when they imply odd collocations. "Never say that someone is a woman until you have asked what he or she would like to be called" sounds an awfully lot like "never say 'I know...' only, 'I believe quite strongly...'" or "Always say the qualification 'x'".

18. Someone acts very strangely. May we not say that he has a mental illness until we have determined precisely what is wrong? We may, of course, be wrong.

19. Suppose someone said "If only I looked like a woman instead of a man, then everything would be better!" Well, what would they have done a century or two ago? Surely something could be done about the problem even then, and yet they could not have changed their appearance so thoroughly.

20. If someone says "Thank goodness I live in the 21st century, those medievals were so much more helpless against the problems of life than we are!" then I know they have no perspective--and I doubt they understand what the problems of life really are. (Chronological Snobbery).

21. Perhaps this is all irrelevant to how the language works now. But that requires that we detach--in our language--what we should do from what they should have done. Then I cannot say "The Christians should not have fought the crusades," since morality has, apparently, changed since then.

22. "It has not changed. It would have been good for them back then as well as us now, it is just that now we can" But why? Do we just know these things? Some morals may be embedded in our language, but not those we argue about.

23. "It is good to be true to oneself." Such a mess. What is it to be true to oneself?

24. I decide I feel more true to myself if I murder--does that justify murder?!

25. Our language has gotten so subjective over the past few years. How am I to argue with "I feel..."? What has "I feel..." have to do with it being so? They are miles apart (except in certain cases).

26. How does a child learn the concept of "man" and "woman"? These days, it is hard to imagine. Either it must tie to behaviors or appearances, but our culture refuses to tie gender to either. "Away with stereotypes!" "Your body doesn't have to limit you!" What does, then?

27. Is it now possible to say "I am a martian" and be taken seriously? Why not? If I say I am a martian, what do you expect differently of me? That I am crazy? But not if I said "I am a woman." Why not?

28. We at least seem to agree that there is something it is to be a woman, and that it matters. But what is it supposed to be if it has nothing to do with the body (transgenderism) nor with behaviors (anti-stereotypists).

29. There are those who wish to remove all gendered speech. At least they're consistent. But could you be transgendered then? It would have to be expressed differently, and it would have even fewer implications then than it does now.

30. Watching things shift, one wants to ask what everyone means when they say these words.

31. "Well, you use them all the time. We mean the same as you do." No, you evidently use them quite differently.

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