the new chivalry and a defense of post modernism

June 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

Even while I often find myself disagreeing with her, I think Diana Davidson’s videos are excellent and she always offers up great food for thought.  This was my response to the above linked video:

The reason western society has embraced feminism is because it doesn’t actually challenge our ideas about gender but powerfully reenforces archaic and centuries old ideas we’ve always had.  Men are now and were always on the hook to prove they are the good guys, saviors of the damsels from the bad guys.  It’s just the new version of chivalry.

All that has changed is the set of requirements that men must meet in order to prove they are acceptable to women.  Now they adhere to some incoherent conception of “equality” whereas before they adhered to a far more coherent conception of their role as protector and provider.  To defer to women, their victimhood, the necessity of their equality socially and legally etc., is just the new way of paying deference to women in general.  To fail to do it makes you one of the shameful bad guys who women disapprove of rather than the prideful good guy who women approve of. I don’t think it’s really so complicated. It’s just chivalry 2.0.

The reason feminists don’t recognize this is because they’re idiots who never actually uprooted their own assumptions about gender, not in 40 years of “scholarship.” Susan Brownmiller thought her own sexuality was constructed by the patriarchy. If you reverse a lot of 3rd wave feminist arguments and conclusions, you’ll see that they actually rest on this unexamined assumption which they inherited from second wave feminism. It’s not “post modernism,” it’s just shitty scholarship and unimaginative analysis.

As far as Dennett’s critique of post modernism goes,  I hesitate to use the word “stupid,” but that’s pretty much what it is.  It’s based on a strawman argument.  There is no post modern critique which claims that there is no truth.  Post modernism attempts to account for how meaning is produced, it is not the contention that there is no possible meaning.  It’s the difference between what Kant called noumena, which is reality as it is, and phenomena, which is reality as it appears to human consciousness, or what is possible for us to know about it.

We know that reality is colored by the medium through which it reaches consciousness.  Consciousness, including our faculty of reason, itself is an evolutionary adaptation, so the bounds of human consciousness  –  meaning not only what we know but what is possible for us to know  –   are defined by whatever selection pressures shaped it.  We will see as much of reality as was required for us to go on procreating and surviving. In other words, we see appearance of the real as distinct from the real itself.

It’s the same way that we might say that an image of what is real will look different depending on the camera, film stock, codec, or lens that we used to record it  –  the medium is the message, or at the very least, one cannot be easily separated from the other.

These observations and questions are as old as philosophy, (literally, the Theaetetus asks these precise questions and it is 2500 years old) so to brand any attempt to ask them, or to reconsider the foundation of the philosophy of science, as “post modernism” and then to further link these questions to feminist assumptions that everything is culturally constructed is embarrassingly stupid and just flat out disingenuous.

Post modern critiques don’t assert that there is no truth which can be known, but only that we likely don’t know it and might not ever be able to know it.  There is nothing inherently left wing or feminist about any of this.

What does “distrust of truth” mean?  Because I’m pretty sure distrust of what we claim is the truth is the assumption of falsifiability, the fundamental assumption of skepticism, the rejection of which would lead us inexorably to religious faith and dogma.  There is no “The Truth” so far as science is concerned as it is practiced, there are only competing and falsifiable explanations for what is empirically verifiable, each of which has only lesser or greater degrees of explanatory power.

This is a relatively uncontroversial characterization of the current scientific method.  All theory is falsifiable or it is not by definition scientific.  Surely Mr. Dennett understands that much.  To bring this method of inquiry to questions of consciousness and to appraisals of the scientific method (or of historical interpretation) is just the logical conclusion of science itself and is, at any rate, demanded by the dictates of reason and rational inquiry.

As it turns out, scientists may actually have to go the “whole hog” if they want to uncover the truth, or Truth, of what it is that they’re studying. Where does quantum physics, for instance, go from here when it has to contend with a particle appearing to be in two places at once and when it can’t discern how a particle will behave when we aren’t looking at it?

If you don’t care about these epistemological questions, consider how important they are to gender.  It could be argued that the blue pill was really a Gettier problem, or, if you like, a Gettier problem in reverse:

Our experiences were contextualized in a particular way so that reality appeared to corroborate their contextualization and vice versa, thus we believed we had “knowledge” of the set of beliefs we now identify with the blue pill.  If we lived our whole lives as workhorses for solipsistic and manipulative children but none of us ever knew it or even suspected it, then we were never workhorses for solipsistic manipulative children.


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