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August 02, 2006

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Meg

As someone who equated humanism with "unthinking misogyny" and had the audacity to imply that all or most feminists oppose humanism ["I recognize that humanism has historically been opposed by feminists precisely for its unthinking misogyny"] may I sue Matthew for libel on behalf of all humanists and/or feminists? It was that double whammy of ignorance that really got to me. And claiming someone compared women to dogs when they did nothing of the sort? Can LAK hold Matthew liable for libel too?

Matthew Larsen

Curtis,
"It was in no way a criticism of/response to your post, because I hadn't even read it until after I posted my comment."

In that case, I apologize. I clearly misinterpreted your post. I am willing to accept when I misinterpret something and big enough to admit when I make a mistake. To be honest, I was unsure if your post was a criticism of mine, and should have erred on the side of caution. Thanks for the clarification. As an aside, I agree with you and Hannah Arendt that ideology often drives fanatics to pursue uppity and hysterical pettiness when the world does not conform to their false schema of belief. Have a good day.

Meg,
There is no implication that "all or most". There is the ambiguity that "all or some" -- go read a logic book. But I notice how you have now changed your position from "You must have meant'all'" to "You implied 'all' or 'most'" -- that is, first you declared there must be no ambiguity and now you declare that there is some ambiguity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contradiction

Matthew Larsen

Kimball,

I actually agree that Foucault is a minor thinker if one surveys the entire history of ideas. But that wasn't the context in which I spoke:

"And how one could possibly imply that Foucault is a minor thinker, from a historical standpoint, is quite silly. How could you earn a degree in women, gender, and sexuality, and not read any Foucault?"

The relevance of Foucault to feminist theory and gender studies was the issue; and while I would agree that Nietzsche is Foucault's main inspiration, it isn't true that Foucault hasn't applied Nietzschean theory as he interprets it to novel contexts and produced novel insights (whether these insights stand the test of time is another matter).

Meg,
"This takes the cake! Humanism opposed by feminists?"

If you don't see how this suggests that it is categorically impossible for a feminist to oppose humanism, then Yale needs to revise its admissions policies. Just admit you made an error and move on.

Matthew Larsen

Kimball: I think that a case can be made that some versions of feminism can approximate some versions of humanism, especially when the sexual element is repressed, expunged or rendered neutral by all where it doesn·t really matter.

I actually never disagreed with this. I opposed the notion that all feminism is humanist. Someone who thinks Martha Nussbaum is the priestess of the One True Feminism might think this.

Meg

Matthew,

first you write:
"I recognize that humanism has historically been opposed by feminists precisely for its unthinking misogyny"

Implying humanism involves unthinking misogyny, and that humanism has historically been opposed by feminists.

Then you claim you did not mean all feminists, or even "all or most," just "all or some."

Then you claim that my response to your bizzare and factually incorrect original statement ["This takes the cake! Humanism opposed by feminists?"] and I quote, "suggests that it is categorically impossible for a feminist to oppose humanism."

you may be the worst thinker and offer the poorest, most bizzarely and overtly contradictory statements I've ever encountered on this blog. That anyone responded to and imbecile like you was the mistake.

Then you tell me to "go read a logic book" as if formal logic supports a reading that "feminsits oppose humanism" implies you mean "all or some," not "all or most." I mean, are you for real? Do you take yourself seriously as a thinker? Do you think formal logic actually supports what you say? You should not be posting here if you can't think straight.

Matthew Larsen

Meg: "I recognize that humanism has historically been opposed by feminists precisely for its unthinking misogyny" Implying humanism involves unthinking misogyny, and that humanism has historically been opposed by feminists. Then you claim you did not mean all feminists, or even "all or most," just "all or some."

Actually, all of this is either false or vague.

I do not know what "humanism 'involves' misogyny" means, because it is vague and probably intentionally misleading.

I never wrote that "humanism involves misogyny" -- that is your phrase. I pointed out that feminists have criticized humanism, which they have. Someone else was polite enough to cooroborate this claim with a helpful quote: "One of the major vehicles of the feminist critique of Western humanism involves the issue of authority and processes of authorization," i.e., "feminist criticism of humanism exists."

I never made the claim that "any version of feminism to validly exist must contain a criticism of humanism" or that "any version of humanism to validly exist must contain a misogynistic element that is criticizable by a version of feminism." So I certainly never claimed that "[all] humanism[s] [necessarily]involves misogyny" in the sense you are trying to impute to me. You're just wrong.

And you are a sophist.

Furthermore, I said "feminists". I did not "mean" "all or some" -- I meant the feminists I was talking about and no other feminists. The point is that a reasonable interpretation would recognize there is an ambiguity in the unadorned use of the phrase "feminists". You assumed I meant all, when, as far as you knew, I could have meant "all" or "some". If you looked to the rest of the context, it is clear that I modified the term feminists by "historically," which excludes both present and future feminists -- so, it is obvious that a categorical "all" was not my intention, unless I do not know what time is or what the word "history" means. Your interpretation is thus incoherent.

While I agree there was a plausible ambiguity there, that doesn't reasonably lead one to the conclusion that "Matthew must have meant X because he could have meant X or Y and based on the context it appears likelier that he meant Y and it is incoherent to conclude he meant X." Your position is just silly.

Meg

You're really trying to argue "its [humanism's] unthinking misogyny" does not translate into a claim that humanism necessarily involves, or possesses, or whatever word you want to choose to describe the possesive "its," misogyny?

I'll leave it at that. I can't beleive I stooped down to engage a ignoramous like you. Your comments speak for themselves. You must be a terrible lawyer, if you are one.

-Furthermore, I said "feminists". I did not "mean" "all or some" -- I meant the feminists I was talking about and no other feminists. The point is that a reasonable interpretation would recognize there is an ambiguity in the unadorned use of the phrase "feminists". You assumed I meant all, when, as far as you knew, I could have meant "all" or "some". If you looked to the rest of the context, it is clear that I modified the term feminists by "historically," which excludes both present and future feminists -- so, it is obvious that a categorical "all" was not my intention, unless I do not know what time is or what the word "history" means. Your interpretation is thus incoherent.-

And you call me a sophist? Funny.

Kimball Corson

Law Fairy writes,

"Why do so many people make comments here that purport to lump together everyone else who has commented? I'm pretty different from anyone else here, and I think most people are different from each other."

You are right. It is a shabby and false economy arising from the exasperatingly serial and tedious character of language, especially when written. We need telepathy.

Kimball Corson

curtisstrong wrote, ""Lives of the mind"...Quite the anecdote. Reminds me of Lady Chatterley's Lover."

Anna Harendt wrote a book called "The Life of the Mind." I just pinched her.

Kimball Corson

Oh my, Meg's got a class action going. I foresee certification problems, but the show would certainly be worth the price of admission.

Kimball Corson

Hannah Arendt, not Anna Harendt. I know better, but didn't for an instant and hate proofreading.

Kimball Corson

Meg and Matthew,

Flattery will get you everywhere. If an argument fails, explain why, leave it at that and pocket the ad hominem spitting. Like arrogance, it is bad form and very unChicagoan. We love you both.

Kimball Corson

Matthew Larson,

As you explain it, we don't seriously disagree on Foucault, but sometimes I think feminists would do better to take a few good courses in inferential statistics instead.

The Law Fairy

"but sometimes I think feminists would do better to take a few good courses in inferential statistics instead."

Perhaps, Kimball, but this discounts the value brought to the table by feminists who criticize objectivity itself as androcentric. If seeing the world from an objective point of view causes objectification, then the "objective" disciplines like statistics have less value.

I'm not saying feminists shouldn't take statistics, since as something of a postmodernist I see the value in many ways of approaching things -- but it's not quite right to approach the topic of feminism with the idea that "feminists should argue their points thusly." To do so is to discount the views of the "other," or to entrench the dominant, male-oriented worldview. By some accounts, then, taking statistics would be beside the point.

That put aside, I personally think it is at least valuable to know where opposing arguments are coming from. To deflect any potential stray criticisms, I received As in both statistics and symbolic logic in college.

Frederick Hamilton

Well, we have gone from "50,000 Dogs Slaughtered in China" to feminism. I would love to take that transition onto a comedy club stage. The inference I guess is that if China, or the world were more in tune to the aura and influence of feminism there would be fewer dead dogs. Or if not fewer dead dogs, at least dogs that were killed with a loving touch.

I long for the corresponding MLK day when people are judged not by the content of their shorts but the content of their character and minds.

This gender thing will take us longer to sort out than the 374 posts on religous rights and wrongs.

The Law Fairy

"I long for the corresponding MLK day when people are judged not by the content of their shorts but the content of their character and minds."

Amen to that, Frederick. I would add that the standards for that judgment should be gender-neutral as well.

LAK

Blame it on Matthew Larsen.

His amazingly coherent argument:

"I recognize that humanism has historically been opposed by feminists precisely for its unthinking misogyny, but, though both possess differentiated cells, you ought not compare women to dogs."

and better: "I never wrote that 'humanism involves misogyny'"

set off some on this board, including me. I still am not sure how I compared women to dogs. That one still perplexes me. And then in trying to make sense of his verbal diarreha he dug himself deeper into the confused muck of his mediocre brain.

That is how this post got on feminism. But you can't discriminate against the intellectually challenged on internet blogs. That is their beauty and folly.

curtisstrong

Frederick Hamilton:

"This gender thing will take us longer to sort out than the 374 posts on religious rights and wrongs."

That's an extremely good thing. We need more dialogue in the world, and fewer rapists and wife-beaters. The fact that everyone seems prepared and happy to write about these things, whether or not they have to do with the original blog is a tribute to modern law. Fifty years ago, feminism wouldn't have even been on the radar. But now we can discuss it, even if it does have to do with the oddities of Foucault, or the differences between feminism and humanism.

Formal Logic

Bizarrely enough, formal logic actually supports Matthew's interpretation and not Meg's. For starters, try the 10th edition of Irving Copi's "Introduction to Logic", p. 300: "Categorical Propositions that contain no words at all to indicate quantity. Two examples are "Dogs are carnivorous" and "Children are present". Where there is no quantifier, what the sentence is intended to express may be doubtful. We may be able to determine its meaning only by examining the context in which it occurs, and that examination usually will clear up our doubts." [Just to note: "all" and "some" are quantifiers -- "all" being categorical and "some" being particular.]

Matthew, then, is actually correct that "feminists" could mean all feminists or some feminists. Likewise, "humanism" could mean all humanism or some humanism.

To continue, an ambiguous statement means one of two things, but not both, e.g., "all" or "some". A vague statement could mean anything. It is not sophism to make an ambiguous statement. It is sophism to make a vague statement, such as to claim "humanism 'involves' misogyny."

The question is, "What does 'involves' mean?" It does not take a good lawyer to note that "involves" could mean anything.
It does not take a Yale degree to know you can't logically determine which interpretation of an ambiguous statement governs by retreating to a higher level of generality that necessarily includes infinite meanings, i.e., vagueness. Meg's methodology logically goes nowhere, though, apparently, rhetorically scores.

So, Mr. Larsen is actually correct that it comes down to an interpretation of the context. And, in ordinary language, calling something a matter of "history" usually limits it to the past (it also limits the discussion to the spatiotemporal world, which is comprised of particulars, rather than the world of pure reason, which may consist of categoricals). Excluding some timeframes certainly does render the statement non-categorical. So, whatever Meg is doing, she cannot be performing deduction in translating Matthew's sentences into another formulation (and a vague, "involved" one at that).

And for the stupid, here's a simplified recapitulation: The humanism Matthew was referring to was historically opposed by feminists -- that is not all humanism, just the humanism that has been opposed by feminists. It is neither true that all feminists have opposed humanism nor that all humanism has been opposed by feminists. You really can't (logically) tease the commitment -- that all humanism has been opposed by all feminists in all timeframes -- out of Matthew's statements. At least not rationally.

Matthew Larsen

God Bless! I knew someone in the audience understood what I meant when called Meg a sophist.

Grammar

Meg,

"Its" is a possessive that refers back to "humanism". If "humanism" means "some humanism", then the "unthinking misogyny" is a necessary property only of that humanism historically opposed by (some) feminists.

I take it I need not cite to a grammar book?

Captain Obvious

It appears Matthew Larsen is actually a very good lawyer, if he is one.

Matthew Larsen

LAK: "And then in trying to make sense of his verbal diarreha he dug himself deeper into the confused muck of his mediocre brain."

The word you are looking for is logorrhea. "Diarreha" is not a word. Even if it were, "verbal diarreha" is, ironically, a logorrheic phrase.

curtisstrong

Law Fairy, you wrote:

"it's not quite right to approach the topic of feminism with the idea that 'feminists should argue their points thusly.' To do so is to discount the views of the 'other,' or to entrench the dominant, male-oriented world view."

I understand the argument, but it's one that I've always had a bit of a problem with. Perhaps this is just because I'm a male, but it would seem that "objectivity" has universal enough acceptance by both males and females to suggest otherwise. Even if objectivity is difficult (impossible?) to completely obtain/implement, the pursuit of it is not something that most women would discount and call "male-oriented," unless they've been told that by some professor somewhere. It seems that some branches of feminism abuse this argument whenever someone doesn't agree with them, offering any sort of rationale to support their viewpoint. The counter-argument then simply becomes..."That's a male way of thinking, so we can't empower that." The "feminine" sometimes seems to be this unwritten, unexpressable (and conveniently, irrefutable) doctrine, the definition of which most women can't even agree on, yet it's used to discount a valid point. Sometimes good sense just makes good sense, male or female.

Next, the argument doesn't take into account its own irony. If women only want to convince other women of something, this is all fine and great (assuming every woman instinctively recognizes this unknown feminine quality in the argument, which is doubtful). However, the second that feminism wants to convince men of anything, you've got to do it on "our" (again, the "masculine" is hardly a term that can be nailed down either...but let's run with it) terms, or you won't get far. "Know your audience" was a basic tenet of all of our introductory writing classes in undergrad.

So, assuming that this feminine approach actually exists in the first place (which I do, but I it's not something I'd ever like to define), it has to take into account its surroundings, unless the goal is to evicerate the masculine completely, which I doubt many feminists agree with, or believe possible.

LAK

Matthew,

Are you for real? I can't tell. Do you think posting as "formal logic" "objective observer" "Grammar" and "Captain Obvious," to support your bizzare posts and then replyng to yourself is convincing or compelling or indicative of anying other than bizzare behavior and a troubled mind? I'm glad you still have your logic book from your community college.

But doesn't your book inform you they are called the "universal quantifier," or "for every" you remember the upsidedown A? and the "existential quantifier," you remember the backward E? that doesn't stand for "some" but rather "there is at least one?"

You are a tool Matthew Larsen. A major power tool.

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