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deletedOct 2, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby
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If I were you I would definitely not use the authors of this blog as any type of authority on the matter. Regarding 1., They are not experts in the field, and have not demonstrated any general problems in philosophy by critiquing 1 single paper, in a very lackluster way.

There is a lot of truth to point 2 and 3. But this applies much more generally, even to scientists.

Practicing an "art" does not entail stymieing the potential for honesty or self awareness. When it comes to philosophy, quit the opposite is the case.

The whole discipline started out as a quest for truth. And it more or less birthed science many centuries later.

My advice would be to read up on the subject with an open but critical mind. Bear in mind that the authors of the blog have an axe to grind, and are using some hard and fast distinctions that are not well argued. This is perhaps a necessity when writing a blog post, but hardly qualifies as serious scholarship.

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Removed (Banned)Oct 1, 2023·edited Oct 1, 2023
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Oct 2, 2023·edited Oct 2, 2023Author

A certain amount of philosophising may be unavoidable. There is Jurisprudence in Law and certain underlying methodological claims that are basic to Science. That does not mean that Philosophy as a discipline does not have deep problems: it clearly does.

A castrated male is still male. A post-menopausal woman is still female. A woman who has had a hysterectomy is still female. A girl before her first menstruation is still female. A boy before his first ejaculation is still male. None of this is controversial: or it wasn’t until bullshit Theory started to generate various status and social leverage strategies based on toxic Philosophising.

Structures that have evolved so organisms can reproduce are such whether or not they can actually reproduce in any particular instance. Even though worker ants normally have no reproductive strategy, they are structured so that, in certain instances, they can produce large gametes: hence are female.

If a member of a species changes sex, then it changes sex. I explicitly stated that was the case. Indeed, I gave a definition that allows us to say “this organism has changed sex”. Just as it allows us to say that we lack the ability to change the sex of humans. Who, like all mammals, do not change their sex and are not structured to do so.

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Removed (Banned)Oct 2, 2023
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The sexes have secondary characteristics in part because the sexually reproducing organisms need to be able to recognise potential reproduction partners. Signs of fertility also matter (particularly for females attracting males) as do good genes and resource advantages (particularly for males attracting females). But they also have secondary characteristics because they are part of the wider reproduction strategy.

Hence, mammary glands are attached to females so there is something for the infant to eat as soon as they pop out. Which is why sex is not just a matter of producing gametes, because reproduction is not just a matter of producing gametes. And not every attempt at reproducing an x manages to “touch” all the bases, due to complex organisms being, well, complex. But overwhelmingly they do.

Which gametes you are structured to produce matters, because small motile gametes generate differences in reproductive strategy than do large sessile ones. See Bob Trivers’ seminal paper on parental investment.

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Robert-Trivers/publication/288653750_Parental_Investment_and_Sexual_Selection/links/59765451a6fdcc8348aa54d9/Parental-Investment-and-Sexual-Selection.pdf

That this can be seen as a matter of risk is demonstrated by the fact that, in bird species where the male sits on the egg alone, the male is the choosing sex (as they are investing more/taking more risks), when usually it is the female.

Thus, your sex is a matter of structure beyond just producing gametes, as is reproductive strategy, and since mammals do not change sex, a boy is male and a girl is female.

If there are species where the matter is more fluid, then it is more fluid. But that in most species sex is fixed early and does not change, while others are more fluid, does not create a definitional problem, your definition just has to cope with that. Which mine does, without the nonsense of denying that in a fixed sex species, such as Homo sapiens and all other mammals, a male is male for their entire life, a female is female for their entire life.

The some people feel themselves to be the “wrong” sex does not change that. Those folk do not, after all, ever produce the other type of gamete. Even their acquisition of the secondary sexual characteristics after hormones and surgery is, well, limited.

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Removed (Banned)Oct 2, 2023
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The last link is a useful article. What you don’t seem to have notice is, despite quoting Griffiths at more than one point, their piece agrees with what I argue in the post. Yes, they agree that sex can be a life stage (e.g. clownfish) but that is about what reproductive strategy is being pursued (and, crucially, shifting between them). Sex is not a life stage in mammals because mammals don’t shift reproductive strategies. The authors are not arguing that a pre-pubescent boy or girl, or a post-menopausal women, is sexless. The rest of your comment is just arguing around in circles.

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Removed (Banned)Oct 3, 2023
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Oct 1, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Ha, I'm thoroughly biased being a lawyer myself, but I really enjoyed this piece. I studied law for my first degree and then continued on my legal education and training and eventually qualified. I am now six years PQE. During the entirety of my legal education, training and practice, I have also been fascinated by the arts, philosophy, theology, and fundamentally, the question of how we can really know what is true. And yet despite this, I've never been really satisfied with any philosophical short course / talk I've ever really tried to grasp. Instead, I I have always found it frustrating when a philosophy discussion eventually descends into what you call "nit picking." I've never understood why I found it so frustrating and useless, and your piece helps to clarify that for more - nit picking past the point of usefulness and the structure / concept distinction is a great way to look at it. And yes, lawyers do nit pick a lot as it is so it really is something if you can out nit-pick a lawyer 😂.

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Oct 1, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

By the way, the degree structure Helen describes in the preamble to the post sounds like a dream. In the UK, the "qualifying law degree" is all pure law although some people can choose to take one other subject with it, e.g Law and a language. I would have loved to study the variety of courses Helen describes!

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Oct 1, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Interesting article, and I agree with the criticism of the Griffiths paper.

Unfortunately, I have to ask a very cliche but sadly relevant question which always comes up in relation to these types of polemics against philosophy: Is the proposition that we should only engage in ideas which are useful and pertain to structure a scientific, legal, or philosophical position?

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Philosophical. Even law has jurisprudence. But, like jurisprudence, it is philosophy that is concerned with the structure of things.

It is perhaps not an accident that the living Australian thinker whose works of philosophy I most admire is a mathematician by training. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Franklin_(philosopher)

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Okay, gotcha. So presumably you're accepting that philosophy is necessary, just pointing out that it is prone to allowing a relaxation of rigor to creep in, because it doesn't run into the "reality checks" that other disciplines are routinely subjected to. But if this doctrine of usefulness is a philosophical proposition, what's the grounding for it?

As far as that goes, I'm on board with you that this slip in rigor is more likely in philosophy. But it feels to me that this criticism is most salient against post-structuralists, who are almost opposed to rigor as a matter of principle, rather than philosophy as such. I mean, philosophy more or less invented, or at any rate formalized the idea of stress-testing theories through dialectical dispute.

Certainly, when pressure is applied, philosophical theories do either stand up to it or crack (as in the case of logical positivism), which suggests that there is a method of "reality checking" available to the field. Whether or not it's applied sufficiently is another matter. I guess one question I'm bumping into here is whether your criticism is meant to apply to the analytic tradition as well?

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Analytical philosophy is healthier, but is central ambition of definitive delineation of concepts fails due to the coherence horizon.

https://www.notonyourteam.co.uk/p/consciousness-and-coherence

Dialectical dispute is not enough, there is plenty of that in entirely noxious traditions. There has to be a way of making the inherent structure of things the test.

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Oct 2, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

Interesting. Do you view that as a genuine possibility, or is philosophy just always going to be hampered in this way?

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Good question. Not sure. It clearly is an inherent problem, but I tend to be a sceptic about prediction, hence prefer scenarios.

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Oct 2, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

The only thing that's still bugging me about this is that every other discipline is also dealing with concepts-the difference is that the concepts in question are being arrived at by different means. Doesn't this sort of mean that every other discipline is dependent on philosophy to identify what the actual structure is which our concepts are dependent upon-the noumenal, if you like-and if philosophy fails, then every other discipline fails with it? I mean, it doesn't seem like it's possible even in principle for science to actually explain what the structures it studies actually are in at least one relevant sense, because the scientific method rules out metaphysics while itself being grounded in metaphysical assumptions. I'm just repeating Nietzsche's old argument here, but do you think there's anything to that?

Sometimes I think the reason philosophy is such a mess is that it's been left with the most difficult problems, and the most difficult problems tend to tempt people to come up with the easiest solutions, because nobody can really say anyone else is necessarily wrong.

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Oct 1, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Very nicely laid out showing the differences (and why it matters when it comes to understanding how reality operates) between structural and conceptual approaches, why the former reliably and consistently produces knowledge (including a self correcting feature) while the latter too often produces metaphysical nonsense and word games.

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Oct 1, 2023·edited Oct 1, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Not sure whether it's quite on topic but reading this piece somehow put me in mind of Wittgenstein's "whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent".

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Enjoyed the piece. Perhaps this is more useless philosophical nit-picking, but I would contest the characterization of England as a non-philosophical society. People often say this but I never understood why. I think it reflects some kind of continental bias, or perhaps the fact that English philosophers didn’t have the most elegant or artful prose. But still, I don’t know how a culture that produced Bacon, Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Mill, etc, not to mention all of the English philosophical poetry and literature, could be called non-philosophical.

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By the time you get Bacon (a lawyer, btw), it is already a deeply legal society. Perhaps it would be better to say it is a legal culture first and a philosophical one later. Its philosophers do tend to be clear writers and empirically minded.

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I'm curious about your verdict on the USA? Lawmaking culture, philosophical culture, both, neither, too early to tell?

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I am tempted to say both, and the latter is in the process of destroying the former. Its native philosophical tradition of Pragmatism is very much like typical British philosophy in being the empirically-minded product of clear writers. The imported philosophy of Critical Theory and adaptations from French Theory is wholly noxious.

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Oct 1, 2023·edited Oct 1, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

I think I agree. When I look back and try to trace the various strands of philosophical thought that have influenced our current times, I see many stations along the way, but no clear end point. We can look at the importation of the worst French philosophy in the mid 20th century, or German academic models at the turn of the 20th century with the old Progressives, but it goes further back. Modern progressivism has roots as far back as the Revolution if not earlier, eg Thomas Paine. I think in some ways the American "progressive spirit" is both one of our great strengths and great weaknesses, like a powerful but explosive accelerant.

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Oct 1, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

ours is a hustling money culture and the greatest American philosopher is PT Barnum! ;)

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Oct 1, 2023·edited Oct 1, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Just looked up some of his quotes/sayings and he seems like a pretty philosophical guy actually ;)

(Also I think the theme of despising money has been one of philosophy's silliest traditions)

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Oct 1, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Hooray. Thanks Lorenzo and Helen. How i would love to insert some of these thoughts into a debate with woke descendants but discussions do not happen, minds are made up, just white wine in the sun, which is nice enough in its way. Oh and we watched the Barbie movie and my granddaughter remarked she would bring her children up quite differently if she had them. How, i wondered, but the conversation had already ended.

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Maybe it’s because I started out as an engineer, and came around to philosophy later, but much of what passes for recent philosophy is bunk, either incoherent or at odds with observable reality

But then I no longer believe in science as anything but just-so-stories that describe “ this behaves as if”. If you can repeat it, it’s engineering, even if you don’t know WHY it works. If your story for why gives you different results, it’s not reality that’s wrong.

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Your comment on science has a great deal of truth re: social sciences. The physical sciences do rather better methinks, especially when they manage robust predictions.

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Oct 1, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

It's understandable that the Athenians eventually tired of Socrates' shtick and hurried him on his journey to Hades. (Everyone hates a philosopher!) Holding various ideas up to the light and examining them, interrogating settled beliefs and customs, wondering how and why it is we believe what we do etc, is vital for intellectual hygiene and cultural vitality, but when it gets excessive, when everything down to the definition of man/woman becomes a food fight of sophistry, you can see how this is socially destabilizing and can lead to nihilism or even aphasia. (Sophists always saw off the branch they're sitting on!)

Strong societies should allow almost unlimited debate but there do need to be some STOP signs and some sacred realms that are best left untouched, as they may just be support beams that when budged bring down the entire social edifice—which is why my favorite philosophical gifts are the Golden Mean or Middle Way, meaning in this case too few questions will make you stupid, but too many questions makes you a neurotic babbling nonsense for nonsense's sake.

But I still wish I lived in an America that took philosophy and philosophers more seriously—imagine Prez Trump or DeSantis demanding that Judith Butler follow her kale salad with a nice Big Gulp of hemlock! A man can dream....

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With any sort of intellectual activity there are no effective breaks to put on the ruthless pursuit of truth except forceful suppression of speech. This goes for philosophy, science, technology or art. Either you have free speech, or you have totalitarian style restrictions of what is allowed to be discussed or investigated in the public realm.

It is not possible to sacralize certain areas of inquiry without sacrificing something vital. There are no golden means to be found.

You forgot to mention one very important detail when discussing Socrates. That he was vehemently opposed to sophistry. The sophists of his time acted like modern day spindoctors who took pay for their services as rhetoricians. And they were certainly not interested in the truth as opposed to Socrates. The jury of Athens executed Socrates for challenging conventional beliefs and pursuing truth relentlessly.

When societies react by imprisoning or executing philosophers or intellectuals for questioning sacred cows, it is not a sign of health, but desperation.

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i agree and know you're right, there is no limiting discourse, for many reasons including who gets to limit and the valuable service unfettered expression provides, in good ways and bad. I just get frustrated at times with the toxic sewage dump that is the American humanities and while I'd never censor them, I could assent to a surgical airstrike ;))

i know all about Socrates and the sophists but there are definitely times when i'm in the middle of some Platonic dialogue that I think that if I were on the receiving end of a Socratic slicing and dicing I'd tell him to shut up! or maybe pull a Diogenes and fart in his general direction.

cheers!

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Lorenzo, Rousseau may be your example of philosophical failure (absent any reality check) par excellence. In which case, all that we see today is but a continuation of a long trend.

https://www.glibertarians.com/2023/04/reviewing-rousseau/

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Nice piece, ta. And quite so.

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The Left didn’t march through the Institutions-meaning academia.

Academia has been the Left since Socrates.

🔥🔥🔥

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Oct 3, 2023·edited Oct 3, 2023Author

Actually, in the C19th and early C20th, academia tended to lean rightwards. Even as it shifted leftwards, both the degree to which it did, and the ideas motivating such, changed.

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I was going back to Plato and Socrates actually🫡.

It’s impossible it seems for Academics to look at a group of military age young men and not play Commander or Prophet of the Revolution.

Enough!

Socrates led to Critias and the Thirty Tyrants- enough !

The abstract modelers have plagued us enough.

The Utopians have killed enough.

In 1973 America gave up space for welfare- Enough!

We have space and the Infinite and Infinite hands on work and Engineering, a universe to fill with ourselves and our machines.

We have work to do.

Infinite work.

Here we live in a world where every meter of the Northern Hemisphere is defended by nuclear weapons, this came to pass because of Academia and their fantasies- Enough!

Meanwhile in America the stories you hear about the children being groomed and gender affirming clinics popping up all over- complete with the Corporate profiteers - are true.

Already they nibble away at the school down the road... which is of course a college town.

Of course it is...

Enough.

The Academy and mandatory schooling are most assuredly in America now corralling children for taxes of the property owners , debt slavery for the young... and now Grooming for not just sexual purposes but fiendish surgeries done for the sexual gratification of adult fiends.

Enough.

The academy is now irredeemably evil and must be destroyed.

The academy and the school system should not be replaced or rebuilt; for it will always be political, it will always be power, it will always be the exploitation of the young.

Burn it all. 🔥🔥🔥🔥

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I hope I was clear... 🔥 it all.

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Oct 5, 2023·edited Oct 5, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

This is why I steered clear of both Continentalism and queer theory when I was studying philosophy. If I wanted religion or poetry, I’d seek them out, thanks.

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Oct 5, 2023·edited Oct 5, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Marx stole his ideas from Hegel, anyway. The Hegelian historical dialectic was about a great spiritual awakening that would eventually happen, once humanity worked through the right stages (from serfdom to democracy to socialism, roughly. It’s been a while, so I don’t remember specific terms, forgive me). When I learned about it I loved it, but it was very woo-ish and should never have been presented as anything other than a potential way to frame history, and humankind’s supposed purpose (that last bit being the signal that it’s all conjecture meant to spur deeper thinking, not literally true).

Anyway, Marx took Hegel’s ideas, stripped out the spiritual angle, and apparently pretended it was all true and real. If young people were to read Hegel, instead of Marx, they’d come away with a very different set of ideas, in my opinion. As it is, Marxism offers nothing but struggle for struggle’s sake, indefinitely, with no peace or enlightenment at the end. Again, that’s just my opinion.

More and more, I’m getting the impression philosophy students aren’t being taught proper respect for the hard sciences. Philosophy is ostensibly about questions that science *can’t* answer, like ethics and other intangible concepts. There’s no reason or necessity for philosophy to be opposed to science. How utterly foolish.

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I agree with your general assessment of Hegel and Marx. But i am not sure it is correct that philosophy students are not taught respect for the hard sciences. I was taught philosophy at uni. Just 10 years ago. And this was not my impression at all. Granted I was not taught at an anglo-american institution. And there was quite a hard leaning towards analytic style philosophy. There was not an inkling of wokery in the curriculum. Poststructuralism and critical theory were considered fringe subjects. In departments of literature or English, and especially sociology, the opposite was the case.

In the US, UK or AUS the situation might be some what different than in mainland Europe. I suspect this might be the case considering where all the woke insanity comes from.

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This would be a new thing in the US, where I am. We actually have great institutions for learning philosophy, or rather, we did. I wouldn’t have ever believed everything would go to shit in so many places, but here we are.

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