A reprehensible witch hunt in academia: feminist philosopher equates the defenses of transgenderism and of transracialism—and gets crucified

Gender is widely agreed by the Left to be a social construct, not a biological reality. If that’s the case, why isn’t race? Why was someone like Rachel Dolezal, who was white but claimed to be black, vilified and fired from her job as the Spokane, Washington head of the NAACP, while a man who claims to be a woman (or vice versa) is defended and her courage lauded? The distinction has always baffled me, especially because race is also seen to be a social construct.

Those were the questions asked in an article recently published in the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia by Rebecca Tuvel, an assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. Her piece is called “In defense of transracialism“, and is free online (reference and link below).  I have only skimmed the full piece, but it’s dissected by Jesse Singal at New York Magazine’s “Intelligencer column” “This is what a modern-day witch hunt looks like.” And indeed, merely for pointing out that the arguments used to support transgender rights are similar to those that could be used to support transracial rights, Tuvel has been excoriated by academics, and the journal asked to retract the article. She has received a ton of hate mail. It is truly a Leftist witch hunt—a purity test that Tuvel apparently failed big time.

First, the abstract and first footnote in Tuvel’s paper:

And her concluding paragraph:

Haslanger writes, “rather than worrying, ‘what is gender, really?’ or ‘what is race, really?’ I think we should begin by asking (both in the theoretical and political sense) what, if anything, we want them to be” (Haslanger 2012, 246). I have taken it as my task in this article to argue that a just society should reconsider what we owe individuals who claim a strongly felt sense of identification with another race, and accordingly what we want race to be. I hope to have shown that, insofar as similar arguments that render transgenderism acceptable extend to transracialism, we have reason to allow racial self-identification, coupled with racial social treatment, to play a greater role in the determination of race than has previously been recognized. I conclude that society should accept such an individual’s decision to change race the same way it should accept an individual’s decision to change sex.

For this she is being crucified in public by her fellow academics, who accused her of not only being transphobic (not true at all), but perpetrating tangible harm and even violence on both the black and trans communities (another lie).

Part of Singal’s analysis:

Tuvel structures her argument more or less as follows: (1) We accept the following premises about trans people and the rights and dignity to which they are entitled; (2) we also accept the following premises about identities and identity change in general; (3) therefore, the common arguments against transracialism fail, and we should accept that there’s little apparent logically coherent reason to deny the possibility of genuine transracialism.

Anyone who has read an academic philosophy paper will be familiar with this sort of argument. The goal, often, is to provoke a little — to probe what we think and why we think it, and to highlight logical inconsistencies that might help us better understand our values and thought processes. This sort of article is abstract and laden with hypotheticals — the idea is to pull up one level from the real world and force people to grapple with principles and claims on their own merits, rather than — in the case of Dolezal — baser instincts like disgust and outrage. This is what many philosophers do.

Tuvel’s article rebuts a number of the arguments against transracialism, and it’s clear, throughout, that Tuvel herself is firmly in support of trans people and trans rights. Her argument is not that being transracial is the same as being transgender — rather, it’s “that similar arguments that support transgenderism support transracialism,” as she puts it in an important endnote we’ll return to. It’s clear, from the way Tuvel sets things up, that she’s prodding us to more carefully examine why we feel the way we do about Dolezal, not to question trans rights or trans identities.

Usually, an article like this, abstract and argumentatively complex as it is, wouldn’t attract all that much attention outside of its own academic subculture. But that isn’t what happened here — instead, Tuvel is now bearing the brunt of a massive internet witch-hunt, abetted in part by Hypatia’s refusal to stand up for her. The journal has already apologized for the article, despite the fact that it was approved through its normal editorial process, and Tuvel’s peers are busily wrecking her reputation by sharing all sorts of false claims about the article that don’t bear the scrutiny of even a single close read.

The biggest vehicle of misinformation about Tuvel’s articles comes from the “open letter to Hypatia” that has done a great deal to help spark the controversy. That letter has racked up hundreds of signatories within the academic community — the top names listed are Elise Springer of Wesleyan University, Alexis Shotwell of Carleton University (who is listed as the point of contact), Dilek Huseyinzadegan of Emory University, Lori Gruen of Wesleyan, and Shannon Winnubst of Ohio State University. (Update: As of the morning of May 3, all the names had been removed from the letter. A note at the top of it reads “We have now closed signatories for this letter in order to send it to the Editor and Associate Editors of Hypatia.”)

In the letter, the authors ask that the article be retracted on the grounds that its “continued availability causes further harm” to marginalized people. The authors then list five main reasons they think the article is so dangerously flawed it should be unpublished. . .

Singal goes on to point out that four five of those reasons are based on a total misreading of Tuvel’s article, whose main point is given above and by Singal in his second and third paragraph. (The other criticism is trivial.) He then rebuts each of the “reasons,” and goes on to show how Tuvel is being ripped to shreds, unjustly, by academics. She has even been accused of “perpetrating violence” and “enacting harm”

The letter’s authors, presumably Leftists, are doing all they can do demonize Tuvel for–what? None of the objections recognize that the transgenderism and transracialism are both based on people feeling that they’re different from how their external appearance has led society to categorize them. One is based on genitalia, the other skin color.  If a biological male feels that he is really a woman, why can’t a white person feel that they’re black? And regardless of which sex is “privileged,” people transition in both directions. But of course never underestimate Regressives’ tendency to reach a conclusion first (“white people have privilege and just can’t say they feel or are black”) and then find arguments to support it.

Singal concludes:

I could go on and on. This is a witch hunt. There has simply been an explosive amount of misinformation circulating online about what is and isn’t in Tuvel’s article, which few of her most vociferous critics appear to have even skimmed, based on their inability to accurately describe its contents. Because the right has seized on Rachel Dolezal as a target of gleeful ridicule, and as a means of making opportunistic arguments against the reality of the trans identity, a bunch of academics who really should know better are attributing to Tuvel arguments she never made, simply because she connected those two subjects in an academic article.

The Chronicle of Higher Education shows how the craven journal Hypatia apologized (you can see the journal’s reprehensible Facebook apology here, but I want to reproduce it because it so resembles the apologies of the accused during China’s Cultural Revolution:

From the Chronicle:

The article, ”In Defense of Transracialism,” by Rebecca Tuvel, an assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College, drew a significant backlash following its publication, in late March. The article discusses public perceptions of racial and gender transitions by comparing the former NAACP chapter head Rachel Dolezal’s desire to be seen as black with the celebrity Caitlyn Jenner’s public transition from male to female. [JAC: the article does far more than just draw a parallel!]

Since a backlash erupted on social media, more than 400 academics have signed an open letter to the editor of Hypatia calling for the article to be retracted. “Our concerns reach beyond mere scholarly disagreement; we can only conclude that there has been a failure in the review process, and one that painfully reflects a lack of engagement beyond white and cisgender privilege,” the letter says.

The journal’s Facebook apology responded to those concerns by saying that it would be looking closely at its editorial processes to make sure they are more inclusive of transfeminists and feminists of color, whom the journal said had been particularly harmed by the article. The journal also apologized for its initial response to the backlash, saying that an earlier Facebook post had “also caused harm, primarily by characterizing the outrage that met the article’s publication as mere ‘dialogue’ that the article was ‘sparking.’ We want to state clearly that we regret that the post was made.”

Tuvel has responded to the criticism (see here), apologizes for one or two items, like “deadnaming” Caitlyn Jenner (giving her pre-transition name), but ends in this way:

Calls for intellectual engagement are also being shut down because they “dignify” the article. If this is considered beyond the pale as a response to a controversial piece of writing, then critical thought is in danger. I have never been under the illusion that this article is immune from critique. But the last place one expects to find such calls for censorship rather than discussion is amongst philosophers.

Indeed. Philosopher Russell Blackford has been defending Tuvel on Twitter and criticizing the witch hunt in a series of tweets, calling attention to others’ defenses of Tuvel. I am proud to call him my friend. Read the following from bottom up, in chronological order:

And Yale’s Paul Bloom, Ceiling Cat bless him, has also defended Tuvel:

Hypatia should be mocked and vilified for its cowardice, as should those academics who went after tuvel because her Gendankenartikel violated the Regressive Left’s norms of purity. These are not students attacking Tuvel—they are professional academics, and I have nothing but contempt for them. (Remember, today’s students are tomorrow’s professors.) I am appalled, but not surprised. I’ll end with Singal’s words:

. . . what’s disturbing here is how many hundreds of academics signed onto and helped spread utterly false claims about one of their colleagues, and the extent to which Hypatia, faced with such outrage, didn’t even bother trying to sift legitimate critiques from frankly made-up ones. A huge number of people who haven’t read Tuvel’s article now believe, on the basis of that trumped-up open letter and unfounded claims of “violence,” that it is so deeply transphobic it warranted an unusual apology from the journal that published it.

We should want academics to write about complicated, difficult, hot-button issues, including identity. Online pile-ons cannot, however righteous they feel, dictate journals’ publication policies and how they treat their authors and articles. It’s really disturbing to watch this sort of thing unfold in real time — there’s such a stark disconnect between what Tuvel wrote and what she is purported to have written. This whole episode should worry anybody who cares about academia’s ability to engage in difficult issues at a time when outrage can spread faster than ever before.

h/t: Grania

______

Tuvel. R. 2017. In defense of transracialism. Hypatia 32:263-278, DOI: 10.1111/hypa.12327

86 Comments

  1. Posted May 3, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Wow, they are acting crazy. I don’t equate transgendered people with “transracial” people because not only is race a biological fallacy, but true transgenderism is a result of brain structure, not belief. I can back that up if needed. Guess I’m just not a good Leftist! Then again, I haven’t been a good Leftist since I left college.

    • Posted May 3, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      So you don’t think that it’s possible for a white woman to think she’s a black woman, because whites and blacks don’t even exist? That would be news to a lot of people!

      • Mark Perew
        Posted May 3, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        sub

      • Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        A white women identifying herself as black is a preference and an interpretation by and of the individual. Blacks, browns, yellows and whites
        can mate and reproduce together, therefore they are from the same “race”; all humans. It is no more pertinent for society to worry about sexual equipment and mindsets of individuals than it is to label them different races based on color and other physical characteristics that don’t keep them from mating and reproducing.

        I would like to see a time when human beings don’t feel they have to “belong” to one race or another due to skin color. A new biography of Obama indicates, according to the author, that Obama felt the need to be black, not multiracial, and to choose a black, not a white wife, when he ran for political office.

        • Posted May 3, 2017 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

          You are using the word “race” as a synonym for “species,” but it is generally used as analogous to “breed” in dogs and cats. A German Shepard can mate and reproduce with a poodle or a Greyhound, but they are not all the same breed, or “race” of dog. I agree with most of the rest of what you wrote, but I don’t think it’s helpful to just define “race” as “species” and say we are all homo sapiens so there’s no such thing as race. That’s just talking past the issue without actually addressing it.

        • jaxkayaker
          Posted May 4, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

          Always good to see the political right and political left come together by making arguments based on ignorance. If you don’t even understand the difference between “race” and “species”, what are you doing opining on whether races exist? Is it just in humans that no races exist, or do no races exist in any species anywhere? Are subspecies imaginary, or does it not matter when politics aren’t involved?

          What happened to leftists standing up and marching for science? Or is that just the science they happen to agree with and think supports their political preferences?

      • Posted May 5, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        No. I said what I meant, that biologically there really isn’t such a thing as “Race.” Sure, there are variants of the human species that are optimized for different climates and conditions, but they all share more commonality and have more variation within themselves than the word “race” would indicate. Simply put, humans are more alike than not, and society usually places far too much influence on small differences of melanin content, fat depositing, and bone structure. There are pure Chinese who are seven feet tall. There are people who are pure African and are very pale. Yet, they would all be considered part of their “race.”

    • Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Well, we are almost in line. The view that races are a fallacy is actually a fallacy, imo. I can back that up by hypothetically parachuting you into anywhere in the world. I bet you can pretty quickly figure out roughly where you are by simply looking at the people you encounter. Not by listening to their language, or by seeing how they dress or by looking at road signs. Just look at the people.

      • Rita
        Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Agreed! Obama once answered the people who said he wasn’t “really” black by saying if they doubted it, they could come & watch him try to flag down a taxi on the south side of Chicago!

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted May 3, 2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

          But did those cabbies care that Obama’s father was Kenyan? Or would they treat a Sinhalese or a Tongan the same way? Does “blackness” have anything to do with being from Africa, or is it purely a superficial judgment based on skin color?

          When he worked in South Africa, Gandhi was famously classified and treated as “black”. Seems to me you can’t ask for a clearer illustration of “race” as social construct bearing little relation to the facts of biological heritage.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 3, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      For the purposes of this stramash, it’s irrelevant whether or not race is a thing. The argument made by Tuvel was about the arguments supporting transgender people and those supporting transracial people being similar. It was purely academic.

      That’s the point. She was not denigrating anyone, or even comparing people in reality. She was just pointing out the similarities that can be made between the arguments.

      Imo she’s correct, and I’m pretty sure you’d be able to find me making the same argument as Tuvel somewhere online at the time of the Dolezal thing. I guess I’m lucky I’m a nobody. It doesn’t mean I’m anti-trans. In fact I support trans rights and always have.

      The inability to make the distinction that this was an academic, philosophical point that was not in any way an attempt to demean real people is not a failing we should find in philosophers.

      • Posted May 3, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, let’s be plainly clear.

        If you’re supportive of a person’s right to identify with a chosen gender regardless of physiology at birth or genetic sequence, but you are not supportive of a person’s right to identify with a chosen race regardless of physiology at birth or genetic sequence, the proper term for you is, “racist.”

        I tend to view all this identity politics as more than a bit silly. Somebody might very strongly identify with a particular sports team or some philosophical theory, even more strongly than somebody else identifies as a this-to-that gender of whichever color. Is it not disrespectful to the sports fans and the philosophers to be so dismissive of their self-identity as to give it less meaning than their inconsequential-to-them race or sexual orientation?

        Let people identify themselves how they see fit.

        And if somebody uses an heuristic to identify your identity that doesn’t pick the same identify you yourself identify with, don’t get upset — unless, of course, you want others to identify you as a stuck-up so-and-so. Correct them if it really upsets you that much, and go on with your life otherwise even if they insist on being boorish.

        And, of course. Far too many people discriminate on the basis of their perception of the identity of others, and that’s something that we should all work to redress.

        But the problem is with the discrimination, not with the identification.

        There’s a reason it was the Civil Rights Movement, and not the BiTransLatinBlackNeoReformedMuslim Rights Movement.

        Cheers,

        b&

        >

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted May 3, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

          +1.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted May 3, 2017 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

          ‘If you’re supportive of a person’s right to identify with a chosen gender regardless of physiology at birth or genetic sequence, but you are not supportive of a person’s right to identify with a chosen race regardless of physiology at birth or genetic sequence, the proper term for you is, “racist.”’

          Errm, well I guess I’m racist (or maybe not). I’m not supportive of either, if by ‘identify with’ you mean ‘pretend to actually be that identity’. You are what you are, and wishing doesn’t change it.

          OTOH, if by ‘identify with’ you mean ‘sympathise with’ or ‘associate with’ or ‘live like’ someone of different origin, then that’s everybody’s right.

          I think a more precise definition of ‘identify’ is needed.

          Incidentally, I think your definition of ‘racist’ is skewed too. Someone could be entirely supportive of any individual’s right to ‘identify with’ (whatever that means) any race they like, and still be convinced that some races are inferior to others.

          cr

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:25 am | Permalink

            I think a more precise definition of ‘identify’ is needed.

            Let’s try to unpack it a bit. Do you think there are biological differences between male and female brains?

            If so, do you grant that male brains identify as (i.e. feel themselves to be) male, and female brains as female?

            If our neurosurgical techniques were up to the task, we could in principle transplant a male brain into a female body. What do you suppose the result would be: a male brain that now feels itself to be in a body of the wrong gender, or a brain that developed as male and has always identified as such, but now suddenly identifies as female simply as a result of a change in venue? What does “you are what you are” mean in this case?

            Do you think it’s possible that such a state of affairs (a brain that feels itself to be male in a body with female genitalia, or vice versa) might occasionally occur naturally, without surgery? If not, why not? If so, what’s your rationale for labeling that brain’s sincere feeling a pretense?

            • Posted May 4, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

              If our neurosurgical techniques were up to the task, we could in principle transplant a male brain into a female body.

              It’s an interesting thought experiment…but why stop at gender?

              Transplant the brain of a teenaged Hutu girl into the body of a Russian “babushka” grandmother and vice-versa, would there not presumably be even greater dysphoria?

              I’m much less sanguine about the prospects of a brain transplant being successful. Even if you could correctly splice all the nerves at the brainstem, you’re still left with what may be an intractable problem…specifically, an overwhelming portion of the mind is little more than a symbolic map of the body and the senses.

              Let me illustrate with an example. I’m a musician — a trumpeter. As the saying goes, if I don’t practice for a day, I can tell; if I don’t practice for two days, my colleagues can tell; and, if I don’t practice for three days, the audience can tell. (Many athletes can relate, I’m sure.)

              By the time you get to the level of proficiency where you can appreciate that chestnut for yourself, there’s nothing significant new to learn. You’ve already got all the knowledge, skill, whatever.

              Rather, what’s happening is that the muscles are going through their natural cycle of repairing and atrophy. The mental map you so arduously built up is for the muscles at their steady state of daily practice. Lay off the instrument, and that map is invalid…and now you’ve got to deal with a moving target: the unfamiliar terrain of out-of-practice muscles, the unfamiliar terrain of getting-back-into-shape muscles, and then in-shape muscles but your mental map is lagging behind, still poorly modeling the getting-back-into-shape muscles.

              After a brain transplant, your mental map is going to be in even worse shape than a newborn’s relatively blank slate.

              And your mature brain is supposed to be able to re-wire itself in such a radically different and evolutionarily novel environment…how?

              So…no, I’m not expecting there to ever be a successful brain transplant. If nothing else, because it’s probably less impossible to create a neuron-level computer simulation of a brain…and there’s your transhuman mind upload utopia, so why bother with messy brain swaps?

              Cheers,

              b&

              >

          • Posted May 4, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

            Errm, well I guess I’m racist (or maybe not). I’m not supportive of either,

            My formulation was intended to include only those who support the one but not the other.

            Someone could be entirely supportive of any individual’s right to ‘identify with’ (whatever that means) any race they like, and still be convinced that some races are inferior to others.

            Indeed, that is true. I didn’t intend to write an exhaustive definition. There are many ways to be a racist.

            But supporting Jenner when she calls herself a woman whilst opposing Dolezal when she calls herself black? That’s racism.

            It’s the inconsistency that’s at the heart of the problem, and that the discriminatory position is racially based that makes this particular case one of racism.

            …I should note that racism is not only light-skinned Americans discriminating against dark-skinned Americans. It’s any form of race-based antipathy, whether “punching down” or “punching up.” Or even “punching sideways”…there’re racists on both sides and in both directions of the latino / asian aisle, for example.

            Even more importantly, I should further note that, in order for racism to take root in the first place, you’ve got to be carefully taught.

            Cheers,

            b&

            >

        • Ugo
          Posted May 4, 2017 at 12:22 am | Permalink

          “But the problem is with the discrimination, not with the identification”

          exactly.
          and this very reason i think that messing with identification is just the wrong way to address the problem.
          you cannot tell people that “races do not exist” when they identify races as socio-cultural groups or even, more simplicistically, only on the skin nuance (have you forgotten the discussion about the “blackness” of NBA’s Steve Curry or even President Obama’s?), because these are “objectives” differences and to the simple minds this sounds like saying “all the cars are white”, which is not the case.
          you have to remove the claim that being part of one “race” or “socio-cultural group” means being superior to others, a claim that trashes the true possibility of enrichment from the encounter.

          about the gender problem, i came to the same conclusion as Tuvel years ago thinking about people with eating disorders, and noting how the real or alleged misrepresentation of self is treated differently for different situations, and how transgenderism is often supported by the same prejudices once used against homosexuality.
          for this reason i still think that we are probably having the wrong approach with transgenderism, but since i am strongly liberal for anybody rights on their bodies, and i strongly think that anybody should be totally free to do whatever they want with themselves, then for me it’s all right…

          about the witch hunt, then, i’m not even surprised anymore: the level of barbarity in the “global village” is truly not so different of what i could expect from a village of semi-human monkeys in the first centuries of our species history…

    • Posted May 3, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      but true transgenderism is a result of brain structure, not belief.

      This statement is meaningless unless we have identified some feature of the structure of the brain that transgender people share with cis-gendered people of their preferred gender and not people of their birth sex.

      It seems a reasonable proposition to me that male and female brains do have structural differences, but my impression was that we have so far failed to identify any.

      • J. Quinton
        Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        This statement is meaningless unless we have identified some feature of the structure of the brain that transgender people share with cis-gendered people of their preferred gender and not people of their birth sex.

        Scott Alexander, whose blog was referenced in one of the tweets above, also wrote about this

        http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/02/18/typical-mind-and-gender-identity/

        He’s a practicing psychiatrist, so make of that what you will.

    • jay
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Actually as far as I have read, there is no neurological or physical brain structure basis for transgenderism. It appears to be mostly or fully psychological.

      You’d never hear that from the pressure groups, though.

      • Posted May 4, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Here’s a page of links from New Scientist:

        https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20032-transsexual-differences-caught-on-brain-scan/

        And a good article from the Harvard Review:

        https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20032-transsexual-differences-caught-on-brain-scan/

        Hope this helps.

        • aljones909
          Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          The study says:
          “They found significant differences between male and female brains in four regions of white matter – and the female-to-male transsexual people had white matter in these regions that resembled a male brain.”

          Well, that’s one study in 2011. Have further studies conformed this?

          There was a meta analysis in 2015:
          “Study Debunks Notion of Gender-Based Brain Differences”

          “Lise Eliot, an associate professor of neuroscience at Rosalind Franklin University, led the study. To explore brain-based gender differences, Eliot and her team combed through 76 previous studies of gender-based brain differences. The studies involved MRIs of more than 6,000 healthy people.

          Meta-analyses such as this one allow researchers to compare data across studies, offering a larger sample size and potentially correcting for bias and researcher error. Eliot’s study made adjustments for brain volume, because men typically have slightly larger brains than women. After making this adjustment and comparing the data from all 76 studies, the researchers found no significant gender differences in hippocampus size.”

          I think we can say that there isn’t a body of evidence pointing to a significant “physical” difference in the brains of transgenders.

  2. Posted May 3, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I am so grateful to be teaching math; telling students that d/dt e^t = e^t doesn’t offend anyone (I think).

    • Posted May 3, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Not so sure about that – what about all those other letters of the alphabet!!??

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted May 3, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        And the order of the letters in the equation! The “d” seems privileged. The order should be changed on a regular basis.

        • Posted May 3, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

          Let’s not overlook color, either. A few dark squiggles on a sea of white. Black ink matters!

          Cheers,

          b&

          >

    • Posted May 3, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      I once had a first-year calculus student complain that we shouldn’t be using Greek letters so exclusively. We should incorporate other language’s characters too.

      I responded politely that this was an interesting idea, and did you know that our standard 0 – 9 numerals are Indo-Arabian? He seemed gratified by this fact and the conversation ended there.

      • Taz
        Posted May 3, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        If he takes enough math classes he’ll eventually see Hebrew.

        • John R. Vokey
          Posted May 3, 2017 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

          as n, the number of classes, goes to infinity…

      • Posted May 3, 2017 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        I have some sympathy. I remember eta and rho being particularly troublesome and confusing. More importantly, I had terrible trouble writing them out in lectures in which the professor was talking at 90 mph.

        What was wrong with the proper English (by which I mean ancient Italian) alphabet?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 3, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      Not sure that would fly with the infamous Sandra Harding, who referred to the Principia as a “rape manual.”

    • ALe
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:31 am | Permalink

      Why are you doing math with Roman letters instead of Arabic numerals??? Are you an Islamophobe?

      • Posted May 5, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        Still good that nobody has yet figured out the cultural appropriation of numerals.

  3. Posted May 3, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    There’s a good thread about it at http://dailynous.com/2017/05/01/philosophers-article-transracialism-sparks-controversy/

    I fear that Jerry may have just made some enemies: apparently there are folks who think that one of Tuvel’s biggest mistakes was using “transgenderism”. (See the link.)

    As it happens I’ve been skeptical of what passes for “feminist philosophy”. I’m not sure there is even such a thing – philosophy being universalistic. (I am especially skeptical of “feminist epistemology” and “feminist logic”.) There are analyses of oppression and power etc. but they may well just be “humanist”. I’ve also seen “feminist analysis of X” where the “feminist” part doesn’t seem to do any work, but was otherwise acceptable work.

  4. Posted May 3, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    When such a dramatically different reaction happens between gender identity and racial identity occurs, especially considering that both are so easily recognizable as being primarily genetic and secondarily social constructs, it should be obvious that the problem isn’t with gender or race.

    It’s with identity.

    Humans are powerfully tribal, and overwhelmingly obsessed with self-identification. Indeed, the big quest for so many is to know themselves.

    The great irony is that, when you seriously and sincerely and studiously sit down and look for yourself, you discover that there’s nothing there to find. Where is the self / identity in a whirlpool in a stream? There’s a sort of persistence, but of what, exactly?

    Many of these conflicts would simply evaporate once people realized that they’ll still be the same selves as they are regardless of tribal affiliation.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 3, 2017 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      Identity is also mutable, depending on the situation.

      In New Zealand, I identify as of English origin (though I’ve been here for decades).
      More specifically, as an Aucklander (though a heretical one who thinks Wellington is a nicer city and South Island has better scenery). Elsewhere in the world, I tend to identify as a New Zealander.

      Cars (I like driving) – I’m a dedicated Ford owner (though most of the people I hang with drive MG’s. I’m their heretic).

      I think the same applies to most people. There are many different ‘tribes’, whether sports clubs, religions, social groups, and ‘identity’ has many facets.

      I guess, in this, modern society is very different from ancient tribal society where there were very few diverse interests and most people in the tribe shared the same intellectual life.

      cr

      • Posted May 4, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        Identity is also mutable, depending on the situation.

        Indeed, identity is one of the least stable aspects of a person.

        If you haven’t had breakfast yet, you’ll probably identify as hungry, thirsty, and maybe a bit sleepy. A bit later, you’ll identify as having breakfast. Soon, you’re a full stomach and you’re ready to get on with the day. Next up, you’re driving to work, you’re listening to the radio, you’re annoyed at the bastard who cut you off, you’re frustrated that all the good parking spots are taken…you’re reading email…you’re pissed off at the contradictory impossible demands of management…

        …all throughout the day, during your whole life, your identity is in constant flux.

        Cars (I like driving) – I’m a dedicated Ford owner

        You’d like my ’64 1/2 Mustang.

        (though most of the people I hang with drive MG’s. I’m their heretic).

        They might pay more attention to my ’55 VW Bug.

        But, back to identity…give it a try. See if you can spot the next time you think to yourself, “I’m [whatever].” And, at that moment, that is what you are — a constellation of symbols that constitutes your momentary identity. For example, right now, you’re probably reading these words and wondering what the hell type of nonsense I’m blathering. And, if you ever had any curiosity about what constitutes the phenomenon of reading in bewilderment — well, everything about that is accessible to you, right there in your mind, because that’s what you are at this moment in history.

        And if you don’t like who you are right now? If you’re bored, if you’re frustrated, if you’re wanting this to be over? Don’t worry. You’ll soon be something else.

        Now, with all that in mind…just how many minutes of your life are you your gender or your race? Try it out — see how long you can self-identify as your gender.

        …and your gender-identifying self is already gone, because now you’re continuing to read this post.

        As I noted at the top, identity is the most fleeting characteristic you have.

        Cheers,

        b&

        >

      • Colin McLachlan
        Posted May 4, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        Die, heretic!

        Cheers,

        Haggis

  5. stephen
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Four cheers (at least) for Russell Blackford… . This kind of dangerous nonsense may not be new,but it has certainly gained far too much ground in the last generation (60 something talking…) I’ll append here a comment originally intended for the TLS/Plantinga piece below: neither the TLS nor the LRB nor any other literary periodical that I know of can be trusted any longer-the anti-critical,anti-analytical, “4 legs good,2 legs bad” crowd seem to have taken them all over…

  6. stephen
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Four cheers (at least) for Russell Blackford… . This kind of dangerous nonsense may not be new,but it has certainly gained far too much ground in the last generation (60 something talking…) I’ll append here a comment originally intended for the TLS/Plantinga piece below: neither the TLS nor the LRB nor any other literary periodical that I know of can be trusted any longer-the anti-critical,anti-analytical, “4 legs good,2 legs bad” crowd seem to have taken them all over…

  7. DrBrydon
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    It’s clear that Hypatia is not involved in a effort of inquiry, nor are its readers interested in learning. This is clearly a propoganda exercise. I sympathize with Miss Tuvel to some extent; she made an honest mistake in a setting where honesty isn’t appreciate. It’s kind of like feeling sorry for Zinoviev in the Purges.

    • Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      It can’t be a propaganda exercise if the audience is a closed circle of like minded academic. These purity trials only serve to create intellectual segregation, epistemically closed systems of circular thought.

    • Posted May 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Good comparison!

  8. Posted May 3, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    The apology was signed “A majority of the Hypatia’s Board of Associated Editors”. Makes me wonder how many out of how many, and who the brave souls who are probably now off the board were.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      Good point. If they are able to act as the board of editors by a simple majority, then why not sign it as just the board of editors? If they can’t, then the shouldn’t pretend they are acting as the board.

  9. Pliny the in Between
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    The Far Left is looking more and more like a religion every day:

    1) Revealed truth – check
    2) Extreme tribalism – check
    3) A clergy – check
    4) Sense of entitlement – check
    5) Persecution complex – check
    6) Entrenched Orthodoxy – check
    7) Sense of higher purpose and moral superiority – check
    8) Extreme penalties for apostasy – and check

    • GM
      Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      It’s one of most perfect examples of what a secular religion looks like

    • W.Benson
      Posted May 3, 2017 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      Good list of traits.
      What bothers me is how the publication Hypatia had dirtied the name of the historical Hypatia, who, if what we supposedly know about her is true, was a real heroine.

  10. josh
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    The attacks on Dolezal from those who nonetheless insisted on a hard-left pro-trans stance were always incoherent. E.g, the idea that Dolezal hadn’t lived but was rather “appropriating” the full black experience, or that she could simply take off her image and return to being white. Such arguments blatantly contradict the pro-transgender narrative.

    The only argument that could consistently be made was that Dolezal specifically didn’t *really* believe she was black and/or didn’t really experience the disphoria with her assigned race that transgender people describe with respect to their bodies. But whether or not that was true in her case doesn’t really rule out trans-race people in principle.

  11. Bethlenfalvy
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    “Gendankenartikel” is probably meant to read “Gedankenartikel” (which sounds pretty pretentious – and strange to native speakers; 16 Google hits).

    • Robert Seidel
      Posted May 3, 2017 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Seconded. Gedankeneinwurf – thrown-in thought – means much the same and is actually used in German.

  12. GM
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I actually get e-mail alerts for Hypatia out of a morbid fascination with people’s stupidity, and this paper caught my attention and I read most of it.

    My reaction was “what nonsense” because the author seemed to be a full-on SJW spewing out all sorts of biological nonsense (even though there was at least an acknowledgement of the scientific reality on several points).

    And then they go after it for not being crazy enough???

  13. Nicholas K.
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Transracialism strikes me as something that is extraordinarily uncommon. Other than the rather well-publicized example of Ms. Dolezal, can anyone come up with an example? Of course, many African Americans and others, often minorities, have “passed” as white, that is rather different from the sincere self-identification with a race other than the one’s ascribed race. Given that racial identity typically involves less self-identification (racial categories are typically assigned by others. They are typically involuntary. People don’t necessarily feel they belong to a particular race — they are told or discover (from how they are treated) they are members of a particular race) compared to gender (which has a significant self-identification component which may include gender expression and sexual orientation that are also largely self-generated and not ascribed), it strikes me that life history would be more of an influence.

    Barack Obama and Colin Powell are considered black. I do not recall anyone asking what race they identify with even though they both have equal parts white ancestry. Given their physical appearance, asking would seem ridiculous.

    Their ascribed status as blacks (a socially constructed race) was assigned involuntarily and via hypodescent to the subordinate status. Thus, their experience in life has been that of a person with the status of a black American male.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:37 am | Permalink

      I recall that a ‘white’ poet and musician identified himself as ‘black’ on BBC Radio 2 a couple of years ago. When queried about this he said that he found black poetry and music so moving that he couldn’t feel otherwise.

      I’ve no way of telling how sincere he was.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I found the reaction of black folk to the Rachel Dolezal incident interesting: Some of them at least were glad finally to have someone bucking the traffic on what had always been the one-way street of “passing” since the days of the “one-drop” rule.

    I’ve had friends, and clients, and an in-law who caught shit for being bi-racial, including from black kids growing up. But the black community itself is like “home,” in the sense that Robert Frost described it — the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Been that way for bi-racial folks since the days of the one-drop rule, too.

  15. Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Race is learned from family, community and all others who interact with you. Where you live in the world bears on how you’re treated based on other’s perception of your “race”. Non-whites are still ostracized and mistreated in many parts of the US. Perhaps, a little less so in larger cities where enclaves of similarly colored people may group together. But, many black families still object to a son or daughter marrying a white person, and vice versa. And their children feel compelled to choose a black or white side to belong to with all the associated cultural attributes that calls for.

    On a different level, there are any number of people who feel they don’t belong to any set or subset of humanity, let alone a race. There are many who feel alienated; not part of any community of humans. This is not just a gender or racial issue. This is a humane issue.

    • Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      On a different level, there are any number of people who feel they don’t belong to any set or subset of humanity, let alone a race. There are many who feel alienated; not part of any community of humans.

      Those two characteristics are orthogonal.

      Many, many people feel their proper alignment is with the human race as an whole, not some subset of it. Indeed, such is the common rallying cry of humanitarians and civil rights advocates across the planet and across time.

      And many of those who feel the greatest alienation are those who most strongly identify with a clique. As often as not, it is the identification itself that leads to the alienation.

      Cheers,

      b&

      >

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Please don’t call these people “the Left,” Jerry; at most, they’re a narrow slice of it.

    They have nothing to do with the Left as I know it — the Left with its roots in the labor and civil-rights and peace movements. Not to get all Scotsman about it, but I question their leftist bona fides, beyond a commitment to egalitarianism, anyway (and even as to that, their notions are grossly misshapen).

  17. Zach
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    There has simply been an explosive amount of misinformation circulating online about what is and isn’t in Tuvel’s article…

    …what’s disturbing here is how many hundreds of academics signed onto and helped spread utterly false claims about one of their colleagues, and the extent to which Hypatia, faced with such outrage, didn’t even bother trying to sift legitimate critiques from frankly made-up ones.

    It’s really disturbing to watch this sort of thing unfold in real time — there’s such a stark disconnect between what Tuvel wrote and what she is purported to have written.

    “Disturbing,” yes. Surprising, no (and I detect a note of surprise in Singal’s words).

    Anyone who has been following the antics of the academic far left should not be surprised by their ends-justifying-the-means smear tactics. Their end, after all, is a utopia.

  18. eric
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    we can only conclude that there has been a failure in the review process, and one that painfully reflects a lack of engagement beyond white and cisgender privilege,” the letter says.

    Let’s just think about that. They’re saying that their process of peer review for technical quality failed because it didn’t have enough non-white gays doing it. Now, it would absolutely make sense for a feminist philosophy magazine to employ well-published feminist philosophers as reviewers. There’s nothing wrong with that. But can anyone imagine how horrific it would be if science journals considered such extraneous-to-subject factors in selecting peer reviewers?

    Grania:

    Why was someone like Rachel Dolezal, who was white but claimed to be black, vilified and fired from her job as the Spokane, Washington head of the NAACP, while a man who claims to be a woman (or vice versa) is defended and her courage lauded?

    My main problem with Dolezal is that she intentionally deceived her community without any credible reason for doing so. Had she told her NAACP chapter her background, her identity feelings, etc. and they had accepted it, I’d be perfectly fine with it.

    Now I say “without credible reason” because I accept that many trans people have very credible reasons for not coming out – they are assaulted at much higher rates than non-trans people. And I have no problem with their decision to stay ‘in the closet.’ But their reasons for staying in the closet do not, IMO, apply to Dolezal’s case. She had no credible fear that the NAACP members of her chapter would assault her. So IMO her deception was unethical in a way that a trans person staying in the closet is not.

  19. Mike
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Would a transgender person have a legitimate reason for not revealing their status if they thought they would lose their job as a result? If so, then the same reasoning must justify Dolezal keeping her status secret.

    Or is the only justification fear of violence?

    And even so, would she not have some reason to fear violence?

    • darrelle
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Well, if you accept the meaning of “violence” as used by the author(s) of the Hypatia apology letter that covers everything from causing slightly negative feelings to causing feelings of persecution, but it doesn’t cover actual physical violence.

      Judging by their claims and behavior one can only conclude that the Hypatia apology letter authors and those who agree with them should consider Dolezal keeping her status secret justifiable, and that they are hypocrites of the rankest order.

    • Posted May 5, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      As far as I know, Ms. Dolezal had a job position that was presumed to be occupied by a black person. I have no problem with her identifying as black per se, I have a problem with her using resources allocated to blacks.

      It is another matter whether members of a particular minority (other than the disabled) should receive extra resources.

  20. ladyatheist
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Would it be too post-modernist of me to call the editors of this so-called journal pussies?

  21. Gayle
    Posted May 3, 2017 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Wish you wouldn’t say “the left” believe these things – that’s a very broad brush stroke to tar all of us with something pushed only by a small and confused minority. I’m a staunch Labour/Green voter. I believe in Corbyn. I’m anti no-liberalism. I believe in genders.

  22. Jenny Haniver
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    “ladyatheist” writes: “Would it be too post-modernist of me to call the editors of this so-called journal pussies?” Not at all.

    As for the fraught matter of Rachel Dolezal, aka Nkechi Amare Diallo, I wouldn’t touch that tar baby with a ten-foot pole.

  23. somer
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:26 am | Permalink

    The internet combined with PoMo/Crit Theory identity politics has turned academia into a complete snake pit hissing and seething with poisonous illusions

    • somer
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 4:47 am | Permalink

      How dare a journal that has so many regressives on its board call itself “Hypatia”. “Spineless” would be more appropriate.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 4, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        Yeah. If that’s not perpetrating violence on someone (that journal associating itself with Hypatia), then I really don’t understand what the illiberal left means by the word violence.

  24. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    First they came for Larry Summers, but that was OK because he was a rich white man.
    Then they came for Sir Tim Hunt, but that was OK because he was an old white man.
    Then they came for Rachel Dolezal, but that was OK because she wasn’t really a black woman.
    Then they came for Rebecca Tuvel, and that was OK because she hadn’t signed up to the latest version of purity group think.
    And then they wonder why Hilary Clinton lost the chance to be President. Shame she had to lose to Trump though.

  25. Bob
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I yam what I yam and tha’s all what I yam.” — Popeye the Sailor Man (Person)

    • Sigmund
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 6:45 am | Permalink

      I think you mean, “Popeye the Sailor Mansplainer”.

  26. reasonshark
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Hair-trigger hysteria, nonsensical claims of “offence”, prickly defence of a fantasy attack that exists only in the defenders’ heads, the withdrawal of the “offending article”, apologies for the “hurt” caused by it…

    What an embarrassing performance. Tuvel’s critics ought to reconsider their purposes in life if this charlatan idiocy is supposed to do anyone any good. This is one diseased subculture, its collective mind addled by a kind of moralistic senility.

    I find Tuvel’s point a fascinating one I hadn’t really considered, but I find it hard to challenge; at worst, it’s a thought-provoking academic exercise. I can only shake my head in condescension at the puerile circus clown act whipped up in response, and I wish Tuvel better times ahead, away from this rabble with pies on their faces.

  27. Bill
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I think we are making a mistake if we think about these arguments as flowing from an application of evidence, logic and consistency. We are actually seeing a political movement using the method of politics to advance an agenda. The arguments and evidence are chosen to support the desired outcome, not the other way around. To circle back to the origins of this blog, these “philosophers” would be right at home with the reasoning used by creationists.

  28. Posted May 4, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    You say that Tuvel’s article is available free online, but as far as I can tell it’s not. If it is, it seems to me that would be a copyright violation. Can you comment, either way? Thanks.

  29. Rich Sanderson
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Thank Darwin I was one of the sensible ones who realised the current po-mo paradigm infecting the social studies in academia was BS.

    I pointed out that the regressives, including PZ Myers and company, were on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of science, the wrong side of facts, and most importantly, the wrong side of me, THE KING.

    It does feel good to be constantly proven right, and to get to mock and ridicule the regressive anti-science mob.

  30. John Jordan
    Posted May 5, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Article is still available from Hypatia. FYI.

  31. Posted May 5, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I apologise for displaying my ignorance about “race” vs. “species”, but look at the number of people who were kind enough to inform me?! As a result, I now have any number of potential paths to follow to further enlighten myself.

    Once upon a time, Neandertals were thought to be other than human and that the “breed” died out. Now we know that interbreeding took place between Neandertals and Homo Sapiens. Some of us carry more genetic evidence of that than others. Some science writers and magazines
    continue to present Neandertals as “non-human”.

    I would prefer that all of us could be more inclusive of most members of the human race, rather than some of “us” viewing certain of “them” primarily by race and sex.

    Human beings have been mixing genetic material through interbreeding from the beginning, I’d imagine. I doubt that there is a “purebred” on the planet. I am: German (major amount), English, Irish, Welsh (these three a lot), Dutch, French (not so much). I would expect I inherited some Roman Italian in the German and British portion. Maybe some Viking Scandinavian also. If I were a better genealogist and records existed further back, I’m pretty sure there would be even more additions to this Heinz 57 varieties. We’re now told all of us came out of Africa.

    As for me, when a document asks whether I’m white, black or some other “race”, I will continue to self-identify as “human”.

  32. Ullrich Fischere
    Posted May 22, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    No one in the outrage machine that is the regressive left has answered the question raised by that heretical paper about transracialism. If race is purely a social construct, and so is gender, then why would it be more problematic for a person born to white parents to identify as black than for a person born with a dick and balls to identify as a woman? Rachel Dolezal was raised with black adopted brothers and chose to identify as black. How is that fundamentally different than a person born male but who feels they were born into the wrong sex identifying as female (or vice-versa)? Who is harmed in either case? How does the regressive left outrage over transracialism differ in terms of its roots in evidence free dogma from the religious right outrage at the existence of transgender individuals?


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