Happy Valentine’s Day – Let’s Make Next Valentine’s Day Happy for Trans Women Too

Some years ago, I wrote a blog post about transgender dating equality. I’d like to say that I got a lot of positive responses on it — but unfortunately I did not. A lot of cisgender people who consider themselves strong allies of the trans community seemed to draw the line when it came to supporting dating equality for trans-folk. So this Valentines day, I would like to bring the issue up again – and maybe issue some clarifications — possibly address some of the explanations I was given over the years of why so many are so hesitant to support such a thing.

One reason, which I believe I mentioned before is the “People like what they like” excuse. However, Dating Equality isn’t about trying to change that – or trying to compel someone to date someone they just aren’t into. No. It’s about combating the societal memes that exacerbate the situation. If there’s something which some guys find undesirable about a woman, that’s just how it is. However, her friends, if they really are friends (and not phonies) should at least try to help her in her difficult quest to find love — without limiting her only to guys who fetishize something that she sees as a very-peripheral aspect of her identity.

Another thing is I was told – regarding my statement on how unjust the societal expectation of immediate-disclosure of trans-status is — some people (especially guys) told me — guys want to know up-front what they’re getting into. Well – with regards to that – I understand that guys may want to know that up-front — but it doesn’t mean they are entitled to. There’s lots of things that people want that they are not entitled to – and this is one more such thing.

Any woman who dates is advised not to air her dirty laundry on the first date – but on the first date, to bring most attention to the things she wants to be wanted for — and only on the second and third date to bring the things she wants to be wanted in spite of. That’s good advice — and a trans-woman’s right to put it into practice aught to trump any guy’s desire to be warned-off of all trans-women.

But some then ask in response — why does she want it to be something she wants to be wanted in spite of rather than for? Shouldn’t she have more pride in who she is? Well – my answer to that is (a) it’s her decision to make (and nobody else’s) whether she wants to be wanted for her trans-ness or despite it and (b) it is down-right khutzpa to use the pride argument to bolster a societal expectation who’s actual purpose of existing is to warn people away from a trans-woman.

But what I still don’t understand, coming close to two years later, is why don’t trans-folk discuss this yet as a social-justice issue? Is the issue not that important for anyone other than myself? Maybe — but from how much it gets discussed in the “how do I navigate my life around this difficult issue” department, I find it unlikely that nobody else truly cares about it. I’m not saying we should stop discussing this issue in the “how do I navigate my life around this issue department” – but seriously — it is time to also start discussing it in the social-justice department as well.

How the Art of Fallacy Recognition Needs to be More Systematic

A sound Art of Fallacy Recognition must involve more than just being familiar with what fallacies are out there. It must involve the skills for distinguishing fallacies from the cogencies, and from each other. And a true manual of Fallacy Recognition needs to have information on the fine details between each fallacy and it’s related cogencies (as well as related other-fallacies).

One area of philosophy that I find to be very neglected is the art of Fallacy Recognition. I go into Google, searching for some beacon of hope, and all I find is link after link after link to pages that reduce Fallacy Recognition to a mere quiz where someone is provided with a fallacious statement and asked to identify the fallacy present within it. In short, the at of Fallacy Recognition has been reduced to a trivia game of “name that fallacy”.

Or, I get some hits that purport to be actual manuals for fallacy recognition – such as Dr. Michael C. LaBossiere’s document, which is among the best resources that I was able to find — but the best of which are really just compendiums of fallacies, lacking something very key to what I would call a true “fallacy-recognition manual”.

So what is this key thing that is missing here? Well, being a compendium, it exposes us to many different fallacies, while letting us be aware that the argument-patterns the reader is exposed to are in fact fallacies. But fallacy recognition is about more than knowing what fallacies are out there. And it certainly is about more than being able to identify which fallacy is being displayed once someone else has sorted the question of whether a fallacy is in play. It’s about being able to sort through arguments and being able to separate instances of fallacious argument-patterns (referred to as “fallacies”) from instances of valid argument-patterns. To my knowledge, there is no concise term for valid argument-patterns – so (after a heated Facebook-thread on the subject) I concluded the best term to use for this purpose is “cogency”.

Fallacy recognition needs to be about more than knowing what fallacies are out there. It needs to enable a reader to distinguish the arguments that are valid from those that are fallacious. Of course, when the fallacies used are thrown around in the most blatant and obvious manner, then simply knowing what fallacies are out there may be all someone needs if they are to separate the wheat from the chaff. However, many times the distinction can depend on a fine detail that these guides simply do not prepare people to look for.

Take for example the Appeal to Consequences fallacy – where someone claims that statement A must be true, because if it isn’t, then statement B must be true. In instances of this fallacy (unless it is being coupled with another fallacy) it is indeed established (either by being proven separately or by being present in the agreed-upon set of premises) that if A is false, then B must indeed be true. However, the problem is that thus-far, the Appeal to Consequences fallacy is no different than the cogency that is behind all inverse proofs (which I will refer to as the “Inverse Proof cogency”). So, in a case of dispute, how do you resolve whether or not the argument is an instance of the Appeal to Consequences fallacy or the Inverse Proof cogency? The key distinction is in whether or not it has been properly established that statement B is in fact false. If statement B is not properly established to be false, then the argument is an instance of the Appeal to Consequences fallacy – but not if statement B is properly established to be false. And if statement B is properly established to be false, but in no way has it been established that if A is false then B must be true – then the argument does fail as an instance of the Inverse Proof cogency, and is indeed fallacious – but it isn’t an instance of the Appeal to Consequences fallacy, but of a different fallacy. Unfortunately, this alternate fallacy is one that I can not name here because it’s name is in itself dependent on it’s context (due to a sloppy system of fallacy-classification that is in itself very closely related to the lack of any systematic approach to fallacy-recognition).

A sound Art of Fallacy Recognition must involve more than just being familiar with what fallacies are out there. It must involve the skills for distinguishing fallacies from the cogencies, and from each other. And a true manual of Fallacy Recognition needs to have information on the fine details between each fallacy and it’s related cogencies (as well as related other-fallacies). Currently, this information is generally provided only to the extent that the person writing the compendium sees it useful in explaining the fallacy — but it needs to be instead made a standard part of each entry in the manual – and not blurred in with the rest, but written in a clear, distinct way – so that one using it can easily vet out what is and isn’t a fallacy.

In the case of the Fallacies of Intimidation (the most pure example of which is the Appeal to Force fallacy) calling out a fallacy is mostly a matter of developing the nerve to do so. However, in the case of the Fallacies of Obfuscation (that is, fallacies that work by disguising themselves as cogencies) it needs to be a matter of familiarity with many argument patterns – not just the fallacies, but the cogencies as well – and in the case of each argument pattern, it must include knowledge of what other argument patterns are closely related to it, and how to spot the subtle differences that can be used to distinguish one from another. For this reason, a good Fallacy Recognition manual needs not just an entry on each fallacy, but also an equally systematic one on each known cogency.

I hope that some time soon, the Art of Fallacy Recognition will be re-organized to deal with these issues — as a first step in bringing logic from the laboratories of a few extensively-trained individuals to the everyday-life of broader society where it is sorely needed.

Happy Transgiving

My first thought was that maybe an annual event, a Transgiving … where transgender people who can’t joyfully celebrate with their family or friends can celebrate together. But then I realized … this idea would end up being just one more way of helping only the trans-folk in larger communities while leaving those who live in the boonies out in the cold.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you – one and all. And if you have a warm, loving family who respect you to celebrate with (as I do) that is something to be thankful for. And if you have a circle of loving and caring friends to celebrate with – that’s something to be thankful for as well. Be thankful – because there’s lots of people who don’t have either of these blessings. Among those people who are deprived of this blessing are a large portion of the transgender population.

Yes, I am transgender too – and I suppose that just being born trans is in itself a bad stroke of luck — but I’ve had other strokes of luck that are wonderful — among them being born into a loving, caring family that embraces me for who I am inside. A lot of trans-folk are not so lucky – and for them, the holiday times (first Thanksgiving, then later Christmas, Chanukah, or whatever else they celebrate) can be a time of much anguish. Either they are altogether unwelcome to celebrate with their families or the invitation to celebrate is in essence an invitation to come and be mercilessly misgendered and/or otherwise disrespected. This year, just as every year since I began my transition, I heard of way too many cases of this happening. (Of course, even one case would be one too many — but I heard significantly more than that.)

You would think – okay, don’t celebrate with your family. Celebrate with your friends as well. Problem is, in many such situations, friends who are any better than that are also hard to come by. Of course, you can argue that true friends are by definition better than this – but often it’s only by the broader definition of the term "friends", the definition that does not preclude such nastiness, that these individuals are able to find any friends at all.

And I thought, “can’t anything be done about this”? Now, I could get on my soapbox here and rant about how rejecting and/or mistreating a family member who happened to be born not fitting into the mold you hoped for is not a family value – or how you’re really not much of a friend at all if you turn your back on someone because they were born not fitting the mold — but no, neither of these things are what this blog-post is about. We can push for a future where people are not mean to their own flesh and blood and where friends are true – but in the mean time, people will be mean.

This blog-post isn’t about calling mean people out on their meanness. No, it’s about what can be done to help those who are victim to such meanness. My first thought was that maybe an annual event, a Transgiving if you will, could be organized – where transgender people who can’t joyfully celebrate with their family or friends can celebrate together. But then I realized the flaw in this plan – it would probably only be easy to implement in larger cities with vibrant trans communities – cities where (for all I know) they may already have such an annual event. But the places where folks probably feel the biggest sting from such treatment are the places where they have nowhere to go to – smaller communities in more backward parts of the country. In short, this idea would end up being just one more way of helping only the trans-folk in larger communities while leaving those who live in the boonies out in the cold — like that isn’t already done way too much already.

Ultimately, an answer will not be easy in the making – but as we enter the holiday season at the ending of 2014, let us ask ourselves what can be done to bring some holiday cheer to those trans-folk who are stuck with no loving family or friends in not-too-metropolitan parts of the country.

Ambiguity of the Term “Injustice” and Stoic Ethics Beyond your “Job Description”

You must be wondering if I am some kind of moral-relativist when I suggest an ambiguity of the term “injustice“. But then when you see that I am tying this in to Stoic ethics beyond your “job description”, i.e., suggesting that there is a moral standard we should strive to that supercedes that which Epictetus prescribes in Enchiridion 30-31, it might be clear that I am not advocating moral relativism.

Okay – if there is an ambiguity to the term “injustice”, that must mean that there are two or more possible definitions that the term, and that context can not clarify which definition is used with enough reliability to avoid philosophical confusion. So what philosophical ambiguity am I referring to? And why is it essential to resolve that if we are to come up with a standard of ethics beyond that which is defined by relation?

Epictetus says: “Duties are universally measured by relations. Is a certain man your father? In this are implied, taking care of him; submitting to him in all things; patiently receiving his reproaches, his correction.” This kinda implies that, if you ask Epictetus (and I’m guessing that if you asked any of the ancient Stoics) it’s never okay to go against what your father says to do.

However, what if you happen to live in a Nazi-like regime, and your father happens to be either the Fuhrer, or one of those in the Fuhrer’s inner-circle?

Oh — but you must say that it does not apply in cases like this. Well – let’s see what the very next thing Epictetus says is: “But he is a bad father. Is your natural tie, then, to a good father? No, but to a father.”

Now, of course nobody should expect themselves to do something that is beyond their ability to do — and that includes the fact that no matter how reprehensible the actions of your regime is, you should not expect yourself to oppose it when you are not presented with an opportunity to do so. However, I submit that when an opportunity does arise to oppose an oppressive regime such as the Nazis, it is your obligation to do so — and that should your father happen to be one of the chief-culprits, you should not allow your natural tie to him to stop you.

Of course, at this point, there is still a way to resolve this. You could say that you still have your natural obligation to your father — but due to the principle of cosmopolitanism, you also have your obligation to all humanity. Two conflicting obligations are the definition are the definition of a moral dilemma. For a stoic, it is obvious how to overcome a moral dilemma. You recognize that the option of doing something that is “right” by every account is beyond what has been given to you – and therefore (without losing any sleep over it) select the option which is least-objectionable among those offered to you.

The problem here? For you to invoke cosmopolitanism in such a manner, you have to accept that a such thing as “injustice” exists. This, of course, is something Stoicism has a problem with — because if injustice exists, then it can be unjust for you to have something external taken from you. This would cause Stoicism to unravel from it’s very core.

Unless — unless we recognize that there is an ambiguity to the term “injustice”, and find a way to resolve that ambiguity.

Let’s go away from the extreme example of a Nazi-like regime — and find a scenario a bit less extreme and a bit more commonplace. Someone on another Stoic discussion group elsewhere (not on Facebook) asked why Stoics would make such a big-deal about supporting Universal Healthcare, as there is nothing external which is our inherent right. Not even our lives, our bodies, our very health are truly our own, but on loan to us from the Universe – so surely healthcare isn’t.

My answer was – worrying about ensuring Universal Healthcare, from a Stoic point-of-view, is not our concern as potential recipients of said healthcare, but rather, in our capacity as voters and citizens. As such, our relation to the state requires us to do our part to promote the state doing the morally correct thing. But once again – this requires us to accept that there is an inherent injustice in denying someone healthcare.

Clearly, the only way to resolve this is to come to an understanding that there is more than one definition of “injustice” at play. On one hand, the term “injustice” could refer to something existing in the Universe that we have the obligation, when possible, to oppose. The other definition of the term “injustice” is something that can force distress on us.

We need to resolve this ambiguity surrounding the term “injustice” if we can have a variant of Stoicism that has ethics beyond what is defined by our relations.

Right Conclusion – for a VERY Wrong Reason

Okay — I read a blog-post that really got my goat. It was this blog-post about a supposed revelation that Jenny McCarthy’s son never had autism to begin with. Why am I so opposed to this blog-post? It’s not because of their objection to the myth of autism being caused by vaccines — and it’s certainly not because of their insistence that you shouldn’t get medical advice from Jenny McCarthy — nor the assertion that anyone should have known better than to get medical advice from her. I’m eye-to-eye with them on all those things.

What upset me about this article is the reason they give why (in their view) people should have known better than to get medical advice from her. Not once in this article is it even mentioned that Jenny McCarthy isn’t a medical doctor, nor is she a medical scientist, nor a trained and qualified expert in any other relevant field. To confirm that lack of qualification, I had to look her up on Wikipedia. Instead, they just harped on and on about her history of having posed nude for Playboy in the past.

Seriously, guys — if some other schmoe just as unqualified as McCarthy were to come and give you the same kind of medical advice – would you just accept it, so long as that person never posed nude? And inversely, if someone who is a certified MD, as well as a PhD in a relevant field of medical research were to give you sound medical advice, would you reject that advice if you found out that she paid her way through med-school by (gasp) posing nude for Playboy?

I was thinking the other day about how there needs to be a philosophy requirement added to the High School education curriculum – and how it should include rigorous training in things such as fallacy-recognition. I would have liked to be blogging more about that. Instead, I’m blogging about someone who (based, at least on one blog post) might need the remedial course!!