"much difference is construed betwixt the naked and the nude"

Perry E. Metzger (perry@piermont.com)
Sat, 10 May 1997 13:57:00 -0400 (EDT)

Answers to postings by Robin, Hal and Shawn:

Robin D. Hanson writes:
> "Perry E. Metzger" writes:
> >> I'm not sure why you think people's preferences regarding nudity would
> >> be very different in the comon areas of a gated private development,
> >
> >... common areas are extremely restrictive, largely to prevent residents
> >from disturbing each other's quiet enjoyment of their homes.
> >A park, on the other hand, is not directly near someone's home.
> Nudity is noisy then?

No, it isn't, but many people attempt (irrationally) to keep their
children away from nude people for whatever reason. ("Quiet Enjoyment"
is a legal term of art -- it doesn't imply sound.)

For what its worth, though, there is no rule in the cooperative
apartment complex I live in against being nude in any of the common
areas. I don't think the question has ever come up, frankly. If it
did, this being New York, the likely answer would be fairly liberal.

> The question is whether recent historical trends are a one-time
> historical transition, or whether it is more a matter of cycles,
> multiple equilibria, and other contextual effects. Maybe both the very
> prudish and the routinely nude cultures are self-consistent equilibria
> in certain contexts. But most of human history has been between these
> extremes, and so absent a reason to expect some fundamentally new
> development, I'd expect future culture to also lie within historical
> ranges.

Note that historical ranges include primitive cultures which are, for
our purposes, nudists, although they wouldn't think of themselves as

I'm also not very sure about the "cycles" notion. European and North
American body modesty mores have pretty much remained on the "prudish"
side of the line from the fall of Rome until the last century. Thats a
very long cycle indeed! I suspect that the primacy of Christianity had
more to do with it than "natural cycles".

Hal Finney writes:

> We can also consider the motivations of someone who provides a free park.

Actually, in my "park" examples I was *not* assuming a free park --
merely one which is open to the public, just as all McDonalds
restaurants are open to members of the general public. That doesn't
mean that they are free -- just that one needn't make special
arrangements to use them.

[As an aside, in case libertopia were to hit next week, it is my expectation
that a not-for-profit organization like the Central Park Conservancy
would control and maintain New York's Central Park (in my opinion, an
excellent example of an urban park), rather than a private
corporation. My suspicion is that a wide variety of ownership models
would show up for parks and similar spaces -- for profit, membership
based, non-profit with usage fees, non-profit without usage fees, "PR"
based free parks paid for by companies, etc.]

Shawn M. Johnson writes:
> I'm the originator of this line, and I'd like to say, one major reason I
> think the world will go nude is due to the fact that almost all the current
> reasons people wear clothing is due to religious beliefs, or just plain being
> accustomed to it. Once the "average" person has eliminated mysticisms, as
> would be expected in a highly advanced society of the future, the very reason
> people wear clothes will be gone.

I disagree, for a number of reasons.

1) You dismiss too casually the need for clothing as a protection
against the elements. The need is very real, as someone living in a
city where the temperatures in winter get far below the freezing
point of water for months on end can attest.
2) You also ignore the need for clothing as a way of protecting
against things like filthy work environments or subways or other
places where one probably doesn't want bare skin contacting all
manner of things.
3) Clothing also serves many other functions. As someone who was
quasi-married to a fashion designer for many years, I can
personally attest that much of the work that goes into clothing has
nothing to do with purely utilitarian concerns but rather is
concerned with artistry, display (both of taste and of wealth),
social signals (what one wears is one of one's most important
social signaling mechanisms, btw), and a variety of similar
concerns that have nothing to do with concerns like 1 and 2. This
should not be surprising -- were it not the case, all people would
wear something like hyperfunctional jumpsuits or overalls at all

> I just think that one comes to a mental point of realizing that at
> times, there is no need for clothes, and thus, a "rational" person
> would choose to save his/her/its resources, not wear something
> unneccessarily, and have no hangups about his physical body, which at
> some point in time will itself be considered "clothing" to the mind
> (after uploading, or at least once we have sufficient data transfer
> techniques to change bodies).

Note that your model of a purely rational person has no "good reason"
to want a persian carpet, or a fine painting on their wall -- and yet
many people do want these sorts of things. Not all rational desires
may be explained in purely functional terms.