Re: Sex Change
Tue, 29 Jul 1997 09:01:54 -0700 (PDT)

On Mon, 28 Jul 1997, Robin Hanson wrote:

> Steve responded the way I would have. The closest I've heard to an
> answer is by Dale Carrico:
> >Social institutions, vocabularies, scripts often best maintain
> >themselves by relying on a fantasy of their necessity, inevitability,
> >or self-evidence ...
> O.K. This seems to be a direct application of a general rule that
> something that wants to get chosen gains an advantage by having the
> choosers be less aware of other choices. [...]

When I scolded that we should never underestimate the normative weight of
the "real," I had more in mind than this truism -- tho' you're definitely
in the ballpark. My point -- and I think it is a stronger point -- is
that there is a constellation of "magic" words whose function seems to be
little more than to "block the road of inquiry." These are the words
"Right," "Good," "Beautiful," "True," and most of all, "Natural" -- and of
course I mean these words in their perverse Philosophical as opposed to
their everyday usages (hence the initial capitals). All my life I've been
accused of expressing unnatural desires -- from confident prepubescent
assertions that I would live forever because I would scoop out my brain
and plop it into a robot body -- to later assertions about an abiding love
of a boyfriend -- to later still insistences on ethical vegetarianism. My
answer has always been the same: just how can anything that occurs in
nature properly be called "unnatural"? But the riposte never seems to
stick, because these magic words aren't *about* referential adequacy.
They attach to descriptions of the world precisely to make the
descriptions immune from criticism. John Stuart Mill's question goes
right to the heart of the matter: "[W]as there ever any domination which
did not appear natural to those who possessed it?" The observation is
from his _Subjection of Women_, 1869. Best, Dale