Saturday, June 26, 2010

Feminism and You

I was going to post this over my apology from last night, so as to obliterate the evidence, but then I read it and realized I spelled 'write' as 'right' thus backing up my claim to incoherence. This is amusing enough to grant it a stay of execution, so my "Friday" update is here, on Saturday, in a new post.

Feminism is a dauntingly broad subject to address, so let me begin in a manageable piece. I consider myself a feminist. Of course what I just said can be interpreted in a plethora of ways, I am not a separatist, nor an eco-feminist, and Third Wave feminism seems a little too debauched for me at times. One of my philosophy professors would quote the definition paraphrased here, "A feminist is one who holds the radical belief that women are people."

This seems too easy, but I believe this may be a product of the era in which I grew up. I too have been influenced by the Girl Power culture of the nineties, and find it almost unbelievable to consider women as anything other than people. Watching the TV show "Mad Men" recently hit home the fact, which I knew intellectually, that as recently as half a century ago women were considered to be of similar competency as the children they raised. So, if I am perceiving our society correctly when I say that women, for the most part, are people too nowadays, this is something to be celebrated.

However, I do not believe that the progress is sufficient for us to grow complacent and lapse into a post-feminist society. There are inherent differences between males and females that necessitate treating women as people in their own right, rather than simply adding them to the "guys." In other words, although women and men are both people, women should not be forced to conform to the male-presuming standards for being a person.

For example, a woman may give birth, a man cannot give birth, thus denying a woman the right to take a break during an examination to lactate is not treating her equally to a man. While it is true that men are also not permitted to pause for lactation during the exam, it is a non-issue for a man. To hold a woman to the same standard despite the inherent differences in situations would be to declare that women may take a place alongside men in society, but only if they take the route of conforming to the traditional male role (the Margret Thatcher route you might cal it). I guess I'm not a liberal feminist either (one who believes women will achieve de facto [real] equality with men simply through de jure [legal] equality with men).

This leads me to why feminism is so important for everyone, because we are all individuals. While permitting women to assume male-roles in society may be a step forward, it is my dream that one step of the future will be to let go of the dichotomous nature of male/female roles in society and instead consider each individual as just that, an individual. This will be a boon to anyone who fails to fit either role perfectly. So, if you aspire to be something other than the perfect 60's mother or father, it is in your interest to be a feminist too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Temptation to Type

It is sometimes hard not to put up a post when I have an idea in my head. I bother to restrain myself for two reasons that I can think of. First, sometimes it is hard to come up with an idea for a post, so might as well save them for Fridays. Second, keeping a once a week schedule not only ensures that I am putting up content to entice you, my treasured friends and collaborators in this, to keep coming back, but also helps me not to feel pressured to present posts at such a prodigious or prolific pace as to burn myself out.

Hmm, I'm riding some kind of alliteration riff today. Also, as much as I tend. to argue, after some thought I have decided that arguing with my friends all the time might not be the best form of communication. Thus, having alienated both my conservative and liberal friends by this point, I am going to try to present thoughts, rather than positions on debates, for the immediate future. I still highly enjoy and appreciate comments, critiques, contributions, and even affirmation, even though it doesn't start with a hard 'c' sound.

So I don't forget the thoughts that I am currently restraining myself from talking about, here is a cryptic preview of my planned topics for the next couple weeks.

Perception of Education

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Old Gamers Never Die

They just blow on their cartridges a lot. I have to admit that I never was a hardcore gamer, but I was a fairly serious recreational gamer (and have the Mario Kart 64 skills to prove it). I also did die quite often, though it was great fun. However, I left that lifestyle behind me, for the most part, when I was at my undergrad; perhaps not so much due to my diligent studies (unless you happen to be one of my parents), but more because of the many opportunities to engage in fun activities with my peer group. This is of course how I gained my crazy boardgame addiction.

Here in Michigan, where the boardgames do not roam as freely, I occasionally find myself with an abundance of time. In light of this I am returning to my roots and, once again, hoisting the controller aloft, this time to a new generation of games. This post is to say, I am not impressed.

While graphics have improved with the time, the essence of the game has, in a word, atrophied. I would separate the games I have played into two broad categories. One includes games with wonderful gameplay but no overarching story, or at best a weak facsimile thereof. While enjoyable, keep in mind that they are competing with MS Hearts. The other is characterized by a deep, even enthralling, plot line, which tragically is supplemented with an actual game that is indifferent at best.

Into this category I place Mass Effect and FF XIII, although they are engrossing to watch, and I intend to finish them at least once, I am somewhat dismayed at the lackluster game beneath the lovely story. As a DM, I believe that my appreciation for background information ranks up there with two year olds and people who have actually read the Silmarillion, but when I buy a game I hope to feel like I am playing something. Honestly, FF XIII comes on three CD's, if I had that kind of time I would read the Silmarillion. While in Mass Effect I at least get the feeling that I am making decisions and entering a role, in FF XIII I feel like I am watching a stunningly gorgeous and stunningly long movie.

Perhaps I am being too harsh on these games. The measure by which I judge them has been set by Chrono Trigger, FF III (6), Earthbound, and Secret of Mana, which may be an unbeatable standard. Even if we cannot exceed the games of our ancestors, I would ask that we at least produce games of a similar quality, worthy heirs to the legacy.

In other news, I think that, in addition to my Friday philosophical post, I shall try to put up a post, or even two, midweek on a lighter note. So all my friends out there see how absolutely glamorous my life is.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Atheists are an Amoral Animal

It has often been noted that the bulk of any rational discourse tends to be haggling over definitions. Thus, before I can explain why atheists and agnostics cannot be moral people, I should first examine what it means to be moral. I am reminded of a quote, which I paraphrase, the ethical person knows what should be done, the moral person does it. The simple answer to the complicated question is that the moral person is one who consistently tries to do the "Right Thing."

Therein lies the problem for the atheist, there is no right thing. There are nice atheists, compassionate atheists, and generous atheists, but no moral atheists. Indeed, how can one even build a morality from an atheists viewpoint? One might do something to benefit from it, which is self interest, or because it seems natural to do as it confers a reproductive benefit to your social group, which is evolutionary biology. However, I believe we can agree that we would not want self interest or a biological imperative to be what we mean by moral.

Even attempting to define what a good person is in the language of atheism is difficult. We might list qualities that we enjoy about them, we could do the same about a treasured car or other possession. Does then saying that someone is a good person carry no more weight than that a vehicle is a good car? Should goodness be a measure of how pleasing and or functional someone is? If so, I would argue again that it is divorced from any common sense notion of morality that we posses, for one might call a particularly canny criminal a good felon, meaning that they are quite functional at what they do, and by no means wish to attach moral approbation to the comment.

It seems the closest an atheist will come to morality is if they believe that there are some actions which are, in some sense, inherently right or wrong, such as treating others equitably or lying. However, should such a person be out there, I ask you, if there is no higher power or being to dictate such things, what makes an action inherently right or wrong?

Certainly those of us who do believe in a higher power have our share of moral quandaries. As Socrates taught, saying that the higher power dictates what is good also robs it of much of its customary meaning, for then murderous rampages would be good if one's god decreed it so. That said, I can see no reason to even think about right and wrong without a belief in some structure of ethical obligation upon the universe, and that is why, although I appreciate the friendship of many of them, atheists are amoral beings.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Way of Things

First off, thank you to everyone who has visited and read my ramblings. A very special thank you for those who gave me attention, um, I mean feedback. I have decided that it is my goal to put up a substantial post on a matter worthy of discussion at least once a week, thus you can look for one tomorrow. I am hoping that this schedule will prove less stressful than the same time line for my, currently defunct, webcomic. This seems reasonable since I am a licensed and trained pontificator, but a supremely unskilled artist. Supplementing the meaty posts will be updates on my life, things I think are funny, and other random posts (such as this one) as I feel moved or as is requested. Let me reiterate, this is not my weekly (hopefully) thought provoking post, this is a post about that post, a meta-post if you will.

Because the title of my blog is premised on my being a rational centrist, rather than accepting either leftist or right-wing dogma, and because the majority of my friends are left leaning, I wanted to choose a topic this week that would seem less acceptable to liberals. This is under the assumption that most of them would agree with my stance on abortion, which is unlikely to garner any interesting arguments from them. (Although there were some thought provoking responses, I didn't get any clear rebuttles, and what is the fun in that?) To that end, tomorrow I shall be presenting my argument why people who do not have faith in a higher power/order cannot be moral. Please do not lambaste me yet, wait for the post before you mentally skewer me.

This is a thought I have had for a few years now, though it hasn't had the polishing that comes from much discussion yet. However, one of my goals for this blog is to generate new thoughts and ideas. To this end, please feel free to let me know if there is a topic you would like me to give my view on. Once I am done teaching, in two weeks (Huzzah!), I would even be willing to read papers/books that are recommended to me, in moderation of course. Until tomorrow, think thoughtful thoughts!

Friday, June 11, 2010

First Trimester

Today I shall turn my typical levity toward a topic of much public consideration, the fact that abortions are not illegal in the United States, and why I believe this is a positive state. To do this I must explain my hopes for the government, which is that their interference in private life be constricted to that necessary to foster a civil society, in order to illuminate why they should stay out of the abortion issue. I shall then proceed to illustrate why this metric is a more natural measure of our government's action by than the popular moral metric, used by most advocates of outlawing abortion.

If I were to sum up my position on abortion with a catchphrase it would be, "I support a woman's right to choose not to have an abortion." Firstly, it sounds like something Stephen Colbert might say, which is intrinsically worthwhile. Secondly, it accurately encapsulates what I want to emphasize, that I, like most people I know, do not consider an abortion the ideal choice. That said, for a woman to choose not to have one she must have the choice to have one. Why ought we legally leave the choice up to her? Having an abortion may not be the ideal choice, but sometimes birth is less ideal, either for the mother, or the future child, or both, and the mother seems the most qualified individual to discern the least objectionable path. If compassion for a woman in an overwhelming situation is insufficient reason in our rights and rationality driven society, how about the reason that it is none of our business.

It is my opinion that the state should exist to impose such conditions necessary to foster a civil society, no more, no less. To that end, we have laws governing the methods of transportation to try to keep it safe and reliable, we have laws protecting members of society so they can carry out their business in the public sphere, protecting property so we feel comfortable leaving it unattended, and so on. Gestating masses should be protected in the same manner as property, albeit irreplaceable property, in order for pregnant women to feel safe and welcome in society. However, since they have neither business in nor conception of the public sphere, gestating masses have no reason to need the protection afforded to members of society, that is, statutes prohibiting their harm or elimination by anyone. Thus, to reiterate what I have stated above, it is not the state's business whether a woman chooses to undergo an abortion.

As a Christian, this position puts me at odds with the political positions of many who share my goal. However, arguing against legal abortions on moral grounds seems to be hijacking the debate. The state is not, and I would assume most Christians would agree should not be, a moral entity. Though I believe there is great benefit to be had in a relationship with Jesus, I would be horrified if the government were to attempt to enforce such a relationship upon public society. Verily, such a thing is intrinsically impossible, as the concept of forcing someone into a healthy religious relationship contains two antithetical concepts, namely a healthy relationship and forcing someone into it. Similarly, to take any matter of personal moral belief and make it a matter of public policy both reduces it's moral significance, as now refraining from it is no longer purely an act of worship but also a civic obligation, and tarnishes the credibility of the government, as obliging the moral beliefs of all citizens is also intrinsically impossible, so to arbitrarily favor some code over another seems patently unjust.

If this reasoning seems insufficient to warrant the divorce of morality and governance, consider this summation of the situation. There is a large population of living entities that some, but certainly not all, citizens believe deserve full ethical treatment of citizens, physical protection as autonomous agents, but are currently being legally killed without due process. Members of this population have no effective means to protect their interests, assuming that they have any, for they lack even the communication ability to outline what those interests would be. Because they are non-members of society, I would argue, drawing from social contract theory, that society has no direct obligation to them, only indirect obligation through their caretaker. Putting philosophy into practice I eat them all the time. I am of course speaking of animals, they are tasty. If we are to prohibit abortions due to almost identical conditions, it would be a gross injustice to refrain from obliging the faction advocating for animals without a sound, factual difference in the arguments.

Note that it would be intellectual sabotage to, at this point, attempt to frame the argument as a debate on different moral weight that humans inherently have. This is not a practical matter for public policy, but rather a precept of personal belief, similar to whether gestating masses deserve human status. I espouse an organization of government not to enforce one morality or another, but to preserve the context of a civil society within which we can grow and share our morality with one another. When held to these standards outlawing abortion fails to have supporting cause.