Marx and Woman (was Re: Gender & Free Speech)

Sun Mar 26 18:12:39 PST 2000

In a message dated 00-03-26 19:09:34 EST, you write:

<< Justin:

>Oh, history. So we should just accept whatever local consensus obtains

>hereabout? Now you sound like Rorty as hsi worst.

Rorty doesn't think of history in terms of objective social relations,

while I do. Pragmatists would find it difficult to part company with

nationalists, because of their idea that "social conventions" are totally

contingent, with no necessary relation to any mode of production.

As a pragmatist, I represent that remark. We can be historical materialists as much as anybody. Anyway, you change the subject. My point: you say what makes people people is "history," or whatever we happen to believe just now. It doesn't help to add, what we happen to believe just now is determined by our social being. After all, it is a consequence of this view that in ancient Greece, slaves w ren't people. Oh, I forget, that doesn't matter because they're all dead. (See below.) Thsi really is bad Rorty-izing.

>Umm, because the thing has pretty much the same intrinsic properties

>whichever side of cervix it is on at around time of delivery.

> It has not been intrinsic properties that have made some humans "persons"

and others "nonpersons."

This slides between what actually makes people persond and what some have thought makes them persons. It's more proof taht you are susceptible to bad relativist, idealist, Rorty-izing antirealistic metaphysics taht you collapse the first question into the second.

>Infants had the basically same intrinsic

properties in ancient Greece as they do now. Likewise, medieval serfs had

the basically same intrinsic properties as modern farm workers, if we focus

our attention to anatomy.

Right,and they were people, whatever the dominant ideology or they themselves might have thought. Btw, you change the subject. It is not anatomy but a capacity for consciousness, taking care about our future, taht makes us people.

> It is ensembles of social relations that make

what we are politically. Anatomy doesn't explain the politics of

reproduction. Just as skin color didn't explain slavery.

Right, and conscoiusness depends on our being socially located, but what some people have thought about who is a person because of their political beliefs is just ideology.

>If late term fetuses are people, then their rights to life are more important

>tahn women's rights to be free of gender oppression.

>I agree with you: you can't have women's reproductive rights and fetal

rights at the same time.

I didn't say that. I said there was an antimony, it's a hard question. My only point throughout this whole discussion regardinga bortion is that it is intellectually difficult. It si not like startvation,w hich is intellectually easy.

> So, it now boils down to whether people value

women's equality with men more than a philosophical question of whether

fetuses are "persons."

You change the subject again. Now you argue that our philosophical beliefs are uncertain, so we should not put women,w ho are certainly people, at a disadvantage in case the arguments that fetuses are people and have rights to life and rights to the means of just turn out to be wrong. If thosea rguments are not wrong, we risk killing people, but if they are, we disadavnatge people who are clearly people. Thsi is not a bad argument, but notice that it seems to depend on the premise about waht isa person, roughly someone who is smart enough to able able to faer death and talk about it, that gets the problem going in the first place. What makes you so sure fetuses are not people, except they can't talk? ANd what about those newborns?

> If yes, birth is a sure & acceptable line of

demarcation; if not, it is not. While women don't have full reproductive

control over our bodies, we are second-class persons, and vice versa.

Quite right, and it is one reason I support abortion rights, but it is not a trump.

>but like them I think

>some issues don't present interesting moral questions

> Actually, me too; abortion doesn't present interesting moral questions for

the Japanese (not because we are anti-sexist obviously but because we are

not metaphysically inclined, I believe); for many Americans, sadly it does.

So why do you keep going on about it? You are like Rorty. "I am not interested in philosophy, it's so boring." So, Dick, stop writing philosophy bvooks!

>Why not assume as the norm that ll disagreementys are to be


> In thought, they always are, but in practice they aren't (as Spinoza, among

others, said).

Yeas, of course, as you know know I am a boring old ACLU FirsT Amendmenr absolutist.


BTW, *if*

abortions were murders, anti-abortionists would be *morally (if not

legally) justified* in waging a just war against women who aborted,

abortionists, and the state that allowed genocide. If you want to be

*logically consistent*, that is.

Absolutely. If I thought abortion was murder, I'd be very sympathetic to the view that liberal humanism and feminsim endorsed mass murder. That is one more reason that abortion is intellectually and morally hard.

> > Well, there is a historical reason why in ancient Greece there was a

> near-universal consensus that slavery was not wrong, while the same

> consensus did not obtain in America. First of all, slavery in ancient

> Greece was not the same as modern American slavery.


>Some of it was worse. Your point?

> Since capitalism was absent in ancient Athens, there was no material

condition that would make for the hegemony of the idea of equality; but in

America, slavery was embedded in capitalism, so slaves, free blacks, and

abolitionist whites never thought that slavery could be morally justified,

in the face of the idea of human equality.

Is this more relativism of the Allen Wood variety, slavery was consensual in Ancirnt Greece because it aws functiuonal for the ancirnt mode of production,a nd so was morally OK, but it was dissensual in 18th & 19th c AMerica because capitalism was avaialble, and so was not OK? I'm afraid so. It's a bad argument. First, I agree that that if slavery was necessary then it was not morally objectionable. But second, it was not "necessary" even in Ancient Greece, except in the sense of being hard to get rid of. Freedom, although not capitalsim, was always an alternative. Anyway, are you really going to bite the bullet and say slavery was OK for the Ancients? So you would side with the Romans agaisnt Spartacus. "Crucify them all!"

> Slavery has not been (and will not be) right since the rise of material

conditions that would allow us to abolish slavery. It doesn't matter to us

if ancient Greeks thought slavery was OK; they are dead now, and their

pre-capitalist society long gone. If there existed "transhistorical

standards of justice," it would mean that we never had change in modes of

production or that modes of production did not in any way determine ideas.

You try to dodge the question, but basically, you are committed to saying that the Romans were right to crucify Spartacus.


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