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Hi Susan, Thanks for the comment. From what I gather, your initial worry is that I am cherry picking some quotes of Jordan Peterson, and haven't represented his views accurately. You also appear to suggest that I am only using a small sentence and paragraph to represent Peterson's entire view on the matter. I think first of all, it's important to remember that I am focusing primarily on his arguments for why he doesn't use gender-neutral pronouns, not his views on Bill C-31. I believe I made this point at the beginning of my post. The worry Peterson presents about so-called "compelled speech" is about the Bill, which I didn't want to address in this post. I also want to make it clear that I've done a lot of research on Peterson's arguments, beyond the article I mention in this post, and as far as I can tell, Peterson commonly uses these talking points whenever he discusses the matter. For several years, for example, Peterson has railed on about so-called "Neo-Marxists." He presents this worry in the debates he had at the University of Toronto and at Queen's lawschool. Additionally, he mentions this worry on Joe Rogan's podcast, and at multiple lectures he's given aren't even about pronouns. For example, he mentions Marxism, when discussing the reason he wants to start a new University. Additionally, Peterson mentions "Political Correctness" on more than one occasion. He mentioned this in his debates, interviews he's given with Gad Saad, The Rebel news channel and beyond. The worry about preferred pronouns making language untenable was raised at his debate at Queen's law school and on Joe Rogan's podcast in both of his appearances there. He specifically brings up the 30 protected gender identities in new york on his first appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast, the Queen's law school debate, and in the article I've linked to. He's also offhandedly referred to biological essentialism in his most recent interview with Joe Rogan and Bret Weinstein and in his discussions with Gad Saad. In one instance, I've seen him accuse his detractors as equating biological essentialism with nazism, which is vague, misleading, and downright wrong. There is a rich and detailed philosophical literature on biological essentialism, and I'd encourage anyone to read up on it, to get a deeper understanding of this issue (a good place to start is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on "Species"). Thus, I am most certainly not drawing from one limited source, but several. I'm also afraid I don't follow where I'm going wrong here. Does Peterson mention "Neo-Marxism" in his talks? Does he ever define it and unpack the notion? If not, my point remains that he's simply using the term in a vague and unhelpful way. Does Peterson not suggest that the inclusion of gender-neutral pronouns makes language untenable (take a look at the debate at Queen's when he explicitly presents this argument)? The point I'm making is that there are multiple instances where Peterson has used some variation of the points and arguments I mention in my post, and he's done so rather unthoughtfully. To the extent that he uses these arguments, my objections remain.
Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at The University of Toronto, has recently garnered some attention because of his beliefs on the topic of sex and gender. Peterson has come under fire because he opposes Bill C-16 of the Canadian Human Rights Code and Criminal Code, legislation whose recent passing... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2017 at Discrimination and Disadvantage
In a recent article here, Lecturer Paul Ralph has argued that Universities should get rid of PowerPoint. Another article (here) written by philosophy professor Bent Sorensen argues along similar lines and suggests that, “universities should ban PowerPoint, because it makes students stupid and professors boring.” Similar diatribes have been presented... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2016 at Discrimination and Disadvantage
Interesting post. I think I agree with the worry that Noё fails to account for disabled people when he expresses his concern about student liberties. I had to read the article again to see if he really knowingly and willfully puts aside considerations of disabled students, and you are right! He does indeed literally put them aside, which is pretty disappointing. I'm not sure that his view entails that the basic structure of a just classroom is determined first, then the needs of disabled students considered later, even if he appears to think this. Perhaps worries about a just classroom can be inclusive of disabled students, and considerations of disabled students can be a contributory reason to the overall case he wants to make. That is, it seems to me that Noё shouldn't put aside requirements for disabled students, because these considerations makes his case much stronger!
Shelley, I've been meaning to comment on this review, so I'm glad you posted here. There are two items I hope you can comment on. Keep in mind, these aren't really objections, per se, but perhaps some initial worries I had. First, regarding the two senses of social models of disability. In much of my research on social models, I couldn't help but get the feeling that there was much more senses than most scholars ascribe to the theories. This makes it a very difficult task to define and describe social model theories than I had anticipate when describing the view, and it certainly makes me frustrated in most attempts to present and explain the view. Perhaps you share this frustration. One of the senses you presented was simply an opposition to the so called "medical model". However, when going back and reading the growing literature on social models (for and against), it seems that while social model theorists claim to deny so called "medical models", they appear to do so to make a positive claim about what disability is. For example, some social model theorists make a contingency claim, whereby disability is contingent on social feature. To these theorists, this feature is the defining feature of the social model. Medical models, in contrast to social models, apparently don't have a contingency claim. Some social model theorists appear to call into question the location of where a disability is found and what causes it. So, for example some have argued that it is located in environments, and has nothing to do with the body, much to the disagreement of many feminists. So, perhaps "social models" are a more family resemblance concept with many overlapping senses and uses in the literature, depending on the point the scholar is trying to make. What do you think? Finally, you had suggested "the citizen is always already marked as nondisabled (as well as male, white, and cisgender)." I'm curious about whether you think disabled people are excluded from citizenship. When I read this, I pictured deviant or marginalized groups being classified as non-citizens, which puzzled me a bit. I can see how this might be useful in explaining the seemingly exclusionary treatment many disabled people experience. However, the view I'm thinking of developing is not that disabled people are excluded from citizenship, but that they are disabled citizens. That is, they are citizens of a different sort, to be ruled, governed, dominated, socially rejected or accepted on certain terms, subject to discursive practices, and subject to bio-power in comparison to other non-disabled citizens. In which case, "the citizen" is not marked as non-disabled, rather there are different citizens within society, albeit the ideal citizen may be of the sort you describe. Perhaps maybe you meant "the ideal citizen" there? Or maybe you do really mean disabled people aren't citizens, since they don't meet the dominant features of the citizen.
Anne: I'm so glad your inquiry went in this direction, because I have thought about the areas that you highlight. When I had mentioned the GRE and my experiences at the APA conference, my intention was to suggest that there is a much broader point that can be made about these experiences. The quote you pulled was from my experience with the GRE. Regarding the GRE, this standardized test is supposed to correlate with success in graduate school, and future success in academia. While in graduate school you are likely expected to think a particular way, talk a particular way, cognize a particular way, and perhaps even solve problems in a particular way. So while this test is exclusionary towards disabled people, I was also hoping to suggest that there are features in graduate school, and academia that are exclusionary in this way too. So, yes, I do think that there are individuals with anxiety, PTSD and other conditions who will likely experience the competitive atmosphere in philosophy and academia as hostile. However, I would not terminate this critique at the simple fact that academia is competitive. I would argue that the form the environment takes is particularly slanted against disabled people, to the point where they are prevented from actually being able to participate and succeed fairly. For example, as I highlighted in the interview, a person like myself does not succeed without support from multiple individuals. As a severely disabled individual, I also require assistance from caregivers on occasion (many of these also include my friends and colleagues). Caregiving, for me, is a joint project that allows me to realize my intentions, and desires with the help of other agents. Caregiving also happens more frequently and is more necessary when I'm in environments that are not made with my embodiment in mind. It is my contention that academia needs to be something like a caregiving and collaborative environment for me to succeed and flourish. The sort of environment I need to succeed does not happen in ones that are overly competitive. In an environment that is overly competitive, those who experience invisibility simply slip through the cracks. They slip through the cracks, because competitive environments tend to be adversarial, in contrast to those that are collaborative. Rather than being helped to realize my intentions, in a competitive environment I would likely not receive help or support, and not acknowledged. For example, some departments(not mine) I've heard of are so competitive that graduate students need to assertively compete for the attention of their supervisors. In an environment like that, someone like myself --and I'm sure many other disabled people-- could not flourish. I imagine many individuals with anxiety conditions and those who experience PTSD would likely flourish in collaborative environments too, and would be particularly frustrated by competitive ones. I'll leave my reply at that for now, but I think I agree with you that there are certain problems with competitive academic environments for disabled persons. Moreover, whether an environment is collaborative or competitive has consequences for how that ignorance is understood and handled. In competitive environments, individuals are expected to make their problems known, and the onus is often on them to make their experiences understood by those who are ignorant; and sometimes requests for accommodation are met with suspicion or are perceived as threatening. In collaborative environments, this ignorance is problematized by all parties and individuals work jointly together, while ideally responding to each party's needs and embodiment.
Thanks for the comment, Olúfẹ́mi. You raise a really interesting line of inquiry regarding the relationship between the phenomonology of invisibility and the eurocentric preoccupation with mixedness. I hadn't really thought of this relationship prior to the interview, but I suppose there might be. Certainly what you highlight might have something to do with phenomonology of invisibility, because certain groups were not engaged on their own terms. But I'm not sure how it relates to the eurocentric preoccupation with mixedness. To clarify, what I meant was that the idea of races mixing was a particular concern among European individuals for a long time, during colonization. When a child was born from these mixed couplings, it was unclear how governmental bodies could classify these individuals, and what rights they had, which likely caused a lot of social anxiety. In addition, how particular groups of people were classified was controlled by individuals that were not themselves in that particular group; it was usually governmental bodies that had the final judgment about it. I'm still unclear how this preoccupation with mixedness interacts with the phenomenology of invisibility, but I'm quite sure that it does. For example, consider the fact that if a native woman married a European man, it used to be the case that she would be no longer be considered native and she would no longer have treaty rights --by the Canadian Indian Act. As a result, her children would also no longer be recognized as native. One can almost sense the anxiety individuals had about mixing, when one reads legislation like this! Moreover, it appears to be a concentrated effort to eliminate certain identities and cultures, by assimilating them into the rest of Canada, through legislation and policies.
Wow! There is so much to respond to here, but also so much thoughtful questions, so thank you all for those. I plan to reply to much more, but I will begin with Komarine, Audrey, and Bryce. First, thanks Komarine and Audrey for the positive comments. Bryce: Your question is really interesting, and something that I haven't thought about. In regards to what you said about Foucault, I'm not entirely sure how we want to unpack what he said about breaking bonds of dependency, isolating, and forcing individuals to inward police themselves, but there are a few promising ways to think about it. I think this dismantling of support can come in a few ways, but I think the most obvious way would be in regards to how much social support is given to PTSD victims, particularly of sexual assault. I'm sure there is some literature out there that suggests that those with trauma conditions struggle to find support for their mental health in the form of good therapists, medication and doctors. It's also not uncommon for survivors to struggle to find understanding allies in a culture that generally distrusts them, or downplays their significance, but finding these allies and friends is often necessary for making therapeutic progress. I haven't thought too deeply what this implies for romantic love, but I think there might be some institutional antecedents that can frustrate those who experience trauma conditions from finding and sustaining love. My work, thus far has only highlighted some of the philosophical arguments, beliefs and attitudes that might inform those antecedents, but hasn't really explored the institutions that reinforce particular forms of romantic love and intimacy. I suspect that these romantic institutions would also play a role in ensuring certain disabled people or social deviants are frustrated in finding love or intimacy, and sustaining it. That would certainly add an additional layer into my research, but is also part of a larger project. There might be something interesting to said about your remarks about future intentions and goals in romantic love. It seems pretty common for lovers to form and mesh plans and goals, and these actions seem to be future directed. One thing you might consider, however, is that individuals who experience trauma conditions often struggle to formulate these goals or remain in the present, due to their preoccupation with the traumatic events in their past. Again, this isn't necessarily bad, it seems pretty natural, given the nature of the events. I'm not sure if this adds an additional complication or an additional consideration about what you said about love and the future, but it might have some implications.
Hi Joseph, There's quite a few things I can say here about this issue, and they aren't all related, so perhaps I'll break it up into a few points. 1. It's noteworthy that McGill University's disability services operates out of the social model, and was one of the first Universities that I attended that didn't require medical documentation from a medical professional. As such, medical professionals do not occupy the role of gatekeeper here. Yet, it seems that many of those persons with disabilities who need accommodation get it, and there are very few instances of so called "fraud," as best I can tell. The way that it works is that the student books an appointment with a staff member at student services, where you meet and discuss accommodation and whether disability services can help meet those accommodation requests. A file is then kept on the student, and they usually get the accommodation they need. Given that some student services function well under the social model, without medical professionals keeping a gatekeeper role, you've got to wonder why people insist on having them fulfill that role. It certainly doesn't help the disabled students, since in places like Canada, you often have to pay an extra fee to see a doctor simply to fill out relevant forms. Perhaps acts to prevent disabled students from actually getting and maintaining the accommodation that they need. Or perhaps it's simply a remnant of the attitude that disabled persons aren't to be trusted, reinforcing distrust and segregation of disabled individuals that has been present in the past. 2. With regard to the different understandings and models of disabilities, I wonder if we can break down the claims a bit more here. For example, aren't there medical model theorists who don't understand disability as conceptually disadvantageous, yet still reduce disability to biological deviations (i.e. ignore social structures)? Aren't there social model theorists who understand disability as including social factors that cause disability, yet they argue that these social factors that cause disability are disadvantageous? In other words, social factors exclude disabled individuals from participation and that's bad, but when we remove those social factors, then the individual not only has equal advantages as everyone else, but they also are not classified as disabled. In this case, "disability" is still tied to disadvantage, by definition, no? Finally, there appear to be theorists that want to include social factors that causally construct disability, yet also want to include features of the biological body into their understanding of the body. What can we say about these individuals? Are they medical model theorists or social model theorists? Are they a weird hybrid of both?
Hi Justin, I think the question you present is a good one, and I have a few areas that you might want to explore when you wonder whether moral responsibility comes in degrees or not. From what I gather, there is a debate raging in cognitive linguistics about different theories of categorization. The standard approach of understanding categories and concepts, and one familiar to analytic philosophers, has often been a definitional approach. According to this approach, when we do philosophy, and wonder about a concept, we inquire about what the necessary and sufficient conditions are for certain philosophical notions like knowledge, responsibility, love, and other heady concepts. According to this approach, there are certain conditions you have to meet to be in love, have knowledge, or be morally responsible. If you fail to meet these conditions, you no longer fit the definition, and thus we would not categorize you a particular way (ie. you might not know, might not be in love, or might fail to be morally responsible). This seems to be the approach you wonder about when it comes to moral responsibility: there are certain conditions you meet to be morally responsible, and if you fail to meet these conditions, you are not morally responsible. But this is not the only categorization theory in town, and some cognitive linguists suggest that many categories don't work this way. So, these cognitive theorists seriously question the standard definitional model employed by philosophers. Enter Prototype Theory, a theory presented and defended by Eleanor Rosch, George Lakoff, Ronald Langacker and others. According to this theory categories don't work in the way standard definitional models suggest they do. Categories are often graded: so, for instance, a robin might be a more prototypical bird than a penguin is. There really are no essential features or "conditions" an object needs to have to be a bird. A prototype theorist would think it's just wrong to think about categories and concepts the way a standard definitional theorist suggests we should. Or consider the category "furniture"; we might think different objects fit this category better than others (ie. a chair might fit the category furniture better than a rug would). According to prototype theory, many of the categories we employ to understand the world around us are graded like this. Perhaps when a theorist suggests that moral responsibility comes in degrees, they are referencing the idea that some people are prototypically more responsible than others. And perhaps the category of moral responsibility -when I say that S is morally responsible- is graded, like the way in which a prototype theorist suggests other categories are. So, perhaps in the end, we might think of the debate we are considering coalesces around which theory of categories and concepts we think appropriate when talking about moral responsibility: a standard and classical definitional model, or a prototype model.
Hi Jon, I read your blog post and subsequent defences for it last night, and decided to hold off on a comment until today. Now, I just can't figure out what the central argument is or what your trying to defend, so I'll try to reply to a few things you appear to present and defend. Please note, I am actually a severely disabled philosopher with Muscular Dystrophy. This is not a so called "minor" impairment. I utilize a power wheelchair, my limbs have limited movement, I sometimes sleep with a bi-pap machine to breath for me, and my neuromuscular system is getting progressively weaker. In most provinces, I count as severely disabled, and yet I don't subscribe to the "all else being equal" theory on disability you present, or your views about alleged "speech policing." The former ignores complex differences in different modes of performance, and the latter appears to be based on a bit of a straw man. I also found the title of the piece itself is a bit odd, considering ableism is a term coined by disability rights advocates to describe their oppression. Are you praising this oppression? Or perhaps your usage of "ableism" here is "inartful"-whatever that means? But, I digress. Now, I'm not sure if you are actually still defending the "all else being equal, it is better to be abled" any more. At times, you appear to apologize for it, other times you appear to defend it. Let me get this out of the way though: most of the literature accusing certain intellectuals of being ableist, do not claim that cancer is not bad, harmful and so on. Nor is there a significant movement to remove ability laden language in our every day parlance. Heck, I still tell people I go for walks, without hesitation. Yet you appear to argue that this exists, and is represented across our culture. You also appear to present several cases where accusations of ableism MIGHT happen: your friend suffering from cancer, cases of dementia, Justin's obituary, and the word "visionary" to describe someone. Now, I consider myself widely read in disability related literature, but I haven't read anyone really accusing people of ableism in any of these cases. Perhaps you can point me to places where the accusation of ableism is presented? Okay, now onto the claim of "all else being equal, it is better to be abled." As stated previously, this ignores complex difference in different modes of performance. Wheelchair users are often closer to the ground, require two hands to propel (or one, if using a power wheelchair), uses less energy, and is faster than walking. There are instances where wheelchair users are at an advantage: when in a wheelchair accessible environment, in particular. Consider my recent trip to Vegas. My friends had to slowly walk in scorching heat to each of our destinations. Vegas also has a lot of space between different buildings, requiring walking longer distances. In comparison to my friends, I just had to turn up my wheelchair speed and roll to the next destination. For me, limited time was spent outdoors. Meanwhile, my friends were exhausted and covered in sweat. Now, we are in an equal environment, I was the "disabled" person, yet I was better off. All else being equal, it was better to be in a wheelchair in Vegas. That being said, you also ignore how the environment contributes to our being less well off or better off. You appear to assume that disability is mostly reducible to biological deviations and health related conditions located in particular organisms (without including the social environment the organism is located in), and you appear to assume that these conditions have the value assessment of being bad inherent to them. This seems to be wrong. The condition and the value assessment of the condition are conceptually distinct. We can study the condition and describe it, and the question of whether it's bad or good is different. Another factor you appear to highlight is the idea that disability has a "biological teleology" associated with it. You say, "That is, in any human society likely to promote general flourishing, it's going to still be better not to suffer dementia and to have all of one's limbs." But some milder forms of dementia are actually perfectly fine to live with. There are individuals who live in social environments where their rational deficits can be accommodated for, and those close to them can take over for whatever capacities are lost. In clinical cases, some individuals with Alzheimer's disease aren't even diagnosed until their partner passes on. Their partner was so adept at helping them that it never really became a problem. Moreover, what about societies that contain high-tech prosthetics that enable amputees to walk faster, jump higher, and run longer than they otherwise could (better than non-amputees, in some cases). Indeed, it seems not having a limb can actually be better in these societies. Would it not? You also suggest that one cannot accommodate all disabilities, and highlight this fact by stating that "accommodating some implies not accommodating others." Perhaps I'm misunderstanding the point, but the latter implication you highlight appears to be false. Consider a mall with automatic doors and ramps. Now, this doesn't exclude walkers from participation, and actually includes access to persons in wheelchairs. The amount of people being included is broader, because of accommodation. The set of people not accommodated for is smaller. In addition, while I don't mind the claim that it is impossible to accommodate all disabilities, this line of thought is often used to not include accommodation when it is perfectly fine and acceptable to do so. I can recall hearing a conservative politician defending his "right" to use round handles on his building doors, as opposed to door handles that are easily usable by persons with disabilities affecting their dexterity. His defense was loosely based on the premise that you can't accommodate all disabilities. Okay. But, why does this even matter? Now, consider my exchange on the bus the other day. A man sat next to me while I was on my way to campus to help teach a biomedical ethics course, and noticed my different embodiment. Operating out of the assumption that all else being equal, it is better to be abled, he expressed his condolences towards the fact that I used a wheelchair, and how awful it must be for me. Now, my day was going perfectly well, until he expressed this belief. He's assuming that my life awful, because I have the condition that I do. Similar sentiments are expressed when I am on a date, and people remark to my partner how brave she is for being with someone like me. Both are operating out of the assumption that all else being equal, it is better to be abled. When I reply that I am perfectly fine the way I am, I get an incredulous stare that I must be pretending that I am actually okay, since nobody in their right mind can have my condition and think such things. But, to me, this was extremely presumptuous, if not hurtful, and epistemicically invalidating. To clarify, individuals, like me, who don't subscribe to your "everything else being equal" assumption do not think that all health conditions are perfectly fine, but that our value assessment of these things are contingent on multiple factors. And, in many instances, assumptions made about abilities by others are often wrong. Now, let me be clear, your views didn't really hurt me, nor did I find them insulting. I just thought your claims and arguments were unconvincing, and title rather unthoughtful (or perhaps inartful?). But maybe that was the whole point.
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