Thursday, April 26, 2018

If sexual desire is coded as male....

If sexual desire is coded as male, women begin to wonder if they are really ever sexual. Do we distrust our passion, thinking it perhaps not our own, but the construction of patriarchal culture? Can women be sexual actors? Can we act on our own behalf? Or are we purely victims, whose efforts must be directed at resisting male depredations in a patriarchal culture? Must our passion await expression for a safer time? When will that time come? Will any of us remember what her passion was? Does exceeding the bounds of femininity – passivity, helplessness, and victimization – make us deeply uncomfortable? Do we fear that if we act on our most deeply felt sexual passion that we will no longer be women? Do we wish, instead, to bind ourselves together into a sisterhood which seeks to curb male lust but does little to promote female pleasure?
Those words were published in 1984, by Carol Vance, in "Pleasure and Danger: Towards a Politics of Sexuality". That is the introduction to the extraordinary volume Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, which is basically the proceedings of the famous 1982 'Barnard Sex Conference'. But it strikes me, in the midst of #MeToo, in all its various manifestations, that those words could just as well have been written yesterday. There are all kinds of ways in which women's sexual desires are questioned, not just by slut-shamers but also by a certain breed of 'feminist'. Of course, there are all kinds of ways in which (sexual) desire is shaped by culture. But, as the women who contributed to Pleasure and Danger understood, we need to find a way to reconcile that fact with the reality of the desires we have: to allow ourselves to enjoy what we enjoy while simultaneously fighting against the culture that shapes us. There's no contradiction in that.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fascinating Reflection on Transexuality

My friend Anne Eaton directed me to this fascinating but in some ways deeply puzzling essay by Andrea Long Chu, who is (I take it) a graduate student in Comparative Literature at NYU. It's a lengthy investigation of the fraught, and too little discussed, relationship between identity and desire in the experience of trans women, specifically. Probably, Chu rightly restricts her discussion to that case: the one she knows from the inside. But I strongly suspect that her reflections have something much broader to teach us about gender, and our experience of it. Certainly, as someone who is genderqueer, it rang a lot of bells with me.

Published: The Logical Strength of Compositional Principles

This paper investigates a set of issues connected with the so-called conservativeness argument against deflationism. Although I do not defend that argument, I think the discussion of it has raised some interesting questions about whether what I call compositional principles, such as "A conjunction is true iff its conjuncts are true", have substantial content or are in some sense logically trivial. The paper presents a series of results that purport to show that the compositional principles for a first-order language, taken together, have substantial logical strength, amounting to a kind of abstract consistency statement.
Find it on Project Euclid, or download the pre-publication version here.

The paper is a kind of companion to "Disquotationalism and the Compositional Principles" (PDF) and is basically the philosophical side of the paper "Consistency and the Theory of Truth" (here).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Inadequacy of Sexual Consent?

Earlier today, I fell down one of those Internet rabbit holes reading reflections about the Aziz Ansari story. (I confess to having previously had no idea who he was.) In truth, I jumped in myself, once I realized what was really at stake here, since it's something in which I've been increasingly interested myself over the last couple years. The best piece I read was by Amanda Alcantara, on The Lily. Here's the crucial bit:
[This] story...pushes us beyond the parameters of what we've been saying about consent: That "no means no", or to seek an active "yes". This form of teaching consent focuses on feelings of power during intimacy. It's a response to a request—"will they let me have sex with them?"—rather than seeing sex as something mutual. The question should be, "Do they want to have sex with me?" That is essentially where this conversation lies. Is consenting about "wanting" or about "letting"?
That's almost right, I think. But the real lesson, which seems to run just under the surface of a lot of these discussions, concerns the limitations of the notion of consent. In fact, this is not a new idea. See this piece by Rebecca Traister in The Cut, for example. But perhaps it's an idea who time has come.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Lacuna in "Is Frege's Definition of the Ancestral Adequate?"

Ran Lanzet has pointed out a significant lacuna in the proof of the main result in my paper "Is Frege's Definition of the Ancestral Adequate?" This has been repaired in the 'pre-publication' version of the paper, which can be downloaded here. See p.21 of that document.

I had certainly thought of the missing case, and seem to recall that at some point I'd introduced a 'simplifying assumption' that allowed me to ignore it. But that assumption is not mentioned in the published version of the paper, and it isn't nearly as easy as I'd supposed to see that it's permissible (which is perhaps why I removed it, but without fixing the affected part of the proof).

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Have Fun With René, Jerry

I did not know Jerry Fodor at all, personally. But when you spend as much time with someone's work as I did with his, you feel like you did know him.