While driving home from work, I saw a man by the side of the road holding out his hat. He was obviously hoping people would put money in it. This got me thinking about begging.
I am, I admit, often an easy mark for beggars. Part of it is emotional-like most people, I have compassion and I am moved by people who seem to be need. Part of it is based on my moral principles: a good person helps others and I have a duty to my fellows when they are in need. Part of it is based on moral reasoning, specifically reversing the situation: if I were in desperate need, I would want people to assist me. Hence, I must be willing to aid others (kind of a Kantian thing).
When I was younger, I tended to give without thinking because I assumed that the beggar was in dire straights because of an unfair system and was working to get back into the game. That is, I had the usual young liberal view. I was, however, not an idiot: I knew that some people doomed themselves and I never foolishly put myself in danger. However, I found that my sympathy did not vanish even in cases where a person obviously just wanted the money to buy drugs or alcohol and had no intention of ever returning to mainstream society.
As I grew older, I thought a bit more about the matter of begging. As noted above, one reason I tend towards generosity is because I can imagine myself in need and I would want others to help me. However, I do have a hard time imagining myself begging. This is mainly because I believe in reciprocity: if I am to receive, I must also be willing to give in return. This need not be a crass and soulless exchange of money. For example, one person who was begging told me an amazing story about being abducted by a very strange cult and his adventures escaping from them. While it was almost certainly not true, the story was so good and well told that he certainly earned the $5 I gave him. However, a person who can offer others nothing at all would seem to have little grounds for expecting others to provide aid. After all, if I have nothing to offer others now or ever, it would seem rather selfish of me to expect them to give to me. That said, some religious folk describe God as doing just that: we have nothing to offer Him, yet He is supposed to give generously to us. As such, if God is so generous to us, perhaps we (or at least those who believe in Him) should emulate Him in this matter.
Getting back to the main point, if I found myself in dire straights and stripped of my job, house and possessions I would, of course, endeavor to regain what I had lost. I would be willing to accept assistance from family and friends and even the state (after all, I have been paying into the system for years). However, I would not ask strangers for aid. This would be, in part, due to pride. But it would also be based on my values: I cannot reasonably ask them to give to me in return for nothing. As noted above, it is the height of selfishness to expect others to simply give. But, honesty compels me to say that it is hard to know what one would truly do until such time as one must make that choice.
I was asked, once, whether I would beg or turn to crime if life’s road ended up in a place where I could gain no legitimate employment. My immediate response was “crime.” However, I added that I would only prey on the wicked and would not harm the innocent, honest and good even to stay alive. Fortunately (or rather unfortunately), there are plenty of wicked people who have lots of stuff-so until my inevitable violent end, I would probably be doing pretty well.
Sarah Palin certainly deserves credit for introducing the world to the notion of the “gotcha” question. Given the name, a “gotcha” question should be a question that is intended to trap a person in some devious or tricky manner. This, naturally enough, makes me think that perhaps Palin had in mind something like the fallacy of complex question or a loaded question.
The fallacy of complex question is committed by attempting to support a claim by presenting a question that rests on one or more unwarranted assumptions. The fallacy has the following form:
1) Question Q is asked which rests on assumption (or assumptions) A.
2) Therefore A is true.
This version of the fallacy is similar to begging the question in that what is in need of proof is assumed rather than properly
established.Complex question is also often defined as presenting two or more questions as if they were a single question and then using the answer to the single question to answer both questions. The answer is then used as a premise to support a conclusion. This version has the following form:
1) Question Q is presented that is actually formed of two (or more) questions Q1 and Q2 (etc.).
2) Question Q is based on one or more unwarranted assumptions, U.
3) An answer, A, is received to Q and treated as if it answers Q1 and Q2.
4) On the basis of A, U is concluded to be true.
This is a fallacy because the answer, A, is acquired on the basis of one or more unwarranted assumptions. As such, the conclusion is not adequately supported.
This fallacy needs to be distinguished from the rhetorical technique of the loaded question. In this technique a question is raised that rests on one or more unwarranted assumptions, but there is no attempt to make an argument. In the context of law, a loaded question is sometimes referred to as a leading question. The classic example of a loaded question is “have you stopped beating your wife?”
I think it would be quite reasonable (and colorful) to refer to complex and loaded questions as “gotcha” questions. However, this view of “gotcha” questions is based on there being some sort of trap or unwarranted assumption in the question. That is, the “gotchaness” is a property of the question. This does not, in practice, seem to match how Palin uses the term. After all, in defending her mistakes regarding the ride of Paul Revere she claimed that the question “”What have you seen so far today and what are you going to take away from your visit?”” was a “gotcha” question. The question itself does not seem to have any tricks, traps, or unwarranted assumptions built into it. In fact, it seems like an easy and innocuous sort of question. As such, either she is wrong about it being a “gotcha” question or she means something else by the term.
If she is not in error, then the most plausible account of the “gotcha” question is that it is defined not by what is asked but by what Palin answers. To be specific, if she gives a rather bad answer to a question, then it is a “gotcha” question, regardless of the content of the actual question. Presumably anyone can help themselves to this defense. So, if you give an incorrect or embarrassing answer to any question, be sure to insist that it is a “gotcha” question. That will surely show that either you are not accountable for your answer or that your answer is, in fact, right.
Newsweek recently ran an article about the plight of the formerly great white male. The article reveals that as of early 2011 600,000 college educated white males in the 35-64 age group were without jobs. This is a 5% unemployment rate. The gist of the article seems to be that the white male is in dire straits. However, this claim does not seem to be supported by the available evidence. This is not, however, to say that it would be incorrect to be concerned about the plight of people in that demographic.
While the 5% unemployment rate is twice what it was prior to the economic meltdown, it is still far better than other demographics. This is not to say that the men who are unemployed are not suffering-they surely are. However, this hardly seems to be a clear sign that educated white males do not have a “freaking prayer.” Rather, it shows that the economic mess hit very hard-hard enough to impact even those in the upper tiers.
That said, it would also be a mistake to simply dismiss concerns about this demographic as being groundless. After all, to dismiss the plight of the unemployed white men because they are white and male would be comparable to dismissing the plight of any group based on the gender or ethnicity of its members. As such, it seems right to be concerned about these people because they are, after all, people.
It might be argued that even if these white males are worse off than before, this should not be matter of concern. After all, white males have been doing very well at the expense of others for quite some time. As such, they certainly deserve to pay for these past injustices.
While this does have a certain appeal, there is the obvious concern about what is actually just. If those individuals who oppressed minorities and women are now paying for their misdeeds, then that could be seen as just. However, it would hardly be just if all white men were treated as interchangeable, so that the men losing their jobs now are somehow justly paying for the actions of their predecessors based on an inheritable white guilt.
It might also be argued that the plight of the unemployed white men should not be a matter of concern because the wealthiest people are still white males. As such, the white male hardly deserves any sympathy.
While it is true that most of the very wealthy in America are white males, it is not true that most white males are very wealthy. If it was reasonable to claim that because some people of type X are wealthy, then we need not be concerned about people of type X being unemployed, then it would follow that we would not need to be concerned about anyone. For example, Oprah is very rich, yet it should not be inferred that we should not be concerned about black women. Likewise, the mere fact that Trump is white, male and rich (maybe) does not entail that we should not be concerned about the white men who are unemployed.
I, of course, am well aware that white, educated men are still very well off relative to everyone else. However, this does not entail that all white men are well off or that it is foolish to be concerned about those people who are unemployed, but also happen to be white men. After all, the fact that most wealthy people in the US are white males is hardly a big help to the white guy who cannot find a job.
My point is, of course, not that special attention should be paid to the white male. Rather, my point is that the white males who are not doing well should not be ignored simply because some white males are still doing very well indeed.
While the majority of undergraduate students in America are women, philosophy departments are still predominantly composed of men. Not surprisingly, both male and female philosophers have addressed this matter and various explanations have been offered as to why this is the case. There have also been numerous learned treatises written about how to remedy this apparently problematic situation.
While the entire topic is well worth addressing, my goal in this essay is far more modest. I will address only the rather limited subject of women and aggression in philosophy.
If my memory serves, my first exposure to this matter was in my undergraduate days in a class on feminism. As a graduate student and in my professional career, this matter was (and is) brought to my attention fairly often, generally by female colleagues in the field. This sort of aggression was, of course, cast as an evil of philosophy and a causal factor in pushing women away from philosophy. The general idea is as follows.
Certain practices in academic philosophy are rife with aggressive behavior. Since we are talking about philosophers, this behavior is generally not physical. Rather, the aggression tends to be social and intellectual. To use a commonly cited example, paper presentations are sometimes cast as struggles between the presenter and the audience. The presenter tries to come across as smart as possible, while members of the audience launch attacks calculated to bring the presenter down a peg and to lift themselves up in the intellectual hierarchy. While this might seem to be something of an exaggeration, it does match my own experience. It is also, of course, consistent with Hobbes discussion of how the learned behave in the presence of each other.
While not all men enjoy this sort of adversarial method, it is ofter claimed that men find it far more appealing than women. This seems to be correct and is consistent with the stock gender stereotypes. As far as the cause, one can present the usual suspects: socialization and genetics. Whatever the cause, there does seem to be a significant difference between how men and women react to such situations, at least in general terms.
Given that these sort of interactions are part of being a professional philosopher, it makes sense that women would the field less appealing and hence this is a plausible causal factor as to there being fewer women than men in philosophy.
This does not, however, automatically entail that this behavior should be changed so as to make philosophy more appealing to women.
To use an obvious analogy, combat oriented video games and aggressive sports are far less appealing to females than males. However, to assume that this is somehow a defect in the games or sports would be a rather hasty conclusion. It would also be rather hasty to infer that such games and sports should (in the moral sense of the term) be changed so as to appeal to females. After all, there are plenty of other games and sports that females can play. So, for example, if many women do not find Halo: Reach enjoyable, they can always play Portal 2 or (God forbid) Farmville. Likewise, if many women do not find the practice of philosophy appealing, they can seek alternatives.
An obvious, and correct, reply is that while combat games and contact sports are inherently aggressive, it is not obvious that philosophy must be aggressive. There is also the obvious point that while women can play a wealth of alternative sports and games, to simply tell women that they have to play philosophy the “male way” or hit the intellectual highway seems to be rather unwarranted.
That said, it could be argued that the aggressive nature of this sort of philosophical behavior might be an important (or even essential) aspect of the philosophical method. If so, it would be unreasonable to expect the practice of philosophy to change so as to make it appeal to women. Going back to the games and sports analogy, it would seem unreasonable to demand that video games and sports be changed so that they will appeal to women and allow women to compete with men in all cases (such as in American football).
While it is tempting to see philosophy as requiring an aggressive clash of ideas, this does not seem to be essential to the practice of philosophy. To use the obvious example, while Socrates was quite willing to engage with the likes of Meletus and Ion, the Socratic method is more of a cooperative endeavor rather than an inherently acrimonious or hostile one. It is, of course, also possible to have a lively, spirited and even competitive exchange of ideas without it devolving into a situation that is needlessly aggressive.
This sort of approach would, I think, make the practice of professional philosophy more appealing-and not just to women.
A segment on Den Hollander, a lawyer who become moderately famous for his crusade against ladies’s night drink pricing, appeared recently on the Colbert Report. This mocking segment got me thinking about this topic and the philosophical issues involved with the matter.
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of ladies’ night, this is a practice followed by many bars and nightclubs that involves free (or reduced prices on) drinks and admission for women. The objective is, of course, to lure in women with the special pricing and use the women to lure in men (who will be paying full price).
On the face of it, the claim that ladies’ night is sexist seems laughable. After all, it is simply a marketing device used to increase business and hardly a device of cruel oppression. To claim that this practice would be on par with claiming that deals limited to children (such as reduced movie prices) or the elderly (such as reduced admission prices to some parks) are cases of ageism. Since such a claim would be absurd, it would follow that the attack on ladies’ night is absurd as well.
It could also be argued that ladies night is not sexist on the basis that men are not actually being harmed by the practice. After all, while men do have to pay more than women on ladies’ night, men typically go to ladies’ night to meet women who have been knocking back the free (or cheap) drinks. As such, far from oppressing men, ladies’ night is actually advantageous to men in two ways: 1) there will be more women present and 2) their judgment will probably be impaired by alcohol.
However, it is certainly possible to argue that ladies night is sexist. After all, what the customer is being charged is based on the customer’s sex and this not does seem to provide a relevant difference that would justify a difference in pricing. As such, this would seem to be a clear case of sexism.
In regards to the analogy to special pricing for seniors and children, there are various replies that could be made. The first is that the analogy breaks down because everyone gets to be a kid (and hence can have access to the children’s specials) and everyone has a shot at being a senior (and hence can get access to those specials). In the case of sex based pricing, men do not get to become women without expensive medical procedures, and hence men will not have access to that pricing. The second is that many of the discounts are situations that involve relevant differences. For example, children’s meals are often less because they are smaller than adult portions. As such, the analogy seems to fail.
It can also be argued that age based specials are, in fact, cases of ageism. After all, in those cases in which there are no relevant differences (such as portion size), then a difference in treatment would seem to be ageist in nature. Likewise for ladies’ night.
Another approach to arguing that ladies night is sexist is to consider whether or not the following would be a case of racism. Imagine, if you will, a night club that offers (in addition to ladies’ night) a whites’ night. On white night, whites get free admission and free drinks , while non-whites have to pay the normal prices. No one is excluded based on race, it is just that whites get special pricing for that night. I am inclined to believe that whites’ night would be regarded as a sexist event. However, it seems no more racist than ladies’ night is sexist.
It might, of course, be argued that whites’ night would be racist and ladies night would not be sexist because there is an established history of racism against non-whites and there is not an established history of sexism against men.
While this is a point worth considering, accepting this sort of reasoning would seem to involve accepting that without an established history of sexism or racism against people of type X, then an action cannot be sexist or racist against people of type X. This would mean, obviously enough, that racism and sexism could never occur. After all, there could be no racist or sexist acts prior to racism and sexism and there could be no racism and sexism prior to racist acts.
It might be replied that ladies’ night is not really sexism or at least not a big deal because it is such a small thing. After all, allowing women to have free drinks while men must pay hardly seems like a big deal. It is not like men are being denied the right to vote or being denied access to scholarships that are only for women. There is no systematic or wide scale oppression; just a difference in drink prices.
That reply does have some appeal. After all, it actually is a little thing and people generally find it laughable that anyone would be concerned about something so silly. However, the fact that something is a little thing does not mean that it is not sexist.
In light of the above arguments, it seems reasonable to believe that ladies’ night is actually sexist. As compensation for years of cruel oppression, I only ask that the ladies buy me a drink now and then.
Newsweek recently published and article on crazy chick flicks. While the article is an interesting read, what struck me the most was the remark by Sean Kearney that ““I can’t think of a crazy girl who isn’t hot.” I think this one quote stood out the most because it is the sort of thing I have heard over the years, leading me to formulate the Crazy Hotness Principle. According to this principle, hotness and craziness are linked properties such that crazy girls are hot and hot girls are crazy.
Obviously enough, this principle is total bull spit. After all, there are plenty of non-hot girls who are, as a friend of mine might put it, crazy as sh@t house rats. There are also some unconfirmed sitings of hot girls who are not crazy. However, the idea that there is a link between hotness and craziness is interesting and seems worth exploring.
One plausible explanation is that people are more inclined to tolerate crazy behavior from hot girls. If someone who is not hot starts acting crazy, people are not inclined to put up with that at all. Hence, non-hot people either learn to restrain their crazy tendencies or are excluded. On this view, it is not the hotness that makes them crazy. Rather, the hotness enables them to get away with crazy behavior that would otherwise not be tolerated.
Based on my own observations, this does have some plausibility. After all, one standard “guy thing” when they hear that a woman has some major issue is to ask “but is she hot?” Also, I have (like most people) observed friends and associates putting up with hot woman far longer than they have tolerated the less hot.
Another possibility is that the hotness actually does contribute to their craziness. Feminists have argued for years that girls and woman damage themselves psychologically by buying into the beauty myths and otherwise conforming themselves to the way men supposedly want them to be. So, perhaps the process of becoming hot actually does damage their sanity.
A third possibility is that men find crazy behavior attractive (at least initially) and this leads some men to perceive the crazy chicks as being desirable. Of course, this seems to be limited to certain sorts of behavior (usually relating to sexuality or passion) rather than just general madness.
There are no doubt other possibilities.
Of course, it is well worth considering that the alleged causal links between hotness and craziness (whichever direction they go) are based on perception rather than fact.
First, people tend to pay attention to hot chicks more than not hot chicks. As such, people (mainly men) would tend to notice crazy hot chicks more than crazy non-hot chicks. As such, it could be a biased sample that leads to this view.
Second, it could also be a case of sour grapes. I have most often heard guys who are not dating hot chicks refer to the hot chicks who are dating other men as crazy. It would obviously not be unreasonable to consider that they are simply attributing flaws to the women that they themselves do not date (or marry).
Third, I have heard it said that men are intimidated by assertive, attractive women and hence label them as crazy out of fear or some other sort of disorder. That does seem possible.
Fourth, it is also worth considering that everyone is actually crazy to some degree. Thus, hot chicks would be crazy, too. I think this has the highest plausibility.
While watching CNN this morning, two of the TV personalities were chatting about the stereotype that men, unlike woman, prefer not to ask for directions when driving.
What struck me about this exchange was the fact that men chatting about women in a comparable way (patronizing and critical) would be blasted as sexism. I suppose that women stereotyping men is funny, men stereotyping women is sexism.
What I found most interesting, however, is that the claims about men and women in regards to driving are based on the fact that the average man tags on an extra 276 miles a year due to being lost while women add on 256 miles. Assuming the data is accurate and the margin of error is minimal, this means that men only drive an average of 20 more miles than women due to being lost. While this is a difference, it is hardly a significant difference.
It is also claimed that 26% of men wait at least 30 minutes before asking for directions and 12% will never ask directions. 74% of women will ask for directions. 37% of women and 30% of men claim they will do so as soon as they realize they are lost.
Interestingly, Jacky Brown of Sheilas’ Wheels said ”Our research not only reveals that men aren’t quite as confident behind the wheel as they make out when it comes to navigation but also that women are in control when it comes to modern motoring.”
Brown’s claim does not seem to be supported by the data. After all, the fact that women drive 20 less miles due to being lost hardly shows that men are not as confident as they claim nor that women are in control. At most it shows that women drive marginally less lost miles (about 93% of what men do). Given the marginal difference, it would seem unreasonable to read much, if anything, into such data. After all, such a slight difference could easily be the result of how the data was collected and such factors as the sample size.
A final point worth considering is that while the news about the story often includes commentary comparing men to women in a way that is unfavorable to men it is still the case that men only drive 20 more lost miles even with our reluctance to get directions. This, some might say, shows that men are better navigators. Of course, it would obviously be sexist to even suggest such a thing.
As noted in my previous blog, this is supposed to the time of anger based politics.
People find their own anger appealing for various reasons. One reason for this is that people have a tendency to believe that anger is efficacious-that is, if they feel anger, then they are accomplishing something. This might be a matter of physiology-after all, anger leads to an adrenalin rush as the body prepares to act upon that anger. This can lead people to feel either that that can do something about what has made them angry or that they are actually doing something because they feel so worked up about it.
Another reason is that, at least in the context of politics, people often feel that their anger shows that they “get it”-that they see the truth of the matter as proven by their anger. This is, of course, based on poor reasoning. The fact that a person is angry does not prove that their anger is justified. It just proves that they are angry. Naturally, people tend to feel the opposite, namely they infer they are justified in their anger because they are angry.
An interesting fact about anger is that angry people generally like to see their anger reflected in others, especially their leaders. As the proverb I just made up goes, “the barking dog loves to hear other dogs bark.”
One reason is that just as people think that their own anger is a sign that they “get it”, a comparable anger in a leader is taken as evidence that they “get it.” Of course, a lack of anger in another is taken as evidence that the person does not “get it.” As such, it is hardly a surprise that people often regard Obama’s calm as evidence that he just doesn’t get it. Presumably if he did “get it” he would be overcome by anger and ruled by his rage rather than by reason.
Of course, this view is mistaken. Anger is not evidence that a person “gets it.” It is just a sign that the person is angry. Anger is, after all, not a good indicator of comprehension, understanding or the ability to solve problems. To use an obvious example, imagine a person “reasoning” like this:
Bob: “I went to the doctor and he said I have high blood pressure. He said I needed to change my diet and exercise.”
Glenn: “Was he angry when he said that? Did he pour out his rage?”
Bob: “What? No. He was pretty calm when he was talking to me.”
Glenn: “Then he just doesn’t get it. He should be angry about your condition. If he was a good doctor, he’d be mad as hell.”
Bob: “That is crazy. I don’t want some angry doctor. I want someone who thinks about the problem and comes up with a solution.”
Glenn: “You just don’t get it either.”
Bob: “Yeah. Well, you should see a doctor.”
What shows whether a person “gets it” or not is how that person acts in response to the situation in terms of addressing the problem. A person who calmly works at a problem shows that she “gets it” far more than someone who rages in anger, yet has no viable solution for said problem. It is the case that, as the proverb I just made up says,”the barking dog barks, but the quiet dog brings the bird back.”
CNN posted an iReport about national topless day. While there are some limits on when men can go topless, there are many more imposed on women. For example, I can legally run most places without wearing a shirt. A woman runner doing the same thing would risk being arrested for indecent exposure. This leads to the obvious matter of what justifies the difference in treatment.
Some people would point to religious reasons and claim that God does not want people seeing breasts in public. Of course, this cannot be true. Since God is supposed to be all powerful, it would be easy enough for him to prevent women from showing their breasts. He could simply impose selective blindness or make it so that breasts create a blurring effect when gazed upon by those who should not see them. So, it seems that God is not too worried about breasts.
Laying aside the religious foundation, it could be argued that the female breast is obscene and so awful that it should not be shown. However, this seems to be clearly false. While there are no doubt some vile breasts, I am confident that almost all men will agree that they are quite pleased to see breasts. In fact, people spend lots of money buying photos and videos of women with exposed breasts. So, it cannot be that people should be protected from the ugly horror of breasts.
It could be argued, to borrow from Islam, that men are so wicked, depraved and lacking in control that women would put themselves at great risk by exposing their breasts. Of course, this same argument has been used to argue against women showing any skin at all and yet violence against women does not seem to increase in proportion to an increase in the amount of skin displayed. In fact, places where women are forced to cover the most seem to have the most serious problems with violence against women.
It might be argued that breasts are a private part, like the genitals, and hence should not be exposed in public. Of course, this merely pushes the question back (or lower) to the matter of why these parts should be covered up.
Perhaps a practical argument could be given. Since men are so interested in breasts, having women going around topless would create a potentially hazardous distraction. For example, men might crash their vehicles while staring at women’s breasts. Men might also make errors at work when their brains are focusing on the nipples and not, for example, the numbers.
Of course, the same sort of arguments were given in the past against woman showing skin, but people obviously adjusted to the changes. True, men stare at women, but they did so even when women were covered from ankle to neck in dresses.
One might also argue that going topless would lead to immoral behavior. After all, it might be contended, a woman could start by exposing her breasts and then on the slippery slope to wickedness. This argument, of course, is nothing new. The same concerns were raised about ladies showing an ankle at the beach.
The argument might have some bite to it, though. After all, people can point to the various over-sexed reality shows, pornography, and bad sexual behavior as evidence that wicked behavior has increased as more skin has been exposed.
Of course, a look at history shows that people have been rather consistently wicked through the centuries. Also, there is the question of whether such behavior is, in fact, immoral.
As a final argument, it could be argued that women would be presenting themselves as sexual objects by showing their breasts in public. This, as the feminists would argue, would be a bad thing. Of course, this would depend on why the women were taking this action. If they did so to be sexual objects for the lustful eyes of men, then perhaps this would be wrong. However, if women did so primarily for the same reasons men do (because it is cooler, to get a better tan, or to show off) then it would seem to be no more wrong for women to do so then it would be for men.
While I do think that many men would act like idiots if women were allowed to go topless in the same situations as men, this is failing on the part of those men and this should not be I also suspect that if this became the norm, men would return to our usually levels of idiotic behavior and an exposed breast would be no more extreme than an exposed ankle or leg was back in the day.