Admission

I’ve been accused of being hyper-logical and aloof, and I self-identify as a logical intellectual. This noted, for humans—myself included—emotion precedes logic. Every time. Logic is applied to rationalise our emotional response. This ‘logic’ is based somewhat on classical logic and otherwise on environmental factors. This is one reason that rhetorical persuasion is so effective. It doesn’t loose sight of the emotional element—pathos—whilst retaining logical and ethical notions—logos and ethos.

Stoic dude, Marcus Aurelius

I’ve been accused of being a stoic and Star Trek’s Mr Spock—devoid of emotion—, and on one level I don’t feel that I am run by emotions’ but on the other hand, I likely am. It’s just I can rhetorically convince myself to the contrary.

I find that highly illogical

Epistemologically, how can I know this? I can’t. But I think that this fits into Daniel Kahneman’s 2-system approach, and system 1, the heuristic element, is the first responder to all incidences. System 2, the analytical element often isn’t even alerted. For people of my persuasion, we intentionally invoke system 2, but this is always after system 1 has evaluated the situation. I highly recommend Kahneman’s Thinking Fast & Slow as an introduction to these systems and how they deal (and don’t deal) with cognitive biases.

If I had a dollar

This may be why Emotivism makes sense categorically, as Truth is just another notion wrought from emotion. It is also how humans convince themselves that things like justice and fairness can exist.

And, so, does this post have another point to make? Am I going to elaborate? It seems a bit short. By my own admission, nope.

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Arguing against Prostitution

TRIGGER WARNING: This post is about sex and prostitution and includes words and images not necessarily appropriate for the self-righteous.

If this describes you, avert your eyes.

The Holy Water, It Burns

I stumbled across another blog site advocating the Nordic (anti-prostitution) Model, which in a nutshell makes it illegal to buy but not ‘sell’ sex.

On the positive side, the advocates of this model pretty much all adhere to the same talking points. On the negative side, there are only weak strawman arguments , moralising, and anecdotes. Any studies referenced are limited in scope and with dubious rigour.

In this case, I (again) pointed out that the core of the argument was one against Capitalism, and (again) the response was that it is (somehow) more than this—because, well, things…moral things.

Interestingly, the site is named Your Social Construct Is Showing, but it seems her complaint is not about social constructs in general; rather, she doesn’t appear to like any social construct she doesn’t agree with—and without recognising the irony in claiming to understand the constructed nature of society whilst also claiming that her construction is somehow better—because, well, things…just things. She’s got some subcultural metanarrative running through her head, and, by God, it’s got to be the only valid one.

I’ve written on this before, but the primary argument is that sex work is not work—otherwise, they wouldn’t have to label it as work. It sort of employs the same logic that oral sex is not sex for the same reason—because reasons.

The next angle is to conflate prostitution with sex trafficking, just hoping no one will notice the redirection. Then they try to muddy the waters with other issues such as exploited, underage subjects as if there is some parallel between these cohorts and women who choose this line of work.

Example of an advertisement by a sex worker

So, to be fair and not fight strawmen like Cammy, I’ll comment on a Logos blog she posted in a response to me. She seemed to be impressed with it. After a rambling preamble, the post gets to its points:

Worker safety: Sex Work does not comply with OSHA rules.

Sexual Harassment: ‘unwelcome sexual conduct that is a term or condition of employment’

Civil Rights: Slavery used to be illegal, and now it isn’t. Prostitution is like slavery.

Without devoting more than a passing moment to remind the reader that workplace safety and sexual harassment rules are social constructs that vary by place and time. OSHA is relevant in the United States of America and nowhere else. Let’s address these in turn:

The Logos post cites various OSHA rules and attempts to rationalise how sex work would be non-compliant.

1

Worker Safety

Mouth pipetting/suctioning of blood or other potentially infectious materials is prohibited

The author (attributed as Lori Watson) points out that ‘this doesn’t say is permitted with protective gear. It says prohibited.’ The line of argumentation here is seemingly that semen is a potentially infectious material and so is prohibited. What she fails to note is that suctioning is not the purpose of oral sex, and with a condom, no suctioning could happen anyway.

Gloves shall be worn when it can be reasonably anticipated that the employee may have hand contact with blood, other potentially infectious materials…

If the punter is wearing a condom, it cannot be reasonably anticipated that the employee would be in contact with [semen].

Masks, Eye Protection, and Face Shields. Masks in combination with eye protection devices, such as goggles or glasses with solid side shields, or chin-length face shields, shall be worn whenever splashes, spray, spatter, or droplets of blood or other potentially infectious materials may be generated…

Again: Condoms obviate this need.

Gowns, Aprons, and Other Protective Body Clothing. Appropriate protective clothing such as, but not limited to, gowns, aprons, lab coats, clinic jackets, or similar outer garments shall be worn in occupational exposure situations. The type and characteristics will depend upon the task and degree of exposure anticipated.

Ditto: Condoms

In the event of exposure, OHSA requires: “The source individual’s blood shall be tested as soon as feasible…

OK

This part of the post closes with a comment that many [note: weasel word] punters do not prefer condoms.

2

Sexual HARASSMENT

Since the definition and expressed purpose of prostitution is ultimately an exchange of sexual services for remuneration, it seems that a person waives this protection. There is much precedence of this occurrence.

Case in point. In the United States, citizens are protected by the Constitution and its Amendments. These documents contain inalienable rights (as established by the Declaration of Independence), yet these rights are abridged (waived) in many instances—military service being the most notable, where members do not have the right to free speech, peaceable assembly, to carry a weapon (except as specifically allowed), due process, and on and on.

3

Civil Rights

The response here is a deluxe word salad, so I’ll break it down slowly.

If sexual autonomy is to mean anything, it has to mean the right to refuse sex with anyone, at any time, for any reason. 

Indeed. And the woman can refuse service and refund the fee. If I am a fast food worker, I can forego my wages and my job if I no longer wish to do it. Try to do that in the military. Indentured servitude, you ask? Why, yes. I do believe you’d be correct.

[As] a regulated commercial exchange, the “providers” are cannot be legally free to refuse clients in protected classes on grounds of their membership in the protected class.

Indeed. If I were a lawyer and refused to service a member of a protected class, I would likely be disbarred. This said, the sex worker could choose another profession. In my experience, many sex workers exclude various classes of people they do not prefer to service.

Below are some images I found whilst performing a Google search. Notice that the provider advertises her boundaries and limitations.

This one makes it clear that she does not provide unprotected services or anal sex and does not accept African-American (AA) customers under 35 years of age.

No BB – No Greek – No AA

This ad makes it clear that she only practices safe sex (No BB (bareback), including no BB oral sex) and will not provide Girl Friend Experience (GFE).

No BBBJ

Again, this provider does not service African American men of any age and does not require protection for oral sex, but she only services from her own location.

BBBJ Friendly – No AA

So at the end of all this, I stand by my original position that there is no argument to have beyond ‘boo hoo. I don’t like prostitution and neither should you. I can’t come up with a cogent argument, so I’ll shout into an echo chamber where my friends and allies will cheer me on, but critical thinking need not apply because reasons and things…lots of them.

Gimme Some Truth

John Lennon wrote this song in 1968 and released it as a solo artist, post-Beatles breakup, but he clearly was no post-modern. He embraced truth. He searched for it. To many, he had found it; following Heidegger’s logic, Lennon was authentic; not living the life someone else designed for him; living up to his potential.

This is quaint. I’d always loved John. He was my favourite Beatle. Paul was always too saccharine for me. I liked George, but his mysticism went off the rails. And Ringo—well, Ringo was Ringo. What’s not to like about the guy?—as long as you’re not talking about his prowess as a drummer.

I watched a YouTube video, and felt compelled to write a response—one I’ve recast and embellished here.

What is Postmodernism – Armored Skeptic

To a postmodernist, there is no objective truth. End of story. There is no further discussion. To postmodernists, a claim that there is some objective truth is parallel to hearing a proponent of religion who claims there is a God just because s/he says so. Truth is like God: it doesn’t exist. Period. End of story. And so like the religious who will ramble on for days about their God, so the modernist do the same.

Like the notion of God, Truth is a construct of human language, and they’re both fictions. People often confuse facts with truth. Facts are descriptive attributes about things or ideas whereas truth is about some inviolable, absolute notion. But facts are analytic or tautological: the car is red. Sure, we’ve constructed a term ‘car’ and a term ‘red’. If a thing exists that is both a car and red, then the statement is factually correct, but there is nothing true about it. It provides no additional information than ‘all bachelors are unmarried’.

The problem with truth is that we are attempting to make some universal claim, so let me pick an easy one: Thou shalt not kill: killing is bad. As an emotivist (post-modern philosopher AJ Ayer’s term), this translates to ‘Boo, murder’ or ‘I don’t like murder’, but there is no truth component to be found. Moreover, when it is brought to my attention that I abide with killing very frequently—by means of eating meat or vegetables—, I can attempt to limit the scope: Thou shalt not kill people. Of course, there are all sorts of escape clauses from this, whether wars, police action, capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion, and what have you. Each of these is differently good or bad subject to the observer. Why? Because there is no objective truth behind the claim. It was fabricated in the same manner Gods, governments, and other human institutions were fabricated.

So, the claim is that there is no basis for the status quo, which clearly jeopardises the standing of the status quo, so they pull a yellow card and argue that you are not allowed to argue without accepting their notion of truth. Otherwise, how can they win the argument? This is akin to arguing when you are stranded in the desert without fuel in your vehicle that there has to be fuel or else you can’t progress. And so the status quo has no fuel, and so it whines that the postmodernists just aren’t fair. In fact, they are accused of speaking nonsense, which sounds a lot like what the church claimed about heretics all those years ago. Only now, the modernists are the church holding onto a past that never was.

Finally, grouping all of these different postmodern disciplines together is like lumping all atheists together—they may have little in common save for the disbelief in God and gods, but their rationale and path may be orders of magnitude apart.

But all I want is some truth…

John Lennon – Gimme Some Truth

Insufficiency Theory of Language

I’m not an ethical subjectivist. The truth* is that I am a non-cognitivist. I gravitate more toward Ayer‘s Emotivism. Stevenson‘s Expressivism and Hare‘s Prescriptivism add the element of intention. This may seem like hair-splitting, but the distinction lies in the taxonomy of meta-ethics.

Emotivism and the rest are categorised under the non-cognitivist branch whilst ethical subjectivism falls into the cognitivist bucket. Intuitively, humans appear to have an innate bias toward accepting cognitivism, much in the same way as they seem to be wired to believe in supernatural concepts and see images of Jesus in toast. Whether these are vestiges of some successful evolutionary strategy is beside the point, but the problem it creates is that, in contrast, non-cognitivism is perceived as counterintuitive.

In its essence, cognitivism can be distilled down to the belief that moral statements are truth-apt, which is to say that they can be evaluated as true or false. Because of the current created by intuitionists, I lead with my fallback position, which is one of ethical subjectivism or more likely error theory.

Heads I win; Tails you lose

Although for reasons I’ll articulate later, entering a conversation assuming truth-aptness, the conversation can at least focus on the compositionality and universality components because whether I believe that moral statements cannot be evaluated as true or false, the default cognitive position of the general population is that they can be. This is not to say that I identify as a quasi-realist, which is to believe that there is no truth-aptness but to behave (pretend) that they do.

coin-flip - Captioned
Image: Deciding the truth-aptness of a moral claim

God Is Dead

In his critique of Enlightenment beliefs, Nietzsche declared that ‘God is dead’ as he understood the implications of a society absent a justification for not only believing that morality claims are truth-apt but that they are true, divinated from some metaphysical, supernatural, and universal power. In practice, the Enlightenment replaced God with a rather animated and interactive concept of Nature, hence were born all sorts of natural rights. You may get a sense of some déjà vu, as humans, not being particularly creative, just reappropriated and rebranded the same tropes Theists use prior to that. They just performed a search-and-replace of God with Nature in a manner similar to the Christian appropriation of pagan holidays.

Goddead
Image: God is dead

Non-cognitivism has generally fallen out of favour primarily because it was sort of painted into a corner by the Frege-Geach (embedding) problem, but this issue is only intractable if you accept the given frame.

I should probably just link out to a different source to explain the Frege-Geach problem because I feel it’s a red herring, which only presents a problem if you accept the frame established by the Structuralist

The problem here is that language is a complex, socially constructed communication system. Even if we accept Chomsky’s theory of the innate ability to parse language, the syntax, lexicon, and grammar are still arbitrary human constructs. I can’t likely repeat this point often enough: humans have a poor track record of creating and comprehending complex systems, examples of which are the various half-cocked socio-political, economic, jurisprudent, and philosophical systems. Hubris is evidently a successful evolutionary selection factor, as it persists everywhere and certainly in people of power.

The logical positivists ran into a similar problem when they proposed the verification principle that asserted that a statement is only truth-apt if it is either an ANALYTICAL statement or a SYNTHETIC statement, and yet this assertion with neither analytical nor synthetic, so it itself does not meet the verification principle. It’s simply a normative prescription.

Fundamentally, this quandary underscores the deficiencies of the constructed language system more than anything else, what I am developing with a working title of Insufficiency Theory. A tangent to this theory is my concept that the only moral truth (and many social truths) are simply rhetorical victories—situations where one agent employing rhetorical devices has convinced others as the truth of some condition.

Intermission

intermission

A problem with writing an unstructured stream of consciousness is that you look up and realise your post is getting pretty lengthy, and there is a lot more depth than you expected. Due to this, I am going to unpack this over several posts over several days.

Disclaimer

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professionally-trained philosopher, linguist, psychologist, or gynaecologist for that matter. I had considered studying Linguistics at uni as well as Philosophy, but I opted instead to study Economics and Finance, as these appeared to be more pragmatic. As relates to philosophy and language, I am an autodidact. This said, this particular area is new to me, so I am certain that I am missing key elements and may have large gaps in my understanding. In some cases, I’ve read more excerpts and others’ perspective on these people and their work than their actual work product. I am trying to catch up, but that leads me to a place fraught with selection and affirmation bias—though I do try to comprehend counter arguments as well. Moreover, I am painfully well aware of the Dunning-Kruger effect, and I am trying to allow for enough time to elapse to move further along this curve.

dunning-kruger-graph[1]
Chart: Dunning-Kruger Effect
 

Article head  image cropped from here: http://existentialcomics.com/comic/80

 

 


* Truth: (n) an opinion or held belief

 

Rhetoric and nothing more

Morality is nothing more than rhetoric. Rhetorical devices are employed, and a person will either accept or reject the claim contingent to an emotional response based on prior experiences. This is Ayer’s Emotivist position—or even that of George Berkeley. There is no moral truth, and any moral truths are nothing more than an individual’s or group of individuals’ acceptance of a given claim. Rhetoric is used to sway the claim.

Logic is employed but only after having been filtered through the experience through the emotion and through the rhetoric. Accepting some particular truth claim does not make it true; neither does rejecting a truth claim make it false.

I’d like to expound upon this, but for now, I’ll create this placeholder.

Fast-forward, and I’ve returned. Still, I feel that morality is nothing more than rhetoric. Perhaps I’m even more convinced—and this extends into jurisprudence and politics. I’ve rather latched onto Foucault’s or Geuss’ sense of power or Adorno’s socially necessary illusion that is ideology by way of Marx.

Talking about power, Geuss says, “you may be more powerful than I am by virtue of being a charismatic figure who is able to attract enthusiastic, voluntary support from others, or by virtue of being able to see and exploit a strategic, rhetorical, or diplomatic weakness in my position”.

« One cannot treat “power” as if it referred to a single, uniform substance or relation wherever it was found. It makes sense to distinguish a variety of qualitatively distinct kinds of powers. There are strictly coercive powers you may have by virtue of being physically stronger than me, and persuasive powers by virtue of being convinced of the moral rightness of your case; or you may be more powerful than I am by virtue of being a charismatic figure who is able to attract enthusiastic, voluntary support from others, or by virtue of being able to see and exploit a strategic, rhetorical, or diplomatic weakness in my position. »

I tend to think of myself as a proponent of the Hegelian dialectic, but even this is in a rather small-t teleology manner instead of a capital-T flavour, so I feel that although history moves in somewhat of human-guided direction, there is no reason to believe it’s objectively better than any number of other possible directions, though one might be able to gain consensus regarding improvement along several dimensions. Even this will not be unanimous.

[To be continued…]