Pulling a Location

The most worldly man I know, brilliant, effervescent, wildly gay (in both senses of the word), generous to a fault, impishly funny, cynical and compassionate, utterly depraved, abandoned in and relishing his slavery to sins – sins that soon killed him – was chatting with me once long ago about a mutual acquaintance, who had surprised all of us who knew him by moving on the spur of the moment to New Orleans. “Seems like something out of the blue,” said I. “He’s pulling a location,” said he. I looked at him quizzically. “It’s an AA term,“ he explained, “for a standard move addicts make shortly before they hit bottom. They try to solve their problems by changing their location – moving to a new town, far away. They figure a fresh start is all they need to get off on the right foot, and stay on the right track. It never works. Their problems have nothing to do with where they are living, or the other people who happen to live there, or who don’t live there. It never, ever works. Sometimes you have to pull two or three locations before you figure out that nothing’s better in one place than it is in any other, and the problem is located in you. He’ll be back.”

So he was, indeed – stone cold sober, thanks be to God, at least for a while – right about the time my interlocutor began to succumb to AIDS.

A few days ago on the train I was reading, appalled and disgusted, about Bruce Jenner’s decision to cut off his penis and testicles so that he could be happy, and the thought arose, unbidden: “He’s pulling a location.” I became conscious of having had that thought, and was startled. Then, the analogues to moving to New Orleans to get away from your problems made themselves all at once apparent to me, like the stars in the climactic explosion of a prodigious pyrotechnic display: transsexuality; tattoos; piercings; plastic surgery; transgressive fashion (but I repeat myself); transgression in general; sexual deviancy; subcultures such as those of the Goths or bikers or gangs; any lifestyle or avocation involving costumes or self-conscious play acting; frivolous divorce; and so forth. The list could be multiplied endlessly. All are types of pulling a location.

Changing your mode of dress, or your circle of friends, or your hair, or the décor of your dwelling, or the like, are all ways of changing the outward aspects of life without changing the inward. They wash the outside of the bowl, without touching the inside (Matthew 23:26). And modifying your body by somehow cutting into it is the apotheosis of this fatal and silly misprision. It is the worst sort of vain attempt to evade your problems, which lie nowhere else but at the very root and source of your life qua yours: in your will and intellect, and in your heart. You can’t heal your sickness at heart by losing weight or running a triathlon, or, a fortiori, by cutting at your body.

Then, naturally enough, I turned my gimlet eye upon myself and my ilk. Had I been pulling a location in moving from Canterbury to Rome? Were my traditionalism, my cultural orthogony, my reaction, or my writing here as an orthospherean just a convenient costume that I assume in order to give myself a way of being that, while objectively good, and so both important and alluring – which indeed I verily think it truly is, without the slightest scruple or itch of doubt – enables me to distract my attention from my real problems, and from the shortcomings that lie in me, and me alone? In short, is it possible that things that are really good to do can also be evasions of my absolute duty ever to do the right thing?

Of course it is. CS Lewis somewhere explains – I think in Mere Christianity – that even praying earnestly in the solitude of one’s room can be vicious when it is undertaken in part so as to evade the tiresome duteous helping with the washing up of the dishes, in which one’s weary wife is engaged downstairs. Praying is always good, but may not always be right. Better to try to pray with divided attention *while helping the wife with the dishes;* better yet to make the doing of the dishes itself a prayer. Such is samadhi, and the enchantment of life.

I do not, as it happens, think in the end that my move to Rome was tendentious, nor do I think that my orthosphericity is but a convenient dodge – even though I am for its sake at this moment neglecting my plain duty to get to bed timely. For, both these things are for me expressions of my deep being – of the man I am meant to be, in Providence. They feel as though they add to my holiness, or subtract from my profanity, or improve my integrity, or at any rate as though they make me healthier, both spiritually and, ergo, morally, indeed physiologically. They feel like *unalloyed* goods. In pursuing them, I cleave ever closer to the main matter of my life. They are not, then, distractions from what I ought to do. Indeed, they are *part* of what I ought to do.

Furthermore, they are – and this is the main thing – not depravations of the Order of Being, like transsexuality, but agreements thereto. And that is the test. Does your “thing” force you into an argument with the Order of Being, with the Natural Law? If so, you are pulling a location. You are, in the end, participating in the Gnostic effort to dispense altogether with the body, and with its environing world, in and by which it is expressed.

If you feel you must cut your body in order to be faithful to your self, then your self is at war with the Order of Being – and in that war, it shall soon lose. Pulling a location cannot work. It’s metanoia or nothing.

Better to lose  yourself, and gain the whole world (and with it your self, in the bargain), than vice versa.

47 thoughts on “Pulling a Location

  1. Pingback: Pulling a Location | Neoreactive

  2. Perpetual motion is one sign of a sick society. Voegelin remarks, in The New Science of Politics, that the Gnostic is required by his convictions to be in a state of uninterrupted agitation. In Flaubert’s Temptation of St. Anthony, an element of the sick society that Anthony flees when he turns his back on Alexandria is the horrific ebullience of various self-mutiliating cults. Of course, Anthony’s flight was not an instance of “pulling a location,” no more than was Lot’s.

      • And so we straight let out on bail
        A convict from the county jail,
        Whose head was next
        On some pretext
        Condemned to be mown off,
        And made him Headsman, for we said,
        “Who’s next to be decapited
        Cannot cut off another’s head
        Until he’s cut his own off,
        His own off, his own off,
        Until he’s cut his own off.”
        And we are right, I think you’ll say,
        To argue in this kind of way;
        And I am right,
        And you are right,
        And all is right — too-loo-ral-lay!

        W. S. Gilbert, The Mikado

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  4. It must depend on the details of the location-pulling. Pretending to be sober seems a plausible way to become a sober. Pretending to be a New Orleanian seems an implausible way to become a sober.

    • Yes. Pulling a location is a way of avoiding the necessity of repentance – of metanoia. Sobriety, too, is a move. But like those of Lot and Saint Anthony, it is a move toward the nub of the central problem and its arduous solution, rather than away. It is to embrace the leper.

  5. @Kristor – I agree with your general point, and I think it is very important – but I think your example of alcoholism is mistaken.

    There is a sense in which the best way to stop being an alcoholic is precisely to pull a location: the alcoholic must stop hanging out with his old drinking buddies, must stop going to the old bars; and must start a new life – eg based around AA meetings instead of boozing buddies and bars.

    It is very difficult/ impossible to change just one thing about your life, such as an addiction, if everything else remains the same.

    But

    • To be sure. New wine, new wineskin. Avoiding the occasions of one’s besetting sin in connection with a motion of confronting it, repenting of it, and putting on a new mind is the *opposite* of pulling a location, in which by avoiding the central issue one merely switches out one set of such occasions for another.

      Training for a triathlon can be a new wineskin for new wine, or for old. It can be the real deal, or a way to pretend at the real deal while avoiding it. It’s a virtuous project either way, but if we’ve missed the main chance, no amount of subsidiary virtues can make up the loss.

      I speak from long experience as an avoider of repentance.

      • Whineskin removal — a simple outpatient procedure for dealing with the liberal-modern regime! If Obamacare didn’t pay for it, I’d drop dead in my tracks…

        Yes, whineskin removal — it might be a good circumdecision for many modern people!

        Then again Jenner’s problem is acute — he’d need to have all fore of his whineskins clipped!

  6. True in general but AFAIK you don’t understand transsexuality. I think you just categorize it as yet another hedonistic liberal hobby. In fact it is something deeper – it just happens that due to a genetic mutation, a birth defect, some people are born with a feminine brain but masculine genitals or the other way around. They were already born mis-matched to the Order of Being like any other mutant, like any boy whose wrists grow from his shoulders without arms in between. Chopping off the penis sounds horrifying but their brain was always feminine, so it is just a way to make the body superficially match it to make this sorry condition more bearable.

    Putting it different, transsexualism is basically that very conservative idea that gender essentialism is real, true, genders are truly different, behave truly differently, which means they have different brains. From that on, a genetic mutation that makes brain and genital gender mismatch is wholly imaginable.

    I don’t know how could you debate this. IMHO you must believe in gender essentialism or else much of your worldview would not make sense, and you cannot possibly believe gender essence is in the genitals, for it is not genitals that make me like fighting and make women like interior design: it MUST be in the brain. From that on, it is a purely empirical science question whether a mutation that makes them mismatch is possible. It seems yes. Just like a two-headed calf, this is possible. Thus that Bruce Jenner has always been a woman in the sense of having a womans brain, and the mismatch with the Order of Being happened when he had the genetic accident to grow a penis, not when he had it removed. He was _born_ a two-headed calf, and had one head amputated.

    This seems like more a conservative than liberal thing. Living out the gender essence, hardcoded in the brain. In fact, there is a branch of feminism called gender-skeptical feminism who think transgenderism is bullshit because gender is just a social construct, and calling yourself man or woman should not limit your choices in anythign. Which one sounds more conservative, either that “limitless choices” view of gender-skeptical feminists or the humble view of transsexuals who say “given that I have this feminine brain I have no choice but to wear a skirt and a female shaped body” ?

    It seems to me, transsexuals are trying to fix a birth defect in themselves precisely to comply better with the order of being hardcoded in their brains.

    I think conservatives should recruit transsexuals away from liberals. They believe in gender essentialism hardcoded in the brain.

    • That is ridiculous Shenpen. We don’t need trannies to fight the Left. We believe in the Natural Law. We believe that male and female are biological entities and transsexuality is another liberal delusion. There is no conclusive proof that trannies have the brain of the opposite sex. Also conservatives are against body mutilation.

      What conservatives need to do is stick to their principles and stop listening to shills that tell them to compromise every step of the way. This is why conservatives lost the Culture War. Because they listen to types like you that tell them that they should be nice and accepting instead of victorious.

    • The fact that you use the term gender instead of sex shows that you are not to be taken seriously. Let’s see, “Accepting mentally ill mutilators is actually the conservative thing to do”. Hmmm, why does that sound familiar? Neocon drivel.

  7. But, setting aside the issue of misunderstanding transsexuality, you are generally right. I engaged in it a long time. I was pissed off with me being a cowardly nerd who cannot attract a girlfriend at 16, and engaged on a long road of making my body muscular, my clothes designer, my haircut fashionable and thus faithfully copying the external looks of extroverted popular and masculine guys. I still behaved like a timid nerd so it did not work well with the girls. It took a lot of time to realize I need to change inside – and then it took even more time to realize that projecting my problems into not having a girlfriend and assuming that once I score one all will be right is also just pulling a location. It is inverting causality – one of the results normal people had as the result of their normalcy was to be able to attract partners, but it does not work the other way around, attracting a partner does not make one normal.

    I still have not worked out 100% what is wrong with me – surely, the root reason is what Christians call original sin and Buddhists call ego-illusion, I do know every human, the human existence itself is what is screwed up, but I am still not 100% sure in what particular way it manifests in me. However meditation, boxing, age, work, and having my family, made much of it just go away. Maybe the best way to pull a location is to engage yourself in a lot of things that are meaningful and good and simply to not have time to think about yourself. As self-centeredness is fairly close problem to the root problem.

    • Shenpen, it seems to me that your second comment suffices to refute your first. We all find ourselves somehow handicapped by native defects of birth, inheritance, circumstances, etc. We have no choice but to overcome them insofar as is practical. But as you say, it is a category error to think that if we do at last somehow succeed in overcoming them, then we will be happy. It doesn’t work that way. So, a transsexual *can’t* get happy by cutting. Happiness may come to him only by a fundamental reorientation of attitude.

      But there is more: you can’t overcome or repair a defect by giving in to it. And you *ought not to give in to it.* On the contrary. This, not because overcoming a defect won’t make you happy, nor because giving in to a defect doesn’t actually work to overcome it – in fact, it does the opposite – but because *defects are bad* and we ought not to do what is bad.

      The proper correction of a defect is not to be found in a deformation of the rest of life, so as to accommodate it. We don’t respond to a genetic predisposition to alcoholism by suggesting that alcoholics should be accommodated in their drunkenness – we don’t set up special lanes for the drunk drivers who are “just following their bliss.” Nor should we! Defects are bad – bad for those afflicted by them, and bad for society – and we should strive to *eliminate* them. As we discourage alcoholism, so should we discourage sexual perversion.

      Sometimes, to be sure, we have no choice but to accommodate defects: a paraplegic has no alternative (yet) to a wheelchair. But we should not confuse the wheelchair with healing.

      Likewise for a man somehow “born with the brain of a woman.” This notion seems like a stretch to me, but let’s stipulate to it, arguendo. The fact that such a man has a womanly brain does not mean that he may be healed if his body is injured so as to make it look more womanly. That would be like “healing” the paraplegic by amputating his legs. No; such a man may not be salvageable at all within the orbit of the moon, if we take salvation to consist in the elimination of the disagreement between his “female” brain and his male body (not least because he is stuck with that pesky Y chromosome, with all that it entails). That ultimate healing might have to wait upon his resurrection. If so, then the worst thing he might do in the meantime is to ruin the rest of his life to match the ruin in his brain, and the best thing would be for him to strengthen the healthy aspects of his being, and insofar as he can, to conform his incurably defective peccant parts to them, so that his besetting illness does not entirely sabotage his earthly career.

      If your finger is broken, you don’t break the rest of your fingers to match; you bind the broken finger to an unbroken neighbour, so that it might heal straight, and true.

      • Happiness may come to him only by a fundamental reorientation of attitude..

        Or, paraphrasing the second half of Kristor’s comment, earthly happiness may be simply impossible for him. Earthly happiness is not the target we should be aiming at. Because God is so excessively generous to us, He generally does make us sufficiently non-broken that earthly happiness is a reasonable guide to what we should be doing. But, even so, that can only be true in an in-general-and-on-average sense. If you are enough of an outlier, then you may just have to suffer.

      • But the point is, what is the definition “a man” ? Is it the genitals? Is it the brain? Is it something partially supernatural (i.e. not easily testable or verifiable) ?

        For example if you define “a man” as “a person with a male brain” then the transsexual in question is a woman with a perfectly functional brain and a broken genitals that need corrected.

        The question is, what is the correct definition? Clearly, looks are superficial. Genitals are fairly superficial. To me it is fairly intutitive to focus on brains, being the most valuable and important parts of people, the part where humans differ from animals most, and if you believe in souls then the part that is closest to the soul.

        Do you think I am over-valuing brains here? I think it would be better to have a brain and nothing else, “brain in vat”, rather the opposite, a mindless zombie in a perfect body.

        But if I am evaluating the importance of brains correctly, then it makes sense to tie a persons identity and essence to his brain. Thus a female brain is a woman in any kind of body (or none at all, “in a vat”), a child’s brain in an adult body is a child and so on.

        I wonder what could be wrong with this reasoning, I am fairly sure here.

      • The brain is important, but its thoughts are not dispositive in and of themselves, because the brain can err. Thoughts are dispositive – or ought to be – only insofar as they are true. And the notion of a female brain in a genetically male body is simply false to fact. It is a notion that cannot be realized in this cosmos as it is now constituted.

        There can be no such thing as a woman’s brain composed of cells with Y chromosomes. A brain composed of cells with Y chromosomes is a man’s brain, no matter what that brain thinks. If you define “a man” as “a person with a male brain,” then male to female transsexuals are just men, period full stop. Their brains are male brains, and that’s all there is to it. A man who thinks he has a woman’s brain is just deluded. He errs in so thinking, in rather the way that a madman might be utterly convinced that he is Napoleon.

        When we err, the appropriate response is not to wreak havoc on reality to make it appear erroneous, but to correct the error.

        Consider: would doctors amputate the perfectly healthy arm of a man solely because he suffered from the horrible delusion that it was a poisonous snake? No. They’d try to fix his mental error.

      • “A brain composed of cells with Y chromosomes is a man’s brain, no matter what that brain thinks.”

        … unless the man in question has Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.

      • In which case, no penectomy is clinically indicated, there being in the first place no penis to amputate; so that the question of transsexuality does not arise.

        The brain in question is still male, but defectively so. The defect is an accident of history, quite like the others we all inherit, and with which we must perforce cope. Some cope by pulling a location. Men with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome who live their lives as women are not pulling a location. They are not cutting into their bodies to bolster a pretense that they are other than what they are. They are like men born blind who live their lives as blind men.

      • “The brain in question is still male, but defectively so.”

        Except that “men” with CAIS are more feminine than an average woman, since an average woman is affected by trace amounts of male hormones, whereas a person with CAIS is not influenced by any amount of male hormones. Basically, it is a question of “which do I trust — your metaphysics, or my lying eyes”? — and what is more, the only reason your metaphysics argue against my lying eyes in this case, is because of a science of genetics that would have been entirely unknown in the time of Thomas Aquinas, who would be forced to use his lying eyes to conclude that the individual in question is an infertile woman.

        It does not seem at all obvious (or even necessary to Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics*, if you prefer that) that a person’s genotype be a perfect indicator of which category of form they are an imperfect instantiation of. A person is a substance with multiple parts, and their genes are one part, and their bodily organs another; either or both could be defective.

        What the defect consists in, and what means ought to be taken to correct it, whereas what purported means are plumb crazy and impious, is another discussion yet. I happen to think that to attempt to ‘correct’ gender dysphoria using surgery is a dangerous path, but the arguments I see against it are of the type that are groping in the dark nearby sanity, rather than actually ever reaching it.

        “The brain in question is still male, but defectively so.”

        Supposing a woman grows up and is found to be infertile, and the genotyping comes back: Y chromosome, Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Kristor’s metaphysical reasoning delivers the verdict: “[Because your chromosome arrangement is a more reliable indication of *what* you are than any information that visible evidence could provide,] you are, in fact, actually a man, albeit a defective instantiation of one.”

        However ironclad the evidence may seem that her current condition is a defect, and she is ‘supposed to be a man’, however carefully the Thomist-Aristotelian case for this might be laid out, and however much this idea might appeal to her for whatever psychological reasons, embarking on a course of surgery to try and turn her into an infertile semblance of a man, instead just dealing with life as a woman (even, still, an infertile one) — well, that would be just crazy, wouldn’t it? For the same reason that a man castrating himself for psychological reasons is also kind of crazy.

        At bottom, whether it is advisable to use surgery to try to turn a man into a woman, has nothing to do with whether that man is “actually supposed to be” a woman in some rarefied metaphysical or medical sense.

      • Note: my comment was written before noticing Kristor’s edit to his prior comment.

        We seem to agree on the actual normative facts of the matter, though Kristor insists on labelling things according to a preconceived scheme. The faulty premise in this scheme is not even Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics, but the random choice to identify a person’s genetics with their metaphysical essence, simple because genes are a part of the organism which is more difficult to alter or mutilate through medical intervention. In the specific (very rare) case I brought up to demonstrate the fallacy of this, these labelings lead to an absurd situation: the person with CAIS is obliged to live as a woman, but is also obliged according to Kristor’s scheme to agree to the assertion that she is a “defective man”.

        Arguments of the type “you can’t change your chromosome makeup, and that’s the reason why all the other intervention is meaningless” (e.g. Ann Kellett above) partake of this fallacy.

        I think the problem is that the *really* weighty arguments against surgical “gender reassignment” intervention also happen to argue against the use of castration and eunuchs historically — which the Church has been far less consistent on condemning.

      • We do seem to agree on the normative facts. What’s more, I’m not even sure that we disagree on the reasons for that agreement.

        I did not mean in the first place to suggest that the presence or absence of a Y chromosome in a man’s nuclei is the way we tell whether his Aristotelian essence is male or female. It might however be a way. It does seem rather definitive, since the only way to change the sex of a cell would be to delete and replace it with another cell of a different sex. Thus the only way to change the sex of a man would be to delete all his cells and replace them – which would, of course, be to replace him with an altogether different person.

        CAIS is not defective on account of high-falutin’ metaphysical abstractions on my part, but as a matter of sheer biological fact: those subject to it are infertile. Their bodies don’t work right. That’s why they call CAIS a syndrome; that’s why it has a name in the first place, or was ever noticed. Aquinas would have categorized CAIS patients as defective women on account of their infertility; we categorize them as defective men on account of the CAIS that renders them womanish and infertile. A patient of CAIS would not of course have to agree with the notion that he is a defective man; but in plain biological fact, that is what he is, whether he agrees or not.

        I don’t think that the arguments against gender reassignment surgery do quite tell likewise against castration. Not that I like castration, but that it was never intended to “correct” a defect. On the contrary, it was always intended to inflict a defect, so as to achieve some other purpose (e.g., the castrato voice).

      • @Kristor. While we agree on normative matters as discussed thus far, I think I can give an idea of how deep the disagreement fundamentally goes.

        “I don’t think that the arguments against gender reassignment surgery do quite tell likewise against castration.”

        I think that the grave matter in both cases is exactly the same — sterilization. Absent this grave matter, cosmetic alterations, cross-dressing, etc., are eccentric, but no more intrinsically evil than shaving. (I can dig up Old Believers out of the depths of Russia who will patiently explain that shaving is a mortal sin because it blurs the distinction between men and women.)

        Now, the insistence on a transsexual being considered as female when one is male is more questionable, but this is where further thought is required on how to deal with the situation. Rather than say ‘you cannot call yourself X, because you are Y, so you are a liar’, what I would tell a dysphoric or confused person willing to sort themselves out is ‘call yourself whatever you like, *if* you are willing to live up to it’. Ultimately, the question of who you are is between you and God, not between you and society; that is encouraging because you no longer have to care about browbeating society into agreeing with you, whether by Leftist or any kind of politics. That is more challenging because you are dealing with God, who is not browbeaten by anything, cannot be bargained with, and He does not care what you look like. Opinion on what men, women, or whoever should look and act like varies from century to century, but appropriate virtues are the only adornments fit for the eye of the eternal God.

        Having referred the person to God, He is far more certain of knowing what to do to knock some sense into the person, (if that is actually necessary).

        This is why the current “therapeutic” approach to dealing with dysphoric people is fundamentally flawed. It amounts to magical thinking, a sort of cargo cult imitation: “If I look and act more like a woman in superficial aspects, maybe I’ll be a woman in the substantial sense of the word.” Disillusioned young people nowadays watch My Little Pony — I would not be surprised if the psychiatrists end up with a ‘human-shaped unicorn’ or two on their hands at some point — is the medical establishment going to start inventing pony surgeries for them? (God save us….) Clearly the solution here is something different.

        Modern transsexualism as a solution to the problem of “being the wrong gender”, is somewhat like interpreting Matthew 18:3 as an exhortation to procure neotenizing and anti-aging surgical treatments.

        As for the people and devils who have mobilized the dysphoric mood into a political cause, and likewise the people who think the way to cure a person’s mental illness is by shouting them down, I say, a pox on both your houses.

        ===

        “A patient of CAIS would not of course have to agree with the notion that he is a defective man; but in plain biological fact, that is what he is, whether he agrees or not.”

        I would argue long and hard about CAIS, but I don’t think I would convince you. (I only brought it up as my contrived edge case to try and figure out if you were saying the ridiculous thing about genotypes that you seemed to be saying.) It seems obvious to me that XY-females (CAIS) are sterile females. Likewise XX-males (la Chapelle syndrome) are sterile males. I don’t think science has discovered anything here that would overturn the commonsense judgment that Aquinas would have made from a cursory observation of the matter.

        Saying otherwise falls into the trap of treating scientific findings (“XX/XY karyotype was found to correspond to biological sex in humans”) as metaphysically absolute, when they are contingent and subject to being overturned or amended by further evidence.

        To be honest, this sort of conundrum is why I consider the notion that sex is a metaphysically fixed attribute as problematic, and I think that sex is a collection of metaphysically accidental properties, some of which are biological and neurological (and therefore dangerous and stupid to mess around with), and others cultural (and perhaps also dangerous and stupid to mess around with, for different reasons). When those properties align, as there are powerful incentives for them to do as a matter of sheer natural selection, you get beings that are recognizable as men and women. When those properties fail to align, you get different categories of eunuch, some more and some less ambiguous.

        On the other hand, insisting each person is a metaphysically imperfect instantiation of exactly one gender, *forces* you into pronouncing a metaphysical classification for any exotic type of eunuch that might henceforth be brought your way by medical science. And then having to overturn that classification whenever science comes up with some new and contrary source of evidence, as happened with the discovery of genetics.

        So there we go. Now that you know my opinions on this matter are plumb crazy, rather than somewhere in the vicinity of your own opinions, you are only obliged to engage them if you actually enjoy the process.

      • “It amounts to magical thinking, a sort of cargo cult imitation:”

        … in other words, it amounts precisely to ‘pulling a location’. There you go.

        And keep in mind that the problem of changing one’s gender (if one wants to do that, for whatever reason), is not half so intractable, impossible and puzzling as the problem of a sinner being converted and becoming a saint.

      • I don’t think it is harder – or easier – to explain a sinner becoming a saint than it is to explain the healing of a broken bone. Such healing must be to us, not just possible (if it weren’t, it could never happen at all), but proper (or else sanctity would not be more preferable to us than depravity). And changing one’s sex (I shan’t for this purpose use the term “gender”) is no more problematic – or less – than breaking one’s bones to fix a mental delusion.

        When I say that I don’t think the arguments against gender reassignment surgery quite tell against castration undertaken for other purposes, I do not mean to say that other sorts of castration are A-OK. I mean to say only that they are indeed quite different sorts of castration. They are no less grave on that account. Still, gender reassignment surgery seems a bit worse to me. Gender reassignment adds grave bodily injury to grave mental defect by proposing to treat the latter as an incipient perfection that ought to be accommodated, rather than healed. Castration to procure eunuchs or castrati add grave injury to perfect health. These various sorts of castration are all very wicked, but at least the latter sort do not lie about what it is they propose to do, or what the result will be.

        Nor do I propose to shout down the poor souls who suffer from dysphoria. I propose rather to treat their delusions *as delusions*: humanely, intelligently, charitably.

        To those who suffer from CAIS, I would not say anything like, “Sorry, you can’t pretend you are a woman because you are technically a man.” Men who suffer from CAIS are *not pretending* they are women. They are not lying about their breasts and bones and muscles, nor are they deluded, nor are they insisting that anyone else engage in fantastic pretenses to coddle their own fantasies. They are not engaging in fantasies, are not at war with their bodies. They are, precisely *not pulling a location.* Their presentation as women speaks the truth of their condition, which they did not choose. They are innocent.

      • I don’t think science has discovered anything here that would overturn the commonsense judgment that Aquinas would have made from a cursory observation of the matter.

        Why do you think so? In times of Aquinas the common sense judgement would be the Earth is center of the universe. Today we know otherwise. It’s true that one day the sience may find out that the Earth really is in some obscure way a center of universe but it doesn’t invalidate the fact that we proved their arguments for their position wrong though their position itself was basically right.

        Similarly the scientific finding that “XX/XY karyotype was found to correspond to biological sex in humans” expands our picture significantly. We can now see that the sexual differencies go to very deep level of our existence. It may turn out that on even deeper level the person we are talking about is female as Aquinas or other superficial observer would see it. But given what we know today it seems to be difficult to defend the idea that the person is female.

        So the honest answer to that person would be something like: Look, metaphysically, there are two sexes available to human being. Given our present knowledge you are rather man than woman. So we can’t do otherwise but treat you as man from the point of view of natural law which means certain consquences in case marriage etc. Otherwise you are free to do as it pleases you.

        That’s my conclusion but I could miss something…

        Saying otherwise falls into the trap of treating scientific findings (“XX/XY karyotype was found to correspond to biological sex in humans”) as metaphysically absolute, when they are contingent and subject to being overturned or amended by further evidence.

        The metaphysical claim I made above is that the cellular level is metaphysically more fundamental in considering the question of what sex the person is. Is it incorrect?

        To be honest, this sort of conundrum is why I consider the notion that sex is a metaphysically fixed attribute as problematic, and I think that sex is a collection of metaphysically accidental properties, some of which are biological and neurological…

        Interesting idea but wouldn’t it affect the natural law? The final cause of sex is procreation which I think is basic part of being rational animal. Apparently, our sex is incomplete and requires its complementary counterpart to function properly towards its final cause i.e. procreation. Therefore, it seems to be a substantial property.

        On the other hand, insisting each person is a metaphysically imperfect instantiation of exactly one gender, *forces* you into pronouncing a metaphysical classification for any exotic type of eunuch that might henceforth be brought your way by medical science.

        Not at all. Artificial creation of freaks of any sort doesn’t change the basic metaphysical distinctions which are based on observation of natural processes without interference.

      • I think you focus too much on chromosomes. AFAIK it is hormones. There is a prenatal androgen, testosterone release in fetuses “meant” to be male. This changes the structure of the genitals in obvious ways. This also changes the structure of the brain in less than obvious ways but clearly visible in behavior, in things like being more competition oriented for example, or more systematizing than empathizing, and so on, I think you know this. But the point is, these are both fixed structures made by these hormones.

        If the two fixed structures, genital structure and brain structure mismatch, it is not simply a delusion in the brain, it is brain structurally unsuitable for inhabiting that body, yet it is not completely a broken one: it is suitable for inhabit the body of the other gender.

        Thus the proper parallel for brain and genitals is like a mans left leg and right leg. If one is longer than the other which results in limping. Neither is wrong in and of itself, as left or right leg, neither is too long or too short for its function alone: but they do not match each other and thus there is a function loss in walking. The fault is not in the left leg and not in the right, but in the fact they are not equally long. We fix it by making them equally long and it does not matter much if we make one longer or the other shorter. Whatever does the job. The goal is just to make them match.

      • @RT

        “Why do you think so? In times of Aquinas the common sense judgement would be the Earth is center of the universe. Today we know otherwise.”

        Yes, because science has provided a sufficient argument for thinking otherwise. For one thing, the Earth’s position in the solar system is a non-inertial frame of reference — which only makes sense if it is thought of as moving relative to something else.

        On the other hand, if XX/XY karyotyping forces us to pronounce that an infertile woman is actually a man, then the only conclusion that makes sense is that XX/XY karyotyping is only generally, rather than absolutely valid. Elevating karyotyping to an absolute standard makes no more intrinsic sense than saying a woman with hirsutism is a man because only men can grow beards.

        “Interesting idea but wouldn’t it affect the natural law? The final cause of sex is procreation which I think is basic part of being rational animal. Apparently, our sex is incomplete and requires its complementary counterpart to function properly towards its final cause i.e. procreation. Therefore, it seems to be a substantial property.”

        I am probably missing something in the above argument. From what I know of the notion of substance in philosophy, which is very little, it does not seem to be the case. For example, human is obviously one form, and cat is another. There is no such thing as an in-between hybrid of human and cat, so the metaphysical distinction is clear and rigid. I can take on any amount of cat-like properties, but unless I start deleting things essential to my humanity (free will, intelligence, human memories, ability to apprehend symbols), I would never be a cat; I would at most be a cat-shaped human.

        Male and female has no such luck, as there is a mess of naturally occurring borderline cases (see below), and therefore we have to decide and reason what those mean for how the metaphysical concepts of male-ness and female-ness are instantiated in specific people, and whether it is justified to treat this distinction as metaphysically essential to a person, or if it is more something out of our hands to control, like the distinction between childhood and old age. Moreover, I cannot become a cat in all respects without losing my identity, but I could become the opposite sex while remaining myself. The things that would be deleted are physical organs, preferences and psychological drives, possibly habits of thought, none of which are essential to who I am, and all of which might be altered in other ways for other reasons (and would *have* to be altered in other ways if I am to avoid a Hellish existence). This is not any more drastic or impossible a transition than biological child to adult (puberty), though perhaps people forget what that was like. That does not mean a sex change is possible to accomplish using medical science, which is where the delusion comes in.

        Rebelling against old age with cosmetic treatments can be very nearly as disordered, even though old age is not essential to a person, or even a property per se (being an accumulation of system failures slightly different for every person).

        From what I understand of “natural law”, it is a type of moral law which is obvious and intelligible to people regardless of whether they have faith or are committed to Christianity (let alone the peculiar philosophical tradition of Thomism). Thus, sexuality is obviously seen to come with moral obligations, regardless of whether it is a substantial property. Natural law theories try to explain *why* that is, perhaps rooting it in ideas such as substance and final cause, which may help to clarify edge cases, or defend moral principles against sophistry and rejection; debunking such a theory does not remove the underlying obligation. In any case, this defence of the matter has to be rooted in things which we are certain of being true.

        If it was conclusively proven to you tomorrow that sexuality is not a substantial property but an accidental one, you would not treat that as a moral license to go out and fornicate.

        “The metaphysical claim I made above is that the cellular level is metaphysically more fundamental in considering the question of what sex the person is. Is it incorrect?”

        Yes, that is incorrect. At the very least, all of you are pulling this conclusion out of thin air. The only thing I’ve heard that might be considered an argument for it is that a person’s genotype is harder to change (using medical science) than other aspects of their being; which I do not see as quite elevating to metaphysics.

        “Artificial creation of freaks of any sort doesn’t change the basic metaphysical distinctions which are based on observation of natural processes without interference.”

        You’ve misread and/or misunderstood that part, which is at least as much my fault for not being clear. Exotic eunuchs do occur naturally without interference (“some are born eunuchs”), and medical science only “brings them our way” because it bothers to observe and record their condition. E.g. XXY people exist, as a genetic disorder occurring in nature. (The resulting phenotype is generally male, but in rarer cases this same karyotype results in intersex individuals, or even a fertile woman cf http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/56845 — it all depends on the degree to which each of the chromosomes is active.) These people would have no well-defined sex if the karyotyping definition was absolute, since they are neither XX or XY.

      • @arakawa

        First, to your human/cat consideration. I am not aristotelian philosopher but I don’t think it works as you suggest.

        We are not male or female as part of our identity or at least not in the first place. The final cause of sex is procreation which requires one male and one female. If both of the sexes are necessary to procreation and procreation is necessary for further existence of our species then being healthy fertile human being, which means either fertile male or female, is more important for our well-being than hair or color of skin for example. So the former is substantial and the latter accidental.

        Now what human and cat have in common is not some kind of hypothetic hybrid but their animality. Both are animals but the human is rational while the cat is not.

        Similarly there is no hybrid of male and female. There is only a human being as fertile man or woman and infertile man or woman. It’s a question of fertility rather than identity, I believe. It might be important to decide in special cases whether the infertile is basically male or female but there is no need to reconsider the basic metaphysical position of sex which is determined by its final cause.

        Second, by metaphysically fundamental I mean a level where the sex of a person is “decided”. It has nothing to do with what is harder to change. Rather, it’s a question of causation.

        I know nothing about cytogenetics and related sciences so I am curious here. Is the XX karyotype somehow responsible for development of healthy fertile female organism (and XY for male)? Are other combinations (like XXY that you mentioned) disordered or defective as to the degree of infertility? That would be a strong suggestion that this is metaphysically fundamental level where the question of sex is resolved (by Mother Nature).

        Also I am not sure what “generally, rather than absolutely” means. Does it mean that, for example, 1 of 1000 fertile men is XX? Then something is probably missing in our picture and futher research might fill the gap. If it means that combinations like XXY are possible but disordered then it confirms the above. And you suggested how to resolve question fo sex in this specific case – the active pair of chromosomes.

      • @RT

        I can only comment on a few issues brought up so far.

        1. First of all, my intent is to refute Kristor’s badly thought out assertion that anyone with XX chromosomes is a woman, and with XY chromosomes is a man, regardless of anything else.

        Consider a CAIS subject who has a feminine body shape, feminine genitalia, and feminine psychological makeup. Being visibly indistinguishable from an infertile woman, you would treat her as a woman. You would allow her into women’s changing-rooms, and not into men’s changing rooms. Where social norms indicate that women are treated differently from men, you would treat her as a woman. You would not consider allowing her to marry another woman cf. what RT suggested with “so we can’t do otherwise but treat you as man from the point of view of natural law which means certain consquences in case marriage etc.”. (I don’t think either myself or Kristor were thinking that far ahead with this argument, and I am not sure what the exact Catholic logic is on allowing people to marry who are known-infertile.)

        If, given all that, your metaphysics still insists that she is a man, because you take the XY chromosome to override ALL of the above considerations, then your metaphysics is *stupid* and *divorced from the reality of the matter*. If you were also to suggest that the CAIS subject should be *treated* as a man in whatever actual respect (e.g. being allowed to marry another woman), then your metaphysics would be confused to the point of being morally dangerous. (I suppose that is one place where it is lucky our social norms happen to treat men and women mostly the same.) You would be no better than any other nominalist, trying to impose their whims on reality, your particular whim being wanting to cling to a particular set of assumptions rather than have to revise them.

        This is all the more pity because, even if I don’t agree with Aristotelian-Thomism, as a philosophical system it is *not* as ridiculous as you are making it seem. Deciding that sex is completely identifiable with karyotype (chromosome makeup), with all the absurd things that follow from that, is something that you’ve made up, not any essential part of the A-T tradition. The A-T system does not deserve defenders as lazy as this.

        2. The following is another example of detachment from reality:

        “It may turn out that on even deeper level the person we are talking about is female as Aquinas or other superficial observer would see it. But given what we know today it seems to be difficult to defend the idea that the person is female.”

        Generally speaking, for the majority of people, we can tell what sex they are at a glance. For the rest, we make a judgment call based on our common sense, from what we can observe. Sometimes, in order to make the judgment call we need information which is subjective to the person, which is the rare case of the ambiguous intersex individual having to themselves decide what sex they will be treated as. (This is difficult but necessary to distinguish from the case of someone who is clearly one sex “deciding” they are the opposite sex. Common sense suggests that this is a delusion.)

        Suggesting that common sense is not true, and that we might need a further specialized centuries-long study of philosophy and genetic science to get to the bottom of the matter of what sex a person is “on an even deeper level”, is absurd, especially if we need to decide practical moral questions *today* of how to treat specific people.

        3. Next to clarify (what I understand of) the science involved in all this.

        “Is the XX karyotype somehow responsible for development of healthy fertile female organism (and XY for male)? Are other combinations (like XXY that you mentioned) disordered or defective as to the degree of infertility? That would be a strong suggestion that this is metaphysically fundamental level where the question of sex is resolved (by Mother Nature).

        Also I am not sure what “generally, rather than absolutely” means. Does it mean that, for example, 1 of 1000 fertile men is XX? Then something is probably missing in our picture and futher research might fill the gap. If it means that combinations like XXY are possible but disordered then it confirms the above. And you suggested how to resolve question fo sex in this specific case – the active pair of chromosomes.”

        This is a point where I have been imprecise. A chromosome is a large pile of genes, each which may or may not be activated for a large variety of reasons. Thus whether a chromosome is “active” is not a “yes” or “no” question — some combination of the genes may be active or inactive at different times, with different results.

        The genes produce hormones, which are what actually influence sexual development. Particularly during development in the womb, when the primary sexual characteristics (sexual organs and the resulting capacity for reproduction, or lack thereof) develop, the question of what combination of genes from the X chromosome were active and what combination of genes from the Y chromosome were active, determines how the organism develops. There is no really good description of what the difference would have to be in an XXY genetic makeup, for it to produce an infertile male in one case, and a fertile female in another. There is no easy way to observe which genes on which chromosomes are active, let alone which “were” active when primary sexual characteristics developed in the womb. So, no, this is not a good way to classify borderline cases like XXY.

        The sequence “genes -> hormones -> visible features” is a description of the *efficient* causation behind an embryo growing into a male or female, i.e. the sequence of events that happens in time. The organism is conceived with a specific genetic makeup. (Except when it isn’t — the organism is a chimera that contains cells derived from two embryos. Or the genetic makeup gets altered along the way, through mutation, or in the process of genes being activated or deactivated.) The genes produce hormones which signal the tissue to develop in certain ways. (Except when they don’t — e.g. in CAIS, androgen hormones are produced, but tissues that should respond to them lacks androgen receptors, so they develop in the “default” way which happens to be female.) We don’t know enough about how genetics work to understand what exactly happens in borderline cases where something “goes wrong” in this process, so when determining what sex someone is, for day-to-day purposes, we simply reason backwards from the features that we can observe. This is common sense and no different from how someone in the time Aquinas would have done it.

        If we are talking about *formal* causation, the way we relate one fact to another is completely different. Formal cause is what makes something be one thing and not another (e.g. a man and not a cat). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_causes#Formal_cause :

        “Formal cause is a term describing the pattern or form which when present makes matter into a particular type of thing, which we recognize as being of that particular type.”

        So, in the case of this discussion, the formal cause of a woman is the pattern or form of features which when present makes something that we recognize to be a woman. There is no concept of time involved here, or of the cause preceding the effect — the cause exists simultaneously with the effect.

        Moreover, you have the concept of causation completely backwards. The form is the formal cause of the constituent parts. Thus, when talking of formal cause, we say that a man has XY chromosomes *because* he is a man, not that he is a man because he has XY chromosomes. (The latter is true in the sense of efficient causation, but efficient causation tells us nothing about what a thing *is*, or what is essential to a thing being what it is. That’s why the reductionist project of only treating the universe in terms of efficient causation is a failure, particularly in biology.)

        Or, reading a Thomist summary of the same concept:

        http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/4causes.html

        “The arrangements of parts is what members of a species have in common; it is the reason that they belong to the same species. The substantial form is the cause of this arrangement; and the soul is the substantial form for living things. Aristotle, thus, is not a materialist in that he believes things cannot be reduced to their atomic constitution. Rather, Aristotle appeals to the Formal Cause to account for the reason the material constituents are arranged as they are.”

        Reasoning from formal cause, all this suggests that the CAIS patient is both male and female, but to an unequal extent — being only a mildly defective instance of a female, and an extremely defective instance of a male. To the extent that the CAIS patient is recognizable as a woman, the formal cause which is acting is *primarily* the form of a woman. To the extent that the CAIS patient has difficult-to-detect but characteristically male features (the XY chromosome makeup, the absence of a uterus), the formal cause which is acting is the form of a man. But in practice, the formal cause of a woman is what predominates, so we would treat her as a woman, which is what we find ourselves actually doing, unless we are so consumed by philosophical schemes that we have lost all common sense.

      • Arakawa writes:

        … my intent is to refute Kristor’s badly thought out assertion that anyone with XX chromosomes is a woman, and with XY chromosomes is a man, regardless of anything else.

        I asserted no such thing. I said:

        I did not mean in the first place to suggest that the presence or absence of a Y chromosome in a man’s nuclei is the way we tell whether his Aristotelian essence is male or female. It might however be a way. It does seem rather definitive, since the only way to change the sex of a cell would be to delete and replace it with another cell of a different sex. Thus the only way to change the sex of a man would be to delete all his cells and replace them – which would, of course, be to replace him with an altogether different person.

        If there were no defect in his physiology, a patient of CAIS would not in the first place be patient of CAIS, and so would not have the bodily form of a woman, but rather that of a man. He would in the second place be fertile. Infertility of an animal by itself suffices to indicate a defect in the achievement of proper sexual form – not a culpable defect, of course, but a defect nonetheless. The character of that defect is subject to investigation, and may or may not be genetic or congenital.

        Whatever that character, it may or may not make sense to treat the defective person as either male or female. That would depend upon circumstances. It would *obviously* make no sense to treat a CAIS patient as a man, when *for all practical quotidian purposes,* he was a woman. So, let us set such practical considerations aside.

        The question Arakawa raises – I think – is whether the CAIS patient is a defective man or a defective woman. I incline to think that he is technically a defective man, on account of the fact that the form of every single one of his cells is male, and that if they were working properly he would have the superficial form of a male. Arakawa inclines to think that he is a defective woman, on account of the fact that his biological defect gives him the superficial form of a woman (excepting the gonads: CAIS patients have male gonads, that are imperfectly formed).

        This disagreement I have with Arakawa strikes me as perfectly analogous to what we might each say of a man born congenitally blind. I would say of such a man that he is an otherwise normal man, who in the absence of his unfortunate inheritance might have enjoyed perfect vision. Arakawa would say that he is just blind, period full stop, and that it is metaphysically stupid to think otherwise.

        Neither of us say that we ought to treat the man as if he were not blind.

        Arakawa writes:

        The form is the formal cause of the constituent parts. Thus, when talking of formal cause, we say that a man has XY chromosomes *because* he is a man, not that he is a man because he has XY chromosomes.

        Exactly. This is why the presence of the Y chromosome is one of the ways we can tell whether a person is male or female. It’s like grace versus works: a man is not saved on account of his works, but works are quite a reliable index of the operation of grace.

        Arakawa writes:

        … the CAIS patient is both male and female, but to an unequal extent — being only a mildly defective instance of a female, and an extremely defective instance of a male.

        But he is mildly defective as a female in the first place only on account of the fact that he is extremely defective as a male. There is no originally female form in him, that suffered a defect and so was infertile, had testes, and so forth. On the contrary: there is an original male form in him, that suffered a defect and so was infertile despite his testes, had breasts, and so forth – but no ovaries. The defective femaleness of him just is an aspect of his defective maleness.

        A man born congenitally blind does indeed have the form of a blind man, and it would be silly, and indeed cruel, and morally stupid, to treat him as if he could see. That does not mean that his blindness is essential to his nature and an expression thereof, rather than a defect therein.

      • “The question Arakawa raises – I think – is whether the CAIS patient is a defective man or a defective woman.”

        Or perhaps both, with the two forms being defective to different extents. This occurred to me to be within the realm of possibility for a formal cause after re-reading the relevant definitions.

        (Likewise, trivially speaking, an ordinary healthy man can be regarded as a very defective woman, and an ordinary healthy woman can be regarded as a very defective man, since there is enough similarity between each of the forms that we can draw an analogy between the features. Moreover, the presence of certain features _only_ seems to make sense while keeping this in mind — e.g. what is the final cause of having nipples on a male?

        This does not mean we would call an ordinary man “she”, even in metaphysical argument, because he is rather more similar to a man.)

        “Neither of us say that we ought to treat the man as if he were not blind.”

        *Except* apparently for the case when, in metaphysical argument, we ought to call the man a sighted man in order to score a point.

        I would call the blind man blind in a metaphysical sense, but the blindness is in fact accidental to him. Likewise I consider sex to be an accidental property of a person, but that a person can be pronounced metaphysically male or female — based on what they are now.

        The hidden and subtle cruelty in your argument that the CAIS woman is metaphysically a defective male is that (with other assumptions most people make about sex as a metaphysically essential property) it seems to lead to a conclusion that the CAIS woman will rise as a man in the resurrection — a thing that in reality you can conclude nothing about.

        “The defective femaleness of him just is an aspect of his defective maleness.”

        To this I would answer the same thing I would answer to someone arguing for the older Aristotelian view of the sexes (if you recall e.g. Aquinas thought that ALL women are defective men) — it is a very strange defect which manifests itself in the appearance of a different form.

        There are obviously more complex defects that appear to produce a form that was not present before e.g. “the form of a cancer tumor”. But a defect is strictly an absence of something — having it result in a different form requires a capacity present in the defective form to be at play e.g. the tumor results from the body’s capacity to grow tissue, manifesting in the absence of the capacity to regulate where and why to grow that tissue. Your blindness example does not even go near this edge case, because blindness is more or less a simple loss of functionality.

        So, at the very least, you would have to conclude that the male form includes the capacity to develop into a female body shape and psychology, to a strangely convincing extent. (But perhaps not the capacity to actually reproduce according to the female mode.) This would be more reasonable to say, though it still strikes me as confused. I would prefer to consider the characteristically female features as only found in the female form, and vice versa, since that is how we define what the female form entails — the set of features we recognize as being proper to women and not to men. This requires considering that a person is essentially and unchangeably human, but only contingently male or female.

        “But he is mildly defective as a female in the first place only on account of the fact that he is extremely defective as a male. There is no originally female form in him, that suffered a defect and so was infertile, had testes, and so forth.”

        Again, if there was no originally female form in the CAIS patient, then where did the female form that we clearly observe come from?

      • Neither of us say that we ought to treat the man as if he were not blind.

        *Except* apparently for the case when, in metaphysical argument, we ought to call the man a sighted man in order to score a point.

        By “treat” I meant in my last comment “deal with,” rather than “take” or “understand.” I.e., it makes no sense to behave toward a CAIS patient as if his breasts were somehow a pretense on his part, the way it would with a standard-issue transsexual. This, in just the same way that it makes no sense to behave toward a blind man as though he can see. Nevertheless I think it does make sense to *understand* a man blind from birth as one who might have been able to see, and was originally formed so as to see, but whose formation went off the rails somehow, so that his form was defectively implemented. Likewise with the CAIS patient: he might have been a man in full, if he had not somehow gone off the developmental rails.

        I object to the implication that I am merely trying to score points. In the first place, it’s ad hominem rhetoric, and therefore does not tell; and in the second it is false. I’m on the up and up here, taking, considering, and responding to your arguments seriously and honestly. If a category is really there, it behooves us to recognize it, and agree to it. If not, not.

        I consider sex to be an accidental property of a person, but that a person can be pronounced metaphysically male or female — based on what they are now.

        Sex is accidental to humans, but not to men or women. If sex were merely accidental to men and women, then “man” and “woman” would have no proper reference – the terms wouldn’t refer to particular sorts of things. Which seems to be what you are arguing: that whether we call a person male or female is really rather a squishy question, dependent on how we happen to be parsing things given the circumstances du jour, with no definitive, safe harbor answer to which we might all possibly refer, but rather only best guesses and matters of opinion – as if we were trying to figure out whether a cloud looked more like a seal or an otter. This leaves no room for any truth of the matter, or for any way to arrive at an agreement about what it is, exactly, that we are talking about. It is, i.e., a preparation for social war.

        I exaggerate a bit, but not by much, as an adduction of several photographers, CEOs, innkeepers, Catholic adoption agencies, and bakers could sufficiently indicate.

        The hidden and subtle cruelty in your argument that the CAIS woman is metaphysically a defective male is that (with other assumptions most people make about sex as a metaphysically essential property) it seems to lead to a conclusion that the CAIS woman will rise as a man in the resurrection — a thing that in reality you can conclude nothing about.

        Where’s the cruelty? Why would it *hurt* to be raised as a man, or as a woman? I should think that being raised to everlasting felicity would by itself overwhelm any such quibbles. How, indeed, could a quibble survive Purgatory? How could such a thing as a quibble make it into Heaven in the first place? What if God wanted to raise me a slug? What then would be the just ground of any complaint I might make against him on that account? He’s *God,* after all. He’ll raise me as he sees fit, or not at all. And I am a worm. There is nothing more to be said about it, on that score.

        If I can get into Heaven only as a slug, then by God I’ll take that deal. Fortunately for me, God has promised that if I get into Heaven, I will still be me. Either way, I’m not quibbling.

        But say it were not so. Say that it *deeply mattered* to one’s overall satisfaction in Heaven whether one had been raised this way or that. If on the one hand, as you say, sex is a mere accident, then whether any of us are resurrected as men or women would seem to be of no more importance than whether we were resurrected fluent in English or in Latin, capable on the flute or on the oboe, competent at woodworking or at woodcraft. If on the other hand sex is essential, then resurrection to life restored to our true and proper form would seem to be a wonderful benison, as thrilling and clarifying as it would be for a man born blind to rise again forevermore with perfect vision. In that case, a patient of CAIS here below would find resurrection to complete and perfect manhood a terrific *increase* of his own magnificence and glory, and pleasure.

        For my part, I look forward with glad anticipation and hope to the correction of my many grotesque defects and the renascence of my true self, whom I feel sure I shall recognize as the man I had always been meant to be, and longed always with a desperate ache to be, mind, soul, *and body.* Please God shall I a miserable sinner be so fortunate of his Grace.

        Not that restoration to an innocent body is either certain, or that it would be dispositive of heavenly joy. There are indications in scripture that we carry some at least of our wounds with us into the everlasting life of our Resurrection bodies, as Jesus did. When Elijah was translated, it was not as an innocent boy, but as a great and sapient prophet, who had learnt wisdom at cost in the furnace of many trials. The lives that are resurrected are the lives we have actually led, together with all their scars, all their memories and experiences. These have all contributed to our bodies; and those experienced bodies are then raised. How not, when one of the experiences in question, which must have left an indelible mark on the body so as to enable its rising in the first place, is that of baptism?

        Somehow all things are at the end taken up, resolved, purified, and to each other reconciled, with no loss of anything that is valuable – even the painful things.

        This is the ultimate argument against tattooing – and gender reassignment surgery. Does the needless cut signify an *everlasting* commitment? If not, then it is a bad idea – in effect, an irrevocable and forever recapitulated lie about what signifies.

        What does this all mean for a patient of CAIS? I don’t know. Maybe he rises as a man, remembering the confusion of his very cells throughout his earthly life, and rejoicing at its deep clarification and settlement. Maybe he rises as a man with the outward form of a woman, the whole trial of his life celebrated as the story of a great victory, and the confusion in his cells caught up and transfigured in a supersidiary resolution. Maybe both. There is either way something in the notion of healing that accommodates both the wound and its correction: for, no wound, no healing; and “salvation” *means* “healing,” among other things.

        … it is a very strange defect which manifests itself in the appearance of a different form.

        How could a defect in the implementation of form x be manifest otherwise than as the implementation of some other form, ~x, that does not quite adequate to x? I don’t see the mystery here.

        So, at the very least, you would have to conclude that the male form includes the capacity to develop into a female body shape and psychology, to a strangely convincing extent.

        Well, yeah, sure. Creatures can change from one thing into another. Again, where’s the mystery?

        A man can take on some of the secondary sexual characteristics of a woman, while yet remaining a man. If a man stops working out or gets hormone injections, he’ll get man boobs. Stop the hormone shots, start with the anaerobics, and the man boobs will vanish.

        … if there was no originally female form in the CAIS patient, then where did the female form that we clearly observe come from?

        The same place that any novel form comes from. Where was the mother’s motherhood before she became a mother? Where was the accountant’s certificate in public accountancy before he earned it? Again, where’s the mystery?

        Creatures move from potency to act. Before a potential has been actualized, it is not present in the actual world. Afterwards, it is. It is not as though I already knew Latin before I learned that I knew it, so that Latinism was present in me ab initio. No: the *potential* to know Latin was present in me ab initio, but not the *actual* knowledge of Latin. I didn’t start out knowing Latin, but ignorant of that knowledge (how could one be ignorant of one’s knowledge?). I learned Latin, and that is how I learned that I knew it.

        [NB: I, Kristor, do not yet know Latin. I know a bit of Latin, only; enough to know that I could know Latin well. I feel Latin out there, beckoning to me, calling me home.]

        Fluency in Latin is clearly accidental to a man. So, likewise, is his implementation of the secondary sexual characteristics of a woman. All sorts of things are possible to me as a man. But it is not possible to make me other than a man, except by deleting all the parts of me that are male – i.e., all my cells, every last one of them, so that what is left is *not one single cell of Kristor,* at all – and replacing them with female cells. Absent that radical and complete deletion of Kristor, any boobs I might somehow grow can be nothing more than just man boobs.

        This all goes back to what I now see is our fundamental disagreement: you think sex accidental to men, I think it essential (although we agree that sex is accidental to humans – to man). But if his manhood is not essential to a man, then he is not essentially a man at all, is he? He is just … something or other. Not truly and unequivocally a he, in any case; an it, rather. Is such an it then fully a human person? I wonder; I think (indeed, I cannot but think), no, not quite; for to be fully human *just is* to be, fully, either man or woman (and so, in due season, fertile); so that it is in this “not quite” that the tragedy and distress and sorrow of all sexual confusions and defects inhere.

        I wonder whether the cry and complaint both of transsexuals and homosexuals that they should be treated like normal people (despite their proud insistence on their utter abnormality) stems from that deep existential deficiency of sexual confusion, in which they cannot but suffer horrible pangs. They long for the resolution of that confusion. They long to be just men, or just women, simpliciter, as they know at their roots that they were first meant to be; and think that if only everyone would just treat them as such, then they might at last relax. But their sexual tension is within them, and cannot be resolved by what others might do, or not do. It cannot, that is to say, be fixed by *pulling a location.*

      • @arakawa

        Ad 1) I admit I didn’t think through all possible situations and consequences in real life. You are probably right that it might be hazardous to be as straightforward as I was in my first post even if it turned out I had been correct (let’s leave the question still open for a moment). My fault.

        Unfortunately, I don’t have much time now but thanks for your effort. I will respond later.

    • “I object to the implication that I am merely trying to score points. In the first place, it’s ad hominem rhetoric, and therefore does not tell; and in the second it is false.”

      My mention of “scoring a point” is not to impute ill intent to your argument, but to point out that I am finding myself hard pressed to respond to the substance of an argument that more or less claims to have no substance. What does it mean to be a man who is to be treated in all respects as a woman? In what observable manner is this metaphysical maleness ever manifested, and in what way are we obliged to treat such a ‘man’ as a man?

      “it is not possible to make me other than a man, except by deleting all the parts of me that are male – i.e., all my cells, every last one of them, so that what is left is *not one single cell of Kristor,* at all – and replacing them with female cells.”

      That would be convincing, except that Kristor and “the set of cells currently comprising Kristor” are nowhere near remotely the same thing, any more than a river is the same thing as the water currently comprising the river. That is what I would ask Aquinas and Aristotle (or their intellectual descendants) to clarify — what is a river, and why is it known as a substantial thing if all the matter in it could be replaced in a matter of days? These were known as Heraclitus’ Paradox and the Ship of Theseus problem in olden days.

      Unlike the Ship of Theseus, the body and the river are alike in that being renewed is part of their nature, and they have to move and change *in order to* continue existing as the same thing. This seems to be my greatest and most fundamental point of departure from (as far as I understand it) Thomist/Aristotelian metaphysics, which rests on the antique (pagan or materialist) identification of change with entropy and decay. Aquinas had a very hard time justifying that resurrected bodies would be able to see / smell / taste / etc. anything, according to biological mechanisms assumed at the time. (Aristotle had very sensibly reasoned that sensing would require *some* type of alteration to the corresponding organs; and impassibility seemed to preclude any alteration of that kind.) And the more we know of genetics and aging in an organism, the more we difficult we find it to imagine how an immortal version of it would work. It is very tempting to cut the Gordian knot and imagine that resurrected bodies are sort of adamantium statues which are completely indestructible — cells never divide, you could not pierce or divide them from one another even if you hit the body with a railgun blast at 0.9 times the speed of light, and most certainly the genes are not capable of undergoing any mutations. The mechanisms by which this body is made to move and sense things, have nothing to do with the mechanisms by which it does so in Earthly biology. This view is simple but has nothing to do with the return of _biological_ life at the very least; the resurrection bodies described in the Summa Theologica appear as a sort of necromantic mockery of Earthly biology.

      However, in fact, when we are lucky to maintain this or that organ in a youthful and working condition, it is not because we have stopped the cells in it from dividing, changing, or dying, but because cells are dying and being replaced at a fast enough rate to overcome the damage involved. It is our systems which are not capable of renewing themselves that are the eventual guarantee of our death; as the water in the river stops flowing, it becomes stagnant, and choked up with debris, and eventually the river stops being a river at all.

      In this model, completely changing one’s genetics is no more metaphysically surprising than the chemical composition of a river altering over time. And the suggestion is that it is even necessary to survival, as the genetics of a population must remain adaptable to changing circumstances. (Which is why populations persist in time, but individuals do not.) Now, that said, this is an incredibly silly simplification; it should convey to you, though, why I consider the ‘you can’t change a person’s sex without deleting all of their cells i.e. obliterating them’ argument to be a complete red herring.

      With respect to the CAIS-woman argument, the above was a complete tangent, but the underlying metaphysical disagreements are what is interesting here, and they flow far wider than just that single edge case.

      “This all goes back to what I now see is our fundamental disagreement: you think sex accidental to men, I think it essential (although we agree that sex is accidental to humans – to man). But if his manhood is not essential to a man, then he is not essentially a man at all, is he? He is just … something or other. Not truly and unequivocally a he, in any case; an it, rather. Is such an it then fully a human person? I wonder; I think (indeed, I cannot but think), no, not quite; for to be fully human *just is* to be, fully, either man or woman (and so, in due season, fertile); so that it is in this “not quite” that the tragedy and distress and sorrow of all sexual confusions and defects inhere.”

      This is indeed our very substantial disagreement. I also think that toying with the notion that “a being lacking sex is not human” is appalling.

      Just to re-summarize my position. Sex is of course essential to being a man or woman (that is in fact a tautology), but it is not essential to being human. Moreover, being a man or woman is not essential to being a particular person. i.e. if I stopped being a biological male, I would not stop being Arakawa. There would simply be differently-flavoured cells flowing through the river that is my body. That said, we lack any technology remotely capable of performing this experiment, which forms my ground for objecting to the transsexual thing: the medics are claimed to do what they are in fact incapable of doing, which makes ‘gender reassignment’ a hormonally-assisted lie.

      Perpetrating gender reassignment is ultimately cruel and a wasted potential nudge in the right direction. If a transsexual wants to become the opposite sex, what they should ask is “what would it take to make me that?” rather than “what would it take to get society to pretend I am that?”. Only God is plausibly capable of the former, which forces a productive asking of the question, “nevertheless, why am I the person who I am?” — rather than pulling a location. I leave it to God to decide whether it is in fact appropriate to make that person the opposite sex, when all is said and done, rather than engaging in metaphysics to prove that God is incapable of doing such a thing.

      “Which seems to be what you are arguing: that whether we call a person male or female is really rather a squishy question, dependent on how we happen to be parsing things given the circumstances du jour, with no definitive, safe harbor answer to which we might all possibly refer, but rather only best guesses and matters of opinion – as if we were trying to figure out whether a cloud looked more like a seal or an otter.”

      Except that you were the one arguing just now that whether we call a person male or female is a rather squishy question that can only be objectively determined by looking at their genetics, something which was impossible to do, and indeed we could not imagine doing, up until a very recent modern age of medicine. Before the discovery of karyotyping, we were apparently liable to get this question very wrong and think a CAIS man was actually a woman. It seems to me like your view of the question is very much the squishier one.

      Convincing as they are (or not), the current opinions of Science on a thing are precisely “circumstances du jour”, or du century as the case may be.

      “Where’s the cruelty? Why would it *hurt* to be raised as a man, or as a woman?”

      I am not concerned with the possibility of God being cruel to people in the resurrection, but with the possibility of *us* being cruel to people *before* the resurrection, by telling them something that is not necessarily true, that we have no way of knowing, that might force an entirely gratuitous identity crisis of the type transsexuals put themselves through — and that we have made up primarily because it seems like a convenient way to hold our ground in the warfare with gay people oppressing us over this particular hundred-year stretch of history by forcing us to bake them wedding cakes.

      “I wonder whether the cry and complaint both of transsexuals and homosexuals that they should be treated like normal people (despite their proud insistence on their utter abnormality) stems from that deep existential deficiency of sexual confusion, in which they cannot but suffer horrible pangs. They long for the resolution of that confusion. They long to be just men, or just women, simpliciter, as they know at their roots that they were first meant to be; and think that if only everyone would just treat them as such, then they might at last relax.”

      Assuming that a male-to-female transsexual secretly wants to be treated as a man, or a homosexual secretly wants to be straight, is a deceit too far. Its mirror image is the “a homophobe is a repressed homosexual” canard. Now, if being his current sex was what the transsexual knew at his roots and wanted, you’d think he’d come up with a more reliable way of pursuing that aim. The reason I would suppose for this, is that a man who *genuinely wants* to be a woman or a man who *genuinely wants* sexual congress with other men, is somehow uncomfortable to denounce given modern sentimentality. It is more pleasant to assume that the man is lying ‘deep down’, which leads one to suppose the cure is one confession away. In actual fact, the cure requires understanding why being forced to put up with these conditions and cutting off one’s desires, would be preferable to just having normal desires that could be fulfilled in a normal fashion.

      I would say wanting desperately to be something you are not is a condition that is hardly unique to transsexualism. It would indeed be a laudable condition, if the something were understood as an improvement over your current state, and provided a framework for your actions *given who you are right now*; but also abhorrent if the condition of wanting leads you to be in denial of what you currently are. Transsexualism leans heavily on the ‘denial’ and not the ‘improvement’ aspect of things.

      In order to avoid forcing ourselves to play games assuming what a person “feels like” “deep down”, what we actually need is a basis for treating people decently that does not revolve on what they “feel like”. One would assume that traditional morality would be capable of providing such.

      • What does it mean to be a man who is to be treated in all respects as a woman? In what observable manner is this metaphysical maleness ever manifested, and in what way are we obliged to treat such a ‘man’ as a man?

        The metaphysical maleness of CAIS patients is manifest in the observable fact that they have testes rather than ovaries. They are biologically male, even though an accident of their development makes them appear female.

        Kristor and “the set of cells currently comprising Kristor” are nowhere near remotely the same thing, any more than a river is the same thing as the water currently comprising the river. That is what I would ask Aquinas and Aristotle (or their intellectual descendants) to clarify — what is a river, and why is it known as a substantial thing if all the matter in it could be replaced in a matter of days? These were known as Heraclitus’ Paradox and the Ship of Theseus problem in olden days.

        The metaphor between me and the river does not quite work out as you would like. In the first place, I didn’t say anything about the cells currently comprising Kristor; I said that making me female would involve deleting all the Kristorian cells. This would involve deleting all the future cells that are formally Kristorian. But of course, in practice, the deletion of all the current Kristorian cells would biologically entail the deletion of all future cells in their lines, because it would bring the production of Kristorian cells to a complete halt by killing me.

        In the second place, therefore, deleting all the Kristorian cells from me would be like deleting, not just the water currently in the river, but all the water in the river, now and henceforth, period full stop. A river that has no water in it anymore is not a river anymore, but rather only a place where there was once a river.

        We could put this a bit more intuitively if we use the metaphor of the Ship of Theseus. If over the course of her career every single one of her timbers had been replaced, one by one, then she would indeed be still the same ship. Her form would have been maintained. But this would be due to the fact that every one of her members would have been replaced by another of the same form – this being the only way that any of the new members could have worked as replacements to begin with. The form of the ship would have been maintained because the form of her members would have been maintained, and vice versa. If the members had been deleted all at once and replaced with differently formed members, why then the locus that had once been occupied by the Ship of Theseus would thenceforth be occupied by something else altogether.

        This is not a reductive account. The form of the Ship of Theseus is not “nothing but” the form of her members. But nor is the form of her members “nothing but” the form of the Ship. The form of the ship informs the members, and vice versa, and it is in virtue of this mutual information and participation that the Ship has her substantial integrity, her formal integrity, as just what she is. If this mutual information somehow fails, or is subject to some defect, then there is no ship at all, but rather something else – most likely a mess of some sort, that is not anything in particular.

        It is true that an account of Kristor cannot be given by an account of his cells, or of his genetics. Indeed, this point is a favorite hobbyhorse of mine. Likewise a complete account of a river cannot be given my an account of its wateriness, nor can the members of the Ship furnish an account of the Ship. Nevertheless, delete the water and you delete the river; delete the members of the Ship and you delete the Ship; delete the Kristorian cells and you delete Kristor.

        One of the brilliant things about Aquinas and Aristotle and all their ilk is that none of them make the mistake so common to those of us who grew up after Descartes, of thinking that because the river is not the same exact thing as a bunch of water molecules, therefore the river is something other than its water molecules. That Kristor has both material and formal causes does not mean that there are two different substantial entities somehow mixed together or related in Kristor, one of them material and the other formal. On the contrary: Kristor is an integral entity, with numerous causal factors.

        In this model, completely changing one’s genetics is no more metaphysically surprising than the chemical composition of a river altering over time.

        If you change out all the water in a river for methane, you may still have a river in some sense, but it will no longer be the same river, or even the same sort of river. Likewise if you were to substitute a different sort of cell for every last one of my cells, you might still have a human person, but it would not be the same person you started with. The new person would have a different form than I do, right down to the form of her macromolecules.

        You can effect such changes without doing any violence to metaphysical categories – i.e., such changes are not metaphysically proscribed – but you can’t expect a thing to be categorically the same thing it was, once you have made it into a categorically different thing – which is what you are doing when you turn a water river into a methane river, or a man into a woman.

        … toying with the notion that “a being lacking sex is not human” is appalling.

        Well, but I didn’t do that. I didn’t say that a being lacking sex is not human at all, but rather that such a being would be but defectively human. This is no very outlandish claim. All of us are defectively human somehow or other, aside from a very few great saints – Enoch, Elijah, and Mary qualify, I suppose, as having been worthy of bodily translation directly to Heaven.

        To be fully human on this account means being either fully man or fully woman, just as it involves being intelligent, bipedal, hirsute, able to read without these damned spectacles, and so forth. I grant that even very few of us are fully man or fully woman. Few of us can see perfectly, either, especially at my age. There are all sorts of ways to be defective. That does not mean there is no way to be perfect. If there were no way to be perfect, there would be no way to be defective, either; so, no way to be, at all.

        … being a man or woman is not essential to being a particular person. I.e., if I stopped being a biological male, I would not stop being Arakawa. There would simply be differently-flavoured cells flowing through the river that is my body.

        I honestly doubt it. If you deleted every bit of Arakawa’s body, all that you’d have left would be Arakawa’s soul, disembodied. At the last day, when Arakawa’s body was raised, it would have the form of Arakawa’s body – not some other body that had replaced it in that body’s earthly worldline.

        Arakawa is an integrity of body and soul. I think it quite likely that if all your cells were replaced, and a body differently formed from Arakawa’s body right down to the cellular level, then the mind of that body would be quite different from the mind that is implemented in the body of Arakawa.

        [You argue] that whether we call a person male or female is a rather squishy question that can only be objectively determined by looking at their genetics … It seems to me like your view of the question is very much the squishier one.

        I find genetics, which we cannot change, to be less squishy than whether a person happens to have breasts, which we can easily change, *just by working out.*

        Whichever of us is right about the relative squishiness of phenotypical mammaries versus genotypical Y chromosomes, you argue that sex is essentially squishy, while I argue that it is not. If sex is indeed essentially squishy, then it matters little whether we sex a person by reference to their mammaries or their chromosomes, because in that case neither will finally matter, and nor could any other criteria we might suggest. All that would then matter is the way things seem to appear to each one of us at the moment. Then everything sexual would be nothing more than a mere matter of adventitious opinion, and there would in the final analysis be no way we could decide what mix of appearances told one way or the other, and thus no way to sex a person in the first place.

        Sex – all of it – would then be up for grabs, to a radical degree. And that is a recipe for quite horrifying sexual confusion, and cruelty. People – especially children, and young adults – like things to be clear, so that they can tell how they should properly behave. Muddiness in the categories engenders anxiety, depression, fear. Go about telling boys and girls that their genes don’t matter to their sex, and that nor does anything else, when push comes to shove, and they’ll – well, we begin already to see what they’ll do. Tattoos, piercing and cutting are just a foretaste.

        I am not concerned with the possibility of God being cruel to people in the resurrection, but with the possibility of *us* being cruel to people *before* the resurrection, by telling them something that is not necessarily true, that we have no way of knowing, that might force an entirely gratuitous identity crisis of the type transsexuals put themselves through — and that we have made up primarily because it seems like a convenient way to hold our ground in the warfare with gay people oppressing us over this particular hundred-year stretch of history by forcing us to bake them wedding cakes.

        But this is something that just doesn’t happen. No one is going around forcing CAIS patients to cut off their breasts. That is not the problem. The problem is that men who are not CAIS patients are forcing us to pay for them to cut off their penes, and to pretend that they are women.

        Assuming that a male-to-female transsexual secretly wants to be treated as a man, or a homosexual secretly wants to be straight, is a deceit too far.

        I didn’t say that. I said only that the transsexual, and the homosexual, want resolution of their confusions about their sex. Of course they do! They want it so much that they are willing to suffer horrific amputations in order to obtain it. They are going about it the wrong way, as humans are wont to do. But that is what they are going after. They say so themselves!

        They are going about it bass-ackwards. You are correct, then, when you say:

        If a transsexual wants to become the opposite sex, what they should ask is “what would it take to make me that?” rather than “what would it take to get society to pretend I am that?” Only God is plausibly capable of the former, which forces a productive asking of the question, “nevertheless, why am I the person who I am?” – rather than pulling a location. I leave it to God to decide whether it is in fact appropriate to make that person the opposite sex, when all is said and done …
        Leaving it to God: always a good idea.

      • “The metaphysical maleness of CAIS patients is manifest in the observable fact that they have testes rather than ovaries.”

        Unless that translates into some different way in which a CAIS patient will be treated based on this observable fact, which would distinguish her at any point from a non-fertile woman, then these non-functional testes are about as relevant to her sex as man-boobs on a man. Are you going to call her “he” in public, just as you did over the course of this argument? If not, in order to spare the patient’s feelings, would you not be lying? If it was not a lie, wouldn’t the CAIS patient in some sense have to be female? Whether instead of, or in addition to, being male?

        “If the members had been deleted all at once and replaced with differently formed members, why then the locus that had once been occupied by the Ship of Theseus would thenceforth be occupied by something else altogether.”

        On the other hand, if the members are replaced gradually with differently formed members, then the Ship of Theseus might be turned into the Submarine of Theseus. Moreover, you will not be able to tell at which point exactly the Ship turns into a functional Submarine, even while it remains the same entity. You would have to trace its self-identity at the level of some common underlying form, e.g. the Vehicle of Theseus. The transformation persists both the underlying species “Vehicle” as well as its particular identity “of Theseus” (the very same vehicle involved in the derring-do of old, still entitled to boast of it, so to speak).

        Here is a different way of asking the question: how is changing from a woman to a man, different from changing from a child to an adult, and then from an adult to a child again, in the metaphysical sense?

        “then the mind of that body would be quite different from the mind that is implemented in the body of Arakawa.”

        And again, how is that different from the ordinary course of the resurrection? It would be nonsense to expect to be raised in a body with the same properties, and the same type of mind. The mind of that body would be even more different from the mind currently implemented in the body, than the mind of a man is different from the mind of a woman.

        Your examples by analogy of the river militate against you — all I have to do is observe the manner in which actual people talk about actual rivers, which has no resemblance to what you said. You say if a river dries up, it is no longer a river, it is a “place where a river was”. When an actual real-world river dries up, people say “the river is dry”. You say if the water in the river is changed to methane, it becomes some other entity existing in the same place. If the waters of the real-world Nile river change to blood, people say “the water in the Nile river has turned to blood”, or “the Nile river has turned to blood”; but Moses’ miracle did not make the Nile river cease to be the Nile river.

        “I find genetics, which we cannot change, to be less squishy than whether a person happens to have breasts, which we can easily change, *just by working out.*”

        You find genetics to be indicative of a person’s metaphysical sex *because we cannot easily change them*. I find them to be squishy, because there exist edge cases (CAIS, la Chapelle) where the genetics completely contradict what a person without access to genetic analysis would conclude. Thus your definition of maleness and femaleness in terms of genetics is inaccurate.

        Moreover, your definition of maleness and femaleness in terms of genetics is left incomplete — precisely in the metaphysical sense in which we can know what a species *is* long before we obtain a full scientific description of it. If we found humanoid aliens on Zebulon Five, we would be able to determine whether they are divided into male and female just as we are, long before we got around to studying how their genetics work. And if we determined they had the same male/female sexual division and societal roles as on Earth, our determination would not be overturned if we found out their males were ZZ and females ZW, or even if their genetic information was encoded using some completely alien scheme based on crystalline silicon structures. Thus, XX and XY chromosomes do not even begin to enter into the male and female form in a metaphysical sense.

  8. Excellent article. Sometimes it hard to tell ones true reasons for engaging in anything until you are far in and by then your reasons might change and your inner self may begin to become more inline with your outer self.

  9. From my essay on “The Structure of Reality”:

    “The reality in respect of which modern liberals are ‘Creationists’ is the cultural, not the cosmological, reality; but it is precisely the cultural reality that most urgently concerns human beings – who over the millennia of their ongoing survival-experiment have created the webs of meaning that, if they never abrogated the cosmological reality, nevertheless stood in considerable tension with it, acknowledging reality while enabling their creators to overcome the base elements of their animal nature. Modern liberals thus concede that culture is a transfiguring artifact. They insist at the same time that nature is uncreated or that it is self-creating, but peculiarly they remain extremely reluctant to admit that the uncreated or self-creating nature is non-deconstructable. They treat nature as though it was the same as culture although of course their theory of culture remains defective. Modern liberals wish not to acknowledge that the nature, to which culture adapts itself, always by degrees of comparable failure or success, is fixed such that its structure precludes abrogation. If modern liberals acknowledged that fact, which would entail acknowledging that there is a non-abrogatable human nature, then their argument that culture is generically so elastic that people may construct it or deconstruct it as they please would become dubious, even untenable.”

  10. What an eye opener–thank you! I believe you are exactly correct. I know someone, elderly and in poor health, who has taken up an expensive and time consuming project/hobby, and I can’t help but think he is trying to negate, or at least postpone, Death. So many idols to choose from!

  11. Oddly enough, I was just rereading an old favorite (Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men) and came across this:

    He looked at her. After a while he said: It’s not about knowin where you are. It’s about thinkin you got there without takin anything with you. Your notions about startin over. Or anybody’s. You dont start over. That’s what it’s about. Ever step you take is forever. You cant make it go away. None of it. You understand what I’m sayin?

    I think so.

    I know you dont but let me try it one more time. You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday dont count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it’s made out of. Nothin else. You might think you could run away and change your name and I dont know what all. Start over. And then one mornin you wake up and look at the ceilin and guess who’s layin there?

    • That’s right. Wherever you go you still have you with you — and all that that entails. There is no escape from yourself, unless you have Jesus too. Then that’s truly a whole new day!

  12. Pingback: Scaping Goats is Lots More Fun than Repentance – The Orthosphere

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