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Possible Worlds and Misogyny May 28, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy of Gender.
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Brad Delong channels a friend who comments on conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s views on women:

Ross Douthat:

  1. believes that abortion is murder.
  2. thinks that women who use birth control should be stigmatized as (or perhaps are) unattractive sluts.
  3. thinks that single parents should be stigmatized too.

Don’t you only get to pick two of those three? Unless you’re a real p—- who thinks women should be locked up by their fathers until title to them is passed to their husbands, that is.

I suppose there is some possible world in which someone could, without contradiction, hold 1, 2, and 3. But not in this world.

Delong provides the analysis:

I agree. If you think birth control and single parenthood should both be stigmatized then you must be for abortion on demand. If you both forbid abortion and stigmatize birth control then single parents are valuable parts of society performing important work raising the next generation. If you forbid abortion and disapprove of single parenthood then women on the pill are Visible Saints.

Since there are possible worlds in which people think “women should be locked up by their fathers until title to them is passed to their husbands” Douthat’s beliefs are not quite unintelligible—but they are very close.

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Comments»

1. Ian Duckles - May 30, 2009

Not sure what is wrong with me, but I fail to see the contradiction among the three positions. Firstly, they seem to be a fairly straightforward articulation of Catholic dogma. The function of sex is procreation, so any non-procreative sex acts are wrong. The best environment to raise children is a two-parent (male and female) household. These two beliefs combined generate the view that the only form of moral sex is procreative sex between married couples (items 2 and 3 on the above list). Lastly, all life is sacred, so no abortion (item 1). These three sets of values take care of the three points listed above, and I fail to see any contradiction among them (though I do disagree with them all).

2. Dwight Furrow - May 30, 2009

Right. There isn’t a logical contradiction, which is why I said there are possible worlds in which the statements are consistent.

But when one thinks about practically living in accordance with this dogma, one plausible reading of it is that women are property.

Ian Duckles - May 30, 2009

Ah, now I understand. Certainly the idea of women as property is quite compatible with those principles. Is it a necessary consequence of endorsing those principles? Not sure, but it seems that one is pretty close to some version of misogyny if one endorses those principles.


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