The Ontology of Sex

Poststructuralism, particularly through the writings of Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, has achieved remarkable success in challenging our belief in natural sex categories and instincts. In The Ontology of Sex, Carrie Hull endorses the progressive ideals of poststructuralism while demonstrating the superiority of a realist account of sex and sexuality. Embracing biological and cultural variability, Hull nonetheless shows that the sexed body is naturally structured and deeply meaningful. Poststructuralist philosophers have argued that biological sex is a continuum rather than a binary, and that sex identity and drive are entirely performances of cultural norms rather than expressions of innate qualities. Hull draws parallels with Nelson Goodman, W.V.O. Quine, and B.F. Skinner to show that these poststructuralist theories are rooted in a nominalist, relativist and behaviorist philosophy. The Ontology of Sex develops an alternative framework using arguments from contemporary realism and critical realism. Hull employs colorful illustrations from biology, anthropology and psychology to demonstrate the rich potential of realist philosophy. This book concludes that it is philosophically and scientifically correct, on the one hand, and politically advisable, on the other, to maintain a distinction – albeit attenuated – between sex and gender, and sexuality and behaviour. Carrie Hull has taught at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Toronto, Canada. Her previous publications have appeared in Philosophy and Social Criticism, Radical Philosophy, New Political Science and Environmental Values.

Routledge studies in critical realism Edited by Margaret Archer, Roy Bhaskar, Andrew Collier, Tony Lawson and Alan Norrie

Critical realism is one of the most influential new developments in the philosophy of science and in the social sciences, providing a powerful alternative to positivism and post modernism. This series will explore the critical realist position in philosophy and across the social sciences. 1 Marxism and Realism A materialistic application of realism in the social science Sean Creaven 2 Beyond Relativism Raymond Boudon, cognitive rationality and critical realism Cynthia Lins Hamlin 3 Education Policy and Realist Social Theory Primary teachers, child-centred philosophy and the new managerialism Robert Wilmott 4 Hegemony A realist analysis Jonathan Joseph 5 Realism and Sociology Anti-foundationalism, ontology and social research Justin Cruickshank 6 Critical Realism The difference it makes Edited by Justin Cruickshank 7 Critical Realism and Composition Theory Donald Judd

Andrew Collier. Andrew Collier.8 On Christian Belief A defence of a cognitive conception of religious belief in a Christian context Andrew Collier 9 In Defence of Objectivity and Other Essays Andrew Collier 10 Realism Discourse and Deconstruction Edited by Jonathan Joseph and John Michael Roberts 11 Critical Realism. Roy Bhaskar. Nick Hostettler. Post-positivism and the Possibility of Knowledge Ruth Groff 12 The Ontology of Sex A critical inquiry into the deconstruction and reconstruction of categories Carrie Hull Also published by Routledge: Critical Realism: Interventions Edited by Margaret Archer. 3rd edition A philosophical critique of the contemporary human sciences Roy Bhaskar Being and Worth Andrew Collier Quantum Theory and the Flight from Realism Philosophical responses to quantum mechanics Christopher Norris From East to West Odyssey of a soul Roy Bhaskar Realism and Racism Concepts of race in sociological research Bob Carter . Rhoy Bhaskar. Tony Lawson and Alan Norrie The Possibility of Naturalism. Tony Lawson and Alan Norrie Critical Realism Essential readings Edited by Margaret Archer.

Porpora Critical Realist Applications in Organisation and Management Studies Edited by Steve Fleetwood and Stephen Ackroyd Making Realism Work Realist social theory and empirical research Edited by Bob Carter and Caroline New .Rational Choice Theory Resisting colonisation Edited by Margaret Archer and Jonathan Q. Archer. Karlsson and Liselotte Jakobsen Critical Realism and Marxism Edited by Andrew Brown. Jan Ch. Mats Ekström. Tritter Explaining Society Critical realism in the social sciences Berth Danermark. Andrew Collier and Douglas V. Steve Fleetwood and John Michael Roberts Critical Realism in Economics Edited by Steve Fleetwood Realist Perspectives on Management and Organisations Edited by Stephen Ackroyd and Steve Fleetwood After International Relations Critical realism and the (re)construction of world politics Heikki Patomaki Capitalism and Citizenship The impossible partnership Kathryn Dean Philosophy of Language and the Challenge to Scientific Realism Christopher Norris Transcendence Critical realism and God Margaret S.

The Ontology of Sex A critical inquiry into the deconstruction and reconstruction of categories Carrie Hull .

Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Ave. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN 0-203-00778-6 Master e-book ISBN ISBN 0-415-35979-1 (Print Edition) . Hiroshi Uchida. individual chapters. without permission in writing from the publishers. 2006. including photocopying and recording.tandf. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge's collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www. the contributors All rights reserved.” © 2006 Editorial matter and selection. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic. Milton Park. now known or hereafter invented. NY 10016 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library. or other means. or in any information storage or retrieval published 2006 by Routledge 2 Park Square. mechanical. New York.

For Tom. who likes both .


relativism and behaviorism: Goodman.V. Quine. Quine 28 Michel Foucault 37 4 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism Relativism by any other name 57 Nominalist feminism 63 Behaviorist agency 74 5 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism Causal structures 84 Correlation and causation 97 Explaining exceptions 105 xi 1 9 23 54 83 . and Foucault Nelson Goodman 23 W.O.Contents Acknowledgments 1 2 Introduction The quest for certainty Greek rationalism 10 The Scientific Revolution 13 The rise and fall of positivism 17 3 Twentieth-century nominalism.

x 6 Contents Structure and the evolution of sexual form and meaning Phenomenal relations 113 The evolution of meaning 116 Sense and language 129 112 7 Conclusion Notes Bibliography Index 139 144 169 182 .

” Environmental Values 8 (1999). Routledge’s Critical Realism series provided a place where I could make my arguments boldly and honestly. sister and grandma for tolerating the too-frequent “I’m busy!” phone calls. Many people have contributed to it in a variety of ways.” New Political Science 24 (2002). Gad Horowitz’s ideas have influenced his students in more ways than he realizes. Parts of Chapter 4 are reprinted by permission of Radical Philosophy. UK from “The Quest for Certainty and the Demise of Political Theory. Parts of Chapter 2 are reprinted by permission of White Horse Press. Ed Andrew’s wit. Thank you to all of these publishers. and kindness guided me through the process. and to Tom for (almost) always doing the dishes.Acknowledgments This book has been a part of my life for nearly a decade. Other parts of Chapters 2 and 3 are reprinted by permission of Taylor & Francis Ltd. from “The Need in Thinking: Materiality in Theodor Adorno and Judith Conversations with Michelle Baert have shaped my intellectual development over the years. intelligence. a gesture above and beyond the call of duty. Jenny Nedelsky provided considerable support in the later stages of this project.” Philosophy and Social Criticism 29 (2003). father. Ron Manzer graciously volunteered to read the manuscript. Portions of this book have been previously published. Alan Jarvis and Amber Bulkley provided cheerful editorial assistance. from “Poststructuralism. The publisher’s website is at http://www. Other parts of Chapter 4 are reprinted by permission of Sage Publications Ltd. Behaviorism and the Problem of Hate Speech.tandf. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada supported me financially in the early days of the book. it was so helpful to receive input from sympathetic yet careful readers. A very special thanks to Caroline New and Tony Lawson for their comments on an earlier draft. Lastly. from “When Something is to be Done: Proof of Environmental Harm and the Philosophical Tradition. . and her voice appears frequently.” Radical Philosophy 84 (1997). thanks to my journals.


”2 Sometimes it is suggested that sex is a . Many contemporary authors question the existence of natural sex categories or instincts. Anne Fausto-Sterling. The structures and categories I am primarily concerned with are those of sex and sexuality. I will have things to say about other binary categories such as nature and culture. I’m calling this project an ontology because I will address questions about the basic structure of reality from a realist perspective. one of the best-known scholars in the field.” Will Roscoe alleges. and perhaps even constituted. “has been shown by scholars in several fields to be as much a social construction as what has come to be termed gender. and culture that it is impossible to determine where their imprint leaves off and nature begins.1 Introduction In the early 1990s. and desire not so unidirectional. by thought. The workshop was divided into two halves: “Deconstructing the Categories” and “Reconstructing the Categories. While there have been several nascent attempts in the intervening decade. throughout the book.”1 Examples of intersexuality and transgendered individuals are used as evidence that sex is not so twofold. The deconstruction of biological sex and sexuality rests on the thesis that knowledge of the natural world is so mediated. and the natural and social sciences. Thus. language. and sexuality. Our efforts to find readings to fill in these blanks seemed rather half-hearted. as previously believed. The term “nature” is increasingly frowned upon. this void has still not been filled. mental illness. the distinction between biological sex and social gender popularized by feminism in the 1960s and 1970s is challenged. meaning and language. sex. I participated in a humanities workshop at the University of Chicago. Thus. “Since intersexuals quite literally embody both sexes they weaken claims about sexual difference.” The reading list for the first half was replete with articles and books dismantling things such as race. This book provides a realist contribution to the reconstruction of categories in the wake of poststructuralism. mood and behavior. The second half contained not a single entry. and in the end we came up empty-handed. writes. “What constitutes anatomical sex. but also because their consideration raises so many interesting issues. This is in part because their deconstruction has garnered so much notoriety.

we hear the occasional demand to recognize three.”5 Thus.4 Judith Butler echoes this assessment: “There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender. as they question both the possibility and desirability of foundational truth.6 The political argument often following is that equality movements must confront their traditional acceptance of the sex-equals-nature and gender-equalsculture distinction. “the sex spectrum is like the color spectrum. or more sexes. in the language that fills this literature. . Understanding them thus requires understanding the philosophies against which they are a reaction: primarily. in an artificial unity. conducts. and I will use Michel Foucault and Judith Butler as its best representatives. we can better understand how the drive for absolute certainty quite naturally resulted in disillusionment. The poststructuralist response to foundationalism is well known. that identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results. The Anglo-American variant of the philosophy. Cartesian. be they Platonic. we “perform” or “accomplish” gender. typically going by the name of . four. “The possibilities for real societal transformations would be unlimited if the naturalness of gender [used here to include biological sex] could be questioned. have then been used to defend philosophical and scientific systems as well as political platforms. anatomical elements. early proponents of this position.2 Introduction continuum rather than a binary. If sex is already gender. sensations. utilitarian.8 Poststructuralism and constructivism are as much critiques of earlier philosophies as they are their own unique positions. Philosophers and scientists through the ages have sought to ground knowledge with the certainty typical of mathematical or logical proofs.”3 In the wake of these arguments. and it enabled one to make use of this fictitious unity as a causal principle . projects that have implications for most if not all realms of knowledge. challenging the presupposition that biological sex categories and instincts are natural facts is the only way to further progress. It is this absoluteness that has bemused and frustrated poststructuralist and constructivist commentators. When we examine the intellectual record.” conclude Suzanne Kessler and Wendy McKenna.7 Many activists have adopted slogans from this seemingly liberating academic movement. as I will in the next chapter. The resulting first principles. or physicalist. Others propose that sex identity and drive are entirely performances of cultural scripts rather than expressions of innate qualities. . These arguments deconstructing sex are couched in the larger projects known as poststructuralism and constructivism. varieties of foundationalism. Michel Foucault is perhaps the best-known proponent of this view: [T]he notion of “sex” made it possible to group together. Alice Dreger writes. biological functions. nature provides us with a range where one ‘type’ blends imperceptibly into the next. and pleasures.

Despite his reputation for espousing all sorts of “isms.V. I will also show that these same philosophies – nominalism.”9 Whereas a high degree of certainty might be appropriate in astronomy or mathematics. the same standard is out of place in the study of biological organisms.O. However. on the other hand. they challenge the preconception that knowledge need be absolutely certain in order to be accorded any validity. Quine. on one hand. and they do not hesitate to label the philosophies they advance. Throughout the second half of this book I explore a range of theorists united in their influence by twentiethcentury antifoundationalism. Nelson Goodman and W. As Andrew Sayer notes: If the only choice is between either regarding objects as having essences fixed for all time or conceptualising them as merely transient or even ephemeral . However.” In Chapters 3 and 4. and very few are chaotic. and equally crucial to many of the arguments suggesting that biological sex is a cultural construction. This is hardly a new position. I will elucidate these philosophies. Quine provide clear articulations of the relevant intellectual trends. This realism is again inspired by Aristotle but modernized by .Introduction 3 constructivism. in Chapter 5 I look at the more specific options presented by contemporary realism. or social structures on the other.” Aristotle was remarkable for his awareness that “discussion will be adequate if it achieves clarity within the limits of the subject matter. is less familiar. Goodman is an avowed nominalist. these theorists propose that different standards of truth should be adopted for different disciplines. While it is inaccurate to say that these thinkers provide a happy middle ground between the originating “isms” and the contemporary “post-isms” (for I suspect critics will say they are closer to the former). is a self-declared “ontological relativist” and “linguistic behaviorist.10 We need some tools for explaining those many phenomena in between. Informed by this general alternative. . I then turn to my proposed alternatives to this contemporary deconstruction of sex and sexuality. yet retaining a tempered concept of objectivity. One of my key arguments is that there are ways of redeeming aspects of the philosophical tradition without resorting to its mathematical piety and rigidity. Very few things in the human world are determinate. and a “radical” relativist. which lie in between these extremes. Contemporary realism is engaged in a struggle with the notion of tentative. then most social phenomena. relativism. the ontology maintaining that kinds and categories are cultural constructions. approximate truth. . this philosophy is extremely helpful because it explicitly and carefully addresses scientific and ontological issues. Furthermore. will be occluded. and behaviorism – are essential to the poststructuralist projects of Foucault and Butler. This may seem a complicated and perhaps unnecessary detour from our concern with sex and sexuality.

” a school started by Roy Bhaskar and now joined by many others. A single realist thesis unifies my response: to be related to and affected by language and culture is not necessarily to be derivative of language and culture. a depth that counters the contemporary doctrine that human behavior. in Chapter 6. today’s advocates do not seek an absolute a priori foundation for these structures. I will argue. including sexual behavior. is our acceptance of the fact that biological means variable within limits. because language is rooted in this nonlinguistic sense or meaning. and the popular contention that biological sex is a continuum. I will use these arguments to challenge the nominalist presuppositions of constructivism and poststructuralism. Margaret Archer. While not . is learned strictly via the mimicry of cultural norms. As realists. and that chemical contamination. Rather. Maxine Sheets-Johnstone. does not mean that sex is entirely shaped by these forces. unlike realists of earlier centuries. are primary. fundamental. I will also assert that meaning is one such relationship using what I call the “emotional realism” of Adolf Portmann. I will argue that we have the capacity both to express innate.4 Introduction current philosophers such as Richard Boyd. sexual and otherwise. or ontological. I will contend. we assert that the world is indeed structured. One of my primary tools will be “critical realism. and the nonlinguistic conceptual aspect often denied existence in contemporary scholarship. biologists are emphasizing complexity and after-the-fact explanation as opposed to simplicity and logically deducible prediction. particularly as this knowledge is espoused in the theories of the natural and social sciences. Some relations. and Eugene Gendlin. That our understanding of biological sex is influenced by culture. Tony Lawson. Realism further suggests that the desire to avoid the charge of foundationalism or essentialism can result in a potential misunderstanding of biological organisms. Millikan. including Caroline New. I build on this framework to counter the relativistic and behavioristic tendencies of poststructuralism and constructivism. and Ted Benton. However. This understanding of meaning leads me to propose that language has at least two components: the spoken and written aspect emphasized by poststructuralists and constructivists. What is absolutely key. The relativity of words to other words cannot be used to divorce language from the world. and to learn new. and Ruth Millikan. Outside the occasionally deterministic world of genetics and evolutionary psychology. behaviors. and surgery can alter biological sex. Richard Miller. hormones. Andrew Sayer. Lastly. Even spoken and written language has the potential to communicate information about our world and our own selves. Sheets-Johnstone. and Gendlin contend that meaningful words and sentences have a felt sense that maps onto objects in our environments. knowledge is tentatively grounded in our evolutionary experience of the world. Rom Harré. Meaning gives the body a depth.

I will have very little to say about gender per se. on the other. we exclude the possibility of feminist critiques of biological science. as there are plenty of wonderful books on the topic already.11 Indeed. there is some evidence that chemical contamination may be increasing the frequency of intersexuality. to maintain a distinction between sex and gender. and I will show that there are important differences. I do think that the investigations of feminism have to be broadly consistent with results in other fields. there is little difference between it and positions adopted by cultural conservatives targeting sexual minorities. Sometimes. I will emphasize that biology. do not want to build my feminism on theories that ignore or run contrary to the best work of the natural sciences. plays a role in limiting these possible variations. This is problematic for a number of reasons. However. this will be reflected in a multifaceted sex identity and desire. The leveling could also lead to the downplaying of concerns about environmental harm. I will also show how the perceivable form of the body grounds some of the sexual behaviors connecting similarly and dissimilarly sexed beings. . I concur that the sex categories have permeable boundaries. the possibility of truth must be a precondition if the proliferation of language is to make any sense at all. But I firmly resist the absolutist claim that there is one and only one natural sexuality. will reflect rather than construct reality. Sexuality is eminently more variable than sex. If my alternative is left as such. The leveling of the sex–gender distinction would dictate that feminist critiques of science are identical to critiques of social science. I realize that there are realpolitik concerns that any mention of a natural body must lead down the slippery slope to biological determinism. some of which surely include words about sex and sexuality. a reluctance to look at nature can result in the overlooking of evidence that could help to counter inequality. Since human beings are variable and moody. on the one hand. the results of an engagement with science and . giving rise to individuals fitting comfortably into neither the male nor female slot. it is true. . it is partly for political reasons that poststructuralism and constructivism are so popular. But taking my cue from poststructuralism and constructivism. and sexuality and behavior.”12 I. What does all of this imply for the general issue of biological sex and sexuality? I propose that it is philosophically and scientifically correct. the sexed body is naturally meaningful.Introduction 5 everything we say is true. For example. Tony Lawson makes the interesting observation that “political positions that have no grounding other than their perceived strategic advantages are likely to be challenged and called into question sooner or later . and have the capacity to learn new behaviors. in these types of critiques. As a consequence. at least some of the time. and politically advisable. for one. Yet as I will also suggest. as well as culture. It is likely that particularly salient words and sentences. Anne Fausto-Sterling argues that if we maintain the sex–gender distinction.

We might find. Clearly. realists argue that biology furnishes both potentials and limitations. as well as natural similarities. faithful to the idea of pure science.” we somehow lost interest. and as relativists. and we might be closing off a powerful line of argument by hesitating to explore the natural sciences and claims about biological sex. reproduction. Evelyn Fox Keller writes that contemporary criticisms of realism leave science to the scientists: It would appear that. We must preserve some means of talking about evolution. No inequality functions in a monolithic fashion. and little advising how we are to evaluate competing scientific claims. or political argument is inevitably informed by the standpoint of the individual making it. Ted Benton cautions that the a priori refusal by social scientists to examine our natural origins “places us alongside the flat-earthers and bible-belt creationists. that there are natural differences between human beings. One of the most impressive feminist attempts at addressing the natural sciences is standpoint theory. just for starters. and the health effects of pollution. But we must also acknowledge the possibility of the threat’s blinding us. The results might also enlighten and liberate us.14 Sarah Hrdy. when we were naive realists. we might discover something other than what we are assuming is there. no animal prostitutes. for example. and biological sex differences lead straight to essentialism.16 We should not abandon our responsibility to engage critically and constructively in debates in the natural sciences.6 Introduction biology might disappoint us. the noted anthropologist. The continued emphasis on the thesis that we have only a mediated understanding of the world could also be unintentionally promoting the neglect of important scientific issues. insists. disabused of both “purity” and “scientificity. thus keeping us from examining what is actually there.”13 Furthermore. We have spent so much effort in the last thirty years dispelling the notion that science provides any privileged knowledge of reality. “our species possesses the capacity to carry sexual inequality to its greatest known extremes.”15 There are no animal slaves. mental and physical illness. he adds. scientific. Sheets-Johnstone writes: Certainly we can acknowledge as threatening the idea that the body is intrinsically tied to knowledge: immediately one thinks of biological sex differences. In general. we were either too timid or didn’t know how to ask [questions]. it cuts us off from theories and ideas that could help our work greatly.17 Sandra Harding is correct that the project of simply making science more “rigorous” overlooks many linger- . which basically contends that any philosophical.

that we are always prisoners of language. and I have spent considerable effort tempering my arguments so that they are less offensive to an audience that assumes realism is by definition conservative. despite intentions to the contrary.”25 John Guillory notes that the converse premise. and our comfort with its political stalemates.Introduction 7 ing problems. .21 Caroline New observes that the feminism informed by these views has produced a generation of fence sitters.” is equally prevalent. . “realists have a public relations problem on their hands.23 When I discuss global warming with my students. .22 Latour cautions that dishonest individuals manipulate uncertainty. unmediated. “Clearly. it is not much different than poststructuralism. sexual politics movements should not rest their hats on the possibility of eradicating the sex–gender distinction. a stance that is often assumed with minimal justification and even less tolerance for dissent.18 However. It strikes me . and perhaps most importantly. or universalism underlies . unbiased access to truth. poststructuralism and constructivism have received a fair hearing. or completely negating the idea of an innate sex instinct. Bruno Latour laments that critical movements of recent years have done little else than preach the gospel of multiplicity: That facts are made up. Lastly. Guillory argues that an antirealism informed by poststructuralism is now the “spontaneous philosophy” of many in the humanities. such as the dominance of certain methodologies and forms of explanation. foundationalism. in many subfields of the humanities. I haven’t found it easy to be a feminist realist. to prevent action on important problems like global warming.”27 It goes without saying that this is a stifling state of affairs. and so on. I am struck at how relieved they are to discover that there are dissenters from the global warming hypothesis. that we always speak from a particular standpoint. .26 Poststructuralists sometimes argue as though they are a small minority of persecuted intellectuals who must bitterly fight any opposition.” New summarizes.20 When standpoint theory stops with this advice. . that there is no such thing as natural. Barbara Epstein writes that students and professors alike “have come to associate progressive concerns with a postmodernist perspective. thereby balancing the various biases.24 It is also necessary to challenge the idea that critical politics is impossible without poststructuralism. While there are probably few poststructuralist chemists or engineers. all that is regressive in our society. that “realism. While this is surely natural – for who wants to be confronted with irrefutable evidence that we are destroying the planet? – we need to spend more time promoting the necessity of making the occasional judgment even in the face of multiple standpoints and interpretations.19 some proponents of standpoint theory simply advocate that we proliferate knowledge from as many perspectives as possible.

But I will insist that the uncovering of such differences does not validate any form of inequality. The further success of feminism and the acceptance of sexual minorities should not hinge on our ability to refute the notion of biological sex differences or drives. any resulting social inequality would somehow be legitimated. or intersexuals from men and women. I like to think that this book is more hopeful. in that it looks forward to a society in which differences and similarities will be acknowledged while inequality will still be diminished. An implication following from poststructuralism and constructivism is that if women were in the slightest way different from men. However. and an instinctual sexuality of sorts. I will argue that there are natural sex differences.8 Introduction as a capitulation to an unequal society to refuse to consider the possibility of the existence of any natural differences between the sexes. there is much to be gained in loosening the hold that certainty has had on our collective imagination. or heterosexuals from homosexuals. . without being naïve. or natural potentials in our bodies. It is central to my work that a biological basis for sex is not justification for hierarchy.

a physicist. At each stage the invariance and indistinguishability of the elementary parts increases. where the initial premises are explained using a later result of the inquiry. and so on.1 This methodological strategy in all likelihood tells us something fundamental about the world and has played a profound role in many important scientific discoveries. of greater simplicity: the organism is divided into cells. or circularity. the physicist applies his peculiar methods to distill out the mathematically consensible essences. John Ziman. Two consequences have followed. feminist or otherwise. Without such a principle. it is feared. Culminating in twentieth-century positivism. so that the possibilities of a mathematical description of their properties and phenomena become wider and more inclusive. But perhaps less remarkable is our understanding of biology and . each cell is analyzed into its chemical molecules. . such as mass and spatial extent. describes the process from the perspective of his science: Given the messy. explanation must lead either to an infinite regress. philosophers and scientists have long been attracted to the position that all knowledge must and does have an irrefutable first principle. and thinkers have attempted to replicate the results of these pursuits in other areas of inquiry. are in large respect responses to one of the dominant tendencies in the history of Western thought: foundationalism. where each concept is explained through the introduction of another concept ad infinitum. . Most engineering feats that we depend upon in modern life would be impossible without a deep understanding of mathematics. He extracts algebraically simple quantities. First. The certainty furnished by mathematics and deductive logic has therefore proved hard to resist. He deliberately breaks things into ‘elementary’ parts. chaotic world of everyday things. formal properties like quantity have been abstracted from empirical evidence in an effort to perfect the study of nature. each molecule is broken into its constituent atoms .2 The quest for certainty Poststructuralism and constructivism.

5 Aristotle further contends that the Pythagoreans examined the empirical world for analogies to number. geometry. and astronomy) was advocated as the appropriate method of spiritual purification.10 The quest for certainty disease. Pythagoras. my summary should demonstrate the tenacity with which the mathematical conception of the universe has been held. For the Pythagoreans. less mathematically inclined theorists of all stripes have had much to gain from debunking scientific and philosophical claims of certainty. and to appreciate their appeal to so many people. highly complex systems that are less responsive to an exclusively mathematical approach. As is the case with many such divisions. Greek rationalism An obvious place to begin a philosophical overview is with the Greek rationalists. in particular. For example. or the environment.4 Following ancient Orphic cults. In political science. or perhaps even Pythagoras . and Plato. While by no means intended as a dismissal of the individuals highlighted. In psychology. Parmenides. In this chapter I will provide examples of the formalist and foundationalist tendencies in the history of philosophy and science. mathematized “personality” research predominates while psychoanalysis languishes. If Aristotle’s accounts are accurate. with ten planets conjectured in accordance with the base ten system. Pythagoras (b. The second repercussion of the drive for certainty is that knowledge not so amenable to formal analysis has been diminished through both criticism and neglect. the Pythagoreans hypothesized that the nature or essence of being was number. the study of organisms in their “messy” surroundings. theoretical speculations have lost influence and credibility to quantitative studies. or even as representative of each thinker’s oeuvre. However.8 One story even hints that a Pythagorean. As “losers” in the war of methodology. in environmental science.3 I hope it will then be easier to understand the motives behind poststructuralism and constructivism. while field biology. I hope to show that we have gone too far in the process.6 Later Pythagoreans supposedly associated unity and limit with good.2 Almost every discipline in the social sciences has developed a parallel hierarchy. music. is considered less mathematically rigorous and thus inferior. the soul was thought to be superior to the physical body. analytical chemistry and physical modeling dominate.7 An ancient myth suggests that irrational numbers – in particular those represented by the incommensurability of the diagonal and side of a square – were a source of much consternation. and plurality and limitlessness with evil. 571 BC?) and the Pythagoreans were among the earliest advocates of a mathematical approach to the world. and contributed to the already weakened status of the humanistic social sciences. however. the study of number (arithmetic. men were grouped with the former and women the latter.

540 BC?) seemingly disparaged Heraclitus as the one “for whom both to be and not to be are judged the same and not the same. beautifully ordered. The sensual realm. just as two strings tuned to the same frequency “resonate. imperishable. the realm where “mortals. . The string represented an indefinite flux. It was indeed impossible to make any logically non-contradictory statements about the physical world. Other accounts relate that the monochord. and certainly explain some of the psychological appeal of mathematics. knowing nothing. or Being. . Pythagoras supposedly discovered that the lengths of the string between the principal notes of the Greek scale had the perfect proportion of 6:8:12.17 An opposition between the unknowable material world and the certainty of logic was thus outlined. and engaged in embryonic efforts to evaluate the world we inhabit according to this same standard. all together. a single-string instrument.18 . the Pythagoreans apparently equated numerical certainty with truth and the divine. .The quest for certainty 11 himself. accordingly. different and different waters flow” – had a similarly enormous impact on Greek rationalist thought. .” the one vibrating when the other is plucked. Even today there are individuals heralding a return to a supposed Heraclitean relativism in response to the excesses of Parmenidean unity. where “It is . two-headed. whole. Night turns into day. deemed unworthy of study. Legend recounts that Pythagoras tried to heal the sick by playing specific harmonies on his lyre.”15 was the path of mere belief. and the path of all is backward-turning. Whether or not these ideas can be rightly attributed to Pythagoras. and divorced from the “contradictory” material world. The world is. Parmenides (b.9 Furthermore. Musical harmonies were brought into a mystical union. threw Hippasus (the person allegedly making this discovery) off a ship. Parmenides’ conclusion was that knowledge is limited to those things which are logically certain.”16 Since Being is contemplated only through our reasoning faculty.11 Although these sources are indirect and inconclusive. only to turn back into night. .” is never contradicted by “It is not . others sorrow. many philosophers interpreted him as the philosopher of flux. according to Parmenides.”14 Yet Parmenides apparently agreed that the material world was just as Heraclitus described. . wander.” Such a feature could only apply to the One. . . Heraclitus’ argument that the material world is one of continual flux and transience – “As they step into the same rivers. one and continuous. provoked considerable Pythagorean speculation. with human experience at one extreme and abstract numbers at the other. they played a fundamental role in the development of Greek thought. while the nodal points furnished the form for this flux. and of a single kind and unshaken and complete . was the path of truth.12 Although Heraclitus quite possibly proclaimed Logos the ultimate measure of this endless material change. The correct path. humans were said to be in synchronicity with music.13 For example. This Being is “ungenerated .10 Certain musical proportions provoke cheer.

particularly “one. For. following the arguments of the Parmenides. . an argument can be made that the One permits an even greater mathematization of Plato’s philosophy.27 but number.26 Yet number provides perhaps the best approximation to the world of pure ideas. . if One is the origin and telos. a realm that is ambiguously defined by its participation or sharing in the world of the forms. .21 In seeming homage to Pythagoras. all difference it generates is immediately quantifiable.”30 Indeed. This is most evident in the Phaedo. apparently eliminating the earlier independence of form and matter.12 The quest for certainty Plato (b. The One is the source of everything. The solution involves the hypothesization of a “One” that in itself contains opposing principles. as the two.22 Indeed.” away from the material world of “visible or tangible bodies. it is dragged by the body to the things that are never the same. as he does not want their unseemly weeping to dissuade others from his belief that physical death means nothing. . be it through hearing or seeing or some other sense . But when the soul investigates by itself it passes into the realm of what is pure. where Socrates asserts: when the soul makes use of the body to investigate something.”28 This intellection of opposites leads the student to the thought of Being. There are no obvious opposites for some sense experiences. The idea of the One containing the many is repeated in the Republic. Socrates speaks many times of the process of purification of the soul through its divorce from the body.19 True knowledge pertains only to the rational apprehension of unchanging and eternal forms or ideas – entities resembling Parmenidean Being – existing apart from the material world. when . it seems that a tentative solution is proposed. three. and reflects the further influence of Pythagoras. or the many. Plato denies that the One or the forms are number in themselves. It is one and many at the same time. Socrates orders the women in attendance to leave the room before he dies. immortal and unchanging. Plato’s philosophy often revolves around a fundamental hierarchy between ideas and the material world.24 While the dialogue is extremely complicated. Plato suggests that “the study of the one would be among those apt to lead and turn around toward the contemplation of what is. True.” compels the mind to think of “the many. Thus.20 This perfection again evades the fluctuating sensual realm.”29 The study of calculation draws the soul “upward. Socrates shows that number is a necessary study because proper conception of it immediately invokes opposite principles. ever existing. Socrates acknowledges both the difficulty of positing two realms and of explaining precisely how things in our world participate in the forms.23 In the Parmenides. Here. . 428 BC) attempted to reclaim the possibility of empirical knowledge by uniting eternal ideas and changeable matter with the glue of the teleological Socratic Good.25 However. Nonetheless.

1564) rejected the ancient notion that logic could function as a method of discovery.31 The analysis of geometry in the Republic further illustrates this argument. and its characters are triangles. Plato’s solution was to demand that geometry restrict itself to these abstractions. even if we lack the luxury of exercising its option. The Scientific Revolution The equation of knowledge with numerical certainty carried over from ancient philosophy into the early days of natural science and the Scientific Revolution. . it behooves us to place the foundations of knowledge in mathematics. and other geometrical figures. they supposed that such empirical tests were usually unnecessary.”35 Bacon believed that all of nature operated according to similarly demonstrable laws. Given this belief system. No actually existing triangle can be used to demonstrate proofs such as the Pythagorean Theorem.32 Even though actually existing triangles participate in the Idea of the triangle.”36 Three hundred years later. the medieval scientist.The quest for certainty 13 Plato dismisses Pythagoras. It followed that “[I]f in other sciences we should arrive at certainty without doubt and truth without error. Deductive methods could then be applied. daily life presents endless exceptions to the absolute rules of justice and the Good that Plato seeks. Roger Bacon (b. was impressed by the infallibility of geometric proofs. Galileo (b. He revived the classical tradition by declaring “Of [the great sciences] the gate and key is mathematics. “prepares the mind to . but echoed Bacon’s mathematical sentiments almost exactly: The book [of the universe] cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the alphabet in which it is composed. the conviction that certain knowledge is superior knowledge remains a dominant theme throughout Plato’s writings.” proclaims Galileo.33 A retreat into philosophy and the contemplation of certainty is justifiable.”38 Although Galileo and even Bacon conducted experiments to determine whether their mathematical formulations accurately reflected reality.34 Most of us can probably appreciate this sentiment. because it would fall short of the perfect qualities of the abstract triangle. even noble at times. without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it.37 He continues: “[T]he deliberations of nature are perfect . and therefore not certain enough. . arguments concerning [it] are either correct and true or else incorrect and false. the world of politics is inevitably disappointing. “The knowledge of a single fact. 1220). circles. Not only are leaders corrupt. It is written in the language of mathematics. and knowledge attained. it is because the latter’s musical and mathematical musings were too earthly for Plato.

14 The quest for certainty understand and ascertain other facts without need of recourse to experiment. Equally fascinated with the deductive certainty of geometry (particularly as presented by Euclid). which are Names. Hobbes contrasted it to the chaos of other disciplines.” we can become properly scientific through the use of the correct method. by means of which geometers are accustomed to reach the conclusions of their most difficult demonstrations. till we come to a knowledge of all the Consequences of names appertaining to the subject at hand. Descartes (b. were immune to error. which are the Connexions of one Assertion to another. on the other hand.47 While we may no longer aspire to the “truth. These formal properties were discovered independently of experience and. He expressed dismay that no “loftier superstructure” had as yet been erected on the solid foundation of mathematics – again. and that is it. are mutually connected in the same way.42 However.”45 Morals and political viewpoints are fancy backed with a subjective sense of conviction. to the knowledge of which man is competent. and so to Syllogismes.”41 Descartes admonishes his readers. “is nothing els but originall fancy.” to ignore fields less certain than arithmetic and geometry. as such. had led me to imagine that all things. “Sense in all cases. 1588) had no qualms about breaching the realm of morals and embracing both Descartes and Galileo. in their shared “search for the direct road towards truth. The path to knowledge is to subject our sense experience to the rigor of method: first in apt imposing of Names.40 Descartes made the erection of this knowledge superstructure his goal. and secondly by getting a good and orderly method in proceeding from the Elements. as Sheldon Wolin pointed out years ago.”39 The operations of the world could thus be deduced from first principles such as Galileo’s own law of inertia. setting out to explain the phenomena of nature solely by reference to qualities like motion.46 Yet Hobbes rejected the metaphysical quest of the ancients. primarily geometry – since. Hobbes then founds a science of politics by applying this method to two elementary sense experiences: Galileo’s principle of inertia (moving . and shape. Yet this is a method no less enamored of certainty than the metaphysics Hobbes scorns. Perceptual knowledge was.” he writes.44 Hobbes retains the old distrust of sense experience. Descartes cautioned against the application of his method to moral or political matters. to Assertions made by Connexion of one of them to another. size. 1596) arrived at a position similar to that of his contemporary Galileo. “frequently fallacious. men call Science. [t]he long chains of simple and easy reasonings.43 Thomas Hobbes (b.

. who was responsible for the true intersection of experimentation and mathematics. desiring motion. . and cohere in regular figures.50 There are no objective means by which to resolve or dampen these perpetual conflicts.”55 Boyle placed much more weight on empirical evidence. we deduce the motions of the planets. therefore I move.56 Once this remedy was in place. but I hope the principles here laid down will afford some light either to that or some truer method of philosophy. . because each of us subjectively believes in our own rightness. . . I wish we could derive the rest of the phenomena of nature by the same kind of reasoning from mechanical principles. as “all sorts of qualities . set up for right Reason.”54 Chemical properties could be explained in terms of physical laws.” If humans are in perpetual. “the parties must . by no means the right laws. the Reason of some Arbitrator. Then. they will naturally come into collision with one another over some item of mutual longing. Newton could relate the now standard doctrine in his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy: By the propositions mathematically demonstrated .57 . We may only apply an external force. by some causes hitherto unknown. The consequence is near or all-out war. are either mutually impelled towards each other. and motionless objects. Newton developed calculus and asserted that it was a more appropriate tool of discovery than the traditional geometry. It is Isaac Newton (b. 1627) sought to apply Cartesian mechanistic philosophy to the field of chemistry. however.53 The Irish scientist Robert Boyle (b. One could sum it up: “I desire. Boyle observed that mathematics is “the alphabet.48 and the Cartesian conviction (Hobbes’ modification of Descartes’ inward quest for certainty) that all individuals are indeed driven by a selfish desire for power. Although Hobbes provides a few experiments to demonstrate his result – asking his readers if they do not indeed lock their doors at night to protect themselves – the test of experience is a rhetorical flourish.49 The results are well known and elegantly simple. in which God wrote the world. the comets. heralding a turn to the greater use of experimentation in the natural sciences. some resolution is better than none.52 Experience is in no way intended to supplant the logical method adapted from geometry. . and the sea.” Hobbes asserts.”51 The Leviathan will merely choose a set of laws. unless an external force is applied). As the latter lofty goal is impossible. for I am induced by many reasons to suspect that they may all depend upon certain forces by which the particles of bodies. from these forces. “[W]hen there is a controversy in an account. 1642). may be produced mechanically. we then derive from the celestial phenomena the forces of gravity with which bodies tend to the sun and the several planets.The quest for certainty 15 objects will stay in motion. . the moon. or are repelled and recede from each other . motionless.. . by other propositions which are also mathematical. Echoing Galileo. the Leviathan arbitrator.

. The task Hume leaves for science is to express the input of the senses as rigorously as possible given this inherent and permanent uncertainty. that it will rise.”65 Of greater significance yet is Hume’s redefinition of the concept of causation in light of this argument. arguing that empirical experience of the world provides no proof of anything.”60 Because our empirical knowledge is not as certain as a logical proof from the “abstract sciences” – because there is nothing logically contradictory about the sun rising today and not rising tomorrow – we must downgrade the status of our belief about the sun. or diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses. all attempts to extend this more perfect species of knowledge beyond these bounds are mere sophistry and illusion. science must restrict itself to studying the quantifiable properties of nature.”64 In the same vein.” continues Hume in his famous example. and . and these are evidently incapable of demonstration. Reacting to the scientific certainty sought by his peers. . it is a “bundle of perceptions. Hume writes: [T]he only objects of the abstract sciences or of demonstration [logic] are quantity and number.61 Hume reintroduces logic. in his argument that the workings of the mind. Mathematical principles need to be verified rather than deduced. . a “golden mountain” is simply the mental summation of the sensations corresponding to “golden” and “mountain. and implies no more contradiction. Whatever is may not be. All other enquiries of men regard only matters of fact and existence.59 Hume is reviving Parmenides. or calling it a law of nature. 1711) presents a crucial case from the perspective of my argument.66 He raises what has come to be called “the problem of induction.”63 So. “For it would be endless and impossible. Hume (b.”58 Speculation about qualities. . or why things work instead of how they work. unlike the workings of the external world. augmenting. Newton had cautioned that nothing could be ascertained without experimental evidence. transposing. . “to bring every particular to direct and immediate observation.” asking how we can make accurate predictions given that future occurrences of events can be gauged neither from experience nor through .16 The quest for certainty Note that Newton is expressing a hypothesis rather than an a priori conviction. “than the affirmation.” Newton observes. Hume argues that mental processes consist solely of “compounding. Still.62 Following Hobbes. Hume replies that such evidence is still inevitably inconclusive. Hume proposed that the self is merely the sum total of all of these sensations. can be deductively ascertained and reduced to a handful of principles. however. is rejected as unscientific and metaphysical. in his famous phrase. “That the sun will not rise to-morrow is no less intelligible a proposition. We must give up attributing to it the notion of truth.

and forms immediately an idea of the other. The same must be said for the concepts force. but beyond these.75 He even planned to create an algebra that would replace . Hume continues. But it provides no guarantee of the existence of a force connecting plucking and sound. for instance.”74 Comte’s method was abstract mathematics. would study the “generalities of the different sciences” and subject them to “one unique method. But what do we mean by that affirmation? We either mean that this vibration is followed by this sound. just as “golden mountain” is the mental conjunction of the separate sensations “golden” and “mountain. we cannot infer from this sense in our brains that the link between events also exists in the world. both logically indefensible and empirically unverifiable maneuvers.”73 In a sense. to make these connections. A law.69 However. the philosophie positif. and no causal structures. or a cause.72 Each rests on the hypothesization of unseen entities and relationships. 1798). and energy.” we make predictions on the basis of our observation of “constant conjunctions” of past events. the father of sociology. refers to nothing other than the repeated experience of some outcome that tends to this fostering of a mental custom or habit. Comte set out to produce an antimetaphysical version of Aristotle’s Metaphysics.The quest for certainty 17 logical deduction. and his first principle the belief that all phenomena were controlled by immutable physical laws.71 The increased incidence of the “plucking sound” conjunction leads to greater support for the mental idea that there is a permanent link between the two events. Hume is basically arguing that there are no laws of nature. continued efforts to apply the methods of mathematics to the study of human beings. The rise and fall of positivism Auguste Comte (b. The new first philosophy. we have no idea of it. and that upon the appearance of one the mind anticipates the senses. Hume is ultimately still beholden to logic: because knowledge of empirical events cannot be so verified. then.70 Hume writes: We say. as well as induction into the future. How do we guarantee that events as we have experienced them to the present will continue into the future?67 Hume’s solution was to posit that. he asserted: “It is only through mathematics that we can thoroughly understand what true science is.68 We are naturally predisposed. and the mental connection or relationship is not of a logically necessary nature. at least from the perspective of our knowledge. Like Galileo and Roger Bacon. power. that the vibration of this string is the cause of this particular sound. the only logical solution is skepticism. We may consider the relation of cause and effect in either of these two lights.

But this reflected a human shortcoming. we see a desire to leave the world of observation behind for the cleaner. After concluding that the quest for certainty was doomed to fail. which rests on what is immedi- . A.18 The quest for certainty the alphabet and serve as the language of his new philosophy. John Stuart Mill (b. Rudolf Carnap. while Carl Hempel and Ernest Nagel maintained sympathetic unofficial links. a more precise delineation of the process of science was being developed. by empowering us to deduce from the smallest possible number of immediate data the largest possible amount of results. Two central principles governed the group’s writings. Mill argued that an investigator could prove a connection between events only if everything was held constant except for one variable. or the “logical positivists” as they are more typically known.”80 Such rules have tended to prescribe predictive laboratory methods as the only accepted way to practice science.” We conclude this overview with a discussion of the ideas of the Vienna Circle.” worked with several of the collective’s members and shared some of their key ideas. and a measurable change in the effect was then observed. nor in its application to empirical matters. on absolute determinism. although vehemently resisting the label “positivist.” medical science must be “based only on certainty. and antifoundationalism. The Vienna Circle was the name attached to a group of Austrian intellectuals active collectively in the 1920s and 1930s. Comte cautioned that these deductions could not yet be conducted.J. Karl Popper. the famous physiologist and another peer of Mill and Comte. Comte’s contemporary and friend. amongst medical researchers. and Otto Neurath. Ayer joined at a later date.79 Claude Bernard (b. Logical positivism is thus the surprising link between philosophical and scientific foundationalism on the one hand. 1806). 1813). Mill’s proposals are known today simply as “Mill’s Canons. and individually long afterwards. “[m]athematics might enable us to dispense with all direct observation.”77 Since knowledge was far from complete. the logical positivists were motivated by a desire to purge philosophy of metaphysics. Not only was repeatable experimentation the sole means of attaining “scientific truth. The failure of the movement also marks a turning point in twentieth-century philosophy. Logical positivism represents the epitome of the historical tendency to equate knowledge with mathematical certainty. Indeed. more certain dominion of mathematics. the problem lay not with mathematics. During this era. The most famous founding members were Moritz Schlick. proposed “Methods of Experimental Inquiry” in his vast System of Logic. concurred.76 In this future world. Several positivists ultimately became influential figures in antifoundationalist philosophy.78 Once again. Although not unanimous in their views. they retreated into various forms of relativism and skepticism. on the other. One was essentially Humean: “there is knowledge only from experience. including poststructuralism and constructivism. The whole process must then be repeatable.

. for Outside(rain).86 Lest the connection to Comte be downplayed.The quest for certainty 19 ately given. and hence scientific. namely logical analysis. The logical positivists thus sought to strip potentially testable statements down to their atomic components. statements such as “It is raining” were at least potentially verifiable by observation. reducible to the empirical 81 .” was even developed to refer to this physical reality. but updated with the twentieth-century advances of Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein. but rather meaningless. must be statable by step-wise reduction to other concepts. This doctrine has come to be known as physicalism. Metaphysics consisted of any statements that could not be validated by observation – for example.”85 and that all scientific observations should be translatable into this language. the realist premise “there is a world beyond my observations.”87 The empirical observation “It is raining” then becomes Ou(r).” According to the positivists.84 For the positivists. by applying logical analysis to the empirical material. A Comtean algebra. likewise the meaning of any concept. It was ultimately decided that the concepts of mathematical physics most closely reflected the empirical “given. . No longer is there an “it is” force producing the rain. “purged of all metaphysics. this symbol could be manipulated into various physical predictions. The aim of scientific effort is to reach the goal. still rooted in the Humean project.83 Meaningful. this claim was neither true nor false. Since the meaning of every statement of science must be statable by reduction to a statement about the given. or in some sort of neutral world structure complemented in various ways by different individual perceptions. unified science.” The other reflects a preoccupation with the logical analysis of science. and hypotheses. .89 Concepts or theories were. Debate raged over whether this “protocol” language was ultimately rooted in individual sense experience. it was suggested that children be educated to speak in this clear and precise fashion.88 Echoing Hume. Both premises find expression in a 1929 manifesto: [T]he scientific world conception is marked by application of a certain method. Through the logical operations of negation and conjunction with other variables. explanations. a “neutral system of formulae. and a waste of philosophical energy. as the “it is” conjures up the image of a hidden power or force causing it to rain. down to the concepts of the lowest level which refer directly to the given. in the reverse case. a scientific law would represent nothing but the logical summation of hundreds or thousands or millions of these simple statements. whatever branch of science it may belong to. even this last observation about the weather was layered with obfuscating metaphysical garments. a symbolism freed from the slag of historical languages.82 Parameters were thus set for distinguishing the “immediately given” or properly scientific from the metaphysical.

On a night when the temperature drops below freezing. must be able to predict a future event given similar initial conditions. “then so will. the “always and without exception” occurrences of the above example. be it physical. an observation such as Ou(r) would confirm a law if the former could be logically deduced from the latter in the same way that Socrates’ mortality is deduced from the mortality of all human beings. there is nothing we can sensibly say about the operation of any unobservable forces or structures of nature. the positivists banished all talk of order.” once again provides the paradigm for all of knowledge. and vice versa. biological. certain conditions of another kind. But what does it actually mean to subject a scientific theory to logical testing? Carl Hempel described the goal: [I]t ought to be possible .” or a “vague claim.90 In simpler language. or historical. . with its “physical theories of deterministic character. if enclosed. Hempel stipulated that scientific explanation necessitates the determination of general laws. “Whenever and wherever conditions of a specified kind [occur]. to set up purely formal criteria of confirmation in a manner similar to that in which deductive logic provides purely formal criteria for the validity of inductive inference. period. we can conclude that the radiator will be cracked by morning.96 Several of the positivists endorsed this extreme view. Hempel’s famous example of what has come to be known as the “deductive-nomological model” of hypothesis testing provides a more detailed clarification. or in the fashion that geometrical proofs are formulated. hence Otto Neurath’s bold statement. increases as temperatures fall.94 Hempel second proclaimed that explanation and prediction were symmetrical exercises. Classical mechanics. someone leaves a car with a full. “there will be no more talk of ‘different kinds of causality. First.20 The quest for certainty observations provided by science. Darwin’s theory should consequently predict future species development and extinction. The positivists thus endorsed Hume’s contention that there is nothing in operation in the world other than what we observe empirically.’ ”97 Distinguishing the social and natural sciences on the basis of . We hypothesize general laws indicating that water freezes at 0° Celsius and that its pressure. More precisely. always and without exception. Hempel argued that anything falling short of this standard was but a “pseudo-explanation.91 The implication drawn by advocates of the deductive method is that this cracking is logically determined by properly established laws. .”92 The deductive method of hypothesis testing suggests a strict protocol for science.”93 It was easy to ridicule the social sciences from this perspective.95 Any worthy explanation. Embarrassed perhaps by religion and philosophical musings on Forms and Being. From the combined effect of the laws and these background facts. tightly sealed radiator on the street.” Hempel generalizes. if the initial conditions and laws were fully disclosed.

or even a statement and a mediated perception of the world. no one could produce the magic formula the positivists were driven to seek: logically conclusive means of determining observation sentences and empirical laws. that it is the system which is actually adopted by mankind. Popper accepts Hume’s conclusion that we can never conclusively prove that a certain theory is true. In the end. . the slippery nature of empirical laws and observation statements ultimately led to the downfall of the movement. sufficient knowledge of initial conditions. through experimentation we can demonstrate that certain theories are indeed false.103 .The quest for certainty 21 unique properties of humans or their culture would involve another forbidden retreat into metaphysics. and it finally gained acceptance by most of the positivists: The system of protocol statements which we call true . Despite the success of the deductive-nomological method in the physical sciences.”100 This stipulation implies that the world operates according to deterministic laws. . a belief to which Popper confesses: One sometimes hears it said that the movements of the planets obey strict laws. what we lack is. The belief that there is one level of analysis – the empirical event. Popper and the positivists were thus bound to the traditional belief that logical certainty. [i]n throwing dice. However. . was the goal of science. .99 Popper nonetheless maintained that scientists should study events “which can be regularly reproduced by anyone who carries out the appropriate experiment. and the “true” statements in general may be characterized as those which are sufficiently supported by that system of actually adopted protocol statements.98 He also argued that scientific theories could be falsified. whilst the fall of a die is . It was ultimately concluded that the connection between an observation statement and a supposed empirical fact was merely a logical relationship between two statements. . accurately reflected in the laws of physics – won the day. There is no need to make predictions about the future in these cases because we already have experience that contradicts the hypothesized theory. A few words about the fate of positivism are in order. but never conclusively verified. albeit unattainable. The sun may not rise tomorrow. not a link between the statement and the world. . . . In my view . clearly. may only be characterized by the historical fact. but is then quick to acknowledge that it is incapable of being tested. subject to chance.102 Hempel had always promoted this position. . Karl Popper disagreed with the leveling of the distinction between the natural and social sciences.101 Popper makes this claim quite confidently. Because of the problem of induction as formulated by Hume.

while there has been some debate as to whether the world itself is mathematically ordered. with the denouement that knowledge was ultimately conventional. I now turn to a more detailed analysis of these constructivist and poststructuralist developments. then. the equation of knowledge and certainty has led to one of two basic positions. On the other hand. neither metaphysics nor science – even of a radically empiricist sort – represents objective knowledge as conceived by the philosophical tradition. The Ancients examined in this chapter contended that empirical knowledge was inferior to the metaphysical knowledge of Being. When that goal proved elusive. it is easy to see how women in particular. as Ian Hacking notes. Two trends in twentieth-century philosophy and science following positivism make all the sense in the world when contemplated against this historical backdrop.104 In this odd way. The quest for absolute foundations ended for many. while taking up various positions on the realism/relativism scale. On the one hand. Almost everyone from Plato to Hempel is in agreement that the senses cannot provide us with valid knowledge. Thus. natural and social. there is virtual unanimity regarding the best method for scientific or philosophical study: mathematics and logic. one had to try to communicate in the dominant discourse. or at least ranked well below that of purely philosophical or logical speculation. In order to be taken seriously. we witnessed the increasing mathematization of all of the sciences. and argued that even these supposedly timeless tools were the creation of a particular culture. subjected the empirical sciences to the methods of mathematics and logic. and the study of language and culture. The Moderns. “[t]he roots of social constructionism are in the very logical positivism that so many present-day constructionists profess to detest. many philosophers turned to the opposite pole of antifoundationalism. From this alternative perspective. long associated with the body and “illogical” emotion. but they accepted the importance of using the scientific method.”105 In conclusion. The study of the material world was disparaged. even if it is the muted certainty of a Hume or a Hobbes. or anthropological – could be reduced to various power plays as expressed in intricate discursive networks. would throw their lot in with constructivism and poststructuralism. While this recent movement has many adherents. and Number. .22 The quest for certainty In this formulation. Scholars might be skeptical about the ultimate truth-value of their inquiries. poststructuralism and constructivism rejected this domination of logic and mathematics. chemical. Form. The goal for knowledge must be certainty. all knowledge – be it physical. and linguistic at that.

relativism and behaviorism Goodman. W. in Chapter 4. for now noting only the principles and arguments with which contemporary realism most disagrees. we can’t guarantee that the sun will rise tomorrow. As many contemporary philosophers leaning to relativism contend. Goodman and Quine articulate philosophical positions that have been extraordinarily influential despite their sometimes dry and potentially alienating presentation. Quine. “To trace origins is not to establish validity. cannot be used to ground any theories of knowledge whatsoever. the workings of the mind. I will explore the writings of three individuals central to this development: Nelson Goodman. In this specific case. and Michel Foucault. Nelson Goodman Nelson Goodman’s major writings contribute to the seemingly endless debates surrounding Hume’s problem of induction.V. I will use their explicit pronouncements to help clarify Foucault’s ideas and perhaps demystify him to a certain extent. Later.” Goodman concurs. Goodman insists. . In this chapter. “arose from the recognition that anything may follow upon anything. Quine. as I want to show the interesting and seldom-acknowledged ways in which analytic constructivism intersects with continental poststructuralism.”1 Yet Goodman finds Hume’s solution unsatisfactory.3 Twentieth-century nominalism. and Foucault As I showed in the previous chapter. “The original difficulty about induction. Since truth was downgraded to a relationship between words.”2 This terse comment signals his complete rejection of Humean empiricism. Goodman contends that psychology. My interest in the first two is largely instrumental. Recall that for Hume. I will keep most of my criticisms of these philosophies for Chapters 5 and 6. I will show how constructivist and poststructuralist feminism depends on this combined philosophical framework.O. many scholars turned their attention to the various discourses of science and culture. the positivists’ drive to find the perfect translation between sensations and the empirical world heralded a movement away from the issue of truth to a new focal point for philosophy: language. providing the reasons for a belief does not establish the truth of the belief.

Then at time t we have. for each evidence statement asserting that a given emerald is green. red. reference to underlying causal forces or structures providing a reason for the greenness of emeralds is forbidden because of the “illogical” nature of this induction. If Goodman’s theory were true. there are just as many instances of grue emeralds as green emeralds.3 In plainer language. This quality or predicate is the “grueness” of emeralds. or that were blue all along. Now let me introduce another predicate less familiar than “green”. Pythagoras and Plato posited a divine alignment between reason and the universe. and this is in accord with our definition of confirmation. and Foucault The dramatic implication. Perhaps. Goodman illustrates his contention with an example of a property that he claims “exists. Hume attenuated the link by arguing that our “constant conjunctions” could not lead us to imagine any deeper structure of the world. . . Hume’s argument that our experience of empirical connections provides the foundation for science would be thoroughly discredited. our observations support the hypothesis that all emeralds are green. a parallel evidence statement asserting that the emerald is grue. Goodman summarizes. or that green ones will turn blue one day. Goodman shatters the connection between mind and world by insisting that there are infinitely many conjunctions for which we develop no psychological habits. or yellow emeralds. Because we never observe any blue. but blue afterward. is that our mind tells us absolutely nothing about the world. These are emeralds that may change color at some unknown future point. . Goodman then goes on to assert that the greenness and grueness of emeralds are equally confirmed by our experience if Hume’s method of counting up the positive instances of an event is followed. Those unused to the formal language of analytic philosophy might find this illustration puzzling: Suppose that all emeralds examined before a certain time t are green. accordingly. As in Hume’s original formulation of the problem. Both beliefs depend on the outcome of unknowable future events. the first part of the riddle describes the process implicitly followed by all of us believing that emeralds are green. At time t. the induction prohibited by Hume. but as of yet unobserved by us. they are deep under the earth. is just as supported by the evidence as is the hypothesis that emeralds will always be green. we feel perfectly justified in concluding that emeralds are indeed green. with which most realists disagree. The belief that unexamined emeralds are blue. To date. are those that were green before a certain time. alternatively. Grue emeralds. for example.” but does not make its way into any scientific theories.24 Goodman. . Quine. It is the predicate “grue” and it applies to all things examined before t just in case they are green but to other things just in case they are blue. then.

Goodman then resolves that Hume’s problem of induction must be rephrased to form the new “riddle” of induction: what is the difference between a valid and an invalid prediction?7 Goodman’s “answer” is appropriate for a riddle. as Thomas Kuhn asserts in the process of developing an argument comparable to Goodman’s. There is no justification for our preference for green emeralds. I will have more to say about this as we proceed. According to Goodman. The belief that emeralds will stay green is simply a . We can easily make a machine that would apply the label “grue” correctly. Goodman’s fabrication of an absurd example is therefore intended to draw attention to what he contends are the ordinary.Goodman. yet similarly fabricated cases filling our daily lives. and that the sun revolved around us) to heliocentrism (its opposite) resulted not from a change in the “real” world but from a shift in paradigm or theoretical framework. he has resoundingly disproved Hume’s argument that the establishment of a mental habit justifies our predictions. and the hypothesis that all are grue may prove to be true. Quine. or when long-standing ideas were destroyed by new discoveries. Furthermore.5 Once again. as Goodman argues. A shift from a green to a grue emerald world would entail the same process. the fact that no one presently believes that emeralds are grue does not mean that no one could believe it. Emeralds just may turn blue one day. In the next chapter. note that the logically possible is being upheld as the test of knowledge.6 The world became a different place as a consequence of this change. Goodman acknowledges the perversity of his example. and if. there are examples from history in which unusual theories were formulated on the basis of supposedly objective evidence. four or even infinite sexes. I will simply remark that realists resist this equation of knowledge with absolute certainty – particularly in the human sciences – and are willing to use our “constant conjunctions” as a starting point in the search for knowledge. and Foucault 25 When the time comes. We have no guarantees. all hypotheses about events after a certain time are equally supported by present evidence. the hypothesis that all emeralds are green may prove to be false. However. not just the peculiar grue hypothesis. For now. because this preference cannot be grounded in any true picture of the world. Kuhn suggests that the shift from geocentrism (the belief that the earth was the center of the universe. The classic illustration is the dramatic change in beliefs initiated by the Copernican revolution.4 Yet we have no concept of grue emeralds. we will see how poststructuralist and constructivist feminists use similar arguments when they suggest that our “habit” of dividing individuals into male and female categories has no greater foundation in nature than dividing them into three. he warns. Goodman continues. knowledge is so tied to absolute certainty it turns out that even our simple empirical observations are groundless. If there are no grue believers.

laws. relations. is that there is no induction. It is impossible to give one commonality any greater basis in the natural order than any other commonality. or abstractions.” Ian Hacking summarizes. No one supposes that abstract entities – classes. since similarities are “relative.”15 Goodman’s nominalism is therefore based on his application of the cat- . It is entirely reasonable to group rocks into a green group. or height. Indeed. but we mean more than this. Goodman maintains that there is no logically rigorous way to define abstract entities like species. therefore. In other words. and Foucault better-entrenched hypothesis than the belief that they will change color. we think of emeralds as “green” because we have always used “green” to describe them. nor that classificatory schemata come from nowhere. He first and foremost advocates nominalism. the authors proclaim: We do not believe in abstract entities. “[E]very two things have some property in common.10 In an early article published with Quine (from which Quine later distanced himself). [and] culturedependent. Quine. the ontological principle that denies the reality of kinds. “Goodman’s riddle goes hand in hand.26 Goodman. throughout his writings. we renounce them altogether.8 Goodman’s solution to the problem of induction. properties. because no two things have exactly the same configuration of atoms or even general properties. As we shall see in the next chapter.12 At the same time. However. feminists influenced by this sort of argument wonder why we don’t group people according to eye color. variable. or potentials. – exist in space-time. except as it is ingrained in a particular belief system. and that any attempt to define a general category must suffer a similar fate. Goodman’s riddle of induction is therefore based on this insistence that there is no quality called greenness (or grueness) that uniquely and determinately unites emeralds. categories. Goodman concludes that “habit must be recognized as an integral ingredient of truth. Because the problem of induction is essentially shorthand for the problem of knowledge in general. for making such a straightforward claim.”13 These two premises combined mean that objects can be gathered into numerous groups based on different sets of similarities. as opposed to sex. etc. “with his lifelong repugnance to the very idea of similarity as a raw material of thought or logic. It is the habit that creates the sense of constant conjunction. not the other way around as Hume had argued. Goodman writes.”14 he maintains that the qualities chosen as representative of any collection of objects will vary from place to place. Invoking Hempel.11 We should admire Quine and Goodman. despite their occasionally remote prose. Goodman extrapolates from the example of emeralds to philosophical pronouncements on ontology and epistemology. Goodman tries to reassure his readers that nominalism does not entail that green is literally nothing.”9 This becomes a twentieth-century mantra.

negates the rule. period. The existence of one exception to a rule. “Far from being a solemn and severe master.” as he calls them. and Foucault 27 egories of logic to empirical knowledge. Goodman also freely professes to radical relativism. but only to another language.21 Truth is analogously a relationship between statements. We classify according to biology. or. Goodman believes that all of our experiences of the world are filtered through one or more “frames” or “versions.16 Just as green and grue are different ways of seeing emeralds. From this perspective. is defined from within a . I will show that poststructuralist feminists make a similar claim when they highlight cultures where biological males or females sometimes “become” the other sex.”17 We could conceivably come up with any number of classificatory schemes.18 Truth instead lies within whatever linguistic framework we happen to be using to describe the world. these theorists continue. falsity. science is no more or less true than art according to Goodman. just as truth. Meanings “vanish” because language cannot be translated into sense experience. Goodman avows: Truth cannot be defined or tested by agreement with “the world”.Goodman. These perspectives are not categories in the Kantian sense. its mere possibility. and it is impossible to judge one culture’s perspective from the basis of another. But. According to Goodman. the empirical world – full of variability in the form of actual and potential exceptions to rules – is not governed by the laws of logic and is therefore not structured by laws. this is simply one way among many of classifying the world. perhaps they classify according to social role. Indeed.20 Goodman refers here to the positivists’ eventual conclusion that there can be no logical reduction of language to the empirical world. more importantly. The implications of this relativism are dramatic. An individual in a green emerald culture nonetheless seeing grue emeralds would be in error.” Goodman concludes. In the next chapter.” A false version of the world is one that a specific culture has not chosen to use. Despite these pronouncements.19 Once more calling to mind Hempel and the collapse of logical positivism.”22 We construct rather than discover truth. The first is imposed by his concept of “entrenchment. Goodman therefore abandons Kant’s dream of salvaging the unique veracity of science. Goodman attaches two limitations to his relativism. Quine. It is proper to say that emeralds are not grue from the perspective of our green emerald world. for not only do truths differ for different worlds but the nature of agreement between a version and a world apart from it is notoriously nebulous. not between statements and the world. Their conclusion is that these cultures ground sex in something other than biology. or a third sex. as they cannot be “attributed to anything inevitable or immutable in the nature of human cognition. “[truth] is a docile and obedient servant.

W. Goodman does allow for the existence of all sorts of individual things.25 Goodman’s philosophy is still.28 Goodman. and is very attractive for that reason. Quine reintroduces a modified version of Hume’s mental habits to solve the puzzle.V. Goodman states the obvious point that stars can be collected into any number of constellations. its supporters are reluctant to acknowledge that it also means we are protected from ever having to admit that we are wrong. Quine. He insists that humans are predisposed to formulate connections in their environment: . because general categories definitely do not exist. and the like. Goodman acknowledges his philosophical indebtedness to Parmenides. radically relativistic or “irrealist. sensations.27 The label “constructivism” has come to be associated with this position. pluralism. But even the doubting Parmenides was over-confident: Parmenides ran into this trouble long ago: because truths conflict we cannot describe the world. This is another popular argument amongst poststructuralist and constructivist feminists.”23 this restriction is not particularly substantial in practice. W.V. but I will eventually show that most of Goodman’s principles are equally central to poststructuralism. Quine Like Goodman. While this philosophy seemingly points the way to a more tolerant approach to cultural difference. therefore (even in his own words).” he proclaims. and Foucault particular version of the world. This surprising confidence about the way the world is not stems from Goodman’s adherence to logic: again. “so we make stars by drawing certain boundaries rather than others.”24 If the stars appear to exist prior to all human attempts at conceptualization. Even when he said “It is” he went too far. as many assert that our conception of the unified body is a cultural construction imposed on not-necessarily connected parts. no two things share exactly the same set of properties. Quine addresses central issues surrounding the problem of induction. nihilism coalesce.”26 The best a philosopher can do is to advocate “judicious vacillation” between various nominalist ontologies.O. Monism. Any way of seeing the world that posits the ontological existence of abstract properties is false.O. Taking a slightly different approach. because of his willingness to “take anything whatever as an individual. “It is” gives way to “They are”. that is only from the viewpoint of a certain version of the world. For example. However. He then makes the surprising declaration that the stars themselves possess no innate integrity. Nominalism is the second self-imposed restriction on Goodman’s relativism. and “They are” to “none is”. “[A]s we thus make constellations by picking out and putting together certain stars rather than others.

must be the result of evolution and natural selection.” Quine continues. “is fundamental to learning in the widest sense – to language learning. . Quine agrees with Goodman that our hardwired capacity to note similarity holds up to neither logical nor mathematical scrutiny.32 As further proof of this allegation. Quine. gender. humans are predisposed to categorize green rocks. according to Quine. to expectation. . he contends. to induction.28 “[A] sense of similarity or of kinds. as opposed to their grueness. He does not suggest that we literally make the world in the process of categorizing it. all stimuli would be equally alike and equally different. and Foucault 29 A standard of similarity is in some sense innate. A response to a red circle.34 Classes or categories of objects based on qualities like color are therefore merely “convenient conceptual scheme[s]” for organizing our world. . We entrench the greenness of emeralds because we have the preexisting capacity to note similarities. A reformulation of the problem of induction thus remains for Quine: “how we . Quine surprisingly remains a relativist. So.33 Even if humans are genetically predisposed to note a commonality between green objects. Without some such prior spacing of qualities. But Quine still agrees with Goodman that a psychology cannot be translated into an epistemology. and the sensory response provoked by the color. Quine appropriates Darwin to explain the psychological habit originally hypothesized by Hume. that our innate conceptual apparatus – a chance evolutionary outcome – would yield an accurate picture of the world. and a proud one. will be elicited again by a pink ellipse more readily than by a blue triangle. if it is rewarded. and even if two green rocks have more in common than a green and a blue rock. It is highly unlikely. Such a conclusion would apparently reflect naïve faith in the capacities of the human mind. Quine argues that it follows that our inner “spacing of qualities” would be similar. of course. . we could never acquire a habit. Since humans are of common origin.”29 Quine seems to be challenging Goodman. The ability to gauge the environment. Quine writes. Similarity. color plays little role in more sophisticated physical theories. and the like. He emphasizes the role that “happy accidents” play in evolution. as they continue to be mired in categorizations of class. should stand better than random or coin-tossing chances of coming out right when we predict by inductions?”30 Quine does not follow Goodman’s lead by attributing the success of our predictions entirely to entrenchment. is probably a more successful evolutionary strategy. Despite this seeming acknowledgment of a connection between cognitive “spacings” and the external world.31 Categorizing emeralds according to their greenness. . suggesting that. is typically replaced by other concepts as a science matures. .Goodman.35 We can see how poorly the “unscientific” social sciences would perform from this perspective.

believe in physical objects and not in Homer’s gods.” he maintains that this input is infinitesimal compared to the vast theoretical output derived from it. given this consideration: For my part I do. A vast number of theories can thus account for most sets of data. Quine. qua lay physicist. with analogies across cultures. as concepts are translated one into another with great rapidity. its irrelevance to anything in logic and mathematics. Quine freely admits to this circularity. offers little reason to expect that this sense is somehow in tune with the world – a world which. for example. But in more complex scenarios. Quine quickly adopts an ontological relativism not unlike that proposed by Goodman. is a fairly immediate and standard response to painful stimuli. Even though there is a natural explanation for some of the simple categorizations we make. as it is true only relative to this background theory.42 . The word “Ouch. Amongst words at a great remove from their empirical input – for example.41 Even the belief in the existence of objects must count as relative.” for example. . unlike language. This unexpected statement renders Quine’s prior explanation of our capacity to note similarities circular. and Foucault Quine synthesizes these arguments in the following passage: To trust induction as a way of access to the truths of nature . .30 Goodman. is to suppose . . Even our innate capacity to note similarity requires language in order to bring it into accord with other individuals’ observations. But in point of epistemological footing the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind.36 Quine thereby continues the philosophical tradition of equating truth with absolute certainty and nature with mathematics.38 We have an awful lot of theory given the scant nature of our raw material. we never made.37 His faith in mathematics appears to be enough to start up the Pythagorean cults again. even though Quine endorses the empiricist tenet that “whatever evidence there is for science is sensory evidence. that our quality space matches that of the cosmos. is of an irreducibly different order than sensory stimuli. Quine continues. . More importantly.”39 The majority of words are less primal than “ouch. “[T]he verbal network of an articulate theory [intervenes] to link the stimulus with the response.40 Such words refer to the empirical world only in the context of linguistic relationships. The language of these theories. and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. Evolution. The brute irrationality of our sense of similarity.” and are thus caught up in intricate linguistic systems. most scientific theories – Quine maintains that there is virtually nothing fixing their meaning. is just a theory. Quine is content to keep the connection between thought and the world severed. Both sorts of entities enter our conception only as cultural posits.

the question as to whether gavagai refers to rabbits or rabbit haunches is meaningful only within a language in which these words are semantically connected to other terms. what is a gavagai?” in an effort to solve the translation problem. it will still be met with failure. Even if a native speaker were to point to the precise part of the rabbit to which gavagai refers. For these combined reasons. all the same.” The only commonality between the stranger and the foreign culture is the approximate set of stimuli coinciding with the utterance of the word. the stranger can learn to say “gavagai” when a rabbit appears. “I see all objects as theoretical. something we create that has no necessary connection to our surroundings. Quine has resurrected Hume’s notion of habit only to challenge his predecessor’s thesis that sense impressions can be logically manipulated into scientific theories without any resultant mutation of the original data. In general. theories cannot be proved or disproved because reference is always indeterminate. Language is virtually a system unto itself. Even if the visitor stays long enough to become a fluent speaker of the native language.” Because of the shared “internal spacing” permitting human beings to note patterns in their environment. However.”47 There are.46 A member of the culture points to a rabbit and says “gavagai. particularly the early positivists’ attempt to create a language that would refer precisely to sensory input or the empirical world. “so. not a simple translation of sensory experience because it entails a gigantic linguistic leap from that input. Quine believes he has defeated realism and foundationalist empiricism. Quine insists that the stranger cannot guarantee that the word “gavagai” refers to the rabbit. Quine. accordingly. and is couched in a linguistic backdrop. As suggested above. Quine persists.”43 The theory is. and because the “truth” of the theory is still defined contextually. or as Quine remarks. He quips. “[T]here is no fact of the matter. this pointing would not fix the meaning of gavagai.”44 The theory is not a pragmatically true theory. The word “gavagai” indeterminately refers to an object. either. or even an insect typically found on rabbits. because of the myriad ways of abstracting from a stimulus (or even a genetically programmed sense of similarity) to a concept or a theory. the rabbit’s leg. Quine continues. there will be no means of securing the referent of the word “gavagai.45 Quine clarifies his objection to realism and foundationalism with an example of a stranger’s hypothetical visit to a culture with no prior outside contact. If our visitor asks. no theory-neutral observations to which reference can be made in order to arbitrate between competing belief systems and languages. There are no “rabbits” outside of some such system. because it is possible that another theory could work equally well in the same situation.Goodman. and Foucault 31 Quine justifies his belief in physical objects much as he explains our ability to note similarities: A belief in objects is “efficacious” in managing the “flux of experience. It no longer makes sense to speak of the Humean “golden mountain” as a . from within a language.

“to which all of science is man’s free creation. Quine insists.”50 It makes no sense to refer to prelinguistic capacities as the source of our language.51 If we talk alike. Different individuals make different connections between senses and words. Even if we possess certain primitive. “radical translation begins at home.”52 It is not because we possess a shared understanding of an event.32 Goodman. because these capacities are for all intents and purposes overwritten by language. .” Quine states. every person will use a different mental dictionary to connect various terms. Quine insists that gavagai is but an extreme instance of an omnipresent condition. The only measure of a word’s “meaning. then. Seemingly eager to gain an advantage in the race to meaninglessness. . or a feeling. meaning can never be shared. does any finish learning it while he lives.”48 Many sciences rather than one science are the result. in a sense. And.” The whole network of a language comes between those sensations and the articulated observation. “Conceptualization on any considerable scale is inseparable from language. “We . Quine contends that even from within a single language. and may even be referring to different external events.” writes Barry Stroud in a summary of Quine. he dramatically concludes that there is no “meaning” to be shared in the first place. the introduction of language marks the introduction of irreducible relativity. While individuals can be trained by their culture to use the same term in the same rough situation. “On deeper reflection. Quine. only to say that there is none. none of which stand any better hope of gaining a grip on our world. Quine warrants that [b]eneath the uniformity that unites us in communication there is a chaotic personal diversity of connections. for Quine it is no longer foundational. . Linguistic behaviorism Just as Goodman suggested that grue was representative of the problem of induction in general. No two of us learn our language alike. a thing. it cannot guarantee the veracity of any scientific statement.”49 Although the problem of reference to the objective world persists. as in the above cross-cultural scenario. innate conceptual capacities. and. Quine insists that this is simply because “society coached us alike in a pattern of verbal response to externally observable cues. and Foucault logical summation of the sensations “gold” and “mountain. for each of us. Although sense evidence is the sole evidence for science. nor. is therefore the identical response of individuals to a general stimulation. discover the extent. Many of us have had the experience of talking to someone who searches for the appropriate English translation for a word in his or her native language. a different implication follows from within a single culture.” now diminished. the connections continue to evolve.

Since Quine has already argued that reference to events in the external world is relative to a language and culture. Behaviorism was developed as an alternative to structuralist psychology. a founder of behaviorism. emotions or capacities – for an explanation of its actions.”53 The methodological consequence. is obvious: “the behaviorist approach is mandatory. and a scientific methodology requires that facts be observable. inaccessible to others. indicating that Quine’s adoption of the label is neither coincidental nor halfhearted. a tenet heartily endorsed by Skinner. We are simply trained to say the same words in response to the same things. Skinner.”56 Explanation should. beyond what are implicit in people’s dispositions to overt behavior. Apparently. This verbal harmony is superficial. I want to reveal an interesting kinship between Quine’s analysis and the behaviorism promoted by John B. but in behavioral homology. it is not expressive of any shared sense or evolved understanding of things that might possess natural significance for us. In his doctrinal essay. Quine. first. Quine does not refrain from drawing this conclusion: “[T]here are no meanings. or the desire to convey information about external events. the implication follows that.”57 Yet again we see evidence of common ground with logical positivism. In order . I will discuss the ways in which Quine’s philosophy is quite compatible with Michel Foucault’s. rejected the notion that one should or can look inside an organism – whether to instincts. and Foucault 33 The implications of this doctrine are radical. only be couched in terms of readily observable behavior. nor likenesses nor distinctions of meaning. because it suggests that communication is rooted not in shared innate concepts. Inner processes are.F. We also witness the desire to make psychology properly scientific in the reductivist. however. we could be conditioned to respond in virtually any way to virtually anything. and equally at home with constructivist and poststructuralist feminism. and as I have repeatedly argued. Behaviorism offers three key reasons for this restriction. a connection that I will argue has a serious impact on the political efficacy of these doctrines. physicalist understanding of the term. from now on. much of our philosophical heritage.”54 Shortly. Our “agreement” with others is reflective only of the observation that each of us utters the same word.55 Watson. which developed theories employing these “inner” variables using the method of introspection.Goodman. Watson demands of the behaviorist psychologist that “[h]is sole object is to gather facts about behavior – verify his data – subject them both to logic and to mathematics (the tools of every scientist). Watson and B. Quine’s introduction to behaviorism dates to his reading of Watson while still in college. Watson emphatically declared: “[P]sychology must discard all reference to consciousness. Quine taught at Harvard when Skinner was also in residence. given a different cultural/linguistic backdrop. desires. for Quine. Before that. Behaviorism is indeed the unacknowledged bed partner of twentieth-century constructivism and poststructuralism. For many years.

as such. Watsonian and Skinnerian behaviorism insisted that we are constituted by our environment. Quine. for example.” or attributes a shocking crime to a “disordered personality. finally. behaviorists argue.61 Skinner added that drives could be defined in observational terms as “the effects of deprivation and satiation which alter the probability of behavior.”66 Alleged inner states are only the behavior associated with them. relied on a notion of stable inwardness and was completely unverifiable experimentally. Second. Skinner asserts that we still need information about the external cause of the anxiety or criminal behavior. These variables lie outside the organism. Thus.”64 They neither direct behavior. that hunger pangs do not predictably lead to the consumption of food. a thesis consciously devised in opposition to those philosophies hypothesizing the existence of a will capable of “interfering with causal relationships. While later behaviorists acknowledged the possibility that innate physiological processes could be the origin of some behaviors.”62 Such effects are neither mental nor physiological. in its immediate environment and in its environmental history. nor are they particular physiological or psychic states associated with behavior. do not act as a stimulus of behavior. “serve to classify behavior with respect to various circumstances which affect its probability. These observable conditions will then substitute for the unobservable and unverifiable claims about anxiety or mental illness. and. our subjects responded with “anxious” or “psychotic” behavior.”67 For Skinner and Watson. explanation in terms of inner variables adds nothing that could not be learned from an examination of more readily observable evidence. when someone says “she got so angry because she was anxious.65 “The names of the so-called emotions.63 Emotions are another example of “fictional causes. Skinner maintained. When soand-so did such-and-such.59 Yet it was not merely the desire to make psychology more scientific that inspired the rejection of inwardness. Inner processes were scorned.” The former.34 Goodman.” Skinner elaborates. Skinner clarifies as follows: The practice of looking inside the organism for an explanation of behavior has tended to obscure the variables which are immediately available for a scientific analysis.” behaviorists insist that these claims add nothing to our scientific understanding of the situation. Writes Skinner: “Our ‘perception’ of the world – our ‘knowledge’ of it – is our behavior with respect to the world.58 For example. because they are nothing but our external behavior.”60 Watson championed the position that the concept of instinct was to be abandoned in favor of the less metaphysical term “drive. Skinner resisted this development. according to Watson. psychology began its drive to conform to a natural science methodology. humans are effectively and thoroughly the product of community-selected and . and Foucault to be taken seriously by the scholarly community.

”69 a notion quite similar to Hume’s “bundle of perceptions. .70 Skinner discusses the implications of this position: [T]here are variables which are responsible for whispering [in church] as well as for coughing. and the “correct” ones are selected and reinforced by the community. “It is the community which teaches the individual to ‘know himself. and these may be just as inexorable. [T]here . by a community which reinforces the response when it is made in the presence of red stimuli and not otherwise. for example. Watson argues that there are no “centrally initiated responses”. When we recognize this.”75 But the child need not have a preexisting sense of the color red.’ ” writes Skinner. a recent commentator on behaviorism. A change in behavior is the only possible goal. all transformation or change in an organism is the result of conditioning.68 Skinner defines the self as a “device for representing a functionally unified system of responses. we learn language through a process of strict conditioning by the community.73 Skinner’s Walden Two is an elaborate attempt at social engineering using reconditioning. “The verbal response ‘red’ is established . what is traditionally spoken of as the “meaning” or “reference” of a term was to be found only in its actual use. and post-positivist relativism when he argues that that there is nothing whatsoever connecting words and things. Laurence Smith. as “discriminative behavior waits upon the contingencies which force discriminations. However. and information theorists” to prove otherwise. Skinner invokes the thesis linking Quine. despite the efforts of “[m]athematicians. According to Skinner.” However. Skinner writes.Goodman. . Skinner is clear that what is involved in reconditioning is neither persuasion nor attitude change.74 Skinner’s theory of language learning reflects an extension of these behaviorist principles.77 Thus. . we are likely to drop the notion of responsibility altogether and with it the doctrine of free will as an inner causal agent.”76 There are “raw responses” or “relatively unpatterned vocalizations. as Quine argues that we share an innate “spacing of qualities.”72 The self so constituted is by no means fixed. Quine. The received notion of the self must accordingly be revised. it would follow that “given the response the stimuli can be predicted. as reconditioning is always a possibility. yet another thinker turns to the opposite extreme of relativism. and Foucault 35 community-reinforced behavior. individuals engage in fairly random verbal behaviors.” but these may or may not be reinforced by the community. given the stimuli the response can be predicted. . summarizes Skinner’s position as follows: For Skinner. .71 If a situation of full knowledge were to prevail. Goodman.” Similarly. logicians.78 After the failure of positivism. Skinner is closer to Goodman on this front than to Quine.

tendencies. as even bedtime kisses were strongly discouraged. However. other aspects of behaviorism were far less liberal. The Time Of My Life. much less between a mentalistic “idea” and some object that it stands for.” It didn’t take much to coddle a child from Watson’s perspective.80 At a time when race and class were widely held to genetically predetermine an individual’s life chances. . Watson recommended that children not be treated with too much overt affection. and race of his ancestors. regardless of his talents. even today. and hence unscientific. however. and that meaning exists only as a formal homology of spoken words. and Foucault could be no relation of correspondence between a term and its referent. the denial of meaning . even a beggar-man and thief. his 1985 autobiography. penchants. abilities. this emphasis on social and cultural forces was a powerful tool for social change. Its radical potential is perhaps best illustrated in an oftcited passage from Watson: Give me a dozen healthy infants . and suggests that his behaviorism became a philosophical justification for dissociating from his turbulent emotions. so devoid of emotion and internality as almost to suggest not only that he had neither. artist. merchant-chief and. and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor. For example. Quine. and criticized the practice as “mawkish and sentimental.” Indicatively. as Quine insists that language is a conditioned capacity.81 At times.36 Goodman. but hardly even knew what they might be.83 These psychoanalytic speculations are precisely the sort of explanation that behaviorism despises as unverifiable. Despite my criticisms thus far. The repeated refrains about the messy material world. the detached prose. “but I am not conscious of having done so. However. is little more than a travel itinerary. It is easy to understand this aspect of behaviorism’s appeal.” Quine said. it almost looks as though the behaviorist’s disregard for the processes of consciousness is motivated by a fear of emotion more than anything else. I think they are potentially illuminating.82 An obituary following Quine’s death makes a similar observation: “I have been accused of denying consciousness. behaviorism was an egalitarian philosophy. vocations. in many ways.79 This passage could be easily tailored to fit Quine’s philosophy. A recent study of Skinner highlights tensions in his personal life. . lawyer. yes.

were yet another instance of the classificatory mindset he lambastes throughout his career. Michel Foucault As I revealed earlier. or feeling. or associate him with a particular philosophical school. or that there is even a movement that can be legitimately associated with the name. Labeling or generalizing is no better than a police interrogation: I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. he formulates no normative judgments of the resultant systems. Defenders of poststructuralism are occasionally prone to denying that poststructuralism has roots in any heretofore known philosophy. my interest in Quine and Goodman is not an end in itself. idea. Readers might nonetheless recognize clear parallels to Nietzsche. and not an obvious indication of his personal beliefs. “there does not exist a theoretical background which is continuous and systematic. scholarly or professional disciplines) and the objects they study. Furthermore. When behaviorism. Foucault reaffirmed his deliberate attempt to be inconsistent. which . Quite deliberately. just as relativism and nominalism prohibit us from looking to the external world. I hope that familiarity with their arguments will make it easier to identify and challenge the philosophical underpinnings of contemporary poststructuralism. The synthesis of these principles has had a far greater impact on contemporary thought than is generally acknowledged. It becomes. Quine.”85 Thus. robotic utterances and actions. nonsensical to speak of the truth of a statement.84 Later in his career. Rather.”86 As a self-proclaimed “archaeologist” or “genealogist. when we read Foucault. including the ideas of Michel Foucault to whom I now turn. When he expresses an evaluative statement. and Foucault 37 and emotion. as these are embedded in a seemingly arbitrary linguistic system. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. we will certainly not find any helpful pronouncements such as “I am a nominalist.” Foucault analyzes the relationship between certain discursive regimes (loosely. relativism.” or “categories of things do not exist. saying of his work. and nominalism are combined. Behaviorism prohibits us from securing meaning internally. are all that is left of meaning. quite literally. it is typically from the perspective of one of these discursive systems. either in reference to the external world or to an internal sense. all of these tendencies suggest that the appeal to logic and mathematics has more than one motivation. distinctions between empirical events and underlying causes are consistently disallowed in each of these philosophies.Goodman. Foucault himself was fond of insinuating that attempts to define his ideas.

Limiting disclosure maintains personal distance. therefore. his aspiration to avoid being pinned down. out of a belief that liberty must mean a complete lack of limits. he would no doubt mock my classificatory urge. And if in such matters they do not have knowledge. that one must engage in definition. If no one is anything in particular. as Foucault argues.94 Years ago. certainly in matters of choice. and are extremely uncomfortable when emotional exchange is expected. Aristotle sums up the difficulty of their position: [A]ll men know that situations call for decisions. still some things must be more certain and truer than others. could be equally expressive of an urge to dominate.38 Goodman. And even if this truth does not exist. But I am also reminded of Hegel’s criticism of Abstract Right or negative freedom. where he insightfully dissected individuals who refuse to “resolve” on anything. and to remain unknown. all attributes belong equally to all things and people.”90 Critical of the relativists of his time. including self-definition. “avoidant” individuals see relationships as threatening. because the revealed information can be used to criticize or reject the disclosing individual. they must be all the more concerned for truth.91 Instead of the uniqueness and the openness so prized by poststructuralism. Against Foucault’s wishes. everyone would be just like everything else. . then “nothing is anything. but only opinion.92 Conversely. indecisiveness. the less close to our personal concerns and to our emotions and needs. Sandra Petronio’s “communication boundary management theory” argues that individuals regulate self-disclosure in order to manage their tolerance for vulnerability. I am going to try to pinpoint his philosophical framework. Since Foucault wants to abandon many forms of explanation typical of the human sciences. . sharing in infinite qualities. the less resistance to it there will . and we are far from that irresponsible doctrine which would prevent us from making definite judgments. it is also essential to the process of explanation. Abraham Maslow wrote: “the more impersonal the knowledge. and as Foucault was obviously aware.87 Hegel insisted. Quine. individuals with more power disclose less. if not in all matters.93 According to adult attachment theory. As Aristotle wrote. While my desire to label him may indeed contain some elements of the desire to dominate. and Foucault Foucault does not hide.88 Otherwise. the actual consequence of trying to be everything and nothing at the same time may very well be facelessness (which Foucault apparently desired). echoing Aristotle before him. Several psychological theories suggest that there is a relationship between an individual’s personality and his or her capacity for self-disclosure. . However. self-disclosure increases vulnerability. self-imposed or otherwise. and inaction. are distant and cold in interpersonal situations.”89 and “no one can say anything meaningful.

simply that he operates with a similar modus operandi. one attachment theorist notes that individuals who conceal the most personal information are most likely to need counseling at the same time that they are the most scornful of it. and Foucault 39 be. Indeed. There are clear and obvious philosophical connections between his ideas and those of Quine and Goodman. even if both are frenzied .. Orderless things In the early pages of The Order of Things. . where fitting. when we say that a cat and a dog resemble each other less than two greyhounds do.” or simply trying to drum up book sales. we have an intellectual culture that associates taking a personal stand with populist vulgarity. sucking pigs. sirens. . even if both are tame or embalmed. I am not arguing that these two thinkers influenced Foucault. fabulous. what is the 95 . I realize that this is the type of psychologizing that many of these same individuals conveniently despise. and there is a difference between privacy and secrecy.Goodman. uncomfortable with statements beginning with “I believe . thereby assuming the status of an intellectual star rather than an “arguer among equals. Foucault and the many other scientists and social scientists hiding behind cool detachment and alleged neutrality are simply hyper-sensitive to criticism. Quine. onto this practice. In this instance. On one hand.”97 Perhaps. he refers to a book by Jorges Luis Borges. and. embalmed. in which the author iterates types of animals in a Chinese Encyclopedia. . we have endless confessionals and first-person commentaries in newspapers and on radio and television. Amongst others.96 Martha Nussbaum. then. the varieties include: tame. But I am not asking for a relationship with Foucault. frenzied. making them more attractive in the eyes of others. I will not hesitate to use the labels Foucault abhors yet Quine and Goodman freely embrace. . Thus.98 There is plenty to criticize about our full-disclosure society. I turn to what I hope is my partial unmasking of Foucault’s philosophy. With that challenge. While Foucault pushes the notion of domination in a new and fascinating direction. . has leveled a scathing criticism of scholars who create an “aura of importance” by refusing to state their own beliefs. In the mirror image.” or “I feel . I am unpersuaded by his philosophical analysis. As I stated above in my analysis of behaviorism. Foucault makes a few fairly straightforward ontological claims. Foucault asks how we can guarantee that any of our classifications are more authentic or less bizarre: When we establish a considered classification. he begins the text with a passage that is crafted to sound either absurd or barbaric to contemporary ears. drawn with a very fine camel-hair brush. . Employing his characteristic method.” Communication theorists also note that secrets can give allure and mystery to those who possess them.

He describes a victim of aphasia. according to Foucault. We should thus experience a “loss of what is ‘common’ to place and name. along with the Chinese encyclopedia. He doesn’t entertain the possibility that the relationship is the reverse: the injured brain might lose its Quinean (and hence evolved) capacity to note similarities. The existence of competing classifications. is neither determined by an a priori and necessary concatenation. no longer has the ability to group items into classes recognizable to others. as though the mere fact that something can be damaged means that it never worked properly in the first place. . forming new piles. several of which The Order of Things proceeds to analyze. Foucault seems to think that aphasia is proof that the former determines the latter. only when viewed through the lens of a specific language or culture do they become comparable. of analysing. His use of the word “concrete” in reference to the raw ingredients of a category suggests that it is only through abstraction that fundamentally different things become similar. Alleging that connections between individuals in a category are neither immediately perceptible nor a priori necessary. Foucault offers a second justification for his nominalism. The aphasiac.”102 .101 The individual will collect apparently unrelated objects only to disperse them anxiously. as is immediately apparent.40 Goodman. In their particularity. . The argument that Foucault will consistently employ throughout his career – that classificatory systems are culturally constructed – rests on this nominalist premise that similarity is everywhere and hence nowhere. Foucault is implying that the linguistically impaired individual is also free of the various ordering systems imposed by a culture.100 The aphasiac. which is an impairment of the ability to use or comprehend words. or.99 Foucault has already summoned the traditional ideal of “complete certainty” as the standard of knowledge. What is this coherence – which. usually stemming from a stroke. Instead. nor imposed on us by immediately perceptible contents? For it is not a question of linking consequences. Foucault takes Goodman’s path and concludes that our ability to categorize is surely arbitrary. he has invoked Hume’s defense of skepticism. Quine. things are dissimilar. that if natural similarities really did exist we shouldn’t require functioning brains in order to recognize them. Foucault has also employed the related Goodmanesque thesis. of matching and pigeon-holing concrete contents. which then impairs the ability to use language. reveals the possibility of alternative classificatory systems. indicating that similarity is a logically suspect category of analysis. and Foucault ground on which we are able to establish the validity of this classification with complete certainty? . brain injury or disease. even more bizarrely. While it is likely that our ability to use language is connected to our ability to categorize. Foucault’s argument is odd. a tactic similar to Goodman’s grue story. is offered as proof that no single system can refer directly to the natural world. but of grouping and isolating.

”107 and. “to get rid of . and Foucault 41 Commonality and structure.105 Fearful of being labeled an idealist (or an “ist” of any sort).Goodman. faceless. that is not the result of a precise operation and of the application of a preliminary criterion. undefined. organs.103 For everyone but the aphasiac.”104 According to Foucault. as Foucault later explicitly avows. In the project perhaps most closely associated with poststructuralism. Quine. It is not the case that “the truth of the object determines the truth of the discourse. somatic localizations. functions.”108 True to his contention that the only order is one imposed by language and culture. and. the order of things with the order of language. “One has to dispense with the constituent subject. Knowledge is perspective. Foucault will not ascribe any common qualities or “truths” to these individual entities. indifferent background of differences. cannot be said to exist apart from our classificatory systems. therefore. classification is only the superimposition of a cultural order upon a nature that has no inherent (or at least discernible) meaning or structure. He refers repeatedly to the “wild profusion of existing things. Foucault similarly challenges the belief that we can equate. the meaning or truth of things is embedded in the cultural order of language. while Quine and Goodman rejected the possibility of reducing language to the empirical input of the senses. Although we believe we are uncovering a preexisting structure. even for the wholly untrained perception. I suggest that Foucault also demonstrates a philosophical kinship with Quine’s linguistic behaviorism. Foucault scrambles to show that he is not denying the existence of an external world. we are in effect putting the like qualities into place. Foucault declares quite bluntly: [A]n eye not consciously prepared might well group together certain similar figures and distinguish between others on the basis of such and such a difference: in fact.”106 the “confused. Watson’s and Skinner’s doctrines. anatomo-physiological systems. wouldn’t it rather be necessary to recognize that the truth consists of a certain relationship that discourse or knowledge has with itself?111 Hempel spoke of the conventional nature of knowledge. the perceiving eye is already “encoded. For all of these twentieth-century thinkers.” he writes. and. between words and yet more words. there is no similitude and no distinction. as it were. in turn. not a relationship between words and things. or even approximate. sensations. “bodies. and pleasures.109 Truth is a relationship between statements in a specific historical period.”110 No science can get around this basic fact: [R]ather than asking of science to what extent its history has approached the truth (or has impeded access to it). Foucault questions the status of the subject or “I” of knowledge.

was a quality prized only by the police. stage of his career. rather. “is sufficiently stable to serve as the basis for self-recognition or for understanding other men. Foucault makes a much stronger argument. relatively disclosing. instincts. surface. sensations. banning abstraction from specific behaviors to any innate qualities like emotions or instincts. madness cannot be .113 The self is housed in a body that is effectively a blackboard – easily inscribed. Foucault’s ban on reference to psychic inwardness extends to biological inwardness as well. In other instances.42 Goodman. seemingly embarrassed. and a volume in perpetual disintegration. a limit experience. Foucault insisted that he was free to change his position as he pleased.”112 Foucault does not merely mean that subjectivity is historically mediated. and constant change in reference to the body and the self: The body is the inscribed surface of events (traced by language and dissolved by ideas). Classification and discipline In Madness and Civilization. As was the case with Skinner and Watson. Madness is. and Foucault the subject itself.”114 He makes little recourse even to the word “individual.”115 probably the anonymous and completely particularized bodies. He uses the language of exteriority. period. I am convinced that the nominalist and behaviorist relativism outlined thus far is retained throughout Foucault’s career in more or less explicit form. written prior to The Order of Things. somatic localizations. “Nothing in man – not even his body. The next sections will show how Foucault applies this basic philosophy in his specific case studies of various modern institutions and practices. the sense of self we call subjectivity is a historical product. and. albeit one transcending all efforts to conceptualize or define it.117 These pronouncements are some of the most determinate statements he makes in his lifetime. According to Foucault. Foucault portrays mental illness as a genuine phenomenon.” Foucault asserts. Foucault is careful to permit himself no further definition of madness. Quine. nor physiological structures. the locus of a dissociated self (adopting the illusion of a substantial unity). He is adamant that there are no aspects of human biology. remember. a “lightning flash”116 taking place “beyond” reason and philosophy. However. according to Foucault. and that he was disinterested in the logic that has had a stranglehold on the philosophical tradition. that could constitute a transhistorical or trans-cultural point of similarity. neither needs. perhaps with more difficulty erased – for the monadic events of the external world. Consistency. and pleasures listed above. he takes them back in later books.” at one point indicating a preference for analyses in terms of “sub-individuals.118 Yet even at this early. organs.

Modern criminology. Quine. Foucault contends. like psychiatry. The questions asked were. from the perspective of the law as it has been defined. Foucault acknowledges that there is a diverse range of acts committed which are against the law. it is because in the experience of madness. practices. Foucault contrasts the criminal justice system before and after the rise of incarceration. and in these individual manifestations crime is real. The basic form of this argument is repeated in Discipline and Punish. prior to the establishment of the prison. Foucault contends that this was no longer the case once the transition to imprisonment was under way. just as the perception of Goodman’s grue or green is the effect of cultural habit. on the other. Foucault tries to reassure us that he is not suggesting that nothing exists or is real. made them finally perceptible. and cats.Goodman. if melancholia henceforth assumed the aspects our science knows them by. according to Foucault.”120 Foucault describes how psychiatry nonetheless attempted to classify mental illness. of forces. and Foucault 43 described and sorted into types. gave them their significant coherence. therefore. In the old regime of public punishment. What he challenges is the ascription of individuals into categories on the basis of these singular events. it is not because we have purified our perception to the point of transparency. circa the second half of the eighteenth century. as the souls of the mentally ill could be better studied and classified from within the walls of an institution.121 Psychiatry shaped our perception and beliefs about the mentally ill to the extent that the existence of these persons as a “type” came to be taken for granted. factually based. it has “no secret” waiting to be discovered. such as. “is the most internal. it is not because in the course of centuries we have learned to “open our eyes” to real symptoms. The imposition of a schema onto the anarchic experience of madness went hand in hand with the rise of the asylum. the manic-depressive. a primary goal of the interrogation of a suspect was the determination of guilt. these concepts were organized around certain qualitative themes that lent them their unity. The categories of psychiatry are cultural constructions. Once again. and at the same time the most savagely free. on the one hand. Foucault argues that pseudo-scholarly discourse constructs the reality of hysteria and the hysteric. and institutions of psychiatry: If mania. tries to explain illegal . and to discover the essential qualities in a person’s soul or body that resulted in the various types of illness.119 “All that is present. “Has the act been established and is it punishable?” and “who committed it?”122 Punishment was not designed to reform the individual. These acts are crimes. Just like the ontological “differences” between animals painted with a camel-hair brush.” Foucault maintains. specific conditions like bipolarity or hysteria do not exist outside of these theories. But. etc.

challenge the structure of the society.44 Goodman.” or the conservative cry that prison does not punish severely enough. Regardless. and I am well aware that Foucault rejects behaviorism’s interest in reconditioning. These institutions also serve to discipline the population at large through the provision of an example of “deviant” behavior. and criminology was born. and behaviorism. alternatively. The hunt for motives produced the “criminal” mind. Most studies show that imprisoned individuals are more likely to become the repeat offenders that jail was supposed to eliminate. . and the individual was increasingly identified with this inner “criminal” motivation.127 Yet.129 Recidivism keeps people in petty crime. Within a very short space of time. relativism. Where did it originate in the author himself?”124 Sentences therefore took into consideration the means by which a person was most likely to be reformed and not merely punished. and Foucault behavior in terms of an inner drive or tendency.” the “criminal” was the creation of this vast industry growing up around crime. The mind or soul of the lawbreaker accordingly became of interest to the courts. it is important to separate Foucault’s work on domination from his nominalism. The lost potential of an anarchic. The commission of a crime therefore came to signify the presence of a mental or emotional defect. All categories are created equal in . Quine. whereas Goodman and Quine keep their analysis at the level of philosophy. This allegation leads him to argue that prisons are preserved because they incarcerate a portion of the population that might otherwise challenge the system more directly than through the tangentially disruptive cycle of local delinquency. the prison – as an institution charged with the joint goals of reform and punishment – became the dominant institution of the law. I want to explore the behaviorist angle a little more closely. I am interested in the potential unity of method demonstrated by this shared rejection of inwardness. the relevant interrogations related to underlying motivations: “How can we assign the causal process that produced [the crime] . Foucault offers a political analysis of the reasons for the cultural belief in the truth of classificatory systems or essences. Recall that Skinner was also critical of the explanation of criminal behavior in terms of the individual’s mental state. Foucault writes that asylums do not improve the lot of the mentally ill. the abolition of the prison (or the asylum).130 It is entirely possible to make most of this fascinating and convincing critique of the contemporary justice system without relying on Foucault’s underlying philosophy. Unlike Goodman and Quine. . unclassified body could.128 Foucault implies that no one ever advocates the obvious. Indeed.126 and it is widely acknowledged that prisons do not reduce crime. This association alone cannot contaminate Foucault’s compelling examination of criminal justice.125 Foucault concludes that as with the “lunatic.123 Now. Foucault tries to explain why certain categorizations of individuals might prove beneficial to specific social orders. penal reform is consistently limited to two possibilities: the liberal refrain that the prison system is “insufficiently corrective.

goodness.L. He is. to this aspect of human existence. except in a very superficial sense. though.Goodman. they were quite successful in business. and Foucault 45 Foucault’s eyes. DSM-I coined the term “Sociopathic Personality Disturbance” in place of “psychopathy. one of the founders of modern psychology and a target of Foucault’s criticisms. an . of course. Cleckley observed that a number of patients he classified as psychopathic were never involved in criminal activity. horror. Koch introduced the word “psychopathy” to refer to such individuals. Interestingly. It is as though he were colorblind. evil. despite his sharp intelligence. more directly through the works of Skinner. this time to “antisocial personality disorder” or APD) was described as a “failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors. but removed the moral aspect and argued that the condition had a biological basis. Instead. and was responsible for the increasing acceptance of its diagnosis. The history of the label “psychopathy” provides an interesting illustration. bad social science groups and categorizes. Quine. While we might agree with Foucault that the notion of the criminal mind has the potential to be extraordinarily harmful. Emile Kraepelin kept the biological explanation and reintroduced the moral component. By the time the DSM-III was published in 1980.” but incorporated many of Cleckley’s internal personality traits into its definition. However.134 Interestingly. and humor have no actual meaning.” In order to fit the diagnosis. particularly. Phillipe Pinel. aspects of contemporary psychology are in full agreement with Foucault. and explanation in terms of externally observable behavior was increasingly favored. no power to move him. psychiatrists and physicians spoke of “moral depravity” or “moral insanity” accompanying apparent clarity of thought. from the outside in. He described the psychopathic individual principally in terms of affective and interpersonal traits: Beauty and ugliness. he would seemingly have us reject all psychological efforts at explaining behavior. behaviorism gradually began to take hold of the psychiatric profession. used the term manie sans délire (insanity without delirium) to describe individuals who appeared sane but experienced outbursts of rage and violence. describing these individuals as manipulative and unconcerned with others. “when measured by financial reward or by the casual observer’s opinion of real accomplishment. Human behavior is random. the American Psychiatric Association published the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).133 Hervey Cleckley developed one of the most widely accepted descriptions of psychopathy. furthermore.”135 In 1952.132 and a number commented on the difficulties in treating such patients. love. the condition (renamed again. J. lacking in the ability to see that others are moved.131 Through the 1800s.

It may also contribute to the cementing of an individual’s character. Hare argues that such individuals may be capable of mastering the jargon necessary to convince officials that they are remorseful. and fighting. or to “giving up” on certain people. an exclusive emphasis on individuals engaged in criminal activity. including lying.” a classic behaviorist justification. Foucault’s primary concerns. These respective positions. on the other hand. almost anyone in prison can fit the diagnosis.141 Those fitting Hare’s diagnoses are also more likely to re-offend.138 Furthermore. as he advocates as much. First. this likelihood may even increase.143 Yet Foucault would surely applaud the DSM’s decision to focus on behavior instead of character. While acknowledging that some affective traits may be correlated. assumes that people are either psychopathic or they are not. The consequence is. lead to . physical cruelty. The label “psychopath” has surely been overused. in turn. Hare’s model.140 While 50 to 80 percent of criminal offenders fit the classification of APD. arson. and concluded that the institution demonstrates psychopathic tendencies. and conveys the sense of a cartoon character committing devilish acts. Hare has developed the “Psychopathy Checklist” based on many of Cleckley’s earlier affective and interpersonal criteria. maintains this focus on observable behavior and the breaking of social norms. as noted. as Robert Hare notes. they are not included in the diagnostic criteria. truancy.46 Goodman. DSM-IV R (revised).139 As an alternative.137 The most recent manual. and would dismiss both measures on that basis alone. Recently. Quine. Foucault rejects out of hand that character has any innate tendency to become relatively fixed due to either biological or environmental factors. nurses were likely to attribute their actions to evil. one recent experiment showed that when patients were labeled psychopaths. The DSM’s antisocial personality disorder and Hare’s psychopathy scale reflect opposite approaches to the relationship between psychology and criminal behavior. Upon receiving conventional counseling and treatment. only 15 to 30 percent fit the Hare criteria. individuals only become types when they are labeled. Interesting consequences have followed this shift to a behavioral definition of psychopathy. and Foucault individual had to have a history of such behavior. whereas those who have never broken the law are automatically free of the label. Foucault would no doubt be critical of the application of any label to any individual.136 The decision to emphasize external variables was defended because “personality traits are difficult to measure reliably. the Canadian documentary The Corporation analyzed the modern corporation from the perspective of the DSM and Hare’s scale. Indeed. individuals with entirely different attitudes and motivations can share the same diagnosis. We should consider what we lose when we restrict ourselves to either of these extreme positions.142 Hare and Paul Babiak are also devising a scale to measure psychopathic behavior in the managerial class of the workplace.

One of the most memorable involves the story of Jouy. Hare’s model indicates that there will always be psychopaths. a combined approach. homosexual or pedophile. Foucault continues to employ the methodology of his earlier writings. analyzing. The DSM and Foucault focus strictly on the breaking of social norms. is a near mirror response to the characterological approach of the Hare model. The arguments in this book have been incredibly popular. Foucault defends the behaviorist thesis that human action is random and variable prior to a culture’s attempts to classify it. a whole machinery for speechifying. a French farmhand in the mid-nineteenth century. Quine. sexual life consisted of a plethora of actions. I see no reason to dismiss either in a priori fashion. So it was that our society – and it was doubtless the first in history to take such measures – assembled around these timeless gestures. there would be no psychopaths. and eventually hospitalized for the rest of his life. Indeed.144 Jouy was identified as a pedophile. The fixing of sexual kinds by our society thus represents an artificial collection of activities into neat categories. When Foucault is in a particularly Nietzschean mood. particularly amongst poststructuralist feminists. individuals. these barely furtive pleasures between simple-minded adults and alert children. The DSM/Foucault logic therefore suggests that in a society with violent or antisocial norms. First. rejecting nothing out of the question in advance. could temper the weaknesses of both. the behaviorism of the DSM. Regardless. rather than a handful of discrete “types” of behavior such as heterosexual. Jouy allegedly encouraged little girls in his village to fondle his genitals. Foucault writes. Foucault draws several conclusions from this history. yet psychopathic. Surely. Sex and sexuality In the first volume of his History of Sexuality. When his activities were discovered. Foucault mounts some impressive arguments. an imposition of classificatory boxes onto what Foucault earlier called “the wild profusion of existing things. I must confess that I fear the latter theory is true. and investigating. as in Discipline and Punish and Madness and Civilization. and Foucault 47 either the total rejection of a biological explanation or its total embrace.Goodman. now elaborating on the consequences of the classification of sexual behavior. and that some of them might run our society. though I am suspicious of Hare’s biological explanation. there is a hint that he would prefer such a social order. Jouy was examined by the legal and medical establishment. For Foucault. and of Foucault’s similar rejection of interior explanations.” and what in this specific . while Hare raises the possibility of highly successful.

but also. Sex. Foucault continues. Quine.”150 Even though Foucault would reject efforts to recondition or change people. more dra- . sensations. and of an inner self existing apart from an individual’s entrance into the world of language and “selection” of traits by a community. .”149 Women. a secret to be discovered everywhere. the homosexual “became a personage . as I acknowledged above. or homosexuality. Foucault rejects the notion that “sex” is a central component of that fictitious inner self.” This contention marks not only the uncoupling of biology (what Foucault called instinct) and behavior (what Foucault called function). is “an ideal point made necessary by the deployment of sexuality and its operation. for starters. The introduction of sexual categories cemented one practice into the essence of the person engaging in it. and pleasures.”152 Foucault elaborates in a well-known passage: [T]he notion of “sex” made it possible to group together. and Foucault instance he calls “scattered sexualities. for Foucault. Just as Jouy was perceived to be a pedophile. . manhood. in addition to being a type of life.48 Goodman. Foucault appears to be avowing that there are no causal structures in nature producing the chromosomal and hormonal regularities we call “men” and “women.”147 Second. and it enabled one to make use of this fictitious unity as a causal principle. bisexuality. biological functions. A yet more radical interpretation must be considered.”146 or “bodies and pleasures. As Skinner rejected the notion of instinct.” whereas the homosexual was now a “species. they found themselves rigidly associated with a single form of sexual expression. were unique in that they were assumed to be absolutely permeated by their sexual “nature.”148 The sodomite was a “temporary aberration. conducts. Any impression that there is such a unity is merely a false sense created through domination. “sex” was wrongly thought to pertain to an “interlacing of function and instinct. an omnipresent meaning. disagree) that there is nothing innate about sex or sexuality that could potentially lead the individual to engage in various behaviors. The main thesis of History of Sexuality is the extremely influential argument (with which I will.”151 With the creation of categories of sexual behavior.”145 “conducts. any notion of identity whatsoever seems to be an end product of social forces and domination.153 According to Foucault. Foucault is contending that sexual categorization had the effect of fostering the behavior it allegedly merely demarcated. nonetheless. heterosexuality. in an artificial unity. there is no “essence” of sexual identity: womanhood. sensations and pleasures. As individuals were labeled by others. writes Foucault. anatomical elements. he is quite clear that when we do accept a label it is only because we have been classified from the outside and grow to accept it as an accurate reflection of ourselves. Indeed.

based on the “rational” observation of “correlations” and “effects. etc. not to mention scientificity. he makes similar appeals to a type of empiricism. earns them a place apart in the history of knowledge . he speaks of the transformation of Natural History into biology. Their feeble content from the standpoint of elementary rationality.). and Foucault has shown clear signs of adhering to this nominalist credo. on the one hand. Quine. experimental correlation of events is a more objective methodology than the creation of typologies or kinds. is apparently a permissible form of knowledge from Foucault’s perspective. I want to consider one final aspect of Foucault’s thought. genetic structure (genotype. but I think Foucault is saying something more here. controlled.” A science of sex based on observable sequences of physical events. in this case. Foucault distinguished between science that groups and classifies. At other points in his career.” while the latter addressed .Goodman. The common denominator in these invocations is his assertion that the systematic. and implies that it is a valid means of scientific pursuit. Foucault expresses an openness to a certain kind of science of the body. We are left with the completely flat ontology of the twentieth century: empiricist. numerous entities shifting through time and space. and its effects. and Foucault 49 matically. structures. and no necessary connections to other entities. Goodman demonstrated that similarity of any sort was a logically imprecise category. no relatively distinct boundaries. In the passage from The Order of Things cited earlier.154 Foucault thus makes room for a physiology of human reproduction. and humanistic theories of human sexuality on the other: When we compare [the] discourses on human sexuality with what was known at the time about the physiology of animal and plant reproduction. Sex from this perspective would be meaningless as a label at anything other than the individual level. or perhaps even at the sub-individual level of the single act. Surely modern medicine deserves some sharp criticisms. in this case. we are struck by the incongruity. . If there are no means by which we can justify our classifications of cats and dogs. genitalia. Despite his rejection of sexual categorization. Foucault and empiricism In light of my last observation. the same logic must surely be applied to the categories men and women. as opposed to kinds. The former was concerned with the “classification of beings. or instincts transcending events. .”155 In The Archaeology of Knowledge. its correlations. It is as if a fundamental resistance blocked the development of a rationally formed discourse concerning human sex. XX and XY chromosomes) and anatomy (phenotype. breasts. making a clear distinction between physiology. and science that “link[s] consequences.

the prepositional structures that are legitimate to it. the elements that is uses. [d]efine the axioms necessary to it. and can one day hope to attain the latter’s status and merit? Not necessarily. .”157 Finally.” It consists of an unorganized mass of “empirical observations. .”161 A number of things must take place before this threshold can be crossed. clinical medicine is “certainly not a science. Foucault implies that psychology is a pseudoscience because it refuses to speak in terms of symptoms158 or the “positive sequence of effects.163 Surely this is a description of deductive logic and geometry.”159 Instead. and I am tempted to find a copy of Euclid to see if Foucault has been seduced by its geometric proofs.50 Goodman. Goodman. and Foucault “specific [experimental] correlations of different organisms.160 Does that mean that the human sciences are merely “behind” the physical sciences. uncontrolled experiments and results. in Madness and Civilization. . If he also concedes that mathematics is a “bad example.”162 This sounds suspiciously like the language of Hume. one careful to avoid typologies of being on the one hand. writing that Foucault is frequently misunderstood as a critic of all of the sciences. and the transformations that it accepts. a discourse must. [and] taking itself as a starting-point. or even of physiology. and qualities.” It neither complies with formal criteria nor “attain[s] the level of rigor expected of physics. a suspicion that is furthered as Foucault introduces a yet higher stage of development.165 Like Quine. deploy the formal edifice that it constitutes. Quine. . kinds. . and ascriptions of truth on the other. The discursive formation must have “norms of verification and coherence. Foucault ranks the formalized and predictive knowledge of mathematics and the physical sciences above the categorizing and explanatory knowledge of the human sciences.” follow a “number of formal criteria. though this is a common contention among those trying to increase the rate of formalization of the social sciences. it speaks of types.” and obey “certain laws for the construction of propositions. Foucault indeed argues that mathematics has crossed the requisite thresholds. we cannot argue that Foucault deconstructs science in general.” Here. He parallels Quine in encouraging a brand of relativist empiricism.” this is only because the other sciences and pseudo-sciences never cross the thresholds at one and the same time (as did mathematics). and Quine. Noted interpreters Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow concur. .”156 Analogously. the “threshold of formalization. No classification of . Foucault even appears to endorse the Quinean hypothesis that classification is a sign of the immaturity of a form of knowledge. chemistry. and it is important for historians to distinguish the particular stage of each science. Foucault instead suggests that there may be some “imprecise disciplines that are perhaps doomed forever to remain below the threshold of scientificity.164 Therefore.

value-neutral language. in fact. very often by defining kinds and types of people. He looked in particular at the trend rejecting humanistic psychology because of its “unscientific” claims. like so many of the philosophers we have examined. they are doomed to comical and dangerous failure. combined with a deep distrust of human judgment. I return to Abraham Maslow. and causes of. or mushy. Another – based on case studies. self-disclosure of subjects. and Foucault 51 events or individuals or meanings can make a claim to be an accurate measure of the world. a theorist if there ever was one. Indeed. So. The intellectual ramification is the further deprecation of the human sciences. Thus. But it is the second kind of psychology that excels in explaining behavior. to make any judgments or advocate any position. “hard” science critics of the human sciences have long advocated such a language. Maslow claims that an inability to be otherwise can become pathological. Foucault succumbs to his own form of certainty worship. detached. The political ramification is Foucault’s obvious reluctance. as have social science practitioners embarrassed by the alleged shortcomings of their own disciplines. it turns out that he is driven to this appreciation out of the belief that any attempt to generalize about humans will inevitably fail the standards set by mathematics and the more “rigorous” sciences. the author of one of the few studies exploring the emotional appeal of certainty. soft. “Ultimately the fear of looking weak. even in this most unlikely of places? I am tempted to turn again to psychological explanation. Prone to infuriating generalizations and guilty of serious errors. he seems quite enamored of them. How is it that we find Foucault.Goodman. Foucault ranks the formalized and predictive knowledge of mathematics and the physical sciences far above the descriptive and explanatory theories of the human sciences. Claiming to admire the particular and the idiosyncratic. Maslow links the drive for precision to a need to appear strong and “tough-minded. All of the institutional analyses examined here are deliberately couched in careful. why is it so easy to find examples of math worship. humanistic psychology is all the same capable of remarkable insight in the hands of a wise practitioner. a body of humanistic theory. “may turn out to be a defence against (misconceived and misinterpreted) . As long as these disciplines try to find general reasons for.” While there is nothing wrong with tough-mindedness. One kind of psychology – that combining experimental method. as I did at the beginning of this section. He doesn’t reject the standards per se. as I indicated at the beginning of this section. in part because this is the kind of knowledge that is so threatened by Foucault’s message.” he hypothesizes. and expert judgment – suffers from severe neglect. our thoughts and actions. each of which would require a generalization of some kind. and probabilistic statistics – thrives in the contemporary environment. resorting to these time-honored means of disparaging theoretical speculation? Indeed. Quine.

and Foucault femininity. especially in education. the weight of his arguments leads me in a different direction. and to some degree it is the aspiration to a severe discipline. and the “soft” metaphors and femininity. Theodore Porter has written a fascinating study of the rise to prominence of statistics in the social sciences. it is in part because of the connotations of all the unspoken terms in the COLD/HARD constellation [of metaphors].169 Porter continues that mathematics implies personal restraint on the part of its practitioners. where initiates seeking to purify their souls refrained from eating gaseous beans and dedicated their life to the study of number. and concludes that the quest for certainty I have been examining has “more to do with moral economy than theoretical rigour. and comprehensible in its details. My general conclusion is that. and is not so much about Foucault in particular as it is about the common denominator behind all of the appeals to certainty we have uncovered. Gerd Gigerenzer.”166 Many theorists have commented on the association of “hard” or “solid” metaphors with the natural sciences. and “soft” and “vague” metaphors with the human sciences.52 Goodman. now in a philosopher so seemingly attracted to uncertainty and ambiguity. writing from a similar perspective on a history of statistics. a hypothesis that might have been appealing to Foucault himself: The language of mathematics is highly structured and rule-bound.168 There are other possible explanations for the psychological appeal of certainty. Their professional thinking is solid and objective (in that it takes no account of human factors). That discipline did not come automatically.171 But my psychologizing is an aside. argues that our increased reliance on quantitative social science reflects a decline in the respect and influence of experience and personal judgment. well-defined. Quine. one possible explanation for the consistent appeal to certainty is that it provides a “counterphobic” defense against supposedly feminine attributes. Those who work in the “hard” sciences are unafraid of intellectual difficulty. despite Foucault’s contention that he has avoided traditional philosophical labels. there are links between the “hard” metaphors and masculinity. It exacts a severe discipline from its users. They produce knowledge that is reliable. Fou- .167 As Maslow suggests. that has given shape to modern mathematics. He argues that mathematics itself is a form of discipline. and as many feminists have claimed. Their minds are sharp and precise. Thus. Burton Melnick recently argued: If a kind of intellectual cachet attaches itself to the “hard” sciences. a discipline that is very nearly uniform over most of the globe.”170 It is hard not to think back to the cult of Pythagoras.

relativist. this is not to discredit Foucault’s remarkable insight into the nature of contemporary domination. analytic cousins. nominalist. and Foucault 53 cault is. Similarly. while assuming all of the arguments of philosophically rigorous and “out” relativists. Again. .Goodman. following that. as opposed to his drab. we can finally move on to my realist challenge to these authors and this school of thought. repeatedly denying that one is a relativist. a behaviorist. Quine. But it is disingenuous for Foucault (and those emulating him) to suggest that simply saying one doesn’t have a philosophical position guarantees that one doesn’t have a philosophical position. The next chapter examines the influence these assertions have had on contemporary feminist theory. most of the time. should leave the burden of proof on the denier. but I think we can distinguish aspects of that analysis from its underlying philosophy. He might be dressed in the sexier fashions of continental Europe.

a common denominator is its challenge to the alleged philosophical foundationalism of “second wave” feminism. Indeed. on the other. with some variation. Several feminists were making similar arguments even before Judith Butler popularized them. on the one hand. the feminism of the 1960s and 1970s generally used the concept gender to refer to the social and cultural aspects of an underlying biological male or female sex. . some of the most famous poststructuralist and constructivist arguments come from feminist quarters. to make a distinction between nature and culture. were kept relatively distinct. Judith Butler is perhaps the most celebrated feminist challenging the presuppositions of her predecessors. exemplified this feminist project.” combined with her belief that the sexed body is nonetheless a biological given. Biology or nature. but rather becomes a woman. While this form of feminism makes numerous claims. in much contemporary feminist and sexuality theory. These core arguments can be witnessed. The task for feminists was to unite as biological women. accordingly. As I briefly mentioned at the beginning of this book. Simone de Beauvoir’s dictum. no biological women outside of or before gender waiting to be liberated by feminism. In 1978. a bodily given on which the construct of gender is artificially imposed. but [is] a cultural norm which governs the materialization of bodies. as earlier feminists argued. There are. . The new goal for feminist and sexuality movements should be to defy the faith in the existence of an innate sexuality and natural sex categories.4 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism Contemporary feminist theory has been deeply influenced by the constructivism and poststructuralism outlined in Chapter 3. taken-for- . and confront the gender roles doled out by societies around the world. and culture and society.”1 It is not possible. Suzanne Kessler and Wendy McKenna – psychologists writing from a perspective informed by Harold Garfinkel’s ethnomethodology – argued that “a world of two ‘sexes’ is a result of the socially shared. Butler contends that biological sex itself is a social construction: “[T]he construal of ‘sex’ [is not] . Challenging gender roles alone will be inadequate to effect social change. and is often loathe to be identified as a unified movement. “one is not born. or sex and gender.

Martine Rothblatt asks rhetorically: If we were to separate people because different kinds of chromosomes create different kinds of reproductive capabilities. a series of infinitesimal transformations from male to female. It is still important to acknowledge that analogous claims emerged from disparate intellectual circles in the last thirty years. The image of the continuum. .”4 This is not to detract from the force of Butler’s arguments.”2 They confidently use the term “gender” to refer to “aspects of being a woman (girl) or man (boy) that have traditionally been viewed as biological. in popular publications. also writing in the 1970s (but from a very different perspective). on the one hand. Thus.”12 It is an easy matter to find such pronouncements in the academic literature. and increasingly. infinitely malleable continuum. not scientific reality. .”6 while for Alice Dreger. . They are. and declares that nature is no more “immune from change” than is culture. Most scholars and activists readily acknowledge that race is a social construction. as many sexes as there are individuals. Ruth Hubbard speaks of the “rainbow” or “continuum” of biological sex. . gonadal. Their allure is understandable. among others) can be invoked infallibly as the final indicator of sex identity. applies to all members of a group – we are just talking about generalizations . strategic pleas for the release of individuals from the polar opposition male/female. has recently grown popular. asserts: “There are.”9 This echoes an earlier argument in the groundbreaking work of Kessler and McKenna: “No amount of descriptive information we could give you about [a] person would allow you to attribute gender with absolute certainty. “the sex spectrum is like the color spectrum. nature provides us with a range where one ‘type’ blends imperceptibly into the next. as there are certainly instances where biology is used to justify one form of social inequality or another. Bernice Hausman asserts: “[T]here can be no true sex if no single ‘kind of sex’ (chromosomal. not one or two sexes. but . . how could we account for the legitimacy of biologically or intentionally infertile persons?11 Rothblatt adds: “Unless a characteristic .”3 Monique Wittig. male and female are the end poles of a spectrum stretching between them. .Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 55 granted methods which members [of a culture] use to construct reality.5 Anne Fausto-Sterling states that sex is a “vast. Suzanne Kessler writes that gender .”7 According to Julie Greenberg. with no basis in our biology outside of skin pigmentation. nor to deny that there are differences amongst these feminists.”10 Finally.8 Others focus on our apparent inability to find a failsafe determinant of biological sex. hormonal. Why shouldn’t sex be treated in the same fashion? The arguments that sex is a social construction sometimes appeal to the contemporary desire to be completely self-defining.

who typically argue that environmental harm must be traced to a single origin and lead to a very specific effect.”13 Why shouldn’t people be free of all constraining categorizations. and their serious implications. Thus. or the existence of harms less obvious than cancer.”14 Every philosophical claim has an ontology. and behaviorism of Foucault. For example. their arguments still rely on the scientific standards set by the certaintyworshiping mainstream. larger philosophical and scientific points are also being promulgated in these feminist arguments. she has claimed that the act of identifying a theorist in such a fashion is a “gesture of conceptual mastery. and I want to make the ontological presuppositions of poststructuralist and constructivist feminism as clear as possible. Goodman. this term includes sex] is a “responsibility and a burden. Because Butler’s defenders can be quite prickly. and Quine unite in a novel . and pick and choose what they want to be for themselves? When expressed in this fashion. I will focus primarily on Judith Butler’s writings. these feminists unintentionally echo the arguments of industrial polluters and their defenders. Yet. I will carefully proceed to illustrate the ways in which the relativism. I want to subject them to rigorous analysis. More generally. Thus. while these feminists are motivated by a desire to recognize difference and embrace biological variability.”15 Perhaps it is this conviction that allows Butler to ignore Kessler and McKenna’s similar contribution to feminist scholarship. and when it is found lacking it is concluded that sex is an individual matter. I do not lose sleep over the charges of conceptual domination. any reassertion of the sex/gender distinction can be ridiculed as somehow against freedom itself. for example.56 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism [again. As was the case with Michel Foucault. I feel compelled to engage in a lengthy exegesis to establish my claims. influential as they are. In many ways. as I will show in the next chapter. nominalism.” one making the questionable Hegelian assumption that “theories offer themselves in bundles or in organized totalities. or is structured by culture rather than nature. this principle reflects the dominant philosophical and scientific mindset that I have been detailing since the beginning of this book. Certainty in sex determination is sought. as was also the case in my treatment of Foucault. Several of these feminists proudly invoke the logical standard of absolute certainty. Tony Lawson has argued that “ontological commitments are too rarely rendered explicit. the impact of multiple chemical contaminations. Other passages show signs of the nominalism that I maintain is central to poststructuralism and constructivism. but I will occasionally refer to other scholars. Regardless. Some of these feminists have asserted that we must locate the single source of a determinate event in order to make any causal claims. some bearing resemblance to the theories I analyzed in the previous chapter. rather than a serious challenge to it. Butler has occasionally argued that she belongs to no philosophical movement. This insistence makes it nearly impossible to prove. Given the popularity of these arguments.

. ultimately unsatisfactory – way in the writings of Judith Butler. readying her for a lifetime of similar directives. Relativism by any other name The first level of Butler’s argument deconstructing sex is her contention that there can be no access to any aspect of our world prior to its conceptualization in thought and language. . from my perspective.Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 57 and compelling – but. . and infer that there is something in nature called girlhood or boyhood. For example. or is language also the very condition under which materiality may be said to appear?”16 This premise suggests that language shapes our very thought processes (or is synonymous with them) and in effect stands between the world and our discernment of it. Echoing Foucault. located sporadically in Butler’s writings.”23 The act of “girling” is an imposition of a cultural form on the baby. Our concepts bring “materiality” into a social world always already filled with meaning. This argument is a familiar one. “Can language simply refer to materiality.”21 Butler.20 As I indicated above. is to claim that there is no reference to a pure body which is not at the same time a further formation of that body.”22 The genitals to which we attach significance have meaning only insofar as humans create it. Butler’s unique contribution to the literature is her meticulous extension of this thesis to the issue of biological sex. “and whereas sex cannot be changed – or so she thought – gender is the variable cultural construction of sex. as it recollects the irrealism of Goodman. not a simple fact or static condition of the body. and Foucault’s discussion of the “already ‘encoded’ eye” of perception.” Butler writes. Butler suggests that a considerable chunk of feminism since the time of Beauvoir has accepted the distinction between sex and gender. and taken the naturalness of the former for granted.24 Like Foucault in his discussion of the criminal or the homosexual. and Goodman in his tale . producing a seemingly naturalized effect. but gender acquired.19 We see the baby through the mediating categories of sex affixed to the penis or vagina. .”18 pretty standard fare for twentieth-century philosophy.17 Butler reiterates that “materiality [is] bound up with signification from the start. on the contrary. argues that men and women do not exist outside of these sex categories and that there is no definitive way to ground sex in any kind of material reality. She writes: “To claim that discourse is formative . the ontological relativity of Quine. cannot be waved as white flags to dispute this weight of evidence. sex is immutably factic. Protests to the contrary. She draws attention to the act of sexing a baby at the moment of birth on the basis of its observed genitalia. Butler asks rhetorically. Butler’s more contentious claim is that these interpretive mediations result in the partial formation or construction of the world. she proclaims that “ ‘sex’ is an ideal construct . This process of “sexing” continues for the entire life span. “[F]or Beauvoir.

However. the historicity of norms . Hence.29 Note Butler’s deliberate. .58 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism of emeralds. [and] calls to be explained. use of language: relations “institute and require” relata. neither can materiality be summarily collapsed into an identity with language.”26 Butler’s conclusion is that girl and boy are “performative” concepts. She occasionally accuses Foucault of this “discursive monism” or “linguisticism. always requires the material realm. . signs work by appearing (visibly. Things “signify” only because they are connected to other things through the spider’s web of language. it does not create the world ex nihilo:28 [I]f language is not opposed to materiality. and certainly isn’t very illuminating. . although what appears only signifies by virtue of those non-phenomenal relations. i. to materialize the body’s sex. Butler adds that certain categorizations have the power to foster a specific sexual reality. . institute and require relata. the process of signification is always material. “work in a performative fashion to constitute the materiality of bodies and. to materialize sexual difference. Furthermore. In order to stay true to her claim that she is not a “discursive monist. with no beginning or end to the process. .”30 This passage borders on the supernatural.” she has to make sure that she doesn’t attribute any temporal priority to language.”25 “[T]he regulatory norms of ‘sex. . aurally). Butler cautions that effective discourses must have some type of social power supporting them. Trying to distance herself from philosophical idealism. She writes: [Performativity] does not mean that any action is possible on the basis of a discursive effect. in particular. The most that Butler will explicitly say about materiality is that it is “a demand in and for language.. Butler counters. that tacitly structure and propel signification itself.e. The highly regulated cultural practice of sex therefore “produces the bodies it governs. terms. a ‘that which’ which prompts and occasions. . and deliberately non-committal. constitute the power of discourse to enact what it names. . the reading of “performativity” as willful and arbitrary choice misses the point that the historicity of discourse and. On the one hand. more specifically. Relations . phenomenal signifiers. as individuals gradually become (albeit in a never-ending process) the sex they are christened at birth.31 .” whereby “language effectively brings into being that which it names. relations of differentiation. despite the occasional rhetorical flourish to the contrary. Butler takes pains to reassure her readers that she is not suggesting that language has the power to make the world on its own.’ ” Butler continues. she is quite clear that meaning is established solely through non-phenomenal relations. . .”27 Discourse. and appearing through material means.

Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 59 Performativity refers to a process. Butler’s main point is that. writing twenty-five years ago. but nonetheless historical. while a masculine figure without a penis was often still judged male. “To be male is to ‘have’ something. Judicial decisions are effective because they carry the weight of precedent reaching far back in time. Furthermore. as long as there were any signs of maleness. The analogy of common law creation is often used to explain the power of discourse to bring something into existence. one figure might have had long hair. and a penis. and vice versa. nor can an individual simply will away sexual inequality with a few strategic utterances. When participants were informed that a figure had a vagina. For example. even at the level of more-or-less (but never entirely) raw data. it is incorrect to say that the things in themselves – here. even though the study was careful to represent specific gender cues equally. there is still a whiff of creationism. Regardless. it cannot take place with a single utterance. broad hips. “I am an aardvark. according to Butler. Butler contends that this relationship is immaterial. poststructuralists like Butler insist that the notion of “intent” must be qualified by this fact of social embeddedness and the resultant lack of precise origin to a law.” and expect this to have an impact on my body. the example of the little girl should again illuminate. Because it is the immaterial relationship that is so essential. Kessler and McKenna. a . Vagina means girl because penis means boy. More male attributions were made than female. Several interesting observations unfolded. as it is absolutely forbidden to speculate on the origins of these conventions. the vagina would not necessarily lead to a female attribution.34 The participants were asked whether the figures were male or female. Butler cautions that discourse becomes powerful only when it “cites the conventions of authority” in like fashion. boys and girls – have any innate meaning.”36 Thus. breasts and a penis. there was no single trait that automatically caused respondents to make a female attribution. while another might have had short hair. A specific instance of “girling” is successful because it is embedded in a naturalized. social norm that is reiterated time and again.33 If this isn’t idealism per se.35 Evidence of a penis was always reason enough to make a male attribution. Individuals were presented with drawings of people featuring various combinations of sex traits. “and to be female is to ‘not have’ it. the girl’s sex traits only mean something because of their relationship to the boy’s sex traits.” Kessler and McKenna conclude. While one can attribute agency to the judge in the pronouncement of a sentence.32 I obviously cannot say. the relationship determining the meaning of genitalia is one of presence and absence. other than through some mythical social contract in the misty reaches of time. defined in words. drew a similar conclusion based on an experiment they themselves designed. yet having real effects and requiring phenomena to signify anything at all. The ideas “boy” and “girl” are connected to all of the many things it means to be a boy or a girl in our culture. or “non-phenomenal” as she states above.

If Butler can’t find a precise acknowledgment of this relational aspect of meaning in Foucault. Butler acknowledges that “materiality” is indeed a force in the world. “[p]enises do not exist in isolation. Furthermore. Butler does have one other principle that she uses to distinguish herself from “linguisticism. she asks: Does Foucault’s effort to work the notions of discourse and materiality through one another fail to account for not only what is excluded from the economies of discursive intelligibility that he describes. Again speaking rhetorically. “I see all objects as theoretical. Surely these are nearly identical positions. they will “resist materialization.60 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism binary bound up with a plethora of beliefs and practices circulating around men and women that have little if anything to do with biology. but what has to be excluded for those economies to function as selfsustaining systems?42 . Quine quite happily acknowledged that his philosophy is indeed relativist. to the point where the precise nature of the input was impossible to determine. We assume its existence on the basis of a myriad of decidedly non-genital signals. that our capacity to recognize similarity and difference was a necessary starting point to the development of any science or knowledge. Analogously.”39 and “we cannot know what something is without knowing how it is marked off from other things. Our cultural understanding of the connections between masculinity and femininity influences our interpretation of something as seemingly natural as genitalia. she notes. She charges Foucault with ignoring the impact of social marginalization on the constitution of categories and identities. Things become ever more complicated given that we seldom see the genital region of other individuals. since we “make” language (and different ones in each culture. Quine insisted. Butler asserts that the elements that do not fit will be marginalized. at that) how could we expect it to miraculously reflect the world around us? Quine wrote.”41 Depending on the social significance of the category and the varying power relations in a society.”40 Butler’s thesis is that the relations established in language and culture determine the meaning of the things they enmesh. in Butler’s language. Yet.”37 As Kessler and McKenna quip. she should be quite at home with Quine. He also emphasized the intricacies of the linguistic framework growing out of the input of our senses. But even Quine backtracked quickly.”38 Surely these feminists have made an important argument.” particularly as she sees it in Foucault’s writings. Some individuals will inevitably fail to fit a particular description. or even more or less invisible. requires that there be some way of distinguishing its contents from everything else. though she would never make such an explicit claim about similarity and difference. warning that his minimalist epistemology was merely a theory. which Kessler and McKenna call “cultural genitals. The creation of a category. in a concession to empiricism.

In our world. it is not possible to be anything unless you can be classified according to sex. as Foucault argued. While all are indeed created. According to Kant. causality). it is a theory about the power of language to act as the prime force of that exclusion.”46 Other psychoanalytically inclined theorists claim that humans are innately bisexual. On this point. lying beyond the boundaries or limits of human knowledge. all are not created equal. For example. However. Butler rejects this position for similar reasons. Such an allowance would be tantamount to declaring that some individuals do indeed have access to an authentic and unmediated naturalness.45 The implication is that the marginality of lesbians provides a privileged vantage point for social criticism. and will live the effects of this otherness. Kant postulates that there are indeed unknown essences.44 The person of indeterminate sex is culturally confusing. or any other human universal. and many accounts suggest that she is right.” it can never be more explicitly defined.”47 Freud should have “known better” than to posit this trait.43 An ambiguous baby is not constituted in precisely the same fashion as are “real” girls and boys. while girls are frequently denigrated in relation to boys. things-in-themselves. Butler’s thesis reflects more than a recognition of sexual marginalization. albeit in a slightly different way than the dominant social group. This baby. humans perceive via a combination of empirical experience and the a priori forms of intuition (space and time) and categories of understanding (e. adult. Butler counters that abject individuals are simply constituted in a different way: “lesbian sexuality is no more and no less constructed than other modes of sexuality. babies who are not readily classifiable throw a wrench into the sex works. Butler criticizes the notion that there is any extra-cultural source of resistance to society’s norms. bisexuality is “a concrete cultural possibility that is refused and redescribed as impossible.48 The “other” to any particular category is therefore still constituted. rather. the creation of ascriptive categories means that some individuals will by necessity be excluded from their reach. the Hegelian critique of Kant’s thing-in-itself. or its inability to be a perfect girl or boy. Yet Butler steadfastly refuses to attribute an extra-discursive status to these “resistant” babies or any other marginalized figures. The “It’s a girl/boy” literally brings the baby into personhood.g. is instead marked by exclusion and difference. He writes: . While there is “materiality. Wittig claims that lesbians escape the categories of sex and sexuality and are hence no longer women..49 Our knowledge will be limited by these forms and the information available to the senses. Referring to Monique Wittig’s work. according to Butler.Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 61 For Butler. Butler appears to be invoking. albeit implicitly. Butler stresses that their birth in all likelihood silences the delivery room. and they will suffer real social consequences because of this exclusion. and later.


Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism [W]hat we call outer objects are nothing but mere representations of our sensibility, the form of which is space. The true correlate of sensibility, the thing in itself, is not known, and cannot be known, through these representations; and in experience no question is ever asked in regard to it.50

Similarly, Kant continues, we will never know the “the secret of the source of our sensibility,” because we have to use that faculty to know anything at all.51 Hegel replied to Kant that the mere mention of a limit to knowledge marked an attempt to say something about which you have previously declared your ignorance. “If we take a closer look at what a limit implies,” he writes, “we see it involving a contradiction in itself.”52 Hegel asserts that there is no absolute beyond of knowledge because we can only conceive of that beyond in relation to thought and language. “We cannot therefore regard the limit as only external to being which is then and there,” Hegel expands, “[i]t rather goes through and through the whole of such existence.53 The alleged “thing-in-itself” thus influences our understanding of what we do know, and neither can be said to exist apart from the other. One could be excused for thinking that Butler would be attracted to Kant’s dualistic solution to the connection between thought and the world, replacing his a priori forms with a posteriori language. Indeed, constructivists and poststructuralists are sometimes said to be working within a neo-Kantian framework. Yet Butler, like Hegel, usually indicates that the mention of a realm extending beyond our capacity for knowledge is contradictory.54 The fact that a line can be drawn implies that something must be known about what lies on its far side, even if it is just that “they” are not like “us,” or that sexual difference is outside of culture. Butler revisits Hegel’s argument: There is an “outside” to what is constructed by discourse, but this is not an absolute “outside,” an ontological thereness that exceeds or counters the boundaries of discourse; as a constituting “outside,” it is that which can only be thought – when it can – in relation to that discourse, at and as its most tenuous borders.55 Therefore, the setting of a limit, or a foundation, automatically puts some things on the other side of that limit. More importantly for Butler’s purposes, the positing of a limit is an undeniably political act. As Butler has argued thus far, stating that the categories male and female are prior to culture sets a baseline or a limit for the effects of culture. No matter what we do, we are implying that we can’t change the reality of males and females. Yet we are simultaneously saying that we can understand their deepest nature. This is a logical flaw according to Butler.

Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 63 Butler also contends, surprisingly, that to posit any sort of material or natural reality outside of discourse is to negate the possibility that we could ever know what that reality is. “To posit a materiality outside of language, where that materiality is considered ontologically distinct from language,” she warns, “is to undermine the possibility that language might be able to indicate or correspond to that domain of radical alterity.”56 Butler’s Hegelian roots are showing even more clearly here, as this too is Hegel’s critique of the Kantian thing-in-itself. Clearly, Butler doesn’t endorse this position in the “Absolute Knowledge” sense that Hegel intended, but it is still somewhat surprising that she would invoke his language. While she does generally reject the thesis that language and the world are ontologically distinct, she does so by arguing that they are thoroughly imbricated. She steadfastly refuses to say anything definite about the extra-discursive world, other than that nebulous claim that the body is a “demand in and for language.” Given this holism, it is hard to see how we could ever “indicate” with language, let alone use it to “correspond” to something. Butler thus tries to differentiate her position, on the one hand, from Foucault’s alleged linguisticism whereby all individuals are discursively constituted in exactly the same way, and on the other, with the help of Hegel, from those theorists contending that any individual or thing could somehow inhabit an extra-cultural position. But I remain unconvinced that Butler has warded off the general charge of relativism. She argues as though relativism has only one definition, and that if she makes enough vague references to materiality she has adequately refuted the charge. However, her contention that relations between things are always “nonphenomenal” and that all observations are thoroughly contextualized within an overarching linguistic system, is central to Quinean relativism. It is the great error, in my view, of the twentieth-century philosophies emphasizing language to insist that the connections between objects must be as visible as chains in order to avoid the “nonphenomenal” tag. On this point, among others, realism fundamentally disagrees. Relations between individuals and entities are often very real, even if we cannot see them at the empirical level. I will leave my full discussion of this realist rebuttal until considerably later, in Chapter 6.

Nominalist feminism
In Butler’s more specific discussions of biological sex she combines relativism with a nominalism in a fashion nearly identical to Foucault and, perhaps more surprisingly, Goodman. Before launching into this component of my argument I want to provide a brief overview of the science of sex differentiation. While most of us are aware of the basics, a refresher and news of recent discoveries will help in the remainder of our discussions.57 Sex differentiation involves a number of stages, unfolding in a complex


Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism

cascade or network not yet fully understood. Although there is some looseness of definition in the literature, sex determination refers to the initial development of the gonads, and sex differentiation to the later growth of the phenotypic58 sexual features, e.g., penis, seminal vesicles, prostate, vagina, clitoris, oviducts, cervix, etc. The chromosomal makeup of an embryo is determined at conception. Sex determination takes place entirely in the fetus, and is genetically controlled for the most part.59 Sex differentiation is influenced for the most part by hormones, but chromosomes and the environment can also play a role. Sex differentiation occurs in two major phases: the first after the gonads begin developing, and the second much later in adolescence. As indicated, the genetic makeup of an individual is determined at the instant of procreation. The embryo will typically have a pair of XX or XY sex chromosomes, along with twenty-two other pairs of autosomal or nonsex chromosomes, from day one. Every cell of an individual contains these chromosomes. For several weeks after conception, despite its genetic signature, the embryo is in a “bipotential” state, meaning that it is more or less sexually undifferentiated and has the capacity to travel down either the male or female pathway.60 Some hypothesize that this is a remnant of our evolution from an androgynous or hermaphroditic organism.61 Mutations or deliberate interventions can block either channel. The gonads, one component of this relatively neutral rudiment, become either testes or ovaries. In most cases, XY chromosomes produce testes, and XX chromosomes, ovaries. Generally, the presence of a Y chromosome is adequate to lead to the growth of testes. So, for example, an XXXXY individual, though rare, will develop as a phenotypic male. Many now speculate that a single gene along the Y chromosome, known as SRY, is the precursor to other aspects of male sexual development.62 If this gene is lacking, evidence suggests that the fetus will develop female gonads. For a number of years, researchers argued that female development occurred automatically, making females the default sex. Thus, the SRY gene, even before it was discovered, was called the “testis determining” or even “sex determining” factor, and no one was very interested in exploring the processes that led to the development of female gonads. Regardless, the development of the gonads triggers further sexual differentiation. Every embryo has two sets of ducts, the Müllerian and Wolffian. In female embryos, the Wolffian ducts recede, and the Müllerian ducts become the uterus, fallopian tubes, etc. In male babies, the Müllerian ducts wither, while the Wolffian ducts differentiate into the vas deferens, seminal vesicles, etc. Famous experiments conducted by Alfred Jost showed that the removal of rabbit gonads prior to their differentiation always resulted in the development of a female phenotype – with uterus, vagina, and fallopian tubes – regardless of the rabbit’s chromosomal makeup. This further contributed to the sense that the female sex was the factory model of the mammalian world. Again it was hypothesized that

Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 65 male sexual differentiation must require something “extra” in those gonads.63 Research indeed highlights the importance of several hormones, including AMH (anti-Müllerian duct factor) and testosterone, which at a certain stage converts into DHT (dihydrotestosterone). Without the presence of these hormones, female sexual differentiation will generally occur, aided by the backdrop of the estrogenic womb. Recent studies note the extent to which hormones perform sex-specific and sex-neutral roles. For example, INSL-3 (Insulin-like hormone 3) causes the descent of the testes from the abdomen in males, and will later in life lead to follicle selection in females. In males, some testosterone is converted into estradiol, a form of estrogen, and influences the development of the brain. Estrogen is so important to life itself in both sexes that defects in its synthesis are extremely rare.64 If anything, its receptors are too sensitive, and capable of receiving dangerous chemicals “mimicking” estrogen and interfering with sexual differentiation. There is also some evidence that chromosomes play a role in sex differentiation, even though hormones have long been thought to be the sole contributor. For example, XY cultures from the mid-brain of mice contain more dopamine neurons than do XX cultures. It is still possible that the influence of the chromosomes is hormonally mediated, or that it may not have a lasting effect on sexual phenotype.65 The second major stage of sexual differentiation occurs during puberty, when the system integrating nervous and hormonal signals in the hypothalamus (operating at a fairly low, though not insignificant, level during childhood), is reactivated. Both sexes experience a growth spurt and weight gain influenced by estradiol, growth hormone, and other growth factors. Full fertility is achieved as girls begin to ovulate and menstruate, and boys to produce sperm and ejaculate. Girls’ breasts develop as the ovaries secrete estrogen, while pubic and axillary hair grows as the adrenal cortex and ovaries produce androgen. Under the influence of testosterone, boys develop pubic, facial and bodily hair, the penis and testes grow, and muscles develop. Other sex-specific events also occur, such as the maturation of the vagina and uterus in girls, the deepening of the voice in boys, and oil and sweat gland development in both sexes. Sex determination and differentiation are by no means perfect; indeed, there are occasional variations on the theme male/female. It is possible to possess a combination of male and female gonads, or to be born with ambiguous genitalia. For example, hypospadias is a condition in which the male urethra remains open along the underside of the penis, sometimes giving it the appearance of female genitalia.66 Cryptorchidism is the failure of the testicles to descend from the abdomen, leaving them in an ovarylike position.67 A number of chromosomal anomalies can also occur. There are XXY individuals, XYY individuals, XO individuals, and “hermaphrodites” (individuals with both XX and XY gonad tissue), among others. Most interestingly, because of the apparent contradiction between


Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism

genotype and phenotype, there are XX individuals with partial or full testes development, and XY individuals with either small penises, or large clitorises. In addition to these chromosomal anomalies, hormonal conditions such as androgen insensitivity and congenital adrenal hyperplasia may lead to some sex ambiguity, either at birth or later in life. Many but not all ambiguously sexed individuals will be infertile, and some will have physical conditions ranging from relatively minor cleft palates and hernias to more serious cancer, heart disease, or mental retardation. Others will be symptom-free, or virtually so.68 Judith Butler makes much of this evidence of sexual ambiguity, as do many other individuals influenced by poststructuralism and constructivism. In Gender Trouble, Butler uses a single genetic study revealing sex chromosome anomalies in order to question the biological indicators of maleness and femaleness. The research at issue was one of several studies leading up to the discovery of the SRY gene mentioned above. Led by David Page, it analyzed a sample of people including XX individuals with testes who were labeled “male,” and XY individuals without testes who were called “female.” The researchers claimed to have located the region of the Y chromosome responsible for the development of testes. Those with this region of the Y would be male, and those without, female.69 Apparently, however, the so-called male factor was also located on the X chromosome of normal females. Butler challenges Page’s hypothesis that the gene is “active” in males, and “passive” in females, as she finds it unconvincing on one hand, and redolent of the traditionally sexist view of passive females on the other. More importantly, according to Butler, this study provides evidence of the questionable status of biological sex, since there is apparently no known variable that allows us to predict sex with 100 percent certainty. “Clearly there are cases,” Butler writes, “in which the component parts of sex do not add up to the recognizable coherence or unity that is usually designated by the category of sex.”70 As further proof, Butler offers an undocumented (and, as I will show, simply false) statistic that 10 percent of the population have chromosomal patterns falling outside the XXfemale/XY-male categories, or secondary sex traits that do not match their chromosomal code. “The concept of ‘sex’ is itself troubled terrain,” Butler summarizes, “formed through a series of contestations over what ought to be decisive criterion for distinguishing between the two sexes.”71 Other contemporary feminists present similar arguments based on the evidence of intersexed individuals. For example, Anne Fausto-Sterling once argued that 4 percent of all people are sexually nondimorphic.72 She has now revised this figure to 1.728 percent, an estimate intended to include “any individual who deviates from the Platonic ideal of physical dimorphism at the chromosomal, genital, gonadal, or hormonal levels.” 73 Fausto-Sterling uses this data to argue that “[s]ince intersexuals quite literally embody both sexes they weaken claims about sexual difference.”74

Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 67 Suzanne Kessler takes the information and declares: “A world populated with flat-chested, hairy women with penis-sized clitorises and largebreasted, hairless men with micropenises would be a world of blended gender and eventually, blended gender is no gender.”75 Others argue that the existence of sexual ambiguity is adequate to eradicate the distinction between sex determination and sex differentiation, since some people have phenotypic traits that conflict with their sex chromosomes. “[T]he division between genital surface and depth is at least ‘constructed’ and at worst utterly bogus,”76 writes Iain Morland, at the same time that he recommends calling all males and females “intrasex.”77 These arguments are presently quite popular, with a number of mainstream magazines and newspapers picking up on the high estimates of intersexuality. University professors tell their students that one in twenty to twenty-five of their classmates is intersexed,78 while an open-minded Presbyterian tells her flock that their small congregation alone must have four or five intersexed worshipers.79 I have had graduate students earnestly inform me that men, too, have breasts. Unfortunately, any expression of doubt about the figures or the leap in logic is enough to land the skeptic in the camp of the reactionaries. Feminists, and all social scientists, are on difficult terrain when we place so much reliance on a single scientific study or piece of data. Butler’s dabbling in genetics means that she missed the progression of the research looking for the gene(s) on the Y chromosome responsible for testicular development, and, by the time her next book came out, she had apparently lost interest. Her estimate that 10 percent of the population expresses some degree of sexual nondimorphism shows even less interest in the biological sciences, untroubled by evidence as it is. Fausto-Sterling is no dabbler, as she is a respected scientist. But she draws massive conclusions based on her estimates of intersexed individuals. As someone who formerly relied on Fausto-Sterling’s 4 percent estimate of intersex without much thought, I decided to study her recent survey article reducing the figure to 1.728 percent with greater care. I found numerous errors and oversights, ranging from minor to substantial. Decimal points are in the wrong place. The incidence of two anomalies, Turner Syndrome (XO) and vaginal atresia, both specific to females, are represented as the incidence across both sexes, effectively doubling their frequency. Findings of zero cases of certain conditions in several studies are treated as blanks in the data, whereas a “0” would have the effect of lowering the average incidence of the conditions. Studies with aboveaverage incidences of anomalies are sometimes used to create the impression that were we more open to the possibility of intersex we would see that it is more common than we think. In reality, some of these studies should have been excluded, as they involved non-random samples of highrisk populations. The condition that contributes the lion’s share to FaustoSterling’s figure – 1.5 of the 1.728 intersexed per 100 live births, or a full

as it is tantamount to saying. Butler writes “active ovarian contributions to sex differentiation have never been strongly considered.018 percent is a fairer estimate of intersex incidence. and that experts in the field typically cite an overall incidence of 0. for the condition. For these reasons. many feminists and activists unquestioningly cite these results – some even as “meticulous”82 – while ignoring the lower estimates in other studies. the condition does not produce sexual ambiguity in males. Even if this figure were to double or triple with further research.1 percent. Frustratingly.86 Both note that the implied assumption of sex determination and differentiation research is that male development is interesting and active. and we will not let the facts get in the way of our favored stories. I use the most frequently cited incidence of non-classic CAH (0. I have not questioned Fausto-Sterling’s inclusion of conditions that some specialists do not consider intersex. I simply correct the math and use more representative studies.”84 While FaustoSterling has done an admirable job in drawing our attention to the sometimes unnecessary and disabling surgical interventions faced by intersexed children and adults. have argued that it is .68 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 87 percent – is a form of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (non-classic CAH).1 percent). or one in 1000.85 Butler. and often goes unrecognized even in females. My analysis therefore indicates that Fausto-Sterling’s reduced estimate of the incidence of intersex is still a dramatic overstatement. did make some helpful observations about sex determination and differentiation research. Deciding between my figure and the one calculated by Sax is a matter of debate and probably some hair-splitting. In other words.80 and that a more realistic figure is 0. as has Fausto-Sterling on other occasions. as Fausto-Sterling seems unwilling to make a distinction between statistical errors and differences in judgment. despite her limited contact with the scientific literature. Andrew Sayer cautions against such a stance. “all science is ideological. She explicitly leaves it to readers to “judge for themselves” between the competing numbers.373 per 100 live births. whereas female development is unremarkable and passive. Yet in her response to my corrections. Furthermore. Leonard Sax has suggested that 0. This is an inherited metabolic disease leading in some cases to excess production of androgen. her philosophy is too deeply vested in uncovering relatively high rates of sexual nondimorphism. Fausto-Sterling implies that our differing conclusions are simply part of the intellectual conversation raising awareness of intersexuality.83 Poststructuralism and constructivism prove convenient here.”87 Eva Eicher and Linda Washburn. My figure includes a generous allowance for missed cases and several chromosomal variants that do not result in genital ambiguity.81 I am also disturbed that Fausto-Sterling and her co-authors permit their numbers to stand uncorrected. Fausto-Sterling’s team fails to disclose that the statistic they use is from a patient population. prominent geneticists. only we admit it.

the estrogen hormones of the mother and the placenta (and possibly the gonads. When it was discovered that the ratio of X chromosomes to autosomes determined sex in fruit flies.93 This second hypothesis was that something on the Y chromosome must counteract the genetic directions on the X. DAX1 and WNT4. yet most develop distinguishing male features all the same. Quite obviously.90 Female development is perhaps not so automatic as previously thought. Thus. while XXY and XXXY developed as males. The first was that human sex is decided by the dosage of the X gene: if you have two Xs. as she seems to agree that genes are either operative or inoperative.91 However. This is in part the byproduct of a physicalist science that initially contended (and. in order for male sexual determination to occur. though both sexes require specific genetic activity to produce their respective gonads. and one X. and ‘demasculinization’ is produced by the ovary in female birds. the . and it is now far more common to see discussions of “ovary determination” too. when they aren’t excised by a scientist) contribute to female sexual differentiation. are necessary for female development.Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 69 highly unlikely that female development happens spontaneously and passively. The scenario is quite different in birds. you are going to be female. as male processes need to be initiated. Indeed. in some quarters. Current research also suggests that male development requires positive and negative signals. when researchers were able to observe that XO humans developed as phenotypic females. where females have ZW chromosomes and males ZZ.”94 Furthermore. the original hypothesis was rejected and the second option chosen.92 Years later. the notion that the Y chromosome determines sex and that females are the default sex was not solely the product of sexist dogma. and female processes repressed. all male mammals have an X chromosome (there are indeed no exceptions to this thesis). However. There is now evidence that SRY. there is now evidence that specific genes.89 Certainly. and the removal of embryonic gonads leads to male sexual differentiation. Over twenty years ago. there is adequate proof that the simple presence of the same variable in both sexes need not mean that it will have the same effect on each. which all mammals share. and activity and passivity. Butler falls for the same either/or logic. there is perhaps an element of “passivity” in male development as well.88 Recent research has corrected this imbalance somewhat. scientists adopted this model for humans as well. male. the convenient Boolean logic of 1s and 0s. the study of genetics is filled with talk of up-regulation and down-regulation. one of the major figures in the field of sex determination and differentiation could therefore write: “ ‘Defeminization’ is produced by the testes in male mammals. Two distinct hypotheses regarding sex determination were at one time available to scientists. They challenged the scientific mainstream for its mono-focus on the male sex. still believes) that genes could be in one of only two positions: on or off. and its equation of testis determination with sex determination.

Today. so that allelic differences [alternative forms of the same gene] that result in minor differences in the expression of key genes might have a significant impact at the pivotal point of sex determination. all other types of development). Butler simply overturns the original thesis: if a single gene cannot be located. Indeed. Thus.”95 Geneticists now conclude that dosage level. other processes combine to promote development along that path. they conveniently ignore the fact that.98 Dosage thresholds and limits are an important component of many biological processes. females with the SRY gene do not necessarily develop testes. “can act on two different cell types to coordinate sex development. even when there was evidence that these goals would be impossible. other factors pile up to reinforce the decision: The primary decision between male and female pathways seems to be finely balanced. Sex is. Once the balance is tipped one way or the other. once the genetic choice has been made. DAX1. after all. timing. given the early stages of its development. and background tissue of gene expression are all capable of influencing the pathways of male and female development (and indeed. geneticists recognize that a number of genes are vital for complete sex determination and differentiation. male or female development is strongly canalized by secondary feedback regulation. As indicated above. In the specific case of sex determination. Butler is correct that there was a rush to locate the single determinant of male sex. SRY – perhaps along with SOX9 and even DAX196 – is necessary. it generally will develop testes. But again. However. though again perhaps not sufficient. Scientists are in a rush to be the first to discover the next big gene.70 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism “testis-determining gene. Genetics is at times an overconfident field. Some genes might even be redundant – functionally substituting for one another – and serving to increase or . and a desire to squeeze apparent exceptions to the male/female binary into one of the two permitted slots.” is inhibited or down-regulated in females by the active presence of another gene. the idea that a single gene could do all of these things is now discredited. Once a line is crossed. Yet other genes are necessary for the development of functioning sperm.97 If these genes are not expressed at the right levels in the early fetal development of an XY fetus.” one group of geneticists notes. If it has these genes. quite complex. several genes have also been linked to ovary development. however. “[T]he same signalling molecule. greatly increasing the likelihood of further male differentiation. it will not develop testes. Geneticists are also prone to dogmatism about the role of genes in all developmental processes. temperature controls sex in some reptile species. for example. sex must be indeterminant. for the development of testes.

Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 71 decrease the likelihood a particular event will occur. if it were truly to exist. hormones. Quine. This is not simply relativism. functions. that chromosomes. In all of the poststructuralist and constructivist treatments of intersex presented thus far. second. it is relativism informed by a nominalist ontology. I have shown that the logic that informs the hunt for the single. would have to operate with logical definitiveness. “imposes an artificial unity on an otherwise discontinuous set of attributes. that sex is more complex than the male/female dichotomy permits. Butler herself entertains several alternative theories about the ontology of biological sex. contending that every individual has a . “Sex. She generally poses the options rhetorically as she discusses the works of other authors. Regardless. she speculates: One might argue that the discontinuities in these instances [unexplained cases of intersex] cannot be resolved through recourse to a single determinant. it is clear that she holds to the key nominalist premise that intersex individuals negate the possibility of a general binary pattern to biological sex. and tries to avoid endorsing any one in particular. no longer operates within the binary framework that we take for granted.100 On first considering the Page study discussed above. and look at this issue of sex determination and the phenomenon of intersex from the philosophical perspective of my overarching argument. and genitalia have nothing to do with each other.”102 Butler seems to play with two ideas here: first. and chromosomal and hormonal dimensions. As I noted above. These philosophers all conclude that similarity. pushing them further and further down the nominalist road. Kessler and McKenna make a similar argument.99 Even though there is sexual variability. I need to step back a bit. I will have yet more to say about biological sex in the next chapter. gonads. determinate cause of sex leads the critics of that logic to the inverse conclusion. Any sign of variation is viewed as adequate proof that a category or kind is not in operation.101 Through the lenses of Monique Wittig’s ideas. and that sex. Butler continues with her speculations. Butler continues this train of thought. Wittig eventually argues that there are as many sexes as there are individuals. For now. some fairly fundamental processes must explain why most mammals are either male or female. and even though we have less than a full understanding of these events. as a category that comprises a variety of elements. these feminists – like Foucault. and Goodman before them in their own illustrations – conclude that the biological sex binary is a construction or a continuum.” she writes. and that there are no mechanisms tending to divide bodies into two types. When the physicalist standard of absolute certainty is inevitably proved impossible to attain.

108 But if it were really the case that we cannot know anything with certainty. reflects an ontologization of individuals and subindividuals. but rather that cultural assumptions regarding the relative status of men and women and the binary relation of gender itself frame and focus the research into sex-determination. and progesterone. commits the cardinal sin of claiming to know something about the extra-discursive. but so is the very discrimination of the “features” themselves. but how can you know for certain?” she told her audience. in a suggestion reminiscent of Foucault’s advocacy of strict empiricism.”105 But I think it is fair to say that this is close to Butler’s final position. further breaking the link between bodies and binary logic. as they laughed knowingly at the hapless naïf still dedicated to making affirmative statements.106 Thus. “Ahh. In one of the public lectures I have heard Butler deliver. Wittig’s argument that each person is a unique sex. as “one’s sex would be a radically singular property and would no longer be able to operate as a useful or descriptive generalization.72 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism unique – because slightly different – mix of each of the sex hormones androgen. that scientific studies correlating hormone levels and behavior could be conducted without the superimposition of the sex categories. too.” This.107 Thus.103 They propose. Even the category “body” is still a category.104 Butler simply points out that such arguments would entail the negation of sex. she boasted that she used this principle as a trump card whenever an opponent made an ontological claim. estrogen. she argues: [N]ot that valid and demonstrable claims cannot be made about sexdetermination. what exists outside of language and culture (“an impossible question to decide”)? This is a fairly safe philosophical warrant. underneath a number of Butler’s arguments about biological sex lurks the easiest of the poststructuralist and constructivist premises: how could we ever know. as it entails a grouping of traits. Butler accuses Foucault of this same foundationalism. including those stating that there are two sexes. given that her only criticism of it seems to be that it isn’t quite anti-foundationalist enough: Is there a “physical” body prior to the perceptually perceived body? An impossible question to decide. or that everybody-is-their-own-sex. Not only is the gathering of attributes under the category of sex suspect. with certainty. Butler occasionally pretends to this catholic openness. writing disparagingly of his positive references to “bodies and pleasures.109 . At one point in her lengthy analysis of intersex. no different. and her earlier argument that lesbians are somehow outside of culture. To make things interesting. philosophically speaking. than one of sex. we must entertain all prospects equally. and an extremely useful conversation-stopper.

She claims that her feminism is neither foundationalist nor antifoundationalist. in any absolute sense.111 In the essay “Contingent Foundations. She has never provided the means by which such tentative statements can be formulated or evaluated against one another. “not quite as the wind blows but as befits the context. In Bodies That Matter. while acknowledging the social constitution of knowledge. and remaining wary of attempts to cement human nature. but we can never grant them any objective truth.”114 Butler has stated that we can make tentative affirmative statements. as presented. well-established philosophies. Goodman advocates alternating between various versions of the world.” she further avows that her principles cannot be traced to any traditional philosophical position. or nihilists. Butler is agreeing that each of these philosophies results in the formulation of untenable absolutes. Temporary bodily truths can be affirmed (although Butler does not engage in such plebeian declarations on her own). pluralists. We cannot state with definitiveness that there are bodies and pleasures. in Bodies That Matter. Similarly. is so different from earlier. but nor can we reject the possibilities out of hand. Butler insists that the philosophy she is advocating escapes the traps of both idealism and materialism. She has repeatedly rejected the claim . In particular. and the like.”110 This appears to be the point of Butler’s exercise: neither to condemn nor condone. Butler’s “contingent foundations” calls to mind Goodman’s nominalistic “judicious vacillations” between competing world-views. [t]he point is not to do away with foundations. Yet I do not think Butler can fairly claim that her project. one should encourage and heed scientific studies of sex and the body. Once again. or an innate bisexuality. “But the undeniability of these ‘materialities’ in no way implies what it means to affirm them. but these should never be fixed into permanent categories. In the same breath.Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 73 I doubt that any thoughtful individual would challenge this proposition. this reads like sound feminist and philosophical advice. Butler writes that it must be possible to “concede” the reality of biology. Butler’s assertion obviously resembles my claim that the drive to ground knowledge in the absolute certainty of foundationalism can only result in failure and lead to relativism.112 Foundationalism and antifoundationalism are two sides of the same coin because each metaphilosophy ultimately claims to prove something: that there either is or is not objective knowledge. anatomy. Furthermore.113 As Butler both encourages and rejects the experimental results of science. efforts to find a biological basis for the sex categories. Both of those positions belong together as different versions of foundationalism and the skeptical problematic it engenders. she adds.” he wrote. “We are monists. or even to champion a position that goes under the name of antifoundationalism. From this perspective.

but this rebellion is . I will ultimately argue that behaviorism provides an incomplete understanding of human agency and the possibilities for social change. of the political strategies of feminist and sexuality movements. Although this constitutive constraint does not foreclose the possibility of agency. despite Butler’s protestations to the contrary.115 Without such an effort at conceptual clarification. immanent to power. or from that of other individuals openly avowing their positions on the basis of similar principles. However. . in Butler’s eyes. Rather. She suggests that agency lies not in some body or identity outside of or before power. Butler claims to be providing a rationale for the repudiation.116 For example. . Butler has argued that the creation of a category necessitates the making of a distinction between members of that class and all other individuals. Wittig and others overestimate the utopian potential of alternative forms of sexuality. it does locate agency as a reiterative or rearticulatory practice. is precisely that the subject who would resist such norms is itself enabled. she denounces all efforts to posit any sort of natural sex or sexuality. Her philosophy can thus be connected to Goodman’s nominalist ontology and relativist epistemology. Indeed. It is not my goal merely to accuse her of covert behaviorism. He explicitly calls his project by these names. by such norms. in this last section I will demonstrate that this rethinking of political strategies ends up being profoundly behaviorist. Butler tries to position herself between what she sees as two untenable extremes. in particular. Butler should similarly concede the nominalism and relativism inherent in her position. Behaviorist agency There is one last component to my analysis of Butler’s philosophical presuppositions. and not a relation of external opposition to power. if not produced. or at least a drastic rethinking.” hardly a foot in the door for further philosophical or biological study. She expands: The paradox of subjectivation . Butler is stalled at the thesis that all knowledge is equally mediated and equally defensible/indefensible. Once again.74 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism that any statement about what lies beyond culture can be defended objectively. but in the possibility for change implicit in this relationship between a category and its limits. or explain precisely how her philosophy differs from Goodman’s. Butler’s contention that sex is a construction and that there is no “outside” of culture has implications for our understanding of human agency and theories of social change. The most that Butler has said about the body is that it is “a demand in and for language. If Foucault nearly rules out the possibility of agency when he ascribes a monolithic power to discourse. the individual who resists the norms of heterosexuality via homosexual or bisexual practice is indeed rebelling.

or the “true” heterosexuals. and accordingly be raised as a daughter. “threaten[s] to expose the self-grounding presumptions of the sexed subject. Thus.119 A son might reject traditional male chores and demonstrate an interest in female tasks. Kessler and McKenna insist that sex is an accomplishment. the meeting of an externally set standard rather than the fulfillment of an internally driven programme. they provide a continual challenge to the “normal” individuals as reminders of a different way to be and think.” rather than the genitals one possessed. “[T]his disavowed abjection . Butler continues that the identity and social status of “normal” individuals are similarly dependent on the relationship between a category and its margins. One person’s confusing status could force others to rethink the sex and sexuality previously taken for granted.124 Here they are partly influenced by John Money’s theory of “gender neutrality. individuals in certain aboriginal populations who lived as members of the opposite sex. the rejection of those individuals unlike ourselves. the naturalness of the category “woman” is questioned when a man convincingly presents himself as a woman. yet it turns out that it depends on a relationship.Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 75 defined in terms of heterosexuality. Butler suggests. a well-known psychologist. not on a natural drive external to culture.122 Kessler and McKenna instead contend that in some cultures. In other words. would be literally meaningless without this connection to their socially superior cousin.. the existence of a sexually ambiguous baby or adult threatens the supposedly solid ground of the “real” boys and girls. The establishment of the category “normal sex” immediately introduces the possibility of “abnormal sex.” writes Butler. of the world. There is no natural homosexual force or drive upon which the individual draws. the criterion for determining sex is “the role one performed.123 Even amongst supposedly “normal” males and females in our culture. write Kessler and McKenna. .”120 In all likelihood. grounded as that subject is in a repudiation whose consequences it cannot fully control.118 For Butler.121 The traditional interpretation of the berdache is that the individuals are merely “treated like” the opposite sex. If sex can be contrived or performed. what could be so essential about it? Other feminist and queer theorists have expressed related arguments. There is only the possibility for behaving differently raised through the example of other behavior. Kessler and McKenna summarize the literature on berdache. A family with several daughters but no sons might “decide to make [a] child a son.” Homosexuality and bisexuality. . the berdache were biologically normal.”125 Money.”117 We believe that our sex is an expression of some fundamental inner truth. Even though the “abnormal” individuals are rejected by their culture. as there is nothing external to the operations of culture. had long argued that gender identity (the sense one has about one’s sex) was . our sex depends on a nonphenomenal connection to other sexes and sexualities.

128 Surely. for example. as it became evident that it was an abject failure. Butler summarizes: “Identifications are never simply or definitively made or achieved. For many years. they are insistently constituted. “will be at once an interpretation of the norm and an occasion to expose the norm itself as a privileged interpretation. Thus. Sensitive to criticisms that she anticipates the massive de-sexing of individuals in the wake of her writings. she cautions that her political openings are emphatically not those provided by a voluntarist subject. Because of Butler’s insistence that the sexed subject’s materiality is always within culture. Butler. and offers a possible explanation for the slow evolution of culture over time. However.76 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism not established until the age of three. no identity is stable. Butler clarifies that “it would be a mistake to associate ‘constructivism’ with ‘the freedom of a subject to form her/his sexuality as s/he pleases. Sex is not assumed in the way that one picks out clothes. years of feminist theory have shown us the extent to which gender is a highly variable phenomenon. that they issued a blanket proclamation: “Research clearly indicates that there are no causal links between gender identity or gender role and gonads. This argument provides a window for social change. in effect. mutation. contested.126 So confident were Kessler and McKenna of Money’s general premise. . Money convinced the parents to raise the child as a girl. and difficult to comprehend fully. Each citation or performance. and reveal that the norms themselves are ultimately cultural interpretations. complex.”130 Although our sense of self is dependent on our interpretation of and relation to the identity of others. Kessler. Without a secure origin. Gender parody also puts the heretical performer at the risk of violence or even death.132 Thus. when an infant had his penis ablated (the clinical term for removed) after it was horribly burnt in a botched circumcision. it is no easy matter to dissimulate one’s sex or sexuality. and negotiated. in mimicry and reaction there is inevitable. The ways in which we become our sex are many. or genitals. and was accordingly malleable up until that time. gender identity. The ongoing repetition of all such norms entails the inevitability that “real” girls and boys and “perfect” heterosexuals will fail to live up to the requirements of these ideals. and their own research. is a citation of the norms of womanhood. and McKenna go much further to argue that biological sex. gradual. she recognizes that gender parody is not an adequate strategy for the displacement of the dominant norms of sex. Money argued that the experiment was a complete success. Butler continues that even the limits of socially approved identities function as the basis for agency and change.”127 Readers may already know how Money’s experiment ended. internal reproductive organs. A performance of womanhood.”129 The copy will deviate from the original.’ ”131 Furthermore. and sexuality could become completely delinked if sex ambiguity became widespread. Butler writes. If every performance involves a variation – however slight – it can highlight the inauthenticity of the norm.

if individuals are constituted by a variety of discourses. de-sexing is a theoretical possibility for Butler.138 However. Butler continues. even as they employ such established monikers as . Correspondingly. Butler consistently maintains. Just as the lesbian or bisexual is constituted. if the establishment of any category necessitates the creation of an abject realm. nor does she furnish the means by which any could be made. that any resultant variations in identity will always be thoroughly social. as I suggested above. all statements on the behalf of “women” will entail the marginalization of some individuals.136 It may on occasion be desirable to refer to some sort of collective subject grounded in a category. for to be constituted is not to be determined.133 Because constitution is a never-ending process dependent on the citation. Butler writes: [T]here is some risk that in making the articulation of a subjectposition into the political task. however. and Butler denies that all categories are equally exclusionary and limiting. Implicit in the above paragraphs. Furthermore.” she writes. as the choices available to individuals are meaningful only in relationship to items already inscribed on the cultural menu. the foundation of a movement on the basis of a single identity is a limitation of potential for all involved. so are women in general. If women are discursively constituted in relation to men. The exclusion of minority women from the hegemonic projects of white.”135 This dilemma does not spell the end of emancipatory movements. and indeed the gist of Butler’s entire analysis to this point. including that of women. “is to enforce a reduction and a paralysis. “To prescribe an exclusive identification for a multiply constituted subject. defending a movement on the basis of “women’s rights” further fixes an identity that is the effect of a hierarchical discourse.137 Butler concedes that normative judgments need to be made in the establishment of political goals. some of the strategies of abjection wielded through and by hegemonic subject-positions have come to structure and contain the articulatory struggles of those in subordinate or erased positionalities. Butler herself never offers such normative judgments.Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 77 However. and hence variation. the opportunity for change does exist. She simply asserts that the resulting norms must remain indeterminate and tentative. even that of sex. Butler suggests that it is counter-productive to the agendas of feminism and other social movements to make ontological claims regarding the distinctness and priority of any body or identity.134 A supposedly liberatory movement can duplicate the patterns of the dominant culture in establishing the feminist identity. of social norms. it is necessary to use such categories if one is to gain political recognition within our current system. is the thesis that there are no natural women outside of or before gender waiting to be liberated by feminism. In fact. however. middle-class feminists is perhaps the best-known example.

and atrocities at the other.”143 As a consequence.144 In the way that cultural norms of sex define our identities as men and women. the word sticks and stings. This distinction permits Butler to distance herself from those who advocate censorship because of the harmful impact of hate speech. a gap opens up between word and event. Butler suggests that heterosexuals could see that the belief in their “naturalness” literally requires the existence of the “unnatural” alternatives.139 This goal effectively marks the political adaptation of Butler’s “contingent foundationalism” and nominalist/irrealist ontology. Men would discover that masculinity entails the abnegation of the feminine. homosexuality and bisexuality. The former enact a deed as soon as they are uttered. her analysis of hate speech. Butler cautions against censorship laws while granting that slurs and epithets do harm. Butler immediately warns. too. in part.” Butler hopes that. She now accepts the distinction between two kinds of performative utterances: illocutions and perlocutions. would have been sympathetic to censorship. and femininity. One might have expected that her philosophy.140 This aspect of poststructuralism is perhaps its most optimistic proposal. when someone calls us by a slur. Rigid senses of identity are undoubtedly responsible for considerable personal unhappiness at one end of the scale.”142 The latter aid in the performance of a deed. The political strategy of censoring hate speech assumes. Epithets do not immediately constitute the things they name. and it is justifiably lauded. the rejection of certain possibilities.145 Thus. “I invest no ultimate political hope in the possibility of avowing identifications that have conventionally been disavowed. and awaken to the liberatory possibility of a more diffuse sense of self. Perhaps in recognition of this uncharacteristic hopefulness. the illocutionary approach.”141 Hate speech Butler further elaborates her understanding of agency in Excitable Speech. Although few details are presented. mistakenly. as do the ceremonial statements “I now pronounce you man and wife. Butler suggests that hate speech is an example of a perlocutionary utterance. contending that slurs by definition take instant effect. but do not enact the deed in and of themselves. However.78 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism “women” or “lesbians. New political identities would no longer entail fixedness or stasis along with the corresponding rejection of otherness. we depend in general on being named. we can begin conceiving of ourselves in a way that would not absolutely exclude whatever it is that is allegedly different from us. All could recognize the limitations inherent in a static identification. Butler asks rhetorically: “Why should a merely linguistic address produce such a response of fear? Is it not. emphasizing the marginalizing potential of linguistic labels.” and “guilty. in the process. because the contemporary address . The speech act and its consequences are “temporally distinct.

it is natural that words can hurt. For Butler. it can gradually lose most of its power to hurt. Butler wants no part of the reductivist physicalism that inspired the behaviorist rejection of consciousness. Despite the use of a different language. “The body believes in what it plays at: it weeps if it mimes grief. and emotion as explanatory variables.”157 The claims Butler makes here for performative politics are thus substantial. or in a specific referent in the world – they would forever maintain their capacity to injure. Butler closes Excitable Speech with the following declaration: “Insurrectionary speech becomes the necessary response to injurious language.”156 If grief can be so constructed.155 She cites Pierre Bourdieu favorably when he writes. If we use hate speech or pornography in a positive or amusing ironic fashion. . there are no extra-linguistic or extra-cultural . her statements about the potential of recontextualization are quite dramatic. .159 Certainly.”151 Were we to censor speech and porn – insisting that their meaning is fixed in the foundational intent of the speaker. It will become so recontextualized that its original meaning will be almost (although not ever completely) lost. what they say about us. the best way to target hate speech is the “restaging and resignifying” of hate words. . instinct. . While she does not explicitly rule out other types of political action. pornography proliferating derogatory images of women is best challenged through the resignification of its content.” she insists. the implication is that we can effectively change people if we alter what we say about them and. eventually.154 Butler periodically indicates that rearticulation is the only form of struggle possible. Seyla Benhabib has similarly noted the connection.148 Women can make pornography that defies the meanings of most sexually explicit material. a risk taken in response to being put at risk. Quine. freedom.”150 Butler writes.152 Butler contends that much political action in the past several decades has been a form of this redefinition.149 “[S]peech is . and behaviorism. “[it] is finally constrained neither by its specific speaker nor its originating context.147 Similarly. vulnerable to failure. because.153 The attempts by various social movements to be granted equality. as the definition of these words is challenged and rewritten. thus. “[T]he logic of iterability . I am convinced that this analysis shows many signs of influence by twentieth-century behaviorism. governs the possibility of social transformation. and justice are performative and rearticulatory. Yet she redefines these variables in comparable fashion. As gender norms are challenged through ironic parody.158 which Butler has explicitly and adamantly rejected.Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 79 recalls and reenacts the formative ones that gave and give existence?”146 Our social existence is brought into being through language. Rosa Parks was reiterating the actions of whites when she sat at the front of the bus. Yet Butler’s preferred strategy for challenging hate speech is to take the words that hurt us and mimic them in a slightly different context. a repetition in language that forces change. Quinean and otherwise.


Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism

dimensions to anything, either in the world or in our minds. The linguistic community mediates which aspects of the environment will be discriminated, and which aspects of the person will become the self. Behavior or speech is either mimicry (albeit inexact) or reaction. Interestingly enough, the concept “performance” that Butler champions (or her preferred variant, performativity, to note the ongoing nature of the process) was often used by behaviorists to describe the actions of their experimental subjects. “Performance” supposedly captured the notion that subjects were behaving as scripted, rather than expressing internal states or capacities.160 Clearly this is a key principle for Butler as well. There is, all the same, considerable truth to Butler’s thesis of “rearticulation,” as she calls it. Most serious thinkers acknowledge that the individual is not the purely self-constituting origin of his or her thoughts, utterances, and actions. Behaviorism surely explains some aspects of linguistic acquisition and transmission. Regardless, Noam Chomsky’s famous reply to Skinner years ago mounts important criticisms of Butler’s theory as well.161 Consider these simple examples from Chomsky’s criticism. When individuals see a painting and some respond with the word “tilted,” some with “beautiful,” and others with “clashes with the wallpaper,” Chomsky insists that Skinner can only conclude that each response is under the control of different physical stimuli.162 Butler replaces the notion of physical stimuli with discursive stimuli. If individuals are heterosexual or homosexual, racist or egalitarian, this signifies only that each person is constituted within a slightly different discursive regime. Chomsky locates two difficulties with this general approach. It either makes implicit reference to internal qualities of the individual in question (why that person chose the response they did), or, failing these covert references, it turns to an empty notion of reinforcement. In the first case, there is agency, in that the individual somehow focuses on different stimuli or different discursive regimes. But how or why these differences occur is left unexplored. The notion that individuals could choose one alternative over another is apparently dismissed. Chomsky argues that the behaviorist rejection of reasoned choice as a variable leads to the absurdity that torturing someone to say that the earth is motionless is the same as changing his or her opinion.163 Both are apparently conditioned responses. While we must continue to challenge the notion that the individual is fully self-constituting, the a priori alternative that people are simply determined or constituted into their social roles must be avoided. As Chomsky put it, to assume otherwise is to insinuate that “people have wills, impulses, feelings, purposes, and the like no more than rocks do.”164 This leads to the second difficulty. Butler would surely deny that she is reducing people to rocks. Instead, she turns our attention away from inner factors to constitutive discourses, whereas Skinner emphasizes reinforcing physical stimuli. Chomsky asserts that these forces are so vague as to be completely non-explanatory:

Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism 81 Skinner’s claim that all verbal behavior is acquired and maintained . . . through reinforcement is quite empty, because his notion of reinforcement has no clear content, functioning only as a cover term for any factor, detectable or not, related to acquisition or maintenance of verbal behavior.165 I suggest that this is a valid, and perhaps the most important, criticism of Butler’s notion of discursive constitution. It functions as a cover term for any and every fact related to the acquisition or maintenance of behavior, verbal and otherwise. As Chomsky concludes, we know no more about the process of learning, or the role of agency, than we did before, when we were naïve voluntarists.166 In a way, the theory of discursive constitution reminds me of the rational actor model. Both are totalizing. If every action is rational, or discursively constituted, it becomes difficult to explain why people behave differently in similar circumstances. Butler’s rejoinder that these defectors are constituted in reaction to the discursive norm may open up the explanatory door somewhat, but it is still extremely unhelpful in its generality. I thus question whether Skinnerian conditioning or Butlerian resignification adds sufficiently to our knowledge of human motivation and behavior. In the example of Rosa Parks, Butler’s argument that she was “rearticulating” the concepts of freedom and equality tells us nothing more about Rosa Parks, racism, or the fight against it. Why was it Rosa Parks that was able to engage in her brave act? Why did she refuse to give up her seat in 1955, and not 1950? Butler can only reply that Parks was somehow able to tap into a relationship between the discourse of racism and another discursive network. The reference to the individual is thus thrown back to discourse, in an apparent loop with no origin other than the whole of language, culture, and the individuals inhabiting their domains. If the regress is ever to be terminated, behaviorism and now poststructuralism seem to adhere to the view that human behavior is random, and only fixed as it is selected and reinforced by the community. Such a solution to the very difficult problem of explaining human behavior appears to be a covert retreat into either metaphysics or, perhaps, even the mathematical concept of chance. There are certainly other ways in which Butler’s project is remote from Quine’s and Skinner’s behaviorism. Yet she has primarily defended herself against the charge of behaviorism by arguing that her “subject” of discourse is never final or fixed. As I have summarized, the capacity for intention or agency is located in either the individual’s inexact mimicry of norms, or the reaction made possible by relationships between two or more norms. Butler writes: To be constituted by language is to be produced within a given network of power/discourse which is open to resignification,

82 Poststructuralist and constructivist feminism redeployment, subversive citation from within, and interruption and inadvertent convergences with other such networks. “Agency” is to be found precisely at such junctures where discourse is renewed.167 Every single woman will perform a slightly different version of womanhood. A lesbian woman’s actions are constituted in relation to the sanctioned norms of heterosexuality. A constituted identity is never fully determined, and thus the thesis of rearticulation is allegedly not behaviorist.168 Yet it was no part of Skinner’s doctrine to argue that human behavior was inalterable, or that identities were fixed. For both Butler and Skinner, as we are always already conditioned, social change is the result of reconditioning. Butler has argued that hate speech can be recontextualized and hence redefined because it has no fixed links to either the hateful speaker’s intent or to a condition in the world. The only thing cementing the meaning of a word – and this is a relative cementing – is its repeated association with a particular context. Individuals have thus been conditioned into these word–context linkages. Because context varies, it becomes possible to orchestrate the variation to the advantage of individuals injured by hate speech. When minority members accept an epithet, but insist that its “meaning” is now altered, individuals who originally utter the word with hateful intentions will be reconditioned. The target of the hate speech apparently accepts the designation ironically, thwarting the original speaker’s goal. The original speaker has, in Skinner’s language, been punished. The best chance for a more equal society, for both Skinner and Butler, depends on getting people to associate old words with new contexts; in effect, reconditioning people in the expectation that this will change behavior. I do not think Butler’s refutation gets to the heart of the allegation: it is the rejection of instincts, natural capacities, and the like, that is the hallmark of behaviorism. Butler has consistently maintained one of two things. Either we have no means of knowing whether there is any innate sex or sexuality because discourse mediates all of our knowledge, or there are no such inner forces because these are either overridden by or intertwined with cultural forces. She has now articulated a more general theory of agency in which reference to spontaneous instincts or a capacity to reason existing prior to culture or language is similarly forbidden. Agency, as I just summarized, is a cultural “rearticulation,” not an expression of innate tendencies, urges, potentials, or reason. Agency is either inexact mimicry or reaction. Butler’s overall philosophy is extremely close to Quine’s and Goodman’s in its relativism and nominalism; her political analysis is not as far from Skinnerian and Watsonian behaviorism as she has proclaimed.

” she notes. writes that realism supports our knowledge by explaining what it is and how we acquired it. In place of unconditional a priori foundations. to provide the most convincing answer to the following question: what best explains our knowledge? Roy Bhaskar thus asserts that critical realism asks after “the conditions of the possibility of some significant or pervasive feature of our experience. yet denies that all beliefs are equally valid. Realists. nominalism and behaviorism of the preceding two chapters. Constructivists and poststructuralists are also trying to provide their own answer to the question of what explains our knowledge. While Butler. structures. then. realists look to a posteriori explanations. “[i]f we could give no explanation at all of what our knowledge is or of how we come to have it.”1a Bhaskar acknowledges that all beliefs are socially produced. and other “universals. surely we would have reason to contemplate being skeptics. There are rational grounds for preferring one belief or theory to another. however.2 Ruth Millikan.”4 Realists contend that the best philosophical explanation for our persistent conception of regularities and kinds is that the universe does indeed have a structure. This chapter focuses specifically on the nominalist aspect of constructivism and poststructuralism. .3 “Put it negatively. If it is countered that this solution misses the larger philosophical point of an absolute guarantee for our knowledge.”1 What must the world be like given that we regularly have certain kinds of experiences? Tony Lawson writes that the answer will be “an assessment of the broad nature of reality or features of it. Realism characteristically posits the existence of a special class of entities. the sorts of things rejected by nominalism: causal mechanisms.5 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism In this chapter and the next I will develop a realist alternative to the relativism.” Yet contemporary realists have no intention of trying to refute Humean skepticism. kinds. realists are no longer troubled by the shortcoming. The goal for a realist philosophy becomes. a theory of (aspects of) ontology. It is certainly possible that the sun will not rise tomorrow. though she doesn’t use the “critical realist” label. challenge the belief that absolute certainty needed to be the goal for philosophy or science in the first place.

both physical and behavioral. other than through vague reference to further discursive regimes. An alternative explanation was provided on just as many occasions as the temptation was resisted. the contention that all categories and kinds are culturally or discursively constructed leads to an untenable equating of correlation and causation. they seldom rest content with the assertion that natural kinds or causal mechanisms may not exist. and kinds is that these experiences are discursively and culturally constructed. The situation confronting theorists is rather. in order to refute the thesis of natural necessity. . the twentieth-century Humean Nelson Goodman claims that “anything may follow upon anything. but highly unlikely. Overall. categories.”5 I want to show that three particular dilemmas flow from the adoption of constructivist or poststructuralist nominalism. Causal structures The classical Humean formulation of the problem of induction charges that it is always possible that an exception to a hypothesized regularity will surface. and asserted that the best explanation for our experience of causal structures. Given that constructivism and poststructuralism provide this competing explanation for our knowledge.84 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism Foucault. one of a “rational choice” between competing philosophies. Contemporary constructivists and poststructuralists have simply pointed to the many actual exceptions to processes that allegedly operate with universal efficacy. But it is not necessary to resort to the realm of the logically possible. Finally. The example of prime significance for Butler and Foucault and their followers is the existence of sexual variety. now defined as cultural posits. and misguided in its understanding of the world. I showed that these thinkers defended a form of nominalism. it is not simply a case of comparing – as poststructuralists and constructivists have sometimes intimated – a naïve and metaphysical realism with a sophisticated and skeptical constructivism. and the various other poststructuralists and constructivists we have come across occasionally indicate that they are simply throwing doubt on philosophical or scientific certainty. based on “assessments of their relative merits. Second. as Richard Boyd suggests. Thus. In varying degrees. adherence to the thesis that theories about kinds or categories are voided by exceptions is unjustified for a philosophy positing that there is no unmediated access to reality. a single solution to these three problems is found in the realist positing of underlying structures or mechanisms producing the empirical regularities and kinds as well as the exceptions. are voided by their exceptions) makes it difficult to explain the appearance of exceptions to supposedly hegemonic discursive forces.”6 and declares that green emeralds may turn blue at some future point in time. the synthesis of these two theses (categories or kinds. First. The birth of babies with ambiguous genitalia or atypical chromosome or hormonal patterns.

The contention that theories can be disproved requires an ontological commitment just as firm as the one supporting the contention that theories can be proved. poststructuralists deny that theories are susceptible to empirical testing. To argue that nature is not one way is to imply that there is a causal order preventing the world from taking that path.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 85 and the examples of individuals who assume the identity of the opposite or a third sex. the latter seems to depend on a related assumption. false?”9 Consistent poststructuralists and constructivists must abandon their allegations that certain theories have been disproved because of the existence of exceptions. relying as it does on a definitive statement about the structure of the universe. itself in need of inductive support. Without the positing of some natural order or structure. While Goodman never declares that any particular theory is true. therefore. It is Foucault and Butler who succumb fully to the temptation to reject specific theories on the basis of empirical evidence. poststructuralists and constructivists retain an option . that the future will not be unlike the past in relevant aspects. This dilemma was already evident in Goodman’s combination of ontological relativism with nominalism. an assumption equally in need of inductive support. As Andrew Sayer notes.7 This poststructuralist and constructivist dismissal of certain theories is problematic and stands in need of explanation. Quine avoided this problem only by assiduously refusing to defend or reject nominalism after an initial flirtation with the doctrine. while they at the same time reject the idea that we could have any unmediated access to reality. summons the same Humean problem of induction as does proving a theory. yet here they are denying the truth of certain theories on the basis of empirical exceptions. the claim that a theory has been disproved is still an ontological claim. Roy Bhaskar asks: “[W]hat is there to prevent nature altering so that our most decisively rejected theories turn out true and our most cherished falsifiers. he is emphatic that the general realist principle positing the existence of natural kinds and categories is false. implicitly universal.8 Disproving a theory. Yet such a conclusion is drawn against the backdrop of a philosophy insisting that there is no unmediated access to the workings of the world. are held to invalidate or at least seriously undermine the contention that there is causal structure naturally dividing bodies into males and females. While the former seems to depend on the inductive assumption that the future will be like the past in relevant respects. Rom Harré and Michael Krausz elaborate: [T]he supposed asymmetry between confirming a hypothesis as true and disconfirming it as false is difficult to defend. Of course. Although there are certainly more ways for a theory to be wrong than right.

and a range of other sex traits. there would be virtually nothing distinctive about the philosophy. it is the particular constellation of observable characteristics each individual possesses. it appears to be the case that a theory has been falsified. It would no longer be possible to assert definitively that. The most that can be said is that from our particular nature/discourse regime. sex is not structured according to the binary male/female. As I said at the time.12 First. John Guillory comments that the moderated poststructuralist position “is so inoffensive – it is at best warmed over Kant – that one wonders what all the fuss was about. However. recall that for Hume. we must mount a more substantial realist challenge to poststructuralism and constructivism. If “sex” is anything.13 Recall also that Hume sanctioned the search for constant empirical con- . is not so structured. However. it is hard to imagine a more unobjectionable position. a certain form of genitalia. Foucault and Butler periodically concede that individuals might possess a set of chromosomes. one that doesn’t allow its proponents to wriggle away from the heart of most of their arguments.”11 Thus. But were this indeed the heart of poststructuralism and constructivism. as did Goodman in his wake. From this perspective. Some have commented on the tendency of poststructuralists and constructivists to fall back on this relatively innocuous position when challenged by evidence of the implications of their theories.10 We witnessed this maneuver in Butler’s writings when she indicated that she wouldn’t want to rule out the possibility of “valid and demonstrable claims” being made about biological sex. or the more all-purpose claim that our understanding of the world is inevitably mediated.86 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism allowing them to maintain their overall doctrine in the face of this initial realist challenge. for the moment anyway. they repeatedly insist that there is no sexual structure connecting these various attributes. connecting or explaining the occurrence of particular empirical events. regularities represent nothing more than a “constant conjunction” of empirical observations. with the accent on empirical. As a consequence. Hume forbade induction to underlying structures causing. the separate contribution of “nature” is impossible to delineate. it is still impossible to declare that some theories have been disproved. for example. Roy Bhaskar observes that poststructuralism and constructivism are held hostage to traditional epistemological paradigms in two fundamental ways. though we must watch for our tendency to impose cultural beliefs about gender onto them. This is the argument that the posited “exceptions” or “resistances” to potential theories are present to us only as tangled nature–culture webs. One must rest content with saying that it appears that sex. A far more serious charge is that poststructuralism and constructivism promote a faulty understanding of the operations of the natural and social world. Bhaskar calls this the principle of empirical invariance. with the adoption of this position. Barbara Epstein sees this as a strategic move.

The generalization ridiculed by philosophers from Nietzsche onward is Molière’s doctor’s claim that opium induces sleep because it has dormitive properties.18 Caroline New adds that the necessity is one internal to the relationships being analyzed. Caroline New chides these philosophies for their implicit belief. as we look for the most likely cause or causes of some event or other. poststructuralist.16 The grounds for abstraction “lie in the real stratification (and ontological depth) of nature and society. whereas a bad abstraction is based on non-necessary relationships. Realists maintain that explanation of any sort would be more or less impossible without abstraction. if not all.”17 Andrew Sayer argues that a good abstraction is one that isolates necessary relationships. The goal for knowledge.” as is the case for many of the realists in this book. are not troubled by the suggestion that there are underlying causal structures producing empirical patterns as well as exceptions. but it must make reference to “relatively enduring and transfactually active” causal forces operating at a deeper level than those events that are immediately perceived. Positivists later advocated that the formulation of scientific theories should proceed deductively in the same manner as the rules of logic: an outcome had to be guaranteed given its premises. poststructuralists and constructivists are not particularly troubled by this lack because of their “deep suspicion of causal argument. and categories or kinds are considered legitimate only when every individual within them is identical.15 Abstraction may originate in a generalization or conjunction. occasional departures from it. Positivists accordingly denounced the social sciences for their inability to uncover principles as determinate as those found in physics. external connections can be unearthed.’ ”14 Theories are verified only when 100 percent accurate predictions of empirical events can be obtained. or that realist philosophers have first names beginning with the letter “R. whether you are a positivist. the relationship is not reflective of an underlying structure.19 If only non-necessary. Abstraction thus depends on the introduction of new concepts that explain both the Humean “constant conjunction” and many. no truth. on the other hand. . have accepted the logician’s conclusion: a theory should either be demonstrated deterministically or it must be discarded.20 As New notes. I have already made much of the fact that poststructuralists and constructivists. is still absolute certainty. Bhaskar insists that the identification of a real structure depends on the formulation of an abstraction as opposed to a generalization based on a conjunction. Thus. if no guarantees.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 87 junctions. But it cannot rest with such an identification. while disparaging the connection between logic and knowledge. it is a bad generalization to conclude that black people are more likely to commit crime. Bhaskar calls this the principle of instance confirmation (and I would add the reverse. Realists. instance falsification). “ ‘No truth without guarantees. of abstractions. or constructivist. The uncovering of a structure indeed often begins with the observation of a constant empirical conjunction.

and no less explanatory. bowel. Consider this example of a regularity-hiding disjunction. with its complete rejection of the concept of similarity. and by extension the constructivist and poststructuralist. knowledge of biological structures can explain why skin color is not a very convincing explanation for crime. it is vital to acknowledge that empirical conjunctions are only the starting point for further investigation. Regardless. and codeine (C18H21O3N) – scientists abstracted to a new level of reality permitting the understanding of a class of alkaloid chemicals called phenanthrenes. cannot posit any necessary connection between the molecular properties of opium and its tendency to make people sleepy. the drug was not withdrawn from the market until 1961 in some countries. as Tony Lawson notes. unproductive of future study. Some have thumbs with three joints. of these. or hands with only three fingers. and. while others extended their skepticism until the end of 1962. empirical disjunctions may reflect underlying structural differences or obscure underlying similarities. His effort to find a more regular pattern effectively delays the withdrawal of the drug from the market. poststructuralism and constructivism are most unhelpful regarding the latter kind of phenomenon.” The latter constant conjunction is false. When a doctor finally suspects that a single drug is responsible. babies are being born with a range of defects. poststructuralists and constructivists regularly make claims that “everywhere there are differences. partial and so forth.24 This is the true story of thalidomide. When it was discovered that opium induces sleep because it does indeed contain certain substances – morphine (C17H19O3N).23 Alternatively. Unfortunately. and are alleged to negate the uniqueness of every individual and event. In my view. or that differences matter. less informative. thebaine (C19H21O3N). or that knowledge is situated. Lastly. For example. Though the first child with thalidomide defects was born at the end of 1956. it turns out that these species are more or less immune to the effects of the drug. some are deaf.88 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism and of generalization. Almost half of such infants die before their first birthday. Some are missing ears and. uterine. most importantly. than the sorts that realists make. But at the same time. some have either hands or feet attached to abbreviated limbs. Some have eye and face muscle defects.”21 Causal arguments are immediately linked with determinism. Some have heart. “whenever men smoke opium they fall asleep. or gallbladder malformations. Conjunctions may reveal underlying structural similarities or betray underlying differences. It turns out that the effects of the drug changed depending on the number of days into a woman’s . The Humean.”22 Such claims are no less general. he attempts to test his hypothesis on mice and guinea pigs. Hence the appeal of nominalism. the sleeping pill prescribed for morning sickness in the 1950s and early 1960s. Imagine that around the world. Bhaskar notes that the “dormitive properties” explanation propounded by Molière’s doctor is actually preferable to the Humean option.

can also be very illuminating.25 But as I have just shown. trained as it is to see the rare or unusual as “anecdotal” evidence. advocate that a specific cause should produce one effect and one effect only. leading to an abstraction and deeper understanding. generally strict adherents of a deterministic laboratory methodology. Toxicologists. in fact. but realism contends that relationships between individuals serve to structure society in a way that has real consequences that can also be profitably studied. Oddly then. signaling a potential problem. Any attempt to make a generalization. One does not have to be a realist philosopher to be troubled by the case of thalidomide. A tendency in poststructuralism and constructivism. However. hunt with awareness of the flight path of their weapons and the forward motion of animals. Biological laws require physical entities. I have trouble seeing how empiricism.27 “The hypothesis . It is consequently implied that realist abstraction is nothing more than theology dressed up in pseudoscientific garb. they are physical entities. it is not just Western science that employs the concept of causality as a mode of explanation. With the link between logic and knowledge superficially severed as it is in poststructuralism and constructivism. when philosophy is identified with logic and mathematics. while deeper understanding is often shunned on the other. is thoroughly Humean in its devotion to the constant empirical conjunction.”26 Social laws require the existence of material individuals. In making reference to causal structures. the particular is heralded on one hand. While it might be the case that faith in God has been similarly justified. could and has been viewed with suspicion. “the locus of a real generative mechanism. For realists. particularly those that are highly unusual. abstraction and theology cannot be so unquestioningly equated.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 89 pregnancy that she consumed it. the claim that structures operate “beyond” events is not an argument locating them in a realm of spirit or Platonic form. grounding some but not other possibilities. and single causes can produce multiple effects. People everywhere farm with some knowledge of the change of seasons. just like Molière’s pedantic doctor. The medical profession.” Bhaskar asserts. This is known as the “specificity of effect” requirement. However. I cannot deny that realism is in a fundamental sense metaphysical. and strike or stroke one another with the recognition that this will usually provoke a response. and demonstrating the typical health of the normal pattern in contrast. a radical departure from the typical patterns of the human body is a warning sign. disjunctions. can motivate its proponents to examine anomalies from anything other than a perspective trumpeting variability and difference. but certainly prevalent in philosophy since Nietzsche. including the constructivist and poststructuralist varieties. the particular is ignored because it cannot be accommodated in universal categories. “[T]he logical subject of a law of nature is a natural kind of thing. Whatever its many flaws. is the equation of any hypothesis about causation with a hidden faith in God.

scientific realism must be thought of as a component of a general naturalistic and antifoundationalist epistemology.90 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism that a baby is at least uncomfortable. unique reasonableness. and explain this further using laws of meteorology. These examples illustrate what it means to have a concept of one thing’s general operation having the capacity to cause (or not cause) another’s particular manifestation. but this is the regress of natural history. The cultural realm poses a “resistance” to our wishes that is equally a manifestation of causal laws. more explanatory strata of the world consisting of structures or mechanisms causing these events. demonstrates that realism need not be troubled by its similarly natural explanations. In all cases. Contrary to Hume and all the various forms of nominalist empiricism. Richard Boyd summarizes: “Thus. as we are not in possession of knowledge of a first cause. the forbidden infinite regress of explanation is invoked. One cannot simply will oneself to be perceived as a female or a male. The realist explanation does lead to an infinite regress. therefore. The resultant . The cultural forces that constructivists and poststructuralists tout as constitutive of sex reflect the existence of a causal order. an intervention is required. then. as Butler herself cautions. poststructuralists and constructivists regularly break their own nominalist ban on abstraction. nor can one perform gender in any old way. realists explicitly argue that our experience of the world shows a distinction between events and deeper. when crying.”29 Contemporary realism is. and further with laws of physics. and accept the implications of our causal connections nonetheless. and that rain cannot fall from a cloudless sky. I do not see how such a general cultural presentation of the body can have a discernible causal effect on perception when constructivists and poststructuralists deny the possibility of any general potency to the biological or physical components of sex. we must present ourselves in a certain way in order to compel others to think of us as male or female. say. metaphysical in that its explanation for our experience hypothesizes about structures operating beyond our immediate perception.30 Andrew Sayer similarly remarks that “we cannot understand any kind of change – not even that produced by discourses – without implying causation. We accept the explanation that wind causes leaves to blow. one that demonstrates a general relationship between social cause and effect. when categorizing emeralds into the grue category or babies into the girl or boy category. Roy Bhaskar also argues that poststructuralism and constructivism implicitly and perhaps unknowingly depend on their own notion of causation and abstraction. In each of these cases. . .” summarizes Richard Miller. Therefore. to a far greater extent than has been widely recognized. “seems to have .”31 If we are indeed able to follow discursive rules or cultural norms.”28 We have similarly good reason to believe that wind causes leaves to blow. a concept of causation must be employed. That we are not driven to distraction by this failure of grounding.

it is a multiplicity of mechanisms jointly producing the course of events.35 Think of it this way: not everything that can happen does happen.”33 Andrew Collier quips: “Nature is neither a closed system nor just one damned thing after another.”37 Once we have a better understanding of causal structures. systems are open and far more unpredictable. She may or may not choose to actually conceive. Realism introduces a necessary . Richard Miller provides the following description: [A] theory tells us that certain mechanisms cause certain patterns to occur when the latter do occur. or that certain mechanisms are typically the causes of the most important features of certain phenomena.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 91 realist ontology can be expressed in a variety of related ways. “the results of controlled experiments are regularly successfully applied outside the experimental laboratory. yet they express complete faith that laboratory methods offer an apt understanding of nature. but she has the potential. and actualized events may or may not be perceived. Causal structures or mechanisms may or may not be actualized. a woman is capable of becoming pregnant if the necessary. we can obtain some sense of how they will operate outside of experimental situations. Bhaskar posits the existence of three ontological layers. distinguishing between the “real” structures and mechanisms that establish the potentials and limitations of a thing (which can also be further stratified). because without the control of the lab. persuasively argues that the scientific practice of experimentation would be inexplicable were it not for this structured nature of reality.32 Rom Harré expresses this relationship in a slightly different fashion. and many other calamities. Thus. tempered by today’s awareness that potentials are often not realized. and the “empirical” event that humans may or may not witness.” as it were.36 Yet as Tony Lawson notes. or that the mechanisms described have a certain impact on phenomena when the former are strong enough. Scientists must conduct experiments in order to determine the nature of the structures operating “in the wild. “has a Tendency which if Released. the “actual” effects of such laws. “A Particular Being. Bhaskar.”34 Finally. real mechanisms cause her to become fertile. is manifested in some observable Action but when Blocked has no observable effect. A closed system must be created. unpredicted side effects of prescription drugs. Contemporary realism therefore clearly invokes the old and often wrongly ridiculed Aristotelian distinction between potential and actual. in a certain type of situation. happens for a reason or a cause. But I would also caution that the belief that what happens in the lab will be replicated outside of it has resulted in environmental contamination. in one of the founding texts of critical realism.” states Harré. Many scientists distrust field studies because of the lack of control they offer. whereas everything that does happen.

now posit that as different realms of life evolve. or political phenomena determined by the biological.38 The biological emerged from the physical and chemical.” i. emergentism.”42 If an axiom is true in geometry. the reverse is the case.” he notes. nor are psychological. Cameron continues that as a consequence of this . social. psychology. Rich Cameron provides a more contemporary summary of three key principles of emergentism. “[I]ndeterminacy does not mean lack of cause.41 Once again. While it is not necessary that particular individuals will have children. In biology. nonemergent entities and properties. that also which precedes it will exist or does exist. While underlying physical and chemical laws are not broken by biological organisms or social systems. As Sayer argues.. the deduced proofs follow necessarily.45 Emergentists accept an “ultimate physical ontology. though we cannot deny the possibility that another. But the laws of physics.39 The biological is not determined by the physical. as it is hypothesized that life originated in various bits of organic and inorganic matter. This distinction between levels of reality has some support in the natural sciences. similarity at one level does not preclude difference at a higher level.”40 Post hoc explanation must often take the place of prediction in these less certain realms of investigation. that there are some “basic.92 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism distinction between levels of reality. including emergent properties. the complexity of interactions increases. greater complexity and variability will be evident amongst living things than is the case for purely physical entities. it is necessary that all children have parents. I think that Aristotle is the unacknowledged source of these emphatically realist arguments. primarily biologists.e. emergentists recognize that the kinds of things that physicists study are the fundamental building blocks of the universe. biology. “The mode of necessity.” clarifies noted biologist Ernst Mayr. yet more fundamental. “and the mode of demonstration are different in natural sciences. A number of scientists. Natural necessity is hypothetical. “but merely unpredictability.”44 If we were to point to cloned babies as a potential contradiction to the necessity of parents.”46 Thus. layer or layers may exist. chemistry. whereas geometric or arithmetic necessity is mechanistic and unconditional. or non-reductive materialism. Aristotle cautioned that the standard of proof in the natural sciences differs from that of mathematics. Yet such variability does not mean that there are no relatively constant biological or even sociological features. however. embarrassed as we seemingly are to recognize any indebtedness to a thinker of the distant past. and provides fuller recognition of the openness of most systems. for example. Aristotle might remind us that things in the biological world are true for the most part.43 The structure of propositions in the natural sciences is thus of the following form: “If the end is to exist or does exist. and sociology become progressively less deterministic. The general philosophy has been called a number of things.

Spokespersons for cigarette companies once argued that smoking did not cause cancer because some smokers do not develop the disease. In the next chapter I will discuss ways in which our social nature. an emergent property. The second principle of emergentism insists that causal relations amongst these micro-level mechanisms generate new and novel entities. the principle of instance falsification is used to discredit many hypothesized cases of environmental contamination due to chemicals. Lawson notes that language. may play a role in our biological evolution. the study of biological sex will inevitably reveal the existence of micro-level mechanisms contributing to macro-level properties. Many cognitive psychologists argue that the properties of mind and consciousness similarly emerge from brains. emergentism is not reductionist.”47 Thus. is one such social structure. But in other cases. as it does not grant micro-level entities “hegemony” in explanation. physicalism is employed dogmatically. Obsessed with certainty as a means of guarding against false discovery.49 Thus. scientific or otherwise. As I indicated earlier.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 93 acknowledgment. Physicalism and reductivism still garner more than their share of adherents. But we can intervene in these laws. but it . For example. The classic example is that a particular combination of hydrogen and oxygen produces water. and have led to many scientific discoveries. causing things to occur that would not have otherwise. We might view this denial as a product of our ignorant past. and using the physical sciences as their ideal. as poststructuralists and constructivists insist.50 This does not mean that higher-level entities can break the laws of the lower level. “there exist no natural systems concerning which the search for reductive micro-level understanding will fail to pay dividends. We have obviously intervened in the natural world to a considerable extent. sometimes these philosophies inform important research. Ted Benton adds that the recognition of various levels of biological organization allows us to consider an extension of the idea of “levels” to include psychological and social processes and mechanisms whilst continuing to recognize these same processes and mechanisms as constituting discrete causal orders in their own right. Humans cannot thwart the laws of physics. the properties of which could not be predicted based on knowledge of its two constituents. Cameron’s third principle of emergentism is that emergent properties may have causal influence on lower-level events.48 Virtually every critical realist argues that social structures emerge from the relationships among individuals. many scientists demand high and potentially unattainable standards of proof. and have distinct causal powers that cannot be explained strictly in terms of an individual’s power. I must caution that emergentism is not the dominant world-view.51 Industry and the media eagerly echo this ideology.

minimally. The positing of an atomized ontology underneath this dialectical superstructure thus warrants theoretical justification or. gay. do not deny that the rejection of a theory is sometimes in order when unexplained events occur. Furthermore. The contention that there are always exceptions to hypothesized theories has been historically used to diminish any efforts to develop a supra-individual understanding of human action. is female. incidentally. we must challenge the uncritical application of the rules of logic to the study of the natural world. The existence of exceptions to categories does not necessitate that there are no fitting general descriptions of individuals. “There is no such thing as society. It is no coincidence that the Marxist-Hegelian alternative is rooted in a fundamentally different ontology emphasizing structure and its necessary relations. Business press commentators continue to smirk at the global warming hypothesis if below-normal temperatures are recorded in a single month. acknowledgment. whereby what is perceived is judged to be the whole of what exists. even mediated “theories” and “categories. empirical invariance and instance-falsification are at the heart of all individualistic theories of knowledge and politics. However. Social science is replete with allegations that Freud is simply wrong. Realism therefore poses important challenges to poststructuralist and constructivist arguments about biological sex. Individuals regularly declare that society is no longer prejudiced because their Member of Parliament. Yet poststructuralists and constructivists are devoted to the thesis that individuals and events are thoroughly interconnected. individuals. Thomas Hobbes’s nominalism greatly influenced John Locke (and. We need to dispute the conclusion that when a theory cannot be deterministically deduced. on the other hand. Aristotle himself criticized his relativist opponents for “reporting what they observe in only a few sensible things as if it were true of the whole cosmos. or senator. Realists.” as Margaret Thatcher famously paraphrased Jeremy Bentham. or that Marx is wrong because class struggle does not always lead to revolution.”53 It is a far greater challenge to the philosophical and scientific tradition to concede that the world does not always operate with the precision of a number series. or a person of color. and formed the basis of liberal political theory. and what is perceived consists of atomized events.” are negated by exceptions and are nothing more than the constant conjunction of empirical events. David Hume’s empiricism). but to insist that it does all the same possess an order. because all individuals do not mature according to his stages.94 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism was in fact widely tolerated because of strict adherence to empiricist scientific method.52 I suggest that this alignment of poststructuralism and constructivism with liberal individualism is unavoidable if it is maintained that theories and categories. it follows that it is false.6 percent of all humans are born biologically male or female.54 a figure that still . Approximately 99. and behaviors.

Although hormonal irregularities have great potential to influence sex differentiation. Similarly. Fausto-Sterling. and so many others. Each extra Y chromosome brings with it a greatly increased risk of health problems and mental retardation. or of “resistance” to discourse. some of these conditions have also been connected to genetic anomalies. the poststructuralist and constructivist suggestion that sex is a continuum elides the importance of both the biological limits of these relationships and the relatively stable boundaries between the two basic forms of biological sex.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 95 permits a very generous definition of intersexuality. They are certainly not disjoint processes.55 The incidence of sexual nondimorphism is thus lower than heart and muscular-skeletal birth defects. these statistics do not warrant the grandiose claims of variability proposed by Butler. Above and below these ranges. life itself cannot commence. even if there are occasions upon which these links are fractured. sex chromosome anomalies account for 91 percent of intersexuality. at the other extreme. environmental influences) are therefore involved in sexual development. the stages of sexual development are not independent factors with equal weight in the overall process. eye color and genitalia. While multiple genes and various hormones (and potentially. for example.56 The form one’s genitalia take cannot later influence the composition of one’s chromosomes. leads to the next. albeit not always on the sex chromosomes. while sex is indeed multidimensional. while the stages do not work backwards in quite the same fashion. as are. My calculations suggest that at least two-thirds of the incidence of intersexuality is explained by sex chromosome anomalies. Without estrogen and an X chromosome. changes to the reproductive system that occur in the fetus are generally irreversible. but higher than Down’s syndrome or cleft palate. the relevant underlying mechanisms do not operate with 100 percent predictability. too much estrogen can cause cancer. Because several processes are involved in sexual determination and differentiation (as is the case for all development). though not always. Removing non-classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia from the tally raises the figure even higher. Furthermore. and certain chromosomal configurations are more likely to result in healthy bodies than are others. while those that happen later in life are not. Sex hormones are vital to physical development within certain boundaries. The earlier stages in sexual development have important causal connections to the later stages. hormonal and chromosomal abnormalities can be harmful or even lethal. the first thing I would be concerned about was whether she also . The popular poststructuralist and constructivist contention that the existence of different levels of sex determination and differentiation entails that sex is a continuum denies the fact that each stage in the sequence generally. If non-classic CAH is again removed. Thus. If my daughter were born without a vagina. Instances of intersexuality – overestimated and trumpeted by constructivists and poststructuralists – are not evidence of the chaotic nature of sex.


Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism

had kidney dysfunction. If she had a large clitoris, I would insist that her electrolytes be monitored immediately. If my son were born with hypospadias, where the male urethral opening extends along the underside of the penis, I would despair at the prospect that he was already paying for our destruction of the environment, and dread that he was at higher risk for testicular cancer. Similarly, if one wishes to change one’s biological sex, to the extent this is possible, one must heed underlying structures and potentials. Individuals must therefore ingest large quantities of hormones and/or undergo major surgery. If an individual undergoes genital surgery, it affects neither their chromosomes nor their hormone levels. Bernice Hausman cautions, furthermore, that “plastic surgical practices . . . must take account of sexual difference at the level of tissue function,”57 and adds that genetic sex itself cannot be altered.58 If a person chooses to undergo hormone treatment, this can indeed affect their sexual phenotype. Though poststructuralists are fond of saying that there are no sex hormones per se, doctors and patients apparently know precisely which hormone to administer. Males wishing to develop breasts make use of the causal powers of estrogen, even if part of passing as female can be attributed to cultural expectations about appearances and behavior. Finally, the cultural display of intersexuality, or the berdache, constructed through dress, carriage, and the like, does not rest on the breaking of these biological laws.59 Richard Boyd calls this the “metaphysical innocence of conventionality.”60 Conventions or constructions, sexual or otherwise, do not themselves alter biological structures. Intersexuality is perhaps best understood by acknowledging the similar tissue origin of male and female, rather than the lack of any structure to sex. Hypospadias reflects a shortage of the hormones necessary to convert the fetal genitalia into a male penis; in other words, hypospadias is a penis with a female urethra. Cryptorchidism, the failure of male testes to descend, is similarly best understood in this fashion, as the testicles remain in the internal position typically occupied by ovaries. But no matter how liberally we interpret the evidence of variability provided by intersex, some aspects of sex are indeed yes or no, on or off, 1 or 0. For example, individuals with XY-testes can never conceive, regardless of the amount of estrogen they voluntarily or involuntarily ingest. At the prospect of such a future development (which would still depend on the causal structures of sexual difference), we have no means of predicting the long-term health implications of the engineering that would be required. In sum, our chromosomes, including our sex chromosomes, are present in every cell of our body. Our secondary sex traits, while obviously of crucial importance, can be altered more readily. Thus, there is considerable justification for the distinction between primary sex determination and secondary sex differentiation, even though the line between the two is not absolute. There is certainly ample evidence to speak of an underlying causal structure of biological sex. Lastly, there is more than enough evid-

Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 97 ence to conclude there are two biological sexes, albeit with some anomalies. Poststructuralism and constructivism cannot provide the tools to analyze these various subtleties of biological phenomena.

Correlation and causation
The arguments in the previous section depended, for the most part, on empirical evidence regarding biological sex and sex difference. Poststructuralists and constructivists, despite their contention that theories can be neither validated nor invalidated, do precisely that when they consider the issue of intersex. But another typical poststructuralist and constructivist contention relies on philosophy more than science. As I have shown, poststructuralists and constructivists alternate between the stance that discourse or language can create (metaphorically speaking) the world in its image, and the more moderate position that it is impossible to distinguish where nature leaves off and culture takes over. In an important respect, however, the two theses lead to the identical conclusion: it is incorrect or (merely) impossible to say that one system of grouping individual entities into categories is “more natural” than another. Even when theorists favor the mediation thesis, there is a tendency to insinuate that the source of any classificatory schema, even the complicated story involving chromosomes, genes, and hormones relating to biological sex, has completely untraceable, though conventional, origins. Thus, when they aren’t dabbling in science, poststructuralists and constructivists assert the bankruptcy of the realist notion that similarity, even genetic, can be used to ground any natural kinds or categories. Instead, things are arbitrarily linked in a process called “entrenchment” by Goodman, and “construction” or “constitution” by Foucault and Butler. There are no good abstractions from this perspective, regardless of the empirical data. Thus, in the previous chapter we witnessed poststructuralists and constructivists equating cultural intersexuality with biological intersexuality. The decision to classify individuals according to biological sex or gender role was just that – a subjective decision. Sometimes poststructuralists and constructivists propose that we leave this decision entirely up to the individual, regardless of the biological evidence. Many thinkers are of the opinion that since race is a discredited construction, biological sex must also fall by the wayside. Yet other poststructuralists and constructivists intimate that there is no material difference between the biological ability to conceive and the individual decision to do so. Since some women are pre-pubescent or post-menopausal, or for various other reasons infertile, while yet others choose not to raise families, these theorists question any classification of individuals according to reproductive capacity. Contemporary realism illuminates the many unacknowledged ramifications of these poststructuralist and constructivist positions. While


Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism

advocates of the deconstruction of the sex/gender distinction may not draw these specific conclusions, they do not provide any theoretical basis for distinguishing biological sex from other kinds of categories. Thus, if all ways of grouping items are equally relative to language and culture, correlation and causation are effectively equated. All kinds are connected by convention or definition only, i.e., analytically. The equation of correlation and causation has the further byproduct, intended or otherwise, of completely negating any differences between the natural and the social sciences. Some poststructuralists and constructivists herald this as a positive development. Interestingly, whereas positivists leveled the distinction between the sciences by arguing that the social sciences must be as deterministic and predictive as the natural sciences, poststructuralists and constructivists level the distinction with the contention that all sciences are equally constituted by discourse and culture. Unfortunately, I think this thesis has done more damage to the social sciences than it has the natural, as the latter are far too powerful to be threatened by our rearguard attempts to deflate their pretensions. Lastly, the difference between potentiality and actuality is thoroughly eradicated in the poststructuralist and constructivist framework. Without any appeal to necessary structures and mechanisms, it must be conceded that there is no real difference between individuals who have a potential yet do not exercise it, and those who never possessed the potential to begin with. Let’s examine some concrete illustrations of this extraordinarily flat poststructuralist and constructivist ontology. Ruth Millikan observes that from the perspective of either the radical constructivist or the more moderate mediation of knowledge thesis, there is no difference between a group of green balls and a group of emeralds.61 Each grouping is equally based on some cultural decision, highlighting some similarities to the neglect of others. Were poststructuralists and constructivists to be consistent, they would have to argue that it is equally impossible to differentiate between the study of emeralds and the study of gender. Bhaskar writes that such “superidealists” are unable to distinguish the difference “between chemical and sociological theories on the one hand, and between rival chemical theories on the other.”62 Just as all categories are discursive constitutions (with occasional, mysterious, material contributions à la Butler), each scholarly discipline must be deemed fundamentally similar, attempting to analyze impenetrable nature/culture networks. Realists insist, alternatively, that we need these distinctions, and that we give up far more than we gain when we assert that all descriptions and categorizations are equally indebted to discourse or culture. Realists agree with constructivists and poststructuralists that it is not simply a question of the frequency with which a pattern or similarity is observed that determines whether a kind will be established in a particular culture. But the solution of entrenchment or construction is rejected as wrong, and the mediation of knowledge thesis is dismissed as partial at best and unproductive at worst.

For example. There are square red objects and round blue objects. and necessary relationships. Millikan contends that “some kind of natural necessity” must be located to explain this precise longevity of round red objects. In one. This principle is now used to justify the realist assertion that kinds and categories consist of individual entities united in their possession of a similar causal structure. properties. many cultural constructions are causally efficacious in their own right. in another. It is related to morphine and codeine.” writes Boyd. by studying opium. If the RRO culture hypothesizes that true round red objects are really those united by the fact that they have a maximum life span of 1000 years. it is a simple matter to cut some round red objects. Nor do I mean to imply that all cultural constructions are as subjective as is the one presented here.”64 The properties of a kind or category often appear together. of locating rare exceptions to a hypothesized kind so that it can be dismissed. round red objects (I will call these RROs) are accorded this status. we can see how one class of objects differs from (or is similar to) another. New explains. though not identical. closely enough that these chemicals have similar.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 99 Above.”66 In simpler language. red sulfur is considered a kind. alternatively. scientists identified the molecular structure of several chemicals. It bears repeating that it is never simply a case of finding a constant conjunction. suppose that two cultures exist. The futility of the project is easily demonstrated. since there is none. indeed. Madden add that these properties “are necessary to a thing or sample of substance being of a certain kind.67 In this case. thereby making them square on the spot. the RROs are merely a class. defined through the simple conjunction of all objects that are round and red. Regardless. or whether a particular object is indeed of a certain class. Thebaine always has the same structure. “A natural kind. I showed that good realist explanations abstract from empirical phenomena to the deeper layer of mechanisms. Millikan suggests that this is not yet grounds that a kind has been located. This knowledge “provides the ground for the choice of criteria of individuation and identity. The success of this argument does not depend on the existence of a pure case of either of these sorts of categories. More to the point. as obvious examples. thereby justifying the claim that RRO is a natural kind.”63 Rom Harré and E. Millikan shows how the concept of a necessary causal connection between properties can help us to distinguish between a natural kind and cultural construction. Millikan asks the RRO culture to uncover a relatively stable structure that is of necessity shared by all or almost all of the RROs.H. or. structures. . “because there are common underlying properties that tend to maintain the clusters of features.”65 Uncovering the causal structure linking these manifest properties tells us something of the nature of an object or objects. “is associated causally with a large family of methodologically important properties. and excluding them from the supposedly natural category.

As a result. they possess measurable differences. . Ordinary sulfur that is painted red has a distinctly different structure than red sulfur. A causal explanation therefore exists for the redness of red sulfur. once again. most of its qualities will be naturally structured in an analogous fashion. In interaction . For example. . as poststructuralists and constructivists continually remind us. The presence of this program gives organisms a peculiar duality. which applies equally to biological kinds. however. uranium will decay at the same rate regardless of its environmental interactions. a female mammal with drastically inadequate nutrition will typically lose her potential to reproduce. as the former are open to their environments. owing to recombination. while inanimate matter does not. While it need not be the case that a natural kind has no conventional features whatsoever. consisting of a genotype and a phenotype. The tiniest sample of sulfur possesses the same qualities as an enormous chunk. . in possession of no such structure. Other qualities of red sulfur are also explained by this physical structure. Instead. . red sulfur is not merely sulfur that is painted red.”71 The information stored in the genetic code of an organism has no parallel in the physical world. Millikan observes. denying us another valuable distinction. . and a unique molecular pattern that makes it red.72 However. and the discovery of such an explanation serves to unite red sulfur into a natural kind. Allotropes of an element are substances with the same molecular constituents. in ever new variations. It is not true of red sulfur that it is red analytically or “by definition.” Rather. Round red objects are.68 Red sulfur possesses a structure that causes its redness. . Mayr summarizes the traits of living things: Organisms are unique at the molecular level because they have a mechanism for the storage of historically acquired information [DNA or RNA]. Red sulfur contains a molecule that makes it sulfur. But poststructuralists and constructivists tend to equate these biological and individual processes. The genotype (unchanged in its components except for occasional mutations) is handed on from generation to generation. it is true by natural necessity.70 Bhaskar insists that the normal condition of most systems is “open.69 We still need to say more about biological kinds. Earlier I referred to the thesis of emergence or emergentism. strung together in different patterns. a human female with the capacity to conceive may make an explicit choice not to reproduce. but. [r]ed sulfur is an allotrope of sulfur and is a substance in its own right. It is patently obvious that living organisms are not as predictable as red sulfur. while. Biologist Ernst Mayr argues that biological systems are fundamentally different from physical ones.100 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism On the other hand.

this structure explains its color. “Any ‘refinement’ of classification which artificially eliminated the resulting indeterminacy in classification. Mayr does not mince words about the implications of this hypothesis.74 Boyd writes of the necessary indeterminacy of biological classification.76 It is this very “messiness” that has most horrified logicians and physicalists. All phenotypic features must be understood in terms of the processes of evolutionary selection. proper explanation in biology should refer to this history. Red sulfur has a specific molecular structure.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 101 with the environment. Variability is effectively a law of biology.78 West-Eberhard remarks that adaptive phenotypic features permit the more effective performance of a task increasing the . In the biological sciences no explanation is complete until a third kind of question has been asked: “Why?” It is Darwin’s evolutionary theory which necessitates this question: No feature (or behavioral program) of an organism ordinarily evolves unless this is favored by natural selection.73 Because of genetic recombination. as it would represent a thoroughly unnatural development. red sulfur contains no record of its successful interactions with its environment. the purpose or function served by a biological feature must be uncovered in order to understand it fully. It must play a role in the survival or in the reproductive success of its bearer. It just is as a result of its physical structure. the genotype controls the production of the phenotype. individual variability is a rule in biology to an extent that it is not in physics. that is. “would obscure the central fact about heritable variations in phenotype upon which biological evolution depends. But we do not need to know why red sulfur is red as opposed to blue. and the organism’s openness to its environment. Boyd also argues that the belief that biological kinds must be logically precise is a holdover from traditional empiricism. We need to recognize that “kind definitions must conform to the (sometimes messy and complex) causal structure of the world.” Boyd insists.”75 A complete lack of variability in the biological world would stand in need of explanation. random mutation.” in place of these old rigidities.77 An adaptive feature is thus one that has been selected relative to others. the visible organism which we encounter and study. must answer the following question: why is a specific trait in evidence? In other words. On the other hand. if it is to adhere with the overall theory of evolution. A proper explanation in biology. as evolution depends on it. Building on this overarching theory. Mayr clarifies: Questions which begin with “What?” and “How?” are sufficient for explanation in the physical sciences. Mayr argues that explanation of regularities in biology is of a specific nature.

Ruth Millikan addresses the same issue in her neo-Aristotelian notion of a thing’s “proper function.81 Ted Benton summarizes trends in biology that emphasize the human capacity for selecting and changing our own environment. estradiol and its receptors have displayed remarkable stability through eons of evolution.”80 There is considerable debate about the adaptation thesis. and humans. and they cannot be granted unquestioned primacy. as it does appear that “adaptation” is too hastily employed as an explanation of every single characteristic of an organism. rather than certain other things. and undergoing changes across the life cycle linked to generational differences in behavior. genes are only one of the resources available to developmental processes.” A thing’s proper function is what it normally does. Feminists are rightly concerned about its wholesale application to behavior. while some question the hypothesis that all phenotypic traits should be viewed as adaptive. should be explicable in terms of its contribution to evolutionary survival.83 Developmental biology also argues that the organism’s basic anatomy and physiology limit adaptability.84 Sexual phenotype is an obvious example of such a trait. particularly one evident across many species and eras. in species as diverse as turtles. perhaps as long as 200 million years. “[S]election follows from the fact.85 On the other hand. Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin argue that some characteristics of organisms evolve for no specific purpose.102 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism organism’s chance of survival and propagation. mice. there is general agreement that a prominent phenotypic feature. and are later co-opted for their current role. However.82 Other dissenters. products of evolution have in common with various other kinds of products the fact that they are reproduced or continue to be proliferated because they. According to developmental biology. take a “developmental systems” approach. or for an unrelated purpose. showing their significance as sexual markers.86 The endocrine system is not something to be tampered with lightly. but because selection processes curtail it. Developmental biology is the branch of biology focusing on an organism’s plasticity in the context of a changing environment. some aspects of the mammalian phenotype are constrained by functional- . sexual and otherwise. have been associated with certain functions. and what it normally does is something that has served an evolutionary “purpose” of some sort: Putting things intuitively. like Fausto-Sterling. Genitals differ dramatically from species to species. whereas evolutionary biology emphasizes an organism’s relatively fixed genetic inheritance. These are all important caveats.” writes a recent complexity theorist.79 An adaptive feature is thus one that has been selected relative to others.87 Variability is a fact of biology. “that in general not all variants are equivalently stable or capable of (re)production.

. and everyone who does that kind of work is a man. While true in the most general sense. There are all sorts of problems with this basic contention. re-enforcing their conviction about the conventional nature of all groupings. as both are constructions. nor are the latter of the same order as those achieved through surgical intervention. for example. or relative lack thereof. “everyone with XX chromosomes is a woman. However. that it is no longer sensible to speak of nature per se. . They would also be happy to acknowledge that there are exceptions for either categorization. It is important to maintain some distinctions between cultural and biological variability. members believe. “everyone who does this kind of work is a woman. dieting or drug use. This caution is vitally important. principles permitting multiple gradations between nature and culture and kinds of variability seem far more appropriate.” In light of our present discussion. [I]t seems important not to cloud the issues of biopolitics raised in this area by suggesting that culturally conditioned transformations of bodily and sexual being are on a par with the constructions of the laboratory. Jay Anderson. poststructuralism and constructivism have pushed us too far in the other direction. they would perhaps like to add that neither connection is any more or less necessary than the other.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 103 ity. or that the human impact on nature is so total.89 We witness similar arguments when defenders of genetically modified organisms argue that farmers have been selectively breeding plants since the dawn of agriculture. and everyone with XY chromosomes is a man. We do not define the evolutionary function of a liver by examining a cirrhosis patient. They argued that in our culture. Let us take another look at the poststructuralist and constructivist argument that biological sex is just as constituted by discourse and culture as is gender. and a construction along with everything else. has developed a framework that considers the amount of cultural energy required to sustain a system or practice as one measure of its naturalness. But there is also a considerable difference between any of these interventions or re-makings of the body and the making of entirely new organisms of the kind permitted by recombinant DNA technology. Kate Soper writes: The ‘inscriptions’ of dress or cosmetics are rather different from the transformations effected through drill or exercise. members believe.90 88 . nor should we define the evolutionary function of sex organs by examining infertile ones.” In some other cultures. Kessler and McKenna’s thesis that slotting individuals into sexes according to the work they perform is no different than slotting them according to biology seems a good place to start. . even if we can’t draw a hard and fast line. suggesting that evolved sexual function is a matter of irrelevance. Social and political theorists must insist that every empirical instance of a thing need not fulfill its evolutionary function.

there are a few berdache who disrupt the otherwise near 50–50 split of labor. linked to the preference for a certain kind of work. changing her career and social status many times in between. I am partial to Caroline New’s summary of the realist position: The level at which women are constructed as social persons emerges out of the level at which there are sexual differences between human beings. and end it as a professor or a nurse. The connection between sex and work is far from necessary. typing and keeping the books. analytic device.” Thus. women can be seen doing heavy labor on construction sites. Scientists are able to take the SRY gene. The connection between sex and labor has no analogue. most males do “male” labor. Sometimes. and it would be equally wrong to attribute it to individual choice. This does not seem to be the case. Kessler and McKenna attribute the decision to be a berdache to individual choice. societies with berdache-type individuals generally have a very strict division of labor according to sex. transplant it into a XX mouse. Sexual difference is real and does apply cross-culturally. Indeed. In fact. I wonder whether they would offer the same explanation for other gendered patterns of labor around the world. and one’s status as a member of either sex is intimately linked to how well one performs the job90a. and the wages are lower than they would be. if men performed it. there is indeed a gendered division of labor in most cultures. the connection is not a causally necessary one. including in those very same berdache societies. Many Thai men view the work as undesirable. the connection between gender and work. This is a very powerful explanation for both dimorphic sexual difference and certain kinds of intersex. using our realist tools. seems far more persistent. and we call them secretaries or administrative assistants. half the society should be berdache. there are female doctors around the world. in terms of the status accorded various positions.104 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism Furthermore. Today. Individual bodies that our culture thinks of as biologically male and female should be equally represented in “men’s work” and “women’s work. The sex/gender distinction is a useful. men filled the fairly prestigious clerk function in most offices. A woman could theoretically start her life as a bank teller. albeit imperfect. One hundred years ago. and produce a creature with testicular development. If work truly determined sex in the berdache cultures. in these examples at least. we should find more berdache. Of course. rather. some have expressed concern that the “feminization” of medicine will lead to a reduction in the status of the career. These examples show wholesale personal and cultural transformations in the kinds of work that men and women perform. However. most doctors were men. Originally. Now women have widely assumed this role. relatively speaking. as Will Roscoe argues. In Thailand. we have already discussed the necessary causal structure of sex. as we . Most females do “female” labor. In fact.

women. we concede too much. we need the concept of gender to help us explain why. the cultures with berdache are by and large able to divide labor along the lines of biological sex. The argument that biological sex is a construction provides a necessary causal explanation for neither. correlation and causation. but our constructions are powerful enough to create “naturalized” kinds. But in giving up the distinctions between potential and actual. “its workings are compatible with many different ways of regulating reproduction and sexuality.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 105 would expect of human species characteristics. The deconstruction of the sex/gender distinction may permit the wholesale dismissal of attempts at biological theorizing about gender roles. Thus. and the occasional intersexed individual.”93 Many variables influence gender. women. The sex–gender distinction allows for necessary stratification in our feminist theory. We must account for both variability and relatively stable patterns if we are to discuss biology with any seriousness. No realist that I know wants to keep hard and fast boundaries between these categories. in keeping with the realist concept of emergence. because entrenched or constructed categories foster this impression. We can therefore identify female human beings. Because sex is a lower-level mechanism. The genotypic and phenotypic division of bodies into two sexes crosses species and millennia. and the natural and social sciences. If we question the results of that division.”92 Thus. but biological sex must be included among them. If there are no real natural kinds. it is the mixture of nominalism and relativism that poses this third complication. why do occasional exceptions to our categories crop up? . The combination of these two principles makes the observation of the exceptions to the categories – categories that are now either cultural constructs or nature/culture hybrids – problematic. but we insist that they are necessary and helpful discriminations all the same.91 She adds: “The socio-cultural structures of gender ontologically presuppose the physiological structures of sexual difference. Were the multi-colored people of the world to mingle and reproduce over many generations. even though the meanings of femaleness are culturally variable. It is one thing to argue that there are no natural kinds or laws because there are no similarities deterministically uniting individuals into categories. It is another thing altogether to supplement this principle with the argument that we perceive the world as though there were natural kinds all the same. Explaining exceptions The final problem of poststructuralism and constructivism arises from the attempt to juggle simultaneously the two principles analyzed to this point. The sexed people of the world could do the same and we would still have what we call men. the category of race could theoretically become meaningless.

manifest against the background of the already existing types. It would be possible to group bodies according to other attributes. these existing biological sex types must be depicted as the effect of an ancient cultural pact emphasizing some similarities over others. it still problematizes their overall philosophical stance. What explains the recognition of individual fish deviating from these supposedly hegemonic norms of sex? Poststructuralists and constructivists could provide several explanations for this phenomenon from within their overarching philosophical framework. no proof of time will ever be conclusive. male and female. first. The material correlate to this linguistic category is. Foucault and Butler. it is unlikely that individuals will be confronted with a blue emerald. Entities formerly only labeled male or female are now sometimes causing confusion.94 Within a culture positing green emeralds. the example of the homogeneous culture implodes the moment one considers a less deterministic phenomenon. are not taken as a potential warning sign. as no variables are naturally more salient than others. His construct has the security furnished by logical puzzles and the physical sciences. Up until the moment. they simply went unacknowledged. The culture perceives a female as “the same as” other females and “different from” males on the basis of a few entrenched or constructed attributes. or rarely discussed. Since there is evidence that intersexuality has existed throughout history. though. writing in the wake of substantial criticism of the initial constructivist project. If it is argued that there are no natural laws. Take any of the cultures that divide animal bodies exclusively into males or females. poststructuralism and constructivism provide a plausible explanation for why the phenomenon has been ignored in the West until recently: ambiguously sexed creatures were simply squeezed into the existing sex . they would have to argue that the anomalies were simply evidence of the unclassifiable nature of the human body. However. Indeed. to propose that such variability was always present. Within a culture believing that emeralds just might one day turn blue. it is now observed that certain breeds of fish seem to have ambiguous sex traits. Butler advised her readers that by examining unusual cases of intersexuality we could better see “how the appearance of naturalness is constituted. throwing their world into disarray. in other words. If poststructuralists and constructivists were to adhere to their beliefs.”96 The anomalies in themselves. and uses this as evidence of our developmental plasticity. It is possible. Within such a culture. Fausto-Sterling casually observes that intersex might be increasing.95 Similarly. However. I will use another example from the biology of sex to illustrate my point.106 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism Goodman’s grue story avoided the question of change and variability altogether by restricting his analyses to the relatively deterministic world of rocks. The issue of change or variability is accordingly raised through the biological example of intersexuality. are cognizant of the need to address examples from outside physics and geology.

Butler has argued that our understanding of intersexuality. there are no “intersexed” individuals without sexed individuals. Furthermore. This logic informs the thesis that biological sex is purely an individual phenomenon. then. “inadvertent convergences with other such networks.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 107 categories. Therefore. However. for example. and to call the forefronted features “male” and “female.”97 If it is argued that the cultural constructs literally make things that are different seem the same. It is rather the case that infinite variations on “sex. How would an individual scientist.” why do these traits not form the basis for natural sex categories? As Andrew Collier comments. the source of this rare dissent remains to be explained. and I have argued that it holds a certain appeal for Foucault and Butler. to the extent that anyone in history noticed intersexuality.” and a few other traits and call these “female. it could and has been argued that the world is so variable that it is not an issue of whether intersexuality per se was present historically. as was everyone else. among others. “it is strange that we should have to posit structuredness to explain a supposedly unstructured real world. The thesis of the discursive mediation of knowledge explains intra-cultural variability. it is not clear why certain variations would suddenly pose a threat to the existing sex system. which is in turn a combination of material and linguistic components. the apparent ability of societies across time to forefront some variable traits at the expense of other variable traits. to sustain this thesis across all examples of all kinds would be to posit that everything that exists now has always existed. I do not think it is a particularly helpful analysis in the case of the intersexuality of fish – a genuine environmental problem – or in any other example for that matter.”98 In the case here. not by denying potency to the material realm but by denying that we can understand this potency in a direct fashion. However. can intersexuality be understood as a new phenomenon or one occurring more frequently. and that there are in reality no traits that can be even loosely associated with males and females. in a world in which every individual is a unique sex? It is still possible for poststructuralists and constructivists to retreat to the logically unassailable thesis that knowledge of the material or natural is always already mediated. for example. Only in this mediated and relative sense.” still stands in need of explanation. In the . If it has been possible to isolate a few traits and to call these “male. Up until the present these individuals were accommodated. have always already existed. To the extent that there are anomalies and changes in all discursive regimes. I see several problems with this solution. Why is this strategy no longer effective. initiate the step out of a hegemonic cultural construction and into another one? Second. even the choice of that word.” including the supposedly secure male and female categories. must be contextualized within our existing understanding of sex. Butler suggests that these must be understood as the interplay of competing yet related discursive regimes – as she phrases it.

or why only some individuals are intersexual. Without some such discussion. and as a result explains almost nothing.” He continues that “The object of such talk [the discursivity] must be susceptible of reference and a possible topic for investigation. As I have repeatedly stressed. Since every event is dissimilar in the nominalist hypothesis. even if such structures and kinds were only knowable from our mediated perspective.108 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism previous chapter. the way the culture identifies these individuals over and over again is impossible to explain without reference to some similarity in the world or in our mediated perception of that world. and our ability to perceive them as such. it is impossible to make any distinction between the berdache’s cultural intersexuality and the biological intersexuality of the fish. without some minimally empiricist acknowledgment. On this front. More difference is yet more of the same. Even if the culture might have a reason (most likely the unequal allocation of status and resources. there is still no reason why one apparent variation in the mediated world could garner more attention than another apparent variation. for example) for marginalizing some individuals. and it makes no sense how certain differences could be given more accord than others. Both Hume and Quine acknowledged the necessity of taking the empiricist step. It is equally impossible to explain why intersexuality assumes some shapes rather than others.”99 It would be impossible for individuals to know that one person’s sexual difference is intersexuality. Every event is equally an exception to some generalization. Hume and Quine have still supplied the only possible nonrealist solution to the dilemma. that is. and I would argue more problematically. poststructuralism and constructivism have not provided any means of distinguishing between naturally and culturally defined categories or structures. Without a concession to structures and kinds. even a mediated one. Bhaskar sums up this dilemma as “no discursivity without ontology. can be used to explain the existence of an exception to a kind or structure. and I suggest that empiricism (even of a relativist variety) represents a superior option to poststructuralism and constructivism for this reason. without the employment of the concept of similarity. poststructuralism and constructivism are stuck at the impasse of the mediation of knowledge thesis. it must be real. If similarity is without natural structure (outside the norms of culture). while another’s is within the acceptable range of girlhood and boyhood. no reference to materiality. so is difference. Quine broke with Goodman because nominalism could not explain how a culture could come to recognize any . Any attempt to offer some kind of deeper explanation for the appearance of intersexed fish would require recognition of causal structures and natural kinds. I argued that Butler’s notion of discursive rearticulation encompasses virtually everything. Even the capacity to distinguish these individuals as intersexed requires some kind of empiricist acknowledgment of similarities and differences. Second.

even a culturally constructed one. but of course not all. . Butler has defended her reticence to discuss any biological facts by warning that there are many other voices hectoring us about the natural structure of sex. They are well aware of the consequences of such a recognition: it would become much more difficult to insinuate that we could somehow overcome our perception of natural similarities and differences. Yet poststructuralists and constructivists – including Butler – have eagerly employed the nominalist argument that the observation of exceptions to structures and kinds provides evidence that there are no structures or kinds. even if that is not the “real” way of the world. and empirical events. An ontological distinction must be made between real powers. A distinction between physical kinds and biological kinds further helps in the recognition that the latter are subject to much more .Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 109 similarity. Quine’s and Hume’s postulation of an innate standard of similarity – even if it does not counter the thesis contextualizing all of our perceptions to the peculiarities of our evolved state – at least breaks the constructivist stalemate that culture alone can define similarity. .102 From the perspective of constructivism and poststructuralism. Poststructuralists and constructivists are reluctant to hypothesize the existence of any innate capacities. and between natural kinds and culturally constructed kinds. If one wants to avoid the realist hypothesis that similarity exists in the world. therefore. The possibility arises that we will inevitably see the world in a certain way. Roy Bhaskar sums up the difficulties of nominalist constructivism and poststructuralism as follows: The immediate difficulty [is the] incapacity satisfactorily to cope with the notion of natural contingency (or account for the ‘empirical moment’ in theory). green emeralds have more in common than grue emeralds from the perspective of our innate capacity. but he denied (along with Hume) that we could equate this understanding with the real structure of the world. or race. feminists and serious thinkers are aware of this risk. of course. I have already delineated the realist alternative to the problem of anomalies and exceptions to various causal structures and powers. in virtue of its manifestly undifferentiated. uniform ontology. Poststructuralism and constructivism are. the only way to explain our capacity to see one thing as “the same as” something else is to posit the existence of an innate capacity to note similarity. kinds and their exceptions are equally the product of convention. . or what have you.101 Most. not merely warning of the dangers of biological reductionism. [N]on-transcendent conceptual realism [constructivism or poststructuralism] actualistically collapses any surplus to human subjectivity and reduces natural to logical or conventional necessity. actual effects.100 Quine indicated that.

It has been hypothesized that disorders of the reproductive tract – similar to those witnessed in instances of intersexuality – are increasing in incidence in both the animal and human worlds.103 It is also possible that sperm count is declining. of course. and is tempted to argue that sex is a construction and that there is no such thing as a “deviant” body. there is more than one reason to be concerned about these trends. An acknowledgment of the inevitability of variability within limits in biological organisms. A contemporary feminist might begin her analysis of this research by emphasizing the social marginalization of sexually ambiguous individuals. there are and always will be exceptions to biological structures and kinds. With these steps. not that there are no structures tending to produce males and females. as well as testicular cancer. At this level. than anyone else.108 To the extent that cancer and other illnesses are possibly connected. it is a simple matter to state that.105 Any hormones ingested during pregnancy may technically have the capacity to induce these and related problems. particularly environmental issues in which deterministic structures are seldom located. Contrary to some contemporary commentators. while testicular volume is decreasing.107 Some have suggested that pollutants are interfering with the sexual attributes of humans in the same way. She . two conditions I described above. There is nothing unnatural about intersexuality or infertility.106 It is argued that the cases of animal and fish intersexuality are due to high levels of environmental pollutants either mimicking the activity of hormones or interfering with their typical functioning. she is influenced by poststructuralism. These disorders include hypospadias and cryptorchidism. The infertile and the intersexed are no more and no less natural. She might argue that binary thought forces the world into opposing categories and correspondingly caution against the risks inherent in further stigmatizing intersexuality.104 The synthetic estrogen DES (diethylstilbestrol). can do just as much if not more for the equality of intersexuals as the assertion that sex is a cultural construction.110 Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism variability than are the former. embedded in a challenge to the domination of the standards of logic and physics in the natural and social sciences. is a known cause of all four problems in male offspring. and no more and no less subject to the operations of causal structures. the issue of intersexual fish is a legitimate contemporary problem. It would also go a long way to aid in the addressing of many other problems. as well as vaginal cancer and cervical/uterine abnormalities in female offspring. It might still be important to investigate exceptions to such a well-established structure as that of biological sex. As I have already intimated. I am arguing that the existence of intersexed individuals demonstrates only that biological kinds are variable. Yet she would probably be troubled by the possibility that we are subjecting ourselves and other creatures to increasing doses of hormones in ignorance of their harmful effects. once prescribed to pregnant women to control morning sickness.

. Once again.”111 The poststructuralist and constructivist thesis that we must challenge the sex–gender distinction. Thus not only are many “natural” ills and disasters socially produced. In the face of this important contemporary problem. it does not provide the necessary tools to analyze nature in all of its messy complexity. but social production may have absolute natural limits and conditions. estrogen and its bodily receptors are relatively permanent features of the animal world. and we should be similarly disturbed if feminists use symptoms of environmental degradation merely as happy evidence of sexual nondimorphism.109 Most of us would be appalled were the chemical industry to suggest that higher rates of cancer were merely indicative of the wonderful variability of biological organisms. nor are their bio-physical or social environments limitlessly malleable. Bhaskar writes: [W]e have to see the natural and social dimensions of existence as in continuous dynamic causal interaction. While each individual has a slightly different cocktail of hormones.110 Ted Benton adds: “Human beings cannot successfully adapt to every possible set of environmental conditions. and overthrow the belief in the existence of two natural sexes. cannot be accepted without question. the realist framework permitting distinctions between laws and exceptions. provides a better starting point than further incantation of the thesis that knowledge of reality is always mediated. as I noted earlier. Realists are also more inclined to discuss the limits of social systems potentially imposed by natural ones. and stability and variation.Contemporary realism’s challenge to nominalism 111 might know that the endocrine system provides an excellent example of the relationship between variability and stability in biological organisms.

Foucault and Butler comparably argued that observations of biological sex are always derivative of a specific understanding of gender. Quine also maintained that the obvious complexity of language. There is only one possible explanation for our ability to communicate: behavioral conditioning. combined with its lack of foundations. he proposes. which he insists is not true in any absolute sense. The effect is an evermutating personalized dictionary in our heads. say. Quine’s observations pertaining to innate perceptual categories are thus relative to an overarching theory of evolution. broadening it to incorporate explanations of nonlinguistic behavior. or yet more words. The contention that people are sharing meaning because they respond with like words to like stimuli is surely false. or equivalently. A culture can indeed establish a more or less coherent perspective on the world in the form of. Male or female traits are contextualized within an overarching theory of the relationship between male and female. Recall that Quine dissented from the nominalist thesis that similarity is everywhere and hence nowhere. from this vantage point. I have argued that Foucault and Butler. a relationship that can only be established conceptually.6 Structure and the evolution of sexual form and meaning There is one last set of problems that needs to be addressed. It is possible that Quine and poststructuralists and constructivists using similar arguments could agree with almost everything I asserted in the previous chapter. All the same. A poststructuralist or constructivist might similarly entertain the prospect that there are biological sex differences and similarities. But the realist carpet is immediately pulled from under this naturalist thesis. a natural science. have adopted a similar behaviorism. along with other constructivists and poststructuralists. and conceded that it was only natural that humans would share innate perceptual categories. a fact in such a natural science is always relativized against the backdrop of an overarching theory. necessitates that every individual learns and understands words in slightly different fashion. in words. With the introduction of language – which Quine argues occurs at the same instant as conceptual thought – humans are whisked light years away from the humble origins of sensory data and innate evolved commonalities. . Sexual behavior is.

other properties in a specific range. Properties are properties “by virtue of having contrary properties. these norms.4 This is precisely what it means to be a property or predicate: something the possession of which excludes. the epistemic fallacy – a leveling of reality to concepts and a denial of ontology. Substances are entities about which we can collect “relatively stable” information. Phenomenal relations In order to investigate this relational aspect of our world. But I will suggest that female and male are properties presupposing or relating to one another ontologically and not merely in language and culture. because of causal structures and potentials. and variations on its general theme.”5 For example.The evolution of sexual form and meaning 113 strictly a question of what a specific society encourages and prohibits through conditioning.” The red sulfur of Chapter 5.” Bhaskar writes. The general thesis that female and male bodies can only be understood in relation to one another seems irrefutable. when contrasted with the round red object.” again.7 . “because there are necessary connections in nature and things fall into natural kinds. I will build on the previous chapter to show more precisely how relationships are a fundamental principle of the universe.1 A single realist thesis unifies my response to Quine and the Quinean aspect of poststructuralism and constructivism: relationships are not necessarily derivative of language and culture. Following Aristotle. Roy Bhaskar calls this position. This chapter will develop the notion that substances possess properties in a range “to the exclusion of others in that range. all questions about nature and meaning are answered in the realm of language and culture. is one example of a substance or kind. although they most certainly interact with.”2 The relativity of sexual difference is a relativity structured in part in nature. The fundaments of sexual meaning are located in some of the relational features of perceivable form. Tony Lawson states that “two objects are said to be internally related if they are what they are by virtue of the relationship in which they stand to one another. as a result of the operation of structures.3 This term is often used interchangeably with “natural kind. relational nature of reality. and are influenced by.”6 The concept of property is essential to ontology because it gets at the structured. Ruth Millikan writes that substances and properties are the result of such an investigation. For this strand of contemporary philosophy in general. Sexual drive and mood are not simply artifacts of linguistically or culturally imposed norms. Properties are what they are because of internal relationships to other properties. to be green is to be green instead of blue or red. it will be necessary to re-examine the concept of natural kinds and structures introduced in the previous chapter. “Predicates are not independent of one another and on a par in science. The concept of substance or kind is essential to ontology because properties require entities in order to exist at all.

Millikan therefore concludes. water is a substance with one property that it freezes at the same temperature all of the time. Our sense of color. .8 Similarly. Although it freezes at zero degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. but. However. . red and hot or red and cold. Orange is a different property than red or yellow. reflects “an ability to map an outerworld property. a certain percentage of salt will make water boil at the same temperature on different occasions. Variables such as altitude or salinity do change the boiling point of water. . regardless of how that property is measured. it is not the case that it sometimes solidifies at 54 degrees on either scale. . or cold. One can focus on a red mark and a green mark on a piece of paper. . how can we dare presume that color is a property? Millikan replies to the contrary: Suppose that objects often looked this way to us when we focused as usual. the red and green will appear superimposed.9 Despite the possibility of illusion. A substance possesses the same properties over time to the exclusion of other properties within a specific property range. as I argued at the beginning of the previous chapter. however. . . diverts attention from the more important realist hypothesis: it is the substance–property relationship that is key. Or suppose that no agreement could ever be reached between people on the color of things. For example. The certainty with which these statements are made is not logical certainty. . The fact that there are color mixtures – that orange is a mix of red and yellow. Our confidence that red and green are contraries . Things might be red and sweet or red and salty. It is a characteristic of a substance to possess roughly – although not necessarily exactly – the same properties across time. in a way that they can’t be simultaneously red and . Many philosophers have suggested that optical illusions and color blindness. If our sense of color can be so easily manipulated.114 The evolution of sexual form and meaning This conception of property affords us a better understanding of substances or kinds. And this is evidence for the objective validity of these concepts. it is not so intimately related to sweet. I was never my sister. the vast weight of evidence suggests that things are not red and green in the same spots at the same time. red is not only intimately related to green. for example. red and sharp or red and soft. while I am a different person than I was when I was three years old.” discovered through engagement with the world. although it is most certainly related. . . for example – does not negate the core argument that a thing that is orange is not at the same time red. is supported over and over again by empirical evidence. a certainty provided by “natural necessity.”10 The preceding issue. and eventually. Suppose that no one’s right eye ever agreed with his left. . the argument runs. this variability is also structured. demonstrate the foolishness of the hypothesis that color represents a real-world property. sharp. Furthermore.

rather. or to the relativist thesis that sex is completely constituted by culture. The relationship between the sexes is as real. and as fundamental. It is not the case that red is relative to the laws of light in our culture. or culture. . to be a girl is. Thus.” Sex is a property requiring the substantiating presence of living creatures. As I have already acknowledged. Not only could red not exist without red things. but this is a relativity at the heart of being. not an artifact of thought. as nominalists do. not to be a boy. But it is wrong to move from this assertion to the contention that sex is a fictitious causal force (as I demonstrated in Chapter 5). to speak in terms of individuals first and relationships afterwards. and constructivist emphasis on the relativity of the knowledge of things to theories. is to ignore the structured nature of being as reflected in ontology. as relativists do. Realism stresses that properties are related in their innermost nature. Red is indeed relative to these other colors.11 Therefore.”12 The fundaments of biological reality are still circumscribed by substance/property structures. at least on some level. an evolutionary structure building male and female properties out of the same embryonic gonadal mass – from the very beginning. The fact that properties are relational does not diminish their ontological status. or to relativize all properties to theories. male and female could somehow shed their ontological connection is mistaken. The implication that. This relational component of our world is ignored in the nominalist focus on individuals. or in the Quinean. this connection is a structural fact about the world. “Some substances are perfect. Writes Millikan: It is not that “in the beginning” there were properties that in their ownselves – in order to be what they were – could have been indifferent to all other properties and that then something else came along and made some of them enemies. The dependency of the sexes is not only cultural or linguistic.” Millikan simply notes. it is structured into the theory – really. “others imperfect. as are the individual properties in the relationship. The nominalist thesis that a green emerald or lump of sulfur exists only as a particular is as much of a misrepresentation of the structure of reality as is the relativist thesis that light is a theory that relativizes color. relative to the laws of taste or sound. it is true that there is no “sex in itself. language. Even if we identify girls because they are not like boys. This realist contention that substance and property have a fundamental role to play in ontology does not conflict with the argument in the previous chapter that biological substances will have less clear-cut boundaries than physical substances. through the formulation of a different theory of sex. red could not exist without blue and yellow and green things. and in another culture. or to the nominalist thesis that the prime components of reality are individuals. poststructuralist.The evolution of sexual form and meaning 115 green. it grounds some relationships in being. Our sex is not derivative of a theory.

Even if there is some blurring of the boundary between girls and boys in instances of intersexuality. Sex is not structured as definitively or determinately as are. The number of options is constrained because of the ontological relatedness of male and female. say. the interpretations and elaborate theories we make about biological sex are very far removed from its primitive natural relatedness. . He then locates the basis for our meaning-laden social life in these evolved forms. all the same. I will argue that at least some meaning derives from biological structures by connecting the evolution of the human form to the communication of meaning. Portmann demonstrates that aspects of this relationship are structured into our very being – in this case into the perceivable forms or patterns of our bodies.15 It is quite difficult to distinguish one side of a leopard from the other. While the relative homogeneity of insides is often used to defend the thesis that species are cultural constructions. structured. Adolf Portmann. Sex is. defines meaning as “the recognition of a general relationship. What I have shown is that in any case.14 Piebald creatures are by and large the product of domestication. the dependence of biological sex differences on relationships is not purely a cultural dependency. much like color. “is it a girl or is it sour?” no more than we ask if the baby is an apple or an orange. While animate form is typically overlooked in the contemporary scientific emphasis on genetics. Furthermore. Poststructuralists and constructivists can of course counter that the relationship between male and female is obviously meaning-laden.13 However. and male and female are intimately related properties. a Swiss biologist and zoologist writing throughout the twentieth century.” terms that might sound encouraging to poststructuralists and constructivists. whereas the family cat is often notably lopsided. animal outsides are quite singular. falling into reasonably well-defined (from the perspective of biological science) species categories. but perhaps one organized along a scale rather than a binary. while it is difficult to distinguish species on the basis of an examination of their internal organs. I’m not sure why poststructuralists and constructivists would like sex to be structured in the same way as a much simpler physical property. following Quine. the existence of some variability is not adequate to jump to the conclusion that intersexuality is just like mixing red and yellow. that meaning is relative to language and culture. However. The evolution of meaning Suppose that this thesis is now granted. But as I have so far stressed. and. Thus. We do not ask of a newborn. the chemical elements. Portmann first observes that the visible outsides of wild animals are almost universally symmetrical.116 The evolution of sexual form and meaning It could still be countered that sex is indeed a natural property. girl and boy are properties related in an ontologically necessary fashion. Portmann alleges that form plays a fundamental role in evolution.

or that we are the ultimate purpose of the universe.”21 Portmann stresses that “higher” forms of life are higher because their relation to the world is more inclusive. bacteria have simply been on earth for a much . “our evaluation refers directly to the amount of knowledge. this does not confer superiority on bacteria any more than it does on carbon molecules. There is a justified contemporary reluctance to affix the adjectives “higher” and “lower” to living creatures. Although it is incorrect to intimate that humans are superior to frogs.22 In particular. “When we use the terms ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ of living creatures. the human brain records and stores more complex information about the environment than does the frog’s. Heylighen writes that an organism increases its relative fitness by “increasing the variety of environmental perturbations that it can cope with.” writes Konrad Lorenz. fairly simple organisms like bacteria dominate the world in terms of sheer numbers.18 As Gould points out. the more social relations they form. an organism that can locate and digest a wider range of food will likely survive in a more diverse range of environments.”16 These facts suggest to Portmann that appearance must serve an evolutionary purpose. our supposed superiority might lead to our extinction. More recently. “The higher vertebrates evolve. and more connections between them. Portmann then draws attention to the many ways in which the appearance of higher species is more distinctive than that of lower animals. An increase in control goes hand in hand with an increase in overall freedom and adaptivity. One system is more complex than another if it has more distinguishable parts.19 Furthermore. both within and between individuals.25 Thus. organisms that are more complex have an adaptive edge. “What is presented to the eye.The evolution of sexual form and meaning 117 Portmann vehemently disagrees. Rather.20 However. Portmann emphasizes that a richer connection to the world includes more intricate bonds to other living creatures. and will in all likelihood outlast our “reign” on earth. “both by transmitting more social stimuli and by receiving more sense impressions connected with social life. in terms of heterogeneous components and their relationships. Frances Heylighen has defined complexity in similar fashion. “is formed according to different laws from what is invisible.17 Several clarifications must be made here. inherent in these living systems. conscious or unconscious. many biologists insist that it is important to maintain some notion of complexity in order to address a number of noteworthy evolutionary facts. for fear of ascribing an evaluative term to an evolutionary process that is not governed by any overarching telos. Although bacteria vastly outnumber more complex mammalian life forms.” he instead concludes.” he writes.”23 Complexity is in part measured by relationships. Some forms of life are seemingly capable of more types of interaction with their environment. Stephen Jay Gould has convincingly argued that the faith in progress has permitted humans to feel themselves to be at the top of the evolutionary totem pole.”24 For example.

The dog’s gaze will but momentarily pass over what is a feast for the human eye.33 A student of Portmann quips: “[A]ll the training in the world will still leave a dog bored with ballet. form and response must evolve together. The perceivable form of many organisms refers to and implies the existence of creatures capable of witnessing these forms. It furnishes what he poetically calls a “feast for the eye.”26 Thus. the head is often barely distinguishable from the body. like the mandrill. These visual organs are the transmitters tuned-in to a very special receiving set. the total appearance of which has a meaning only when it is appreciated as being directed towards a beholding eye. or lungs and air.30 On the basis of such observations. ballet does not typically act as a stimulus for a dog. Portmann observes that in “lower” animals. “on all levels there is a trend for the more complex forms to increase in number. Hannah . or even an entire culture that dislikes ballet.29 Maxine Sheets-Johnstone notes that these markings are not found just anywhere. be it that of a member of the same species or that of an enemy. For example. say the bottom of the feet. but in places that are immediately visible or easy to display.118 The evolution of sexual form and meaning longer time. First. The evolutionary contrast between interest and indifference to a specific form must therefore be embodied in an appropriately programmed organism. in comparing true monkeys to lemurs. Some monkeys.”31 or performs a “composition”32 for an appreciative audience. organs to be looked at. and have been able to extend their niche accordingly. Portmann accordingly awards the animate form and observing eye of a single species the status of a “functional unit.27 He records the blank faces typical of these creatures. Heylighen insists that over time. The head region of more complex animals. an elongated neck. Portmann elaborates: [W]e are presented with optical structures. and colors atypical for their surroundings are but three of the most obvious features drawing the eye to the face. Portmann formulates several hypotheses about visible form. on the other hand. even have an extremely rare blue on their nose. is typically accentuated in a number of ways.” It has not debunked the thesis that increased complexity is one general. their transmissions must be judged with respect to the particular character of the receiving organ. Gould’s argument challenges the presupposition that complexity equals “best” or “superior.”34 While dogs certainly respond to the human form on a number of levels. the former have manes and beards while the latter have none.” as is the case with digestive systems and food. this dislike will not be the same as the sheer indifference of the dog. albeit not universal.28 Hair distribution very different from that found on the body. animate form is clearly designed to attract attention. he avows. With these caveats in mind.35 Summarizing Portmann. In the case of an individual human. rule of evolution.

Only then can the functions implied by animate form be fulfilled. An individual organism’s life is not immediately threatened if it lacks a suitably disposed audience for its daily shows (though it may be so if it misinterprets the form of another creature). the full realization of the individual’s potential. serves to ensure that we mature in close contact with our kin. . whatever can hear shouts out to be heard. is present in virtually all human beings at birth. and the peculiar slowing of human growth from the second year of life until puberty (neither trait which is found in other primates). However. Form is. Portmann thus concludes that perceivable form is designed to attract the attention of members of one’s species. the expression of the organism’s potential is diminished.” it is also “functional” in that it includes the orderly patterning of many functions that will not actually occur till certain objects present themselves. Portmann maintains. that it can only be exercised or realized where certain historically specific circumstances are present. Eugene Gendlin elaborates on this conception of functionality: [T]he living body . . but its arching in surprise or furrowing with rage will have no impact without an audience. and the survival of the species. an audience more or less ensured by evolution.37 This interaction with fellow species members. Yet contact with other humans is necessary for the full potential of speech to be realized. Even if evolution selects for individuals. For example. as reflected in the larynx. the eyebrow might protect the eye from sweat. an audience is furnished for both our form and our speech. and is provided for reflexively. These objects may or may not be present. However. perhaps comparable to language. Unless these other creatures are present. whatever can touch presents itself to be touched. We say that not only is the body order “structural. yet the body order includes the patterns of interaction that could obtain if they were present. . .The evolution of sexual form and meaning 119 Arendt concurs: “whatever can see wants to be seen. Such an understanding of form poses a yet more explicit challenge to the nominalist tenet that individuals are the building blocks of existence.39 In this way. . for this reason.”38 Portmann contends that our uniquely dependent state at birth. Bhaskar adds that “it is not an argument against the universal existence of a power . It is not the case that group life could just as likely not take place. the form’s full evolutionary purpose will not be fulfilled. . rests on the presence of other individuals.”36 It is certainly true that the linkage between formal appearance and observing eye is looser than that between lungs and air. Portmann observes that the physical capacity for speech. . is not simply left to chance. as many biologists argue. . also includes “unfinished” or “potential” patterns for certain preordered interactions with objects in the environment.40 The survival of the individual is in a sense the first order of business.

inwardness. Animate form represents a phenotypic.” asserts Sheets-Johnstone. The functional unit form/eye evolves together.”46 Thus. in order that certain processes in its environment should act as stimuli at all. although culture undoubtedly explains a large portion of our behavior. the Quinean belief that the relational aspect of meaning renders it secondary in ontological stature – derivative of and hence relative to language and culture – is further threatened. “Having a certain part. “in no way entails the having of a certain behavior. yet the grasshopper has evolved so that the signaling insect is in a state causally related to this . Maxine Sheets-Johnstone concludes succinctly: “Animate bodies are already a system of meanings. Some primitive act of differentiation is taking place. Portmann demonstrates. animal mood. Portmann observes that male grasshoppers make one sound when in proximity to other males of the species. But this is not the only theoretical option available. and a second at a distance. is not enough to transpose meaning exclusively to the realm of culture. Even in the case of a relatively less complex animal. because so many influences are alleged to override biological forces.”45 For example. Just as causal depth was used to explain empirical variability in the previous chapter. Near/far is a relationship. Communication. and. The mere establishment of a relationship. Margaret Archer writes: “[O]ur emotionality is regarded as a continuous running commentary (that is something we are never without). or “inner psychical world”43 explains behavioral variability in the presence of a given form.”41 Yet human behavior is obviously less predictable than the lung’s rhythmic expansion and contraction in relation to oxygen-rich air. theories about mood can be conceived as “emotional realism. mood. The precise nature of the contact between two individuals depends on more than the displaying of a certain form in the presence of a responsive other.120 The evolution of sexual form and meaning Portmann is demonstrating a specific way in which other individuals are a material extension of the self. explains the contrast between a dog’s indifference to ballet and a human’s dislike for the art. although it is probably only instinctual at this level. individual and society. “[W]e must presume that it has a particular inner state. and ontological connection between self and other. Furthermore.”42 It is at this point that poststructuralists and constructivists conclude that meaning must be made relative to language or culture. and this mood animates the beings on both ends of a functional unit. Living forms are always in a certain mood. Portmann states. although structured in the body. evolutionary. is not simply a logical deduction from the two poles of a functional relationship. The former sound is more threatening. genetic. For this reason. although it is surely not a conscious one.”44 Mood is thus one of the forces or structures explaining animal and human behavior. The grasshopper’s behavior requires both this inner state and the physical form furnished by another grasshopper. finally. and it leads the grasshoppers to distance themselves. nature and meaning.

now structured in our genome. “Emotions are about something in the world. tears.” writes Margaret Archer.50 Eugene Gendlin expands on this embodied aspect of mood or emotion: “Coming” is a characteristic of the body . it must be assumed that moods are similarly adapted to our historical needs. A connection between mood and weather might be hypothesized.The evolution of sexual form and meaning 121 variant in world affairs. Antonio Damasio writes that 47 .”48 A formal structure in the world is thus transformed into an inner. Margaret Archer concurs. “[t]hey are thus relational to something. nor breathe under water with their lung-gills. Portmann shows how we can make this relational aspect of mood truly material. they must come. Sadness is experienced on cloudy days. The gene code of an organism contains a fixed record of that organism’s successful historical interactions with its environment. Employing realist terminology. . and by natural necessity to the exclusion of. Emotions also come in this way. recent studies show that a fake smile is accompanied by different neuro-physiological markers than a real smile.52 While one can awaken to a sunny day and feel an authentic happiness come over oneself unbidden. Thus. other states. as a consequence. appetite comes. Just as these attributes reflect an evolved fit between form and environment. sleep. proof of the relativity of mood cannot in itself be used as proof of its relativity to culture. structured property. measurable as “bodily states” and expressible in the animate form Portmann outlined. Mood is neither a “subjective disturbance” willfully chosen from a spectrum of infinite possibilities. This thesis can easily be applied to the issue of human inwardness. The mood of happiness cannot be reduced to the behavior of smiling. also orgasm. whereas the former often gives rise to the latter. I suggest that inwardness is a property because a specific state is experienced in relation to. which is what gives them their emergent character. a property that then lays the groundwork for the experience of mood in more complex animals. While Darwin himself remarked that a simulated mood could lead to something like an authentic feeling. has the potential to come as an authentic response to something in our surroundings. You can feign joy or anger but to have them. and happiness on sunny days. .51 There is a material difference between moods that come and moods that are simulated. forcing oneself to make the best of a dismal day will not be quite the same. Considerable scientific evidence exists to support the thesis that emotions are evolved human capacities. The structure of happiness and sadness is encoded into our bodies as a result of many connections between the organism and its environment. You recognize the bodily nature of such comings. Humans can neither fly with their arm-wings. writing that our “rich inner life [is] an emergent property of persons. nor is it merely a cultural construction.”49 Mood.

”58 In general. But I have introduced the concept of mood to explain more than the two-pronged reactions of grasshoppers and the susceptibility of humans to weather. come to be associated with a diverse range of environmental situations. The latter provides for the “controlled expression” of the former’s “spontaneous manifestations. thus countering instinctive pressures. Damasio summarizes the contemporary literature and comes to a comparable conclusion. He cites one study showing that animals with larger neocortexes (such as fruit-eating monkeys in comparison to leaf-eating ones) engage in more complex decision-making activ- . There is. across a diverse range of cultures.54 Finally. express these bodily states just as readily as do hearing and seeing individuals. and further that individual and cultural factors alter the experience of mood. however. For example.55 “There are good reasons for believing. my assertion of the likelihood that mood structure is encoded in our DNA does not rule out the fact that specific moods can. through processes of conditioning and learning. while playing a role in the protection of the eye. since the time of Darwin. The mere fact of the complexity of our appearance suggests that a similar complexity must animate it. instinct-driven hypothalamus. Portmann states that human moods are the joint product of the older. fear. These moods are typically recognized as such by observing others. one prone to many errors and abuses. phylogenetically fixed factors. Regardless. more instinctive parts of the brain. I heartily agree that behaviorism can explain some aspects of human action.53 A famous study by Eibl-Eibesfeldt shows that children born deaf and blind. the eyebrow. Hence the obvious observation that an individual may still experience sadness on waking to a sunny day. animals with larger neocortexes are open to more elaborate interactions with their environment and can exert greater control over their moods. can also be arched in surprise or furrowed with rage or grief.122 The evolution of sexual form and meaning happiness. Portmann observes a clear correlation between the size of an animal’s cerebrum – the newer portion of the brain housing reason and language skills – and the variability of its behavior. as I stated above. a well-documented biological explanation for this dual nature of mood. numerous studies have revealed the links between animal and human emotions. giving credence to the thesis that our moods have evolved. and the newer cerebral home of consciousness. many scientists have argued that the “higher consciousness centers” in the cerebrum take over some of the functions of the older. anger. Furthermore. sadness.”56 The behaviorist model of conditioning promoted by poststructuralists and constructivists cannot explain the results of these studies.57 Measuring brains is a tricky undertaking. Were human inwardness to consist of nothing more than the sum total of hardwired correlates to the “feast for the eyes” provided by our bodies. “that our emotions contain a large number of inherited.” summarizes Lorenz. it would nonetheless amount to a substantial presence. and disgust are cross-cultural invariants with distinctive physiological correlates and facial expressions.

Once in place. as Damasio quips. These positions. the notion that once the expressive possibility of a form is present. behavioral variability is difficult to explain convincingly. Human inwardness is structured by the functional unit of animate form and receptive eye. The widely accepted conclusion is that animals with larger neocortexes. moods can be expressed in a variety of situations not necessarily connected to their evolutionary origins. Portmann attaches the rider that precisely which aspects of the organism will be open to both the environment and cortical control are still decided by the organism’s gene code. and only gradually did it come to be used to show surprise and anger.60 Therefore. However. What would be the evolutionary purpose of elaborate formal differentiation if it were not capable of eliciting a response from like creatures? Extra-cultural moods or instincts with the capacity to motivate behavior are the vital correspondents to animate form. Again. “[E]motions are not a luxury. He writes: [G]roups of moods are laid down in such a way as to determine the mode of world experience characteristic of each event. His unique hypothesis is to link explicitly the increase in the complexity of mood and behavior to the increase in complexity of form. including humans. Darwin does not discount. however. Darwin would argue that its protective function evolved first. If mood is attributed entirely to hardwired reflex reactions. and of making decisions rather than simply responding reflexively. However. the form could meet with increased evolutionary success because of that function: 59 . the relationship between animate form and observing eye stands in dire need of explanation. but instead dependent on later experience. mood is an emergent property. have the ability to lead to the formation of new relational modes – but only in conjunction with experience.”62 To return to the eyebrow. Darwin argued that expressive functions were the byproducts of other more salient evolutionary “goals. are capable of learning in the face of new stimuli. and variable because of our openness to the environment and our neocortical capacity to reflect. it is the preparation effected by heredity which controls the extent of this openness and thereby the new world relationships which are only later minted in the course of processes involving learning. mood furnishes another example of the twofold nature of biological entities: we are both constrained and unpredictable. and in fact even encourages.The evolution of sexual form and meaning 123 ities. It is possible that the various moods evolved as a consequence of particularly salient formal interactions. what is more.”61 Portmann pushes these arguments still further. The open positions in the system are also prearranged throughout the entire developmental path. But if mood is attributed entirely to culture.

and the enhancement of sociality provides one possible explanation. Portmann announces that. . . The explanation and consequence is a richer – in that it is more complex and more varied – social life. Elaborate form requires a mood expansive enough to bring it to life. the more capable it is of nonreflexive expression. mood. . is not merely a byproduct of other evolutionary pressures but is instead an important codeterminant of the increase in brain capacity as species evolve. elaborate form and complex mood play a part in the evolution of increased rational capacity. The movements of expression . Portmann has presented one plausible explanation with his contention that the pairing of showy form and complex mood is “designed” to enhance social bonds. wants to ascribe a greater evolutionary role to form. mutual good feeling is thus strengthened. with form. While it becomes impossible for fellow species members to ignore the walking advertisement of their kin. elaborate forms and moods would not continue to proliferate were they not adaptive in some way. the more complex a creature.124 The evolution of sexual form and meaning [W]e readily perceive sympathy in others by their expression . and the more intricate its social life. “[W]e have thus come across true organs of social relationship. even one pertaining to instinctive behaviors. In general. Portmann argues. and the amount of time spent in social grooming among non-human primates. inwardness evolves so that the precise nature of the response. group size.66 Even if Portmann is wrong about the initial force behind the evolution of form. the larger its neocortex. and brain function? How are survival odds increased with the simultaneous enhancement of inwardness and outwardness? Portmann proposes that the formal appearance of highly evolved creatures must be designed to link them together in ever more numerous and intricate ways. therefore. . becomes less and less predictable.”65 Contemporary research provides interesting support for Portmann’s work. For Portmann.63 Portmann. the neocortex comprises the “supreme biological complement” to the “riot of shapes and colors” of “higher” creatures. But what sort of evolutionary “purpose” could be served by this alleged connection between form. and vice versa. as a number of scholars have uncovered a close relationship between neocortex size. Form.64 In Portmann’s estimation. reveal the thoughts and intentions of others more truly than do words. there must be some route to this development. To the extent that more complex creatures do possess more “intensified forms of social relationships” as part of their more intricate interactions with the environment. and in turn improve fitness. . however. Portmann concludes. the showier its façade.

71 Sex “just happens” between less complex organisms. red appears liberally. rather than fewer. male and female functions are united in many “lower” hermaphroditic organisms. this explanation is tautological in the worst sense. Portmann insists that the lower incubating temperature is a result of the descent of the testes. With evolution to animals with larger neocortexes. hermaphroditism. Many other formal differences appear between the sexes. so to speak. Hair whorls are contrasted with hairless spots. Portmann asserts that the testes descended because of the increased visual allure they thus provided. and voice or song patterns. or else the separation of the sexes. these functions separate into two forms. Reproduction plain and simple is the goal.”69 Thus. The dominant hypothesis is that the testes descended because sperm production required a lower temperature than that found inside the body. More. The descent of the testes has long been considered puzzling because of the fragility of the organ and its centrality to reproduction. However. “depends upon characteristics that are very thoroughly hidden [to the eye]. species generally have highly distinctive genitalia. He indicates that the evolution of reproductive organs displays a similar trend to other instances of animal form. such as body hair. there are no bells and whistles. are not distributed at random amongst the different groups of animals or within the groups themselves. “[T]he meeting of the sexes. because sperm production proceeds apace in those many animals with internal testes. testes descend. contemporary scholars note that “species specificity and rapid evolution of genitalia is one of the most striking patterns of morphological divergence in animals.The evolution of sexual form and meaning 125 Sexual form and mood Portmann’s thesis relates to sexual form in interesting ways. the sexes separate and their distinctive characteristics . For example. Such a correlation between form and evolution is evident across a broad swathe of the planet’s creatures.70 In Portmann’s estimation. not a cause. In contrast. As life becomes slightly more complex. Given that genitalia generally become more elaborate with more complex life forms. signs of sexual differentiation are the hallmark of these life forms and their richer. most obviously in the case of hermaphroditic creatures.68 Furthermore.” Portmann observes. the sexes still resemble one another in virtually all respects except the shape of their reproductive organs. and penises increase in girth. The two most significant possibilities. vulvas expand. Portmann notes.”67 Furthermore. increasingly complex social existence. Portmann states: Even a first reconnaissance yields a few facts which show that sexual form production is not a matter of chance. the form of the respective genitalia is governed by purely functional considerations. the genitalia of more complex animals are truly spectacular.

and for whom appearances may be essential. The larger penis of the male Homo sapiens (in comparison to monkey species) makes perfect sense when observed in relation to the larger birth canal of the female. these creatures have no need for elaborate visual displays. In more intricate organisms. Given that we were in possession of penises and vaginas prior to our evolution to uprightness. evolved hand in hand with our richer. These features evolved together. each form also readily attracts members of the same sex. the poststructuralist and constructivist thesis that human sexual form need not be particularly salient would mark an evolutionary regress on our part. Quine’s contention that our innate perceptual categories reflect a series of chance mutations pertains specifically to the relationship between our brain and the relatively more ancient physical world. as ‘high’ or ‘low. it cannot simply be said that any other outcome could just as easily have taken place. This does not mean that humans do not rely on smell. The penis may well have increased in dimension with the move to upright posture. or larger group. He does not address the issue of the functional units connecting living entities evolving simultaneously. male and female alike. Organisms with less pronounced sexual differences have relatively impoverished (in comparison to our own) bonds to the world. and perhaps even because. Poststructuralists and constructivists are fond of noting that we generally cover our genitalia. from the perspective of Portmann’s work. If we were not. “few properties are more characteristic than the fact whether the animals can or can not see images. our visible forms would not have evolved. .72 “[I]n assessing an animal species. men and women around the world dress and adorn themselves with some sex-specificity. Furthermore. thus hiding any potential signaling capacity. The eye-catching penis no doubt wins everyone’s attention. Relying more on scent and automatic response. and males over there. sexual behavior demands more than a simple meeting of the functional unit of penis and vagina. more complex connections to the world. Our ornate sexual form. As estrus and its visible signaling functions were lost.”73 We are different from animals that rely strictly on nonvisual cues for sexual reproduction. As I have noted throughout this chapter. building on already-intact structures. therefore. even if. More complex animals require more sensory stimulation to increase the likelihood of their attraction to one another. too. The species must be “built” to attract members of the opposite sex. However. It is no longer merely a situation of being in possession of the requisite anatomy.’ ” Portmann writes.126 The evolution of sexual form and meaning become more pronounced. and so are able to see one another. something flashy was required to bring individuals together. it simply means that we now have the capacity for vision. it is not the case that females of a species are over here evolving. The enhanced visibility of human sexual difference corresponds to the enhanced role vision plays in general in our experience of the world.

The decision to abandon all forms of causal explanation. the principles that Foucault and Butler are proposing would result in the dismissal of explanations such as the following: The human penis surpassed the size of the monkey penis in order to better attract the gaze of the female of the species. do not obtain possession of the females.The evolution of sexual form and meaning 127 The notion that we express innate programs and forms linking us to other individuals has been rejected by constructivism and poststructuralism because of what I have argued are behaviorist influences. I suggest that poststructuralists and constructivists are denying the special features of biological kinds when they argue that causal explanation is metaphysical nonsense. most scholars dismiss the notion of goal-direction as teleological today. before or behind culture – means that we behave as though we are goal-directed. represents a neglect of natural history and evolution.76 Even Darwin hypothesized that female choice was a motor of evolution. the latter receiving increased visual stimulation and perhaps sexual pleasure from a larger penis. must compete for the attention of females. Males. Maxine Sheets-Johnstone suggests that primate studies and anthropology should pay more attention to this issue of male sexual presentation and the significance of female choice of partner. not a future-directed teleology. in many instances. independently of choice on the part of the latter. he wrote. causal role in human relations. A feminist theory unafraid of the issue of biological kinds and natural meaning could learn much from the above hypothesis about the evolution of the penis. The desire to avoid the charge of essentialism and foundationalism has therefore led to a fundamental misunderstanding of biological organisms and a reluctance to consider research hypotheses such as the one just posed. or to extra-cultural instincts and moods. We are left with bodies with no causal connections between them. Our biology – a natural history carried around inside each one of us. The courtship of animals is by no means so simple and short an affair as might be thought. It simply occurred. Indeed. physical form. and random events. represent adaptedness to a past. In the case of sexual genotypes and phenotypes. is metaphysical or essentialist ignores the fact that genetic programs. furthermore: [I]n a multitude of cases the males which conquer other males. particularly those pertaining to sexual kinds.74 The thesis that any reference to causal relationships between individuals.75 The bans on asking “why?” and on suggesting that sexual phenotype might play any natural.77 . means that we cannot suggest any evolutionary hypotheses for this development. and emotions and drives.

perhaps. Thus. .”82 She adds that this “dimorphic structuring is active. I have trouble believing that this is possible or even desirable. polymorphous. more provocation. or that some heterosexual contact between humans – even if only as a byproduct of general sexual interaction – could be negated. This too. further increases the variability of human sexual behavior. enabling different reproductive roles and certain sexual possibilities and pleasures. it is doubtful that an instinctive mood sparked by the sight of the human form could be completely eradicated by any culture over the long run. makes feminists reluctant to consider research hypotheses related to sexual form. As a consequence.79 It is no surprise that our dramatic moodiness. norms and identities.” they add. and a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of biological organisms. more pleasure. All the same. when Kessler and McKenna propose an ideal society in which individuals could assume the sparse mantle of “sperm carrier” or “egg carrier. as a direct result of our increased complexity. and meaning is structured in nature to this not-insignificant extent. provides some evidence for this hypothesis. and ruling others out. sexuality presupposes biological powers but is emergent from them. causally powerful. Andrew Sayer writes: “like any kind of social behavior. We cannot rule out that we as human mammals may even require more sexual difference than other animals. “Except for those times.84 Even if sexual behavior can be bisexual. some innate sexual instinct channeling our aroused bodies towards the bodies of other human beings must be hypothesized to make sense of our elaborate sexed form. or homosexual.”83 The seeming bisexuality combined with heterosexuality of one of our nearest evolutionary cousins. as I suggested above. Human sexual form is “understood” by other human beings. along with our awareness of it. Homosexual and bisexual behavior can be found throughout the animal world. . SheetsJohnstone notes.128 The evolution of sexual form and meaning At present the hypothesis of “sexually aggressive male/sexually passive female” still permeates our science and culture.”78 Yet the desire to avoid the charge of essentialism and foundationalism. male genitalia have scarcely been investigated: “the penis remains shrouded in mystery . is a sign of our great complexity. .”81 This strikes me as an extremely ascetic existence.” if and when reproductive activity were desired. “there need be no differentiation among people on any of the dichotomies which gender implies. just to begin the list of human possibilities. and involves culturally specific (though contested) practices. Otherwise. more variety. [and] in this way gains unassailable stature and power. Sexual variety is a manifestation of our capacity to interact in a more multifaceted fashion with our environment. corresponding response from a human onlooker. we would pay less attention to sex. it is not simply the case that the possession of the requisite sexual form will invoke a specific. Caroline New summarizes that “sexual difference is real.”80 Perhaps it is the case. the bonobo chimpanzee. that we require more stimuli. and salient in all imaginable human societies. As I have stressed repeatedly.

. forms which have been perpetuated and exacerbated across eons and a wide range of animal species. One. often (but not always) tells us something about that world as a consequence. humans engage in variable. In this final section. I will argue that our innate ability to recognize and respond to pattern and form lies at the heart of language as well. “one . the discovery that bees can count should be no more astonishing than the fact that they can communicate the location of a rich grove of flowers with “bee dances. A philosophy that cannot address the synthesis of these phenomena. it has been suggested that bees. In one study. but not completely random. regardless of whether this was the original feeder or whether it now had food in it. The scientists engaged in this study were not suggesting that bees buzz to themselves. my reaction was one of utter disbelief. is a philosophy that limits itself in its divorce from the natural world. Sense and language I have hopefully convinced readers that important aspects of meaning are nonlinguistic. . The bees continued to fly to the feeder three landmarks away from their hive. This finding has been replicated in other species as well. The bees initially located food. sexual behavior.85 When I first heard of this research. represented an arbitrary way of dividing up the world. Birds apparently know the difference between three and four food repositories. .The evolution of sexual form and meaning 129 Disagreement with these formulations does not diminish the significance of two phenomena. three landmarks away from their hive. I would suggest. Two. two . for example. as such. However. Surely counting. As I said at the close of the previous chapter.” Rather. I begin with a colorful story from the world of animals. For example.”86 Bees apparently further navigate their surroundings by “counting” landmarks. three. we must explain variability and pattern. . and monkeys have displayed signs of confusion when two eggplants turn into three behind an obfuscating screen or an experimenter’s back. ducks. possess conceptual abilities similar to our own. bees sense or immediately experience the difference between two and three.87 . I will show that language evolves in relation to the world and. of all things. The relationship between language and the world is not as tenuous as most twentieth-century philosophers have suggested. The landmarks and feeders were then shifted repeatedly. humans are in possession of elaborate but structured sexual forms. so accepting was I of the contemporary creed that all human knowing is the product of culture. which I contend that any theory of sex and sexuality. and not at its distant horizon. must explain. and monkeys can count. In recent years there have been a number of scientific studies demonstrating that animals. bee feeders were set up in relationship to various landmarks. or that sees nothing significant in this synthesis. even insects. including any feminism.

Margaret Archer defends a distinction between our sense of self. Millikan and Gendlin further clarify this distinction in their example of recognizing a friend or a family member. We do not need to read the number on the Four of Spades to know that there are four symbols on the card. but we can and do refer to it on a daily basis without using words. This sense allows me to identify her even if on rare occasions I might mistake someone else’s voice for hers or think that I see her coming up the street. perhaps how I would describe her to others – is based on felt sense. which I have adapted somewhat in the following. The possibility that different people will pick features of my sister that are for them most distinctive does not mean that each of us has a different sense of her. we can only talk about sense using words.”88 There are dictionary definitions of the word “four” dependent on and hence relative to the meanings of other words. nor that she is different under these different descriptions. or any other color. When I do make a positive identification. a felt sense to “four” that does not rely on this dictionary definition. Granted. Sense must come first. on the one hand. speak differently. The statement “red is a color. and only then come to think in terms of red.89 Similarly.92 Sense is something to which we do have access. it is true. I will use the words “sense” and “dictionary definition” to refer to these concepts respectively. This distinction reflects a challenge to the behaviorist tradition. even if she might wear different clothing. There is. and the definition of self. even if it is ultimately referred to with many dictionary meanings. the dictionary definition of my sister that relies on the use of words – in this case. or even change her name. the relativity of red to these other colors does not mean that we develop the concept of color first. undergo plastic surgery.130 The evolution of sexual form and meaning These examples suggest that our number system might originate in nonlinguistic concepts that map onto the world from the perspective of several animal species. Sheets-Johnstone asserts that “numbers as such are not essential to counting. Another everyday illustration is furnished by the basic color concept red. blue. Despite many such changes. as this tradition minimizes the importance of nonlinguistic sense and relies almost exclusively on the concept of dictionary definition in its deconstruction of meaning.91 I have a felt sense of my sister.” is.90 Realists maintain a general distinction between the ability to identify or sense something. only to discover that it is not really her. she would never become another person – me for example. on the other. all the same. from the ability to define it by using language. a universal. Furthermore. cut her hair.93 Millikan asserted earlier that we have a distinct sense of red in that we perceive that it is not green. I know with certainty – albeit not logical certainty – that the individual is my sister. including constructivism and poststructuralism. a dictionary statement dependent on the . contrary to Quinean assertions that all meaning is automatically relative to language. something which varies from culture to culture and era to era. Again. This sense of my sister is stable and trustworthy.

In the same way that my sense of my sister is a composite of perceptual data. and that no underlying meanings are shared or transmitted in the process. our identification or sense of red is the more primary thing. another person says exactly the same thing when confronted by the same stimuli. as I have suggested. SheetsJohnstone concludes that “no language can be spoken for which the body is unprepared.95 Quine and Skinner – and. of which there may be several. which are then “co-ordinated with highly developed nerve centres.”94 We do not learn to sense or identify red differently once it has been defined as a color. conditioned speech norm and to utter the different phrase.The evolution of sexual form and meaning 131 meaning of other words. “What would be the point in saying something. Yet.” writes Millikan. Realists instead argue that felt sense plays a greater role in language development than behaviorists allow.” Mia Gosselin asks. There appears to be no reason for an individual to depart from a hegemonic.”98 The common sense of something serves to unite a wide range of dictionary definitions. The statement “red is a color” builds on the prior ability to identify the property red in the world. good. making it easier to learn a number of terms relatively quickly. our sense of a similar form or pattern must exist apart from its citation in the linguistic laws of our society. Foucault and Butler – argued that a child learns language and behavior through processes of conditioning. purr.”97 A child has a lot of conceptual data about kitty or Mommy or girl before he or she learns to name them. “To believe that a thing falls in a certain ontological category. Our sense of red maps onto the world in the same way that my sense of my sister maps onto her. The statement “red is a color” then gives the sense a dictionary definition. the instance of expressing different statements in the face of similar stimuli confounds the behaviorist paradigm. Thus children can learn that kitty is Felix. “is not to harbor another inner representation for it but to have a fuller concept of it. Realists also assert that the behaviorist position that communication consists only of verbal homology leaves the evolution of language by and large unexplained.96 We gather various bits of information about things.99 Again. Sheets-Johnstone writes that children have many “fundamental tactile-kinesthetic experiences” which form the ingredients of linguistic and nonlinguistic concepts. “if what I was going to say was already obvious to the hearer?”100 As Chomsky argued long ago. and hssss! with relative ease because all of these experiences are combined in their felt sense of the cat. Communication amongst fully “conditioned” members of a culture – never mind between adults and foreign initiates or adults and children – would be completely unnecessary if its only goal were to determine that yes. fluffy. Realists Doyal and Harris pose the question as follows: . The child has an ability to make connections between these experiences and bits of information. connections that then ground a number of dictionary definitions. The statement does not divide the world up in some new way. [permitting] the various kinds of stimuli to be brought into a many-sided relationship. soft.

united by their “fit” to one another and the environment.103 Millikan insists that some of this work of language must be to make true observational statements about the world. It then follows that any change in what is said is ex hypothesi unintelligible. and the world. As I argued in Chapter 4. represents “mere cowardice” on the behalf of philosophers.132 The evolution of sexual form and meaning Suppose that Quine is right. linguistic interactions where individuals do say different things would have to end chaotically. “If man is a natural creature and a product of evolution. the world as it appears to us from our evolved perspective. With neither the bond of common words nor felt sense.106 For SheetsJohnstone. have a purpose.107 We talk in part.101 The poststructuralist variant of behaviorism answers that “the new” comes from a recombination of the old. as Quine alleges. If behaviorists are correct. accordingly.104 These realist interpretations thus concur that speaking and listening functions must evolve together. our words. Language does not simply emerge as a complete system out of our innate categories. even if any single word could just as easily be any other. While Foucault and Butler have embraced this unintelligibility.102 We do not just create language arbitrarily. Rather than “choral speak- .” and as such.” Millikan asserts. other speakers and listeners. One individual could be babbling incoherently to another staring into space. or at the very least. There is a second. this thesis still leaves unexplained both the rationale behind the shift and its intelligibility to other members of the culture. because we now no longer do the same under the same stimulus conditions. realists insist that communication would be completely unmotivated if such dishomology were to be the norm. as was the case with animate form and receiving eye in Portmann’s analysis. Millikan therefore proposes. there would be absolutely nothing connecting individuals in speech. as a “happy ending” to a bizarre evolutionary leap. and the sole criterion for agreement/ understanding is no more than saying the same under the same stimulus conditions. There would appear to be no reason for such individuals to continue talking to one another. “it is reasonable to suppose that man’s capacities as a knower are also a product of evolution. while readily granting that singing helps birds. different sentences (even across different cultures) are tested empirically in daily life. it is indicative of lingering devotion to the belief that humans are of an entirely different order than are animals. related difficulty. Doyal and Harris contend that language is used to “do things. because one function of language is to produce true beliefs in listeners. the refusal to entertain the possibility that language conveys objective knowledge. Speech must. and sonar.”105 According to Millikan. Sheets-Johnstone maintains that language is an evolutionary phenomenon involving work between our innate sense. bats. suggesting that it potentially empowers individuals.

expressions. be wrong. we cannot as a rule. Millikan maintains that [c]oming to know something by believing what someone else says is making use of another instrument that extends perception – an instrument that is hardly an artifact. Therefore. If all language conveyed inaccurate information. or merely conventional truths. language. not with Cartesian certainty – that “gavagai” refers to the entire rabbit.The evolution of sexual form and meaning 133 ing.. in general. Doyal and Harris elaborate: [I]t may be the case that ‘rabbit. and as such it is corrigible and variable. nor do we carve metaphors out of nothing. Language blooms because different phrases often provide us with new information about an object or meaning of which all parties have a prior sense. just because we sometimes learn a phrase through mimicry.’ ‘rabbit moment. Try eating a ‘rabbit moment’ or ‘a glimpse of rabbit’ or suggesting that the alien do so!112 . others must be good recorders of the world.110 We do not. and we are by and large rewarded for conveying correct information. and speech is one means for communicating our knowledge.109 Sentences evolve only through elaborate processes of empirical testing. this cannot provide the sole explanation for the transmission of language. not for simply echoing the words of our group. “something it is supposed to be able to do yet perhaps cannot do. or simply “cohered” as a system with no link to the world. we would meet a similar fate. too. as a species. using different phrases. But if we are sometimes wrong in this way of knowing. just make up sentences. Such a theory by no means entails that all aspects of a language at any specific point in time must relate something true about the world.’ etc. Millikan concludes that just as internal organs have “proper functions” that cannot be judged on the basis of diseased versions.’ ‘rabbit part. There is no magical solution as to whether a specific phrase maps onto the world in some way. For the most part. has a proper function. We talk around the same theme or the same entity. and. and interpretations. again. not via an analysis in a single philosopher’s head.”111 If all livers were diseased.108 We have evolved as knowers. or that every word in a foreign language will be comprehensible to a visitor. we “trust” rather than mimic the statements of others as extensions of our own capacities to observe. But the same would not hold for the ‘gavagai’ on the dinner table. and not to a rabbit bug or a rabbit spirit. Similarly. we would be dead. Language is a form of knowing about the world.” the listener often learns something from the speaker. We learn – but only through experience. This instrument is the carefully adjusted perceptual and cognitive systems of another person. are all possible equivalents for ‘gavagai’ where the translator is simply being shown around the alien’s forest.

the best strategy for challenging hate speech is for targeted groups to “restage and resignify” the various slurs. or utter what is merely a conventional belief.”114 This claim reflects a full rejection of the trajectory started by Hempel. Foucault. “lie with relations that are genuinely between thought and the world.” Millikan insists. He or she uttered the word. even dangerous. it is hard to imagine a . language would be purposeless. at least in part. people lie. Imagine five individuals: a child parroting hate speech without understanding the meaning of the word. and Butler. The realist philosophy I have outlined suggests specific reasons why this task may be more difficult than imagined. an adult using the word maliciously. The felt sense of a word gives it deeper roots than behaviorists have acknowledged. However. by applying the realist theory of language to the issue of hate speech raised in Chapter 4. Behaviorism needs to be supplemented with an understanding of the ways in which language is grounded. Context is not merely linguistic. and the appropriate giggles or horrified stares were offered in response. The child could then inadvertently use the word in many contexts. and why a behaviorist approach is inadequately nuanced. Butler argued that speech is constrained neither by the intent of a speaker nor by its originating “context. an enlightened. That it proliferates indicates otherwise. by a shared sense of things. knowing full well its impact. I would like to close this discussion. Quine.” Therefore. it is impossible to understand the evolution of thought and language unless we relate it to the world in some way. from an evolutionary perspective. The parroting child in the first case has little or no understanding of hate speech. but essentially harmless person who is aware that certain epithets are being used parodically but is unaware of the issues at stake. and finally. an evolutionary account of language asserts that most sentences have a causal relationship to the world around us. and continued by Goodman. again. in effect engaging in the ironic rearticulation imagined by Butler. realism stands opposed to one of the dominant trends of philosophy of the last century. Furthermore. Following her general philosophy. Rethinking performative politics Thus. His or her learning process was probably as close to classical conditioning as possible. realism insists that there are at least two components to meaning. a newly empowered member of a social minority using the same word in the same way. In this fundamental way. If this were the case with the bulk of our communication. Rather. an unenlightened. and this book. well-informed. non-minority individual attempting to use an epithet ironically or positively.134 The evolution of sexual form and meaning Quite obviously.113 “[B]oth meaningfulness and truth. Millikan cautions that it is not simply a question as to the status of our various beliefs. Meaningful words must usually refer to more than just their dictionary definition.

How are we to gauge whether people are using the terms in an empowering way or a derogatory way? Butler has argued that censorship is dangerous because the state will use the laws to further subjugate already oppressed groups. as their numbers are simply too great. knowing that its “redeployment” has been sanctioned by a performative theory of politics. the individual will still possess the felt sense that caused him or her to express their hatred. has a felt sense of the word that might run very deep. In either case. Therefore.” and “bitch” touch on a complicated jumble of lived experiences. The second individual. a single individual here and there could be correctly conditioned into not uttering hate speech again. The child could be ignored when the word is uttered.115 Granted. for this person. and homophobic attitudes are so slow in transforming that it is best to protect people in the meantime by stripping hate speech of its power to hurt. . at least it will no longer be publicly expressed. The label at the end of such a chain of events represents much more than a single word response to a repeated stimulus. the best we can hope for is that they learn that it is socially unacceptable. The strategy of ironic redeployment therefore permits minorities to get on with their lives while the hateful stew in their own bile. Here is the ideal realm for behaviorist theories of language acquisition. These individuals may be so filled with hate that a lifetime of debate and analysis would have little or no impact on their irrational thoughts. a simple ironic retort such as. Butler might respond that racist. If the irrational hatred lingers behind.The evolution of sexual form and meaning 135 group of listeners appreciating the parody. Perhaps this points to a more general problem with the performative strategy.” “faggot. But just as easily. Before someone can learn to employ hate words in a meaningful way – in a way that isn’t just the mimicking of a racist parent or school friend – he or she has to have a range of experiences. the racist/sexist/homophobic individual could take the opportunity to continue to use the word. so I am what you called me. or even labels for everyday objects in our environment. we will not have the means by which we can examine and attempt to alter these feelings. We recognize that a child cannot have quite the same meaning as an adult. Furthermore. There is surely something to the notion that the attitudes of numerous people will be nearly impossible to change. sexist. and encouraged when a more appropriate term is used in its place. when children are four or five. While we anticipate that all people can ultimately learn that ascriptive inequality is wrong. providing a shield for hostile individuals. the performative strategy can easily backfire in an identical manner. and I love it!” will not alter much about the situation. Hate speech is obviously more salient than words describing abstract concepts like quarks. Epithets like “nigger. “OK.116 However. an adult using an epithet maliciously. It is highly improbable that the neo-Nazi groups in eastern Germany would be much affected by a strategy of ironic rearticulation.

Butler’s declaration that all such reeducation is automatically citational and performative strikes me as an overly generous interpretation of performativity. So these individuals take on the ironic language of performative politics. listeners will quite naturally assume that the person is intending to harm. however tedious that can sometimes be. I repeat that the goal for egalitarian movements should be to convince people that inequality is wrong. Individuals attempting to investigate the intent behind a person’s deployment of hate speech can be easily silenced with the claim that they just “don’t get it. All the same. It won’t be enough. This too will depend on some kind of prior empower- . Surely some of these ironically indifferent individuals are open to persuasive argument. I suggest further that social movements are giving up the responsibility to educate. including music. Yet this difficult work of persuasion and attitude change is further complicated by the contemporary hipness of performative politics. and misogynist individuals have changed their minds when presented with coherent debate. they talk about it openly and wear T-shirts with the label “Porn Star. He or she knows that certain influential pop figures openly talk about their queer friends. They have to believe that they (or another subordinated group) are worthy members of society.” They also know that porn is hot these days. both individuals will undoubtedly have conflicting emotions associated with various epithets. They might not know the difference between an ironic deployment of a slur and a hurtful one. Without a clarifying lecture. the speakers will have to convince themselves that the words will not hurt. and now pornography. or people of color as “niggers. by limiting themselves to a rearticulatory strategy. There is also the possibility that the ironic use of epithets by such individuals is an attempt to demonstrate detachment from politics. for a person who is not openly gay to walk around talking about faggots and dykes. outside of a graduate school classroom. not that it is inappropriate. Irony has multiple purposes. or jokingly refer to women as “beeyatches” (the spelling indicates the ironic tone). art. They will. or between unenlightened and enlightened porn. Second.” The fourth and fifth individuals (the enlightened non-minority individual and the minority individual) represent a situation having more to do with the relationship between language and the world rather than language and intent or felt sense. and surely some racist. comes into the picture. and I have already argued that it is extremely unhelpful in its generality and its dismissal of the role of reason.136 The evolution of sexual form and meaning This is where the third individual. first of all.” I have several observations about such individuals. have to convince their audiences that they are using hate speech in a performative fashion. This is the individual who is perhaps very in tune with popular culture. one of which is an effort by the user to distance him or herself from commitment or engagement. homophobic. and not only do they rent porn. the unenlightened yet relatively harmless person.

Hate speech is not quite the same as the speech we probably all heard in school: that we were too smart. However. this distancing should not be a simple Nietzschean reaction to the perception that pain is always an expression of weakness.The evolution of sexual form and meaning 137 ment. Just as the fashionable individual might use irony to demonstrate detachment.” Still. it will die out. too pimply. that they are capable of being hurt. will continue to injure individuals unless we engage in the practice of rearticulation. all of which . But supposing Butler does not rule out the necessary political activity of attitude change. even to themselves. evidence to the contrary. I also think that a tentative argument can be made about the sound of epithets linking them to derogatory implications.”121 It ultimately takes a lot of effort to convince oneself that. It is not enough to assert that emotions are easily shaped from the outside in. unfounded – assumption that the strategic and ironic citation of hate speech and pornography in a few urban centers will be adequate to give them new meaning in the face of this history. hard consonants. She makes much of the fact that simply writing epithets like “nigger.122 This is of course true.” and “bitch. but they do not have the same point of reference as hate speech. The deep-rooted meaning of epithets in the mind of prejudiced individuals is matched by the deep-rooted inequality in the world. and the resultant distancing individuals can experience from their more authentic expressions.120 This argument need not rely on the existence of some completely pre-cultural and nonlinguistic emotional realm. rather. these engaged individuals might use irony to deny. “emotions contain the wisdom of the ages. epithets do not hurt.117 However.” as I have here. Words do tell us something about our environment. These words may have shaped us personally. and glottal stops. too skinny. as Butler did when she cited Bourdieu’s “the body believes in what it plays at.119 Arlie Hochschild has written of the psychological costs of managing one’s emotions on a daily basis. Hate speech always refers its target to the unequal society.”118 I noted above. it does suggest that emotions are not merely a single person’s response to a lifetime of discursive constitution. as Wendy Brown has argued. Most epithets have a relatively small number of letters allowing for their hasty invective utterance. and that she can somehow incorporate it under the label “performativity.” “faggot. Butler might reply that there is a need to disassociate emancipatory movements from an immersion in victimization. but I would add that it is because the words act as a general reminder of the unequal society that fostered this language. It is an enormous – and I would argue. re-linking words to the external world suggests that unless a new deployment of the words provides some accurate measure of the current state of affairs. for example. It is much harder to make the phrase “Cleopatra Queen of the Nile” into a slur than it is a monosyllabic word. Epithets often (but not always) make use of nasal sounds. and the like. Butler is of course aware of this ugly truth. that fake smiling and real smiling produce different patterns in the brain.

. I am. suggesting that there are more things fixing meaning than a behaviorist analysis permits. the concrete example of hate speech demonstrates the problems inherent in the wholesale adoption of relativist behaviorism. Performative rearticulation can potentially have some impact on unequal social realities and prejudiced attitudes. I maintain that it is inadequate and flawed. or suggesting that context cannot soften otherwise harsh sounds. As an exclusive strategy. I am not promoting a determinism of the alphabet. I caution against their exclusive or rigid employment. While many contemporary thinkers have heralded this difficulty as a new kind of freedom. phonetic sounds might convey more meaning than an analysis of context alone permits. Reference cannot be so easily and thoroughly divorced from external affairs and internal meaning. all kinds of explanation become exceedingly difficult.138 The evolution of sexual form and meaning could be reflective of their negative connotations. These aspects of reference have had such a lingering hold on philosophy for good reason. without their use. While these philosophies can be used productively to illuminate aspects of many phenomena. Realism provides a way forward. all the same. primarily because of its linkage to behaviorism and relativism. If language is connected to the world. however.

for example. I have defended a realist alternative. Quine. that the phenomena of the world can be explained. I also do not believe that poststructuralists and constructivists have adequately addressed the issue of the differences between physical and biological matter. as these goals – like those of all feminisms – are the eradication of sexual hierarchy and the opening of increased possibilities for individuals through challenges to hegemonic social norms. even a culturally constructed one. However. which caused Quine to distance himself from Goodman. Even if the questions and problems I have posed can be resolved on some level by poststructuralists and constructivists. arguing that it is only from a perspective distinguishing between natural and social kinds. Such conceptual clarification is much needed at the moment. I believe many to be unaware of the problem of similarity. I have argued that. sense and dictionary definition. regardless of protestations to the contrary. mood and behavior. pattern and variation. The philosophy that concerns itself with the questions most relevant to biology. has been more or less ignored in feminist circles. poststructuralist and constructivist feminism couches its theories in a nominalist. they have not yet been adequately addressed. and Foucault. the philosophy of science. I was initially drawn to both biology and the philosophy of science because it struck me as odd that sweeping statements about sex were being formulated without the benefit of either. I have demonstrated some of the links between the philosophies of Goodman. Contemporary realism has not been given a fair chance to defend itself against poststructuralism and constructivism. . Reliance on this framework results in a number of philosophical problems and brings with it political consequences that remain by and large unexamined by its proponents. and behaviorist philosophy. The mistake of the past was to attempt a full Hegelian definition of entities. including the phenomena of sex and sexuality. relativist. and the recent feminist arguments deconstructing the sex categories. causal structures and their exceptions. I have not disagreed with the goals of this feminism. Constructivists and poststructuralists have offered no explanation for how we can come to identify a kind.7 Conclusion In the preceding pages.

3 I am convinced that something of this monastic chastity lingers in poststructuralism and constructivism. the commission of a logical error. it is impossible to prove or disprove statements about the empirical world with . At several places in this book. . Poststructuralists and constructivists are right: we have no way of definitively knowing if any of our knowledge claims are certain. Adorno also warns that philosophy has spent far too much time exploring the implications of the mediation of knowledge thesis. logic’s “sublimation of the ascetic ideal” – is found lurking. accordingly. Foucault’s nebulous “pleasures. . . .” and the near emptiness of the biological sex categories in contemporary constructivism and poststructuralism. Whenever anyone attempts to put some meat on these bare bones. A philosophy uncontaminated by content can float. It is almost as though theorists are trying to absolve themselves of the sins of the twentieth century. were the fruit of original monastic chastity. as if the emptiness of the concept . . will be revalued into a sign of profundity. . The mediation of knowledge thesis is logically unassailable because. . . Involuntary abstractness is presented as a voluntary vow . [E]ach substantive deficiency. beginning with Heidegger. The formulation of any affirmative statement marks a step outside the constraints of language and culture. Adorno continues that the ambiguity of twentieth-century philosophy is often taken as a sign of its genius: The very meagerness of what all this leaves .4 The principle that knowledge is relative is undoubtedly accurate at the level at which knowledge is equated with absolute truth. guilt-free. . He was sharply critical of philosophers.2 Every time a concept is left undefined. and.”1 Butler’s vague “demands” of the body. is recoined into an advantage. Theodor Adorno also challenged this twentieth-century reluctance to engage in conceptual definition. theory can be accused of oppressing no one. . . each absence of a cognition. who posited concepts that were never given any content. [w]hatever a critic would pick on can be dismissed as a misconception. demonstrate similar signs of this reluctance to engage in conceptual definition. as relativists have noted for centuries. they are instantly accused of philosophical naïveté and essentialism. He leveled a scathing criticism of Heidegger’s notion of Being: “That Being is neither a fact nor a concept exempts it from criticism. . The poststructuralist and constructivist philosophers in this book avoid being pinned down by stating that discourse immediately proscribes an object within the bounds of culture. I have suggested that psychological as well as philosophical motivations might be involved in this excessive reticence and false modesty. or the errors of philosophy’s past. above the sinning material world of commitment and definition. By saying nothing.140 Conclusion The mistake of today is the evasion of definition.

it has been believed that sex is a natural. Thus. Once we accept that language and knowledge emerge and evolve from the world. “not that we always are.Conclusion 141 definitiveness. as they uniformly cast doubt on all truths. If social and political theory is to get past this truism that knowledge is mediated. Feminists everywhere are quick to point out that sex roles differ widely across cultures (although I think it is still important for feminists to caution that there are few if any cultures in which women have equal status to men.”6 It is the equation of relativism and tolerance that has recently stifled serious debate in the humanities and social sciences. we can become less concerned with the standard of logical certainty. Once we resolve that an explanation for our knowledge is possible. it is harder to argue that our interaction with that world can be completely obfuscated. The poststructuralist and constructivist thesis that feminism must challenge the sex–gender distinction and the belief in the existence of two natural sexes cannot be accepted without question. Contemporary realists do not deny that skepticism or relativism is warranted in specific situations. it is the case that others must be false. and in many parts of the world. even those in which individuals can “choose” their sex). are difficult to explain if it is argued that the relatively static concept of biological sex is the prime causal force. remarkably in the last twenty. judgment need not necessarily bring with it intolerance. and should not. gender has varied widely while sex. a sophisticated realist philosophy provides a feasible starting point for studying the world. unless all arguments about nature are deemed to be conservative by default. The dramatic changes in gender roles within our culture. If anything. Roy Bhaskar puts this in technical terms not originally related to the issue of sex: . However. and the differences in gender roles across cultures. “If being a constructivist is never having to say [other individuals or cultures are] wrong. “Realism is the view that we are often in a position to make certain existence claims. This should have exacerbated inequality if the general poststructuralist and constructivist thesis were correct. But I have argued that we need not. Poststructuralism and constructivism do not have a monopoly on concern for social justice and equality. operate at the level of logical certainty. the scientific drive to attribute sex to a single gene has intensified the belief in the existence of two biological sexes. It may appear that poststructuralism and constructivism are the more tolerant philosophies. gender has varied across a fairly static natural base. or that theories should be open to potential revision. It may instead cultivate true modesty. however. Gender roles have changed substantially in the past 100 years. Throughout this century. Furthermore. Instead.” writes Richard Miller. Gender roles cannot change without a cause.”5 With the declaration that some theories are true. or the cultural construct “sex. my conclusion cannot be read conservatively. “it is never having to say we’re wrong either.” Richard Boyd quips.” has remained more or less constant. biological phenomenon.

I have argued that humans have an innate capacity to note similarities. and 2. and that these forces will remain intact unless explicitly challenged. and 2. There is evidence that our sense of sexual similarity and difference refers to a natural state of affairs. It cannot be argued that the belief in the existence of binary sex categories is the only way in which gender is supported. Furthermore. we cannot erase the perceived sense of similarity and difference we have of various skin colors. is at present purely hypothetical. as well as its lingering difficulties.) sex cannot be the sole source of. this book shows that it could be a mistake to try to fight sexism and misogyny through repeated assertions that biological sex is a cultural construction.) gender cannot be fully justified or comprehensively criticized in terms of sex. poststructuralists and constructivists are implicitly denying that there could be any other logic explaining oppression. Antiracist movements must challenge how these observations of similarity and . I remind readers of Sarah Hrdy’s contention that humans have pushed sexual inequality to extremes unknown in other animals. 1. as I argued at the beginning of this book. The realist demand for structured explanation suggests that social inequality has more than one logic behind it. in all likelihood. nor even the most important way.) x cannot be the sole source of.” It is as though there are no perfectly good reasons to want to oppress someone. The issue of race is somewhat different. Domination and inequality are recalcitrant but not intractable. Although our innate sense is wrong to the extent that skin color is not indicative of a difference in racial kind.8 In arguing that gender inequality is best explained in terms of the cultural logic of biological sexual difference.7 Translating this passage into language appropriate to the sex and gender issue gives us the following: If sex is relatively static (or believed to be) and gender is not. The implication that menial labor would dry up. now culturally constructed “biology. or completely explained in terms of gender. 1. the wide variability in gender becomes nearly inexplicable. If the static sex binary is at the root of sex inequality. We do quite a nice job of maintaining grotesque inequality using the ideology of merit and hard work.142 Conclusion [I]f x is relatively unchanging and y is not. This denial truly does reflect the reduction of sociology and politics to biology. Fighting to diminish their causes and effects is complicated and difficult. or that cultural perks would be divided equally in the face of a deconstruction of the sex categories. There must be many other contributing factors behind the success of feminism.) y cannot be fully justified or comprehensively criticized in terms of x. apart from their physical shape as constituted in a discourse. or completely explained in terms of y.

In any case.” he wrote. To make . . . is bereft of argument and strategy for this reason.”10 I would rather be an essentialist. The minute an attempt is made to distinguish between nature and culture. But. the result of such reflection can never be final or satisfactory. [but] we should not rest content with applying this relation. the manners of the Spartans the cause of their constitution and their constitution conversely the cause of their manners. . I have suggested that such an outcome might also be highly undesirable in that it would diminish the rich social lives that our sexed bodies engender. they are far preferable to the alternative. . universalist. should not count on the possibility of eradicating our perceived sense of sexual difference. . Arguments that we can completely restructure our sense of similarity are perhaps simplistic when seen in the light of evolution. . .9 We have yet to move beyond the impasse whereby all that we can say about the world is that nature and culture are an impenetrable mix. and that this book will provide an alternative to those wary of absolutist arguments. and his observation about the difference between systemic theories and their opponents. Hegel noted long ago that the principle of the mediation of knowledge is a starting point rather than a stopping point: Reciprocity is undoubtedly the proximate truth of the relation of cause and effect .Conclusion 143 difference are translated into essences. Much contemporary social and political theory. or what have you. may no doubt be in a way correct. While systemic theories tend to ignore particularity and difference. including feminism. yet not entirely persuaded by poststructuralism and constructivism. but perhaps not the perception of the patterns themselves. Feminism. “Systems elaborate things. I am reminded again of Adorno. If we go no further than studying a given content under the point of view of reciprocity. or to posit some norm. and inequalities. an account has to be offered as to how such a distinction is possible. or without the use of science – that it is possible to forge a culture in which biological sexual difference can be ignored or downplayed to the point where it is only salient at the instant of procreation. it cannot be argued – again in a priori fashion. too. . however. I hope I have shown that these are not our only choices. we are taking up an attitude which leaves matters utterly incomprehensible. as we have comprehended neither . than nothing at all. . . Everyone knows that the philosophical presuppositions that we cherish as signs of our intellectual sophistication would be challenged as a consequence. “they interpret the world while the others really keep protesting only that it can’t be done. stereotypes.

New York: Routledge. Herdt (ed. 163.J. “Biology and Social Science: Why the Return of the Repressed Should be Given A (Cautious) Welcome.html (accessed 11 December 2004). Ostwald. Simians. Lawson. 1094b12. Ithaca. Hrdy. org/newsletter/feb2001/feb2001. I. New York: Basic Books. 1994. p. New York: Vintage Books. p. trans. “How to Become a Berdache. 154. Fausto-Sterling. 1990.) Third Sex. N. Benton. Foucault. Hurley.Notes 1 Introduction 1 W. pp. I will use the term “postmodernism” only when it is employed by another author.” Sociology 25. 1990. Sexing the Body. Fausto-Sterling.isna. Harding. Cambridge. Top Ten Myths About Intersex. p. 13 T. 2 A. Secrets of Life. p. 1992. 1978. 1962. Bk 1. 9 Aristotle. The Science Question in Feminism. p. M. New York: Routledge. Gender and Science. “Corporeal Archetypes and Power: Preliminary Clarifications and Considerations of Sex. could be included along with poststructuralism and constructivism. 44. a broader intellectual movement. 17 Key standpoint theory applications to the natural sciences include D. However. 14.” in Haraway.: Harvard University Press. 10 A. 1982. 7 Ibid. pp. 8. London: Routledge. “Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What is ‘Strong Objectiv- . Sheets-Johnstone. Sayer.: Cornell University Press. 25. 16 E. Roscoe. Nicomachean Ethics. 345. Secrets of Death: Essays on Language. McKenna. New York: Zone Books. 18 S. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The Woman That Never Evolved. 6 S. 15 S. Cyborgs and Women. Fox Keller. and S. Available online at: www.” Hypatia 7. 1991. 1992. Mass.” in G. New York: Macmillan. R. 2003. 5 J. 1986. 5. Kessler and W. 8. Vol. The History of Sexuality. 88. p. “Ontology and Feminist Theorizing. Harding. Ch. London: Sage.” Feminist Economics 9. 2000. p. 3. 3 A. 8 Postmodernism. 4 M. Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality.Y. 21–2. 12 T. 14 M. 11 A. 183–201. 129. Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach. 1991. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. p. Haraway. trans. 2000. 87. Dreger. Realism and Social Science. Butler. p. Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives.

New. 986a22.: University of Michigan Press. Ziman. and more in the power of a group in making its standpoint prevail over other equally plausible perspectives. “Introduction. 3 Numerous scholars have made the allegation of a connection between mathematical certainty and philosophy. B. Vol. Critical Realism.e. p. New York: Free Press.. Allen (ed. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. “A Socially Relevant Philosophy of Science? Resources from Standpoint Theory’s Controversiality. Guillory. London: Routledge. pp. London: Cambridge University Press. 1997. Bk. Bk. 3. Alcoff and E. Ann Arbor. . Mich. 380. Potter (eds) Feminist Epistemologies. 985b23–986a13. p. see L. Ingersoll. Patricia Hill Collins writes “The amount of privilege granted to a particular standpoint lies less in its internal criteria in being truthful . 6 Aristotle.” in D. Hope. Gorsuch. Latour.” Critical Inquiry 30. 29. p. New York: Routledge. Reliable Knowledge: An Exploration of the Grounds for Belief in Science.” Critical Inquiry 28. 6. Ch. S. Grand Rapids. and I do not intend for the bulk of the criticism in this paragraph be applied to standpoint theory in particular. 1986. “Experimental Versus Empirical Approaches to Setting Water Quality Objectives. 1966. Pythagoras and Early Pythagoreanism. 1. p. 2 M.Notes 145 ity’?. 5. 2004. 476. p.” in L. 1993. Ch. 34. J. Epstein. 1090a20. “Why has Critique Run Out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern. R. 5.J. 7 The famous “Table of Opposites.R.E. p. p. 1960. trans. Beyond Structure: The Power and Limitations of Mathematical Thought in Common Sense.” in J. 308.) Greek Philosophy: Thales to Aristotle.W. I do not mean to deny that standpoint theory sometimes makes such judgments. Dwyer. For example. 80. and Philip. “The Sokal Affair and the History of Criticism.” Hypatia 19. Science and Philosophy. “Postmodernism and the Left. Fideler. 16. p. 409. Mich. F. Bk.R. 5 R. 1992. “Feminism.A. ed. 25.wpunj. 76–81.” New Politics 6(2).” in J. C. “Feminism. p. Pythagoras and Early Pythagoreanism. Metaphysics. See also J. 72.) Critical Realism: The Difference it Makes.E. p. 53. 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 2 The quest for certainty 1 J. Cruickshank (ed. 10 Ibid. Latour. in the form a/b where a and b are both integers. is cited by Aristotle in Metaphysics. 1987. Bk. 26. i.: Phanes Press. 2003. 1995. LaPoint (eds) Environmental Toxicology and Risk Assessment. . “Why has Critique Run Out of Steam?” 226. 227. 15–16. Philadelphia: American Society for Testing and Materials. 72. Philip. 5. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. A. p.htm (accessed 11 December 2004). Ch. 2004. Supplementary Volume VII of Phoenix. 4 Aristotle.) The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library. 9 D. Harding. 8 Irrational numbers are those that cannot be presented in ratio form. p. 2002. 16. Pythagoras and Early Pythagoreanism. . 2. 1. Metaphysics.” allegedly of Pythagorean origin. 986a8–13. and T. 167. XIV. and Philip. For just one example.W.” See “Comment on Hekman’s ‘Truth and Method: Feminist Standpoint Revisited’: Where’s the Power?” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 22. pp. Gilbertson. 1978. and the Linguistic Turn. and the Linguistic Turn. 1997.G.” p. B. Available online at: www. Dalzell. Fleischhacker. New. 1. Fideler (ed. Critical Realism.

1984. C.” in The Controversy of the Comets of 1618: Galileo Galilei. A. The men filled the room with wailing all the same. 32 Ibid. 276.. 7–18. p. The Republic of Plato. R.J. Indianapolis: Hackett. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. 2nd edn. 24. 22 For example.. Cooper (ed. 12 T. Dialogues and Mathematical Demonstrations Concerning Two New Sciences. 1962. pp. pp. 39 Galileo. Crew and A. pp. M. Wolin. 41 R. Edizione nazionale. Mass. 41. pp. S.. 40 R. 100b–e. 31 Ibid. 510c–511d. Descartes. Burke. “Heraclitus: The Postmodern Presocratic?” Monist 74.B.A. New York: Macmillan. 36 Ibid. 102–5. 37 Galileo.M. p.J. See also Aristotle. 21 Ibid. p. trans. 6..M. Indianapolis: Hackett. Johann Kepler. fragment 6. Rules for the Direction of the Mind. 1968. 26 Ibid. Mario Guiducci. Vol. p. Pa. p. Descartes. Allan Bloom. 19. 23 Ibid. 1991. pp. p. 155. Drake and C. in Plato: Five Dialogues. pp. Waugh. I. 138–9. 1981. 1987. J. Veitch. trans.” American Political Science Review 63(4). p. 987a31–5. 43 S. 117–19. 18 For an evaluation of these recent attempts. 78c–80b. 38 Galileo. p. 362–70. 15.B. Lafleur. 35 R.B. 7–8. 1. H. 14 R. 1961.. 204. Florence: A. “Political Theory as a Vocation. Metaphysics. Parmenides of Elea: Fragments. see ibid. 20 Ibid. 176. pp. Clavelin. Philadelphia. Pomerans. fragment 8. trans. trans. p.D.) Plato: Complete Works. Vol.R. trans. Ryan. 66b–68d. trans. New York: Russell & Russell. 1997. Bacon. 530d–531b.D. 72–3. 496c–e. 203–4..L. Grube. 116. in D. London: Everyman. p. Phaedo. pp.. 202.. 34 Ibid. McKirahan. VII. Opus Majus. pp. Heraclitus. 30 Ibid. trans. 1067–9. 198–200. 525d–526b. pp.. Cambridge. p. Indianapolis: Hackett. 13 Robinson. See Descartes. 190–1. Gallop. 17 D. Macpherson. 29 Ibid. see J. Ch.) Heraclitus: Fragments. 153. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1981. 28 Ibid.: University of Pennsylvania Press.. Gill and P. 118. 184. p. Guthrie. 149c–d. trans. “The Assayer. 137a–166c. 605–23.. Cited in M. 25 Ibid.146 Notes 11 Iamblichus. 523b. Favaro. p. 153. 1960. 454. 129a–135e. London: Penguin Books.. 525a.S.. p. 24 Plato. p. K. 117d–e. Hobbes. 1994.” trans. 122–3.: MIT Press. p. 1974.. 44 T. 27 Plato. Robinson (ed. ed. Bk. 1890–1909. 1969. 15 Ibid. 210. A Discourse on Method. 524b–525b. O’Malley. 79c–d. trans. Horatio Grassi. 33 Ibid. 16 Ibid. 1994. Parmenides. . Philosophy Before Socrates. 105. New York: Basic Books. Leviathan. p. 17. 361–97. pp. Bk. 1914. Opere di Galileo Galilei. 205. 519c–521c. “The Life of Pythagoras. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 124.M. The Natural Philosophy of Galileo: Essays on the Origins and Formation of Classical Mechanics. 19 Plato.) The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library. Fideler (ed. 42 Ibid.. G. p. de Salvio. pp. IV. A Discourse on Method. 83d–e. L. p. p. 382. Part Three. in J. p.

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London: Heinemann Books.) Logical Empiricism at its Peak: Schlick.” p. January 1935. “Replies to Comments on Fact. pp. 312. “Sociology and Physicalism. 100 Ibid. Neurath. and Forecast. R. while Popper. See M. pp. 2nd Eng.” in Ayer. 54. “Studies in the Logic of Confirmation. 90 C. 96 Ibid. 86 Hahn. 1969. pp. London: Hutchinson.. N. Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science. p. C. “The Scientific Conception. 141–3. 1965.” pp.” in S.” Analysis 2. pp. 42–3.: Harvard University Press. 172. 100–2. p. Logical Positivism. Logical Positivism. Hempel and P. 409.” in Ayer.” in N. Logical Positivism. 87 Neurath. Logical Positivism.” p. 95 Ibid.” in The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology.J. Mathematics. “On the Logical Positivists’ Theory of Truth. Problems and Projects. Hahn. 263–4. 307. 1966. “Psychology in Physical Language.. 92 C. Fact. p. 97 O. 263–4. and Carnap. Goodman. Aspects. 99 K. and Carnap. B. The Social Construction of What?. and Foucault 1 N. Fiction. Popper. .” in Ayer. 86.148 Notes 84 Hahn. pp. Philosophy of Natural Science. p.” p. “Studies in the Logic of Explanation. Carnap. pp. 27–70. 1996.” in Ayer.” in C. “Protocol Sentences.” in Ayer. 306.” pp. p. Ayer. Mass. 348. “The Foundation of Knowledge. and Carnap. Hempel. pp. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company... Hacking. Oppenheim. too. Aspects. 74–5. Sarar (ed. 2 Ibid. Carnap. Neurath. 5 N. “Protocol Sentences. 98 K. 88 R. 64. “The Scientific Conception.” in Ayer. Neurath. and A. held some minor reservations. “The Function of General Laws in History. “Sociology and Physicalism. Goodman. and “Aspects of Scientific Explanation. p. pp. Hempel and Oppenheim.” p. 233–4. p. 45. 1965. 98. “Studies in the Logic of Explanation. 1982. p.J. 103 C. “Aspects of Scientific Explanation. p. “The Logic of the Social Sciences. “The Scientific Conception..” in Hempel. 232. Englewood Cliffs. “The Old and the New Logic. trans. 351. Carnap. 104 Ayer and Schlick vehemently rejected this move by their peers. and R. 93 Hempel.” in Ayer. Logical Positivism. 102 Neurath.: PrenticeHall. 91 Hempel.” in Ayer. New York: The Free Press. 294. 1999.” in Hempel. Neurath. 4 Ibid. p. New York: Garland Publishing. Carnap.. p. Hempel.” pp. Goodman. 143–4. p.G. 287. 157. 94 Hempel. relativism and behaviorism: Goodman. 89 Hahn. Logical Positivism. Neurath. Popper. 215–17. Cambridge. 364–70. Adey and D. Carnap. “The Old and the New Logic. “Logic. “Verification and Experience. Frisby. Hempel. Quine. 105 I. “The Function of General Laws. and Forecast. Schlick. 81. 201. 229–31.. 3 Twentieth-century nominalism. 369–70. Hempel. Logical Positivism. Aspects. and Neurath. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. 101 Ibid. Fiction. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company. 57. “On Protocol Sentences. pp. 1972. 3 Ibid.” p. p. edn. Logical Positivism. 10. 85 O. 291.” in Hempel.

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H. 10. 103–11. 94–100. 79. 120. 93. 112. 139. 95 constructivism 2–5. 141–2. 103 Cleckley. 105. 20. 127. 99. 127–8. 109. 99–101. see also biological sex Borges. 4. 90. 57. 89. 46 Bacon. 141–2 cerebrum 122 certainty see logical certainty Chomsky. 122 counting 129–30 cryptorchidism 65. J. 90. 54–6. 84. 57. 111 berdache 75. R. T. 140. 134. 115–16. 59–60. 125–9. 116. R. 141–2. 104. P. 106–11. 48. 45–6 Collier.J. 136 Anderson. H. 18. Butler’s theory of 59. behaviorist theory of agency 74–82. R. Butler and 74. 7–8. 94. 106–11. 55. 54. 80–1. 96. 84. 119 Aristotle 3. 18 causation 16–17. constructivist and poststructuralist feminism on 54–6. 95–7. 8. 92–3 Carnap. 89. 130 Arendt. 127. realist criticism of 83–6. 127. 73. S. 143 agency 4. 76. 55. 134–8. 110 . 2. 88. 24–6. 126–7. P. behaviorist theory of 34–5. 92. 139–43 correlation 49–50. 56. 107 color 2. 35. 120. 119. 86. nominalism and 66–74. 85. A. 140 Cameron. 42. 108 Bernard 18 Bhaskar. T. Foucault on 47–9. 113 biological sex 1–2. Butler and 57–63. 108. 10. realist theory of 122–4. realist theory of 84–105. 120. 6. 39 Bourdieu. J. 21. 4–6. 48. 15 Butler. M. N. 57–63. 112–13. realist criticism of 83–6. on the construction of sex 54–5. 94 Benton. Skinnerian and Watsonian 33–7 Benhabib. 49. R. 4. Quine’s theory of 32–3. 76–8. J. 68. 90 Archer. 131 chromosomes 48. R. S. 56. 18. 130. realist discussion of 94–7. 74–82. scientific discussion of 63–73 biology 9–10. 96. 24. 111. 103 androgen see hormones antifoundationalism 3. 113–16. 122. 22. 130–1 complexity 92. 112–13. 98. 115. 29.A. 101.Index Adorno. Foucault’s theory of 41–2. 79 Bentham. 91. Goodman and 23–8. 88–90. 95–6. 142. 4. 100–3. 154n21 bees 129 behaviorism 3. R. 17–19 congenital adrenal hyperplasia 66. 87. on critical realism 83. 96. 79–82. 121. 18 Babiak. 17 de Beauvoir. 91. 75. 44–7. 86. 102. 117–26 Comte. 103–5. 77. 13. realist criticism of 130–8. criticism of constructivism and poststructuralism 86–7. 22. 4. Foucault and 41–2. A. J. 92–3. 113 Ayer. 9. 113. 17. 127. A. 71. 98. 90. 141 Boyle. 137 Boyd. 64–9. 97–105. 100. 38.

102. 82. 57. 27. 38. 4. 134. 4. 90. 20.J. 96. 10. 46 Harré. S. 9. 38. 101–3. 61. 92. 97. T. 7. 94. 26. 101. 127–8. 28. C. 97. 75. 27. 74. 142 Hubbard. 14–15. 10. 127–8. 110. 133 Dreger. 107. 21. 101 entrenchment 26–9. 139. 134 Heraclitus 11 Heylighen. 29. D. 92. behaviorism and 33–4. 73–4. 95. 141–3 Gendlin. sex-gender distinction 1. 95. 18. 96. 133 gender 141. 127. 6 Freud. 110–11 Epstein. 14–15 determinism 5. 74–8. Quine and 30–1. 48–9. 106.W. R. 54–5. 89. 61–2. 6. A. 104. 138 developmental systems theory 102 Doyal. 5. P. 80. 64–70. 86. 97. 48. 106–10. 91. 54. 105–6 environmental degradation 5. 132–3 Galileo 13. 23. 61. S. see also gender form 116–29 Foucault. 16–17. 3. realist criticism of 84–6. 60. nominalism and 23–6. 65–8. 22. H. M. 5.Index 183 Damasio. N. 95–7. 128. 94 Hochschild. R. 110 intersex 1. 104–5. 121. 140 estrogen see hormones Euclid 14. Foucault and 49–51. 100. 127. 43. 79. 118 Greenberg. 126. 90. 121–3 Darwin. 109 Guillory. 41. 55 grue 24–7. poststructuralist feminism and 56. R. 90. 96. E. 30. 117 Hill Collins. 57. 72. F. 9. 87–8. C. 21. 57. 103–5. 82. 134–8 Hausman. 103–5. 98. 141 genitalia 49. 63. E. R. 7. 55.L. R. Skinner and 35 Gould. 45–7. I. 64 Kant. 55. 128. 145n20 Hobbes. 7. 22. nominalism and 39–45. 133 hate speech 78–82. 6. 22. 101–3. 98. A. 29. 121. 141. A. 134. 157n85. 41. 18. 17 Garfinkel. 130 genes 49. 72. evolution of 125–8 Goodman. 50. R. 86 essentialism 4. 123. 85. 127 Descartes. 86 Hacking. 131–2. 20. 22. 141–3. 102. 50 evolution 29. 138. 131–2. 94 function 13. J. 108. M. roles 54. 106 feminism 1–2. 50 Eibl-Eibesfeldt. 90. 131–2. relativist empiricism and 49–51 foundationalism 2. H. 127. 122. 102. 94. 116–29. 31. 86. 4. 71. 105. 140 Hempel. realist criticism of 86–9. 31. 106. 122 Eicher. 102. 99–101. 85. 54 gavagai 31–2. 15. 7. 23–5. 64–7. constructivist and poststructuralist 54–82. Goodman and 23. 49. 108–9 hypospadias 65. 20. 8. 60–1. E. 68 emergentism 92–3. 84. 157n85 Jost. 108. Quine’s criticism of 29. 91. 64–72. on defining one’s philosophy 37–9. 5–8. 107. 78. 59. Butler and 57. 127–8. 19. 95. 99 Harris. 106–8. realist criticism of 85–6. J. 66–8. 56. B. 2. 94. 110–11. 18. 5. 56. 104–5. realist theory of 83–4. 55 Dreyfus. 142. 20. positivist equation with prediction 20. 72. 116. 141 empiricism 22. 50. 98. 96 Hegel. behaviorism and 41–2. 123. B. 14. 96. 131–4 explanation 4. 71. 95–6. 55. 143 Heidegger. 3. 26 Harding. 16. 18. 1. 6 Hare. 105–6. 84. 110–11 Hrdy. 119. 56. Foucault and 40. 55 Hume. 76. S. 123–4. identity 2. A. 43. 93. 141–2 Fausto-Sterling. G. 87–8. 111–12. Humean 16–17. 2. 102. I. 86 . 96. 58. 121.F. 90. 117. 35. 28. 32. 118–20. 21. 137 hormones 4. 40. 58–9. 71–2. 128 Fox Keller. 97. 72. A. 40. 73. 140. 48. 97. 123. 62–3. 121. I. S. 100.

relativity to culture and language 24–6. 73. 103–4. biological 6. 120. 66. realist theory of 87–8. 56. 34. I. psychological appeal of 36–7. 94–100. 81 Parmenides. 28 psychoanalysis 10 psychology 10. 99–100. 45 Krausz. 113–15. 120. 113 Lewontin. J. 54–5. 120. 4. 90–4. S. 119. 45 Kraepelin. 50. 51–2 mathematical certainty see logical certainty Mayr. E. 84. realism opium 87–8. O. 10. 67. 120–8. 126 properties 9. 38 phenotype 49. 83. 99 Maslow. 87. 56. 30–7. 132–4 Mittwoch. 99 Page. 52 Portmann. 64–7. 75 mood 1. 7. 82. R. 12–13. 79. 27. 90. 18. 63. 92–3. E. realist criticism of 83–5. 155–6n60 Money. Goodman and 25. 119–21. 121–3. 4. 18. 89. 16. see also nominalism. 108–9. 8. T. 92–4. 87–91. 90. 116–38 Melnick. 16. 71–4. behaviorism and 32–7. behaviorism and 33. 25 language 1. 38. 155n58 Pinel. 116. 91. 127. poststructuralist and constructivist denial of 26. 130. 67 Nagel. psychopathy psychopathy 45–7 Pythagoras 10–11. 98. 89 nominalism 3. 23. 127–9. T. 17–22. 3. feminism and 55–6. 126–7. 13. 112–13. 19. 139–43 potential 27. 95–6. 112–13. 97–8. nominalism and 26. 4. Goodman and 25. 5. 73. 122 McKenna. 103–11. B. realist criticism of 83–6. 71 Parks. 4. P. 93. 87. 16. 26. 18 natural selection see evolution Neurath. 40–2.L. see also behaviorism. constructivist and poststructuralist theory of 27. 71. positivism and 19–21. 110. 82. 102. 59. 39 ontology 1. 92. 59. 28. 4. 22. 35. feminism and 54–7. 127 Mill. 23–4. 52 metaphysics 14. R. 56. R. 20 New. 21 Porter. realist criticism of 83. 99. J. 4. 28 Petronio. 15–16 Nietzsche. 71. 27. Lorenz. 52 Quine. D. 100–1 meaning 1. 117. A. 72 Latour. 112–13. T. 149n10. 51–2. 99–100. 116–26. 98–101.H. 23. realist theory of 93. 24 Popper. 83. 87–8. feminist 54–82. 54–5. 155n59. 48–9. 129–38. 57–63. A. W. 56. 42–4. 12. 88. 96. F. 141. 94–7. 130–1. 75. 29. 139 Morland. Goodman and 26. 15. 57–60. 113–16. 75. 41. 79. E. M. 11. 14. 85. Quine and 30. 49–51. 100–2. 81. T. I. 130–1. Foucault and 44. 66. 3.S. 89. 22. as an explanation for philosophy 36–7. M. 102 liberalism 94 logical certainty 2. 4–5. in history of philosophy and science 9–22. 128 . 113. 51–2.O. 105. 119. 11. 114. 4. 47–9. B. Skinner’s theory of 35–6. 141 Millikan. Foucault’s theory of 38–9. Foucault and 40. 98–100. 4. 3. 8. 87. 5. 12. U. 71. 98. 105. C. 126. 30. 37. 69. 104. 133. Foucault and 38–44.V. 72. poststructuralist Kessler. 87. 91. 113–16. 18 Miller. 128 Koch. realist theory of 91–2. 10. 7–8. 5. 85 Kuhn. 33. 22. 96. 105–10. 85. 103–4. 24. 78–82. 45 Plato. 97. 132 positivism 9. 28. 139 Nussbaum. K. J. 7 Lawson. R. 4–5. K. 78. W. 28. poststructuralist and constructivist theory of 30–3. 18–19. 83. 48.184 Index Newton. 113–16. 88–90. 21. S. Foucault and 39–45. 27. realist theory of 38. 130. 2. 31. 128 Madden. 50. 89 poststructuralism 1–3. behaviorism and 33. 140–2. 2.

141 Socrates. 127. 36. 61. Quine and 29–32. M. relativism and 28–32.Index 185 feminism and 56. 92. 30–3. 18 sense 4. 88. 55 Russell. 1. B. Foucault on 47–9. 68 Sayer. 35–6. 128. 98. 20 standpoint theory 6–7 Stroud. 110. 14 Ziman. 142 realism 3.J. 87. 4. 105. 55. on language 129–38. 97–9. 112. 3. 132. 4. 32. 137. 80–2. 44. 8. 130. 4. 50. 68. 55. 116. emotional 120–3. 104 Rothblatt. 120. 82 West-Eberhard. Skinner and 35. 139. as an explanation for knowledge 83–4. W. 113–15 teleology 127–8 testosterone see hormones thalidomide 88–9 Thatcher. M. 6. 131. 97. 101–2 Wittgenstein. 114. on causation 84–97. 74–8. 4. 109. M. L. 82. 35 social sciences 1. 42. 113–15 sulfur 99–101. 4. 12. 131 Smith. M. 23. 95. 126. on distinction between correlation and causation 97–105. 36. 85. 112–24. realist criticism of 113. 87. B. 127. P. 57. 128 Schlick. 141–3. S. 81–2. 33. 41. 126. poststructuralist and constructivist feminism on 54. 37. 9 . J. 50 race 1. L. 82. 139 Sheets-Johnstone. 139. 19. L. 99. 37. 33–6. 132 similarity 87–9. 45. 71. 93. 22. 5. 94 Washburn. 33–4. 72. 21. M. 41. 3. B. 118. 106–10. 30. 20. 129–38 sex see biological sex sexuality 1. M. 129. on variability 105–11 reference 24–5. 42. ontological nature of 87. Goodman and 27–8. realism on 105. 27. 60. 131. 41. 89. 7. 90. 134 relativism 3. L. 61. 94. Foucault and 38. J. 50. 79. 19 Sax. see also realism Roscoe. 138 relations 4–5. 48. 35. 37. Butler and 57–63. 53. 80–1. 74–7. 32 substances 99–100. 72. 18. see also nominalism Skinner. 73–4. 29. 63. 6. 26. 19 Wittig. 63. 52. 71. superiority to poststructuralism and constructivism 108–9 Rabinow. 68 Watson. 11.F. 126–9. on substances and properties 113–16. 27. A. 42. 108. 58–61. linguistic or discursive 21–2. 10. 74 Wolin. 105. 87.

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