Hillary Clinton’s Feminist ‘Modification’ of America Previewed
A philosophy book with the blunt title Just the Arguments caught my eye at Barnes & Noble a couple of weeks ago. Edited by Michael Bruce and Steven Barbone, the book is a collection of articles on what the editors claim are “100 of the most important arguments in Western philosophy.”
This no-nonsense approach is welcome relief in philosophy. Anyone who has taken a course in the subject and slogged through original sources knows what a chore it can be to figure out what is being argued and how. Undergraduate and even graduate level philosophy students will find the book very helpful. The general public can benefit as well because many of the arguments are easy to follow and rules of logic that justify inferences are shown. There’s a glossary of technical concepts at the end.
So, do we really get 100 of the most important arguments in Western philosophy? True enough, there are many famous ones from Plato, Aristotle, Hume, and Kant. Major arguments in the philosophy of religion such as the Ontological Argument and the Free Will Defense are covered. Famous arguments in metaphysics (Plato), epistemology (Descartes), ethics (Mill), the philosophy of mind (Leibniz), the philosophy of science (Kuhn) and the philosophy of language (Wittgenstein) are carefully explained.
There is also material evidently motivated by social and/or political advocacy in addition to scholarship. This is not without precedent in the history of philosophy. When Plato railed against the Sophists, he can also be read as anticipating Shakespeare’s famous line in Henry VI, “The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.” J.S. Mill and Jeremy Bentham advocated Utilitarianism as an ethical theory and also as a way of correcting gross injustices in England’s penal code, which punished petty theft (pickpocketing) out of proportion to its moral seriousness. Mill and Bentham did a lot of good. Intentionally or not, Marx and Nietzsche launched horrors still with us.
Another Academic Blueprint of Horrors
The advocacy tradition is exemplified in the Bruce and Barbone collection by an article on pp. 258-262 titled “Liberal Feminism” by Julinna C. Oxley. Oxley is an assistant professor of philosophy at Coastal Carolina University and is also the school’s director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. CCU may be a tiny dot on Google Maps but evidently the school believes it important to have a Gender Studies Program.
In keeping with the book’s methodology, Professor Oxley cites original sources relevant to her topic such as Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and J.S. Mill’s The Subjection of Women (1869), though she quotes only from Susan M. Orkin’s much more recent Justice, Gender and the Family (Basic Books: 1989). The last line of a lengthy Orkin passage reads: “A just future would be one without gender.” Not exactly off to a flying start. Let’s have a look at the fine print.
The arguments Professor Oxley presents target societies that contain “features that contribute to women’s disadvantage,” which ought to be “eradicated” (with “extreme prejudice”?) We might wonder if she has in mind societies in the West as well as Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America that allegedly “disadvantage” women. How about democratic societies (with a small “d”) as well as semi-democratic, quasi-democratic, authoritarian, and totalitarian societies worldwide?
As the TV ad put it, “not exactly.” Here is the first premise of her first argument.
P1. If a society is just and fair to women, then men and women will have equal social, political, and economic rights, liberties and opportunities.
Setting aside what “equal” means, how it is to be judged and by whom (guess), this is reasonable enough, though it did bother me as a conservative that “economic rights” were included. What are they, exactly? Well, Professor Oxley is a liberal, so we can infer what she has in mind.
Now, most folks and not just conservatives would quickly add the obvious to P1:
P1*. In most, probably all Muslim societies, women do not have social, political and economic rights, liberties and opportunities equal to men.
From P1 and P1* it follows by the rule of modus tollens that
P1**. Most, probably all Muslim societies are not just and fair to women.
Had Professor Oxley presented this argument -- of course, she did not -- there would have been a huge uproar and not just at Coastal Carolina University.
CAIR and their many liberal enablers would have demanded she be fired immediately as an “Islamophobe.”
President Obama would have chimed in with his usual lecture defending Islam.
CCU students would have boycotted Professor Oxley’s classes and she might even have received death threats.
CNN would have sent a “reporter” to the campus to cover the controversy and harrumph indignantly on the air -- followed by a round of golf with Obama at nearby Myrtle Beach.
Finally, editors Bruce and Barbone would assuredly have refused to include such a contribution in their book. They wouldn’t want to be targeted by any of the above either.
Professor Oxley’s actual second premise reveals her priorities -- no surprises here.
P2. But in many Western societies, men and women do not have equal social, political, and economic rights, liberties and opportunities.
From P1 and P2 she concludes by modus tollens,
C1. Many Western societies are not just and fair to women.
What about this argument? Frankly, it is appalling to find a professional philosopher indicting Western society so casually without noting the obvious: that justice and fairness can be put on a comparative scale, leading to a vastly different priority order.
C1*. Western societies are infinitely more just and fair to women than many non-Western societies such as Muslim societies in the Middle East and Africa.
So, Professor Oxley and anyone else interested in crusading to eradicate societal features that contribute to women’s disadvantage should start with those at the top of the list, namely, Muslim societies. Indicting Western societies is an empty academic exercise at best or just plain silly once the correct priority order is established.
Of curse, misplaced and/or deceptive moral outrage is not really new with liberals. Evils in the West, real or imagined, have been a top priority for decades. On the other hand, political prisoners in Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Tito’s Yugoslavia, Castro’s Cuba, Ceauşescu’s Romania, and Kim’s North Korea are at the bottom of the liberal list of priorities in minuscule print, if at all. I suppose we should be grateful Professor Oxley didn’t mention the United States by name!
But wait, there’s more!
Professor Oxley goes on to another argument that opens with this premise:
P3. If a society is to be just and fair to women, then it ought not promote or engage in practices that contribute to women’s oppression.
From P3 it follows logically that Muslim societies are not just and fair to women because such societies “promote or engage in practices that contribute to women’s oppression.”
Which practices? How about female circumcision; killing wives and daughters who have been raped; prohibiting women from owning property; forcing women into marriage; selling women and girls into slavery as prostitutes; beating wives into submitting to sex; rampant incest; and so on. It’s a long and gruesome list of Muslim “practices” that oppress women and should be eradicated first. Good luck with that, professor!
But, of course, this is also not where Professor Oxley takes the argument. Here is the second premise.
P4. If a society does not promote or engage in practices that contribute to women’s oppression, then its social, political, and legal institutions should be modified so as to eradicate features that contribute to women’s oppression.
The rule of Hypothetical Syllogism is then claimed to validate the following inference:
C2. If a society is to be just and fair to women, then [Western] societies that seek gender justice should modify should modify social, political, and legal institutions and eradicate features that contribute to women’s oppression.
Hillary Clinton’s Feminist “Modification” of America
Because Mrs. Clinton clearly accepts an instance of the antecedent of C2:
C2*. American society must be just and fair to women,
she would probably make the corresponding instance of the consequent of C2 a top priority in her administration if elected (God forbid):
C2**. America’s social, political, and legal institutions should be modified to eradicate features that contribute to women’s oppression.
Eradicate how? Federal power no doubt will to be used to bring about “modification.” Though Congress (maybe) and the states (almost certainly) will put up a fight, it will be futile. Once packed with liberals, the Supreme Court and the rest of the nation’s judiciary will be used to crush resistance.
So, as Donald Trump has said many times, this is in part what’s at stake next Tuesday.
The NeverTrumps must wake up and do the right thing before it’s too late.
Arnold Cusmariu is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Brown University. His publications, many of which are technical, can be found at www.academia.edu. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.