More on Aaronson (see previous post for context):
I was struck by this commment Scott made on Gil Kalai’s blog:
Yes, I admit, I do have the moral philosopher’s (or for that matter, the mathematician’s) habit of trying to take stated principles to their logical conclusions, even if many people would regard those conclusions as “irrelevant” or “absurd.” (To take a different example: “People should have the right to own whatever weapon they want, since merely owning it doesn’t harm anyone.” “OK then, what about nuclear missiles?” “That’s irrelevant and absurd! I was talking about guns.”) Is this habit something I should apologize for?
and this reddit comment he quotes approvingly:
I think the reason Dworkin comes up in discussions like this is because her thinking is the logical endpoint of mainstream feminist theory.
It goes something like this:
1) Women are systematically oppressed by men
2) If 1 is true, how can a woman ever consent to sex or practically anything else with men? Any “consent” a woman gives will be given under duress because she is being systematically oppressed.
3) If any “consent” a woman gives is under duress (because every decision and choice a woman makes is under duress because she’s being systematically oppressed), then women can never ever give consent in any dealing with men.
Dworkin, to her credit, was so logical that she came to this conclusion and accepted it. All logical thinkers will probably come to this conclusion which is why nerds and STEM people will like and understand Dworkin. She’s logical. She makes sense.
For my own part, I find this idea of taking political and moral principles to their logical conclusions to be very weird. And I don’t think it’s “the mathematician’s habit,” as Scott says. At least, it’s not this mathematician’s habit. Being a mathematician doesn’t incline me to apply Boolean operations to ethical principles; on the contrary, I think being a mathematician makes me more alive than the average person to the difference between mathematical assertions (which do behave really well under logical operations) and every other kind.
In particular, I don’t find the argument by the reddit commenter very compelling. There are lots of feminists (I think almost all feminists!) who sound nothing like Andrea Dworkin, and who pretty obviously think that there exists sex between men and women that isn’t rape. Is that because they can’t do logic? I am a STEM person and a feminist and I think systematic sexism exists in the world and I don’t think heterosexual sex is rape. Is that because I can’t do logic?
No — it’s because I think there are very few assertions about sex, power and feminism which stand in a relation of authentic logical entailment.