Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson pulled off quite a lot of masks yesterday with her non-answer to a single, putatively nonthreatening question posed by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R, TN):
Sen. Blackburn: Can you define the word “woman?”
Brown Jackson: I’m not a biologist.
I’m sure my Gentle Readers, as engaged with current events as you are, are aware of that exchange. The time has come to explore its significances – plural, for there are several.
I titled the third volume in my Futanari Saga in a provocative fashion: The Wise and the Mad. The provocation, as you would expect from me, was deliberate. I wanted readers to think about what distinguishes wise men from the unwise, and mad men from those we regard as sufficiently sane. I chose the title of this essay with a similar objective in mind.
There’s a little epistemology, and the metaphysical foundation for it, coming up, so readers who have no patience with such things should stay braced.
Epistemology is the study of what and how we learn. Knowledge is its touchstone. That which does not produce or destroy knowledge, or which does not facilitate or impede the acquisition of knowledge, is excluded from the subject. But to make use of the definition – i.e., to say “this is an epistemological proposition, but that is not” – we must understand and agree on what constitutes knowledge.
The fundamental presupposition of knowledge is that there is something to know. In other words, it presumes that there is a real world from which we can draw data and, with thought and effort, arrive at useful conclusions about its laws. This begins as a utilitarian pursuit – “can I use this to get somewhere or something I want?” – but, by a process of repetition and induction, arrives at the conclusion that there is an objective reality underlying our perceptions. As a Randian would say, existence exists. We are not helpless captives of Maya.
Reality is indifferent to our opinions, preferences, assumptions, and convictions. Because it is lawful, it supports our efforts to learn about it – to acquire knowledge. But it won’t alter its laws, or morph from one thing into another, simply because we decree that it shall.
A passage from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance makes clear the critical importance of this metaphysical foundation:
[Phaedrus] didn’t jump from Immanuel Kant to Bozeman, Montana. During this span of ten years he lived in India for a long time studying Oriental philosophy at Benares Hindu University.
As far as I know he didn’t learn any occult secrets there. Nothing much happened at all except exposures. He listened to philosophers, visited religious persons, absorbed and thought and then absorbed and thought some more, and that was about all. All his letters show is an enormous confusion of contradictions and incongruities and divergences and exceptions to any rule he formulated about the things he observed. He’d entered India an empirical scientist, and he left India an empirical scientist, not much wiser than he had been when he’d come. However, he’d been exposed to a lot and had acquired a kind of latent image that appeared in conjunction with many other latent images later on.
Some of these latencies should be summarized because they become important later on. He became aware that the doctrinal differences among Hinduism and Buddhism and Taoism are not anywhere near as important as doctrinal differences among Christianity and Islam and Judaism. Holy wars are not fought over them because verbalized statements about reality are never presumed to be reality itself….
[O]ne day in the classroom [at Benares University] the professor of philosophy was blithely expounding on the illusory nature of the world for what seemed the fiftieth time and Phaedrus raised his hand and asked coldly if it was believed that the atomic bombs that had dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were illusory. The professor smiled and said yes. That was the end of the exchange.
Within the traditions of Indian philosophy that answer may have been correct, but for Phaedrus and for anyone else who reads newspapers regularly and is concerned with such things as mass destruction of human beings that answer was hopelessly inadequate. He left the classroom, left India and gave up.
The author, Robert M. Pirsig, speaks of “Phaedrus” as a separate entity from himself – yet it is his own experiences he’s relating. At that time of his life, he was in the grip of what seemed an insoluble contradiction between two obviously true statements:
- Knowledge is demonstrably possible;
- Yet for any given phenomenon, the number of possible explanations is unbounded.
Pirsig was not a fool. He simply “lived too much in his head,” a malady that afflicts many persons of high intelligence who have a penchant for the abstract. It took him years, a psychotic breakdown, and a course of electroshock treatments to get him back in touch with reality. A high price to pay for a best-selling book, eh what?
The moral “should” be “obvious:”
Sanity demands the acceptance of objective reality.
He who rejects objective reality is insane.
Sanity is the prerequisite of wisdom.
The pursuit of knowledge, of course, has more requirements than simply conceding that existence exists. It requires that we learn how to define and measure; how to generalize and manipulate generalizations; and how to test our theses. Colloquially, we call the process reasoning. But beneath all our reasoning must be the acceptance of objective reality. Without accepting that the data our senses gather is real information about real things – things whose nature and characteristics are indifferent to our preferences – we can make no progress.
The insane are impeded from doing that. Their impediment consists of a rejection – partial in most cases – of the objective reality the rest of us accept. Depending on the specifics of that rejection, they might be dangerous to themselves or others. Traditionally, those judged to be so dangerous were forcibly confined and protected. That is no longer the case today.
Today, many people hold that reality is plastic before the human will; that each of us can decide “what is” for ourselves, regardless of externals and the convictions of others; in effect, that “reality” is a meaningless noise. But this is plainly not the case; it’s insane at its base. For thousands, perhaps millions of persons to believe it and yet be walking around without minders suggests that the world has turned into an open-air sanitarium.
Some coddle the insane for political purposes. That doesn’t render their mascots sane. Indeed, it makes their condition even more threatening to them and to others.
The problem goes well beyond the lunacy of allowing biological men to compete in women-only sporting events.
We return to Ketanji Brown Jackson and her “not a biologist” farce.
Why did a woman intelligent enough to be a federal judge – never mind her dubious allegiance to the law and the Constitution – say something so fatuous during her own confirmation hearings for a position on the United States Supreme Court? What possible explanations are there? Indeed, what advantage could she have sought, or disadvantage could she have hoped to avert, with so stupid a statement?
Only one explanation holds water.
The blatant attempt not to incur the ire of those who insist that saying “I identify as a woman” can make a biological man a woman was a kind of appeasement. From the side of her mouth, Ketanji Brown Jackson was saying – to militant transgender activists, and to the Democrat Party that has enfolded them into its political coalition – “Please don’t hurt me.” She knew that acknowledging objective reality would hurt her politically.
Let’s leave aside whether the country can afford to have a Supreme Court Justice who’s willing to deny reality for political purposes. I don’t think there’d be much argument about it. What does it say about the Democrat Party that its strategists, policy makers, and elected officials willingly pander to the demonstrably insane in order to garner a few more votes for its candidates? And what does it say about the character of persons so disposed?
Is there wisdom in supporting the aspirations of such persons? Could we expect anything good to come of awarding them power? Is it not time to put an end to such madness?
I leave it to my Gentle Readers to decide.