Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Dar al-Bid'ah

I recently spotted this on OkCupid, and it struck me as worthy of philosophical comment:

For those of you who are not on the site (yeah, I don't know anyone locally, and I am über-picky, and years generally fly by between my relationships, so why not? Plus I am opinionated and like writing the little essays on the many questions the site uses to match people), (awkward-times; I like that parenthetical, but I just introduced there what I meant to introduce more generally in this sentence), there are questions and you can answer them and optionally attach an explanation/essay. Seen as someone else's answer-and-essay:

*Q: Breast implants?
*A: more cool than pathetic
*Explanation: I think people should be free to do with their body as they wish, and this includes breast implants. While agree that they can promote the objectification of women and unrealistic standards for people in general, I also think that people should be able to do with their bodies as they so choose.

I hold that, as phrased, this is a category error. The question is not "what should be permitted regarding X?", it is "what do you think of X?". These are *very* different things. There is a large and principled distinction between legality of something, broad societal acceptance of it as something-that-happens, and a thumbs-up (and there are probably other types and levels of acceptance it makes sense to think about).

I do agree with the general notion that people can do with their bodies as they please (provided it harms nobody else, and perhaps with the caveat that funding some kinds of alterations is best not done using public coffers). Anything including at least the space carved out by the following should certainly be legal:
*Getting a unibrow fixed
*Recovering from traumatic burns or injury with plastic surgery
*"sex-change" operations
*"Westernization" operations
*Breast enhancements
*Implants of digital devices
*Organ donations
*Addition of new organs (tentacles? wings? nasal ridges? etc)

Yes, it's your body, you can do as you like with it. That said, we are not obligated to approve of all of these things or to find them (as the question asks) cool or not pathetic or not worrying. This comes down to individual discretion and how-we-see-the-world. Some people find fat people sexy (I don't, but this is a matter of taste). Some people find anorexic skeleton people sexy (I don't, and find the pro-ana movement utterly disgusting and a hazard). On the topic of breast implants, I look at things very differently between someone who had breast cancer and is restoring their bionormal state and someone who decides they want bigger breasts to attract guys. That is my perogative.

The society we're building should not amount to a philosophical lobotomy. We should not be shy about what we find aesthetic, or cool, or whatever. We judge, and that's ok. We do not have to approve of the life choices of everyone, nor should we be pressured to.

For those of you not familiar with the topic, I found a good introduction to the idea of hegemonic discourse here. I consider a through understanding of this, as well as the strongly related concept of framing, to be a prerequisite to reasonable philosophical discourse; a would-be philosopher is well-advised to study how language is invisibly manipulative on the large and small scale, and ideally to get in the habit of breaking whatever exclusive frames one was raised in and seeing everything through multiple, competing frames. (Note that single-topic well-developed frames are particularly dangerous, as they lead to brittle and harsh conclusions. From libertarians to feminists, a thinker should have a number of ends and broad-frames in their head).

(Note that I have not finished reading the rest of that site; there may be aspects of it that I either strongly would disapprove of or would find ghastly. Or not. I make no claims beyond finding the particular link to be a reasonable intro to the topic)
Tags: philosophy

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