Author Archives: Tom Vinci

Gender, Gender-orientations and Gender Language

There are many kinds of things which we can observe in the world, many of which have words that go with them: “gold” in English/gold in the world, “house plants” in English/house plants in the world, “red things” in English/red things in the world. What makes these kinds is that they all share properties, in some cases single properties (red things), in others clusters of properties (gold and house plants).

Let’s focus on property-cluster kinds and their associated words, and ask : What puts the property-clusters together for the word associated with the cluster? (I have added the italicized qualification to distinguish this from the question: What puts the property-cluster together in the world? That is, I am not asking what or who puts plants inside houses.) In some cases it seems that we put the property-clusters together: in the case of the term “house plants” we put together the property of plants and of houses and of one thing being inside another to create a concept which we then associate with the term “house plants”.  Since there will usually be social pressures helping to create and maintain the cluster, we can say that the term “house plant” signifies a socially constructed property-cluster-concept. What makes the individual properties in a socially-constructed property-cluster concept cohere as a cluster are acts of human conceptual aggregation: that is why these clusters are called “concepts”. read more...

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A Dilemma for Oppression theorists

A Dilemma for the Oppression Theorist

Oppression Theory is the theory that differences between groups of people in wealth, power, influence – generally, the good things in life – are due to one group of people oppressing another. Marxists, Feminists, Critical Race-Theorists tend to be Oppression theorists in this sense. An alternative view is what I would call “Eclecticism”. This is the view that differences in the good things in life among different groups can be due to various causes, not excluding oppression of course. For example, we have a society in which the good things in life are not in abundance because the members of that society spend too much time playing golf rather than making things or healing the sick. Let’s call this group “the Golfers”. Now in saying this about the Golfers I am saying that they are to a large extent the authors of their own misfortune. This, of course, is a criticism. Enter the Oppression Theorist. She will reason as follows: criticizing a less-well-off group is harming that group; harming a less-well-off group is oppressing that group, preventing people from oppressing people is a good thing. So, she concludes, preventing someone from voicing the opinion about the Golfers just mentioned is a good thing. Generalizing from this, she concludes that preventing Eclecticism from being voiced at all is a good thing. And, voila, you have the phenomenon known as “Political Correctness”. It is just one step from there to Middlebury College. read more...

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Religious Clothing and the Secular State

In this article I propose to make two arguments and express one main claim. One argument argues that if you are a Kantian about all-in ethical obligation, you should choose not to wear religious clothing in public. I call this the Kantian Argument. (Purists might wish me to call this the Kantianish Argument.) The other argument argues that I have a right to make the first argument. I call this the Uniform Argument. The main claim is this: even if you do not accept these arguments, it is desirable for people who have strong religious convictions, and who express those convictions in their dress, to undertake symbolic ways to show respect for the secular state. I call this the Respect Claim. read more...

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