Solving the problem of transgender pronouns with discourse ethics

I. Background.

Discourse ethics is a metaethical theory developed by Jürgen Habermas and Karl-Otto Apel that states that moral truths may be known by examining the presuppositions of discourse or debate. (A bastardised version developed by neo-feudalist anarcho-capitalist philosophaster and fascist sympathiser Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who studied, oddly enough, under Habermas, is known as argumentation ethics, and aims to demonstrate the truth of the right-libertarian conception of self-ownership, but fails by confusing the idea of a liberty right with a claim right.) The theory is as follows: When two or more people engage in discourse, there are certain norms that everyone is obliged by necessity to presuppose. For instance:

  • The participants are engaging in the same language-game.
  • No relevant argument is being suppressed or excluded by the participants.
  • The only force used is that of the superior argument.
  • All participants are motivated solely by a concern for the better argument.
  • Everyone agrees to the universal validity of the thematic claim.
  • Everyone capable of communication and action is entitled to participate.
  • Everyone is equally entitled to introduce new topics.
  • Everyone is equally entitled to express their attitudes, their needs, or their desires.
  • No claim to validity is categorically or uniquely exempt from critical evaluation through argumentation.

Following from these presuppositions is the universally binding obligation to maintain impartial judgement when engaged in discourse, which requires each participant to adopt the perspective of every other participant.

Now, an important notion in discourse ethics is that of the performative contradiction; that is, when asserting a proposition, the proposition contradicts the very presuppositions of asserting it. For instance, if I were to state that I do not exist, then that would be a performative contradiction, since in order to assert that I do not exist, I must exist. The very action of asserting that one does not exist presupposes that the one who asserts it exists.

In discourse ethics, the performative contradiction takes a central role in deducing moral rules. As an example, one of the presuppositions of discourse is that, unless the participants have already mutually consented to a fight, violence should not be used to resolve a dispute. Thus, to argue for the use of violence to resolve a dispute is a performative contradiction, and the moral rule 'Do not use violence to resolve a dispute' can be deduced.

The fundamental principle of discourse ethics may be paraphrased as such:

The only norms that may be claimed to be valid are those which have the ability to meet with the approval of everyone in a practical discourse affected by them.

This principle presupposes Habermas' conception of universalisation, again paraphrased:

Everyone who is affected by the anticipated consequences of the general observance of a given norm can accept said consequences for the satisfaction of everyone's interests, and said consequences are preferred to those of alternative possibilities.

II. The argument.

The presuppositions of discourse listed in Part I are not the only ones; rather, they are simply initial examples. By further examining the necessary obligations of discussion and referencing the initial examples, I may derive some additional presuppositions, which I will justify and use in my argument:

  • Everyone capable of communication and action must be made to feel that they are equally welcome to participate, as an atmosphere in which anyone is discouraged from participation hinders discourse.
  • Each participant's needs or desires which are necessary for their participation must be satisfied.

From all of these presuppositions, I'm pretty sure I can construct a damn fine argument.

Premise I. To make a person feel that they are not equally entitled to participate in discourse or to dismiss a person's stated needs or desires contradicts the presuppositions that everyone is equally entitled to participate in discourse and that everyone is equally entitled to express their needs and desires by implicitly establishing a hierarchy of participants and their needs and desires in opposition to the principle of universalisation. (Hence the two additional presuppositions listed in this part.)
Premise II. To use pronouns inconsistent with those preferred by a person can make them feel uncomfortable and alienated; these feelings of discomfort and alienation may make them feel that they are not equally entitled to participate in discourse. If they express the need or desire for others to use their preferred pronouns, then, given that failure to satisfy this need or desire may make them feel that they are not equally entitled to participate, this need or desire must be satisfied.
Conclusion I. To use pronouns for a person inconsistent with those preferred by that person or to argue against using any given person's preferred pronouns contradicts the presuppositions that each person must be made to feel equally entitled to discourse and that each person's desires and needs necessary for them to equally participate in discourse must be satisfied.
Conclusion II. Given that any argument against using any given person's preferred pronouns is a performative contradiction, then to use others' preferred pronouns, even if reluctantly, is a universally binding obligation.

III. Afterthoughts.

This whole argument can really be applied to any form of misgendering or invalidation, including the use of a trans person's dead name, not just in the case of preferred pronouns, and not even specifically limited to trans people.

Engaging in this argument has left me with an even more intense curiosity about Jürgen Habermas' work. As I write, I have three Habermas-related tabs open in my browser. Both his earlier work developing critical theory with the Frankfurt School and his later work on communicative rationality and pragmatics interest me.

If you find a flaw in my argument, please let me know in the comments. I'm always happy to learn from my mistakes and improve my knowledge of philosophy!

Esoteric Explanation of Transgenderism

Bodies of the Human Being
The four ‘normal’ bodies of the human being are the physical, the ethereal, the astral, and the psyche.
The physical body is the lowest body into which we incarnate. All second- and third-density beings live life in one. However, it is ultimately contained and projected into existence by the higher ‘bodies’.
The ethereal body is what keeps us alive; without it, we would be mere masses of dead physical matter. It serves as an ‘uplink’ to the higher bodies.
The astral body, according to Rudolf Steiner, is the seat of ordinary consciousness and the source of normal emotion. This is where our feelings and impressions thrive and originate.
The psyche is the core of being; the lower spirit or soul of a being. It is where thought exists, and is a mediator between the lower bodies and the higher mental and causal bodies as well as the Spirit or Monad, the highest point of existence. In most people, the psyche is still developing and the mental body, causal body, and Spirit/Monad are embryonic, but accessible by esoteric work.
The psyche, mental body, causal body, and Monad are genderless. One living in the egoic, mental, causal, or spiritual/monadic planes is effectively agender.

Transgenderism and the Astral Body
However, the astral body, being the source of most emotion, is gendered by its own nature. Just because the physical body possesses one biological sex does not mean that the astral body has a ‘corresponding’ gender.
When a soul incarnates into a body, it carries astral energies with it. These astral energies include gender, one of the most powerful and resilient energies in the astral body, according to Hermetic tradition.
A weak astral gender will generally cause the incarnate person to become a transgender person who is comfortable in vis own body and who does not desire hormone therapy. A moderately stronger astral gender may cause the person to be a ‘non-op’ transgender person who desires hormone therapy, regardless of identity. A strong astral gender will cause the incarnate person to seek out not only hormone therapy, but also surgery if possible.
This is because stronger astral energies influence the etheric body to greater and greater extents. The same is true of sexuality.
I speak as both a transgender person and an esotericist. I hope you can understand my ideas.
Thank you!

(Note: Originally written 2015-11-28. Revised 2016-02-02 with new terms.)

New words for a third gender in English!

Since plenty of people from cultures without a strong third-gender tradition feel that they belong to a third gender (and not just bigender or agender), I've invented two new words for people wishing to express themselves as such:
Instead of 'man' or 'woman': neiman. Derives from Old English 'náwþer', meaning, roughly, 'neutral'.
Instead of 'male' or 'female': virmale. Derives from Latin 'vir' (human) and a French corruption of Latin 'más', much in the same way that 'female' was derived from a forcing of Latin 'femella' into the mould of 'male'.
I recommend ve/ver/vis/verself pronouns. They seem to fit in with the 'vir' theme.
Anyway, happy gender exploration!

Eva Gnostiquette

Eva Gnostiquette
My name is Eva Gnostiquette.
I'm a multimedia artist, podcaster, game developer, programmer, and aspiring physicist and neuroscientist. I'm an Oriental Orthodox Christian.
I enjoy reading, music, and various other things. I write about nerd stuff, spirituality, and conspiracy theories, alongside more mainstream politics and science.
I am also a queer trans girl of Jewish, Welsh, Irish, and Scottish descent with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, OCD, and PTSD.
Please enjoy my blog!


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