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#1 Mathsteach2

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 04:54 PM

The following is a post I recently placed in a teachers' forum in the UK. To date, there has been one response, and I am now asking, in TGL, for help in understanding category mistakes. I appreciate the topic (same sex marriage) is contraversial and would wish to avoid that controversy in this thread, but I am interested in anyone's views here concerning my enquiry - that is, what errors am I making?

Posted in TES Opinion Forum:

"I had decided not to post in this thread anymore and spend more time with philosophy.

"To that end, perhaps posters might help me hone my philosophical skills when I suggest that the following examples involve category mistakes.

"Badgers, cats and young children cannot be voters - they do not have the intellectual capacity to do so, although that could be applied to many adult voters as well.

"Cleethorpes etc. do not have the economic or security stabilities to self-govern in this non-anarchist society.

"Mental illness is a category mistake (T Szasz).

"The mind/body dualism of Descartes is a category mistake.

However, to compare homosexuality with incest or bigamy are not category mistakes because they are all instances of human behaviour.""

First response from grunwald:

"I'm not sure we can include young children in that category, mathsteach. Presumably, they could elect a group leader whereas badgers and cats would simply defer to the dominant animals by instinct. The process does overlap, I agree.

"I agree absolutely that there is a category mistake in gay marriage which by definition rejects the symbolism of marriage as a procreative union.

"This lady writes rather well on it, I feel. Her fears about societal instability if we allow gay marriage in tandem with what she calls technoscience seem well-founded to me.

http://www.marriagei...somerville.pdf"

#2 The Heretic

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 05:12 PM

While it is correct to say that homosexuality is an instance of human behavior, it is certainly question begging to classify it as sinful behavior, and grouped solely with as such as you've listed.

A categorical error is when a visitor is at a university, after he sees the administration building, the gymnasium, the libraries, asks to see the "university" itself. He thinks there is a distinctive building that is called the "university" apart from all the other buildings.

So, homosexuality properly belongs to the same category as heterosexuality rather than illegal or sinful behavior.

#3 DaveT

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 05:40 PM

In what way does gay marriage reject the symbolism of marriage as a procreative union any more than various, more-widely accepted, legal ideas of marriage do? Considering the age-old custom of marrying for wealth and power, for status, or the fact that there people who marry today who plan to never have children )(and, on the flip side, unmarried parents), is it really accurate to say that the primary function of marriage is to procreate, and if the primary purpose of marriage is not procreation, can homosexual marriage be properly labeled a category mistake or an unfortunate deviation from the proper standards and definition of marriage any more than many actual heterosexual marriages are and have been?
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#4 Scotty

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 08:22 PM

Wow, I read that article and my mouth dropped open the entire time.  Very thinly veiled religious overtones.

I got the feeling that going back to a time when women couldn't divorce would be appropriate (it would be denied of course, but conservative tendencies are that).

The entire article leaves me with the same questions I always have when it comes to many peoples inability to understand why they have sex on the brain constantly (which is normal).

We put much too much importance on this on a societal level, without thinking about why.  It drives us all, and we use religion to try to hide the animal inside us behind morals and ethics.

We must FIGHT the urge for sex, we must at all costs represses our sexual instincts so that we are in control all the time, otherwise some higher power will chastise us for it.

The entire article was based on how marriage is about sex, EVEN IF the child's parents have died. I get the impression (they unsurprisingly don't mention that one) since my nephew doesn't have his parents anymore.  BUT THAT IS DIFFERENT THAN ADOPTION!  They ALWAYS search out their parents, it is just the way it is!  They have no proof of that, just what they want to believe is true.

But you want to really go back and figure out marriage?  You notice we have divorce now?  Why did that change?  Why, is because women actually have rights now?  Did that change bring society down or up?

I know many that say it has gone down.  Women don't know their place, and should be barefoot and pregnant and I see NOTHING in that article that says otherwise.

Society will crumble if we don't have a SEXual marriage!

Gay parents are not going to make gay children, regardless of the inference in that article  (yes, look closely, again veiled).

Marriage is a way to keep women in their place and guarantee the guy, THE GUY, has the control over who's children she bares.  It is all a horrible way to repress women.

Another example you say?  Fairy tales.  What do you see there?  The women are the prize, the princess, they have to be saved by the hero and then stay in their place.

Sorry, it all sickens me.  I should bow out before I explode.

-Scott

#5 davidm

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 12:02 AM

Not sure where "category error" fits here. The Heretic described a category error; it doesn't fit gay marriage.

You quote from someone at the other forum:

Quote

"I agree absolutely that there is a category mistake in gay marriage which by definition rejects the symbolism of marriage as a procreative union.

If the category mistake is that gay marriage by definition rejects the "symbolism" of marriage as a procreative union, then it logically follows that all non-proecreative marriages also reject this symbolism and hence cannot actually be marriages. So all married couples who do not have children are  not really married; married couples who adopt are not really married either. But, on this reasoning, one could consider that unmarried couples who live together and have children really are married, since even if they aren't married, they are married because they procreated.

This is all absurd, of course.

Are you against gay marriage? There is a simple thing for you to do, to demonsrate your opposition: decline to be gay married.

Many people are against marriage period (the late Gore Vidal comes to mind). Such people don't get married. It never seems to have occured to any of them, though, to demand that because they don't get married, that no one else get married, either. Yet opponents of gay marriage seem to feel that because they, personally, will not marry a member of the same gender, it follows that no one else should either; even further: that no one else should be permitted to wed a member of the same gender. This is a philosphical error that goes by the name non sequitur.

No matter what fancy and misleading language the argument is cloaked in, opposition to gay marriage is bigotry, pure and simple.

Edited by davidm, 09 August 2012 - 12:05 AM.

"History, which is a simple whore, has no decisive moments but is a proliferation of instants, brief interludes that vie with one another in monstrousness."

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#6 davidm

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 12:29 AM

I skimmed through some of that paper; I notice the author addresses the issue of childless couples. The author claims that such marriages do not harm the "symbolism" of procreation, even if the marriages are not procreative. Why? Well, because the potential to procreate is there. Of course it's not there in the case of couples who for some reason cannot bear children; and it really isn't there for couples who marry but are bound and determined not to have kids and will have an abortion if necessary to prevent it. So the argument is a non-starter. But more to the point: why, exactly, does any form of marriage "damage procreative symbolism?" If gays get married who can't procreate, or straights get married who also can't (due to some biological reason) or won't procreate, what the hell difference does it make? How does any of of this harm the symbolism of procreative marriage? So far as I can tell no argument is given in the piece to support this claim, the supposed harm is merely assumed -- which straightforwardly begs the question.

I'd say much the opposite arguement could be made: that gay marriage strenghthens marriage in general, just by virtue of the fact that more people will be married!

Edited by davidm, 09 August 2012 - 12:30 AM.

"History, which is a simple whore, has no decisive moments but is a proliferation of instants, brief interludes that vie with one another in monstrousness."

-- Benno von Archimboldi :twisted:

#7 davidm

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 05:23 AM

Here's another question: why must marriage by "procreative," symbolically or otherwise? Who dreamed that up, except perhaps for some ancient patriarchs who kept their women as cattle? The author of the linked article uncritically accepts that marriage is at least "symbolically" procreative, a claim that is question-begging and must be demonstrated rather than assumed. As I'm sure the author cannot even hope to demonstrate this, the whole paper is a mess.
"History, which is a simple whore, has no decisive moments but is a proliferation of instants, brief interludes that vie with one another in monstrousness."

-- Benno von Archimboldi :twisted:

#8 Mathsteach2

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 12:07 PM

Many thanks to all who have taken the time to reply. The Heretic and davidm in particular help me to further understand category mistakes in a general way.

As I said, the particular topic of same sex marriage is contraversial and I was not intending to initiate a discussion here on it in this thread.

To further develop my understanding of category mistakes, I might spend some time on Ryle's arguments concerning the Cartesian dualism of mind and body, whilst also acknowledging my own continuing focus on Christian spirituality, and consciousness!




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