FlashDangerpants wrote: ↑
Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:41 am
If categorisation is a tool employed by people to discuss reated groups of objects, then the category is working just fine whenever those people are able to use it effectively to communicate their concepts.
I don't doubt your claim that "categorization is a tool." But is it merely an arbitrary
tool, we might ask. Or when we do it, are we responding to some fact or set of facts about the objects we group?
Or another way we might ask this question is, if categorization is a tool, how come it works so very well in the real world? There are cases in which it is flawed, of course -- as when we accidentally categorize things that turn out not to be related -- but on the whole, we humans find it absolutely necessary to our engagement with reality that we categorize and classify all the time. Why is that necessary, if the deep truth is that things are not actually comparable?
Let's check our language use here, and see what it takes for granted: what do we mean by a "group" of objects? Do we mean a cluster of things pulled together at random, and treated as "related" though really not "related" at all? Or do we mean a reason-backed collection of objects which share some basic feature that makes us correct in grouping them? If it's the former, then the "category" doesn't specify anything at all -- the objects are actually not "related in any way; we're just pretending they are. If it's the latter, then the "category" does specify something, but surely then we know what that thing is.
All the terms you use above, "category," "group" "relationship" and "concept" especially, are already freighted with the implication that some similarity exists among the objects that justifies our placing them together in the same collective. They are not random, not irrational, and not criterionless -- unless you would prefer to say that we ourselves are behaving irrationally, and our grouping makes no sense and has no justification. And I don't believe that's quite what you'd want to say, is it?
So back comes essentialism. Some "essential" or common feature, makes "categorizing" or "grouping" things the way we do either a rational
exercise (if it works well) or an irrational
one (if it fails to work well). However various our categories, it's very clear that we can categorize things wrongly
-- as when, for example, we might think that cyanide is a beverage -- with disastrous effects. Something in reality is subverting our incorrect categorization, in such cases. So good "categorization" depends on there being some real feature that makes the "group" actually similar in reality
-- not merely conceptually imagined-as-similar in the human mind,
but not really similar.
All this, you have bundled into the word "effective." An "ineffective" categorization fails to "work," precisely because it fails to reflect accurately the pre-existing, real-world facts about the objects in question. It fails to pick out accurately the essential similarity or difference between objects, and thereby miscategorizes them.
So Essentialism returns. (But if you don't like the word "essential" you'll need to find another one to account for the real-world feature that justifies our categorizations. You'll need some word for that quality, because it's obviously real.)
If a male wants to become a female, he needs the category "male" and the category "female" to do it; for his justification in asking is going to depend on there being a real and essential difference between the two. He's even going to have to specify that difference to himself, so he can decide HOW to go about transforming himself from the one to the other...or else, he will merely be taking shots in the dark, and will never know when he has "arrived" at his intended destination.
So every trans-wanter is an essentialist when he launches his claim to want to transition.