This post was prompted by my reading of an article that talks about the nature of man and man’s body. You know, as in human being. That sexist language makes me wonder: Maybe there’s a meme at work here that links philosophy with men. And this also suggests why it is so important to be careful about our language and avoid sexist usage (I suppose in 1981 when the article first appeared consciousness about this was fairly low still…).
What’s a meme? According to the Oxford English Dictionary (as cited by Richard Dawkins): A meme is
an element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, esp. imitation.
“Nature of man” reinforces the meme that all humans are men, that men are the standard, that women don’t count. It might be subtle but it’s there. This makes it very important for us to translate this into the nature of human beings. Of course, I am also wondering what human does in this context. Even that word seems to reinforce the meme that men are the standard humans and women are just copies, not really independent beings, just men with a few changes (making them defective, lesser somehow…). If philosophical reading includes a lot of text that reference the “nature of man” – and other sexist language – this meme is strengthened unless counteracted (here’s how!). And so that we can counteract this meme, we have to notice them and raise awareness that this is an issue. I intend to do that whenever I can – and since the seminar is on the philosophy of mind, I figure it’s important to reprogram some minds (to utilize some functionalist ideas).