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“What’s True for You…” – A Plea for Coherence

by | Sep 3, 2019

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Modern liberals commonly insist that we should allow abortion because “what’s true for you is not necessarily true for me,” but then they go on to insist that you must think their view on gender-identity is true because it is true for them.

Let’s set aside the ethical question of abortion or the sociological/psychological/philosophical questions of gender identity, and instead just focus on how incoherent that juxtaposition is.

The modern liberal platform demands objective truth in defending its position on some issues (gender identity and how we interact with it) while rejecting notions of objective truth to defend its stance on other issues (the permissibility of abortion for women who feel it is okay).

If the reality is that because gender identity works one way for liberals then it must be the same for everybody else too, then it is unclear how abortion is permissible for some but not permissible for others. If the reality is that abortion can be permissible for some but not permissible for others, then such a view of reality makes it possible that gender identity might be one way for some people but another way for others.

The incoherence is obvious, but the logic of modern liberalism’s sloppy brand of relativism is worse.

A claim about how things are in the world is either true or false. It does not matter if it is a moral, psychological, religious, legal, philosophical, or sociological claim. If a claim about the way things are is true for some people, then it must be true for all people.

That does not mean that if I like chocolate ice cream then you like chocolate ice cream too. It means that if I like chocolate ice cream, then it is true no matter your beliefs about my opinion on chocolate ice cream that I do in fact like chocolate ice cream. If something is true for you, it has to be true for me and vice versa regardless of either of our beliefs.

You’re probably already getting the idea, but it gets worse.

Liberalism insists on black-and-white objectivity on the issue of gender identity which is susceptible to fair confusion at the intersection of subjective experience and objective reality, but at the same time it takes something that should be black and white, irrespective of personal experience, and tries to make it a subjective issue.

To better see how subjective experience and objective reality work together, take for example a struggle of mine. I regularly think purple things are blue because I am colorblind. No matter how blue a shirt looks to me, I can be objectively wrong about what color that shirt actually is.

If by saying, “this shirt is blue,” I only mean, “this shirt appears blue to me,” then that is an objectively true claim that doesn’t depend on the actual color of the shirt. If by saying, “this shirt is blue,” I mean, “the physical composition of this shirt is one that causes a person to see blue when it is properly perceived,” then I would be wrong if the shirt is actually purple since I am actually not properly seeing the shirt.

This distinction is helpful in understanding the truth value of claims about gender identity. Someone who says “I believe I am a female” may very well think they are a female. The question is if their experience is indicative of something that’s actually true, or if they are misperceiving reality like I am apt to misperceive the color of a purple shirt.

Setting aside the actual answer to that question, the point here is that someone claiming they have the experience of being a female therefore everyone must believe they are a female is akin to me saying “I experience that shirt as being blue, so you have to believe it is blue.” The error is clear. My experience does not bear on objective reality or your duty to believe certain things about it.

If I say I think a shirt is blue, then certainly you have good reason to think I really do think the shirt is blue. If I say I think I am a female, then you have good reason to think I really do think I am a female. But your belief about the actual nature of the shirt or gender-identity as it actually is in the real world does not essentially depend on my experience.

While there is at least understandable room for confusion about the nature of the truth claims concerning someone’s experience and gender, there is no such room for confusion about truth claims concerning the ethics of abortion. Nobody “experiences” abortion being ethical or unethical. It is either right or wrong.

If something goes back and forth between being murder or morally permissible depending on how someone feels about it, then there are a lot of people who have been wrongly convicted of murder after they killed someone. If the status of a human’s personhood depends on the beliefs of the person killing them, then there are plenty of cruel people throughout history who did absolutely nothing wrong.

It’s painfully funny (emphasis on “painful”) that modern liberalism takes something so clearly true or not true such as the ethical permissibility of abortion and wistfully asserts that it is a subjective issue while at the same time dogmatically conflating the reality of someone’s subjective experience with objective reality such as that others must believe the same way in regards to gender-identity.

Modern liberalism, on these two issues, is incoherent in the most illogical way possible. This is not an appeal for liberals to change their beliefs about abortion or gender identity per se. All I want is for people to just be coherent.

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K. William Huitt

K. William Huitt is currently an M.A. student in Western Michigan University’s philosophy program. He graduated from Hillsdale College in 2019 with a B.A. in philosophy and a minor in history. He has spoken at various Christian apologetics events and writes regularly about religious and political issues.

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