When I was five, I was convinced that all girls had cooties. No, not convinced—that would imply that I had internally debated the matter and arrived at a conclusion. I knew all girls had cooties just as sure as I knew my own name. (My Mom repeated the latter, in full, whenever I got in trouble, which was a lot.)
To state the matter as the axiom that I took it to be at the time, G = C, where G is girls and C is cooties. It formulated a truth coterminous with the brute fact of the existence of the universe.
I am proud to say that I no longer subscribe to that view. Where once I would have laughed down anyone who suggested that a given girl was not lousy with cooties, I now would do the same with—or, more likely, would just pity and ignore—anyone who came to me with the G = C theorem I once championed.
Girls are pretty great, actually. I married one. If there was anything axiomatic back when I was a late preschooler it was that I was a bonehead and so, if I remember correctly, were pretty much all the other boys.
I thought I had left behind forever the world of the idiotic assumption until I wandered unwittingly into graduate school. There is a lot of idiocy in grad school, for example the readings and the courses and the professors, but the most idiotic thing I heard in all my years of not shaving and staying up late underlining Bourdieu was the following gem, written on a worksheet I received at a “diversity training session” held for all aspiring TAs one fall: “All white people are racist.”
The return of cootielogic. Seriously? I had thought that ship had, not sailed, but mercifully sunk.
G = C is not correct for the same reason that All X = Y is not correct if the term for Y is an analytic statement, and especially if Y is what the purveyors of cootielogic like to call “a social construct”. Remember “social constructs,” my leftist friends? You told us for years that everything was one of them. Gender, class, race… whoops. Social constructism just came back up to bite you on the keester, Prof. Stanford Nutting. So, to assert that a social construct now has the explanatory power of an a priori statement is pretty surprising. Even for a cootielogician I expected better.
Please let me break this down for folks who read only Gilles Deleuze and Jill Lepore. An a priori statement is a non-analytical utterance about something’s being identical with something else. “All unmarried men are bachelors” is the classic example. An unmarried man is a bachelor. A bachelor is an unmarried man. If I say that All X is Y and it’s an a priori statement of pre-analytical fact, then please do go ahead and assert that All X is Y. Because it’s not only true, but can’t not be true. An a priori statement can’t be otherwise than as stated.
But then there are analytical statements. Those are a posteriori. They require proof. You can say, for example, that you have twelve llamas in your kitchen. If you can prove it, great. (Or maybe not so great, for whoever has to clean up later.) But it’s not axiomatically true that you have twelve llamas anywhere. You could have eleven. You could have not llamas but tuba players. You might not even have a kitchen at all. Who knows. Just because you say something is the case doesn’t necessarily mean that it is, if what you say is a posteriori and not a priori.
With an a posteriori statement, you have to look out into the world, or back into your own experience, to show that it’s true.
To say that All White People Are Racist is an a posteriori statement. How do you know? Even on its own terms it breaks down. First of all, define “white people”. If race is a social construct, then why can’t different societies define the concept differently? (And if you really do think that All White People Are Racist, as in an a priori statement, then nothing you could do could change the fact—it’s definitional, not subject to revision—so why waste time re-educating people and torturing everyone with diversity training? All White People Are Racist—forever. Maybe you could try alchemy or astrology or some more scientific pursuit instead of race hustling.)
Then again, the last I checked we were all defining the concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life, etc. Great! So what if I say, for example, that I’m not white, even though you say that I am? I defined the mystery differently. What are you going to do about it? Or what if you persist and say that I can’t stop being white because it’s a fixed category? Fixed by whom, I churlishly reply. And anyway, see the “social construct” “discourse” above.
When I was five and all girls had cooties, that fact had never once been demonstrated to me by anyone in any way whatsoever. It was asserted with great insistence by a kid named Brian, and we pretty much all just did whatever he said and agreed with whatever he spouted forth. To the best of my knowledge, Brian the rising kindergarten freshman had never run any mass-spectrometry tests on a female to determine whether she did, in fact, have cooties. Brian mainly picked his nose and cheated at kickball. Not really the mass-spectrometry type.
Even if Brian had conducted a thorough investigation he would have come up empty handed. Because—please put down the Anti-Oedipus and listen to this—there is no such thing as cooties. The entire argument is bogus. File under, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”
To be sure, however, racism does exist. Ever been to a Planned Parenthood? I’m not here to argue that some people don’t really hate folks sometimes based on whatever characteristic you care to use to determine what is—yes—the social construct known as “race”. Racism is not cooties. Racism is very real. When someone says that “All white people are racist,” that is, axiomatically, a racist statement. That is a priori just rude.
The reality of the terms does not affect the speciousness of the a priori argument when the a priori argument is being used in place of an a posteriori one. All gavagai are iagavag is nonsense.
All peaches are midnight is grammatically, syntactically not nonsense, but all the same it is nonsensical, because, huh?
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And even something apparently closer to home, like All pencils are sharpened, is still way off base. The two things are not the same. A pencil can be unsharpened. A sharpened thing can be something other than a pencil. The terms do not match. Sorry, no gin rummy, go fish.
It would be nice if we would stop using cootielogic to discuss our fellow human beings. All White People Are Racist is not just logically untenable, it’s also a pretty unkind thing to say about someone who might be your neighbor, your friend, even someone in your family. If someone says All White People Are Racist, or All [Variable] People Are [Variable], I think first, not that that person is logically wrong, but that that person has no manners, no tact. If someone has a prejudice, you would think the least they could do before they overcame it would be to hide it away.
Cootielogic is not logic. It’s not just not right—it’s not even wrong.
Another term for cootielogic is Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory—which is the entire reason that colleges and grad schools exist anymore, besides dispensing contraception—is hatred masquerading as high-mindedness. It’s the usual business of the left. Chop society, even people, into tiny pieces, but use big words while doing it.
Critical Race Theory. You’ve got to be kidding me. Not even a kindergartener would buy that idiocy.
--Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan