A Banned Book

When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment

Title: When Harry Became Sally:
Responding to the Transgender Moment
Author: Ryan T. Anderson
Genre: Psychology / Ethics
Pages: 272
Rating: 4 of 5

In February of this year, Amazon scrubbed all traces of this book from its platform without explanation (later citing its ban on hate speech). The author maintains that the accusation of “hate speech” is unwarranted and that this ban is an attempt to stifle legitimate debate over the treatment of gender dysphoria. I decided to read it and see for myself what was going on (#ReadBannedBooks and all that…I assume that applies to books banned by both “the left” and “the right”).

Essentially, the author argues that the current rush to transition those who express gender dysphoria (without seriously considering other alternatives) may not be the healthiest solution. He is especially concerned when it comes to the ethics and potentially irreversible impact of transitioning minors. The book explores potential incoherencies in trans ideology, philosophical and medical definitions of sex and gender, anecdotal stories of people who “de-transitioned,” and scientific/medical evidence that he claims is ignored or downplayed during the current “transgender moment.” Overall, I believe that many of his assertions and questions do raise valid concerns that should be taken into consideration, even if doing so is not the politically correct course of action.

Having read the book, I think that the author presents these concerns in a respectful and evidential enough manner that the proper response from those who disagree would be a written rebuttal rather than the banning of a dissenting voice. Shouting down or censoring an opponent does not prove that they are wrong.

“Comico, Ergo Sum”

Title: Superhero Thought Experiments:
Comic Book Philosophy
Authors: Chris Gavaler & Nathaniel Goldberg
Genre: Philosophy
Pages: 202 (plus citations, etc.)
Rating: 4.5 of 5
(Thank you to the authors and publisher for a free eARC via NetGalley. This in no way affects the content of the review)

It’s Superman vs. Batman: consequentialism vs. deontology! Within these pages you will find this and other astounding speculations as our intrepid authors perform feats of daring philosophy.

Okay, this isn’t actually a high-action book, but if you enjoy philosophy it’s a lot of fun. Gavaler and Goldberg treat superhero comic as thought experiments to explore the nature of doing good, existence, time, identity, communication, etc. (or morality, metaphysics, meaning, and medium if you prefer the alliteration of their section titles). Fodder for philosophizing includes Bizarro world, Dr. Doom’s time machine, Scarlet Witch’s imaginary twins, retcons & reboots, and much more. To me, the first three sections that focus on characters and stories were much more interesting than the last section that focused on comic books as a medium.

If you’re the kind of person who when confronted with someone asking “how do I know I’m really here?” gets annoyed by anything more theoretical than pinching/punching them and asking “did that hurt,” this isn’t the book for you. If you enjoy thought experiments and speculating on the nature of life, the universe, and everything give this a shot.

Forsaking the Tao

Title: The Abolition of Man
Author: C. S. Lewis
Genre: Philosophy
Pages: 113
Rating: 4 of 5

This was the last required reading for my C. S. Lewis class (I have one more optional book that I will probably read), so we’re coming to the end of the C. S. Lewis review series.

This is one of Lewis’s shortest books, but it is dense. I know I didn’t catch everything that was going on in this first reading so I’m not completely confident of my understanding (or rating), but I’ ll try to give a basic overview anyway. The book’s subtitle is Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools, but that is a completely inadequate description of the content. To be sure, Lewis begins by excoriating an English textbook for advocating a certain philosophy in which “all sentences containing a predicate of value are statements about the emotional state of the speaker and…all such statements are unimportant,” but that is just the jumping-off point.

His criticism of the English book quickly turns into a defense for the existence of a universal, objective moral standard which he refers to as the Tao and defines as “the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.” He spends the rest of the book arguing for its existence and explaining the dehumanization that he believes would occur should humanity ever succeed in completely eliminating/forsaking it (a scenario which he plays out in the N.I.C.E. institute in That Hideous Strength).

I didn’t find all of his reasoning completely convincing on a first reading, and I think that (as is usually the case with such attempts) this attempt to follow the topic “to its logical conclusion” end up overblown and needlessly apocalyptic. However, there was a lot to think about here in regard to evidence for the existence of objective truth and morality (which he does not explicitly try to tie to Christian morality alone). Not my favorite Lewis book, but a good example of him at his most philosophical.