Saturday 13 June 2015

Reader's Question: What is the proper definition of manhood?

My answer: It doesn't have a 'definition' because Manhood ultimately has a metaphysical explanation.

I regard manhood as dating back eternally; a matter of fundamental existence - and the same applies to womanhood.

In other words, sexual difference is a primal reality.

Reality began with a multitude of distinct entities, from which humans were 'made', and these were either male or female - one or the other.

Each of us was an independent eternal essence, even before we were made Sons and Daughters of God. And this is the basis of agency or 'free will' - because there is something in us that did not come from God.

(And intermediate or combined or ambiguous sexual states are not fundamental but biological, metaphysically superficial. Although we do not necessarily or usually know the specific causes - we must presume that they have the same kind of pathological origins as other illness states: e.g. genetic, infective, toxic, neoplastic, traumatic and so on. Human physical and psychological development is an exceedingly complex process, and many things can - and do - go wrong at many or several stages. But metaphysically, in the soul; each person is either man or woman.)

The ultimate basis of reality is therefore dyadic; male and female; in a universe that is pluralistic - cannot be reduced to a single-entity unity.

The two sexes are not equal but strictly complementary - i.e. different and inter-dependent. Both are necessary. 'Man' is the combination of man and woman; but not a fusion, not an existential unity - rather as an irreducible duality bound by a relationship of love. 



Arakawa said...

I wonder if that answers the question the original commenter was asking, which may have had to do more with "what things do I have to do to be a better man?" (Phrased from the metaphysical point of view this question is meaningless, as one is either a man or one isn't and one has no control over this circumstance.)

There are a lot of bad answers to this question: people saying manhood is best developed through fornication, through 'gangs' and thuggery (in a blatant or in a rarefied form), etc. What all of these have in common is that a certain quality of character is basically amputated through self-induced trauma. In the extreme: say a man naturally attaches himself and becomes emotionally dependent on a woman -- that is called 'oneitis' and is 'cured' through desensitization to fornication.
There is also the notion that manly virtue is somehow prior to, or above mere morality -- it is said that one can be merely a "good man" but it is much preferable to be "good at being a man".

The excess of bad "definitions of manhood" has been a serious problem, as I've never encountered a "definition of manhood" that I recognized my ideal self in, which is probably what makes me view gender in a more reductionist fashion. If I am biased on this point, that is where the bias comes from. I would say that manhood consists partly of biology, partly of social convention, and partly of psychological complexes peculiar to the fallen state. Then there are particularly masculine virtues which are more easily enabled by, or relevant towards, or necessary to compensate for the limitations of the biology.

My comment on the metaphysics suggested here -- it is one thing if 'male' and 'female' is a distinction created by God, in which case it has a definite purpose. We merely need to understand what God is up to. On the other hand, if we treat 'male' and 'female' as prior to any design of God, then it would be a distinction with downsides that need to be overcome. Strictly speaking, it has no purpose or meaning. Nevertheless the visible things we associate with manhood and womanhood (the biological design of the sexes, marriage, etc.) would in fact be contrivances of God to add some definite meaning into this distinction. Inherently speaking, there would be no 'love' in the sexes if they were a metaphysical, uncreated fact. Maybe male and female would attract like polar magnets and annihilate each other -- or explode into random energy -- or something (consider how quickly sexuality unleashed from any higher principles becomes a predatory process) -- it would in any case be God who manages to develop a way for these to relate that involves love.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ara- Wow - there were a lot of (what seem to me) non sequiturs in that last paragraph. I would have to say a big 'not necessarily'; and 'that's not how I see it, at all".

Nowadays, as things are now, it is perhaps impossible to answer even a simple question about the definition of 'manhood' without a metaphysical understanding of the sexes.

At any rate, that is my understanding of why such vast cataracts of nonsense have been written on the subject.

Secular Leftism has made matters very stark. If sex is nothing but a contingent product of biology - natural selection, genes and hormones - then it is without existential significance and may be redefined, blended, manipulated, abolished... whatever.

Or, for mainstream Christians, if sex differences are merely a temporary expedient of (fallen, sinful) mortal incarnate life, and dissolves away in resurrected eternity - then it doesn't amount to very much.

We have been forced to this point, this crux. Either sex difference is of eternal significance, or else we seem to have no clear, simple, principled reason for objecting to open season on sex difference.

Yet, somehow we know - in our hearts - that socio-biological construction of any/ multiple/ no sexual identities is a crazed and evil thing.

This has all the hallmarks of a metaphysical error, an error in assumptions - that had become rooted in culture.

To correct this error was one of the reasons why Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet; one of the reasons that a new kind of Christianity (Mormonism) had to be revealed.

Seijio Arakawa said...

Okay, so assuming that every soul is immutably sexed from an indefinitely long pre-mortal existence -- what next? If I understand my previous conversations with you on this topic, it's not even particularly useful for me to concede this point intellectually. If I am not convinced of what you are saying on a deeper level, I will not be able to reason usefully from it.

So, I guess the next question is: what am I trying to defend by resisting this account? Since I clearly don't have a coherent account of my own, questioning and undermining another person's metaphysical scheme seems like a purely destructive occupation. Suppose I come up with a decisive-sounding refutation -- what do I gain? (Obviously nothing, so I should not bother.)

(I think an actual argument between us on this topic would teach nothing and end with me facing these exact questions, so it is probably best to skip the argument and try to move a step forward.)

I am holding nothing at this point besides a thorough revulsion to a warped notion of 'traditional masculinity' as it was conveyed to me from secular-Right literature (and Christians sympathizing with the secular-Right), as well as some pity and effort to understand various sexually confused acquaintances.

If there is an actual roadmap to differing natures of man and woman, I still have not dug it up from the cataracts of nonsense (as you aptly put it). If these are eternally distinct things then anytime specific "definitions" get written down, it seems like there is potential to create a mess in all directions: traits proper to all humanity arbitrarily divided to men and women, traits specific to men and women forced on all humanity, etc.. There may be an element of that causing my intuitive protest, but it would be nice to narrow down what.

For instance: if I lived in a hypothetical macho society that said empathy and compassion are womanish and unworthy of a man; or that art and theater are woman's work; or something like that, then that society would be wrong. However, living in that society and shaped by its assumptions, I would sooner say I wanted to be a woman than I would deny what might happen to be important traits for me personally -- which actually have nothing to do with metaphysical sex as discussed here. Would I be reasonable in doing so?

But then that starts to sound like a Leftist notion of sex roles being mostly cultural baggage..................

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ara - Another way of thinking about this is to ask whether a single person, or a single sex, would be capable of fulfilling the highest possible destiny of Man.

For many religions, and for most types of Christianity, the unitary person can achieve the highest salvation and divination. Likewise, one, or either, sex may be religiously unnecessary - for instance, there is a sense in which some religions, including some Christian traditions, do not *require* women (i.e. women have no specific religious role and reproduction is not sacred, indeed celibacy is often regarded as the highest value. The role of making new humans is not a religious role as such, and could in principle be replaced technologically). And modern liberal Christianity, in reaction, does not require men.

It seems to be unique to Mormonism that both women and men are 'ideally' necessary for the religion - for priesthood and motherhood (even though in mortal life not all men are priests and not all women are mothers); and across eternity the celestially married and fertile dyad is necessary for maximum spiritual progress.