Nov 5, 2023Liked by Peter Boghossian

Great to see support growing for KJK, and for women's rights. Good chat, thanks PB!

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Thank you, Mikalina!

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I remember well the original BBC story some 5 years ago:

"A billboard poster bearing the Google definition of the word 'woman' has been removed after it was accused of being part of a transphobic campaign."


Still think that Kelly deserves Time's "Person of the Year" Award -- if not of the decade -- for that line in the sand, for that "writing on the wall" -- in more ways than one.

However, your "adult human female" as the "best definition for 'woman' " is rather moot and seriously problematic. While it might have been the best one "on tap" at the time, and while it certainly got everyone's attention, the fact of the matter is that it conflicts profoundly with the standard biological definitions for the sexes:

"Female: Biologically, the female sex is defined as the adult phenotype that produces [present tense indefinite] the larger gametes in anisogamous systems.

Male: Biologically, the male sex is defined as the adult phenotype that produces [present tense indefinite] the smaller gametes in anisogamous systems."

"Gamete competition, gamete limitation, and the evolution of the two sexes" https://academic.oup.com/molehr/article/20/12/1161/1062990 (see the Glossary)

IF one wants to stand on that definition of yours and IF one wants to accept those biological definitions THEN that means "women" no longer qualify as such once they hit menopause. And IF one rejects those biological definitions THEN one is in the same (leaky) boat as various transactivists and so-called biologists who are peddling folk-biology or the sexes as social categories. See:



Y'all might be further ahead to promote a legal definition for "woman" that isn't joined at the hip with "female". Say:

"adult human typically with XX chromosomes, a vagina, and ovaries of past, present, or future functionality"

Though the "typically" is something a potential pitfall as it opens the door to a question suggesting that transwomen might be "atypical" women.

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Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Steersman. It is always great to hear from you. I have been thinking about the biological definition of sex, which has raised a couple of questions for me.

- First, let's suppose a human fits the biological definition of female and is an adult phenotype that produces [present tense indefinite] the larger gametes in anisogamous systems. If she is then murdered, is she still female in the instant after her death? If so, does the remnants of her body remain female or eventually become sexless?

- Second, can a human who has undergone menopause be sexually assaulted? Can a human under the age of 8 years old be sexually assaulted?

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Some "interesting" questions there Abraham, though they might be somewhat "Academic", on the order of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" 😉🙂

However, they're still useful in underlining a number of useful principles and perspectives, notably this aphorism of Francis Bacon's:

Bacon: "For men associate through conversation, but words are applied according to the capacity of ordinary people. Therefore shoddy and inept application of words lays siege to the intellect in wondrous ways."


More particularly relative to your first question, while the syntax of it is a bit murky, the "she" in the question is no longer present -- "departed" for parts unknown. All that is present is a lump of protoplasm, a dead body, something that has -- or shortly will have -- no ongoing processes at all, much less the process of producing ova. Ergo, the body is not a female; all that one can reasonably say is that it and its owner HAD BEEN a female.

As for your second question about a "menopausee" who had been "sexually assaulted", I think you're conflating two quite different definitions for sex, that you're engaging in equivocation, intentional or not:


1 [mass noun] (chiefly with reference to people) sexual activity, including specifically sexual intercourse.

2) Either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and most other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions."


Sexless people can HAVE sex, unwanted or not. But, by definition, sexless people don't "have A sex".

Unfortunately, many if not most dictionaries are replete with various contradictions of one sort or another. Many don't make much of a difference, at least until push comes to shove, until we're trying to adjudicate various claims to category membership on the basis of them.

You might want to take a gander at a decent survey article on different types of definitions, particularly section 5.1 on stipulative definitions, and section 5.2 on lexical (dictionary) definitions:


And you might also want to take gander at a post by physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, this quote of her in particular:

SH: "The maybe most important lesson physicists have learned over the past centuries is that if a theory has internal inconsistencies, it is wrong. By internal inconsistencies, I mean that the theory’s axioms lead to statements that contradict each other."


Even in common discourse, if we're starting out from contradictory premises then it's relatively easy, a natural or inevitable consequence in fact, to prove that black is white. "From contradictions, anything follows":


A "wondrous siege of the intellect", indeed.

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Thanks Steersman, this helps me think about this in greater depth. Perhaps my questions are for the Oxford Languages Dictionary with respect to the word sex and not with you, so I hope you will entertain my response because I am interested to hear your thoughts. You did mention that dictionaries are replete with contradictions, so I think we are seeing similar problems there. I am not fond of the first definition of sex provided by Oxford Languages because I believe its reference to activity and intercourse that is “sexual” is incoherent without reference to the second definition. Let's take another look at the definitions of sex in the Oxford Languages.

The first definition is:

1. (chiefly with reference to people) sexual activity, including specifically sexual intercourse. https://www.google.com/search?q=define+sex

If I am going to examine a definition, it needs to fully account for what is being described and fully account for what is not. This first definition seems pretty good at first glance. It defines sex as not just activity and intercourse, but sexual activity and sexual intercourse. That excludes a lot of activities and a lot of intercourse unrelated to sex. How does one determine which activities are sexual activities and which activities are not? How does one determine which intercourse is sexual and which isn't? If this definition is sufficient to express the intended idea, then we should be able to answer this question using the phrases provided. What is sexual activity?

Sexual activity is obviously activity that is sexual, so we will need to look at the definition of sexual. Again, we find two definitions.

1. relating to the instincts, physiological processes, and activities connected with physical attraction or intimate physical contact between individuals.


This first definition is rather vague, so we will have to continue down the rabbit hole to find out what intimate physical contact means.

Physical intimacy is sensuous proximity or touching. It is an act or reaction, such as an expression of feelings (including close friendship, platonic love, romantic love, or sexual attraction), between people.

Clearly physical intimacy is too general of a term to describe what is meant by the word sexual if it includes platonic love. So we will need to rely on the remainder of the definition. "relating to the instincts, physiological processes, and activities" is referring to the mechanisms "connected with physical attraction". Physical attraction is too vague a phrase to describe what is meant by sexual, which is why attractiveness is divided into two definitions.

1. (in a person) the quality of being appealing or sexually alluring to look at.


Due to the use of the OR operator, the quality of being appealing could be what is meant by attractiveness, which is too vague to represent sex, sexual allure is only part of the definition. Definition 2 is not much help either and seems to be going in the wrong direction.

2. "the possession of qualities or features that arouse interest."

If we want to salvage the first definition of attractiveness to be helpful in our search for meaning, we just need to find out what is meant by “sexual” in “sexually alluring”.

If we look at the definitions of sexual again, we run into a problem with the first definition.

1. (chiefly with reference to people) sexual activity, including specifically sexual intercourse.

We can’t reuse the first definition for sexual because that would be circular reasoning. So this tells us the first definition is actually a bad definition for the word sexual because it leads to circular reasoning. Looking at the second definition,

“2. relating to the sexes or to gender.”

It looks like we are getting closer to coherence. Sexual is relating to the sexes. This seems to make sense since factual is related to facts and so on. For the definition to be coherent though, we need to know what is meant by sex in “relating to the sexes”. Which brings us back to the definition for the word sex, where we run into the same problem we found with the definitions for sexual, the first definition for sex will run us around in circles again. So to find any coherence in the definitions analyzed thus far, we need to rely on the second definition listed for sex to allow for the other definitions to retain coherence:

2. either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and most other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions.

This brings us back to what is the meaning of male and female, for which we need to look for biology for an answer, which brings us back full circle to your answers to my questions. To address the answer to the second question first, if you disagree with my assessment that the first definition for sex is an insufficient definition, then I would still qualify as engaging in equivocation. I understand why you would answer the first question in the manner you did; it is consistent with what you have said regarding the biological definition of sex and what makes one sexless. Since I believe the first definitions listed by Oxford Languages for sex and sexual are insufficient, it becomes incoherent to me when I read the phrase “Sexless people can HAVE sex”. When I try to use the current biological definition, it leads me to saying a dead woman is technically no longer female; that that tells me there is something wrong with the technical definition or the way it is being used. If one is following the principle of parsimony and settles on a definition of the sexes which accounts for the sexes in all anisogamous species, which would exclude species specific considerations for the definition of sex, could such a definition be properly used in the context of individual species such as human to adequately express the meaning one wishes to convey in the phrase sexual assault? To me the answer is no and this indicates to me that the biological definition of sex is not a good definition because it doesn’t allow us to adequately express reality to each other. I think that is our main point of disagreement and as we previously discussed, I think the main source of our disagreement is further upstream. Thanks again for continuing the conversation. I am almost finished writing that post about intuition, so keep an eye out for that if you are interested.

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Think you're "muddying the waters to make them seem deep" there Abraham. You're going off into the weeds on irrelevancies; not really much interested in all of the possible permutations of "sexual" particularly as much of the transgender clusterfuck turns on which definitions we're going to use for "male" and "female" as sexes.

You CAN connect lots of "dots" in lots of ways, but even with what you've quoted there's a clear difference between "having sex" -- i.e., engaging in intercourse, basically mashing our "naughty bits" together -- and "having a sex" -- i.e., having the ability to produce gametes on a regular basis.

That's the benefit of clear definitions for what it means to have a sex in the first place.

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I don't know why this is even discussed. Forcing or coercing sex on a child is just wrong. It's criminal. End of discussion

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Who's doing that? Whereabouts in the YouTube interview is that?

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Listen to it, pedophilia is being discussed

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Ok, where? I really don't have an hour to spare to listen to a couple of talking heads.

But while molesting children is certainly an issue, I see it as somewhat secondary to a legal definition for "woman" that actually holds some water. Some reason to argue that the ERA is foundering on the rocks because of an inability to define that category sufficient well for the tasks at hand:


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As I said it was being discussed. If you don't want to listen to what they're saying before commenting and asking questions, I have nothing more to tell you.

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🙄 I responded in a separate comment to what Peter had written. Which was largely about the definition for "woman". If you don't want to address that then I have nothing more to tell you ...

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Hahaha, I think the phone lines are getting mixed up. I no longer know what you were asking nor to whom.

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