An Image on a Screen is Not a Person in the Room

Jack Underwood comes across as a kind, caring and deeply thoughtful person, in Not Even This – far cleverer than me. But it is this thoughtfulness that may provide us with a key as to why he is uncharacteristically dogmatic in his approach to gender issues. He is so highly cerebral that he seems to neglect the bio-physical, tangible aspects of his own existence. Like the Trans activists, he seems to accept without question the mind-body distinction of Cartesian Dualism, and to privilege the mental over the bodily. 

There are hints, and outright admissions, to this throughout the work. We’ve already addressed the bald statement, “the specifics of your sexual anatomy are beside the point of your personhood” an astonishing idea that is refuted by any rigorous study of animal and human behaviour. Zoology, anthropology, endocrinology, even ergonomics, rely on the idea that how an animal is made dictates its tendencies and capacities.  

These disciplines seem to arrive at tried and tested, peer-reviewed truths all the time, all of which would need to be false if Mr Underwood’s statement were to be true. The only way around this conundrum, that I can see, is to fall back on the religious idea that humans are not animals at all, that we were created complete in our present form, by some god-like creator, entirely separate and uniquely sentient and ensouled. Yet this position would mean abandoning evolutionary theory, at least, and is being increasingly questioned and eroded by recent studies of animal sentience. 

Another piece of evidence of Underwood’s rejection of body-thought comes when he addresses his daughter, saying, “you have grown up surrounded by technology that can summon people into the room, their voices into the air, their faces onto a screen.” Yet, this incorporeal state is not a person. It is a small area of pixilation on a screen; it is electrical signals mechanically translated by speakers into a facsimile of a speaking voice.  It demonstrates the most limited understanding of personhood to believe only these most abstract and disembodied, intangible and fleeting aspects of the self are the whole person. 

A person is not actually present, without their physical, multi-dimensional body; without the full embodiment of their facial expressions, tone of voice unmediated by electronics, body language, gesture, whether and how much they make eye contact, their smell, taste in clothes, hair-style and deodorant, the volume of their voices, how much they lean in to you when they talk: all the past decisions and experiences, all the character traits, beliefs and tendencies we can deduce from these things.

It is a lonely and solipsistic existence if we deny them. 

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