Nobody has more respect for women than I do.

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During the contest between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton for the United States of America Presidency, audio emerged of Trump speaking in way that appeared to degrade women. After Trump’s companion in the conversation in question confirmed that the audio was real, Trump dismissed the degree of seriousness of what he had said by describing it as “locker room banter.”

The release of this audio occurred around the time that a series of televised, presidential debates, were occurring, between Trump and Clinton. During the final instalment of these debates, Trump responded to accusations that he had sexually assaulted women, as well as that he generally objectified and degraded women. Contrary to this perception of him, according to Trump, no one respected women more than he did, stating:

Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody (Donald Trump, 2016).

What is being quantified?

Trump’s assertion here is not simply defensive, but also offensive. In the above statement, he clarifies the respective magnitudes of respect that he believes he has for women, versus the respect for women that he interprets in others. Moreover, for Trump, no one has more of this respect for women than he does.

Not only, therefore, is Trump responding to the accusation that he does not respect women by refuting it. Rather, for Trump the amount of respect that he has for women is evidently not exceeded by anyone else’s respect for women. In defending the accusation against him of being a misogynist, Trump’s method is to assert that he is both innocent of such a characterisation, as well as that he is actually a champion of women’s rights.

What is being quantified in Trump’s statement is respect. There were, predictably, doubts and criticisms in the media and wider public discourses of the validity of such a claim. This was not only the result of Trump’s well-publicised history, but also attributable to the seemingly disingenuous way Trump repeated such a claim.

Another concern regarding this quantification, though, is that Trump did not clarify how he measures his respect for women, versus the respect that other people (implying men) have for women. There is a quantifiable composition indicated by Trump regarding this respect for women that he, and others, have.

If respect is quantifiable though, there must be measurable units of respect which comprise its quantification. These units, in being counted, aggregated, and compared, condition there being a quantity of the thing or the experience in question. Measurable units of quantified respect are not, however, identified by Trump.

How, then, might we consider whether Trump could possibly identify measurable units of respect?

Can respect be quantified?

Henri Bergson posits that the tendency to quantify things or experiences derives from social influence. This is because such quantification occurs through the measures and representations that have been installed by the institutions, perspectives, and languages, of human, collective existence. The sciences, and the social sciences, exemplify this quantifying tendency, in symbolising the world via calculable, comparable data. The integration of the sciences and the social sciences could therefore be helpful in determinations of Trump’s possible identification of measurable units of respect.

What must also be taken into consideration, though, is Bergson’s complementary concern that from this tendency are said to emerge quantifiable constructions of features of the world and our experience of it that might not really be quantifiable. This speaks to the tension between (i) what is perceived to be the socially constructed quantification of a thing/experience, versus (ii) what is presumed to be the real-natural state of a thing/experience.

In terms of respect, we can review four positions which operate from within this tension. This will allow us to appraise how Trump might identify the units which comprise a respect that Trump assumes is quantifiable, and the responses that Trump would face. Click on each position below to expand/contract its supporting argument:

1. Extreme social constructionist. The social construction of respect misrepresents what is real-natural about respect.

i. Trump engages studies of respect to evidence the measurable units of respect.

ii. [Science study “y”] studies the physiological changes that are experienced when respect is reported to be experienced…or…[Social science study “z”] studies the behaviours that a society has defined as indicating respect.

iii. Does [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] identify measurable units of these physiological changes or behavioural patterns that comprise respect?

If no…

iv. Trump does not identify measurable units of quantified respect.

If yes…

v. Trump identifies measurable units of quantified respect.

The extreme social constructionist responds…

vi. The sciences are socially constructed institutions/perspectives.

vii. Socially constructed perspectives misrepresent what is real-natural about the world.

viii. [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] is a socially constructed perspective of respect.

ix. Even if measurable units of quantified respect are posited by [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”], such units misrepresent what is real-natural about respect.

x. The respect that Trump quantifies misrepresents what is real-natural about respect.

This position is that scientific experimentation, techniques, perspectives, and theories, could have been developed in myriad ways, depending on relevant social influences. Consequently, the resulting scientific results must be dependent upon how society has shaped them. This contingently social factor in the production of scientific truths is contrasted from what are posited to be the necessarily timeless truths or realities of the world. By looking at respect through a contingently socially constructed lens (the sciences are interpreted to be such lenses), the extreme social constructionist’s position demands that the measurable units that might be posited scientifically regarding respect, never represent respect as it really, naturally is.

2. Exclusive social constructionist. The social construction of respect is all that respect ever is.

i. – vi. as per position 1.

The exclusive social constructionist responds…

vii. Respect is also a social construction.

viii. If respect is a social construction, and the sciences are social constructions, the scientific study of respect measures the only reality of respect.

ix. Does [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] identify measurable units of this respct?

If no…

x. Trump does not identify measurable units of quantified respect.

If yes…

xi. Trump identifies measurable units of quantified respect.

This position is that respect is a concept that societies have created. Societies define the criteria for what comprises respect accordingly. These criteria, either physiological, behavioural, or both, are the signs of respect. If a society conceives of respect by such signs, and respect is considered to be nothing but its social conceptualisation, then the measurement of these signs is duly interpreted to measure respect’s reality.

This differs from the extreme social constructionist position that is presented above in one key regard; the exclusive social constructionist avoids the supposition of a separate natural reality of respect that the social construction of it must explain, access, or discover. Rather, for the exclusive social constructionist, respect is a concept that is believed to only ever have a social reality.

This latter point presents the greatest issue with this position. Will it be adequate for Trump (or indeed for anyone), to state that respect is only a contingent, social construction, with no other reality? If Trump wishes to argue that respect has a reality beyond how a society has come to conceive of it, Trump then needs to tackle the contestation in position 1 from the extreme social constructionist.

3. Real-natural social constructionist. The social construction of respect is a part of what is real-natural about respect.

i. – vi. as per position 1.

vii. What is socially constructed is a part of what is real-natural.

viii. If what is socially constructed is a part of what is real-natural, [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] is a part of what is real-natural.

ix. Does [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] identify measurable units of respect.

If no…

x. Trump does not identify measurable units of quantified respect.

If yes…

xi. Trump identifies measurable units of quantified respect.

This position is that what is real-natural expresses itself in social ways. Society, which is a part of what is real-natural, declares through its languages and customs (including its scientific studies), that this feature (respect) of what is real-natural is quantifiable. The social construction of respect in quantifiable terms is a part of what is real-natural about respect. This interpretation resolves the problem of a real-natural world that social perspectives only misrepresent, as found in the extreme social constructionist’s position.

If what is social is real-natural, and vice-versa, then not only is the social construction of respect a part of what is real-natural, but also, what is real-natural about respect is a social reality. If the real-natural, as society, is said to conceive of respect quantifiably, and to identify respect’s measurable units, then what is real-natural about respect is that it is quantified via measurable units.

Not incidentally, this position intersects most coherently with what might be referred to as the “realist” position. The realist would posit that our scientific impressions of what is real-natural do accurately represent what is real-natural. This point must be qualified with the observation that the realist might baulk at the definition of scientific production merely as a contingent, socially constructed, institution. Given that Counting sheep is occupied with Bergsonian-inspired concerns regarding the tendency to socially (mis)construct all features of the world quantifiably, this realist position, in avoiding themes of social constructionism, is not included in these considerations.

4. Incorrect real-natural social constructionist. The social construction of respect is a part of what is real-natural about respect, but is incorrect about respect.

i. – vi. as per position 1.

vii. What is socially constructed is a part of what is real-natural.

viii. If what is socially constructed is a part of what is real-natural, [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] is a part of what is real-natural.

ix. Does [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] identify measurable units of respect.

If no…

x. Trump does not identify measurable units of quantified respect.

If yes…

xi. Trump identifies measurable units of quantified respect.

The incorrect real-natural social constructionist responds…

v. [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] is a part of what is real-natural and is incorrect that respect is quantifiable.

vi. Trump does not identify measurable units of quantified respect.

Alternatively, the interpretation might be that what is real-natural, socially posits that respect is quantifiable when actually it is not. The curiosity in this position is that what is real-natural is presenting as a social form of the real-natural, which in perceiving a feature (respect) of what is real-natural, is incorrect about that feature (respect) of what is real-natural.

What is forwarded in this position is not that incorrect socially constructed quantifications of respect represent a mutual exclusion between (i) the social, scientific, perspective/construction of respect, and (ii) what is real-natural about respect. Instead, as per position 3, both the social construction of respect, and what is real-natural about respect, are simultaneously social and real-natural. Whilst units of measurement do not exist for this feature (respect) of what is real-natural, what is socially constructed is not said to be excluded from what is real-natural when conceiving of respect incorrectly (quantifiably).

Rather, what is being forwarded in this position is that what is real-natural comprises all possible social perspectives/constructions of this feature (respect) of what is real-natural. Every social perspective/construction, according to this position, comes from nowhere but from what is real-natural, after all. One of these perspectives/constructions is that which posits that respect is quantifiable, even when there are actually no measurable units comprising such quantification, and therefore no quantification of respect whatsoever.

A reason that such units of measurement do not exist, and that the quantification of respect is incorrect, could relate to the way in which respect manifests. Trump perceives a difference in the degree or size of the respect that manifests. However, for this position it could be stated that respect emerges environmentally, structurally, and circumstantially. With each set of different circumstances comes a different kind, rather than a different magnitude, of respect.

If the kind of respect that manifests is contingent upon the environment in which it manifests, there can be no standardised units across differently manifested respects. This problematises the possible quantification of, and comparison between, an individual’s manifestations of respect over time. Similarly it contests the possibility of comparing the respect between different individuals. Each instantiation of respect is instead qualitatively incomparable, if it is deemed to manifest circumstantially.

However, there is a reading of Trump in which we must, ironically, acknowledge that he is in agreement, seemingly unintentionally, with this final position presented above. If respect is a qualitatively rather than a quantitatively differentiated phenomenon, if there are no measurable units via which we can standardise its experience, then no person’s respect for women can be said to be more nor less than another person’s respect for women. Trump inadvertently coheres with this position in stating that nobody has more respect for women than him. If no person’s respect for women is more nor less than another person’s, then it so eventuates that nobody has more respect for women than Trump.



Categories: Politics

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