August 16, 2012 § 28 Comments
William of Ockham is famously the father of nominalism. In rough terms, nominalism denies the existence of universals or essences. As a result of its denial of essences, nominalism holds that words don’t refer to real categories but are really just arbitrary names that we assign to buckets of things that we want to group together for the sake of convenience.
Don’t expect it to make sense when you try to puzzle it out, because it doesn’t. Anti-essentialism never makes sense; but folks do adopt an anti-essentialist pose for all sorts of reasons.
The nominalists are wrong, but that doesn’t mean that every single word absolutely and necessarily refers to an essence. Not All Words Are Like That (NAWALT). As human beings we can name things: we can make up a word and assert that when we use it, we are referring to this collection of things; and we can do that whenever we like as a matter of convenience. That’s what makes nominalism seem so plausible in the first place (when it does), even though it ultimately degrades into nonsense. Sometimes a given word really is a bucket or holding place that we invent to conveniently refer to some collection of things, like tools, for example. And that is how, it seems, many pro-Game Christians would like us to understand the word “Game”: as an arbitrary collection of social “tools” from which we can select what is compatible with Christianity and reject what is not.
But if “Game” is really just a collection of amoral tools, and the tools used by pickup artists (PUAs) and the tools used by good Christian men are not the same set of tools (though there may be overlap), it raises the question of why Christians would want to use the term “Game” to refer to the tools in their toolbox. Presumably there are things Christian men ought to do in order to have rightly-ordered relationships with women which are not in the PUA’s toolbox. The fact that the contents of the toolboxes may have some superficial overlap is hardly a justification for using the same label that PUAs use, since that label-sharing can only lead to confusion and endless semantic haggling (see the combox, NSFW). Selecting the term “Game” for the Christian man’s toolbox creates an unnecessary connection between what Christian men ought to do and what pickup artists in fact do. So “Game nominalist” Christians, or GameNom’s as I will call them, really ought to come out against using the term “Game” for the advice they dispense to Christian men. They may well have learned a few things from pickup artists — stopped clocks are right twice a day and all — but creating that PUA association can only marginalize and harm a genuinely Christian antifeminism, in my view.
On the other hand, maybe the GameNom’s are wrong and there really is an essence to this thing called “Game”. If that is the case though then the claims that “Game” is an arbitrary toolbox filled with amoral tools with which a Christian can do good, is false. Particular tools cannot be added or taken away at will, because they all share some essence. Once Game has an essence it can be criticized as a thing with an essence, and all the protests against defining Game as a set of PUA tools are empty: Game is a set of PUA tools to dishonestly manipulate women because that is its essence.
In summary: if “Game” for Christians is just an arbitrary collection of social tools for Christian men, we ought to label it with some other name. On the other hand if “Game” has an essence then it is subject to an essentialist critique, and the “toolbox” and “semantics” protests reflect a misunderstanding of the nature of the problem.
Looks like the PUAs are the essentialists and the (pro “Game”) Christians are the nominalists. That pretty much seals the deal right there.