Gnostic

The most important distinction is between biophiles and necrophiles—those who love life and those who hate life. The latter are so evil and dangerous that they must all be hunted down and killed.—Erich "Squeaky" FrommOK, so I made up the last part. But Fromm's biophile/necrophile distinction leaves me out. To him, either we love life or we love death, and those in the latter category enjoy murder, violence, traffic accidents, disease, excrement, etc. I'm certainly not one of those, but I'm not a life lover, either. I like biophiles, and admire them even more. I suspect they may be better people than I am. But I am not one.

Everything includes its opposite. As Alan Watts used to say, light shines in darkness because what else could it shine in? Life is really part of a whole life/death complex in which each is defined in terms of the other, and the necrophiles are merely on the opposite side from the biophiles in that particular battle.

Jon Elster has suggested the useful distinction of internal versus external negation. In logic, for instance, "I don't believe X" is not synonymous with "I believe not-X." The former opens the possibility of doubt, uncertainty, denying that the question is worth asking (I don't believe that Erich Fromm has stopped beating his wife), etc. Atheism (of the form, "There is no God") is an internal negation of theism; agnosticism is an external negation. Fromm assumes that the only negation of biophilia is the internal negation of necrophilia, but it is possible to at least imagine an external negation of the whole life/death combination, where one would rather be a machine, an angel, a computer program, a disembodied thought, etc.

In the same way, anyone who thinks that fat people and women are more fleshly is doing mind-body dualism all wrong, falling into internal, rather than external, negation. It is as self-contradictory as saying, "Fuck obscenity." In fact, saying that matter is evil fails as gnosticism because it's not dualistic enough.

I am particularly offended by those who say that to hate the body is to hate women. Making that equation is adopting the oppressor's rhetoric. The equation of women with body and men with mind is the work of sexists, not dualists. Gnostics are more likely to think that the male/female difference, being merely physical, could not be important enough to correlate with (let alone cause) anything as central as mind/body. This probably explains why the original Gnostics were far more likely to put women into positions of power or spiritual leadership than anyone else in the one-digit centuries. To phrase it another way, women are no more The Body than Jews are Banking.

(Oh, all right. I suppose if you really insist on being a Gnostic and a sexist, you could say that the essential difference between Mind and Body is mirrored in the difference between the sexes, rather than being caused by it, but that takes a lot of the fun out of Gnosticism and leaves a whole mess of contrary evidence to explain away.)

I have a warm spot in my heart for those women who most object to being equated with the Body and Nature, who would choose the solution Connie Willis suggested in "Even the Queen" in a moment, perhaps those who, if they wished to reproduce, would want a way to produce a zygote with their own genetic material that could then be incubated by a paid laborer. The Strong Dimorphism school might say that I am looking for concave guys, insufficiently opposite. Perhaps. But we are by no means talking about something that doesn't exist, or even doesn't yet exist.

One other thing about being a dualist: When my body dies, I may die with it, if the materialists are right, but I will not have the choice of dying with it or being painfully ripped from something I've mistaken for myself. Lawrence Le Shan suggests, in Alternate Realities, that operating in a mode where the nonphysical is real is better preparation for death (at least if one does not wish to be annihilated).

In some ways I am a Gnostic heretic, or perhaps just a Reform Gnostic; for instance, I don't consider the Demiurge evil. I think of Him as a great artist forced to work with inferior materials: Michelangelo with spray paints, Shakespeare with a 100-word vocabulary. (Or, in the image of my own faith, Wile E. trying to make elegant instruments of death and destruction from the crap Acme sends him.) Matter is this shabbily made stuff. (D. Gary Grady has pointed out that it gets more unconvincing as you get down to the subatomic level.) It's all webby: It sticks together, and you can't make clear distinctions. Matter is a kluge, and flesh is a kluge built on a kluge. I also think of this as purely an esthetic judgment on my part. Some like matter and the things that can be made of it; their kink is okay.