Sean Davis hearkens to C.S. Lewis to help explain our culture’s current pronoun wars, which really aren’t anything new, on a fundamental level:
The natural correspondence between reason and reality, the correspondence denied by the authors of the literature textbook Lewis derides, is the same correspondence between simple things like pronouns to the physical reality of sex. Once reality becomes a function of one’s feelings, though, rather than vice versa, the concept of objective reality itself is destroyed. According to Lewis, as soon as society discards the ideas of reason, rationality, and self-awareness — the very traits that distinguish humanity from all other life on earth — mankind itself is abolished. Hence the title of Lewis’s book.
In most of the particulars and in his broader conclusions, I agree with Lewis. My one hesitation is that I find there truly to be a subjectivity to reality. In a given case, a person can choose to see an actual other person as a different sex than his or her biology should prove, for example. As one expands this flexibility to become rules that apply across society, one must discard other facts or elements.
The question becomes how much “objectivity” one is willing to discard. We’re finding that, for many people, the answer is “quite a bit,” although a large portion (probably a majority) of them aren’t ignoring reality as much as they’re willfully ignoring their position’s conflict with reality.
Ultimately, anybody who is serious about understanding life (which is turning out to be depressingly few of us) needs some reference point. I’d say that must be God in the grand scheme, but feelings about other, unrelated facts or principles can be more-immediate reference points. For example, a desire to let people declare their own sexes can quickly conflict with a sense of fairness in sports.
In some sense, therefore, we’re not really talking about objective reality, but coherent reality. The real affront of relativism, then, isn’t its challenge to what we call “objective,” but the degree to which it devalues coherence.