Showing posts from February, 2023

The Warrior Queens of Dahomey

In 2022, Hollywood put out a movie called “The Woman King”, which was (very loosely) based on female warriors in 19th century West Africa. I haven’t seen the movie, but I am sure it takes huge liberties with the truth. (The name alone is ridiculous.) But I haven’t seen it, so I won’t critique it. Instead, I’ll just talk about the historical reality on which it is supposedly based: the Kingdom of Dahomey and its female warriors. The Kingdom of Dahomey existed from about 1625 to 1904, in what is now Benin. It did have female warriors, the Agojie. These feminist icons were the third-class wives of the king, judged too ugly for him to have sex with: As Alpern told Smithsonian magazine in 2011, the Agojie were considered the king’s “third-class” wives, as they typically didn’t share his bed or bear his children. Because they were married to the king, they were restricted from having sex with other men, although the degree to which this celibacy was enforced is subject to debate. In addi

The Homunculus Fallacy and its Inverse

Imagine a little girl asking her father how a car works. “What makes it go?” she asks him. He tells her that inside the car, there is a smaller car driving on a treadmill, which is connected to the wheels of the bigger car. As the little car drives on the treadmill, the big car drives on the road. Of course, he is just teasing her with an absurd explanation. Cars don’t have little cars inside them, but even if they did, this “explanation” isn’t really an explanation. To explain what makes the big car go, he would now have to explain what makes the little car go. The explanation presupposes what it is supposed to explain: cars that go. But it has the form of an explanation, and it might confuse the little girl into believing that her question has been answered. A more typical example of the homunculus fallacy is the use of a “little man in the head” to explain aspects of consciousness. For example, someone might “explain” vision as “the mind’s eye is looking at a screen in th