• Possibility
    1.5k
    In the course of discussing Kant in another thread, a question came up pertaining to the apparent necessity of clothing. There was a suggestion that it may warrant a separate thread, so I’m giving it a go.

    My own observation, to start with, was that a moral judgement against nakedness has been commonly misattributed to ‘God’ by Abrahamic religions, originating from a misinterpretation of mythology in Genesis. This naive first ‘judgement of good and evil’ by humanity forms a significant part of the creation myth.

    I want to be clear that this is NOT a discussion about religious doctrine. I’m citing the Adam and Eve story in Genesis more as an early recorded etiological myth (from oral tradition) of cultural attitudes towards nakedness than as a text pertaining to any one religion or faith. So I don’t really want to get into broader biblical hermeneutics, but I won’t shy away from it, if it’s relevant. The main aim, however, is a philosophical discussion regarding an apparent perception of clothing as ‘necessary’, and the associated moral judgement against nakedness.

    Is it to avoid moral ‘shame’ or fear that we insist on clothing? After all, being naked in front of someone else is the most vulnerable a person could ever be. No barriers, no shield, no interface, no pretence. And no weapons, either. Nakedness exposes us to every potential danger that we know: from cold and pain to assault, criticism and rejection. When we are naked, we have nothing to help us deflect or absorb the injury - we must bear it all, physically and emotionally.

    If it is fear that drives the apparent necessity of clothing, then why the moral judgement?
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    I always figured the religious prohibition against nudity was related to the broader religious obsession with sex as an object of moral concern. Naked is sexy and sexy is sinful therefore naked is sinful.

    Religions are generally completely wrong about the morality of sex though, so they’re also wrong about the morality of nudity. There’s nothing wrong with it.
  • Outlander
    573
    Prevents hypothermia/exposure. Some people are .. excitable? "Hotheaded"? Not to say lacking all self control just .. it would increase .. incidents.

    They're also like carrying bags you don't have to hold. Which is neat. You can do all sorts of things with your average minimal outfit. Signal for help, cheer on a team, set a fracture, tie off a blood vessel, fend off an animal attack, neutralize an assailant, all sorts of neat things really.

    In short, no, however with some folks you'd simply appreciate it.
  • dimension72
    33
    It seems that without scientific findings humans naturally despise the primal and claim that mankind is different from animals. I can understand that argument, because no other animal has made such an impact on Earth as humans in terms of intellectuality, and no animal can produce thought to our level.
  • Outlander
    573
    I can understand that argument, because no other animal has made such an impact on Earth as humans in terms of intellectuality, and no animal can produce thought to our level.dimension72

    What if an ancient race of dolphin monkeys existed and built vast civilizations and interstellar craft capable of exploring the multiverse- took one look at us humans- laughed, cried some, decided to toss us a few microchips and religions- then left. So that we would not be belittled by their awesomeness.

    You couldn't disprove it.
  • Teller
    24

    And no animal that I'm aware of has created existential, life threatening, possibly catastrophic conditions in it's own environment.
    That is Man's impact on Earth!
  • Alejandro
    28
    Seeing the use of clothes from a pragmatic point of view, clothes do offer many advantages. They allow one to be protected from the environment, with there being special clothing for different scenarios and they may have pockets so you can free your hands whilst carrying items.
    Clothes are also an incredible expression of oneself. I am not focusing on the judgements one may perceive from his peers regarding one´s clothes, like wearing a swimsuit inside an office, but rather the transformation of meer sheets of cloth into something new and spectacular. I have deep respect to fashion designers that aim that high
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.3k


    Is clothing necessary for what?

    You and several other posters have pointed out functions clothing serves, but the question can lead in at least two way different directions:

    • Given some goal, is clothing necessary to achieve that goal, or would something else serve?
    • Is it necessary to have that goal?

    If clothing serves more than one purpose, and that seems clear from your first post and others, we might get to say there are competitors that perform one function better or a couple, but clothing wins because it performs the most functions well enough. Only to do that bookkeeping, you have to decide how to weight the various functions as well as how candidates perform them. If you're weighting some functions at 0 -- not a goal we need to have -- that probably has a noticeable impact on your rankings.

    But is that the conversation you wanted to have?
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    Good point, Srap.

    To clarify my question, then: Is there any purpose for which the wearing of clothing is necessary?

    Clothing can certainly be practical, expressive, isolating, or subjectively preferred - but what I’m questioning here is its necessity.

    Incidentally, the question pertains to a disagreement centred around the apparent necessity of a ‘physical object’ in human experience. My point is that we commonly assume ‘necessity’ where it isn’t warranted - it helps us to feel more certain in the world. The reality is far less necessary than we like to think it is, and is therefore less certain.
  • creativesoul
    8.7k
    So, this boils down to what exactly counts as being necessary...

    If A is existentially dependent upon B, then B is necessary for A.

    There are far far too many A's that are existentially dependent upon clothing to deny the necessity of clothing.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.3k


    Okay so the one thing at a glance that clothing does, and competitors don't, is cover your body. And then we start all over right? What is the function of covering your body? Are there functions of that that something besides covering your body could serve.

    Protection from the elements leaps to mind. When sleeping, maybe blankets (and a house!) can replace clothing, but if you live in the Sahara or the Arctic, if you're outside you need clothing. Maybe one day that could be replaced by a "force field", as they say in the movies.

    Of course, people don't have to live in extreme climates, but they do. In most climates, clothing is better. And the few climates where clothing isn't necessary just to survive, we do find indigenous peoples who don't much bother with it.
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    Do you notice how you’re processing this, though? You’re looking for a purpose and situation to justify the function of covering your body. But can we admit that we cover our bodies as a choice - conscious or otherwise - and NOT a necessity?

    Even for those who live in the Sahara or the Arctic, covering the body is a function of the survival for the organism, and so we then ask: is this survival necessary, or is it a function of something else?

    Well, the ongoing duration of my ‘life’ is vitally important... to me...

    And this is where it gets interesting. We expect any physical aspect of our existence to reject an awareness that we lack necessity as a ‘physical object’, even though we understand this to be the case intellectually. It isn’t that the physical object doesn’t exist, it’s that any particular knowledge (potential) of its existence is a function of my experience. So what would I consist of, then, if no physical aspect is necessary to my existence...?
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.3k
    Do you notice how you’re processing this, though?Possibility

    Yes, I do.

    You’re looking for a purpose and situation to justify the function of covering your body.Possibility

    Or at least some purpose for which wearing clothes is necessary.

    What's the alternative, for wearing clothes to be "in itself" necessary? Like it's just a tautology that people wear clothes? That doesn't even make sense.

    But can we admit that we cover our bodies as a choice - conscious or otherwise - and NOT a necessity?Possibility

    Sure, people choose to do what they have to do if they want to ___. And they could choose not to, and go without whatever that is. Maybe they choose not to stay alive if killing someone else is the only way to do that.

    Of course people are choosing, but that doesn't mean their decisions are arbitrary or without reasons.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    But can we admit that we cover our bodies as a choice - conscious or otherwise - and NOT a necessity?Possibility

    Usually clothing is optional, but not always. Usually we choose to wear clothes; rarely are we driven by the environment to wear clothes. IF one lives in areas where the climate is severe (frigid at times, broiling at times, sandblasted at times, attacked by hordes of biting / stinging insects...) one must wear clothing to survive. On the other hand, there are places where wearing clothing won't save us. An alligator in the quiet, shallow bayou will enjoy waylaying and eating the unawares whether we are clothed or not.

    Many people could literally 'de-vest" themselves, that is undress, without significant physical consequences. Even in Minnesota, there are 3 or 4 months when one wouldn't be overly uncomfortable going about naked. (It was 38 the other night; too cool for nude.). I've spent time in the summer being naked outside. Consequences? I didn't get arrested, but 40 years later I have more skin cancer than I would have otherwise had I dressed as I usually do.

    Why is nakedness disapproved of? Because our favorite sins are usually committed while naked (for most people), and people in close and naked proximity are more likely to engage in sex than when they were wearing clothes. Gay nude beaches seem to generate quite a bit of sexual activity on site.

    So, heterosexuals in French nudist camps behave like gay men when 'bathhouse' facilities are provided. They opt for the orgy pit PDQ. The morally uptight disapprove of orgies. An orgy requires nakedness. Therefore nakedness must be suppressed. Adam and Eve were naked, and look what happened to them!
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    Thank you for your comments.

    I agree that we wear clothing under certain conditions to maintain bodily health, which is a function of our survival as a living organism. This is important to us, although not objectively necessary, as such. As mentioned to Srap, survival is a valued function of this temporal aspect of our existence, life, which isn’t necessary either, but merely a potential function of experience.

    In the same manner, Nakedness garners moral disapproval when it transcends the function of sexual activity, for instance, which in turns garners moral disapproval when its potential transcends the function of procreation, which in turn garners moral disapproval when its possibility transcends the function of a loving relation. (@3017amen - this seems like a good moment for you to chime in...)

    Which brings us back to Adam and Eve, whose newly acquired ‘judgement of good and evil’ was first exercised in realising their nakedness was just ‘wrong’ - with no justification, no divine revelation, no instruction. It’s easy enough to imply that they were punished by ‘God’ because they were naked, but a critical reading would suggest that their error was one of naive, ignorant judgement: their own negative feelings towards this appearance of fragile vulnerability moved them, with no other information, to judge this nakedness as ‘evil’, and will to hide it in ‘shame’.
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    Sure, people choose to do what they have to do if they want to ___. And they could choose not to, and go without whatever that is. Maybe they choose not to stay alive if killing someone else is the only way to do that.

    Of course people are choosing, but that doesn't mean their decisions are arbitrary or without reasons.
    Srap Tasmaner

    Agreed. It is this subjective ‘reasoning’ that sometimes eludes conscious awareness, but that doesn’t mean it ‘just is’. My suspicion is that asserting a will that ‘just is’ may conceal a potential error in reasoning.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    I didn't mention Adam and Eve as a serious comment. For the purpose here, I don't think Genesis has any relevance. The Eden story is not primarily concerned with nakedness anyway. So...

    This is important to us, although not objectively necessary, as such.Possibility

    I do not concur with the view that survival is not objectively necessary. If existence is merely a peripheral, subjective concern, then none of this discussion -- and much else -- matters.

    The fact that we will cease to exist is what makes existence sine qua non.. If our existence was now and forever more, things would be different.

    We should be aware that nakedness isn't the same issue for everybody the world over. Some people don't wear clothes. To them, wearing cloth covering seems exceeding weird. American anthropologist and artist Tobias Schneebaum encountered the Arakmbut tribe in South America. In the encounter, they gave him a very thorough going over, taking his clothes off, inspecting his body in detail, and going through his pack -- all out of intense curiosity.

    The Arakmbut were naked cannibals, but Schneebaum wasn't eaten. He charmed them with a pad and a pencil (doing quick sketches of the people he had just met -- much to the naked cannibals' delight) and demonstrated things like a mirror and a zippo lighter which they took for flat out magic. Anyway, Schneebaum kept a few clothes during his year long stay, but otherwise went about naked, like his new friends. All this in the Amazon Jungle.

    Lots of people in various cultures wear minimal clothing -- a loin cloth for men, for instance. Otherwise they are naked.

    We (first worlders) do cover up ourselves. There's nothing wrong with that; it works for us. Except when it doesn't. As Noel Coward phrased it in a song, "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon day sun." Most of Britain's sub- or tropical colonized people had the good sense to stay inside during the hottest part of the day. Not the English. They went out way-over dressed.
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    I do not concur with the view that survival is not objectively necessary. If existence is merely a peripheral, subjective concern, then none of this discussion -- and much else -- matters.

    The fact that we will cease to exist is what makes existence sine qua non.. If our existence was now and forever more, things would be different.
    Bitter Crank

    I have no argument with existence as sine qua non. My issue here is with survival - a living, temporal existence - being as such. In my view, the latter is a relative, multi-dimensional aspect of the former: a peripheral, subjective concern in relation to existence itself (objectively speaking).

    We should be aware that nakedness isn't the same issue for everybody the world over. Some people don't wear clothes.Bitter Crank

    I agree, hence the discussion.

    We (first worlders) do cover up ourselves. There's nothing wrong with that; it works for us. Except when it doesn't.Bitter Crank

    Again, I agree. My issue is with claims that wearing clothing is deemed ‘necessary’, as if the will to cover up or adorn the body ‘just is’. I may not need to justify this choice to other ‘first worlders’, but that does not render it essential to human experience.

    There is reason behind our will to cover up, conscious or no.
  • TheMadFool
    7.1k
    Is it to avoid moral ‘shame’ or fear that we insist on clothing? After all, being naked in front of someone else is the most vulnerable a person could ever be. No barriers, no shield, no interface, no pretence. And no weapons, either. Nakedness exposes us to every potential danger that we know: from cold and pain to assault, criticism and rejection. When we are naked, we have nothing to help us deflect or absorb the injury - we must bear it all, physically and emotionally.Possibility

    My approach the matter of clothing will be from a moral perspective which I surmise is your intent here.

    Of course clothes are necessary for basic survival as other posters have not failed to mention - clothes are analogous to natural fur in that they protect us from the elements, keeping out the cold as well as the heat.

    However, as the Biblical story goes, the first act Adam and Eve performed after partaking of the forbidden fruit was covering their nakedness with fig leaves and it was precisely this that clued God in to the fact that something was wrong in Eden.

    Two things to consider here. Is it that God blew a gasket simply because of the disobedience, inferable from the fig leaves placed over the duo's private parts or because the couple had acquired knowledge of morality? In the former case, God is ired more by the disobedience than the moral knowledge gained by Adam and Even and in the latter case God is unhappy not because of the act of defiance per se but because Adam and Eve now possessed moral knowledge.

    Which of the two possibilities is true? It matters because in one of them, Adam and Eve recognizing and feeling ashamed of their own nakedness isn't the problem at all, the disobedience is, and in the other, the world's first couple's shame felt because of their nakedness is the core issue, it serving as their first step into knowledge of morality.

    Suppose, for the moment, that God punished Adam and Eve for the second reason - that they, once having eaten the forbidden fruit, gained knowledge of right and wrong, of good and evil. In other words, using fig leaves the way they did amounted to having understood a moral lesson, that lesson being nakedness is bad.

    How is nakedness a bad thing?

    You already mentioned how things could quickly go south if nakedness weren't prohibited as it is at the present, nudists being the exception. Other posters have mentioned that covering our bodies is a survival necessity but the weather isn't bad throughout the year and if the powers that be prohibits nakedness only for the reason that clothes preserve our lives, they should allow nudism during certain parts of the year when the weather holds up. This isn't the case and that implies that there are "other reasons" why nudism is banned or permitted only in certain secluded enclaves. This "other reason(s)", I guess, is that most people think nakedness is bad.

    This should make you rethink (take a long, hard look at) the controversy surrounding the Muslim Hijab; after all, Western clothing seems to be, among other things, about concealing the body for moral reasons and the Muslim Hijab is designed to do exactly that, to perfection. Why get offended by someone who's doing a better job of what you yourself want to do?

    Coming to the matter of necessity for clothing from a moral standpoint, all I can say is, given the negative ethical consequences of nakedness in the current social climate, something you seem to be completely aware of, clothes seem as necessary for morality as Hijabs are necessary for a stable Muslim population.
  • creativesoul
    8.7k


    What counts as necessary?
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    Thanks for your comments.

    You assert that ‘clothes are necessary for basic survival’, but many posters here have pointed out that clothes are needed to survive only in some circumstances, not all. There are, in fact, many human experiences in which nakedness is not even a health risk, let alone a risk to survival. Clothes are useful for survival, but not necessary.

    As for Adam and Eve, there is a third option: ‘God’ is unhappy not because of the act of defiance per se, nor because Adam and Eve gained knowledge how or why (which they didn’t), but because Adam and Eve now possessed knowledge that - gained by awareness (their eyes were opened) - without any practical knowledge as such, and from that alone acted in moral judgement. It isn’t that they ‘knew’ that nakedness was bad, but that they determined it was bad from their initial experience. What they ‘knew’ was only that they were naked, that they felt vulnerable, and that they could respond. The how or why - knowledge gained only by experience over time, which was to be developed over thousands of years - was irrelevant to Adam and Eve in determining their interaction with the world. It seems to me that, for this reason, ‘God’ was unhappy.

    So your statement that the reason nakedness is bad is because ‘most people think nakedness is bad’ only seeks to validate this error in judgement made by Adam and Eve, in an argumentum ad populum. The truth is that many people rather feel that nakedness is potentially bad in many situations, but it doesn’t follow from this feeling that nakedness is necessarily and inherently ‘bad’. The will to cover up is both problematic and hypothetical, if you think about it.

    I want to clarify here that I’m not making an argument for doing away with clothing, as a rule. My point is simply to be aware that this will to cover up is neither necessary nor inherent to human experience. I don’t believe an experience of nakedness should necessarily be subject to moral judgement, but rather evaluated on practicality and potential health risks. That we continue to consider nakedness a moral issue seems to me a function of this inherent human fear of feeling vulnerable. Of course, I could argue that much of morality is a function of this deep-seated fear, but that may be another discussion.

    With reference to the Hijab: there is covering up nakedness, there is concealing identity, and then there is protecting private property. These are separate issues. The potential threat of ‘negative ethical consequences’ still does not make this will to cover up necessary.
  • Kenosha Kid
    745
    You assert that ‘clothes are necessary for basic survival’, but many posters here have pointed out that clothes are needed to survive only in some circumstances, not all. There are, in fact, many human experiences in which nakedness is not even a health risk, let alone a risk to survival. Clothes are useful for survival, but not necessary.Possibility

    Pointing out that there are specific situations in which clothing is not required is not the same as showing that clothing is unnecessary. To do that, you'd need to show that there is never a survival advantage. That is obviously not true.

    Personally, my clothing is necessary because no one other than me should ever have to deal with this middle-age spread
  • 3017amen
    2.6k
    . (@3017amen - this seems like a good moment for you to chime in...)Possibility

    Well, I suppose one thought, of many, would be the so-called significance, or the philosophy behind the creation of that reality show 'Naked and Afraid' (?)

    Anyway, I completed a 15-years in the making thought-experiment last summer, and to make a long story long, here's my story:

    As a kind of qualifier to the OP, when I was a child, I remember how the actual thought of being naked seemed particularly disconcerting and somewhat shameful viz a grade school discussion that I had with a fellow classmate. He had told me that his parents came to wake him every morning naked. To me, I was very uncomfortable with his word-picture, yet he seemed perfectly fine with it, almost to the extent that it made me feel like I was the one, with the weird 'hang-up' instead of him. When the subject of nudity comes up, I usually always remember that little encounter.

    Anyway, after that first discussion and realization of feeling a bit shameful or at least self conscious about my body, along with discussing other people's nakedness, now as an adult I seemed to have adjusted quite nicely to my birthday suit attire by taking care of my body (not that that's a prerequisite to feeling good about your body) by working out and keeping myself fit. Whether it was the experience of being a lifeguard/fitness center, or personal experiences out on my boat or in the hot-tub or pool (naked), I began to embrace my so-called nakedness by feeling more comfortable with it.

    Accordingly, my first time sunbathing in the buff was by sheer happenstance during a day where it was so very hot and humid. While boating in broad daylight, I became so adversely uncomfortable to where out of frustration, I hastily tore-off my swimsuit to find relief from the heat. I must tell you, words cannot describe the liberating feeling I had when I subsequently jumped into the water, looked around at my beautiful surroundings (including my ex-wife) and felt like God came 'down from the heavens' as it were, to say that it was all ok, relax. It felt like the old movie Blue Lagoon with Brook Shields (sorry Brook). Wow, it was a euphoric feeling seemingly being caused by a phenomenon between my perception of nature and my vulnerability in it.

    As the years went by, after I became single again, and while still enjoying nude sunbathing, an idea popped into my head about seeing what it would be like to experience a nudist colony. I reached out to a local place (they are much like campgrounds, with pools, clubhouses, activity centers, cottages, golf carts, etc.) and inquired about protocol. After the gentlemen described the rules, I said I would see him soon. Well, it never happened. I was scared or at least not ready. But I was intrigued with the entire thought process of how I would react to seeing other people vulnerable and naked, along with how my own thoughts and perceptions of it could somehow change me, and how I would be able embrace the whole experience. Could I handle that? Thus my thought-experiment.

    I thought to myself, how would my normal abilities of social interaction be impacted by such a daunting experience? Would I be scared and become self conscious and uncomfortable, or would I embrace my natural way of being along with nature itself, and discover a sense of normalcy in my interactions with others? Or, would it become a sort of erotic sojourn where I would have to find a private moment to take care of my business?

    Well, after that first phone call of inquiry, ironically enough, I started to have discussions about this particular Colony with other women who had visited and then shared their experiences. One was a social media friend (very attractive young woman) who went there regularly, while a few others told me it was a 'once and done' ordeal with their girlfriends. And so this intrigue never seemed to go away, until, last year.

    And so I decided to go to the 'colony' by myself over a fourth of July holiday, and put my 'thought experiment' into action. Driving up to the place was like entering a medium security compound. I was nervous. Once I drove past the security gates and figured out where to check-in, I knew there was no turning back. There I was, filling out forms and exchanging personal information at the desk (driver license, etc.) all the while I'm clothed and men and women are naked looking at me. Needless to say my heart was racing. After I was advised of all the necessary protocols, I walked over to the clubhouse to disrobe and join the festivities at the swimming pool. Mind you, there was no alcohol allowed, and there were some families with children.

    After the first 5-minutes of shock and awe, I actually seemed to calm down enough to start conversation with some men but mostly women. Before I knew it, I was my old self, interacting in a normal way and engaging with a smile, along with having light philosophical discussion about nudity itself along with some other lighthearted banter and otherwise normal conversation. I met so many 'normal people' who were quite experienced with other 'colonies' from around the country. It was intriguing. (Now did Mr. Happy get a little happy at times; you betcha. But I had a little white towel over Mr. Happy when I was sunbathing.)

    Though I've never visited Europe and topless beaches, I kind of got a taste of what that experience might be like. To tell you the truth, looking back, it was really no big deal. It almost became like an experience you might have in a co-ed locker room where you just felt pretty much normal. I felt like I had successfully completed the thought-experiment by putting this idea into action. I'm glad I did it. My takeaway's were worth it. I experienced something within myself that I really can't describe. I dealt with my fears. Perhaps philosophically, you could say I had a type of religious experience, where I was with people who were equally as vulnerable and had no 'façade' to hide their own sense of truth. Accordingly, it became my truth and my truth only; a subjective truth. Yet I felt like in some ways, we were all in this together, exposing our vulnerability with each other. It was like we were liberated from our fears, and we somehow knew we had achieved something together. We were joyful in our nakedness.

    The only strange thing that happened following that experience was that for about 2-weeks after, when I would see other people walking around in their everyday attire, it was as if I had x-ray vision. I cannot explain it, but everyone I saw, my mind was telling me..' yep, I know what you look like without clothes' . What a bizarre feeling.

    What is my theory behind the necessity of clothing? To be continued...
  • Gnomon
    894
    If it is fear that drives the apparent necessity of clothing, then why the moral judgement?Possibility
    The non-biblical reason for wearing clothing has more to do with climate than with gender. In the jungles of Africa, clothing is optional for those with dark skin. But in the deserts of the Middle East, clothing is necessary to provide shade from the unfiltered sun. Yet, even "half-naked" Africans typically, but not in all cases, wore loin-cloths to hide their genitals --- though not their breasts. In the middle-east, the desert equivalent of a loin-cloth is a Niqab face-covering, in addition to the shapeless body covering.

    So, even where near-nakedness is acceptable, there seems to be some gender-related reason for covering the sex organs. But the original concern was probably not for offending the sensibilities of a sex-fearing god, but to avoid provoking spontaneous sex-acts that might upset the harmony of a tribe. In that case, it's an inter-personal Ethical issue, not a divine-human Moral problem that is being addressed by dressing the body.

    Nevetheless, simple pragmatic reasons for cultural adaptations may eventually be translated into arbitrary religious reasons. Sex (jealousy, etc) is a common source of agitation & anxiety in humans, and the resulting Genophobia (fear of sex) may also be attributed to their anthro-morphic gods. Which may explain why local clothing customs would be incorporated into universal moral law. :smile:
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    Clothing is"necessary" in the psychological, cultural sense. Long before the current cultural milieu, people started wearing clothes -- not just clothes, but clothes that were a a lot of trouble to make, at a time when survival was much more difficult than now.

    I'm thinking of an archeological find of a cloth fragment preserved by chance in NW Europe; it was about 20,000 years old if I remember correctly, and it was woven with a plaid pattern--not exactly a rich plaid like Scottish clan plaids, but plaid, nonetheless--vertical and horizontal bands of colored thread incorporated in the warp and weft. The fabric required extra steps and more technology (like dyeing fibers), so the desire to wear haute couture has, apparently, been with us for a long time.

    Going back to a slightly earlier time, a small carved fertility figure was found which incorporated a 'skirt' of knotted thread that was designed to reveal more than obscure. 5000 years ago the ice man who died on a glacier in the Alps was dressed head to foot in clothing which had been carefully made and patched as it wore out. Just guessing, but when we were troglodytes dressed in animal skins, I bet some animal skins were preferred over others, because they just looked good: "I have a very nice saber-tooth tiger fur while she has that hideous rotten mammoth skin.")

    We can easily and effectively meet the survival aspects of dress, and have been doing so for a long time. For survival, we mostly don't have to wear clothes at all. But WE LIKE TO WEAR CLOTHES as a form of self-enhancement, and this seems to have been present for at least 25,000 years. Given a few thousand years of practice, clothing is probably not an option any more.

    There is a little evidence that Neanderthals buried their dead with some ceremony--entirely unnecessary. A grave was found with flowers (long dead -- this goes back a very long ways). It is "little, very fragile evidence" of cultural practices, but it is suggestive.

    It is necessary that we observe cultural imperatives. We produce the culture and then we obey it, and feel bad when we don't. We don't have the option of dropping all culture and reverting to some sort of innocent animal existence a la Rousseau AND remaining human. Producing and reproducing culture is evolutionary. Take language: we can't remain human without language. So, the languageless animal that looks just like us but has no language wouldn't be human. The look-alike animal that has no culture is likewise not human.

    Now, there are areas of San Francisco where guys walk down the street naked. They aren't at all free of culture -- they are as cultured in their nakedness as anyone wearing the latest haute couture. They are both making a statement (not the same statement, but not altogether different, either). "Vestis virum reddit!" the Romans said. Clothes make the man. Put a purple banded toga on that schmuck and he looks like a Senator."

    You wouldn't want to see Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell walking around naked in the US Capitol. It would not only be a fatal breach of culture and couture, it would be an absolutely horrifying sight. Clothing saves us from all that.

    Maggie Kuhn, the founder of the Grey Panthers (a senior citizen group) once said that they could bring the Vietnam war to an end by threatening to have a few thousand old people undress on the Mall.
  • Pro Hominem
    217
    The main aim, however, is a philosophical discussion regarding an apparent perception of clothing as ‘necessary’, and the associated moral judgement against nakedness.Possibility

    Clothing began as a survival adaptation. Prehistoric humans needed it to protect them from their environment. As hierarchies formed and communities enlarged, clothing took on a secondary utility in providing an outward symbol of rank or power. That secondary use remains to this day, most obviously in military uniforms but also in designer labels, etc. A tertiary function arises and is codified in religion as a means for the elites to control sexuality among their subject populations (e.g., your Adam and Eve example). This function is still heavily entwined in modern religious practices, but the ebbing of religious belief has resulted in a transition toward greater comfort with nude and semi-nude states, while still retaining clothing (or its naked surrogate, fitness) as a badge of rank.

    I would liken it to bathing. It is not strictly necessary for survival, although it certainly can play a contributing role to a longer life in most environments. It is also not strictly necessary for membership in a community, although its absence here is a much greater liability.
  • TheMadFool
    7.1k
    clothes are needed to survive only in some circumstances, not allPossibility

    :ok:

    but because Adam and Eve now possessed knowledge that - gained by awareness (their eyes were opened) - without any practical knowledge as such, and from that alone acted in moral judgement. It isn’t that they ‘knew’ that nakedness was bad, but that they determined it was bad from their initial experience. What they ‘knew’ was only that they were naked, that they felt vulnerable, and that they could respond. The how or why - knowledge gained only by experience over time, which was to be developed over thousands of years - was irrelevant to Adam and Eve in determining their interaction with the world. It seems to me that, for this reason, ‘God’ was unhappy.Possibility

    How did it come to pass that they "determined it (nakedness) was bad"[/i] if not by some criterion of morality? In other words, they had, at the very least, acquired some knowledge of morality, whatever system of morality it was that considers nakedness as immoral.

    So your statement that the reason nakedness is bad is because ‘most people think nakedness is bad’ only seeks to validate this error in judgement made by Adam and Eve, in an argumentum ad populum. The truth is that many people rather feel that nakedness is potentially bad in many situations, but it doesn’t follow from this feeling that nakedness is necessarily and inherently ‘bad’. The will to cover up is both problematic and hypothetical, if you think about it.Possibility

    I'm making an argument to the best explanation. There are no reasons other than a moral one why nudism isn't allowed during weather conditions perfect for some naked frolicking at the beach or wherever one fancies.

    I want to clarify here that I’m not making an argument for doing away with clothing, as a rule. My point is simply to be aware that this will to cover up is neither necessary nor inherent to human experience. I don’t believe an experience of nakedness should necessarily be subject to moral judgement, but rather evaluated on practicality and potential health risks. That we continue to consider nakedness a moral issue seems to me a function of this inherent human fear of feeling vulnerable. Of course, I could argue that much of morality is a function of this deep-seated fear, but that may be another discussion.Possibility

    You have a theory but I don't know how well it'll stand up to careful scrutiny. I mean, look, there are tribes in the tropics like in the Amazon and African rainforests who don't wear any clothes at all and then, moving toward the higher latitudes we have Eskimos in the Arctic who are, well, dressed in many layers of clothing from head to toe. What explains this pattern? Can your theory that we're fearful and feel vulnerable in a psychological sense, as you seem to be implying, explain this phenomenon? The best explanation seems to be that people aren't afraid of nakedness but they are afraid of hypothermia. For your theory to be reasonable, peoples everywhere, in the tropics, in the mid-latitudes and in the frigid zones, should have a clothing industry at some scale. This isn't the case.

    With reference to the Hijab: there is covering up nakedness, there is concealing identity, and then there is protecting private property. These are separate issues. The potential threat of ‘negative ethical consequences’ still does not make this will to cover up necessary.Possibility

    If you think it's vulnerability and the associated fear that causes us to wear clothes then it follows that the Hijab is the perfect design to address that vulnerability and allay the fear that comes with it.
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    I would liken it to bathing. It is not strictly necessary for survival, although it certainly can play a contributing role to a longer life in most environments. It is also not strictly necessary for membership in a community, although its absence here is a much greater liability.Pro Hominem

    Thank you for your comments. I pretty much agree with your assessment here. We use clothing as a tool: for survival, for symbolic expression, for an appearance of value/potential. Culturally, we have come to rely on clothing less for protection (except in extreme climates) and more as a ready-reference for conceptualising social interactions - even though the information it provides is uncertain, and more indicative of wilful intention than ‘fact’.

    On experiencing nakedness, without clothing to guide us, we are confronted with not only a form of ‘experiential blindness’ (we lack these conceptual ‘tools’ that enable us to position an appearance of potential/value in relation to social reality) but also a resulting experience of high arousal (a high prediction of effort required to resolve this) and indeterminate or conflicting valence (potential for delight and/or danger?). Depending on how we perceive our relation to surrounding potentiality and past experiences, we may conceptualise this ‘nakedness’ in a complex variety of ways, from a friendly invitation or expression of freedom, to an innocent mistake or threat of offence.

    The simplest resolution, of course, is to go with ‘all nakedness is bad’, and this is what usually occurs, particularly as an automatic response. But in view of the variety of possibilities, this is a cop-out, and only increases ignorance, isolation and exclusion (which in turn inflicts suffering). FWIW, if our aim is for accuracy in our interactions, and a reduction of suffering in the world as a whole, then I think it’s a worthwhile use of our energy and intelligence, for example, reserving judgement on nakedness (recognising that the will to cover up is not essential/necessary to the human experience), and being open to more of the potential information available, instead of subsuming predictions under moral judgement because it’s easier. And I’m not just talking about nakedness here. In a world where so many suffer needlessly, it seems to me worthwhile perceiving the potential for a little discomfort in ourselves in order to increase awareness, connection and collaboration with the world. I’m certainly not expecting everyone to do this - only those who recognise its value and potential...
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    How did it come to pass that they "determined it (nakedness) was bad"[/i] if not by some criterion of morality? In other words, they had, at the very least, acquired some knowledge of morality, whatever system of morality it was that considers nakedness as immoral.TheMadFool

    The ‘bad’ I’m referring to is an interoception of negative affect in the body, and is not necessarily conscious. This negative valence would be sufficient to unconsciously establish a basic, non-linguistic conceptual structure against a repeat of this internal event. It’s a determination by action from feeling, without actual thought or self-reflection. Most social animals are capable of this. It is Adam and Eve’s apperception of this feeling as a goal-directed emotion concept (“We were afraid, so we hid”) that demonstrated what ‘knowledge’ they’ve gained, and what they’re still missing. They don’t know nakedness as bad or immoral - at most they know that they felt afraid, which caused them to hide (or that they intended/willed to hide, which they attributed to a feeling of fear).

    I'm making an argument to the best explanation. There are no reasons other than a moral one why nudism isn't allowed during weather conditions perfect for some naked frolicking at the beach or wherever one fancies.TheMadFool

    Sure - it’s a case of subsuming any appearance of ‘nakedness’ under a moral judgement - but there’s more to an experience of nakedness than ‘frolicking wherever one fancies’. Check out 3017amen’s lengthy personal account above. The possibility of pure, non-conceptual delight enables some experiences of nakedness to transcend this moral judgement, rendering the statement ‘nakedness is bad’ as problematical.

    You have a theory but I don't know how well it'll stand up to careful scrutiny. I mean, look, there are tribes in the tropics like in the Amazon and African rainforests who don't wear any clothes at all and then, moving toward the higher latitudes we have Eskimos in the Arctic who are, well, dressed in many layers of clothing from head to toe. What explains this pattern? Can your theory that we're fearful and feel vulnerable in a psychological sense, as you seem to be implying, explain this phenomenon? The best explanation seems to be that people aren't afraid of nakedness but they are afraid of hypothermia. For your theory to be reasonable, peoples everywhere, in the tropics, in the mid-latitudes and in the frigid zones, should have a clothing industry at some scale. This isn't the case.TheMadFool

    I think you misunderstand me, here. My argument is not that we’re afraid of nakedness, but that we’re afraid of our vulnerability. This fear of vulnerability (to the weather) motivates Eskimos to dress in many layers of clothing, while tribes in the tropics don’t bother.

    If you think it's vulnerability and the associated fear that causes us to wear clothes then it follows that the Hijab is the perfect design to address that vulnerability and allay the fear that comes with it.TheMadFool

    My view is that our fear of vulnerability can motivate ignorance, isolation and exclusion, which contribute to suffering - but it can also motivate us to increase awareness, connection and collaboration, which alleviates suffering. So I disagree that our purpose is to allay this fear, but rather I believe this vulnerability is necessary, and that our fear is essential to human experience. It is how we interpret our fear that counts - do we subsume all fearful experiences under moral judgements, or have the courage to perceive the possibility of the sublime in human experience that transcends morality?

    This is not necessarily a call to act on that possibility, but (pace Kant) to engage the faculties of imagination, understanding and judgement in ‘free play’ at this level, enabling a critique of conceptual, value and morality systems, for instance.
  • batsushi7
    42
    Why does a son of a God, need to hide himself in dumb clothing, is God ashamed of its creation, and thinks one need to be hiding? Well one thing i can say, God did pretty shit job with creating us. Would anyways be better for human specie in general to be naked, it would make mating faster, and easier.
  • bert1
    536
    It has long been a rather intense recurring fantasy of mine to have, instead of my silly thin cold skin, a nice thick coat of greasy fur like a seal. I would be so much more secure. The spectre of homelessness loses its horror. I could just sleep on the ground somewhere. I could earn money by allowing people to stare at me and stroke me. I could casually swim in rivers and lakes. It would be amazing. If I had a wish, it would be that. Sometimes I think feathers would be better. But at the moment I favour thick waterproof fur.
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