Preventing the existence of people with disabilities
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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It is commonly held that there are both cases in which there is a strong moral reason not to cause the existence of a disabled person and cases in which, although it would be permissible to cause a disabled person to exist, it would be better not to. Yet many disabled people are affronted by the idea that it is sometimes better to prevent people like themselves from existing, precisely because these people would be disabled. One of their grounds for concern, which will be my particular focus in this paper, is that claiming that there are reasons to prevent the existence of disabled people may be expressive of a demeaning and hurtful view of the status of existing disabled people, a view that may encourage discriminatory attitudes towards and treatment of the disabled. I will contend that there can indeed be moral and prudential reasons for preventing the existence of a disabled person. But I will argue that it is less obvious than many people assume what, if anything, the recognition of these reasons expresses about disabled people. And I will contend that, even if the recognition of these reasons does express a perception of disabled people that is potentially hurtful, this effect could be offset by the social expression of a contrary view that I will claim is in fact compatible with and equally valid as the potentially hurtful view. Whether it may be morally objectionable to cause a disabled person to exist depends, in part, on whether the person’s life would be worth living. If it is ever objectionable to cause a disabled person to exist, the objections are surely strongest when the person’s life would be “worth not living” – that is, would have aspects or features that would be bad for the person and that would decisively outweigh those, if any, that would be good. Such cases are, however, quite rare. Indeed, some people question whether there are any disabilities so severe as to cause life to be worth not living. It can be argued that disability involves only the absence of certain abilities and that mere deficits....
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