On valuing impairment

Philosophical Studies 175 (5):1113-1133 (2018)
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In The Minority Body, Elizabeth Barnes rejects prevailing social constructionist accounts of disability for two reasons. First, because they understand disability in terms of oppressive social responses to bodily impairment, they cannot make sense of disability pride. Second, they maintain a problematic distinction between impairment and disability. In response to these challenges, this paper defends a version of the social model of disability, which we call the Social Exclusion Model. On our account, to be disabled is to be in a bodily or psychological state that is represented as an impairment in the prevailing ideology of one’s society, and to be excluded from valuable activities on the basis of this representation. While this model refers to a distinction between disability and impairment, it makes no presuppositions about which bodies function ‘normally’ and which do not. It is the ideology of impairment rather than impairment itself that does any work to determine whether a person is disabled. We argue that this model answers some of the important objections that Barnes raises against prevailing social constructionist accounts of disability, and that it’s focus on the oppressive social positioning of disabled people gives it explanatory power that Barnes’s own account lacks.



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Author Profiles

Sean Aas
Georgetown University
Dana Howard
Ohio State University

Citations of this work

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Disability: A Justice-Based Account.Jessica Begon - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (3):935-962.
Sexual Reorientation in Ideal and Non‐Ideal Theory.Candice Delmas & Sean Aas - 2018 - Journal of Political Philosophy 26 (4):463-485.
Disability as Inability.Alex Gregory - 2020 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 18 (1):23-48.

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What is It to Be Healthy?E. Kingma - 2007 - Analysis 67 (2):128-133.
Against Normal Function.Ron Amundson - 2000 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 31 (1):33-53.
The Welfarist Account of Disability.Guy Kahane & Julian Savulescu - 2009 - In Kimberley Brownlee & Adam Cureton (eds.), Disability and Disadvantage. Oxford University Press. pp. 14-53.

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