Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 5 (2-3):137-156 (2008)

Authors
Eva Kittay
State University of New York, Stony Brook
Abstract
In this article I examine the proposition that severe cognitive disability is an impediment to moral personhood. Moral personhood, as I understand it here, is articulated in the work of Jeff McMahan as that which confers a special moral status on a person. I rehearse the metaphysical arguments about the nature of personhood that ground McMahan’s claims regarding the moral status of the “congenitally severely mentally retarded”. These claims, I argue, rest on the view that only intrinsic psychological capacities are relevant to moral personhood: that is, that relational properties are generally not relevant. In addition, McMahan depends on an argument that species membership is irrelevant for moral consideration and a contention that privileging species membership is equivalent to a virulent nationalism. In consequence, the CSMR are excluded from moral personhood and their deaths are less significant as their killing is less wrong than that of persons. To throw doubt on McMahan’s conclusions about the moral status and wrongness of killing the CSMR I question the exclusive use of intrinsic properties in the metaphysics of personhood, the dismissal of the moral importance of species membership, and the example of virulent nationalism as an apt analogy. I also have a lot to say about McMahan’s empirical assumptions about the CSMR.
Keywords Medicine & Public Health   Medical Law   Ethics   Theory of Medicine/Bioethics
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DOI 10.1007/s11673-008-9102-9
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References found in this work BETA

What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Welfare and Rational Care.Stephen Darwall - 2002 - Princeton University Press.
Cognitive Disability, Misfortune, and Justice.Jeff Mcmahan - 1996 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 25 (1):3-35.

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Citations of this work BETA

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Towards an Ecology of Dementia: A Manifesto.Michael Chapman, Jennifer Philip & Paul Komesaroff - 2019 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 16 (2):209-216.
What we talk about when we talk about pediatric suffering.Tyler Tate - 2020 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 41 (4):143-163.

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