Political Liberalism and Cognitive Disability: an Inclusive Account

Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 27 (2):224-243 (2024)
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Abstract

In this paper, I argue that, contrary to what some critics suggest, political liberalism is not exclusionary with regards to the rights and interests of individuals with cognitive disabilities. I begin by defending four publicly justifiable reasons that are collectively sufficient for the inclusion of members of this group. Briefly, these are the epistemic uncertainty that inevitably exists about individuals’ actual capacities, the political liberal duty to treat parents fairly, the social framework that is required for the fulfilment of parental duties, and the necessity of cultivating certain emotions that are strongly associated with reasonableness. These reasons show why a more inclusive reading of political liberalism is plausible, and how this can be achieved without abandoning or revising the theory’s commitment to public reason, the political conception of the person, and the role of social cooperation. I then turn to the question of what a more inclusive political liberalism would look like. More specifically, I argue that, although it would not require the participation of individuals with cognitive disabilities in the practice of legitimation, it would require their full inclusion in the realm of justice as equal rights-bearers.

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Areti Theofilopoulou
University of Birmingham

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