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” (CSMR for short). 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 (these will be discussed below). 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. (shrink)
According to the most important theories of justice, personal dignity is closely related to independence, and the care that people with disabilities receive is seen as a way for them to achieve the greatest possible autonomy. However, human beings are naturally subject to periods of dependency, and people without disabilities are only “temporarily abled.” Instead of seeing assistance as a limitation, we consider it to be a resource at the basis of a vision of society that is able to account (...) for inevitable dependency relationships between “unequals” ensuring a fulfilling life both for the carer and the cared for.**. (shrink)
As the mother of a daughter who has and will always require care to meet her most basic needs, I have seen firsthand how critical it is to have adequate means by which to meet those needs—for her sake, mine, and my family’s. Her flourishing life has contributed to enhancing not only our own, but those of all who care for her and who enter our lives. I have wanted to see us do better by all the families who struggle (...) and have to scratch and claw their way to access services and resources their children need. I have tried in my past writings to articulate the need and the reason why we as a society, as a community, are neither just nor caring as long as we leave their needs unmet. At the same time, I have watched as .. (shrink)
Among the various human forms alluded to in the Hebrew prayer, mental retardation appears to be one of the most difficult to celebrate. It is the disability that other disabled persons do not want attributed to them. It is the disability for which prospective parents are most likely to use selective abortion (Wertz 2000). And it is the disability that prompted one of the most illustrious United States Supreme Court Justices to endorse forced sterilization, because "three generations of imbeciles are (...) enough." The mentally retarded have at times been objects of pity, compassion, or abuse by their caretakers and society at large. But they have rarely been seen as subjects, as citizens, as persons with equal entitlement to fulfillment. (shrink)
The title of this paper deserves an explanation—or rather two explanations, one for the portion preceding the colon, the other for that following as the subtitle. The first part is derived from a short essay by Emily Perl Kingsley, written in 1987 in response to questions she had received about what it is like to raise a child with Down Syndrome.1 Kingsley suggests that planning for a child is like planning a trip to some wonderful destination—in her example, Italy. She (...) asks us to imagine the anticipation: searching out guidebooks, learning important sites to visit, the excitement at being able to see things one has heard about an entire lifetime—seeing Michelangelo's David, for instance. But, when the plane. (shrink)
Virginia Held, best known for her landmark book Rights and Goods, has made an indelible mark on the fields of ethics, feminist philosophy, and social and political thought. Her impact on a generation of feminist thinkers is unrivaled and she has been at the forfront of discussions about the way in which an ethic of care can affect social and political matters. These new essays by leading contemporary philosophers range over all of these areas. While each stands alone, the essays (...) together demonstrate the lasting value of Held's work to the field. Includes an afterword by Held. (shrink)
I explore the ethics of altering the body of a child with severe cognitive disabilities in such a way that keeps the child “forever small.” The parents of Ashley, a girl of six with severe cognitive and developmental disabilities, in collaboration with her physicians and the Hospital Ethics Committee, chose to administer growth hormones that would inhibit her growth. They also decided to remove her uterus and breast buds, assuring that she would not go through the discomfort of menstruation and (...) would not grow breasts. In this way she would stay “forever small” and be able to be carried and handled by family members. They claimed that doing this would ensure that she would be able to be part of the family and of family activities and to have familial care. But the procedure has raised thorny ethical questions. I wish to explore these questions philosophically by bringing to bear my own experiences as a mother of a grown daughter with severe cognitive impairments. (shrink)
Contemporary industrialized societies have been confronted with the fact and consequences of women's increased participation in paid employment. Whether this increase has resulted from women's desire for equality or from changing economic circumstances, women and men have been faced with a crisis in the organization of work that concerns dependents, that is, those unable to care for themselves. This is labor that has been largely unpaid, often unrecognized, and yet is indispensable to human society.
Women's activities and relations to men are persistent metaphors for man's projects. I query the prominence of these and the lack of equivalent metaphors where men are the metaphoric vehicle for women and women's activities. Women's role as metaphor results from her otherness and her relational and mediational importance in men's lives. Otherness, mediation, and relation characterize the role of metaphor in language and thought. This congruence between metaphor and women makes the metaphor of woman especially potent in man's conceptual (...) economy. (shrink)
Arlie Hochschild glosses the practice of women migrants in poor nations who leave their families behind for extended periods of time to do carework in other wealthier countries as a “global heart transplant” from poor to wealthy nations. Thus she signals the idea of an injustice between nations and a moral harm for the individuals in the practice. Yet the nature of the harm needs a clear articulation. When we posit a sufficiently nuanced “right to care,” we locate the harm (...) to central relationships of the migrant women. The “right to care” we develop uses a concept of a relational self drawn from an ethics of care. The harm is situated in the broken relationships, which in turn have a serious impact on a person’s sense of equal dignity and self-respect, particularly since the sacrifice of central relationships of the migrant woman allows others to maintain these same relationships. The paper ends with a brief discussion of some of the solutions we need to consider. (shrink)
A number of philosophers, linguists and psychologists have made the dual claim that metaphor is cognitively significant and that metaphorical utterances have a meaning not reducible to literal paraphrase. Such a position requires support from an account of metaphorical meaning that can render metaphors cognitively meaningful without the reduction to literal statement. It therefore requires a theory of meaning that can integrate metaphor within its sematics, yet specify why it is not reducible to literal paraphrase. I introduce the idea of (...) a "second-order meaning", of which metaphor is but one instance, that is a function on literal-conventional, i.e., first-order meaning, and outline a linguistic framework designed to provide a representation of linguistic meaning for both. This framework is designed to represent linguistic units ranging from a single word to an entire text since I argue that the by-now familiar position that the sentence is the appropriate unit for metaphor has mislead us into asking the wrong questions about metaphorical meaning. With this apparatus, we can specify the conditions under which an utterance may transcend the constraints on first-order meaning (transgressions not always apparent on the sentential level), without thereby being "meaningless". Conversely, we can specify the conditions that may render apparently odd utterances first-order meaningful rather than metaphorical. In this way we see how metaphorical language differs both from deviant language and from specialized language such as technical language, fanciful and fantastical language (in fairy tales, science fiction, etc.). (shrink)
The sixteen essays in Gender Struggles address a wide range of issues in gender struggles, from the more familiar ones that, for the last thirty years, have been the mainstay of feminist scholarship, such as motherhood, beauty, and sexual violence, to new topics inspired by post-industrialization and multiculturalism, such as the welfare state, cyberspace, hate speech, and queer politics, and finally to topics that traditionally have not been seen as appropriate subjects for philosophizing, such as adoption, care work, and the (...) home. (shrink)
Disability theorists have argued that the belief that we should prevent the birth of people with disabilities is prejudicial against disabled people. Particularly influential has been the Expressivity Objection to reproductive selective procedures aimed at eliminating disability. The Expressivity Objection in its strongest form says that to prevent the birth of a disabled child is to express the view that a disabled life is not worth living. In its weaker form, it says that to prevent the birth of a disabled (...) child is to perpetuate the stigma of disability or send the message that disabled people are not welcome in this world.Disability, as it is spoken of in these contexts, refers to... (shrink)
Merrie Bergmann Philosophical Review 100 (1):112-115 (1991) Abstract Taking into account pragmatic considerations and recent linguistic and psychological studies, the author forges a new understanding of the relation between metaphoric and literal meaning. The argument is illustrated with analysis of metaphors from literature, philosophy, science, and everyday language.
Recently, there has been a surge of interest in the lexicon. The demand for a fuller and more adequate understanding of lexical meaning required by developments in computational linguistics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science has stimulated a refocused interest in linguistics, psychology, and philosophy. Different disciplines have studied lexical structure from their own vantage points, and because scholars have only intermittently communicated across disciplines, there has been little recognition that there is a common subject matter. The conference on which this (...) volume is based brought together interested thinkers across the disciplines of linguistics, philosophy, psychology, and computer science to exchange ideas, discuss a range of questions and approaches to the topic, consider alternative research strategies and methodologies, and formulate interdisciplinary hypotheses concerning lexical organization. The essay subjects discussed include: * alternative and complementary conceptions of the structure of the lexicon, * the nature of semantic relations and of polysemy, * the relation between meanings, concepts, and lexical organization, * critiques of truth-semantics and referential theories of meaning, * computational accounts of lexical information and structure, and * the advantages of thinking of the lexicon as ordered. (shrink)
The cognitive gain in the use of metaphor and simile is nicely elucidated by Tversky's theory of similarity. The features of the theory which are of special importance are the directionality and context-dependency of similarity judgments. These indicate the extent to which such judgments are classificatory and that similarity is not only the cause of an object's classification but is also a derivative of groupings. Metaphor and simile exploit certain cognitive features involved in the relation between classification, context and similarity (...) judgments so as to make possible the creation of similarity, which, from a conceptual standpoint, is the prime motivation for metaphor. (shrink)