Does life have meaning? What is flourishing? How do we attain the good life? Philosophers, and many others of us, have explored these questions for centuries. As Eva Feder Kittay points out, however, there is a flaw in the essential premise of these questions: they seem oblivious to the very nature of the ways in which humans live, omitting a world of co-dependency, and of the fact that we live in and through our bodies, whether they are fully abled or (...) disabled. Our dependent, vulnerable, messy, changeable, and embodied experience colors everything about our lives both on the surface and when it comes to deeper concepts, but we tend to leave aside the body for the mind when it comes to philosophical matters. Disability offers a powerful challenge to long-held philosophical views about the nature of the good life, what provides meaning in our lives, and the centrality of reason, as well as questions of justice, dignity, and personhood. These concepts need not be distant and idealized; the answers are right before us, in the way humans interact with one another, care for one another, and need one another--whether they possess full mental capacities or have cognitive limitations. We need to revise our concepts of things like dignity and personhood in light of this important correction, Kittay argues. This is the first of two books in which Kittay will grapple with just how we need to revisit core philosophical ideas in light of disabled people's experience and way of being in the world. Kittay, an award-winning philosopher who is also the mother to a multiply-disabled daughter, interweaves the personal voice with the philosophical as a critical method of philosophical investigation. Here, she addresses why cognitive disability can reorient us to what truly matters, and questions the centrality of normalcy as part of a good life. With profound sensitivity and insight, Kittay examines other difficult topics: How can we look at the ethical questions regarding prenatal testing in light of a new appreciation of the personhood of disabled people? What do new possibilities in genetic testing imply for understanding disability, the family, and bioethics? How can we reconsider the importance of care, and how does it work best? In the process of pursuing these questions, Kittay articulates an ethic of care, which is the ethical theory most useful for claiming full rights for disabled people and providing the opportunities for everyone to live joyful and fulfilling lives. She applies the lessons of care to the controversial alteration of severely cognitively disabled children known as the Ashley Treatment, whereby a child's growth is halted with extensive estrogen treatment and related bodily interventions are justified. This book both imparts lessons that advocate on behalf of those with significant disabilities, and constructs a moral theory grounded on our ability to give, receive, and share care and love. Above all, it aims to adjust social attitudes and misconceptions about life with disability. (shrink)
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)
In this essay, we suggest practical ways to shift the framing of crisis standards of care toward disability justice. We elaborate on the vision statement provided in the 2010 Institute of Medicine (National Academy of Medicine) “Summary of Guidance for Establishing Crisis Standards of Care for Use in Disaster Situations,” which emphasizes fairness; equitable processes; community and provider engagement, education, and communication; and the rule of law. We argue that interpreting these elements through disability justice entails a commitment to both (...) distributive and recognitive justice. The disability rights movement's demand “Nothing about us, without us” requires substantive inclusion of disabled people in decision‐making related to their interests, including in crisis planning before, during, and after a pandemic like Covid‐19 . (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)
This book provides a philosophical theory explicating the cognitive contribution of metaphor. Metaphor effects a transference of meaning, not between two terms, but between two structured domains of content, or ‘semantic fields’. Semantic fields, construed as necessary to a theory of word-meaning, provide the contrastive and affinitive relations that govern a term’s literal use. In a metaphoric use, these relations are projected into a second domain which is thereby reordered with significant cognitive effects. The book provides a revision and refinement (...) of ‘the semantic theory of metaphor’. Taking into account pragmatic considerations and recent linguistic and psychological studies, the book aims to forge a new understanding of the relation between metaphoric and literal meaning. It illustrates the thesis with sensitive and systematic analyses of metaphors found in literature, philosophy, science, and everyday language. Keywords:,, . (shrink)
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. (shrink)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
Equal moral status for all human beings does not commit us to the malignant exclusionary practices we find in racism and pernicious nationalism. Racism involves a group that is constituted by appropriating to one’s own “primal group” a set “desirable” intrinsic properties and expelling from the primal group those with the undesirable properties through subjugation, exploitation, sterilization, or extermination. The moral harm in racism is practiced by a ‘constituted’ group that must always police its borders with violence and justifications for (...) its privilege. The Nazi’s Project T4, which exterminated mentally disabled children born of German parents, and the subsequent exterminations of racialized groups, in particular the Jews, were regarded as the one process of cleansing Germany and its conquered territories of defective and inferior beings. Rather than being instances of “preferring one’s own,” the racist project was that of constituting the group by appropriating for itself all the desirable traits and expelling all undesirable ones, thus linking ablism and racism. (shrink)
Love's Labor explores the relations that dependency work fosters between women and between men and women, and argues that dependency is not exceptional but integral to human life. The commentaries point to more facets of dependency such as the importance (and limitation) of personal narrative in philosophizing dependency (Ruddick); the role of spirituality that Gottlieb addresses with regard to his disabled daughter; and the application of the theory to the situation of elderly women (Tong).
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)
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)
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)
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)
Dependency is a keyword in disability studies. The article reviews the negative force of the term and why disability researchers and activists have made the case for the independence of disabled people. But dependency, I claim, is a feature of any human life and I argue that disability studies needs to neutralize the term and appropriate dependency as that which binds people, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. I argue that we can acknowledge dependency and work toward an ideal of (...) "managed dependency.". (shrink)
In Moral Failure, Lisa Tessman argues against two principles of moral theory, that ought implies can and that normative theory must be action-guiding. Although Tessman provides a trenchant account of how we are thrust into the misfortune of moral failure, often by our very efforts to act morally, and although she shows, through a discussion well-informed by the latest theorizing in ethics, neuroethics, and psychology, how much more moral theory can do than provide action-guiding principles, I argue that the two (...) theses of moral theory that she disputes remain indispensable for ethical theory. (shrink)
Love's Labor explores the relations that dependency work fosters between women and between men and women, and argues that dependency is not exceptional but integral to human life. The commentaries point to more facets of dependency such as the importance of personal narrative in philosophizing dependency ; the role of spirituality that Gottlieb addresses with regard to his disabled daughter; and the application of the theory to the situation of elderly women.
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)
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)