Disability has attracted significant attention in philosophy and bioethics, but historically in a very negative light (e.g., it is raised in regard to how disabled a newborn must be in order to justify non-treatment, or why assisted suicide/euthanasia might be justified when some lives are so disabled as to make death preferable to continued existence). This treatment of disability rests on longstanding misconceptions and stereotypes about the disadvantages of impairment. Recent philosophical work from a wide variety of perspectives (e.g., feminist, liberal, communitarian) suggests that philosophers would benefit from rethinking the nature of our moral and political obligations through attention to the concept and experience of disability. Are impairment and dependence at the core of what it is to be human (much more than traditional liberal social contract theories have admitted)? What are society’s obligations to people with non-standard bodies and/or functioning in regard to inclusion in the dominant cooperative framework? Attention to the concept and experience of impairment and disability allows us to rethink some of the fundamental philosophical assumptions about personhood, dependence, autonomy, opportunity, and justice. These more abstract concepts have real world significance in a number of practical arenas, such as prenatal testing, education, insurance coverage, and workplace accommodations. This course counts as an elective for the UW disability studies minor.
TEXTS: The Minority Body, Elizabeth Barnes; Cognitive Disability and its Challenge to Moral Philosophy, Eva Kittay and Licia Carlson, eds.