Elizabeth Barnes on Doing Philosophy of Disability

A really wonderful post that is also, and relatedly, on anger.

I have sat in philosophy seminars where it was asserted that I should be left to die on a desert island if the choice was between saving me and saving an arbitrary non-disabled person. I have been told it would be wrong for me to have my biological children because of my disability. I have been told that, while it isn’t bad for me to exist, it would’ve been better if my mother could’ve had a non-disabled child instead. I’ve even been told that it would’ve been better, had she known, for my mother to have an abortion and try again in hopes of conceiving a non-disabled child. I have been told that it is obvious that my life is less valuable when compared to the lives of arbitrary non-disabled people. And these things weren’t said as the conclusions of careful, extended argument. They were casual assertions. They were the kind of thing you skip over without pause because it’s the uncontroversial part of your talk.

So sorry– forgot to put the link in! It’s here.

9 thoughts on “Elizabeth Barnes on Doing Philosophy of Disability

  1. Maybe just a regular course of Peter SInger’s ethics then? Seriously though, it would have been interesting to know whether these statements have been made with direct reference to Barnes herself.

  2. A – isn’t that sort of missing the point? I think philosophers tend to make all sorts of abstract pronouncements about people and their lives. Mostly forgetting that they are talking about real people, some of whom might be in the audience.

  3. Or just read what Barnes herself had to say about that point, since she addressed it directly:
    “Now, of course, no one has said these things to me specifically. They haven’t said “Hey, Elizabeth Barnes, this is what we think about you!” But they’ve said them about disabled people in general, and I’m a disabled person.”

  4. A– Elizabeth’s point is not about disagreeing with a position. It’s about discussions of this position that are conducted in avery problematic way.

    I don’t think she is saying that nobody should ever discuss such views. However, she is saying (I think) that they should not be discussing them in a way that simply assumes that disabled lives are less worthy. It’s an unwarranted and politically immensely problematic assumption, and one that creates a very bad environment for disabled philosophers.

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