Date: 17th May 2012 – 12.30pm – 2.00pm
Venue: Room OB109, Elizabeth Gaskell Campus, Manchester Metropolitan University
Event: Critical Disability Studies @ MMU Seminars 2012 presents…
‘The Moral Significance of Severe Intellectual Disability’
~ Simo Vehmas (Professor of Special Education, University of Jyväskylä, Finland)
Abstract: The dispute between Jeff McMahan and Eva Feder Kittay about the moral status of humans with severe cognitive disabilities is perhaps the most vehemently contested dispute in moral philosophy of recent times. According to McMahan, those with such disabilities are less morally valuable than so-called normal human beings and ought to be treated as such. According to Kittay, those with such disabilities and normal human beings have equal moral value and so each group ought to be treated with equal concern. The dispute appears to go deep down to a dispute about the very foundations of moral worth itself, and it often seems that McMahan and Kittay represent two irreconcilable viewpoints. The purpose of this paper is, in part, to affect something of a reconciliation. By articulating clearly the crucial points of disagreement between McMahan and Kittay it is possible to make headway on both sides by showing that the dispute is not as deep as it first appears to be. But this is not merely a descriptive paper. It is my contention that, once the crucial points of disagreement are clearly articulated, it can be seen that there are significant problems with both positions. I will go on to offer a view that suffers from none of the problems that beset McMahan’s and Kittay’s. The view, roughly put, is that although having moral worth is grounded in the intrinsic psychological properties of an individual, significant moral worth can be bestowed upon an individual by its standing in special relations to others. In addition, it will be argued that the intrinsic psychological properties required to attain the moral status of personhood are less circumscribed than has previously been thought. The upshot for the debate about the moral worth of those with severe cognitive disabilities is that all but the most severely affected turn out to be of equal moral importance to so-called normal human beings.
If you are interested in this, you also be interested in the 8th annual conference of RIHSC (Research Institute of Health and Social Change) which will be taking place on 2-3 July 2012. This conference attracts leading researchers and practitioners in the fields of health and social change. Tickets are free and bookings are for either both days (the full delegate package) or individual days. Please go here to book your place.