The Meaning of Ability and Disability

Journal of Speculative Philosophy 33 (3):434-447 (2019)
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Abstract

Disability has been a topic in multiple areas of philosophical scholarship for decades. However, it is only in the last ten to fifteen years that philosophy of disability has increasingly become recognized as a distinct field. In this paper, I argue that the foundational question of continental philosophy of disability is the question of the meaning of ability. Engaging a range of canonical texts across the Western intellectual tradition, I argue that the foundational question of continental philosophy of disability is the question of the meaning of ability. I then explore three pathways toward this question: the verdict of bodies, the bind of bodies and worth, and the dogma of individual ability. I contend that unlike the question of the meaning of being, the question of the meaning of ability is not simply a problem of forgetting but instead a problem of cruelty and dehumanization.

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Joel Michael Reynolds
Georgetown University

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