Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Something That Has Been on my Mind for Awhile

So, it has been awhile. The Cubs have lost, the Sox have lost, and now we are faced with the utterly horrid prospect of a Dodgers-Red Sox World Series. Mon Dieu.

But, on the bright side, I have (slowly) gotten back into the habit of reading philosophy - if not actual hard-core philosophy of Kant and Wittgenstein, at least the nice, soft ball kind of philosophy of Michael Berube on Crooked Timber. Apparently, Professor Berube attended a conference held recently at SUNY Stony Brook on the philosophy of disabilities, a conference that included (at least the discussion of) such philosophical heavy-hitters as Martha Nussbaum and Peter Singer. Berube positions himself against both of these figures, insofar (as far as I can figure) in that he portrays them as holding the position that, ethically speaking, it would be morally equivalent to murder a squirrel as it would be to murder a human being with the mental capacity of a squirrel.

Now, as far as I can tell, the discussion with which Berube is involved focuses more on the philosophical questions raised concerning cognitive disabilties rather than physical ones, and I guess that I am a little disappointed in the fact that he never distinguishes between the two. However, I guess that I can't blame him too much because his primary question concerns the question of what legal rights someone with severe cognitive disabilities - say, someone with a major case of Down's Syndrome - would have. (i.e., if such a hypothetical person has the IQ of a chimp, should he be allowed to vote? Or, if we jettison the idea of the existence of some kind of immutable human soul, is it any worse to murder a severely mentally handicapped human being than a certain kind of mountain gorilla?)

As for me, my concrns lies less in the area of legal rights than those of political rights, or, I guess I should say, political power. Specifically in the area of political identities; as in, the notion that someone with Down's Syndrome is somehow equivalent to someone with Cerberal Paulsy, or that someone with attention deficit disorder is the same as someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder or thalidomide-induced syndrome. And this has been something that has bothered me for quite awhile - to try and put it succintly, that the American's with Disabilities Act is intended to cover all of those Americans with disabilties.

So I suppose - and please let me know if you disagree with me on this point - that my complaint rests in the fact that Berube and his fellow (analytic) philosophers are concerened primarily with the metaphysics of disability - those issues having to deal with the hypotheticals of a human being with the mental capacity of a tree rat - rather than the very real issue of there being a splintered demographic that is the "Disabled" population, and what it means for someone who has to cope with being a member of this (oppressed) group that by definition one does not want to be a member of.

1 comment:

JimV said...

Imagine, a philosophy graduate reading philosophy. Go figure.