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From a figment of your imagination: Disabled marginal cases and underthought experiments

Authors
  • Shew, Ashley1
  • 1 Department of Science, Technology and Society Virginia Tech, 116 Lane Hall , (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Human Affairs
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Oct 09, 2020
Volume
30
Issue
4
Pages
608–616
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/humaff-2020-0054
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

Philosophers often enroll disabled bodies and minds as objects of thought in their arguments from marginal cases and in thought experiments: for example, arguments for animal ethics use cognitively disabled people as a contrast case, and Merleau-Ponty uses a blind man with a cane as an exemplar of the relationship of technology to the human, of how technology mediates. However, these philosophers enroll disabled people without engaging significantly in any way with disabled people themselves. Instead, disabled people are treated in philosophy as literal objects—and in many cases, as less than human. (This sense of a categorical difference between disabled and nondisabled people is becoming especially clear during the Covid-19 pandemic, as I write this article.) Philosophical reflection thus makes assumptions—often wrong—about disabled people’s lives, experiences, and relationships to technology. Outside of philosophy as well as in, disabled people are not regarded as experts about our own experiences and lives; our testimony is paternalistically written over. We need better consideration of disabled people as people as we consider the future. Lack of disabled people’s points of view in philosophy colors—and sometimes invalidates—views of technological change.

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