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One principle and three fallacies of disability studies
  1. John Harris
  1. University of Manchester, Manchester


    My critics in this symposium illustrate one principle and three fallacies of disability studies. The principle, which we all share, is that all persons are equal and none are less equal than others. No disability, however slight, nor however severe, implies lesser moral, political or ethical status, worth or value. This is a version of the principle of equality. The three fallacies exhibited by some or all of my critics are the following: (1) Choosing to repair damage or dysfunction or to enhance function, implies either that the previous state is intolerable or that the person in that state is of lesser value or indicates that the individual in that state has a life that is not worthwhile or not thoroughly worth living. None of these implications hold. (2) Exercising choice in reproduction with the aim of producing children who will be either less damaged or diseased, or more healthy, or who will have enhanced capacities, violates the principle or equality. It does not. (3) Disability or impairment must be defined relative either to normalcy, “normal species functioning”, or “species typical functioning”. It is not necessarily so defined.

    • Disability
    • impairment
    • handicap
    • equality
    • social conception of disability
    • harmed condition conception of disability

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    • John Harris is Sir David Alliance Professor of Bioethics and Director of The Centre for Social Ethics & Policy, University of Manchester, and a Director of The Institute of Medicine, Law and Bioethics.

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