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Moving through capacity space: mapping disability and enhancement
  1. Nicholas Greig Evans1,
  2. Joel Michael Reynolds2,3,
  3. Kaylee R Johnson1
  1. 1 Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2 Philosophy, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C, USA
  3. 3 Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Washington, D.C, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicholas Greig Evans, Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell MA 01854, Massachusetts, USA; Nicholas_Evans{at}


In this paper, we highlight some problems for accounts of disability and enhancement that have not been sufficiently addressed in the literature. The reason, we contend, is that contemporary debates that seek to define, characterise or explain the normative valence of disability and enhancement do not pay sufficient attention to (1) a wide range of cases, and (2) the transition between one state and another. In section one, we provide seven cases that might count as disability or enhancement. We explain why (with the exception of the first two, which lay the groundwork for the others) each case might count, and on what basis, and why it is been neglected. Each case is explained as a transition in what we call capacity space. We then argue that no definition of disability or enhancement addresses all of these cases, except for strict welfarist accounts of disability that do not rely on a depiction of any particular capacity. We argue further, however, that this is a serious deficiency of welfarist conceptions of disability. We then address objections to our account.

  • disability
  • capacity
  • distributive justice
  • enhancement

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  • Contributors This piece was conceived by NGE and JMR. NGE and KRJ completed the initial literature review. NGE wrote the first draft and JMR significantly added to that draft and edited it. NGE undertook the primary responsibility for responding to reviewers. All three authors completed final editing and proofing.

  • Funding NGE's work on this study was funded by Greenwall Foundation Making a Difference Project "Dual-Use Neurotechnologies and International Governance Arrangements" and National Science Foundation Grant #1734521 "Ethical Algorithms in Autonomous Vehicles."

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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