BEHS Week 2 Lecture Notes.docx - Week 2 – Ethical Issues...

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Week 2 – Ethical Issues in Disability Studies Lecture Notes Topic 1: Disability: Definitions, Experience, Stigma and the Social Construct of Disability [This lecture notes and summary below will give you different perspectives of how disability is studied and perceived by different worldviews and philosophical points of view. Reflect on this topic and add some comments in your next Journal entry for Week 3, due Monday, July 3.] People have always lived among people who could not see, walk, or hear; who had limited mobility, comprehension or longevity, or chronic illnesses of various sorts. And yet philosophical interest in these conditions was piecemeal and occasional until the past hundred or so years. Some of these conditions were cited in responses of life's hardships or setbacks some were the vehicle for inquiries into the relationship between human faculties and human knowledge. But the treatment of disability as a subject of philosophical interest is relatively new. The lack of attention to “disability” or “impairment” in general may have a simple explanation: there were no such concepts to attend to until 19 th century scientific thinking put variations in human function and form into categories of abnormality and deviance. Once such categories were established, it became possible to talk, and generalize, about “the disabled,” and researchers have done so for various purposes (Hacking, 1990; Davis, 2002, Ch. 4)). The resurgent political environment of the second half of the last century, preoccupied with eliminating or reducing unearned disadvantages, tended to treat disability as a primary source of those disadvantages, to be addressed with medical correction or government compensation. Somewhat later, society began to see disability as a source both of discrimination and oppression, and of group identity, similar to race or gender in these respects. Disability concerns the classification of people on the basis of observed or inferred characteristics. It raises difficult threshold questions about the extent to which the classification is based on biology or is socially constructed. And yet the strong philosophical interest in some of the characteristics on which the disability classification is based appears to allow them a significance that many would deny to the distinguishing characteristics of gender or race. Consider, for example, the question of how well-being is affected by the characteristics on which the disability classification is based. There is little interest now in the question of whether, in a world without discrimination, women would do better or worse on various metrics of well-being than men. In contrast, there is considerable interest in this question when the subject is people with disabilities. Some disability scholars claim that the answer is no different than in the case of race or gender, to the extent that disability reduces well-being; it is because of the stigma and discrimination it evokes. In contrast, other professional groups claim that disability is fundamentally different from race and gender in that it necessarily reduces well-being: even in a 1
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