Human Kinds–Species Typical, Sub-typical, Beyond Typical–Part 2

Gregor Wolbring in full swing on ableism and its relationship to sexism, racism, caste bias, anti-environmentalism, consumerism. It all goes by very fast, so be prepared! Part 3 will have some panel interchange on this.

Here Gregor argues that ableism lies at the root of these other “isms”, and so is in that sense the most fundamental form of discrimination.  In the audience discussion following the talk–which, unfortunately, we did not have permission to film–there was quite a bit of discussion of, and resistance to, this idea.  Gregor also writes a regular column, The Choice is Yours, and you can find more information about him there.  On this issue, as Gregor says about most things, the choice is yours.  Is ableism the most fundamental form of discrimination out there?

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Samantha, Loss and Ableism

[This post is the thirteenth in our series of Thinking in Action posts, the series being devoted initially at least to discussion of talks at the Cognitive Disability conference in NYC in September; this one takes up another concrete example concerning conference-themes, but not a conference talk. You can go to the Thinking in Action 10 pack, which links to the first 10 posts in the series; the posts run Tuesdays and Fridays, for the most part, and the series will wind up shortly. The posts immediately before this one concerned talks by Ian Hacking and Victoria McGeer on theory of mind and autism and Licia Carlson on moral authority].


I would like to raise some questions around the issue of whether Samantha is an ableist (for background, see the original post The son that Trent can never be …). While it is true that Samantha’s trip to China brought up feelings of loss about her son’s brain injury, she evidently feels guilty about those feelings of loss. What she said to Rob makes clear that she wants to value and appreciate her son the way he is. Indeed, her guilt about her sense of loss seems to stem precisely from the fact that she is committed to valuing her disabled son. In other words, her guilt seems to stem from anti-ableist commitments. For those who don’t want to go back to the original post, and the comments on it that have prompted this post, here’s the crucial bit of what she said about her brain-injured son Trent:

I found it rather hard to be around a baby boy who reminded me so much of Trent’s babyhood. It brought up a lot of feelings about Trent, and about the son that Trent can never be now. Maybe I still need to mourn the Trent that is now gone, but I feel guilty about mourning him, because he’s not dead. I guess I feel like if I mourn him it must mean that I don’t love and appreciate him enough the way he is now. I’m not quite sure what to do with all those feelings, but being around a baby boy sure brought them up. It’s going to be hard in some ways, I think, watching my nephew grow up to be a son I will not have now. What to do? . . . .

One might want to conclude that Samantha is an ableist from the bare fact of her sense of loss. Here, the reasoning would be that, if she weren’t an ableist, then she wouldn’t feel a sense of loss in the first place, so the very fact that she feels a sense of loss by itself shows that she does not properly value disabled people, or that she has prejudices against disabled people, including (now) her own son. Continue reading

Animal Rights: Gorilla Sued for Sexual Harassment

[This post is the sixth in our new series of Thinking in Action posts, the series being devoted initially at least to discussion of talks at the Cognitive Disability conference in NYC in September.]

In a two previous post I argued against Peter Singer’s position that humans with profound intellectual disabilities should be considered nonpersons without moral status or fundamental rights. In this post, however, I want to support his concern for about the treatment of nonhuman animals and endorse his view that some fundamental rights should be recognized for nonhuman animals. In supporting his view that nonhuman animals deserve greater respect and better treatment, however, I do want to suggest that the arguments that he presents against respecting the moral status of humans hurts rather than helps progress in improving the status and treatment of nonhuman animals. Here are five reasons why. Continue reading