We’re delighted to announce the appointment of the new chief editor of Philosophy Compass, Elizabeth Barnes, who will be coming on as of today and continuing the great work begun by Brian Weatherson. Elizabeth is an Associate Professor in the department of philosophy at the University of Leeds. Her research interests are split between metaphysics and ethics. In metaphysics, she’s written on indeterminacy, emergence, truthmaking, and the open future. In ethics, her work has focused on disability and wellbeing.
The team would also like to extend their warm thanks and appreciation to Brian for the leadership and vision he has shown in the 6 years since launch. During his tenure, the journal has gone from being a largely unknown online novelty to now playing a unique and respected role in philosophical scholarship.
What are your thoughts on the controversial topic discussed in this article? We invite your comments below…
Abstract: According to what we call the Principle of Procreative Beneficence (PB), couples who decide to have a child have a significant moral reason to select the child who, given his or her genetic endowment, can be expected to enjoy the most well-being. In the first part of this paper, we introduce PB, explain its content, grounds, and implications, and defend it against various objections. In the second part, we argue that PB is superior to competing principles of procreative selection such as that of procreative autonomy. In the third part of the paper, we consider the relation between PB and disability. We develop a revisionary account of disability, in which disability is a species of instrumental badness that is context- and person-relative. Although PB instructs us to aim to reduce disability in future children whenever possible, it does not privilege the normal. What matters is not whether future children meet certain biological or statistical norms, but what level of well-being they can be expected to have.
Harriet McBryde Johnson was a lawyer and disability rights activist who was herself severely disabled. Her wonderful essay, “Unspeakable Conversations,” which she wrote for the New York Times Magazine, is an account of her debate with philosopher Peter Singer. In “Unspeakable Conversations,” she argues persuasively that pity for people with disabilities– an attitude commonly adopted by the non-disabled– is inappropriate, and rooted in prejudice.
I was put in mind of Johnson’s essay when I stumbled on this local news puff piece about Dominic, a two-legged greyhound.
Dominic is so obviously happy, so successfully doggish, that it’s impossible to entertain the notion that pity is the appropriate response. With pity off the table, the reporter seems confused. He actually says, out loud and on mic, “you’d think he’d have a chip on his shoulder, or something.”
It’s an entire case study in disability prejudice in a few seconds of b-roll. And because it’s dog disability the reporter is grappling with, the prejudice that underlies some pity-responses is much easier to see.
The second day of the conference has been filled with three more interesting and innovative papers. David Crystal’s (University of Bangor) keynote lecture entitled ‘Language Death: A Problem for All’ highlights the troubling statistics that ‘96% of the world’s languages are spoken by just 4% of the people’. Given the interdisciplinary nature, and the methodology of this virtual conference, Crystal’s paper draws attention to the use of language as a way to ‘break down barriers’.