About the Conference

"Cognitive Disability: A Challenge to Moral Philosophy" will explore philosophical questions about three specific populations — people with autism, Alzheimer's disease, and those labeled "mentally retarded." We will raise ethical and foundational questions regarding both theoretical and practical matters.  The areas to be explored include:

  • Personhood: Should individuals with cognitive disabilities be excluded from the protections and responsibilities we assign to "persons"?  Do the implications of such exclusion force a reconsideration of the concept of personhood?

  • Justice: Should individuals with cognitive disabilities be excluded from the claims and protections granted to members of a political community?  If not, how might their interests be represented and given a political voice?

  • Care: How should we define, and how can we recognize,  relationships and obligations to people lacking the ability to fully care for themselves? How should we understand the obligations of and to their caregivers? What significant aspects of the nature of all human interaction are revealed in these relationships?

  • History and Conceptual Bases of Classifications: How have various categories of cognitive disability emerged?  What historical, social and political contingencies have played a part in our classifications?

  • Metaphilosophical Concerns: How has the "benign neglect" philosophers have exercised with respect to this subject shaped the substance of wider philosophical theory and practice?

For a disability-related accommodation contact Licia Carlson, (617) 496-4349.

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