Philosophy of Disability: Present and Future, No. 1

In my reply to commentators on Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability at the Pacific APA (previously posted on BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY here), I wanted to accomplish a number of things. In addition to offering an exegesis of Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability and responses to critical remarks about the book that the various commentators in the symposium made, I wanted to distinguish the argumentative claims of the book and its overall approach from other extant philosophy of disability. In part, I wanted to do so in order to address persistent constraints on both the scope of philosophy of disability and its potential to articulate the ways that the apparatus of disability is co-constitutive with other apparatuses of power. In the introductory remarks of the reply, I stated the following:

Insofar as philosophers of disability, most of whom are white, have focused their attention almost exclusively on conceptual questions, theoretical approaches, and a normative agenda that their predominantly nondisabled and white mainstream philosophy interlocutors have essentially determined and, moreover, inasmuch as philosophers of disability have primarily confined their normative analyses to the debate between justice and care that these interlocutors initiated in the first place, examination of the metaphysical and epistemological status of disability has been neglected; naturalization of disability in philosophy has expanded in new directions; the historical emergence of disability and its contingency have remained obscured; the constitutive forms of power that Foucault identified have been disregarded; denial persists about how certain ontological and ethical commitments condition accessibility to the profession; and the ways that disability is intertwined with other apparatuses of power, including settler colonialism, white supremacy, class, and environmental racism have been almost entirely ignored.

Philosophers who are unfamiliar with critical philosophical work on disability and even philosophers of disability themselves may have passed quickly over the aforementioned paragraph of my reply, finding it obscure, heavy, or pedantic. Nevertheless, I maintain, to the contrary, that the elements of the paragraph should be given close consideration. For I think that if philosophy of disability is to continue to expand in discursive scope and in political relevance and sophistication, philosophers of disability and philosophers in general should take seriously the issues that I raised in the paragraph and in the entirety of my APA reply. Indeed, I think that if philosophers genuinely want to address the potent ableism of philosophy, it is incumbent upon them to do so.  

Therefore, in a series of forthcoming posts to which I will give the title “Philosophy of Disability: Present and Future,”  I intend to draw out the assumptions and implications of the claims that I made in the cited paragraph, as well as why the discipline and profession of philosophy should attend to them.

As posts in the series will indicate, the claims asserted in the cited paragraph identify how mutually constitutive and mutually supporting elements of the apparatus of disability are produced in the subfield of philosophy of disability and the field of philosophy more generally. Ontology is already political, ontological assumptions are co-constitutive with practices, and practices produce identities, subjectivities, methodologies, and epistemologies which, hence, are themselves thoroughly political.

In the first entry of the series, I will thus address the following claim of the paragraph:

“denial persists about how certain ontological and ethical commitments condition accessibility to the profession.”

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