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Heal, Jane, , . Mental disorder and the value(s) of ‘autonomy’
2012, In Autonomy and Mental Disorder, Lubomira Radoilska (ed.). New York: Oxford University Press, 3-25.
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Added by: Jamie Robertson, Contributed by:

Summary (from Introduction of Autonomy and Mental Disorder, Radoilska ed.): In ‘Mental disorder and the value(s) of autonomy’, Jane Heal identifies and critically examines a form of thought which is implicit in discussions about what we, as a society, owe to people with mental disorder. This form of thought builds upon intuitions which link respect for a person with respect for a person’s autonomy. In light of these intuitions, the issue of how to treat a person with mental disorder may seem to revolve around the question whether or not this person has the capacity for autonomy. However, Heal argues, inquiries that share this logical form are methodologically inappropriate and potentially unhelpful in answering either of the questions they put together: what we owe to people with mental disorder and what is involved in autonomy as a capacity. The reason for this is twofold.
Firstly, the apparent consensus about autonomy as a capacity for self-determination that ought to be protected from interference by a corresponding right to self-determination is too shallow to ground a coherent course of action in terms of respect for autonomy. Even if we work with the assumption that autonomy is part of the Enlightenment project, we face an important dilemma since we have to choose between a Kantian or rationality oriented and a Millian or well-being oriented take on the nature and significance of autonomy. Secondly, even if we were to reach a substantive consensus on the concept of autonomy, it would arguably require an intricate array of mental capacities, outside the reach of at least some people with mental disorder. Getting clearer on what autonomy is will not help us find out what it means to treat these people respectfully.

Comment: This text would be a good candidate for inclusion in a course about autonomy, philosophy of disability, or the ethics or political philosophy of mental health or aging (due to discussion of dementia). If assigned as part of a course on autonomy, students will benefit from considering Heal’s approach to breaking down the logical components of the concept and her nuanced discussion of the limitations of autonomy as a moral principle for understanding our obligations toward people with mental disorders. This second element is the central question of the paper and would be of interest when examining disability or mental health from a philosophical perspective.

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Humphreys, , . Dignity and its violation examined within the context of animal ethics
2016, Ethics and the Environment 21 (2):143-162
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Rebekah Humphreys

Abstract: The word ‘dignity’ may be used in a presentational sense, for example, one might say “she presents herself with dignity”, or in a social sense, for example, one might say “she fulfilled her duty with dignity, or honour.” However, in this paper I will not be using ‘dignity’ in either of these senses. Rather, the sense of dignity I will be concerned with is one that is related to ideas about the value or worth of a being. This latter sense of dignity has a long history, and tends to be a concept that is thought to be applicable to human animals only, and more specifically to human persons—moral agents, capable of rationality, of directing their own lives, and of formulating…

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Nussbaum, Martha, , . Sex and Social Justice
1999, Oxford University Press.
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Back matter: What does it mean to respect the dignity of a human being? What sort of support do human capacities demand from the world, and how should we think about this support when we encounter differences of gender or sexuality? How should we think about each other across divisions that a legacy of injustice has created? In Sex and Social Justice, Martha Nussbaum delves into these questions and emerges with a distinctive conception of feminism that links feminist inquiry closely to the important progress that has been made during the past few decades in articulating theories of both national and global justice. Growing out of Nussbaum’s years of work with an international development agency connected with the United Nations, this collection charts a feminism that is deeply concerned with the urgent needs of women who live in hunger and illiteracy, or under unequal legal systems. Offering an internationalism informed by development economics and empirical detail, many essays take their start from the experiences of women in developing countries. Nussbaum argues for a universal account of human capacity and need, while emphasizing the essential role of knowledge of local circumstance. Further chapters take on the pursuit of social justice in the sexual sphere, exploring the issue of equal rights for lesbians and gay men. Nussbaum’s arguments are shaped by her work on Aristotle and the Stoics and by the modern liberal thinkers Kant and Mill. She contends that the liberal tradition of political thought holds rich resources for addressing violations of human dignity on the grounds of sex or sexuality, provided the tradition transforms itself by responsiveness to arguments concerning the social shaping of preferences and desires. She challenges liberalism to extend its tradition of equal concern to women, always keeping both agency and choice as goals. With great perception, she combines her radical feminist critique of sex relations with an interest in the possibilities of trust, sympathy, and understanding. Sex and Social Justice will interest a wide readership because of the public importance of the topics Nussbaum addresses and the generous insight she shows in dealing with these issues. Brought together for this timely collection, these essays, extensively revised where previously published, offer incisive political reflections by one of our most important living philosophers.

Comment: Chapter ‘Judging Other Cultures: The Case of Genital Mutilation’ can be particularly useful in illustrating the debate on universality vs relativity of ethical norms and values, and in discussing the legitimacy of imposing cultural norms of one culture upon another.

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Tshivhase, Mpho, , . Personhood
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 347-360
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: Certain descriptions of personhood imbue an individual with a particular kind of moral status. There are different person-making capacities that are generally laid out as central to the idea of personhood. Some of the person-making capacities are what people generally refer to as the grounding of certain normative requirements that enable us to respond to individuals as entities with a moral status. Herein personhood is a matter of certain capacities that create one’s moral status. These descriptions of personhood bring about a specific structure of identification that has implications for moral accountability. In this paper I aim to interpret the person-making capacities and argue that they can, in some sense, be limiting, and this may be the case in relation to women as a gender group whose personhood has not always been fairly recognized. I will argue that a view of personhood whose person-making capacities exclude a gender group can have negative implications, and I will explore two implications that I think have this negative attitude. On the one hand, a conception of personhood, especially in the descriptive sense that prioritizes rationality and free will above all else, could imply that women, by virtue of lacking such capacities, are not to be considered as individuals with a moral status, wherein society cannot hold them accountable for their actions, nor would they be able to hold others morally accountable. On the other hand, and this second implication relates to difference in the sense of uniqueness, which is grounded on personhood – if women are denied the status of a person, then they would also be excluded from exploring their uniqueness qua radical difference.

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