Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Sara L. Goering
PHIL 409
Seattle Campus

Philosophy of Disability

Rethinks the non-disabled assumption at the heart of much of western moral and political philosophy. Explores concepts of autonomy, opportunity, personhood, and dependence in regard to disability. Issues may include prenatal testing and reproduction, special education, requirements of accommodation, and social and legal interpretations of disability. Prerequisite: one philosophy course or LSJ 332/CHID 332, LSJ 433/CHID 433, or LSJ 434/CHID 434.

Class description

Disability has attracted significant attention in philosophy and bioethics, but historically in a very negative light (e.g., it is raised in regard to how disabled a newborn must be in order to justify non-treatment, or why assisted suicide/euthanasia might be justified when some lives are so disabled as to make death preferable to continued existence). This treatment of disability rests on longstanding misconceptions and stereotypes about the disadvantages of impairment. Recent philosophical work from a wide variety of perspectives (e.g., feminist, liberal, communitarian) suggests that philosophers would benefit from rethinking the nature of our moral and political obligations through attention to the concept and experience of disability. Are impairment and dependence at the core of what it is to be human (much more than traditional liberal social contract theories have admitted)? What are society’s obligations to people with non-standard bodies and/or functioning in regard to inclusion in the dominant cooperative framework? Attention to the concept and experience of impairment and disability allows us to rethink some of the fundamental philosophical assumptions about personhood, dependence, autonomy, opportunity, and justice. These more abstract concepts have real world significance in a number of practical arenas, such as prenatal testing, education, insurance coverage, and workplace accommodations.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Sara L. Caka
Date: 02/19/2008