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Being Human

June 3, 2012

I have been reading about people with ‘cognitive disabilities’ and how people who aren’t described with that term think about and treat them.  The article I read most recently used the term ‘cognitive disabilities’ to describe people with intellectual disabilities, autism, and Alzheimers.  There are pros and cons to this term but my focus in this post is people with profound intellectual disabilities.  People that some philosphers would not consider human because these people are not able to reason.  I am writing to stand up for people – yes humans – with profound intellectual disabilities. 

Apparently, some animal rights theorists make arguments that we humans need to treat some nonhuman beings (especially those who possess capacity for reason) as good as OR BETTER THAN we treat humans who appear to not have the capacity to reason.  I am going out on a limb here and saying that I put humans above other non-human animals.  I may change my mind in the future but right now I am hesitantly but unashamedly stating that I think that just being born a human makes you more precious to me than being born a non-human being.  I suspect just being born a bear makes a bear more precious to other bears than a moose is.

People with profound intellectual disabilites are a natural, NORMAL part of the range of humans.  They are part of our community.  People with profound intellectual disabilities and those who care for and about them most times form deep relationships.  Relationships that add meaning to the caregivers’ lives.  This contribution to our communites can not be measured economically. 

People with profound intellectual disabilities are human and all humans need to remember that.  They deserve what all humans deserve justice, rights, respect, care, and yes, even responsibility.  I will hold this in the front of my mind when I interact with people with cognitive disabilities.  I will also hold this in my mind when I am in places where there are not people with cognitive disabilities.  I will wonder “why aren’t all NORMAL humans here?”

The article to which I refer is

Carlson, L. & Kittay, E. (2009). Introduction: Rethinking philosophical presumptions in light of cognitive disability. Metaphilosophy, 40(3-4), 307-330.

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2 Comments
  1. Miriam Allen permalink

    This made me actually think of the terminology ,cognitive disability, cognitive impairment, intellectual disability, developmental disability , developmental delay and similar terms with similar but not same meanings and how sometimes we just grab a term that seems politically correct without actually being correct, if there is an exactly correct word. I totally agree with you about valuing people, all people so just thinking about how I use words was helpful to me. Thanks

    • It is interesting that you talk about terminology because the article to which I refer also used the term mental retardation. I chose not to use that term in my post because I have read that people who may meet the diagnostic criteria for ‘mental retardation’ find the term offensive. I remember when I first heard the term developmental disability used to describe a low IQ and low adaptive functioning. I did not know what developmental disability meant. It is my understanding that the term mental retardation was used so that people doing research would be describing people with similiar characteristics. It may be my problem that I seem to need a descriptive term. Thanks for getting me thinking.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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