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Is It Bad to Be Disabled? Adjudicating Between the Mere-Difference and the Bad-Difference Views of Disability

by Joachim Wündisch, Vuko Andric

This paper examines the impact of disability on wellbeing and presents arguments against the mere-difference view of disability. According to the mere-difference view, disability does not by itself make disabled people worse off on balance. Rather, if disability has a negative impact on wellbeing overall, this is only so because society is not treating disabled people the way it ought to treat them. In objection to the mere-difference view, it has been argued, roughly, that the view licenses the permissibility of causing disability and the impermissibility of causing nondisability. In her recent article, “Valuing Disability, Causing Disability” (2014), Elizabeth Barnes attempts to show that this causation-based objection does not succeed. We disagree and argue why. We begin by explaining that in order to defeat the causation-based objection it does not suffice to show that it is not always true that the mere-difference view licenses causing disability. Rather, license in some cases, in a way that undermines the plausibility of the mere-difference view, would be sufficient for the causation-based objection to succeed. Then our discussion turns to an important challenge for proponents of the causation-based objection: Some defenders of the mere-difference view are prepared to simply accept the counterintuitive implications of their position. A dialogue with such proponents of the mere-difference view requires arguments with independent traction. We present several such arguments to the effect that the mere-difference view needs to be significantly reduced in scope – and may turn out to be false altogether.

ISSN 1559-3061
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