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Disability Studies Conference, Lancaster 26-28 July 2004 Normative ethics and non-normative embodiment Jackie Leach Scully Unit for Ethics in the Biosciences,

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Presentation on theme: "Disability Studies Conference, Lancaster 26-28 July 2004 Normative ethics and non-normative embodiment Jackie Leach Scully Unit for Ethics in the Biosciences,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Disability Studies Conference, Lancaster July 2004 Normative ethics and non-normative embodiment Jackie Leach Scully Unit for Ethics in the Biosciences, University of Basel, Switzerland, and Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Institute, University of Newcastle, United Kingdom

2 Jackie Leach Scully Why is embodiment ethically important? u Moral codes regulate interactions between embodied persons u Moral concern arises from sense of vulnerabilities resulting from embodiment u Traditional ethics ignores embodiment as source of moral insight u Feminist ethics gendered embodiment

3 Jackie Leach Scully Non-normative embodiment u Little account of ethically relevant aspects of bodily variation, esp impairment = non-normative embodiment, even though - Beliefs about normative embodiment determine (medical and other) interventions thought appropriate -Beliefs about normative embodiment determine moral significance of anomalous bodies

4 Jackie Leach Scully Theories of embodiment u Biological u Social u Symbolic (language) u Narrative/life course u Phenomenological u Psychoanalytic

5 Jackie Leach Scully Theories of embodiment Biomedical u molecular genetics u derive embodiment from biological material u deviations from biomedical standard as pathology Social constructionist u social, historical, political aspects of embodiment u loss of anatomical/physiological limits Both u Lack adequate description of bodys ethical significance u Lack conceptual resources for engaging with non- normative embodiment

6 Jackie Leach Scully Does having/being a non-normative embodiment modify ethical evaluations of individuals or groups? Embodiment affects u Kinds of experience (some unique to particular embodiment) u Meaning of common/universal experience

7 Jackie Leach Scully Non-normative embodiment affects moral evaluation… Through political/ideological awareness ÜStandpoint epistemology ÜEg in disability, consciousness of social exclusion ÜEthical prioritising of inclusiveness

8 Jackie Leach Scully Non-normative embodiment affects moral evaluation… Through local and interpersonal contexts Theoretical approach through habitus ÜSystem of perceptions/ understandings/ assumptions/classifications/ judgements etc ÜOften not accessible to rationality ÜHow does prevailing habitus inform moral sense about non-normative embodiment? ÜEg Deaf culture + preference for hearing impaired/hearing baby

9 Jackie Leach Scully Non-normative embodiment affects moral evaluation… Through relationship between body and thought Hexis = embodiment of system of predispositions ÜPre-reflective knowledge – bodily practices structure possibilities of thinking ÜCognitive science -- perceptual and motor knowledge affect mental concepts and forms of reasoning, eg metaphors

10 Jackie Leach Scully Ethical importance of non-normative understandings: ethical concepts u Feminist theorists argue that experience of gendered difference distinctive interpretation of concepts eg intimacy, detachment, connection u Affect key concepts in ethical theory, esp traditional theories of justice, eg autonomy, independence

11 Jackie Leach Scully Ethical importance of non-normative understandings: just representation u If differential embodiment modifies moral perception, particularities of body/experience affect claim that some person can represent others in negotiations about justice u Details of embodied subjectivity, as perceived by those directly concerned, essential to improve fairness of political and policy decisions

12 Jackie Leach Scully Ethical importance of non-normative understandings: recognition of marginality u Recognition of marginalised aspects of identity as worthy of consideration, not subjugated or disruptive Strong ethical imperative for collection of empirical data on phenomenology of disabled experience and effect on aspects of moral understanding.


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