Disability & Justice: The Practice of Egalitarian Thought
Riddle, Christopher Alexander
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In what follows, I engage in a wide-ranging discussion that captures the components of a metric of egalitarian justice (that is, the nature of the principles that specify what we aim to distribute equally) best designed to promote a minimally just state of affairs for not only, but principally, people with disabilities. First, I examine precisely what it is we mean when we refer to “disability”. I do this to ensure we have adequately deliberated over, and subsequently identified, the particular group of individuals for whom we aim to promote justice. I conclude this section by endorsing the so-called ‘interactional model’ of disability, and denying the accuracy of the ‘social model’. Second, I argue that while a focus on the capabilities approach can help provide us with an answer to the currency question that most closely approximates justice for the disabled, a minimally just state of affairs would nevertheless, fail to materialize should we opt to endorse such a conception of egalitarian justice. I point to the inability of the capabilities approach to: i) accurately identify and calculate degrees of need or injustice; ii) be adequately sensitive to the diverse natural endowments when assessing need; iii) acknowledge the special moral importance of health as well as various other functionings. Finally, I conclude that a focus on first and foremost, condition, rather than opportunity, can better weather the challenges I present against a capabilities framework. More specifically, I suspect that a focus on both material conditions, and substantive freedoms or opportunities, is necessary to provide an adequate minimal conception of justice. I will argue that there are a set of material conditions that are lexically prior to a group of opportunities that must also be afforded within a conception of justice, and that merely providing the opportunities for these conditions is inadequate. In other words, I suggest that there are indeed, some functionings that must be assured within a minimal conception of justice, regardless of the choices exercised surrounding the securing of those functionings.