© 2008, Humboldt State University
I argue that capabilities approaches are useful in formulating a political theory that takes seriously the needs of persons with severe cognitive disabilities (PSCD). I establish three adequacy criteria for theories of justice that take seriously the needs of PSCD: A) understanding PSCD as oppressed, B) positing a single standard of what is owed to PSCD abled individuals, and C) concern with flourishing as well as political liberty. I claim that conceiving valued capabilities as the end of social distribution may help a political theory to meet these criteria. I posit three further adequacy criteria: D) refusing to see PSCD as less than human, E) valuing moral powers other than practical reason, and F) securing space for care and dependency relationships. I show that how well Elizabeth Anderson and Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approaches meet these criteria depends on their divergent conceptions of what capabilities are for. I sketch another capabilities approach that might better meet the three latter criteria (inspired by Lawrence Becker and Eva Kittay’s work), that conceives capabilities as for agency and relationship.
Khader, Serene (2008) "Cognitive Disability, Capabilities, and Justice," Essays in Philosophy: Vol. 9: Iss. 1, Article 11.