Hegel, Feminist Philosophy, and Disability: Rereading our History

Jane Dryden


Although feminist philosophers have been critical of the gendered norms contained within the history of philosophy, they have not extended this critical analysis to norms concerning disability. In the history of Western philosophy, disability has often functioned as a metaphor for something that has gone awry. This trope, according to which disability is something that has gone wrong, is amply criticized within Disability Studies, though not within the tradition of philosophy itself or even within feminist philosophy. In this paper, I use one instance of this disability metaphor, contained within a passage from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, in order to show that paying attention to disability and disability theory can enable identification of ableist assumptions within the tradition of philosophy and can also open up new interpretations of canonical texts. On my reading, whereas Hegel’s expressed views of disability are dismissive, his logic and its treatment of contingency offer up useful ways to situate and re-evaluate disability as part of the concept of humanity. Disability can in fact be useful to Hegel, especially in the context of his valorization of experiences of disruption and disorientation. Broadening our understanding of the possible ways that the philosophical tradition has conceived human beings allows us to better draw on its theoretical resources. 


Keywords: Hegel; contingency; history of philosophy; feminist Hegel scholarship


Hegel; contingency; history of philosophy; feminist Hegel scholarship

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v33i4.3868

Copyright (c) 2013 Jane Dryden

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