Disability, Narrative, and Moral Status

Elizabeth B. Purcell


The present essay aims to respond to recent arguments which maintain that persons with severe cognitive impairments should not enjoy the full moral status or equal dignity as other "cognitively-able" humans. In the debate concerning moral standing and worth, philosophers Singer and McMahan have argued that individuals with certain impairments should not be granted full moral status and therefore, by extension, should not be awarded the same inviolability as humans without cognitive impairments. In response, I argue that an overlooked social ability – the capacity to narrate – provides grounds for the full moral status of individuals with severe cognitive impairments, and thus provides a defense and support for individuals with such "disabilities" to play a robust role in moral action and contribution to human living. 


Cognitive Disability; Moral Action; Ethics; Narrative; Moral Status

Full Text:


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v36i1.4375

Copyright (c) 2016 Elizabeth B. Purcell

Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact libkbhelp@lists.osu.edu.

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)