Beneficence and disability

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter asks what stance is morally appropriate as we consider when, whether, and how to assist persons experiencing physical, emotional, or intellectual disability. Appealing to a variety of intelligent and observant thinkers for inspiration (Ralph Barton Perry, Helen Keller, and Immanuel Kant), it argues that one important aspect of such a stance is an attitude of reciprocal beneficence. This has three central aspects: a perspective of fellowship acknowledging the disabled and the currently able as members of the community of vulnerable human agents; a developed sympathy attuned to gaps in knowledge and failures of imagination and analogy; and a readiness to show gratitude or appreciation for what the currently disabled may teach about the vulnerable moral agency we share. The argument takes initial inspiration from Perry but owes most to its roots in Kantian moral and political theory. It also owes much to wise and insightful enrichments due to Keller.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDisability in Practice
Subtitle of host publicationAttitudes, Policies, and Relationships
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780198812876
StatePublished - Aug 23 2018


  • Beneficence
  • Disability
  • Fellowship
  • Gratitude
  • Helen Keller
  • Kant
  • Reciprocal
  • Sympathy

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