“Justice, Caring, and the Mentally Disabled” with Eva Feder Kittay

Episode 8:
Originally broadcast: September 13, 2009

Modern political philosophy has argued that justice requires full equality for those who can both carry the burdens and get the benefits from participating in social cooperation. But what about those who cannot fulfill these obligations because of limited mental capacities? Are these people still due justice, and if so, what sort of equality could we expect to grant them? In other words, what do we owe to those among us who are not capable of participating in society in typical ways because of their cognitive limitations? These and other questions will focus the discussion with Eva Kittay, author of the highly influential book Love’s Labor: Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency. Does justice presuppose participation, and what happens when we shift the obligation from duty to caring for others? This discussion will get to the core of what we believe we owe others and what it means to live in a society where difference means more than just religious, ethnic, or political difference. It goes to the heart of what it means to be human in society.

Eva Feder Kittay is a Professor of Philosophy at State University of New York, Stony Brook. She has authored and edited numerous books on a range of topics, with an emphasis on feminism, political thought, and disability studies. She is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook. Her forthcoming book Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy continues many of the themes of her earlier work including emphasizing the way in which traditional philosophy have passed over the concerns of a large spectrum of humanity.

WHY?’s host Jack Russell Weinstein remarks, “Having Eva Kittay on the show is tremendously exciting. Reading Love’s Labor changed my own work forever and forced me to look at the world — and at justice — in an entirely different way. This is a discussion that will tear at your heart while challenging you intellectually.”

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