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Keywords:

  • cognitive disability;
  • surrogacy;
  • social expectations

Abstract: This essay is a reply to Martha Nussbaum's “Capabilities and Disabilities.” It endorses Nussbaum's critique of the social-contract tradition and proposes that it might be productively contrasted with Michael Walzer's critique of John Rawls in Spheres of Justice. It notes that Nussbaum's emphasis on surrogacy and guardianship with regard to people with severe and profound cognitive disabilities poses a challenge to disability studies, insofar as the field tends to emphasize the self-representation of people with disabilities and to concentrate primarily on the aesthetic and political representation of physical disability. The essay concludes with an account of a recent exchange with Peter Singer on the question of our social expectations of people with Down syndrome.