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Disability, Respect and Justice



Recent political philosophers have argued that criteria of social justice that defend distributing resources to individuals on the basis of the disadvantages of their natural endowments are disrespectful and disparaging. Clearly influenced by the social model of disability, Elizabeth Anderson and Thomas Pogge have recently defended criteria of social justice that distribute resources to people with disabilities on the basis of eliminating discrimination, not making up for so-called natural disadvantage. I argue that it is implausible to suggest that just entitlements for people with disability can be secured solely by eliminating discrimination. Resources for people with disabilities must sometimes be justified on the grounds that some natural endowments pose disadvantages even in societies that do not discriminate. I argue further that there need be nothing at all disrespectful about this way of explaining disadvantage; nor have proponents of the social model of disability or political philosophers provided any compelling reasons for supposing that it is disrespectful. There is thus no motivation for Anderson's and Pogge's attempts to secure justice for people with disabilities by appealing solely to the imperative to eliminate discrimination.