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VulnerabilityNew Essays in Ethics and Feminist Philosophy$
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Catriona Mackenzie, Wendy Rogers, and Susan Dodds

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199316649

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199316649.001.0001

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Disability and Vulnerability

Disability and Vulnerability

On Bodies, Dependence, and Power

(p.204) 8 Disability and Vulnerability

Jackie Leach Scully

Oxford University Press

This essay critically assesses the assumption that disabled people have special vulnerabilities that are distinct from the ontological vulnerability of all human life. By re-examining the relationships between vulnerability, dependency, and loss of autonomy, the essay challenges the consensus that dependencies, and the vulnerabilities that come with them, are necessarily incompatible with full autonomy. Furthermore, if dependencies are ubiquitous rather than limited to disabled persons or the very young, old, or ill, the ‘special’ nature of disability-related vulnerabilities must be reconsidered. The essay argues that the line between ‘normal’ and ‘special’ vulnerability is not natural but established through social and political decisions that determine when a dependency will be taken for granted and when it is marked as exceptional. Thus a more comprehensive notion of ontological vulnerability, including the vulnerabilities that develop through all forms of dependency, may be ethically and politically preferable to a narrower one.

Keywords:   vulnerability, disability, dependency, relational autonomy

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