Learning how to care : an ethics that includes the cognitively disabled




Christoff, Caroline Elizabeth

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



My dissertation addresses the question of how we ought to care for and engage with people with cognitive disabilities. The project has two main goals: the first is to develop a more robust account of care ethics, and the second is to use this newly developed account to theorize about current conceptions of how we ought to treat individuals with cognitive disabilities. First, I address the theoretical problem of how to make ‘care’ a robust enough concept to govern our ethical treatment of others. I address the primary problem care ethicists have traditionally had with conceiving of care as a virtue: virtues are egoistically focused on eudaimonia or self-happiness. I suggest this concern can be avoided if the aim of virtues was to develop flourishing relationships rather than individual character. With a conception of care established, I proceed to consider whether we have developed the right moral and epistemic virtues to properly care for people with cognitive disabilities. I argue that individuals with cognitive disabilities, regardless of the severity of their disability, face a variety of epistemic injustices that negatively impacts the care they receive and the relationships that they are able to form. Then, I consider whether individuals with cognitive disabilities are able to care for others as others can care for them. While caring for others is obviously not beyond the capability of those with disabilities that are traditionally classified as ‘mild’ or ‘moderate,’ I suggest that even those with what we would consider ‘severe’ impairments are able to care. Finally, I consider one specific practical implication of a system of ethics that appropriately recognizes the epistemic and moral contributions of individuals with cognitive disabilities. I consider how college instructors can use their position of authority to better care for students with learning disabilities in their classrooms.



LCSH Subject Headings