David Shoemaker (Tulane University): "Disordered, Disregarded, Dismissed: Morality and Exemptions"

Wed, Apr 11, 2018, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Lewis Library, Room 138

Respondent: Daniel Putnam, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Values and Public Policy

Bio: David Shoemaker is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy & Murphy Institute at Tulane University. His research is on issues in agency and responsibility, personal identity and ethics, and moral psychology. He is the author of Responsibility from the Margins (OUP 2015), Personal Identity and Ethics: An Introduction (Broadview 2009), and the co-author of Knowledge, Nature, and Norms (with Mark Timmons; Cengage, 2nd Ed., 2012). He has published numerous articles in such venues as the Philosophical Review, Mind, Ethics, and Philosophy & Public Affairs. He is also the general editor of the series Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, an associate editor at Ethics, and, with David Sobel, the co-editor (and co-founder) of the long-running ethics blog Pea Soup.

Abstract: We exempt many mentally disordered people from responsibility, viewing them as outside the domain of a wide range of interpersonal relationships and accountability demands in virtue of their agential incapacities. But to the extent that being included in the responsibility community renders one eligible for a wide variety of human goods — such as fellow feeling, recognition, and respect — it seems that excluding people from these goods is immoral, a form of discrimination against them in virtue of their disorders. On the other hand, were we to include such people in the responsibility community, we would also be doing something immoral, namely, unfairly or unjustly holding them to account for things that simply aren’t their fault, but are instead attributable to their disorders. In this talk, I aim to explain and respond to these opposed moral worries by drawing from resources in the philosophy of psychiatry and disability studies. I will explore what it might take to include those with mental disorders in the responsibility community, starting with a medical model of disability and then turning to a version of the social model of disability. Both are found wanting. I will then suggest an alternative understanding of the relation between the interpersonal community and the responsibility community that may well do the trick.