Valuing Profoundly Disabled People: Fellowship, Community and Ties of Birth, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Valuing Profoundly Disabled People

Fellowship, Community and Ties of Birth, 1st Edition

By John Vorhaus


172 pages

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Growing numbers of human beings live with profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities. Exploring the moral, social and political implications of this trend, Valuing Profoundly Disabled People addresses questions that are high on policy and practice agendas in numerous regions around the world, including the UK and the EU, the USA, and Australasia.

In this important work Vorhaus examines fundamental moral and social questions about profound disability, and each chapter combines a comprehensive review of existing literature with thought-provoking and original philosophical arguments. Vorhaus argues that there is a pressing need to consider the moral and political claims of people whose lives are characterised by extensive impairments, dependency and vulnerability. The book prompts readers to reflect on complex issues relating to the practices of caring, teaching and treating people with profound disabilities in contexts such as education, health care and social policy.

Providing a much-needed contribution to the field, this book will be of interest to postgraduates, academics and researchers in a number of distinct and interrelated fields, including disability and impairment, human rights, philosophy, sociology, health and social policy, and education. The book will also be of great interest to practitioners and policymakers seeking to promote the aims of realising human potential and respecting disability.


‘In this clearly and crisply written work on significant cognitive disability and philosophy, John Vorhaus lays out the central issues in an accessible manner without sacrificing philosophical precision. Along with his keen observations and insights he gives us real cases to learn from as we debate the core philosophical issues raised by cognitive disability. He thereby provides a sort of "empirical philosophy," one which disengages from empty speculation and bases its arguments on the actual voices of carers who must speak both for themselves and those who simply cannot speak for themselves.’ - Eva Feder Kittay, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Stony Brook University, NY, USA

‘Vorhaus’ book affirms the importance of taking seriously the complex, embodied lives of people with profound cognitive disabilities. In exploring the meaning of dignity, respect, dependency, and citizenship, Vorhaus places disability at the center of fundamental questions about justice and the moral community. Against a philosophical backdrop that has too often marginalized and discounted people with profound disabilities, this book serves as an invitation and an exhortation to reflect upon what it means to share in a common, human life.’ – Licia Carlson, Professor of Philosophy, Providence College, Providence, RI, USA

‘In this "must-read" monograph, John Vorhaus examines important philosophical arguments bearing on whether profoundly disabled people can benefit from the growing public policy effort to extend ordinary social opportunity to disabled persons. In addition to his strong grasp of the relevant literature in ethics, political philosophy, and ontology, Vorhaus brings evidence, insight, and commitment from his empirical work with profoundly disabled individuals to this philosophical project. The pioneering picture that emerges acknowledges a variety of philosophical approaches, including a carefully and insightfully crafted one that is Vorhaus’ own original contribution.’Anita Silvers, Professor and Chair, Philosophy Department, San Francisco State University, CA, USA

Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. Our Fellow Creatures

3. Sharing in a Common Life

4. Respect and Identification

5. Human Dignity

6. Capability, Functioning and Freedom

7. Dependency

8. Citizenship: the Right to Vote

9. Our Fellow Creatures Revisited

10. Afterword

Appendix: The Right to Vote: The United States and Australia



About the Author

John Vorhaus is Professor of Moral and Educational Philosophy at University College London, Institute of Education, UK. His research focuses on the moral and political status of vulnerable groups of people, including people with disabilities and dementia. He published Giving Voice to Profound Disability in 2015 (Routledge).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Special Education / Physical Disabilities
EDUCATION / Philosophy & Social Aspects
PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy