cover of book

The Life Worth Living: Disability, Pain, and Morality
by Joel Michael Reynolds
University of Minnesota Press, 2022
Cloth: 978-1-5179-0265-0 | Paper: 978-1-5179-0778-5
Library of Congress Classification HV1568.R48 2022
Dewey Decimal Classification 362.4


A philosophical challenge to the ableist conflation of disability and pain


More than 2,000 years ago, Aristotle said: “let there be a law that no deformed child shall live.” This idea is alive and well today. During the past century, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. argued that the United States can forcibly sterilize intellectually disabled women and philosopher Peter Singer argued for the right of parents to euthanize certain cognitively disabled infants. The Life Worth Living explores how and why such arguments persist by investigating the exclusion of and discrimination against disabled people across the history of Western moral philosophy.

Joel Michael Reynolds argues that this history demonstrates a fundamental mischaracterization of the meaning of disability, thanks to the conflation of lived experiences of disability with those of pain and suffering. Building on decades of activism and scholarship in the field, Reynolds shows how longstanding views of disability are misguided and unjust, and he lays out a vision of what an anti-ableist moral future requires.

The Life Worth Living is the first sustained examination of disability through the lens of the history of moral philosophy and phenomenology, and it demonstrates how lived experiences of disability demand a far richer account of human flourishing, embodiment, community, and politics in philosophical inquiry and beyond.

Nearby on shelf for Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology / Protection, assistance and relief / Special classes: