Those different from us : ethical thoughts arising from disability and difference

Knapp van Bogaert, Donna (1999-12)

Thesis (MPhil) -- University of Stellenbosch, 1999.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: This assignment grapples with ethical aspects concerning those disabled, 'abnormal', visibly different living in a Procrustean society where to be visibly different is to be marginalised. In the first section, creating narratives, I introduce the reader to The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick. The purpose of this introduction is to create a bond between the reader and the disfigured subject, to give a human face to one who is deformed. In the second section I place Merrick, deformed and disabled, in the status quo position of the slippery slope argument: we prohibit the killing of deformed or disabled members of our society. But are there any reasons why this position should be maintained? To answer this question I pivot the arguments of Professor Peter Singer, challenging this position and identify complaints rising from disabled agents concerning his hiring by Princeton University. Because the emotional arguments focus on the claim that if the acceptance of Singer's stance is accepted, then the result will be eugenics, personified in another Holocaust, I explore the eugenics movement. Finally, I conclude that Singer does not advocate the killing of disabled humans who live their lives in accordance to their wishes. Yet, I caution that to avoid the final moral degradation in the emotive form of the slippery slope argument we must realise with Foucault: "My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not the same as being bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apathy but to a hyper and pessimistic activism."

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie opdrag worstel met die etiese aspekte aangaande die kwessie van diegene wat gestremd, abnormaal en sigbaar verskillend lyk, maar wat leef in 'n Procrustiaanse samelewing waar diegene wat duidelik verskillend is, gemarginaliseer word. In die eerste deel van die opdrag stel ek die leser bekend aan die Olifantman (The Elephant Man), Joseph Merrick. Die doel van hierdie inleiding is om 'n band te smee tussen die leser en die misvormde (verminkte) subjek, met die doel om 'n menslike gesig te gee aan die misvormde individu. In die tweede deel plaas ek 'n misvormde en gebreklike Merrick in die status quo posisie van die slippery slope-argument, naamlik dat ons die doodmaak van misvormde en gestremde lede van die samelewing verbied. Is daar egter enige redes waarom hierdie posisie gehandhaaf behoort te word? In antwoord op hierdie vraag, fokus ek op die argumente van Peter Singer, daag ek in die proses sy posisie uit en identifiseer klagtes wat na yore gebring is deur gestremde individue, na aanleiding van sy aanstelling by die Universiteit van Princeton. Die emosionele argumente fokus op die aanspraak dat eugenetika of rasverbetering die gevolg sal wees indien Singer se posisie aanvaar word. In die lig van hierdie argumente ondersoek ek dus die eugenetiese beweging. My gevolgtrekking is dat Singer nie voorstel dat gestremde mense wat hulle lewe volgens hulle eie wense lewe, doodgemaak word nie. Om egter die finale morele degradasie, in die emotiewe vorm van die slippery slope-argument, te vermy, moet ons saam met Foucault besef: "My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not the same as being bad If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apathy but to a hyper and pessimistic activism. "

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