Senior Research Scholar Sean Aas recently published a new co-authored paper in the Journal of Moral Philosophy. Titled Disability and Fair Equality of Opportunity, authors Aas and Wasserman argue that the contribution of social factors to disability can play a significant role in theorizing about justice: not in making all disability-related disadvantages ipso-facto unjust, but rather in giving the elimination or mitigation of many of those disadvantages higher priority in a just society.
This argument leads to defense of a view of disability injustice that is doubly social: first, because such injustice arises from the structure of social relations, not from biological properties of individuals alone; second, because they should be addressed first and foremost by modifying those structures, not by modifying individuals.
The abstract for the paper:
This paper examines the moral import of a distinction between natural and social inequalities. Following Thomas Nagel, it argues for a “denatured” distinction that relies less on the biological vs. social causation of inequalities than on the idea that society is morally responsible for some inequalities but not others. It maintains that securing fair equality of opportunity by eliminating such social inequalities has particularly high priority in distributive justice. Departing from Nagel, it argues that society can be responsible for inequalities not only when they are the unintended result of justifiable projects, but even when their alleviation would be very costly. Sharing Nagel’s general concept of ‘social inequality’, then, this paper proposes a far more expansive conception. We argue that many disadvantages due to disability fall under this conception. Eliminating or alleviating those disadvantages should be regarded as securing fair equality of opportunity, not improving the condition of the worst-off.