Joel Michael ReynoldsSep 9, 2022
The Life Worth Living
Disability, Pain, and Morality
University of Minnesota Press 2022
The Life Worth Living: Disability, Pain, and Morality (U Minnesota Press, 2022) investigates the exclusion of and discrimination against disabled people across the history of Western moral philosophy. Building on decades of activism and scholarship, Joel Michael 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.
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.
Joel Michael Reynolds is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Disability Studies at Georgetown University, Senior Research Scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Senior Bioethics Advisor to The Hastings Center, Faculty Scholar of The Greenwall Foundation, and core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies Program. He is the founder of The Journal of Philosophy of Disability and co-founder of Oxford Studies in Disability, Ethics, and Society from Oxford University Press.
Dr. Reynolds’ work explores the relationship between bodies, values, and society. He is especially concerned with the meaning of disability, the issue of ableism, and how philosophical inquiry into each might improve the lives of people with disabilities and the justness of institutions ranging from medicine to politics. These concerns lead to research across a range of traditions and specialties, including philosophy of disability, applied ethics (especially biomedical ethics, public health ethics, tech/data ethics, and ELSI research in genomics), 20th c. European and American philosophy (with an emphasis on phenomenology and pragmatism as practiced in connection with the history of philosophy), and social epistemology (particularly issues of epistemic injustice as linked to social ontology).
Autumn Wilke works in higher education as an ADA coordinator and diversity officer and is also an author and doctoral candidate with research/topics related to disability and higher education.