Living Well: Mutual Vulnerability and the Virtue of Proper Interconnection
Philosophy of Disability
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractMost philosophical work on ethical questions concerning disability and impairment, human vulnerability and the cycles of life is found within feminist care ethics and the philosophy of disability. When it comes to eudaimonist virtue ethics, a discussion of such truths about our human condition usually falls within an account of external goods. Alasdair Macintyre's work is the most notable exception. In his book, Dependent Rational Animals, Macintyre argues that the cultivation of the virtues of acknowledged dependence is necessary for living a eudaimon life. Rather than focus, as Macintyre and some care ethicists do, on our often contingent dependence, I argue that it is a right orientation toward our interdependence which allows us to live with the vulnerabilities inherent in the human condition and live well. To that end, I put forward a hitherto unspecified virtue which I call Proper Interconnection and argue for its necessary role in sustaining human flourishing in an interdependent world. I establish that Proper Interconnection is a legitimate virtue in its own right by demonstrating that it meets the conditions which Rosalind Hursthouse in "Environmental Virtue Ethics," and Macintyre in After Virtue specify must be met in order for a trait to qualify as a virtue. In accordance with Hursthouse's conditions, I show that Proper Interconnection is a deep-seated disposition of character comprised of four cognitive and emotional components: recognition, compassion, acceptance and shared responsibility. Proper Interconnection is integral to the acquisition of practical wisdom, can be inculcated in children and plausibly fits within an account of human nature. Turning to Macintyre's conditions, I provide several examples from anthropology which I argue suggest that Proper Interconnection is both central to and helps sustain particular practices and traditions—such as the practice of hospitality and traditions of kinship. Macintyre argues that, just as the virtues help sustain practices and traditions, they also enable us to flourish by sustaining the integrity of our character and, by extension, our life narratives. We are both the authors of our lives and inextricably interconnected with those whose life narratives intertwine with our own. As our individual flourishing cannot exist apart from the flourishing of the whole, we cannot live an integrated life narrative by engaging in just any form of interconnection. We need to cultivate the virtue of Proper Interconnection, as we search and strive for both our own good and the good of humankind.
Degree ProgramGraduate College