Volume 2, 2022
Ally Peabody Smith
How Should (and Shouldn’t) We Think About Profound Intellectual Disability?
Many accounts of the grounds for human moral standing rely on the possession of higher-order capacities of mind that serve as status-conferring attributes, to the exclusion of those with significant intellectual impairments. Interconnectedly, our relationships with those with profound intellectual disability (PID) remain beneath their potential. Taking as a starting point Peter Singer’s graduated account of moral status, its assumptions about PID, and its implications for what we owe those with PID, I argue that rather than conceptualizing PIDs as severe cognitive deficit, we should characterize them as disabilities marked by the impossibility of successful, mutual linguistic communication. Considering existing relationships between non-PID and PID pairs, I center the potential for atypical forms of communication. I close with the beginnings of a more extensionally adequate grounds for moral status, where moral standing is a product of one’s being able to participate in the shared activity of developing and deepening relationships.