Volume 28, 2012
Freedom, Religion, and Gender
A Philosophical Investigation
Interrogating Practices and Beliefs about Disability
Sometimes beliefs that are shared are treated as if they are knowledge in spite of a lack of evidence or even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Beliefs informed by prejudices and ignorance about people with disabilities are often treated as certain and reinforced by social practices. In this paper, I distinguish between knowledge claims and beliefs that are treated as if they are true. I use Wittgenstein’s account of the connection between epistemic and other social practices in On Certainty to consider how it is possible to change beliefs about disability. I draw on Naomi Scheman’s “Forms of life: Mapping the Rough Ground” to consider political applications of Wittgenstein’s thought. I use a Wittgensteinian framework to critique Peter Singer’s claims regarding the lives of disabilities in Practical Ethics. I draw attention to the ways in which unjustified beliefs about disability can inform and be reified through social practices. Likewise, changes in social practices can dislodge common ableist beliefs about disability.