Equality, Capability and Neurodiversity

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Democratic Equality
Ethics and Political Philosophy
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The challenges of neurodiversity have been most directly explored in debate around the demands of equality in a democracy. The debate roughly divides into two camps: democratic equality and the capabilities approach. Neurodiverstiy raises at least one central question that helps to think through the debate over these two conceptions of equality: how do different capabilities and differing levels of ability affect the demands of equality in country that prides itself on having free and equal citizens? Democratic equality, with its overt focus citizen’s role as a citizen, pays insufficient attention to individual’s neurological and psychological differences. The capabilities approach provides a better place to start in our theorizing about neurodiversity. By focusing on what individuals can do with resources in a particular context, it incorporates human variation as a starting point in the justice debate. Two questions, however, loom large. First, recognizing human variation will make some less independent, how should we determine who gets included as an equal member in society? Second, what limits, if any, are there on how many resources can justly be spent on the project of attaining equality? I suggest our best current approach brings together elements from the capabilities framework, thereby adopting a better framework for capturing neurodiversity, and an institutional approach more readily aligned with democratic equality, providing resources for a principled limit on the demands of justice. Using this framework I briefly argue for a presumption of inclusion and present several considerations to mitigate the worry about limits.

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This is a post-print of “Equality, Capability and Neurodiversity” now published as Chapter 2 in Ethics and Neurodiversity, eds. C.D. Herrera & Alexandra Perry. (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2013): 39-51 and is published with permission of Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
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