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Durham University

School of Government & International Affairs

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Jessica Begon

Begon, Jessica (2018). Disability, Rationality, and Justice: Disambiguating Adaptive Preferences. In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Disability. Wasserman, David T. & Cureton, Adam Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Author(s) from Durham


Is disability disadvantageous? Although many assume it is paradigmatically so, many disabled individuals disagree. Whom should we trust? On the one hand, pervasive mistrust of already underrepresented groups constitutes a serious epistemic injustice. Yet, on the other, individuals routinely adapt to mistreatment and deprivation and claim to be satisfied. If we take such “adaptive preferences” (APs) at face value, then injustice and oppression may not be recognized or rectified. Thus, we must achieve a balance between taking individuals’ preferences and self-assessment as definitive, and ignoring them entirely. Furthermore, current accounts of APs suffer from an ambiguity: are APs an unreliable guide to individuals’ interests, or to just policy? This chapter argues that we should distinguish between those that are unreliable in the former sense (“well-being APs”), and the latter (“justice APs”). Although all APs are nonautonomous, only well-being APs are irrational. Thus, preferences may be diagnosed as unreliable from the perspective of justice without impugning individuals’ rational capacities.