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The Stony Brook University Department of Philosophy is hosting a conference on “Cognitive Disability: A Challenge to Moral Philosophy.” The conference features a fantastic group of speakers and panelists. Those who are interested in this topic should definitely consider attending.

Date: September 18 – 20, 2008
Place: Stony Brook Manhattan 401 Park Avenue South (Between 27th and 28th Street)
Description: The realities of cognitive disability pose a significant challenge to certain key conceptions philosophers have held. Philosophers have conceived of the mark of humanity as the possession of rational cognitive capacities. They have traditionally extended the mantles of equality, dignity, justice, responsibility, and moral fellowship to those with these abilities, whom they speak of as “persons.” What then should we say about those with severe cognitive disabilities? How should we treat these individuals and what sorts of entitlements can they claim? Should we grant the arguments of some philosophers who want to parse our moral universe in ways that depend on degrees of cognitive capacity, not on being human? How do claims for the moral consideration of animals bear on the question? Is it morally acceptable to consign some human beings to the status of “non-persons”? Philosophers have rarely faced these questions squarely and systematically.

Keynote Speakers:
Michael Bérubé (Pennsylvania State University)
Leslie Francis (University of Utah)
Ian Hacking (Collège de France, University of Toronto)
Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago)
Peter Singer (Princeton University)
Jeff McMahan (Rutgers University)
Anita Silvers (San Francisco State University)
Daniel Wikler (Harvard University School of Public Health)
Jonathan Wolff (University College London)

Douglas Biklen (School of Education and Facilitated Communication Institute, Syracuse University)
Jeffrey Brosco, M.D. (University of Miami and the Mailman Center for Child Development)
Licia Carlson (Harvard University)
James C. Harris, M.D. (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine)
Agnieszka Jaworska (University of California, Riverside)
Bruce Jennings (Yale University School of Medicine)
Eva Kittay (Stony Brook University/SUNY)
Hilde Lindemann (Michigan State University)
Victoria McGeer (Princeton University)
James Nelson (Michigan State University)
Henry Richardson (Georgetown University)
Cynthia Stark (University of Utah)
David Shoemaker (Bowling Green State University)
Anna Stubblefield (Rutgers University, Newark)
Sophia Wong (Long Island University)

For additional information see
For questions contact

Co-sponsored by The Center for Discovery, New York University Center for Bioethics, and Metaphilosophy (Wiley-Blackwell), the Office of the Provost at Stony Brook University/SUNY, Forest Laboratories. Also NYC AHRC, Alzheimer’s Association, College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University, Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University, Philosophy Department at Southern Connecticut State University, Templeton Research Lecture Series at Stony Brook University, S. Donald Sussmann, The Abelson Company

For disability-related accommodation contact Licia Carlson at (617) 496-4349. Stony Brook University/SUNY is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.


  1. 1. Posted by Rob Wilson | December 27, 2008 12:47 am

    For those who are interested, there is now a series of posts at the What Sorts blog ( each of which features a short clip from the podcasts together with a commentary. The focus in the posts so far has been on Peter Singer’s talk, and on questions by Naomi Scheman and Adrienne Asch after Jeff McMahan’s talk. The posts will run every Tuesday and Friday for the next month or so, and are likely to cover a broad range of themes from the conference. Post so far are:

    Peter Singer on Parental Choice, Disability, and Ashley X
    Singer’s Assault on Universal Human Rights
    What are the Deep Facts about our Moral Status?
    The Ethics of Exclusion, the Morality of Abortion, and Animals

    You can find the whole series using the category “Thinking in Action” to search at the What Sorts blog.

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