Date of Award

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Nataliya Palatnik

Committee Members

Stan Husi, Joshua Spencer


Disability rights activists and recent work in the philosophy of disability defend the mere-difference view: a physical disability does not, by itself, make a disabled person worse off. This view poses a problem for Philippa Foot’s (2001) Neo-Aristotelian account of practical reason. Foot’s view is committed to: (i) what is required for human flourishing is a source of normative reasons, and (ii) physical capacities are required for human flourishing. This implies that there is a reason to act because a physical capacity is required for human flourishing. I apply Shepherd’s (2020) mere-difference view of disability to argue that (ii) is false. Some physical capacities are not required for human flourishing. This is because some physical capacities and disabilities are neither intrinsically good or bad. Foot’s view thus makes false predictions about what reasons for action there are - it overgenerates reasons. This is a major problem for any view of practical reason. I suggest rejecting the aspect of Foot’s view responsible for (ii). That feature is: natural-historical judgments, a core feature of paradigmatic versions of Neo-Aristotelian Naturalism.

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