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Thomas Nadelhoffer


Does being in chronic pain count as being disabled? Perhaps it would be easier to answer your question if we had a definition of disability on board. Another question: Do you think there are disabled philosophers who don't realize they are disabled philosophers? I only ask because I suspect that there are philosophers with certain mental disabilities (e.g., clinical depression, social anxiety, or even chronic pain) who don't consider themselves disabled. Whether they are will depend, in part, on the definition we adopt.



hi Thomas!

I seem to recall that we have been down this road before. :)
As you may recall, you and I hold very different conceptions of what disability is. I believe that I told you at the time that I am reluctant to tell someone that they are disabled if they don't think they are or don't identify in that way. I am however inclined to indicate to them how I think they are discriminated against, what they aren't getting that they should be, etc. as a way to make them think about how they self-identify. For example, in my Dialogues on Disability interview with Joshua Knobe, who indicated that he has never identified as disabled, I tried to point out ways in which, in my view, he clearly has been socially disadvantaged, telling him that I think he should identify as disabled.

When the question gets asked whether some conference, department, association includes/excludes disabled philosophers, the response is often to point out that many people are disabled that others wouldn't recognize as disabled, they don't outwardly look disabled, etc. But this sort of response actually seems to be a dismissal of sorts of the fact that many disabled people are excluded. So, I want to say: "Granted, but not everyone is like that. Where are the blind philosophers? Where are the philosophers with one arm? Where are the philosophers who use wheelchairs?"

Happy New Year,

Thomas Nadelhoffer


You focused on one aspect of my comment--namely, the self-identification issue. But I raised other issues as well--e.g., what counts as a disability for present purposes? I have lived in chronic pain for nearly my entire adult life and I have struggled with mental illness since I was a child. As such, I would consider myself disabled. I also think that these conditions go along with certain disadvantages (both personal and professional). So, I would consider myself to be a disabled philosopher.

But what if I just had chronic pain? Would that be sufficient? How severe would the pain need to be before we say it's disabling? The same can be said about depression vs. major depression. I ask these questions not as some kind of objection to your post or your views. I ask them because these are the sorts of questions that would need to be answered before one would be able to determine how many disabled colleagues they have. Indeed, I would need to answer these kinds of definitional and clarificatory questions to figure out whether I am a disabled philosopher! Whether I count will depend on the model.

That said, happy New Year to you as well!



Hi Thomas,
sorry if my response to your initial comment wasn't satisfactory to you. I am trying to finish a project and don't really want to spend a lot of time on the internet today.

I have responded to these questions from you in comments on a previous post that I wrote about the under-representation of disabled philosophers. I think the title of that post was very close to the title of this one, so you could probably find it in a search and see what I said in comments on that post. I recall that I disagreed with your assertion that we need a definition of what disability is and explained that I hold a different conception of what disability is than you do. I will not present a full-blown picture of my view. I will keep you in suspense until my book comes out. :)

Evelyn Wangari

Thanks for sharing this.


Hi Evelyn,

I'm so happy that you find the posts here compelling. Lots more to come! Please be sure to check out the Dialogues on Disability series that I wrote about in one of the posts you commented on. In the series, I interview a different disabled philosopher every month.


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