Narrative Ethics and Vulnerability: Kristeva and Ricoeur on Interdependence


  • Elizabeth Purcell Boston College



Kristeva, Disability, Narrative, Personhood


The character and extent of disabilities, especially cognitive disability, have posed significance problems for existing moral theories. Certain philosophers have even questioned the moral personhood of people with disabilities and have argued that people with profound cognitive impairments should not be granted the same moral status as those who are cognitively able-bodied. This paper proposes an alternative understanding of moral personhood as relational rather than individuated. This relational moral personhood finds its foundation in the clinical practice and psychoanalysis of Julia Kristeva and the hermeneutic narrative identity of Paul Ricoeur. One consequence of this relational personhood is a new understanding of moral status through narrative co-authorship rather than intellectual or social capacity. Another consequence is a refiguration of narrative identity as narrative interdependence.


Author Biography

Elizabeth Purcell, Boston College

Elizabeth Purcell is a new PhD graduate from Boston College in philosophy and is currently a Lecturer at SUNY-Cortland, specializing in Ethics, the Philosophy of Disability, and Feminism.  Her dissertation, entitled Flourishing Bodies: Disability, Virtues, and Happiness, focuses on the intersection of disability studies and virtue ethics.  She has published variously on these topics in professional journals, including articles at Radical Philosophy Review and Religion and the Arts.  She has also received national attention, appearing in Glamour magazine and has been interviewed by the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Laura Sessions-Stepp, for her work in feminism and innovative teaching pedagogy.