Narrative Ethics and Vulnerability: Kristeva and Ricoeur on Interdependence

Elizabeth Purcell


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.



Kristeva; Disability; Narrative; Personhood

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