Moral imagination, disability and embodiment

Catriona Mackenzie, Jackie Leach Scully

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

41 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we question the basis on which judgements are made about the 'quality' of the lives of people whose embodied experience is anomalous, specifically in cases of impairments. In moral and political philosophy it is often assumed that, suitably informed, we can overcome epistemic gaps through the exercise of moral imagination: 'putting ourselves in the place of others', we can share their points of view. Drawing on phenomenology and theories of embodied cognition, and on empirical studies, we suggest that there are barriers to imagining oneself differently situated, or imagining being another person, arising in part from the way imagination is constrained by embodied experience. We argue that the role of imagination in moral engagement with others is to expand the scope of our sympathies rather than to enable us to put ourselves in the other's place. We argue for explicit acknowledgement that our assessments of others' QOL are likely to be shaped by the specifics of our own embodiment, and by the assumptions we make as a consequence about what is necessary for a good quality of life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-351
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of applied philosophy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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