Date of Completion


Thesis Type

College of Arts and Science Honors



First Advisor

Tyler Doggett


disability, mere-difference, bad-difference, well-being, ethics


The objective of this thesis is to evaluate and defend the mere-difference view of disability. In order to do this, I will first review Elizabeth Barnes’s argument for a moderate social-constructivist understanding of disability. I will then review her presentation of the mere-difference view, and formally introduce a common and perhaps powerful objection to it—that it has unacceptable implications. Next, I will review some of Barnes’s responses to one of this objection’s common forms. I will then discuss objections raised against Barnes’s responses—specifically, those raised by Guy Kahane and Julian Savulescu, along with Vuko Andrić and Joachim Wündisch—before offering my own responses to these objections. Finally, I will broadly review additional objections that may be raised against the mere-difference view and offer additional responses. It is my aim to defend the position that disability is something which, in terms of well-being, is neither necessarily good, nor necessarily bad. Rather, that disability is a mere-difference; that it is, itself, a kind of difference which is neutral with regard to its effect on well-being.