Response: Making yourself useful

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In this essay I reply to Stanley Hauerwas’ reading of my book, Life as We Know It, by way of engaging Hauerwas’ critique of Enlightenment humanism, and, more specifically, the Kantian categorical imperative. I argue that Hauerwas is mistaken to claim that “humanism cannot help but think that, all things considered, it would be better if [the mentally handicapped] did not exist,” even as I agree in part with his trenchant critique of my own work and of the widely-accepted Kantian proposition that human beings should treat each other as ends in themselves, never as means to an end. Finally, I defend my antifoundationalist formulation of moral “obligation” with regard to persons with mental disabilities against Hauerwas’s Christian critique thereof by noting that even Hauerwas, at a critical juncture of his argument, relies on a pragmatist, antifoundationalist understanding of what it means to “help” other humans-and what it means to make oneself useful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-36
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Religion, Disability and Health
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Rehabilitation
  • Religious studies
  • Law


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