Dehumanizing the Cognitively Disabled: Commentary on David Livingstone Smith's Making Monsters

Eric Schwitzgebel and Amelie Green

in draft

According to Smith, "we dehumanize others when we conceive of them as subhuman creatures". In this commentary, we argue that caretakers of severely cognitively disabled adults frequently dehumanize their clients. Our argument is grounded in Green's personal observations of many interactions by many caretakers while she was growing up as the child of live-in caretakers in a small group home. Green directly witnessed patterns of abuse, as well as dehumanizing verbal representations, such as regularly using the pronoun "it" to describe clients. We explore the possibility that patterns of abuse arise from at least four underlying causes: convenience, sadism, dehumanization, and retaliation.

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