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Disability and Normalcy Of Experience

Updated: Feb 23

A big fish enjoing the water surface

After attending an online philosophy course about pure idealism (the absence of any physicality), I, as a physicalist, have come to a possible truth about the concept of disability. Since we humans are limited beings, like in our various capabilities, it is safe to assume that many of our limitations are in fact disabilities, even if we are functioning, average, or above average individuals.

How are all of us disabled? If we are to take a look at a textbook-disabled person, some of them are only disabled in comparison to someone else, or more specifically, the archetype of what a normal human being is and what normalcy entails. However, if most people, if not everyone, had the same disability as the person in question, would we be considered disabled... or normal? After all, the premise about disability is that one who has it cannot function as much as the relative "normal" archetype.

If we were all blind, for example, that would not necessarily be considered a disability as it is today, simply because it would be the "norm" to not see. Bats are blind as well, but their blindness is insufficient for them to be considered disabled. After all, all bats are blind (correct me if I am wrong).

What about fish? They are confined to bodies of water, just as some of the disabled are confined to their wheelchairs. However, a fish does not need to breathe air in order to be a "normal" fish. In some way, we humans are also confined to any place with air, which means we are unable to swim or be in outer space for a long time without appropriate equipment. Even if we cannot, the mere fact that we are unable, renders us in a way, to be disabled.

In other words, whether you have no human-relative disabilities or not, you are still disabled—all because you are, by existence, confined as we all are. The difference between a "truly" disabled person and someone else is that the latter is as disabled as any human is, while the former is not.

Therefore, the only way to be completely not-unable is to reach omnipotence—to, in theory, be capable of doing anything, should the opportunity strike. However, because that is impossible, we are all confined to a degree.

If a cat were able to hear like a human, it would be considered as someone who suffers from a hearing deficiency, as it is not usual for a cat to hear this lowly as a human. It is not a way to condescend over people, but it is known that a cat's array of senses is far greater than that of a normal human. Thus, they are less "disabled" than we are.

Likewise, should an alien species, capable of flying in the air solely with the power of their minds, integrate fully with our own civilization, then eventually, to be a human would be considered a "disability" just as being autistic or deaf will. Why? Because eventually it would be normal to fly without the assistance of vehicles.

Pure humans, who are unable to do so, might be considered as something, like, "aerodynamically disabled", even though pure humans did not change during the process of integration. And therefore, airplanes might be equal to wheelchairs in this scenario.

How is it all related to the course you took? We are all disabled in a sense that we are confined to our consciousness. We cannot perceive nor experience anything without the minion that is the mind. Because of that, some thinkers may believe that there is, in fact, no such thing as the "physical reality", just as the solipsist will tell you that only they exist. Why? It's not that they are mentally ill or handicapped just for having these beliefs—after all, who can truly say what lies beyond our subjective experience?

Hence why the mind is like a lifelong caretaker that gives you the newspaper every morning, as you cannot do so yourself. How can we know if the mind does not do things to said papers in some way? How can we know if they write whatever they want and give it to us under the guise of being an actual newspaper?

We do not know for certain, and hence why I am not surprised when I hear people concluding pure idealism and solipsism, regardless of whether or not such perceptions are "normal".

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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