The very human ideot : Locke's Essay, Darwin's Descent, and the disruptive power of intellectual disability

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2010
Full metadata record
Files in This Item:
Filename Description Size
Thumbnail01Front.pdf3.42 MB
Adobe PDF
Thumbnail02Whole.pdf186.71 MB
Adobe PDF
Innate maxims, John Locke declared in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), cannot exist because children and people with intellectual disability (whom he called ideots) do not show evidence of knowing such maxims. This thesis argues that, for very good reason, ideots were Locke's prime evidence against the then current belief that God implanted, pre-birth, maxims and principles that became the basis of all human knowledge. Teasing out the differences Locke made between ideots, changelings and monsters, this thesis also discusses the contribution of people with disability to Locke's argument that species, such as Man/human, are, like the words that represent them, Jargely conventional rather than natural, essential or immutable. One hundred and seventy years after Locke, Charles Darwin published his work on evolution in humans. He, like Locke , included repeated references to people with intellectual disability in The Descent of Man (1871) , and its companion piece , The Expression of Emotions (1872). This thesis argues that the motivation and effect of Darwin's inclusion of people with intellectual disability were vastly different from Locke's, both in relation to people with intellectual disability themselves , and , importantly , to the understanding of who should, and should not, be included in the species, human, particularly over the longer term. Darwin has been regularly criticised for the use of analogy rather than evidence; in this thesis I argue that his use of people with intellectual disability was indeed analogy, and fa llacious analogy at that. Whether or not Darwin himself approved of eugenics , what he left us with was effectively an ' eugenic man' - a single, male, adult as the measure of who it is could, and should, survive. This thesis concludes that a recuperation of the diverse humankind that Locke considered in the Essay is an intellectual, and social, imperative.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: