Breaking the Chains of Social Isolation! (Major post 1)

In Astra Taylor’s documentary Examined Life, viewers are exposed to eight individuals willing to share their different exhilarating concepts on life.  The different factors varying from physical disability to caste influences each philosoper’s  ideas, and how these concepts and examinations were brought about from  their everyday routines on subjects ranging from cultural theory to moral philosophy.

Despite all of the remarkable philosophers presented in Astra Taylor’s film, the most fascinating concept  to me would have to be Judith Butler’s ideals on our culture’s fixation on individualism. Butler states that having physical accessibility for disabled citizens creates a social accessibility; this being a form of acceptance for those with a disability, allowing them to break away from their isolation and interact with the world.

What interested me about this philosopher was that her concepts were the hardest for me to relate to. Nothing separates me from the other philosophers, but because the fact that Judith Butler has a disability, I will have more difficulty in trying to relate to her dilemma versus relating to the other philosophers’ ideals. Not only does her physical disability create a social barrier for her, but she also feels discomfort in doing things with body parts that they are not normally used for because of the normalizing standards that society has create for those body parts. This idea intertwines with her theory of physical accessibility creating social accessibility by contradicting the idea of the breaking down of social barriers for the disabled. She’s saying that society may be willing to help disabled citizens by giving them more access to their community, but in the process, disabled people are judged for doing handling their problems in an abnormal manner.

She then clarifies the distinction between having a disability versus having an impairment. Butler states that an impairment is its own unique embodiment, while a disability is the social repression of the impaired. This is interesting because I always thought of impaired and disabled as the same thing, but her concept exclaims that the social repressions of the impaired include limited housing options, no career opportunities, social isolation, and even cultural aversion.  This means that an impairment is the prognosis, and a disability is the disabling affects of society from having an impairment. Butler states that she feels an anxiety of being judged even when she orders coffee, an action that many people do daily. She states that in a way, her buying coffee and demanding help is like a political protest because help is something that we all need. This notion surprises me because I too am guilty of only helping a disabled person because of my sympathy, rather than having the mindset that helping a disabled person is a form of social equality. Butler also brings up the idea that the able-bodied person being self-sufficient is false because of the fact that we all live in an interdependent society.

Another hindrance that doesn’t only apply to disabled citizens but to everyone, is what we are allowed to do with our bodies. Butler believes that society’s normalizing standards for the functions of a body part isolates a set of capacities or set of actions for body parts, and we are assemblages of those things. This means that the way our bodies move have to be aligned accordingly to that of what society tells us how our bodies should move. Not only for those with a disability, but even gender: if a person who’s gender presentation doesn’t conform with standard ideas of femininity and masculinity. Society has appointed what we allow our bodies to be used for. Butler challenges individualism by examining what people decide are social issues.

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    • Apryl Berney
    • October 15th, 2011

    This essay does a really excellent job of engaging with the ideas expressed in Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor’s talk. While the essay provides a good engagement with those ideas, it did need to be a bit more precise in a number of places (i.e. Sunaura Taylor, not Judith Butler is the disabilities activist). Ultimately, this essay is quite good and grapples with one of the more difficult talks in the film, Examined Life. 88/100

    • Apryl Berney
    • October 15th, 2011

    Passed on IAT.

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