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Fascinating stuff - I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks, Ray and Shelley!

Shelley Tremain

Thanks for the love, Komarine! :) <3


Excellent interview, Ray! I wanted to share a thought that (I think) resonates with thoughts about love, and then ask you to say a bit more about what love looks like in the relevant circumstance. The thought occurred to me while I was discussing issues of freedom and agency with a group of incarcerated men, and thinking about the kinds of bodies that come out of prisons. But I think the point probably generalizes to the kinds of disabilities that you've been thinking about in the context of love. As Foucault noted, people are much easier to control when you break down bonds of dependency and isolate them, forcing them to turn their attention inward on strategies of self-policing. But people who isolate in this way, and have their social scaffolding dismantled, often seem (unsurprisingly) to have a hard time building back up bonds of love, structures of mutual aid and support, and patterns of dependence with the people they love. So I'm wondering if you can say something about whether love is just a matter of formulating the right (neuro-relavent) expectations toward the people we love, or whether there's a forward-looking component as well, where lovers should attempt to shape and transform the conditions under which they collectively form expectations. In the case I raise, for example, I wonder if the right aim is to formulate expectations that are consistent with where a partner is, but to then actively work to re-build structures of mutual aid and support, and patterns of interdependence. Maybe that's too big of a question; and I have no idea what that process would actually look like. But I find your thoughts on love, here and elsewhere, amazingly powerful for opening up new ways of thinking about things!

Audrey Yap

Thank you so much, Ray and Shelley, for the extremely interesting interview and your work as activists and philosophers.

Shelley Tremain

hi Audrey, thanks for the kind remarks. Ray is busy at the moment, but has indicated to me that he will happily respond to comments and questions later today.
yours in struggle, Shelley :)

Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò

Thanks Ray and Shelley! Ray, I wanted to ask you if you are of the opinion that there is a connection between the point that you raised about the Eurocentric preoccupation with "mixed-ness" and the phenomenology of invisibility? My attempt to work through it was something like - the failure to recognize groups outside of the typical domain on their own terms forces whatever little uptake their issues get to proceed based on distorting concepts that aren't really built for the job. That kind of distortion may just be a separate point, but I wonder what you think in any event. Thanks again.

Anne Waters (via Shelley Tremain)

Thanks so much Ray, for sharing, and Shelley, for your passionate work presenting these interviews for us all to read and learn from, and Bryce for his muchly appreciated assistance. And thank you Ray, also, for your considered judgment and uptake to my own interview. I find one of your statements, Ray, intriguing, and I quote: "Anyone who may think differently, speak differently, cognize differently, or solve problems differently than what is considered “normal” by some bureaucratic standard would find the test as troublesome and exclusionary as I did -" How might you problematize these same or similar barriers faced by our students who struggle with medical anxiety, depression, or PTSD issues, for example, when meeting various departmental challenges of the "competitive" environment with which faculty in the discipline of philosophy ensnare our being? I ask this because the problematic of competition within our profession, whether in graduate school, or at formal APA sessions or meetings, affects some challenged with ability issues, in ways those not so challenged, are not affected. I'm wondering if you have given this arena of invisible experience a thought, and whether you have experienced or noticed others experiencing this phenomenon? Again, thanks for sharing so much, Ray!”

Shelley Tremain

Thanks Femi and Anne for your kind remarks. I appreciate the support that these interviews get from other philosophers. I'm also tremendously grateful to the interviewees (including you, Anne!) who entrust me with their stories, their arguments, and their goals and dreams. I want also to extend my appreciation (again) to Bryce for the invaluable support that he gives me in the preparation of these interviews.

Shelley Tremain

In a couple of places in my interview with Ray, he explains that many people do not recognize inaccessibility because they likely do not associate with disabled people and (as he describes them) people with different embodiments than their own bodies and likely do not make efforts to understand the impact of inaccessibility. This failure to inform oneself about inaccessibility should be recognized as a form of epistemological ignorance. At this point in the history of the profession, it should be recognized as a form of willful ignorance, including on the part of the APA. I have published a number of items on the inaccessibility of the APA, as well as the exclusion of disabled philosophers from the profession more generally. If you want to become informed about these matters, please go to my page and read my articles "Introducing Feminist Philosophy of Disability" and "Disabling Philosophy" (especially, though other articles that I have published will also provide background to the hostile environment that disabled philosophers confront in the profession). My page is here:

Ray Aldred

Wow! There is so much to respond to here, but also so much thoughtful questions, so thank you all for those. I plan to reply to much more, but I will begin with Komarine, Audrey, and Bryce.

First, thanks Komarine and Audrey for the positive comments.

Bryce: Your question is really interesting, and something that I haven't thought about. In regards to what you said about Foucault, I'm not entirely sure how we want to unpack what he said about breaking bonds of dependency, isolating, and forcing individuals to inward police themselves, but there are a few promising ways to think about it. I think this dismantling of support can come in a few ways, but I think the most obvious way would be in regards to how much social support is given to PTSD victims, particularly of sexual assault. I'm sure there is some literature out there that suggests that those with trauma conditions struggle to find support for their mental health in the form of good therapists, medication and doctors. It's also not uncommon for survivors to struggle to find understanding allies in a culture that generally distrusts them, or downplays their significance, but finding these allies and friends is often necessary for making therapeutic progress. I haven't thought too deeply what this implies for romantic love, but I think there might be some institutional antecedents that can frustrate those who experience trauma conditions from finding and sustaining love. My work, thus far has only highlighted some of the philosophical arguments, beliefs and attitudes that might inform those antecedents, but hasn't really explored the institutions that reinforce particular forms of romantic love and intimacy. I suspect that these romantic institutions would also play a role in ensuring certain disabled people or social deviants are frustrated in finding love or intimacy, and sustaining it. That would certainly add an additional layer into my research, but is also part of a larger project.

There might be something interesting to said about your remarks about future intentions and goals in romantic love. It seems pretty common for lovers to form and mesh plans and goals, and these actions seem to be future directed. One thing you might consider, however, is that individuals who experience trauma conditions often struggle to formulate these goals or remain in the present, due to their preoccupation with the traumatic events in their past. Again, this isn't necessarily bad, it seems pretty natural, given the nature of the events. I'm not sure if this adds an additional complication or an additional consideration about what you said about love and the future, but it might have some implications.

Ray Aldred

Thanks for the comment, Olúfẹ́mi. You raise a really interesting line of inquiry regarding the relationship between the phenomonology of invisibility and the eurocentric preoccupation with mixedness. I hadn't really thought of this relationship prior to the interview, but I suppose there might be. Certainly what you highlight might have something to do with phenomonology of invisibility, because certain groups were not engaged on their own terms. But I'm not sure how it relates to the eurocentric preoccupation with mixedness. To clarify, what I meant was that the idea of races mixing was a particular concern among European individuals for a long time, during colonization. When a child was born from these mixed couplings, it was unclear how governmental bodies could classify these individuals, and what rights they had, which likely caused a lot of social anxiety. In addition, how particular groups of people were classified was controlled by individuals that were not themselves in that particular group; it was usually governmental bodies that had the final judgment about it. I'm still unclear how this preoccupation with mixedness interacts with the phenomenology of invisibility, but I'm quite sure that it does. For example, consider the fact that if a native woman married a European man, it used to be the case that she would be no longer be considered native and she would no longer have treaty rights --by the Canadian Indian Act. As a result, her children would also no longer be recognized as native. One can almost sense the anxiety individuals had about mixing, when one reads legislation like this! Moreover, it appears to be a concentrated effort to eliminate certain identities and cultures, by assimilating them into the rest of Canada, through legislation and policies.

Julie Maybee

Thanks so much for a great interview and discussion, Ray and Shelley!! Fantastic!

I wanted to ask you, Ray, about another possible problem with romantic love. My work in African philosophy has often made me think that the emphasis on romantic love is a peculiarly Western invention and obsession. In other societies with other social arrangements, it seems to me, romantic love may be the least common and least important form of intimacy. I wonder if there are different forms of intimacy, and if the standard, "normalized," as you suggest, image of romantic love in the West is just one version of intimacy. After reading your interview, I also wondered if there might even be kinds of intimacies fostered by other social arrangements that might be more friendly for people with PTSD or who are in other ways not neurotypical. Do you have any thoughts about the idea that romantic love is a particular cultural bias, or about other kinds of intimacy and how they may (or may not) be helpful for people?

Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò

Thanks for the response, Ray! How mixedness intersects with the policies governing who is officially classified as what strikes me as the place to look as well. My hunch is that, per your example, one thing 'mixed-ness' does is force people into the situation of deciding what to see. It's interesting how the One Drop Rule in the US was the exact reverse of the Canadian Indian Act, and seems to fit a hunch I have, but I'll have to do some more reading. Cheers.

Ray Aldred

Anne: I'm so glad your inquiry went in this direction, because I have thought about the areas that you highlight. When I had mentioned the GRE and my experiences at the APA conference, my intention was to suggest that there is a much broader point that can be made about these experiences. The quote you pulled was from my experience with the GRE. Regarding the GRE, this standardized test is supposed to correlate with success in graduate school, and future success in academia. While in graduate school you are likely expected to think a particular way, talk a particular way, cognize a particular way, and perhaps even solve problems in a particular way. So while this test is exclusionary towards disabled people, I was also hoping to suggest that there are features in graduate school, and academia that are exclusionary in this way too.

So, yes, I do think that there are individuals with anxiety, PTSD and other conditions who will likely experience the competitive atmosphere in philosophy and academia as hostile. However, I would not terminate this critique at the simple fact that academia is competitive. I would argue that the form the environment takes is particularly slanted against disabled people, to the point where they are prevented from actually being able to participate and succeed fairly. For example, as I highlighted in the interview, a person like myself does not succeed without support from multiple individuals. As a severely disabled individual, I also require assistance from caregivers on occasion (many of these also include my friends and colleagues). Caregiving, for me, is a joint project that allows me to realize my intentions, and desires with the help of other agents. Caregiving also happens more frequently and is more necessary when I'm in environments that are not made with my embodiment in mind. It is my contention that academia needs to be something like a caregiving and collaborative environment for me to succeed and flourish.

The sort of environment I need to succeed does not happen in ones that are overly competitive. In an environment that is overly competitive, those who experience invisibility simply slip through the cracks. They slip through the cracks, because competitive environments tend to be adversarial, in contrast to those that are collaborative. Rather than being helped to realize my intentions, in a competitive environment I would likely not receive help or support, and not acknowledged. For example, some departments(not mine) I've heard of are so competitive that graduate students need to assertively compete for the attention of their supervisors. In an environment like that, someone like myself --and I'm sure many other disabled people-- could not flourish.

I imagine many individuals with anxiety conditions and those who experience PTSD would likely flourish in collaborative environments too, and would be particularly frustrated by competitive ones. I'll leave my reply at that for now, but I think I agree with you that there are certain problems with competitive academic environments for disabled persons. Moreover, whether an environment is collaborative or competitive has consequences for how that ignorance is understood and handled. In competitive environments, individuals are expected to make their problems known, and the onus is often on them to make their experiences understood by those who are ignorant; and sometimes requests for accommodation are met with suspicion or are perceived as threatening. In collaborative environments, this ignorance is problematized by all parties and individuals work jointly together, while ideally responding to each party's needs and embodiment.

Shelley Tremain

Ray, in describing your exclusion at the Pacific APA last Spring, you said that your "experiences highlight the fact that significant improvements are urgently needed if philosophy is to be considered inclusive of disabled people."

What improvements do you think must be made to the APA, the profession, and the discipline in order for them to be considered inclusive of disabled philosophers and other disabled people? (Please feel free to respond with respect to your own situation specifically, or about disabled philosophers in general, or both!).

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