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Twins: An Exploration Of The Morality Of The Feelings Of Devotees

by J.

The following argument was elaborated to prove to those who are disgusted by the feelings of devotees, that they are, in fact, disgusted by people with physical impairments, and it is only because they are disgusted by such people that they can be disgusted by the feelings of devotees.

Suppose that there were twin sisters, Miranda and Matilda, accomplished, learned, good, loving, alike in every respect except one, the difference being that Miranda was an amputee. Of the two I would find Miranda the more attractive: most people would not; and because my opinion would be different from theirs they would find it odd, weird even; but it would disgust others only if they felt that Miranda's impairment somehow made her disgusting, disqualifying her from being a desirable partner for anyone except a pervert, because there would be nothing disgusting about my being attracted to Matilda, and the only difference between the two is that Miranda is an amputee.

At the core of the disgust must be the belief that her impairment makes Miranda disgusting in some sense. I don't believe that it is true that physical impairment makes a person disgusting and I don't believe that anybody can produce a logical argument to sustain the belief that it does. If you argue that my feelings are disgusting and that there is nothing disgusting about Miranda, the following is implied: I am attracted to Miranda, Miranda is not disgusting so there can be no reason why I shouldn't be attracted to her, so there can be nothing wrong with my feelings of attraction, and therefore I cannot be disgusting.

So if you believe that devotees are disgusting this logically entails that you believe amputees must also be.

Suppose that there were twin brothers, alike in every masculine virtue and in every respect except one: Miles shares my feelings about women who are amputees, but his brother Giles does not. For Miles, everything about Miranda is adorable, for Giles everything about Miranda is adorable except the fact that she is an amputee. Since they are indistinguishable in every other respect (except names) Miranda's feelings about herself will determine whom she prefers. If her sense of self-worth is not damaged by her impairment she will prefer Miles, if it is, she too will find Miles's feelings odd, weird, perhaps perverse, even disgusting, and prefer Giles.

This is a fairy-tale scenario designed to illustrate the choices available to the woman who is an amputee confronted with a suitor who is a devotee. Of course the woman would have preferred not to have become physically impaired, even a devotee would prefer that, but the impairment cannot be reversed, and both amputee and devotee have to live within the limits that life imposes.

The question that I pose is this: What is disgusting in principle about Miles's feelings, and his courtship of Miranda, or about my feelings? Ought Miranda to prefer Giles's acceptance of her despite her impairment, to Miles's rejoicing in every aspect of her being? I do not believe she should unreserved attraction seems to me to be more valuable than grudging acceptance. But some, perhpaps many people with impairments might disagree, and so might Miranda.

Why, then, might Miranda prefer Giles? The question is easily answered. Some people who are physically impaired feel ashamed of their impaired bodies. They belong to the class of people who find physical impairment disgusting, and the fact they themselves have impairments means that they are disgusted by themselves. Some are angry that what has happened to them has happened, and some, even if the impairment is none of their fault, feel guilty about what has happened to them. Such people are not happy, and such people will not be disposed to welcome the attentions of devotees. Despising themselves, they will tend to despise those who find them attractive, and will value the attentions only of those who feel an equal disgust, and they will fall in love only despite the physical impairment. Perhaps such people in their compromise with disgust, with anger, with guilt can be fulfilled. But with support disgust can be overcome, anger can be purged, guilt assuaged, and they could come to value themselves as the equals of the unimpaired.

Rehabilitation ought to help people to resolve these emotions, but unfortunately it often does not, and indeed, may act to reinforce them, by providing aids in which function is limited in a compromise with cosmesis, as though impairment were something shameful, to be hidden away as far as possible. As well as restoring as much physical function as possible rehabilitation should also support the impaired person in recovering the sense of personal worth and resolving the disgust, the anger, and shame, and with such resolution those who are physically impaired would come to value themselves sufficiently as people and come to welcome the unreserved feelings of attraction of devotees.

With such support Miranda and Miles could fall in love and live happily ever after.

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