A group of academics from five separate disciplines – Education, Ancient History, Social Work, English Literature, and a stray teacher of mature students (myself) – have put together a WordPress site which is based on our common interest in conceptual history but which also invites immediate engagement with politics and public affairs. The topic is intellectual disability, or learning disability, or developmental disability, or cognitive disability, or mental handicap, or mental retardation. And that’s just the current usages.
No wonder the conceptual history is deeply problematic – and therefore of deep interest to those involved. For the rest of you, perhaps not. So far. But I do assure you that if you value your status as intelligent people, you will need to know how to defend yourself against the notion that both intellectual disability and “intelligence” itself are not natural kinds but historically contingent ways in which human beings represent themselves to themselves and to each other, and no more. We can’t advise you how to defend yourselves, but at least our shocking notions will reveal the massive nature of the challenge.
My original idea was to create a personal website that would, among other things, reinforce the excellent job Ashgate had done in publishing and marketing my book A History of Intelligence and ‘Intellectual Disability’: The Shaping of Psychology in Early Modern Europe. It soon became clear, though, that a collective effort was both needed and possible, the number of people with a historical research orientation in this field being very small. Tim Stainton, Murray Simpson, Lynn Rose, Patrick McDonagh and I think we have started something that will radically alter present directions in the critical analysis of psychological concepts. WordPress seems the ideal means. Time will tell.
Chris Goodey has held teaching posts at Ruskin College, Oxford, the Open University and the University of London Institute of Education, and is currently an independent consultant working for national and local government services on learning disability in the UK. He is the author of A History of Intelligence and ‘Intellectual Disability’: The Shaping of Psychology in Early Modern Europe
‘This timely, daring and challenging book… a phenomenally ambitious, interesting and reflective interdisciplinary history of ideas… assembles some convincing evidence for the processes by which changing sets of ideas, or an accident of historical contingencies, have come to shape allegedly incontrovertible universal truths. At the risk of turning a tautological phrase, this is a highly intellectual history of intellectual disability.’ Medical History