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date: 19 September 2021

Abstract and Keywords

To obtain a historical perspective on disability, we need to know what questions people of the past asked about each other and thus how they grouped human types. This effort involves removing the carapace of modern forms of classification and avoiding their imposition on the primary sources of an era so distant from our own (“retrospective diagnosis”). At least three major forms are identifiable: (1) the post-Cartesian divide between mind and body; (2) the tightening of forms of human categorization in general since the late Middle Ages; and (3) the thoroughly modern divide between the scientific/medical and the social. Human disparities and putative disabilities, ranging widely from the ancient era to the start of the Middle Ages and including the body, the senses, cognition, speech, social behavior, and sexual make-up, are discussed. These may or may not correspond with modern categorizations.

Keywords: ancient Greece, ancient Rome, defining disability, intellectual disability, physical disability, sensory disability

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