Dependents require care. They are unable either to survive or to thrive without attention to basic needs. Dependency needs range from the utter helplessness of a newbom infant to the incapacity of illness or frail old age. Dependency can be protracted (e.g., the extended dependency of early childhood) or brief (e.g., a temporary illness). An individual who is dependent may be able to function otherwise independentIy if only she is given needed assistance in limited areas, or she may be dependent in every aspect of her being, that is, utterly dependent. At some stage in the lives of each of us we face at least one period of utter dependencYi and, with accident and disease forever a danger to the most independent of us, we are all, at least potentially, dependents. In our dependency, we not only require care, but require a sustaining relation with a care-giver who provides this care-for who does the caring is often as important as the care itself. These dependencies may be allevlated or aggravated by cultural practices and prejudices, but given the Hypatia vol. 10, no. 1 (Winter 1995) © by Eva Feder Kittay

immutable facts ofhuman development, disease, and decline, no culture that endures beyond one generation can secure itself against the claims of human dependency. While we are all dependent on some form of care or support, at least minimally, and although dependendes vary in degree, those that involve the survival or thriving of a person cut most deeply through the fiction of a sodal order presumably constituted by independent equal persons.