Understanding empathy through a study of autistic life writing: on the importance of neurodiverse morality

Stenning, A (2020) 'Understanding empathy through a study of autistic life writing: on the importance of neurodiverse morality.' In: Rosquvist, H, Chown, N and Stenning, A, eds. Neurodiversity studies: a new critical paradigm. Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 108-124. ISBN 9780429322297

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Abstract

This chapter provides a critique of medical and literary writing about autism that maintains it is characterised by empathy deficits and, as a result, leads to morally challenged lives, both for the autistic person and those around them. It draws on a sample of writings by autistic authors, which shows both that autistic individuals recognise themselves to be capable of empathy, and, that their moral lives are represented as equally rich and complex as those of any other group of humans. This contrasts with dominant science writing on autism and empathy, which relies on a foreshortened sense of the latter and implies that there is a benchmark psychological makeup that is both morally valuable and commonplace – and of which autistic people are commonly assumed to fall short. This epistemic assumption is questioned. While I focus on moral considerations, what I say has implications for the ethics of conventional autism theory. Psychologists who reinforce an essentialist idea of autism in relation to supposed empathy deficits obscure the broader social and environmental contexts in which different configurations of empathy occur in all humans. This recentring of autistic – and neurodivergent – morality, is an essential next step for the neurodiversity paradigm.

Item Type: Book Chapter or Section
Divisions: School of Humanities
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Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2020 15:16
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2020 12:01
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