Hard talk: Does autism need philosophy?
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When we think about autism as a phenomenon, and how it is perceived by autistic and neurotypical individuals as well as the society as a whole, it appears obvious that philosophical issues are in the room. In fact, the history of autism is rich in discussions and controversies on how to best understand and conceptualize autistic behaviors and experiences. Now that the voices of people on the spectrum are being expressed and heard more, a novel and more balanced picture of autism is taking form and increasingly accepted. This picture is largely influenced by notions such as neurodiversity, and stresses functional and quality of life outcomes rather than symptomatology (Bölte et al., 2018; Jonsson et al., 2017). For autistic people and their relatives, the way autism is perceived determines the stigma associated with the diagnosis. For researchers and clinicians, autism operationalization guides paradigms for studying, assessing, and intervening. Although I (S.B.) have been in the field of autism for more than 20 years now, my impression is that philosophy and philosophers have rarely been explicitly visible in autism theory, science, clinical practice, or opinion building. Therefore, I was thrilled when Kenneth A. Richman (K.A.R.), Professor of Philosophy and Health Care Ethics, approached me for a fruitful exchange of perspectives, and an introduction to the philosophy of autism. In this editorial, we share some of our discussions, characterized by a clinical autism researcher’s asking a range of naïve to challenging and provocative questions to a philosopher. We hope that this interview helps the reader of AUTISM form a better sense of the significance and scope of the philosophy of autism.
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