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Autism, Ethics and the Good Life Royal Society, London, 2 April 2012 How different is too different? Autism, diversity, and the idea of a good life Dr.

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Presentation on theme: "Autism, Ethics and the Good Life Royal Society, London, 2 April 2012 How different is too different? Autism, diversity, and the idea of a good life Dr."— Presentation transcript:

1 Autism, Ethics and the Good Life Royal Society, London, 2 April 2012 How different is too different? Autism, diversity, and the idea of a good life Dr Jackie Leach Scully Reader in Social Ethics and Bioethics Newcastle University

2 Outline Autism as a spectrum Two different ideas of the good life Is autism compatible with a/the good life? The goodness of diversity? Expanding the repertoire

3 Autism as a spectrum Autism as disability or difference Distinguishing between –phenotypic variation –Impairment –disability

4 Neurodiversity claim Autism (or some forms of it) is a natural (phenotypic) variation It takes forms that are more or less impairing And which in interaction with social, environmental and attitudinal factors will be more, less, or not at all disabling

5 Two different meanings of good life The possibility of an individual having a life worth living, good quality of life More general concept of the good life –the sorts of experiences that we would choose if we could (love, health, work satisfaction) vs the ones we wouldnt (pain, injustice) –repertoire of models, templates for what we think of as a flourishing life

6 Leading to two different questions Can autistic people have good lives? Can autism be part of the concept of the good life?

7 Is autism compatible with a good life? Low functioning: a)More or less possible to have a good life b)But hard to include in standard general ideal of good life High functioning: a)Definitely possible to have a good life b)But could still be argued that even minor sensory, communicative, cognitive impairments/differences make even high fn autism incompatible with the good life

8 Going back to the neurodiversity claim Autism represents a phenotypic variation It takes forms that are more or less impairing And which in interaction with social, environmental and attitudinal factors will be more, less, or not at all disabling......but it is a variation from normativity and as such does not fit with normative picture of the good life There would be ways to modify social practices or attitudes that might make some forms of autism less or not at al disabling But this requires financial and other resources of time and effort: why should we bother?

9 The idea of goodness of diversity Diversity is good in itself Variation (genetic, phenotypic, behavioural) contributes to the good life for humans by providing a degree of embodied diversity that would not otherwise be present This is the case even for some disabling variations

10 How might embodied diversity contribute to the good life? Providing range of abilities (that help address problems.....) Enriching the ways of being human and kinds of experiences humans have (the more the better?) Enabling particular experiences (eg caring and being cared for) Increasing capacity of moral imagination (imagining ourselves as other or imagining that others are selves) Enlarging repertoire of ways of thinking about the good life Its interesting!


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