Autism and Moral Responsibility: Executive Function, Reasons Responsiveness, and Reasons Blockage

Neuroethics 11 (1):23-33 (2017)
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Abstract

As a neurodevelopmental condition that affects cognitive functioning, autism has been used as a test case for theories of moral responsibility. Most of the relevant literature focuses on autism’s impact on theory of mind and empathy. Here I examine aspects of autism related to executive function. I apply an account of how we might fail to be reasons responsive to argue that autism can increase the frequency of excuses for transgressive behavior, but will rarely make anyone completely exempt from moral responsibility in general. On this account, although excuses may apply more often to autists than to others, the excuses that apply to autists are just the same excuses that can apply to anyone.

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Kenneth A. Richman
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences