Two kinds of autism: a comparison of distinct understandings of psychiatric disease

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 19 (1):111-123 (2016)
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In this article, I argue that the history and philosophy of autism need to account for two kinds of autism. Contemporary autism research and practice is structured, directed and connected by an ‘ontological understanding of disease’. This implies that autism is understood as a disease like any other medical disease, existing independently of its particular manifestations in individual patients. In contrast, autism in the 1950s and 1960s was structured by a psychoanalytical framework and an ‘individual understanding of disease’. This implied that autism was not a distinct disease but an idiosyncratic and meaningful response of the child to a disturbed development of the ego. These two kinds of autism are embedded in and reveal two very different ‘styles of psychiatric thought’.



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Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact.Ludwik Fleck - 1979 - University of Chicago Press.
On the distinction between disease and illness.Christopher Boorse - 1975 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 5 (1):49-68.
Defining 'health' and 'disease'.Mark Ereshefsky - 2009 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40 (3):221-227.

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