An ideal disorder? Autism as a psychiatric kind

Philosophical Explorations 20 (2):175-190 (2017)
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In recent decades, attempts to explain autism have been frustrated by the heterogeneous nature of its behavioral symptoms and the underlying genetic, neural, and cognitive mechanisms that produce them. This has led some to propose eliminating the category altogether. The eliminativist inference relies on a conception of psychiatric categories as kinds defined by their underlying mechanistic structure. I review the evidence for eliminativism and propose an alternative model of the family of autisms. On this account, autism is a network category defined by a set of idealized exemplars linked by multiple levels of theoretically significant properties. I argue that this network model better captures the empirical phenomena, the historical growth of the category, and the ways the category has been shaped by social norms and interests. Finally, I defend a realist interpretation of network categories against the challenge from eliminativists.



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Daniel Weiskopf
Georgia State University

Citations of this work

Genetics on the neurodiversity spectrum: Genetic, phenotypic and endophenotypic continua in autism and ADHD.Polaris Koi - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 89 (October 2021):52–62.
The Kindness of Psychopaths.Zdenka Brzović, Marko Jurjako & Predrag Šustar - 2017 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 31 (2):189-211.

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