Thursday, June 21, 2012

Autism, Empathy and Ethics

I posted a video recently in an attempt to show the link between ethics and empathy. If you define ethics along the lines of the practical application of morals in society (as we have in the class), then it follows that without some form of empathy (to understand the effect of your actions on others) you are unable to employ a true ethical code.

A common (mis)conception is that people with autism lack the ability to empathise. I'll admit to being guilty of thinking like this in the past. If this is true then it could be argued that autistic people lack the ability to be ethical. In her blog existence is wonderful, Anne Corwin (who has herself been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome) shows this is a fallacy, and that while autistic people perhaps have a different take on empathy, they cannot be catagorised as non-ethical. She makes the point that the act of labelling and categorising people is, in itself, very harmful.

This makes me think that coming up with a useful and usable definition of ethics is much more difficult than you might think. Incidentally, if you are interested in seeing the autism-spectrum quotient test that she refers to in the article, I have found a copy of it here.
Autism and Empathy

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