Autism, Empathy and moral Agency

Jeanette Kennett

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    117 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Psychopaths have long been of interest to moral philosophers, since a careful examination of their peculiar deficiencies may reveal what features are normally critical to the development of moral agency. What underlies the psychopath's amoralism? A common and plausible answer to this question is that the psychopath lacks empathy. Lack of empathy is also claimed to be a critical impairment in autism, yet it is not at all clear that autistic individuals share the psychopath's amoralism. How is empathy characterized in the literature, and how crucial is empathy, so described, to moral understanding and agency? I argue that an examination of moral thinking in high-functioning autistic people supports a Kantian rather than a Humean account of moral agency.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)340-357
    Number of pages18
    JournalPhilosophical Quarterly
    Volume52
    Issue number208
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2002

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