Autism, empathy and moral agency

Jeanette Kennett*

*Corresponding author for this work

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
JournalThe Philosophical Quarterly
Volume52
Issue number208
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2002
Externally publishedYes

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