The Pathos of "Mindblindness": Autism, Science, and Sadness in "Theory of Mind" Narratives
Abstract

Of the many scientific and medical discourses that purport to explain, analyze, demystify, or even cure autism, few have been as influential in recent decades as the Theory of Mind (ToM) account, which holds that autistic people are incapable of intuiting the intentions and emotions of others and are therefore "mindblind", or live with "mindblindness," a condition that separates them from other human beings. ToM is regarded by its more ardent advocates as the primary deficit in autism and the key to understanding autistic cognition and behaviors. The article considers the rhetoric of ToM. The authors argue that despite its foundations in the language of cognitive psychology, it is a discourse of affect and values, or a rhetoric of scientific sadness in which autistic people are mourned even as they are ostensibly explained.


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