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date: 19 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Neurodiversity advocates apply the same kind of critiques to psychiatric conditions such as autism that disability theory has long applied to somatic conditions. Yet these critiques have received little attention from philosophy of psychiatry. Although the arguments of neurodiversity advocates often are undeveloped, they raise critical issues about psychiatric diagnosis and classification. This chapter uses Jerome Wakefield’s “harmful dysfunction analysis” of the concept of mental disorder to reconstruct and evaluate neurodiversity arguments that autism is a normal variation, not a mental disorder. We argue that because of the heterogeneity of “autism,” these arguments are more plausible for some subgroups than others. We find support for a moderate neurodiversity position that objects to psychiatric overreach without denying the reality of some forms of autistic disorder.

Keywords: philosophy of psychiatry, disability theory, harmful dysfunction analysis, neurodiversity, autism, harm, dysfunction, psychiatric diagnosis, concept of mental disorder, normal variation

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