Autism is often taken to be a specific kind of mind. The dominant neuro-cognitivist approach explains this via static processing traits framed in terms of hyper-systemising and hypo-empathising. By contrast, Wittgenstein-inspired commentators argue that the coherence of autism arises relationally, from intersubjective disruption that hinders access to a shared world of linguistic meaning. This paper argues that both camps are unduly reductionistic and conflict with emerging evidence, due in part to unjustifiably assuming a deficit-based framing of autism. It then develops a new Wittgensteinian account—autism as a different form of life—which avoids these issues. Rather than autistic systemising being the basis of autistic cognition, it is taken to be a reaction to pre-epistemic and semantic anxieties that come with developing as a minority within a different form of life. This re-framing can provide a coherent account of the autistic mind, and has significant conceptual, practical, and ethical implications.
- form of life
- psychological theory