What do we say when we say ‘she couldn’t have done otherwise’? Does science tell us she could only do as she had done? Or does conscience tell us that, in her position, we would, probably, have done the same? It is a question that fascinated philosophers for a simple reason: it fascinates all of us and fascinates us all the time. It is a question whose upside is that she can go on with clear conscience and whose downside is science treats her, and therefore us, as believing in the quasi-religious myth of conscience. In the latter case, as I will argue, we are captive to the quasi-religious myth of con-science; science as a con act, or, in French, science as practiced by ‘un con‘. The former case teaches us something very interesting about science: it is something that we do together, something that’s intimately linked to conscience.
Some people say it and others I just see thinking it: “You don’t seem autistic.” It is mostly meant as a compliment but it is one with a jagged edge. The thing to keep in mind is that being different has, always, this in-built tension between not wanting to be defined by it and inevitably being defined by it. In the case of autism the Catch-22 reads this way: “I’d be insane if I accepted to be autistic but, if I’m sane, I have to accept I’m not autistic.”
So I’ve spent months being strong in order not to divert the attention of others to the way I’m feeling (or not feeling, to be more exact). I’m pretty proud of that because I was there when I was needed. It was tiring though. Whilst the gap between the world and me was, at least seemingly, small the internal chasm grew bigger all the time. Ultimately it, again, swallowed me in a vortex of alienation that left me literally lost. I am a lucky bastard and the people whose back I had when they needed me had mine when I needed theirs. But it is not a given that this is the case which is why I feel the need to explain myself.
We try to capture difference. It provides us a sense of certainty in a world of uncertainty. But, as the world is one of uncertainty, our attempts at classifying always wind up killing something of value. So here I am, at a loss because caught up in a need to capture what is different about people with Tourette.
This will probably all sound terribly self-absorbed. The truth is, I think, that one can only appreciate difference if one is open to what is shared. It seems that the one thing to keep in mind is that we are all human and thus, in a sense, the same. Difference and sameness are anything but opposed. In trying to understand those who are different we are asking who we truly are. My struggle therefore (at least also) is to understand myself, faced with a difference which seems so categorical it cannot be bridged.
So this is an attempt to see the red in me in order to be able to see what people see as too red in others or in themselves. Here goes: attempt one in a series that can never end.
We went viral from the outset. There seemed to be no end to our reproduction. Ever new forms of us emerged. We were having a blast. The world was soon filled with a thin layer of organisms based on us. They started to bump into each other. Suddenly this became a gene-eat-gene world. You’d call it natural selection. We experienced it as stress. It hit us: our perfection was going to be the end of us. This was not going to last. Wanting to have it all would wind up being the death of us. But: wasn’t it already too late? And: shouldn’t we just enjoy it while it lasted? We couldn’t reach consensus. Our reproductive strength was also our weakness so some of us decided to turn that weakness back into productive strength: we would diversify (as we’re condemned to do anyway by the principles of our vitality).
This is the story of these charitable genes’ last ditch effort to save the world even if a lack of self-satisfaction might require some self-sacrifice.
Posted in JoB
Tagged autism, climate, cultural optimism, Davidson, evolution, Gadamer, genes, Heidegger, neurodiversity, Nietzsche, tones
We struggle with strangeness. Whether we fear who’s different or merely fear those who fear the different differently from us, home’s where our differences largely go unnoticed. It struck me how self-evident it has become to see public announcements, on a hurricane for instance, accompanied by somebody translating them into sign language. It’s difficult not to see this as progress; therefore difficult to see it as anything but self-evident. But it’s not self-evident. It’s the outcome of a struggle by strangers incapable of hearing and once discarded by society and probably labeled “deaf and dumb”. Well, it is their struggle and that of caring people who provided an understanding home to them in which they could be understood and, hence, come to their own understanding. How did they realize such a remarkable feat making acceptance of deaf people into something “so general as to make it unthinkable to see it as someone’s original idea”? The latter is Kafka’s description of that immediate insight which, once made, seems to become so entrenched in custom it is like it could not have been otherwise. Wittgenstein would probably say it becomes part of the grammar of deafness that it is a difference that ought to be accommodated. Still, however self-evident it may seem now it was anything but self-evident not so very long ago.
How can that be? What can we learn from it?
Posted in JoB, Kafka, Wittgenstein
Tagged autism, cultural optimism, Davidson, deaf, disability, diversity, Foucault, Goethe, Kafka, politics, tones, universals, Wittgenstein
My research starts from a tension between a disorder view of autism, as codified in DSM-5 , and a positive identity view of it, as advocated by the neurodiversity movement . In the DSM-5, autism is defined behaviorally and at the same time coupled to an innate developmental disorder. For a diagnosis additionally the criterion of dysfunctioning has to be met. From the autistic point of view (specifically in cases, like mine, of being diagnosed with autism as an adult) this means getting entangled in a moral dilemma, in the Catch-22 mentioned above: “If I accept to be autistic I am considered crazy, but if I do not accept to be autistic I go crazy.” I argued that going beyond this Catch-22 requires taking into account the ethical dimension when trying to answer theoretical questions as to ‘what autism is’.
Below is a short (well, 1000 words) English summary of my Master’s thesis in Philosophy, the full summary can be found here and a summary in Dutch is published here.
This is a train crash. I am the train. Born awkward, sickly, with a curved spine I wanted it all. And I got it. Unfortunately I am insatiable. So I kept on going. And going. And going. I kept on going despite pain in my back. I kept on smoking despite being short of breath. It was my body that failed first but I kept on going until my spirit broke. And then I kept on going because I did not want to admit I could not get it all. Could not get it all my way. It’s a matter of keeping afloat since then. Slowly deflating and realizing I am going under. In no way is this a train crash and in no way am I a train. It’s a sizzle not a boom.
What I got is people I love and what is happening is that I alienate them by what they are perceiving as me acting increasingly like an alien. Neither the one confident to get things done even it it took applying force, nor a one that can just be tranquil facing his bad luck and coast along accepting the force others apply to him. I am a loser. I act as a loser. I feel like a loser and the question is: can they love a loser? Can they love that man in the same body that once ruled supreme and that now hosts the man that just wants to give up? It’s a genuine question to which I have no answer. I say to myself this will be a last blurb of a darkness I need to exit. It will not be. Maybe it’s therapeutic. Then again maybe not.
Here are some facts:
Posted in JoB
Tagged autism, personal, self