Victoria Brageer Lessons From Autism Summary

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III. McGeer, “Varieties of Moral Agency: Lessons from Autism (and Psychopathy)”
Victoria McGeer responds to Kant and Kennett’s conclusion that “reverence for reason is the core moral motive” and claims that this debate has been too narrowly focused on empathy; we need not try to reduce morality to one cognitive capacity or affective disposition. McGeer focuses on the question of whether our moral capacities are rooted in sentiment or in rationality; do our affective states guide us, or does reason channel our affective states? McGeer, like Kennett, looks to the abnormalities in cognitive and affective capacities in autism and psychopathy for insight on what constitutes moral agency.
McGeer claims that “moral nature is shaped by (at least)
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Psychopathic behavior stems from the second sphere of social position, and autistic behavior from the third sphere of order and structure. These concerns, McGeer argues, produce systems of value that shape our moral being which can be influenced by affective and cognitive impairments that are seen in individuals with both psychopathy and autism. A lack of empathy is both an emotional/affective and a cognitive deficit. It is emotional in that it prohibits one from the ability to empathize and affectively shift perspective. It is cognitive in that it prohibits one from seeing why other people’s concerns should matter. While psychopaths are able to shift perspective and recognize motives in other’s actions, they are not able to understand why others’ motives and emotions should matter to them. They are not affected by other people’s suffering and condemnation. McGeer asserts that this lack of affective responsiveness is an impairment to their moral capacity and they cannot distinguish between moral and conventional transgressions. (expound further on this) Individuals with autism, however, are deeply motivated to do what they preconceive as the right thing based on observation of others’ behaviors and emotions and their learning history in responding to others’ behaviors and …show more content…
They are not concerned with the emotions of others nor the “cosmic” structure, but rather their own standing in society. Kennett speculates that while this concern does not operate in the same way that it does in normal moral agency but it allows them to “mind read”, it is why psychopaths are better at “passing for normal” than those with autism. However, McGeer asserts that due to a resemblance of affective capacity through these spheres of concern, that moral agency is rooted in affect. Though the differences in affective profiles are vast, she holds in a “broadly Humean way” that affect is the essence of morality, though reason is a prerequisite.
IV. Nichols, “How Psychopaths Threaten Moral Rationalism”
In Shaun Nichols’ chapter, “How Psychopaths Threaten Moral Rationalism,” Nichols attacks two views, which he refers to as the Conceptual Rationalist and the Empirical Rationalist. He argues that while a Kantian approach to moral agency is appealing, due to threats posed by psychopaths, it is implausible for an account of what constitutes moral agency.


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