Volume 97, Issue 1, January 2020
Daniel A. Wilkenfeld
Living with Autism
Quus-ing in a Plus-ers World
In this paper, I explore the possibility that the point Kripke (1982) made about understanding meaning also applies to understanding social interaction. This understanding involves extending what one has learned from a finite number of past observations to provide normative guidance for an indefinitely complicated future. Kripke argues (to my mind correctly) that what one should do in the future is inevitably underdetermined by the infinite possible interpretations of the past. Moreover, no matter how much one attempts to make the rules explicit, they will always be underspecified. I then explore the speculative hypothesis that having different tacit dispositions made manifest in one’s understanding of the rules of social engagement would look remarkably similar to tendencies exhibited by many autistic individuals. The analogy will say something substantive about how neurotypicals (and other autists) should treat the behavior of autistic individuals—if we are not even doing anything incorrect, then society should not be criticizing our means of engagement.