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Personal reference in subjects with autism

Paola Pennisi

pp. 409-434

One of the roles of philosophy in the age of the third generation of cognitive scientists is to integrate data and theories from many different research fields (neuroscience, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, linguistics, etc…).The second step is to integrate them into the development of more general theoretical backgrounds in order to evaluate if the latter seems to be prolific for human thought. Recently, thanks to clinical pragmatics studies, we have a growing corpus of empirical data regarding pragmatic anomalies of subjects with autism.In this study I will try to show the limits of the explanation of linguistic and pragmatic alterations in subjects with autism as a consequence of their deficit in Theory of Mind and I will try to show the advantages of a more holistic cognitive background such as that of Embodied Cognition (EC) theories.My main focus will be on alterations regarding the fixation of personal reference in subjects with autism. I will analyse some studies conducted on typical subjects that investigate the embodiment processes at various levels during the use of personal reference. After, I will critically discuss some studies regarding the anomalies in the use of personal references in subjects with autism. Finally I will compare three kinds of explanations for the phenomenon: the echolalic one; the one regarding the deficit in ToM and a third one, proposed by me, that links these alterations to the higher level of performativity required by the fixation of personal reference in subjects with anomalies in the embodiment system, which seems to be the case for patients with autism.This last thesis seems to take into account the complexity of situations in which subjects with autism show anomalies in the fixation of personal reference more than the two others considered. It, in fact, considers both the deficit in ToM and the deficit in executive functions and moreover, in doing that, it maintains a strong ecological perspective.This study suggests that the fixation of personal reference in subjects with autism could receive some very useful theoretical tools from EC theories to be explained and understood.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-00973-1_23

Full citation:

Pennisi, P. (2019)., Personal reference in subjects with autism, in A. Capone, M. Carapezza & F. Lo Piparo (eds.), Further advances in pragmatics and philosophy II, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 409-434.

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