Theory of mind seems to be the new "explanation" to describe autistic people. It shiny and bright and full of sophomoric reasoning that grasps the populace and continues sadly the stigma of having a alter-wired brain. I will be discussing TOM (theory of mind) and how it's simply a rehashing of the old tropes that pervaded within the autism culture.
Yesterday afternoon, I was with my ASAN chapter, we spent the afternoon going around campus passing out flyers and groaning at Autspk's 1-110 lawn posters As much as I wanted to pull them out, I realized that would look bad on us so we and our chapter ran around combating ignorance the best we could. Later that afternoon we were invited to the lecture by John Duffy from Notre Dame. The lecture was wonderful and invoking (and there was pita and humus!) which inspired this essay.
Acoording to Wikipedia Theory of Mind states this
Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own. Though there are philosophical approaches to issues raised in such discussions, theory of mind as such is distinct from the philosophy of mind.
The idea is that autists have lack of this TOM or a very damaged one. With this we are quote "mindblind". Baron-Cohen idea that autistic people are mindblind brings up an anthropological context that to me is interesting. I believe everyone is rather mindblind, when it comes to cultural imperialism. We tend to assume that our culture is grand and great and over throwing a native culture is best and beneficial. We see this with White Privilege and 1st World Privileged people who think that doing missionary work or working in the deep urban areas is act of charity. That everyone should be like them and that if black people work hard enough they can escape the ghettos and have white collar jobs like them. Privileged people unfortunately are blind to the racist infrastructure that binds POC and makes it's difficult to escape. Even if they do escape, they will be discriminated for acting "white". Cultural Mindblindness is quite common.
Even Religious mindblindess. I mean look a the Christian church? They all believe that the majority of atheists, pagans, agnostics really want to be saved. Many are fiercely ignorant of said religions and that feeds into their asinine beliefs of what they really are.
Baron-Cohen uses dividing language according John Duffy, to polarize. Even though Baron-Cohen continues to backpeddle all the damn time (u guise this very simple graph I madeded isn't simple...u guiiiise? Ok I don't think he talks like a lolcat I just did it for satirical fun) One of the things I noticed the idealism that Autistics were are mindblind in the same context of say chimpanzees and other animals. I kinda lifted my eyebrow at this because I felt like this was familiar. Suddenly it occurred to me. Doesn't that sound like something out of the Tibetan Book of the Dead? I remember reading the TBotD one afternoon and reading about the bardo or realm of animals that even though animals have emotions they lack humor (In the TBotD). This is a Buddhist concept but it seems to resonate with me when was listening to John Duffy. I don't know why but I made a connection to the idea that we're mindblind like animals to the idea that human soul got stuck within the Bardo of Animals. It was honestly sophomoric, but nevertheless fascinating. Has Baron-Cohen read the TBotD?
Over all as I was listening it felt that Baron-Cohen was refilling the rhetoric of the Changeling Child. Somehow describing that we cannot connect to other humans because we are blind to their mental state is almost saying that we are "Other" or "Not human". Haven't we evolve past the 11 century Irish idea that babies are kidnapped by sidhe? Apparently not, the discourse of TOM continues to burn the bridge that autistic people are humans. Instead...I feel that TOM continues to paint us as constructs...false people.