Autistics as empathic subjects. Phenomenology and Intense World Theory

Elisabetta Rizzo (Lead / Corresponding author), Tina Röck (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    Despite the belief that autism is an empathy disorder, autistics declare their ability to empathise. To explore this experiential vision, we present the alternative explanation for social impairments in autism offered by the Intense World Theory (IWT) and substantiate it through the phenomenological analysis of empathy as an experienced phenomenon.

    According to IWT, autistics are characterized by hyper-emotionality and therefore their detachment is not the sign of a disrupted empathy, but a strategy to face a world of overwhelming stimuli. Taking the phenomenological account of empathy as a tendency to minimize the emotional and conceptual space dividing embodied and conscious subjects, our purpose is to explain that although autistics seem to expand this space, they may still be considered empathetic.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)34-47
    Number of pages13
    JournalPhenomenology and Mind
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


    • autism
    • empathy
    • phenomenology
    • Intense world theory


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