A Meditation on Ponty, Autism, and ‘What is Phenomenology?

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Abstract
Autism is tightly linked with intersubjectivity. The idea that one is inaccessible, even if present to an ‘other,’ is more acute in our case. Some people with autism cannot verbalize or even seem lost in their reality. This challenges Ponty’s assertion that everybody is opened. How can one be as such if one’s being-in-the-world is so radically different than that of the other? Language, for Ponty, is not separate from pure experience but is directly tied to pure experience (ibid). Extending Ponty’s point, one can apply this to gestures, acts, noises… all our actions have meaning (xxxii-xxxiii), studying meticulously enough what seemed meaningless is, in fact, given in pure experience. Thus, autistic persons are still opened. A hypothetical objection is that this meaning is so foreign to us that openness is impossible. A reply to this is that no matter how foreign is ones’ being-in-the-world, it shares a common set of intentional acts such as ‘S aiming at x.’ Another reply is that no matter how foreign is ones’ being-in-the-world, one can learn to grasp the other until the distance is breached. However, understanding the other already assumes that the other is intelligibly present in pure experience. (This text was written as an assignment in my second undergraduate year and edited during the 2020 summer holiday)
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Archival date: 2020-09-16
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