Manual Autism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

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  1. Review: Frith's Very Short Introduction to Autism and Lawson's Concepts of Normality
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  4. Autism: A Very Short Introduction
  5. Autism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

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What causes autism? Is it a genetic disorder, or due to some unknown environmental hazard? Are we facing an autism epidemic? Is it a genetic disorder, or due to some unknown environmental hazard?

Review: Frith's Very Short Introduction to Autism and Lawson's Concepts of Normality

Are we facing an autism epidemic? What are the main symptoms, and how does it relate to Asperger syndrome? Everyone has heard of autism, but the disorder itself is little understood. It has captured the public imagination through films and novels portraying individuals with baffling combinations of disability and extraordinary talent, and yet the reality is more often that it places a heavy burden on sufferers and their families.

This Very Short Introduction offers a clear statement on what is currently known about autism and Asperger syndrome. Explaining the vast array of different conditions that hide behind these two labels, and looking at symptoms from the full spectrum of autistic disorders, it explores the possible causes for the apparent rise in autism and also evaluates the links with neuroscience, psychology, brain development, genetics, and environmental causes including MMR and Thimerosal.

This short, authoritative, and accessible book also explores the psychology behind social impairment and savantism, and throughout, sheds light on what it is like to live inside the mind of the sufferer. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

Added to basket. Concise Colour Medical Dictionary. Elizabeth Martin. David Servan-Schreiber. The Oxygen Advantage. Patrick McKeown. Cut Your Cholesterol. Sarah Brewer. Human Anatomy.

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Alice Roberts. Feeling Good. David D. Taking Charge Of Your Fertility.

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Your odds of ever reading one on football or basketball or Nascar are not good, since only about twenty-five per cent of the introductions are commissioned in the United States, and a certain British bias persists in the choice of subjects. When I spoke with the series editor, Nancy Toff, she had just completed an assignment—given to her by her U.

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But other gaps in the series are more entrenched, and more insidious. In fact, of the fifty-four individuals featured in the series all but a handful are white and none are women. The editors say that this is because the biographical introductions were grandfathered in from the Past Masters series, and that they rarely commission books on individual people anymore. But that is a choice, not a law, and, whatever the logic behind it, it leads the series to implicitly endorse the same position as millennia worth of other omnibus projects: that the experiences and the contributions of women and people of color barely belong even in the vast inventory of everything worth knowing.

Why is baseball important? For that matter, why is Russian Literature important? Why is the Silk Road important? Why—intellectually speaking, not as a practical matter—are Teeth important? Put differently, what do we gain or hope to gain by reading books about all this stuff? The larger any compilation of knowledge gets, the more it forces us to confront the question of what, exactly, so much knowledge is for.

Is it meant to glorify God? Perhaps, yet it creeps equally close to blasphemy; omniscience, after all, is the purview of the divine. Is it to impress an emperor, or a boss, or a date?

Autism: A Very Short Introduction

Does it make us happy and virtuous, as Diderot hoped? Not on the evidence of Diderot himself, who suffered poverty and a prison sentence, was deserted by countless friends, and cheated rampantly on his wife. Does it make us wise? Not always. You can know everything there is to know about volcanoes and still die in one. The classic defense of knowledge, as a hundred thousand inspirational posters will tell you, is that it is power.

But, as a hundred thousand cultural theorists will counter, the relationship between those two terms is complicated: power is, among other things, the power to determine what counts as knowledge. Since roughly the middle of the last century, that kind of clout, which used to rest with the church and the state, has devolved to a considerable degree onto the academy. Accordingly, modern omnibus projects tend to reflect the ideas and ideals of the university and often, as with the Very Short Introductions, to be a direct product of them.

The point of collecting, organizing, and disseminating a shared body of information—what E. Mere protection often turned into active promotion, in the form of various initiatives intended to spread Western values. From that perspective, projects like the Very Short Introductions seem like a kind of epistemological imperialism: an effort to dictate to the entire world what among its wild array of contents is worthy of our study. That criticism, while merited, has its limits. The academy is not like the Catholic Church or an autocratic state, which has precious little room for contested ideas.

It is, instead, a relatively open and cosmopolitan intellectual arena, one far more likely to help us understand and embrace new ideas than to obliterate them. This is an ancient notion.

Autism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

Ever since Aristotle, people have argued over whether accurate information produces appropriate action—that is, whether knowing the right thing reliably makes us do the right thing. Indeed, we live in an era of abundant evidence to the contrary. In our own fact-indifferent moment, it can often seem that knowledge, like poetry per Auden, makes nothing happen.

Implicitly, we all understand that knowledge is sturdier, more important, and more virtuous than beliefs or opinions or suspicions. Whatever else knowledge may be—and, as Nagel is at pains to point out, it is fiendishly difficult to define—it is not subservient or convenient; it has a good-faith relationship to reality. What we think we know can change how we behave—not quickly, not consistently, but often enough to matter. But even a fact that fails to affect anything or anyone is no less factual, no less interesting, no less important.

And the only thing that makes it knowledge is that it is true. That sentiment could be the motto of the Very Short Introductions.


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Not everyone longs to be a polymath, but everyone who does is a philomath—someone who loves knowledge qua knowledge, who finds it moving, joyful, comforting, fun, startling, awe-inspiring. Whatever else might motivate a project like the Oxford University Press series, that kind of pleasure is an essential part of it; at their best, omnibus works flow forth from an omnibus love of life.