Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy (MA)

Degree Level





Amanda McMullen

Committee Member

Eric Funkhouser

Second Committee Member

Richard Lee


Autism, Disability, Ontology, Philosophy, Psychiatry


Psychiatry is the study, evaluation, and treatment of mental disorders – disorders that affect the behavior and cognition of individuals and which are associated with underlying dysfunctions in the brain and nervous system. Though psychiatry is a medical and scientific discipline, it also takes place within a social context that modifies its effects, particularly in its application of diagnostic categories to individuals. In this thesis, I argue that, because of this context, psychiatric diagnosis can be modeled as an ontogenetic, interpellative speech act. A speech act is an utterance or sign that constitutes an action through its performance, called an illocution. In psychiatric diagnosis, this illocution is ontogenesis, or the instantiation of an individual as a member of a social kind. Because of how this kind is embedded in a social structure, this ontogenetic illocution also results in the perlocutionary effect of interpellation, where a person is signaled, or “hailed,” to behave in ways considered appropriate to that diagnosis and the social kind and role associated with it. I will offer an overview of the concepts required for this model, including social structure, social kinds, social positions and roles, and social practices. I will also analyze ontogenesis, phylogenesis, and interpellation, offering felicity conditions for interpellation and for the type of ontogenetic speech act that psychiatric diagnosis exemplifies – authoritative ontogenetic speech acts. I will demonstrate how psychiatric diagnosis meets these felicity conditions so that it can be effectively modeled as an ontogenetic, interpellative speech act. Finally, I will consider a case where ontogenesis and interpellation in psychiatric diagnosis leads to unjust conditions through a background ideology of ableism – namely, autpocalypse and autistic filicide, or the denial of autistic agency and the murder of autistic persons by their families and caretakers.