Episode 1: "A Productive Irritant"

Episode 1: "A Productive Irritant"

what the heck is going on in autism research?

My fellow neuro-divers,

Joanna and I are thrilled to give you the first episode of NeuroDiving, "A Productive Irritant."

You can find a nice (not Substack-generated) transcript of the episode, as well as a music-free remix, here.

I know that you all are itching for that sweet, sweet "theory of mind" content. It's coming next week! But in this first episode, we give you some crucial background for what's to come.

“A Productive Irritant”

Dr. Chloe Farahar (she/they) is an Autistic academic, and an astute observer of current tensions in autism research. Along with many other Autistic people, Chloe is challenging the foundations of mainstream autism research--and she has a vision for how autism research could be so much better.

Topics Discussed

  • The importance of focusing on the practical applications of research (00:45, 09:25)

  • Why Chloe thinks "autism" doesn't exist (but Autistic people definitely exist) (01:20)

  • The challenge of being autistic and disabled in academia (03:35)

  • The two main camps in autism research: mainstream and autistic-led (06:19)

  • Tensions between autism researchers and the Autistic community (10:14)

  • Spectrum 10K (12:26)

  • Why we can’t simply “follow the science” (16:06)

  • Why autism researchers need to be honest about their values (17:20)

  • Philosophy! (18:35)

  • Theory of mind look-ahead (19:04)

  • How autism research can improve (20:38)

Resources Mentioned

  • For more about the OG productive irritant in the field of autism research, the late great Dinah Murray:

  • I love that Dinah Murray and Chloe Farahar refer to themselves as “productive irritants.” They’re real-life gadflies!

    • In Plato’s Apology, Socrates defends himself against the charges of the Athenian state using a gadfly analogy. From 30e-31a: “For if you kill me you will not easily find another like me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by the divine; and the state is like a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which the divine has given the state and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, awakening and persuading and reproaching you. And as you will not easily find another like me, I would advise you to spare me. I dare say that you may feel irritated at being suddenly awakened when you are caught napping; and you may think that if you were to strike me dead, as Anytus advises, which you easily might, then you would sleep on for the remainder of your lives, unless the divine in his care of you gives you another gadfly.” For a translation of the Apology, see:

  • Aucademy:

  • The National Autism Trainer Program:

  • Example of autism research being described as "a field in crisis," featuring none other than Dr. Chloe!

  • Spectrum 10K:

  • Stop Spectrum 10K:


Host: Amelia Hicks

Guest: Dr. Chloe Farahar

Research, Fact-Checking, and Script Editing: Amelia Hicks and Joanna Lawson

Audio Production: Amelia Hicks

Music: Amelia Hicks

Even More Thank-Yous

A huge thank-you to Chloe Farahar for speaking with me about the current state of “autism” research!

And thanks to the Marc Sanders Foundation and the Templeton Foundation for their support of the show.

a philosophy podcast about neurodivergence