Michael Waddell

Director, Master of Autism Studies The McMahon Aquinas Chair in Philosophy

"In the Master of Autism Studies program, you'll learn about the science of autism and state-of-the-art approaches to autism intervention. But you'll also study the experiences of autistic people, explore autistic art and culture, and think deeply about what autism can teach us about human nature. You'll examine the ethical, social and political dimensions of autism, and consider the implications of autism for religion and spirituality. You'll look at autism from more angles than you might ever have thought possible, and you'll leave prepared to make a difference in the lives of autistic people and their loved ones in ways you might not ever have imagined. What's more, you'll do it as part of a community of people who are passionate about developing not just autism awareness, but autism understanding and autism acceptance."

157 Spes Unica Hall | 574-284-4169 | mwaddell@saintmarys.edu

Michael Waddell is an interdisciplinary scholar who has taught courses in philosophy, theology, history, and literature at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. His broad interests include philosophical and theological theories of human nature, ethics, philosophy of religion, and the Catholic intellectual tradition. For the past several years, his work has focused on bringing these interests into conversation with the emerging field of philosophy and disabilities, and especially on exploring resources that the Catholic tradition offers for understanding and responding to autism. As part of this undertaking, he has taught courses on philosophy and disabilities, and has lectured on philosophy and autism at prominent universities including Oxford and Cambridge. He is currently working on a book about autism and the Catholic tradition. In the community, Dr. Waddell serves on the Human Rights Committee of LOGAN Industries, and participates in ministries for people with disabilities. In addition to his professional interest in autism, Dr. Waddell has a personal stake: he is the father of three daughters, two of whom are on the spectrum.


PhD, University of Notre Dame
MMS, University of Notre Dame
BA, Cornell College

Area of Expertise

Philosophy and autism
Philosophy of disabilities
Philosophy and theology of human nature
Philosophy of religion

Research Interests

The ethics of autism
Autism and theories of human nature (esp. autistic identity, personhood, and culture)
Autism and the Catholic intellectual tradition

Graduate Courses Taught

AUST 500: Gateway: Autistic Experiences
AUST 510: Autism and Humanity
AUST 610: Autism and Ethics

Professional Experience

Saint Mary's College, Director, Master of Autism Studies Program, & the Edna and George McMahon Aquinas Chair in Philosophy (2010-present)
Villanova University, Assistant Professor of Philosophy (2005-2010)
Augustana University, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Coordinator of Classics (2000-2005)

Awards and Honors

  • Who's Who Among America's Teachers
  • Mellon Fellowship
  • Liebmann Fellowship in the Humanities
  • Phi Beta Kappa

Recent Conference Presentations, Lectures, or Addresses

“Autism and Assisted Suicide,” Mind, Medicine & Morals: The Ethics of Psychiatry and Mental Health Care,” Anscombe Bioethics Centre/St. Anne's College, University of Oxford, July 7, 2018.

“The Metaphysics of Autistic Identity,” University of Notre Dame, March 21, 2018.

“Thomistic Anthropology, Autistic Identity, and the Prospect of a Cure,” Person, Soul and Consciousness: Philosophical and Theological Perspectives, Berkeley, CA, July 14, 2017.

“Autism, Labor, and Leisure: Catholic Resources for Contemporary Challenges,” Labor & Leisure, Notre Dame, IN, July 10, 2017.

 “Personhood, Identity, and the Autism Rights Movement: A Catholic View,” St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, May 12, 2016. (Also delivered at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford, May 10, 2016.)

“Embodiment, Ensoulment, and Cognitive Disability: Resources from the Writings of Thomas Aquinas,” International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 12, 2013.

“Should We Tell Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders That They Have Autism? A Question for Disputation,” SOPHIA Symposium on “Disability, Civic Responsibility, and Community Friendship,” University of Mississippi, February 26, 2011.


Autism and the Catholic Tradition, in progress.

Selected Articles:
“Autism and Assisted Suicide.” The Journal of Disability and Religion, published online 17 December 2019. https://doi.org/10.1080/23312521.2019.1694463

“Thomas Aquinas and the Resurrection of the (Disabled) Body,” The Saint Anselm Journal 12.2 (2017): 29–51.

“Integrating Beauty: Reflections on the Psychology, Ontology and Etiology of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae 1.5.4,” The Saint Anselm Journal 8.1 (2012): 1–18.

“Faith and Reason in the Wake of Milbank and Pickstock,” International Philosophical Quarterly 48.3 (September 2008): 381–96.