Neurophilosophy and Ethics

Dit vak wordt in het Engels aangeboden. Omschrijvingen kunnen daardoor mogelijk alleen in het Engels worden weergegeven.

Doel vak

This course gives an introduction into philosophical and ethical issues
that are part of neuroscientific research and of the application of
neuroscientific insights in professional practices and in the
communication with the general public.
Final attainment level: at the end of the course the student is able
- To identify logical errors in scientific papers
- To understand and reproduce four positions in the debate about the
relation between brain and mind
- Point out the differences between the concepts of cause,
explanation,law, correlation
- To identify ‘reification’ and scientistic reasoning
- To give an ethically informed account of the relation between
scientific research and the industry
- To provide a summary statement about the role of the scientist in
educating the general public.

Inhoud vak

Part 1. Philosophy of science and methodology (6 hours)
This part of the course addresses questions like
- what is science?
- what do concepts like cause, explanation, and law mean?
- what is the difference between correlation and causation? how can one
discern different types of relation: lawlike relations, statistical
relations; covariations
- when do statistical relations say anything about reality?
- hypothesis-driven research versus bottom-up ‘data-driven’ research
- explanation of terms: inference to the best explanation, post hoc
explanation, validation (different types of validation)

Part 2. Basic concepts(6 hours)
This part of the course addresses questions like
- what is mind?(including the notion of ‘extended mind’)
- what is relation between mind and brain? (with an introduction into
the conceptual history of this relationship)
- what is embodiment?
- what is a gene (the gene as ‘fuzzy’ concept)?
- conceptualizations of complexity (system theory; neurophilosophy)

Part 3. Ethical issues (4 hours)
This part of the course gives an introduction to basic concepts and to
current approaches of ethics. Special attention to issues like
- informed consent, especially in neurological and psychiatric patients
- intertwinement between science and industry
- neurosurgery (in OCD and Parkinson’s disease)
- brain implants

Part 4. Educating the public (4 hours)
This part of the course is devoted to the position of the scientist who
is asked to inform the general public. What can be said on the basis of
neuroscience research and what not? Is it for example legitimate for a
scientist to say
- that God does not exist
- that we have no free will
- that morality is nothing but a product brain wiring
Another question would, what to say as scientist about the status of
evolutionary explanations in the public sphere.


20 hours interactive Interactive lectures (in English), video,
discussion of the literature, ‘Lagerhuys debate’, pitching


Each student gives a brief presentation about his or her research
project and discusses one or two philosophical issues with respect to
his project (the grade for this presentation forms 1/4 of the final
grade; only for those who present). The other 3/4 of the grade is based
on a final paper, which provides a brief summary of the main issues that
are discussed (max 2 pages per lecture) and a three page account of a
particular philosophical or ethical problem (question, possible answers,
discussion of philosophical/ethical resources to answer the question,
The three page paper may also consist of an in-depth analysis of the
conceptual strengths and weaknesses of metaphors that are used in the
translation of neuroscientific findings to the broader public.


Will be provided two months before the beginning of the course.


Research master students Neuroscience

Aanbevolen voorkennis

Students are adviced to read an introduction into philosophy beforehand

Algemene informatie

Vakcode AM_1018
Studiepunten 3 EC
Periode P3
Vakniveau 500
Onderwijstaal Engels
Faculteit Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen
Vakcoördinator prof. dr. G. Glas
Examinator prof. dr. G. Glas
Docenten prof. dr. G. Glas
H.E. Hulst

Praktische informatie

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