The Ethical Brain: Philosophy and Neuroscience

Course content

The past three decades have seen an explosive surge in neuroscientific explanations of human nature, promising clear-cut biological answers to commonplace philosophical questions concerning rationality, emotion, behavior, values, and ethics. This course sets out to examine to what extent such a promise is warranted – in particular concerning existential questions such as anxiety, responsibility, and religious faith.

Education

The course is planned with physical attendance, but can also be accessed as live streaming of registered participants.

Learning outcome

Learning outcome

By the end of this course you will be able to understand and evaluate critically the growing presence of neuroscience in discussions about human nature and ethics – in public media, in policy making, and in academic research. Besides getting a solid understanding of the historical development of the ‘neuroscientific image of human nature’, you will learn about paradigmatic ethical theories; the complex relation between science, philosophy, and religion; and fundamental theoretical issues concerning the contemporary endeavor to naturalize human nature, and ethics in particular. This should enable you to participate in discussions about the virtues and limits of neuroscience, to discern between valid scientific claims and less tenable scientific claims, and to distinguish sound critique of scientism from mere science bashing.   

 

Teaching and learning methods

The sessions are structured as a combination of lecture, discussion, and group work with a focus on engaging the student. Each session is framed by a systematic PowerPoint presentation of the themes and readings in question. The presentation will encourage and guide the discussion and the group work in the class. The student can expect a lively and systematically oriented teacher who will attempt to make the issues both interesting and relevant to a contemporary setting while maintaining a substantial theoretical level and the necessary historical perspective. 

 

Course ECTS credits 15

 

Textbooks

  • Simon Blackburn. A Very Short Introduction to Ethics, 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2021”

 

Articles and Chapters

  • Mark F. Bear, Barry W. Connors, and Michael A. Paradiso. Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2006, Ch. 1: 4-22.
  • M.R. Bennett & P.M.S. Hacker: Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing 2003, Ch. 1 & 14: 11-42, 378-409.
  • Kai Vogeley & Shaun Gallagher, “Self in the Brain”. In S. Gallagher (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Self, pp. 111-136. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011.
  • Antonio Damasio. The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Culture. New York: Random House, Ch. 3.
  • Lisa Feldman Barrett. How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. London: Macmillan, ch. 2-3: 25-55.
  • Richard Kraut. “Aristotle's Ethics”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
  • Rachel Cohon. “Hume's Moral Philosophy”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
  • Robert Johnson and Adam Cureton. “Kant's Moral Philosophy”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
  • David Brink. “Mill's Moral and Political Philosophy”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
  • Adina Roskies “Neuroethics”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .  
  • Kenneth S. Kendler. “The Nature of Psychiatric Disorders”. World Psychiatry 15 (2016): 5-12.
  • R. Viera da Cunha and J.B. Relvas.“”Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Neuroscience?” Neuroscience’s Impact on Our Notions of Self and Free Will”. In  J. Leefmann and E. Hildt (Eds.). The Human Sciences after the Decade of the Brain, pp. 24-41. New York: Academic Press 2017.
Written
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
ECTS
15 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Undergraduate requirements (bachelor students):

Requirement to pass the course for undergraduate students (bachelor students) are: a) A syllabus of 1,200-1,500 pages. The syllabus includes both the course literature covered in connection with the course and the assignment literature on which the written homework assignment is based, which the student finds and has approved by the teacher. The syllabus (course and assignment literature combined) may not exceed 1,500 pages. b) Active participation (at least 75% of the hours attended documented by protocol) and preparation of a written home assignment with a scope of 24,000-28,800 characters, i.e., 10-12 pages, based on 600-800 pages of literature as agreed with the course teacher. The assignment is assessed by the teacher. The assessment is based on the 7-point grading scale.

Graduate requirements (candidate/master students):

Requirement to pass the course for graduate students (candidate/master students) are: a) A syllabus of 1,200-1,500 pages. The syllabus includes both the course literature covered in connection with the teaching and the assignment literature on which the written homework assignment is based, which the student finds and has approved by the teacher. The syllabus (course and assignment literature combined) may not exceed 1,500 pages. b) Active participation (at least 75% of the hours attended documented by protocol) and preparation of a written home assignment with a scope of 36,000-48,000 characters, i.e., 15-20 pages, based on 800-1,000 pages of literature as agreed with the teacher. The assignment is assessed by the teacher. The assessment is based on the 7-point grading scale.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Exam period

Winter and Summer Exam

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 122
  • Exam Preparation
  • 150
  • Exam
  • 120
  • English
  • 420

Kursusinformation

Language
English
Course number
TTEASK023U
ECTS
15 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Bachelor
Bachelor choice
Full Degree Master choice
Part Time Master
Duration

1 semester

Placement
Autumn And Spring
Schedulegroup
Thursdays 13-16

Autumn 2023

First day is Thursday, 24 August

Spring 2024

First day is Thursday, 18 January
Capacity
..
Studyboard
Study board of Theology
Contracting department
  • Theology
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Theology
Course Coordinator
  • René Rosfort   (3-8275825084757f7c3e7b853e747b)
Teacher

René Rosfort

Saved on the 07-07-2023

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