Brain, Mind & the Nature of Being

Symposium July 22, 2009

As the fields that are broadly grouped under the rubric of neuroscience provide increasingly more information about the structure and function of neural systems and the brain, it becomes relatively easier to accept and use this data as “facts” to guide, if not actually dictate, our perspectives and activities. Indeed, in the past decade neuroscience has become something of a focal point for applications of genetic and nanotechnologies. The pace of neuroscientific discovery is fueled in part by the synergy of new technology in these and other areas, as neuroscientific advances are both being applied in medicine and integrated into the fabric of social conduct and daily life. This in turn has spawned incipient fields of “neuroeconomics,” “neuromarketing,” “neurolaw,” “neurotheology,” etc. But given the reality that knowledge of the brain and mind remains incomplete and contingent, the ‘neuro’ prefix seems to have become synecdoche for the reductionist/anti-reductionist debate in each of the areas in which it is used, prompting us to consider what some have regarded as “the limits of neuro-talk.”

This gathering of prominent scholars will address the question of whether neurotechnology can provide an accurate insight to the mind, and what changes might be needed in the theories and concepts of neuroscience and evolutionary psychology if a holistic concept of the human person is really to emerge from our progress. Participants will discuss the possibility and implications of reciprocal interactions of body, brain-mind, and environment; the viability of a “self,” the relationality of the person to other persons and perhaps organic and non-organic (machine-based) organisms; the putative nature of virtue and responsibility; issues of will, deliberation, and determination in decision-making, and consideration of what these variables imply for aesthetic and creative experience and practices. In sum, this discourse will generate a wider view of how neuroscientific progress interacts with, and perhaps impacts, the past, present, and future constructs of the human condition, and how these constructs might evolve.


  • Martin Davies
  • Richard Finn
  • Peter Hacker
  • Ian Phillips
  • Parashkev Nachev
  • Elie During
  • James Giordano
  • John Hyman
  • Hanna Pickard
  • Roger Scruton


  • Wednesday, July 22, 2009
  • Oxford University