Critical Conversations on the Neurosciences from feminist, sociological, and philosophical points of view

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Friday, March 15th, the Collège d'études mondiales welcomed a conference dedicated to learning from Prof. Pitts-Taylor Yvonne Foerster (philosopher, Leuphana University), Chiara Cappelletto (philosopher, Milan University) and Blandine Bril (psychologist, EHESS).

The “brain”-sciences (neuro-/cognitive sciences) have taken hold of much of how we explain (and sometimes explain away) our everyday behavior. Even children have been known to pronounce that unwanted behavior because “my brain made me do it”. That an increasing number of people suffer from mental health issues, that depression, burn-out, and general brain-related health problems such as migraine are on the rise can be read about in the press. Even in criminal court, a perpetrator’s crimes will be judged with the input of experts on cognitive science, meanwhile crafty entrepreneurs attempt to understand the ways of the brain to better target advertisement and consumer product placements.

“Neuro”-talk infects the ways we speak with one another day-to-day, while more and more aspects of life cannot exist anymore without the input and governance of cognitive science: No wonder some speak of our age as one of “neuropolitics”, especially when some researchers even claim our choice in the voting booth is a matter of brain-structures, and that there were such things as liberal and conservative brains, which political advertisers are trying to make use of. That the brain is as political as are our daily lives makes critical views on this matter called “cognition/cognitive science” necessary, as these sciences and ideas can be used to surveil and control our lives or they can generate more autonomy.

Scholars like Victoria Pitts-Taylor, using the tools of social science and feminist science studies, bring such critical views to the table and help us understand what is going on, what the risks and what the chances are, and how we can keep a both open and critical mind.

Conference organised by Alexander I. Stingl, fellow at Collège d'études mondiales, FMSH, co-sponsored by the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking (PICT) and the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF).

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