Summer Seminars in Neuroscience and Philosophy
Philosophers and neuroscientists study many of the same big questions about human nature, including free will, morality, perception, knowledge, and consciousness. But researchers in these disciplines rarely work together—or even understand each other.
With a goal of advancing both fields, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke University) aims to foster mutual appreciation and collaboration. To do so, his project will hold three annual summer seminars. Over the course of 14 days, ten fellows from neuroscience will study contemporary philosophy; ten fellows from philosophy will learn about recent developments in neuroscience. These seminars will include theories and methods in both disciplines.
While studying the field outside their expertise, fellows will form interdisciplinary teams that will design their own experiments on big questions. The project will fund the most promising of these experiments, carried out with guidance from project staff and reported at the next year’s seminar. Each seminar will close with a two-day public conference with leading figures from both disciplines.
The project’s outputs will include three seminars that train 60 fellows and feature around 60 speakers, as well as three conferences that educate over 300 audience members. Later outcomes will include at least 20 original research papers by the fellows and directors.
The team seeks to create lasting bonds among future leaders in philosophy and neuroscience. Through these bonds, they can continue to collaborate for many years on more interdisciplinary research projects that address big questions. This project has the potential to change both fields by stimulating new interdisciplinary courses and programs in many universities. It can also provide models of how to engage in cutting-edge scientific research on profound philosophical questions.