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The Seductive Power of the Neurosciences: An Intellectual Genealogy

GoTriple's project summary

"The current explosion of neuroscientific references in a plethora of disciplinary fields, with plenty of psychological and cultural phenomena that have been ‘turned neurobiological’, represents one of the most remarkable characteristics in our epoch. What once was described with recourse to a humanistic vocabulary is today increasingly represented by the language of neurobiology: a certain “way of thinking has taken shape” today (Rose, 2007), one for which everything that is relevant for human beings has to leave a trace in the brain.The aim of this multidisciplinary research project is to investigate such a ‘neuromania’ scenario of our days, trying to shed light on some background reasons for the current seductive power of the neurosciences. Building on the previous two-year IEF MC at the same host institution, this project explores the way neuroscientific references have penetrated countless disciplinary fields, created their own plethora of neurodisciplines and affirmed themselves as a foundational narrative endowed with epistemic but also normative force. The research follows a three-stage approach:A) A Cartography of the emergence of a new constellation of “neurodisciplines” and the way neuroscientific suggestions have made their way through plenty of disciplinary fields, included areas traditionally resistant to neurobiological discourses (e.g. philosophy, sociology and political theory)B) An Assessment of the specific cognitive dimension of the problem, with particular focus on “the illusion of explanatory depth” (Keil, 2003) which seems part of the “seductive allure” (Skolnick Weisberg et al., 2008) and “particular persuasive” force (McCabe and Castel, 2008) of neuro-explanations and brain imagesC) An Analysis of the moral and normative dimension that contributes to the intellectual authority of the neurosciences, interpreted here as a new source for moral and political discourses after the intellectual failures and traumas of the twentieth century"

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