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“PERSONS AND THEIR BRAINS”

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION AND CALL FOR PAPERS:

11-14 July 2012, St Anne’s College, Oxford

Organised by the Ian Ramsey Centre, University of Oxford
www.ianramseycentre.ox.ac.uk

Email: irc.admin@theology.ox.ac.uk

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BACKGROUND

It is now over 20 years since Churchland’s book Neurophilosophy was published, and in its wake whole disciplines have sprung into being, proudly sporting the prefix ‘neuro-’ by way of attaching themselves to Churchland’s banner. We have entered a new period in which philosophy, among a substantial community of its practitioners, might be seen as the handmaiden of neuroscience, whose role is to remove the obstacles that have been laid in the path of scientific advance by popular prejudice and superstitious ways of thinking. Brain imaging techniques, which enable us to allocate mental functions to precise cortical areas, and in some cases to establish the neural pathways through which information is processed and decisions formed, have cast doubt on the reality of human freedom, have revised the description of reason and its place in human nature, and caused many people to suspect the validity of the old distinctions of kind, which separated person from animal, animal from machine and the free agent from the conditioned organism. In addition, the more we learn about the brain and its functions, the more do people wonder whether our old ways of managing our lives and resolving our conflicts – the ways of moral judgment, legal process and the imparting of virtue – are the best ways, and whether there might be more direct forms of intervention that would take us more speedily, more reliably and perhaps more kindly to the right result. (more…)

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