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Research Research School of Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences Education PhD Training Programme Other courses (B)

3. BCN Philosophy of Neuroscience

Target Group

PhD students within BCN, preferably in their second year and Master students of philosophy


Start in November, once a week, in the morning from 9:00-12:00 hrs. during 10 weeks.


Between 1 or 5 EC (see: extra information for BCN-PhD students).


There will be 10 weekly meetings (consisting of lectures, presentations, and discussions) of 3 hours. Home work is required. The course is given in English.


Dr. F. Keijzer and Dr. A.M. Tamminga


The last two decades have seen an explosion of research within, and related to the neurosciences. Much of this research has philosophical implications that have hardly been articulated so far. In this course, we will introduce and discuss a number of philosophical topics that are influenced by, and themselves influencing, current neuroscience research (broadly conceived). These topics range from new developments on ‘standard’ philosophical issues to ‘new’ issues that derive from current work in the neurosciences.

The following topics will be discussed:
·     Introduction: Philosophy of neuroscience and neurophilosophy
·     Emergence and reduction: What is the difference between mind and brain?
·     Brains and minds: Measuring the brain, and a Wittgensteinian critique
·     Vision: How the neurosciences change what it means to see
·     Evolution and modularity: How did evolution affect the mind?
·     Epistemic issues: Problems with brain measurements
·     Mirror neurons: The difference between you and me is no longer what it used to be
·     Language: From Chomskian innateness to Tomasello’s culture first
·     Self-awareness: Metzinger claims that we do not truly have a self

Some familiarity with basic neuroscience concepts and terminology will be assumed. If necessary, chapter 7 of Paul Churchland’s Matter and Consciousness (Cambridge MA, 1984: The MIT Press) provides a basic introduction into neuroscience, but any of the numerous introductions in (cognitive) neuroscience will do as well. John Allman’s Evolving Brains (New York, 1999: Scientific American Library) is particularly recommended for giving an account of the neural details placed in their evolutionary and behavioural background. At the end of each meeting, one of the lectures presents a synopsis of the literature that is to be discussed at the next meeting. Apart from that, as essay question concerning that literature is posed.


All master students are required to write eight intermediate papers consisting of about 500 words (include a word count). The intermediate papers have to address essay questions related to the literature of the day. These papers answering the essay question are to be handed in at the start of each meeting , starting at the second. Master students may miss one of the intermediate papers. Moreover, all master students are required to write a final paper consisting of about 2500 to 3000 words (include a word count). The average of the marks of the seven best intermediate papers will count for 2/3 and the final paper for 1/3 of the final mark.

BCN PhD students

BCN PhD students have the option to make the same assignments as the master students do, with which they will earn 5 EC. Or they can choose to write a single paper at the end of the course which relates (a selection of) the discussed topics to their own research. In this case the number of EC will reflect the amount of work done, and range between 1 and 5.


Faculty of Philosophy, Zaal Alfa, Oude Boteringestraat 52, Groningen.


Please check the online registration system


Dr. F.A. Keijzer
Faculty of Philosophy
Oude Boteringestraat 52
9712 GL Groningen
Phone: 050 363 6162
E-mail: f.a.keijzer

Last modified:16 October 2019 1.25 p.m.