Conference: The Human Sciences after the Decade of the Brain – Perspectives on the neuro-turn in the social sciences and the humanities.

March 30th – March 31st, 2015

Philosophy Department, Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz, Germany

It is now almost 25 years since the U.S. Congress authorized the then president, George Bush sr., to proclaim the decade beginning January 1, 1990 as the Decade of the Brain. This proclamation stimulated a number of initiatives that substantially benefitted neuroscience research in the following years. Alongside this rise of neuroscience and the corresponding increase of public awareness, many disciplines in the humanities and social sciences have shifted towards more brain based and evolutionary informed approaches. New research fields such as Neuroethics, Neuroeconomics, Cognitive Cultural Studies, Neuroaesthetics or even Neurotheology have gained a following. In addition to surveying the mutual interactions between the cognitive neurosciences and the social sciences and humanities, this interdisciplinary symposium investigates the methodological and conceptual prospects and perils of choosing a neuroscience approach to the social sciences and the humanities. The symposium aims to shed light on a broad range of epistemological, historical and sociological questions about the
purported neuro-turn in the social sciences and the humanities including (but not limited to):

• How and why have brain based approaches to the social sciences and humanities developed?
• What exactly distinguishes cognitive and brain based approaches from their traditional counterparts?
• How are brain-based sub-disciplines of the traditional humanities institutionalized?
• How does research policy contribute to the development of a neuro-turn in the social sciences and the humanities?
• Are there common motives for turning to cognitive neuroscience approaches in the different disciplines of social sciences and humanities? If so, which?
• Are there any historical examples of a turn to brain based approaches in the social sciences and the humanities?
• If so, what could be learned from this history for practicing social sciences and humanities today?
• What, if anything, can the humanities and the social sciences learn from the neurosciences?
• What, if anything, can the neurosciences learn from the social sciences and the humanities?
• How does neuroscience change the social sciences and the humanities?
• How do the humanities and the social sciences change neuroscience?

We invite submission of abstracts of 300-500 words from researchers in relevant disciplines such as history of science, science and technology studies, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, cognitive neuroscience, psychology or any sub-discipline of the social sciences or the humanities, which approaches its subject from a cognitive science perspective.

Abstracts should be emailed to leefmann[at] by December 15, 2014. Applicants will be notified by mid-January 2015 whether their abstract has been accepted.

Conference website here.

This symposium is part of the international project ‘The Neuro-Turn in the Social Sciences and the Humanities’ (NESSHI) funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). For information on the project see:


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