Interview with Kathinka Evers

June 5, 2012

One of my colleagues here at CRB, Kathinka Evers, recently returned from Barcelona, where she participated in the lecture series, The Origins of the Human Mind:

PS: Why did you participate in this series?

KE: I was invited by the Centre for Contemporary Culture to present the rise of neuroethics and my views on informed materialism.

PS: Why were you invited to talk on these issues?

KE: My last book was recently translated into Spanish (Quando la materia se despierta), and it has attracted interest amongst philosophers and neuroscientists in the Spanish speaking world. In that book, I extend a materialist theory of mind, called “informed materialism,” to neuroethical perspectives, discussing, for example, free will, self-conceptions and personal responsibility.

PS: In a previous blog post I commented upon Roger Scruton’s critical attitude to neuroscientific analyses of subjects that traditionally belong to the social and human sciences. What’s your opinion on his criticism?

KE: Contemporary neuroscience can enrich numerous areas of social science. But the reverse is also true. The brain is largely the result of socio-cultural influences. Understanding the brain also involves understanding its embodiment in a social context. The social and neurobiological perspectives dynamically interact in our development of a deeper understanding of the human mind, of consciousness, and of human identity.

PS: Do you mean that the criticism presupposes a one-sided view of the development of neuroscience?

KE: I suspect that the criticism is not well-informed, scientifically, since it fails to take this neuro-cultural symbiosis into account. But it is not uncommon for philosophers to take a rather defensive position against neuroscientific attempts to enter philosophical domains.

PS: Was this tension noticeable at the meeting in Barcelona?

KE: Not really. Rather, the debate focused on how interdisciplinary collaborations have at last achieved what the theoretical isolationism of the twentieth century – when philosophy of mind was purely a priori and empirical brain science refused to study consciousness – failed to achieve: the human brain is finally beginning to understand itself and its own mind.

Kathinka Evers has developed a course in neuroethics and is currently drafting a new book (in English) on brain and mind.

Pär Segerdahl

We transgress disciplinary borders - the Ethics Blog


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