Critical Neuroscience. / Specialist Course for doctoral Students

The neurosciences have spawned in only a few decades both a hegemonious neuro-culture and a neural subjectivity (i.e. Fernando Vidal’s “cerebral subject”, Nikolas Rose “neurochemical self”). How we experience ourselves and the world increasingly hinges on neurological rather than psychological and internalistic notions. Within the field of the sciences themselves the prefix “neuro” becomes ubiquitous. Approaches, such as neuroeducation, neuropolitics or neuro-aesthetics, are prone to flood our contemporary life-world.

But what if these swift and sometimes blunt and misplaced expropriations of the neurosciences tell us something essential on the neurosciences themselves, and, in particular, on the wedding of the neuro with the sciences?  In other words if there is such a thing as “neurologisation” (spawning a neuro-culture and a neuro-subject) does this then not warrant a closer critical-philosophical scrutiny of the neurological turn in Academia (affecting thoroughly and even revolutionizing the humanities) and how it interacts with processes in culture and subjectivity?

In this respect, the pregnant question is:  what are the conditions of (im)possibility of both neurology (as it is inevitably embedded in cultural, political and popular contexts), and the other sciences (seeking to overcome their own terms of impossibility with the supposed firm and neutral neurosciences)?

The urgency of a “critical neuroscience” addressing these questions lies in the fact that the neurological turn risks not just to neglect the dimension of critique, but also  to obviate its possibility. Is there still any outside, any beyond, from where a critical approach is viable? Or might it be that the critical potential is to be found within the very neurological itself? The question (and the wager?) of this series is: can this potential be put to work so that it, on its turn, plays a role in the processes of the ‘making up’ (Ian Hacking’s term) of people, society and (neuro)science?

This initiative brings together 6 people who work on the topic of the neurosciences. 6 different approaches: phenomenology (Jan Slaby, Free University Berlin), clinical psychoanalysis  and neuropsychoanalysis (Ariane Bazan, UL Bruxelles), cognitive neuropsychology (Aikaterini Fotopoulou, King’s College London) culture and ideology critique (Marc De Kesel, Artevelde Gent/KU Leuven/Radboud Nijmegen), history of philosophy (Howard Caygill, Kingston University, London) and social cognitive neuroscience (Vittorio Gallese, University of Parma). 6 state of the art way-ins to open up the perspective of a critical neuroscience; exploring the ethics, the philosophy, the politics and the policies of this neuro-era.

Organised by

Specialist Course of the Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities and Law, Ghent University
Organised by the Centre for Critical Philosophy, in close cooperation with the University of Antwerp (UA), the University of Leuven (KUL) and the Free University of Brussels (ULB).

Invited speakers

Jan Slaby (Free University Berlin), Ariane Bazan (UL Bruxelles), Aikaterini Fotopoulou (King’s College London, Marc De Kesel (Artevelde Gent/KU Leuven/Radboud Nijmegen), Howard Caygill (Kingston University, London) and Vittorio Gallese (University of Parma).

from 21 february 2013 to 23 may 2013


Ghent University
Blandijnberg 2

Admission information

The programme is spread over 6 Thursdays from February till May. Each of these Thursdays one of our invited speakers does an afternoon workshop and an evening lecture.

To ensure interactivity and active discussion in the workshops, each PhD student prepares the session by reading the assigned key-texts of the expert (a reader is made available, see further). In addition, in each session two or three students from the group discuss their own research in relation to the work of the experts and prepare a few questions with which both the expert and the group will engage. In order to organize the latter, each PhD student chooses, on inscription, two experts with whom he or she would like to discuss his/her research; on this basis we allocate two or three participants as ‘discussants’ to each workshop.

To register or to add your name to the waiting list, send an e-mail to doctoralschools@UGent.be (mentioning your name, first name, student number, Doctoral School, Department and the course title). Your registration will be confirmed by e-mail.


Jan De Vos

Programme and practical information

Thursday, 21 February 2013

  • 16:00-17:30: Doctoral workshop with Prof Howard Caygill

  • 19:30-21:30: Evening Programme
    Introduction to the specialist course by Dr Jan De Vos (UGent)
    Lecture by Prof Howard Caygill: Psychiatry and the Neurosciences; Response by Dr Farah Focquaert (UGent)

Thursday, 7 March 2013

  • 16:00-17:30: Doctoral workshop with Dr Marc De Kesel

  • 19:30-21:30: Evening Programme: Lecture by Dr Marc De Kesel: Neuroscience as Ideology Critique; Response by Dr Jan De Vos (UGent)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

  • 16:00-17:30: Doctoral workshop with Prof Ariane Bazan

  • 19:30-21:30: Evening Programme: Lecture by Prof Ariane Bazan: The case of jouissance contra neural plasticity. Pleading mental causality in favor of an ethics of subjective liability; Response by Prof Andreas De Block (KU Leuven)

Thursday, 18 April 2013

  • 16:00-17:30: Doctoral workshop with Prof Jan Slaby

  • 19:30-21:30: Evening Programme: Lecture by Prof Jan Slaby: The Philosophy of 'Critical Neuroscience'; Response by Prof Peter Reynaert (UA)

Thursday, 2 May 2013

  • 16:00-17:30: Doctoral workshop with Prof Aikaterini Fotopoulou

  • 19:30-21:30: Evening Programme: Lecture by Prof Aikaterini Fotopoulou: Between the Two Cultures: Neuroscientific Research on the Bodily Ego; Response by Prof Helena De Preester (UGent)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

  • 16:00-17:30: Doctoral workshop with Prof Vitorri Gallese

  • 19:30-21:30: Evening Programme: Lecture by Prof Vitorri Gallese: From mirror neurons to Embodied Simulation. A second-person approach to intersubjectivity; Response by Prof Ariane Bazan (ULB)