Consciousness: An Interdisciplinary Perspective
Subjective experience and the state of being aware were until a few decades ago considered solely philosophical problems.
Today the human mind and its content are becoming increasingly technologically accessible. At the same time, new data and theories on the sources of consciousness are spilling from neuroscience and related disciplines into other research fields. Neurotechnology is advancing rapidly and new theories of consciousness are appearing: deep brain stimulation; collective minds-technologies; new possibilities of bio- and psychedelic enhancement; the mapping of the neural correlates of consciousness; the predictive processing theory of brain function; new notions of trans- and posthumanism etc.
Many of these entail a radical challenge to some of the most common intuitions and conventional conceptions people hold about themselves, human nature and existence, open up dizzying possibilities of change and lead to novel definitions of what it means to be human.
A new ‘neuroanthropology’ is emerging which leads to new moral questions and uncertainties and at the same time confronts us with some of the most fundamental existential questions with a new urgency and clarity.
An adequate response to these new neurotechnological possibilities, the rise of neurocentrism and the emerging neuroanthropology requires that the natural sciences and humanities collaboratively and proactively engage in the handling of the ethical implications and resulting existential uncertainties.
The conference will bring together scholars from Oxford and beyond to share and discuss the latest work in consciousness research and engage with foundational theorising about the nature of an emerging field.
It uses a specific clinical research project as a case-study, namely the Wellcome Innovator project on deep brain stimulation (DBS) on minimally conscious states and the role of brainstem nucleus in human consciousness led by Professor Alex Green and invites for wide interdisciplinary commentary, reflection and debate from researchers in other disciplines.
In the initial session, Alex Green will describe the research and clinical conundrum in relation to DBS and bring insights from the decisions he and his team make on a daily basis in relation to treatment.
In the following sessions, speakers from the fields of neuroscience, ethics, literature, anthropology, psychology and cultural studies will engage with the case-study and related research by considering the ethical, existential, psychological and socio-cultural implications and reflecting on questions such as: What constitutes meaningful or desirable states of consciousness? What is a good life? How do new neurotechnologies impact our view of human nature and mind/consciousness? What are the individual psychological and existential implications? What are the socio-cultural implications?
All are welcome to attend this free conference. For a list of speakers, titles, abstracts and information on how to register, visit the event webpage at Consciousness: An Interdisciplinary Perspective | The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.
Please note we are still working on the final programme so the start and finish times are subject to change. Please check for updates on the event webpage before attending!