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EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2006

Thomas Metzinger, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany

t_metzinger

Thomas Metzinger

Biography

Thomas Metzinger currently is Professor of Philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. He also serves as President of the German Cognitive Science Society, as a founding board member of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, is a former senior member of the McDonnell Project in Philosophy and the Neurosciences, as well as Head of the MIND-Group and an Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies. He studied philosophy in Frankfurt am Main, where he also received his Ph.D. Metzinger was awarded his habilitation at the Justus Liebig University in Gießen in 1993. Since then he has taught at eight German universities, and spent a year each at the Hanse Institute for Advanced Study in Delmenhorst and at the University of California at San Diego.

Metzinger's research focus lies in analytical philosophy of mind, with a strong interdisciplinary focus including the philosophy of science and philosophical aspects of the neuro- and cognitive sciences, of artificial intelligence and related fields; but also connections between ethics, philosophy of mind and anthropology. This also involves developing an applied ethics for the neuro- and cognitive sciences and artificial intelligence ("neuroethics"), and neuroanthropology. Thomas Metzinger has published numerous articles and three monographs, the most important of which is "Being No One – The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity" (MIT Press, 2003). He has also edited well-known collections about conscious experience and the neural correlates of consciousness and a three-volume textbook in philosophy of mind, the first volume of which has recently appeared.

Abstract

From Neuroethics to Consciousness Ethics: The Wider Context

I will offer some brief considerations of the role the humanities, and philosophy in particular, may have to play in the current naturalization of the mind. The keywords are "neuroanthropology", "neuroethics", and "consciousness ethics". The general anthropological consequences of the research now being done on the neural implementation of mental functions are dramatic: We will be confronted with a shift in the general image of man, which contradicts almost all traditional anthropologies mankind has developed in the course of its history.

We need a metatheoretical synthesis of all the data available, but at the same time must confront descriptive anthropology with normative anthropology. New normative issues emerge, e.g. in terms of an applied ethics for neurotechnology. And, obviously, the development triggered by the cognitive neurosciences, and the constant evolution of new available research technologies, will eventually have a strong cultural impact. For instance, it leaves us with an anthropological and normative vacuum, which cannot be filled by the empirical Mind Sciences themselves.

How can philosophy and neuroscience efficiently cooperate, in order to productively, and in an argument-base, rational manner, develop implementable solutions for all of these new problems?