International Symposium organized in collaboration with Rimini Meeting for Friendship amongst People, CEUR Foundation, Republic of San Marino – Segreteria di Stato Pubblica Istruzione e Istituti Culturali
August 24-26, 2011 – University of San Marino, Ancient Monastery of Santa Chiara
The symposium wants to promote an interdisciplinary discussion on the contributions and challenges that neuroscience in the broad sense is bringing to the current understanding of human’s nature. The capacity of knowledge, abstract thinking, language, mathematics, aesthetics, music, free choice are some of the human traits that we normally consider essential to our very existence. At the same time these very traits do not exist independently of brain’s functioning. How is neuroscience contributing to our understanding of these core aspects of human’s nature?
Neuroscience is progressively identifying the complex networks underlying sensorial, emotional and cognitive functions. Most of these functions are accessible by subjective experience. One of the undisputed characteristics of these conceptually and empirically distinct capacities is that they are not perceived as distinct acts but rather they qualify as a unitary experience of our self. How does the neuropsychological understanding of the brain circuitry possibly fit with this characteristic of our of our experience? Or more radically, is there a limit to a neuropsychological access to subjective experience?
Given the interdisciplinary character of the Symposium theme, neuroscientists, linguists, psychologists, as well as cognitive philosophers and theologians have been invited.
Following the successful scheme adopted in the previous editions of the San Marino Symposium, the above questions will be addressed in three sessions, each involving three outstanding thinkers from both science and humanities.
1st session: Language and cognition
Language is obviously at the very heart of research on the nature of human mind for historical and epistemological reason for at least three distinct reasons: first, the very first speculations on human mind started with reflections on language and this has practically never been dismissed up until the so-called analytical philosophy; second, the structure of the code appears to be unique among all other species and displays clear biologically driven traits; third, it is so deeply entangled with reasoning and cognition that the latter domains cannot be approached without exploring the nature and structure of language. Are there new questions or new approaches to old ones that can be addressed within the era of neuroscience? Is language still largely a mystery to explain or can it be ultimately reduced to other components of the mind/brain system?
2nd session: Human’s nature vs human’s brain
Ever since humans have understood that cognitive capacities depend on brain activities the question how the nature of human mind relates to the structure of the brain has been one of the major challenges for neurobiologists, neurophysiologists, psychologists and philosophers and one that has a deep impact on other fields, including for example medicine and artificial intelligence research projects. What is a sound and reasonable starting point for a discussion of this issue?
What are the facts or at least important points that philosophical developments and neuroscience exploration of the brain have so far established?
How do we face the general perception that dualism from one side (i.e. Decartes philosophy), but also reductionism should be overcome?
What are the theoretical and empirical problems that we now face in this field? Can research proceed toward an exploration of the brain on the basis of a predefined notion of human nature or should the latter be redefined by taking into account what we discovered about the neuropsychological structure of the brain?
3rd session: Freedom and certainty
One of the defining properties of human mind, and one that has been recognized in the western civilization at least since Descartes, is that, independently of our subjective perception, humans do clearly express freedom in feeling, choosing and behaving. The notion of certainty challenges this striking phenomena under many respects: How can this distinctive and fundamental trait that contrast predictability coexist with the fact that we do experience certainty in cognitive domains, including prototypically mathematics but also emotional feelings? If the structure of the mind is the expression of a physical object such as the brain how can freedom raise from it? Is such a manifest dualism reproducing the mind/brain issue at a different level or should rather be taken as a strong recommendation to avoid dualism in the first place?
Luigi Agnati, Dept. of Biomedical Science, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy)
Gianfranco Basti, Philosophy Faculty, Pontificia Universitas Lateranensis, Rome (Italy)
John Cacioppo, Dept. of Psychology, University of Chicago
Mauro Ceroni, Neurological Sciences Dept., Univ. of Pavia and Mondino Hospital, Pavia (Italy)
Lorenzo Magrassi, Neuro-surgery Dept., San Matteo Hospital, Pavia (Italy)
Andrea Moro, Institute for Advanced Study IUSS Pavia (Italy)
Javier Prades, Theology Faculty at San Damaso Academic Institute, Madrid (Spain)
Jonathan Schooler, Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara
Giuseppe Trautteur, Dept. of Computer Science, University of Napoli “Federico II” (Italy)
Marco Aluigi, Meeting for Friendiship Amongst Peoples
Tommaso Bellini, Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnologies, University of Milano
Marco Bersanelli, Physics Department, University of Milano
Mauro Ceroni, Neurological Sciences Department, University of Pavia
Andrea Moro, Deptartment of General Linguistics, IUSS Pavia
Elio Sindoni, CEUR Foundation
Carlo Sozzi, Milano Plasma Physics Institute, National Research Council of Italy (CNR)
Benedetta Cappellini, Euresis Association
Tonino Ceccoli, Euresis Association
Donatella Pifferetti, Euresis Association
Matteo Turchi, Meeting for Friendiship Amongst Peoples