Neurophilosophy GCSP

Neuroscience has made tremendous advances in recent decades, bringing us unprecedented insights into the human brain and general human nature.

By Prof. Nayef Al-Rodhan, Director of the Geopolitics and Global Futures Department

Brain imaging tools such as the fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) have revealed important facts about mysteries such as human behaviour, emotions, morality, social cooperation, the neuroanatomy of trauma, decision-making, and power, among others. 

Our cluster on neurophilosophy aims to integrate the findings of neuroscience into the larger debate on International Relations theory and policy analysis. While human nature has been central to political theory, the understanding of what drives humans and states has, in fact, been more speculative than scientific prior to the advent of neuroscience. Neurophilosophy pioneers this interdisciplinary connection and advances an understanding of human nature that is informed by neuroscience. This has important policy implications and helps us nuance our understanding of contested and contentious notions such as morality and power. At the heart of this debate is the concept of human dignity, which has proven central to good governance, stability and security. It is also a profound human need, more inclusive than the need for freedom. This understanding helps explain political transitions, revolutions or regime changes –several publications at the Centre have already studied these connections.

Neuroscience and international relations/security tend to be studied separately. There is, however, much scope for cross-examination. With this cluster, we bring the GCSP to the forefront of these debates not only in Geneva, but on the continent as well. Our publications demonstrate the relevance of neuroscience in public policy, international relations and geopolitics. Our annual course on the Neurophilosophy of Global Security explains the neurophilosophical concept of “Emotional Amoral Egoism” in reference to both humans and states, demonstrating how it affects international relations and governance. Participation in this course will provide you with:

  • a comprehensive overview of the relevance and uses of neuroscience across a wide range of security policy issues and global conflicts
  • new tools for analysing political processes, political change, power and leadership
  • a review of emerging technologies in the area of neuroscience, such as cognitive enhancement, and their implications for equality, ethics, security and the future of humanity

Nayef Al-RodhanProfessor Nayef Al-Rodhan is a Philosopher, Neuroscientist and Geostrategist. He is Director of GCSP's Geopolitics and Global Futures Department and Honorary Fellow of St. Antony's College at Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom. Prof Al-Rodhan began his career in neuroscience and neurosurgery before shifting to the field of Global Security and International Relations (IR) in the early 2000s. He holds an M.D. and a Ph.D. and was trained at the Mayo Clinic, Yale University and Harvard University. Full bio available: here
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