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Empathic Bodies, Moral Brains, Complex Science

Bridging the Gap between the Sciences and the Humanities

International Conference to be held at the University of Humanistic Studies, 15 September, 2011 (Twitter: #embod) 

This conference explores critical humanistic perspectives on the changing relations between the natural sciences and the humanities. Recent scientific advances in fields such as genomics and neurobiology promise to extend our control over nature to incorporate genes and brains – supposedly for the benefit of all humankind. In practice, this optimistic view tends to further  technocratic ‘solutions’ for a wide range of pressing problems, ranging from agriculture and bio-fuels to medicine and psycho-pharmacy. Unfortunately, by considering moral values and ethical considerations as critical supplements to ‘objective’ scientific knowledge, the traditional humanistic critique of this technocratic bias tends to substantiate the long-standing gap between the sciences and humanities, and the ensuing split between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’.
Instead of criticizing the dominant view from a traditional humanistic perspective that opposes the inherent limitations of objective, value-free science, a critical humanistic perspective as explored at this conference, builds on two pillars in an attempt to bridge the traditional gap between the sciences and the humanities from both sides.

The first pillar is provided by new ethical perspectives and insights that have emerged within scientific fields such as primatology, neurobiology and evolutionary theory. The second pillar builds on new, complexity-sensitive forms of scientific modelling that include rather than exclude ethical questions as an integral part of scientific enquiry.  

Keynote speech

Frans de Waal
(Emory University, US)  


Programme (10.00-17.00 hrs)       MS Word-bestandDownload program now

The morning programme starts with a keynote speech by world famous scientist Frans de Waal (Emory University, US, and occupant of the Vossius Chair at the UvH). De Waal wil give special attention to the ethical implications of his groundbreaking work in primatology. Harry Kunneman (UvH) will then highlight the relevance of de Waal’s work for bridging the gap between the sciences and the humanities, with special attention for the mediating role of critical complexity thinking as developed by the late Paul Cilliers.

In the afternoon six workshops will further explore conceptual and practical questions flowing from the attempt to bridge the gap  between the sciences and the humanities from both sides. Discussions in the workshops will be based on an introductory lecture from a renowned scholar, followed by critical comments by a researcher from the UvH.    

First round of workshops

1. From Kant to de Waal: what about the Autonomy of Reason? Central Lecture by prof. dr. J. Dohmen (UvH) 
2. Ethics of Care and Third Generation Ethology . Looking away from what needs to be done. Central Lecture by prof. dr. F. Vosman (Tilburg University & UvH) 
3. Ethics and Politics in Genomics Research . Central Lecture by prof. dr. G. Ruivenkamp (Wageningen University) 

Second round of workshops

4. The Objectivity of Values and the Value of Objectivity. Nature/Nurture Reunion in  Post-Neo-Darwinian  Biology.  Central lecture by prof. dr. D. Kornet (Leiden University)
5. Empathy is not Enough; Morality and Mixed Motivation. Central Lecture by prof. dr. C. van der Weele (Wageningen University)
6.  Toward an Embodied View on Psychopathology in Mental Healthcare. Central Lecture by prof. dr. G. Glas, Free University, Amsterdam


You can now register for the workshops. Fill in this form.

Registration costs  € 90 (including lunch and drinks) and € 35, - for students (payments methods: Creditcard and Ideal). After registration an invoice and ticket will be sent by email.
You can register now: Empathicbodies 2011 (click here)  
Further information
Information and contact:
Tel: 030-2390126
Patrick Vlug - organisation
Irene Abbenhuis - registration participants 
Ochtend: UCK, Domplein 4, Utrecht (route)  
Middag: University of Humanistic Studies, Kromme Nieuwegracht 29, Utrecht (Route)