About: Philosophy  

Philosophy and the study of the mind

Many of the core research topics at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain have a strong philosophical background. Philosophers have long been concerned with the relationship between mind and body, and between behavior and mental life. They have also worked extensively on perception, consciousness, the self, free will, and the relationship between language and thought; and they have discussed problems of psychological explanation and moral responsibility.

Philosophy therefore plays an important role in the research program of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain. The program provides theoretical frameworks and conceptual tools that help to integrate and focus empirical work. Philosophy also helps to assess the implications of empirical results for the relationship between mind, brain, and behavior. It is therefore essential for empirical research projects to be philosophically informed.

Philosophers at the school are predominantly interested in the philosophy of mind – which addresses questions about the nature of the mental – but also in epistemological and ethical questions related to mind and brain research, as well as in the philosophy of science – which discusses basic problems of scientific research.

The School is home to a number of master’s students, doctoral candidates, and postdoctoral fellows pursuing philosophical projects. Some of their topics are: free will, consciousness, the self, social cognition, animal cognition, the epistemology of neuroscience, and the nature of scientific explanation (see links to: doctoral candidates; alumni; postdocs; Einstein Visiting Fellow; associated research groups; associated researchers).

If you are working on these or related issues the school may be the right place for you, especially if you are interested in the interpretation of empirical data from neurobiology and experimental psychology.

Contact persons

The following post-doctoral fellows and faculty members may be addressed to give advice on research project proposals in “Philosophy”:

Special Newsletter issue on consciousness research

(download in section Newsletter)

This page last updated on: 08 July 2015

What is the relationship between mental states and brain states?
Questions that philosophers might ask and help to answer are, for example: Is it true that certain experimental results show that we do not have free will or that the self is an “illusion”? Is there an explanatory gap between brain states and mental states, and if so, are there ways of bridging this gap? Which cognitive functions are involved in the experience of a coherent self, or the ability for rational deliberation, decision making and agency? What are the neurological correlates of these functions, and what can brain disorders and mental dysfunctions teach us about them?

Photograph © Laura Viefhues