A program studying the intersections of neuroscience and philosophy will begin Summer 2016.

The program—Summer Series in Neuroscience and Philosophy—will allow twenty leading scholars in both fields to converge at Duke for an intensive fifteen-day period where they will work collaboratively and ultimately explore new research directions. The program has been funded with a $1.8 million grant from the Templeton Foundation, and being led by Felipe De Brigard, assistant professor of philosophy, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, the Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics.

“The neuroscientists will study philosophy, and the philosophers will study neuroscience,” Sinnott-Armstrong said.

After viewing video lectures before the start of the program and studying the opposite fields for the first 10 days of the program, scholars from each discipline will design collaborative experiments that take advantage of what they have learned, he explained.

“They will pair up with one from each field and these teams will design experiments while they listen to some more advanced lectures and attend a closing conference,” Sinnott-Armstrong said.

The idea for the program began with discussions Sinnott-Armstrong had with administrators from the Kenan Institute for Ethics starting in 2010 when he came to Duke. De Brigard joined Sinott-Armstrong when he arrived at Duke in 2013 and they collaborated on the grant application.

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Sinnott-Amstrong said, participants will be selected from the applicant pool by a team of “local advisors."

The project’s funding will provide for the housing, materials and speakers featured in the conference. The Templeton Foundation, which funded the entirety of the project, seeks to support projects that “cross disciplinary boundaries to engage the Big Questions”.

Once started, the program will not be limited to the 15 days that participants are physically together. Participants will also be paired to work over the next year on projects that bridge the two fields and will hopefully use what they learn to offer interdisciplinary classes and encourage collaboration, De Brigard explained.

“We hope that the training they'll received at SSNAP will inspire fellows to pursue collaborative research projects in philosophy and neuroscience for many years to come,” he said.