malibou – 2012 Aug 18

Foucault and Neuroscience

  • Critical neuroscience 
  • What is Critique – What is Enlightment – Foucault
    • 1784 – Published a response to the question “What is Enlightment” – by Kant
    • What is this event that is called the aufclarung
  • LeDou
    • You are your synapses
    • The space for reason is to be found in the space between two nerve cells
  • Foucault vs. Metzinger (author of Being No One) 
    • Cognitivist: There is no you – you are nobody, autonomy is never yours. Nobody ever was or has a self – it is not a thing but a process.
      • The experience of the immediacy of consciousness emerges as a fiction
      • “My brain” doesn’t mean anything – there is no way a subject can become aware of his or her own neurons
      • The brain is transparent from the standpoint of the subject
    • Continental: Relations
      • Relation of control
      • Relation of action
      • Relation of oneself  – what is this relation of oneself
      • What about ontology – 
  • Zizek
    • It is in the nature of consciousness that it misperceives the gap that seperates it from raw nature
    • lacan: all cognition is misrecognition

Phylosophy – Neurobiology – Biopolitics

  • Synapsis
    • Synth – together
    • Apsis – bind
    • The spaces between brain cells 
    • The brain is the space between – the intervals between cells


  • Neural plasticity
  • Neural transparency
  • It is in the absence of subjectivity 
  • Each of us is no one in her own way

What is enlightenment 

  • The outline of modernity – Kant according to Foucault “Who is modern man?  He is not the man who goes off to discover himself.  He’s the man who tries to invent himself”
  • Technologies of the self
    • self fashioning 
    • subjectivity never precedes its own invention
    • gestural creation 
  • What given the contemporary order of being can I be?

Judith Butler – What is Critique

  • What criteria delimit the sorts of resa
  • To be critical is to be self-transformative

Foucault and Metzinger are in agreement – 

Suprisingly at this very hight point of natrualism, the return of the romantic

The transcendental – precisely not the biological or the empirical – plasticity as rational, univerisal.  Perhaps the transcendental itself is maleable. 

The new cirticims is not going to – rather a historical investigation into the events that allow ourselves to recognise ourselves as subjects.

“The Experimental transcendental” – Foucault 

The Emotional Brain – there cannot be any reason without emotion.  If we weren’t able to have emotions/drive – we wouldn’t 

Cells that fire together wire together 

How can we think of a neuro-plasticity of the humanities?

Long term potentialisation – these vary with the influence of the environment. 


  • The eye is the illusion the brain needs
  • Experimental transcendental – Experimental metaphysics 
  • The I and the Brain, the Brain and the I
  • Neurobiologists tend towards the claim of properties – if plasticity rebuilds properties it will be “non receivable”
    • Neural unconscious? 
  • Freedom according to Kant – a new beginning – outside of biology.  Freedom is super-sensory. Why? Our plasticity would not allow us to break with the biological 

I very interested in this idea of experimental transcendental (of the self) and how we might use materials to investigate the self… because experimentality turns thought into a practice, itself a kind of freedom of process / thought – Although I realise this isn’t precisely what you are addressing here tonight. I wonder about another set of seemingly contradictory terms which arise when we shift from the subject to the object, which are ‘experimental metaphysics’ – does this idea resonate with the kind of realist project you’re pursuing?

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