Posts By: pp George Rousseau

Neurosociety Conference Unhistoricized

I’m in Oxford at the Said Business School Conference on ‘Neurosociety’ where daily sessions are taking place  on neurobiology, neuroconsciousness, neuroeconomics, neuroimaging, neuromarketing, neuroeverything documenting our multiple neurofutures. One plenary address by a distinguished philosopher is titled: ‘Who do you think you are? Managing personhood in a neurobiological age’. But when someone asks him a

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Neurocriticism historicized

By 1800 a type of microcosmic neurosociety had historically developed in Edinburgh, capital of the Scottish Enlightenment, whose tentacles stretched far into Britain and even more widely on the European Continent. Yet we have little sense of its forward  development and transformation in the next two centuries apart from narrow disciplinary currents: neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neuropsychiatry,

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Neuromaniacs/neurophobes historicized

My growing list of neuromanias exceeds activities and conditions: neuromythology, neuroeconomics, neurocapitalism – and extends to literary genres. Neuromimesis, neuronovels, neuromemoirs were to be expected. Mind has been replaced by brain in these genres, especially in novels. The characters in these fictional works suffer from biochemical disturbances in the brain rather than more generalized socioeconomic

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Neuromanias old and new

Recently in the TLS (27 August 2010) I reviewed a fascinating new book by Jan Goldstein entitled Hysteria Complicated by Ecstasy. This is not our “ecstasy” but the religio-sexual transport that often accompanied the transport des sens of hysterics like Nanette Leroux, whose microhistory in the 1820s the book recounts. Nanette’s doctors viewed her transport

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Intuition and Sensory Infallibility

I keep wondering about our cutting-edge research into physiological sensation and the  language we use to understand it. The Romantics, especially Goethe, lived inside the ferment of knowledge about the epistemological profile of sensations. They wondered whether sensations were anything other  than the signs of objects outside ourselves, in the way written characters signified  objects

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Don’t write off sensibility yet …

Historians know that the Enlightenment transition from a mechanistic worldview to one based on ‘sensibility’ – the view that personal subjectivity also counts – was the fundamental conceptual transformation of the eighteenth century century. The progression has been described in every possible way as a birth, a death, an advance, a lapse, a decay, a

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Mind & Matter in the 21st century

I have been compiling lists of recent works about mind & matter and running out of space. The number of titles – primary and secondary – is disproportionate to other topics. Not merely among philosophers and scientists but writers, like Paul Brok’s ‘neurogothic’ tale Into the Silent Land (2003) and now Perminder Sachdev’s weird ‘neuropathic’

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We are obsessed with neurology

As I write, Americans have been treated to a 5-part series in the New York Times on anosognosia, unawareness of physical or mental illness. Your body no longer obeys you, but you do not know that it does; or, you instruct your leg to move forward and its goes backward. The stats show lots of

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Historical Neurology and Selfhood

Contemporary neurology has few ripostes to the most puzzling questions about personality and brain disorder, historical neurology even fewer. We fantasize they do despite the evidence against the position – one reason I held out for the metaphoric profile in my last, as it offers at least inroads to selfhood through the production and consumption

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Metaphoric Networks

Most scientists balk at the notion of neuroplasticity as a metaphor. But ask them about “neuroidentity” and they are uncertain. Why the disparity? In any literalist sense both are metaphors, but the latter is not yet a recognized scientific category and so far enjoy neither profile nor status. The day is not far off when

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