In Uskali Mäki, Adrian Walsh & Manuela Fernández Pinto (eds.), Scientific Imperialism: Exploring the Boundaries of Interdisciplinarity. pp. 205-223 (2017)

Roberto Fumagalli
King's College London
In recent years, several authors advocated neuroscience imperialism, an instance of scientific imperialism whereby neuroscience methods and findings are systematically applied to model and explain phenomena investigated by other disciplines. Calls for neuroscience imperialism target a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, economics, and philosophy. To date, however, neuroscience imperialism has not received detailed attention by philosophers, and the debate concerning its identification and normative assessment is relatively underdeveloped. In this paper, I aim to remedy this situation by making some conceptual distinctions about neuroscience imperialism and by providing a normative assessment of prominent calls in its favour. I shall articulate and defend two interrelated claims that, I argue, undermine prominent calls for neuroscience imperialism. First, the proponents of neuroscience imperialism significantly overstate the evidential and explanatory relevance of neuroscience methods and findings for the disciplines they target. And second, prominent calls for neuroscience imperialism point to an untenable reductionist position, which rests on unsupported empirical and normative presuppositions. To substantiate these two claims, I shall draw on two sets of influential calls for neuroscience imperialism, which respectively target the economic modelling of choice and entrenched philosophical conceptions of free agency.
Keywords Scientific Imperialism  Neuroscience  Economic Modeling  Free Will  Choice  Reductionism
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