Course Syllabus


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Semester & Location:

Fall 2020 - DIS Copenhagen


3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Biology, Neuroscience, Philosophy


One course in biology or neuroscience at university level

Faculty Members:

Bettina Hornbøll Borch and Elise Utke Schiøler

Program Director: Susanna LS Dietrich -
Time & Place:

Mondays and Thursdays, 13:15 - 14:35

Classroom TBA



Bettina Pic Bettina Hornbøll Borch
Ph.D. (Neuroscience, University of Copenhagen, 2017), MSc. (Neurobiology, University of Copenhagen, 2006), BA (Biology, University of Copenhagen, 2004). Founder of CogniCation; cognitive communication. Has been conducting neuroscience research for approx. 10 years, investigating emotion processing in the brain using imaging. With DIS since 2012.
es.png Elise Schiøler
Cand. phil. (philosophy, University of Copenhagen). External lecturer in medical ethics, theory of science, and philosophy of health technologies, University of Copenhagen, 2007-. External lecturer in theory of science, scientific method and argumentation analysis at The Defense College, 2012. With DIS since 2011.


Course Description

As neuroscience expands our understanding of neural processes, core ideas and phenomena related to our selfperception such as character traits, personal values, moral assessments, and free will, are in need of reconsideration. This opens new fields for concerns and ethical considerations.

To fully understand the challenges faced, these considerations should not only consist in revisiting and -defining philosphical core concepts regarding our identity as human beings, but must also understand the way that neurotechnologies achieve new understanding of- and affect neuro processes. Therefore this course crosses disciplines and is taught by both a neurobiologist and a philosopher. This also allows us to cover both of the two mainfields within neuroethics: Ethics of neuroscience and Neuroscience of ethics.

Among others, we will cover topics like neuroenhancement, neuromarketing, brain privacy from both philosphical and neuroscientific perspectives. In addition, we will also discuss how neurotechnologies can be properly evaluated – and by whom.


Expected Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course you will be able to appreciate the possibilities and acknowledge the limitations in getting to understand ourselves as human beings through a neuroscientific perspective: to specify what kind of questions that can be asked meaningfully, and what the explanatory scope within neuroscience is. To enable these assessments, the course introduces various ethical approaches, as well as moral principles within research, public health policy, business and more.

In sum, the course teaches critical thinking about neuroscience and ethics, and is directed at students with interest in research, business, public health, and other societal matters.


Required Readings

Some sources of readings for the course:

  • Baum, M.L. (2016). The Neuroethics of Biomarkers. Oxford University Press.
  • Dubljevic, V., Jotterand, F., Jox, R.J., Racine, E. (eds.) (Forthcoming). Advances in neuroethics. Springer.
  • Gallagher, S., Zahavi, D. (2012). The phenomenological mind, 2nd ed. New York, NY. Routledge.
  • Illes, J. (2017). Neuroethics - anticipating the future, 1st ed. Oxford University Press.
  • Johnson, L.S., Rommelfanger, K.S. (2018). The Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics, Routledge.
  • Kriegel, U. (ed.) (2014). Current controversies in philosophy of mind. Routledge.
  • Levys, N. (2010). Neuroethics - Challenges for the 21st century. Cambridge University Press.
  • Liao, S.M. (2016). Moral Brains. The Neuroscience of Morality. Oxford University Press.
  • Liao, S.M., O'Neil, C., (eds.) (2017). Current controversies in bioethics. Routledge.
  • Racine, E., Aspler, J. (eds.) (2017). Debates About Neuroethics. Springer

Specific papers

  • Banja, J.D., "Moral Reasoning", ch. 19 in Johnson, L.S.M., et al. (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics, Routledge 2018.
  • Christen, M., Müller, S.: "The Ethics of Expanding Applications of Deep Brain Stimulation", ch. 4 in Johnson, L.S., Rommelfanger, K.S. (2018). The Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics, Routledge.
  • Earp, B.D., Douglas, T., Savulescu, J., "Moral Neuroenhancement", ch. 11 in Johnson, L.S., Rommelfanger, K.S. (2018). The Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics, Routledge.
  • Hardcastle, V.G.: "My Brain Made Me Do It?" ch. 12  in Johnson, L.S., Rommelfanger, K.S. (2018). The Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics, Routledge.

Along with current scientific literature within the fields, as well as other publications e.g. news articles that are relevant for the discussion in class. 

Please note that the course draws on scientific literature from both philosophy and neuroscience traditions.


Approach to Teaching

Each of the classes will present some measure of lecturing, ensuring that the required academic concepts and theories are 'clear and distinct'. However, current dialogue and partner-, group-, as well as class discussions will be prevalent.

Good teaching is a co-operation. As we in class combine brief lectures with partner reflections, group work and class discussions, for a fruitful course it is paramount that all participants show up well prepared to take active part in the dialogues.


Field Studies and Guest Lecturers

Field studies serve to complement your course work by placing you in other contexts than class in order to compare, extend, and rethink what has been (or will be) read and discussed in class.

Potential Field Studies: Visits at the PET and cyklotron center at Rigshospitalet (the national teaching hospital) and Center for Subjectivity Research (University of Copenhagen). 



Students will be evaluated continuously throughout the semester, both individually and as taking part in group work - see below. 


Participation 20%
Group project 20%
Reflections 20%
Midterm exam 20%
Final project 20%
Total 100%



Laptops in class: You may use your laptop for note‐taking or fact‐checking. Usage not related to the class or our subject is unacceptable. We will rely on your integrity and your respect for our objectives. If you are using your laptop for reasons not related to class, your class participation grade will be reduced significantly as you will be marked as absent for the entire class period.  A good learning environment requires as little disturbance as possible, and that everyone is present, prepared, and participating.

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on: 


Course content

Throughout the course we will dive into four major themes: Neuroenhancement, Diagnostics and moral responsability, Brain implants, as well as Neuromarketing and Manipulation of behavior. 

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Course Summary:

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