Meeting Einstein: Vittorio Gallese

Art, brain and human nature: what can we know about ourselves?

Discussion with neuroscientist and Einstein Visiting Fellow Vittorio Gallese, novelist and essayist Siri Hustvedt, and philosopher and moderator Gert Scobel 

What is the mind? This fundamental question remains unanswered in philosophy and science. Is the mind part of the body or is it something separate from it? Are the brain and the mind the same thing? Can the mind be disembodied into an algorithm and then realized in a machine? If the brain is the key to mind and consciousness, how much do we actually know about the brain and what does it have to do with "the self"? Why does art matter? Why do we tell stories? What is the relationship between art and science? Is configuring the mind a feminist issue? And: Why are all these questions urgent at this particular moment in culture? Nothing less than these fundamental issues will be debated by novelist and essayist Siri Hustvedt, neuroscientist Vittorio Gallese, and philosopher and moderator Gert Scobel.

Vittorio Gallese

Vittorio Gallese is professor of psychobiology at the University of Parma, Italy, and professor in experimental aesthetics at the University of London, UK. Since 2015 he has been Einstein Visiting Fellow at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, where he set up a research group with a multidisciplinary approach to the development of identity, focusing on self, intersubjectivity, social cognition and their neural bases. The project’s general theme is the development of socio-cultural identity. Gallese is one of the discoverers of “mirror neurons”. He received numerous renowned prices and awards.

Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt is an American novelist and essayist. She is the author of a book of poetry, three collections of essays, a work of non-fiction, and six novels, including the international bestsellers “What I Loved” and “The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves”. Her most recent novel “The Blazing World” won The Los Angeles Book Prize for fiction. In 2012 she was awarded the International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities. She has a PhD in English from Columbia University. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages.

Gert Scobel

Gert Scobel is a German journalist, author, theologian and philosopher. He holds a degree from the University of California, Berkeley and the Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule St. Georgen in Frankfurt am Main.  Since 2016 he has been honorary professor of philosophy at the University of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhein-Sieg. Scobel is the author of several books on philosophy. As chief editor he also presents the weekly and interdisciplinary 3sat program "scobel". He is known as one of Germany's leading science journalists and anchorman. He received various prices, including this year's Grimme Award for the second time.