Kathryn Schoefert

Making the Biological Brain: An Organismic View of Neurosciences and Humanities

The making of the neuroscience research programme in the 1960s doubtlessly relied on and reinforced the making of the neuromolecular gaze (Abi-Rached and Rose 2010) in this period. The emphasis on neuromolecular reductionism as key trading zone has strengthened accounts of the history of the neurosciences which focus on cognition, perception, and processing. It has also supported a smooth telescoping of neurons to minds: Neurons stand in for neural networks stand in for brains stand in for minds and behaviour. The concatenation simplifies the trading zones between social sciences and neurosciences and humanities.

Recent research on the molecularising biological sciences in the 1960s has highlighted a counterproposal for an organismic biology (Milam 2010) carried by Ernst Mayr and others. In this paper, I explore similar efforts in 1960s brain sciences whose tenets are typically associated with studies of holistic re-enchantment among inter-war neurologists (Harrington 1999). These brain scientists—among them clinicians, psychosomatic researchers, ethologists, neuropathologists, little known characters such as the Swiss physician Ernst Frauchiger and well-known figures such as Paul MacLean—suggested alternate interplays of body and mind, brain and society, the neuro(logical) sciences and the humanities.

The aim is not to discount the neuromolecular gaze, but to rest it at a particular scale and explore cooperation around a particular objet d’art, the organismic brain of the 1960s.