Neuro-phenomenology and Deep Brain Stimulation
Erik Rietveld

Neuro-aesthetics, neuro-ethics, neuro-economics: it seems no discipline can escape the influence of the neurosciences. Neuro-phenomenology has a somewhat different status in this regard: since the publication of The Embodied Mind (Varela, Thompson & Rosch, 1991), phenomenology — the philosophical tradition founded by Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty — has itself played an important role in discussions within the cognitive (neuro)sciences. Phenomenological insights have had considerable impact, which led to the influential new field of ‘Embodied or Enactive Cognition’. My lecture will discuss this relation between phenomenology and the neurosciences. I will show how interdisciplinary research that accounts for perspectives from both of these fields can lead to novel philosophical concepts. Furthermore, I will shortly elaborate on the application of this method in the University of Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center (AMC), where philosophers, psychiatrists and neuroscientists are working together to investigate how Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) changes the phenomenology of patients suffering from severe depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders. I will argue that the new conceptual framework that has resulted from this research project is not only useful for this kind of patients, but actually just as relevant for understanding our everyday dealing with the world.

Erik Rietveld is a Senior Researcher at the University of Amsterdam, AMC/Dept. of Philosophy/ILLC and a founding partner of RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances]. Earlier he was a Fellow in Philosophy at Harvard University and a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. Together with his brother Ronald Rietveld he founded the multidisciplinary studio for architecture, art and philosophy RAAAF in 2006. They were responsible for Vacant NL, the Dutch contribution to the Venice Architecture Biennale 2010. RAAAF was elected Dutch Architect of the Year 2013. Ronald and Erik Rietveld were recently invited to become members of The Society of Arts at The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). Erik Rietveld publishes frequently in international journals such as Mind, Synthese, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and Harvard Design Magazine. Rietveld’s philosophical work on skilled action and affordances was awarded with Rubicon-, VENI- and VIDI grants by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and recently with an ERC Starting Grant by the European Research Council. Websites:,