Philosophy: Philosophy of Neuroscience

Touching a nerve

Philosophy of Neuroscience

Due to the corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this master programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection 'Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s'.

Do you study neuroscience, biomedical science or (bio)psychology, and do you want to think beyond the boundaries of your discipline? Then the 2-year Master's degree programme Philosophy of Neuroscience might be the perfect fit for you! You will learn to reflect on the philosophical foundations of neuroscience, engage with the broader implications of neuroscientific research, and become a better scientist as a result.

Why study Philosophy of Neuroscience?

Advances in neuroscience do not only open doors to an unprecedented ability to explain, predict and control human behavior, but also raise philosophical and ethical questions about their potential risks, benefits and broader societal consequences.

What are the implications of neurotechnologies such as Deep Brain Stimulation and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for our understanding of self and personal identity? When is neuroscientific evidence admissible in the court of law? How can we translate fundamental neuroscientific insights to psychiatric practice? Other questions concern the scientific practice of neuroscience itself. What sort of explanation do neuroscientists provide? Is there a method or model that unifies the (results of the) various neuroscientific subdisciplines? What justifies the claim that mental disorders are caused by dysfunctional brain mechanisms?

In the Master's programme Philosophy of Neuroscience you will address these and other issues at the interface of neuroscience, philosophy and psychiatry. You will learn how to communicate about these issues with non-academic parties (e.g., patients, health practitioners, policy makers) and in this way contribute to a better practical understanding of neuroscience and its implications. The programme can be followed in tandem with the Research Master Neuroscience at VUmc, thus allowing you to obtain two Master's degrees simultaneously (see admission requirements).

Philosophy of Neuroscience
The curriculum for the track Philosophy of Neuroscience in the Master’s programme Philosophy of the department of Philosophy includes 30 ECTS in Philosophy, 36 ECTS in Neuroscience, 42 ECTS in Philosophy of Neuroscience, and 12 ECTS for the individual Master’s thesis, at the total of 120 ECTS. The programme is open for (Research) Master's students in Neuroscience, or a related MA programme in which 30 ECTS in neuroscience courses can be obtained.

For information please contact Dr Leon de Bruin: l.c.de.bruin@vu.nl.

Master courses in Philosophy
The Master courses in Philosophy include five courses of 6 ECTSon themes in the History of Philosophy, Theoretical Philosophy, and Practical Philosophy.

Master courses in Neuroscience
Depending on the specific MA programme that is followed (Neuroscience or a related programme), and to be specified in consultation with the coordinator of the PNS programme: Dr Leon de Bruin: l.c.de.bruin@vu.nl.

Master courses in Philosophy of Neuroscience
The Master courses in Philosophy of Neuroscience include seven courses of 6 ECTS (number of weeks between brackets).

Philosophy: Philosophy of Neuroscience courses in study guide.

The directors of this programme are convinced that this Master's programme will make you a better neuroscientist and scholar. For those who don’t aim at a scientific career this Master's programme gives the necessary background, both philosophical and empirical, to address implications of neuroscientific research in the widest possible sense, as advisor, policy maker, writer or scientist in other domains of science.  

Programme
This programme is unique in that that it offers a full Master's degree programme philosophy of neuroscience, that is completely embedded in an already existing and well developed Research Master's programme Neuroscience at VUmc. It is the only programme in the Netherlands and, as a matter of fact, one of the very few in the world.

Jeroen van Daatselaar

Student

Jeroen van Daatselaar

“I decided to enroll in the combined Neurosciences and Philosophy of Neuroscience (PNS) master's programmes because, in addition to my fascination with the brain, I was curious about issues related to mind and cognition. I assumed that a combined knowledge of brain and mind would help deepen my understanding of both. PNS ended up giving me much more than I had hoped for. The curriculum covers classical and contemporary topics, ranging from consciousness, to different theories of causation, to the impact of neuroscience on society and our notion of human nature. On a more abstract level, the courses helped me become more flexible and thorough in my thinking; I became much more proficient in spotting argumentative structure and assumptions (explicit and hidden); I started thinking a lot about concepts like 'information' - how central they are to what neuroscientists do and how carelessly they are often used; and it became much easier for me to understand and communicate ideas and theories. This master ended up giving me the edge in my search for a PhD position in neuroscience. Today, when I read neuroscientific literature or converse with colleagues, I see philosophy at every turn.”

Dutch students

Generally speaking, students must complete their Bachelor’s or pre-Master’s before starting on their Master’s programme. This is known as the ‘Bachelor's before Master's rule’. Due to the corona crisis, however, some students have had to partially stop their studies, resulting in an unfortunate delay.

In April a nationwide decision was taken to abandon the so-called “harde knip” because of Corona and to formulate alternative requirements for admission to master’s programmes. For this reason, and following general VU guidelines, the Humanities Faculty has opted for a smoother transition. Find out what this means for you below.

Guidelines for Bachelor’s to Master's      
•    Minimum percentage of EC’s: 90%     
•    Deadline for completion of the BA thesis (including thesis seminar if applicable): 1 December 2020     
•    Deadline for completion of other missing Bachelor's courses: 15 July 2021      
•    Demonstrably admissible to another master's programme on 1 September, which may be subject to other “zachte knip” requirements     

We strongly advise students to do everything possible to complete their Bachelor’s or pre-Master’s programme before the end of this academic year. The study load makes it very difficult to complete missing courses while on an intensive Master’s programme.

All students who enroll on the basis of the “zachte knip” will be invited by the academic advisor and will be assigned a mentor, who will have a finger on the pulse for the completion of the Bachelor's degree.

Request exceptional admission
Do you meet these conditions or do you expect to meet these conditions by 31 August at the latest? If so, you can request exceptional admission no later than 1 August. You can do this by completing and submitting the form for exceptional admission to a Master’s programme.

Due to the corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this master programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection 'Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s'.

To be considered for admission to the Master’s programme Philosophy of Neuroscience (PNS) you must meet the following requirements:

  1. Hold an academic Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Biomedical Sciences, or Psychology with a Biological Psychology or Neuropsychology profile. If you hold a BSc degree in a closely related discipline (e.g. Movement Sciences, Artificial Intelligence or Medicine), you are also eligible to apply.
  2. Eligibility to a Neuroscience Master’s programme. Since PNS applies philosophy on neuroscience, 30 ECTS must be obtained in this discipline at a Master’s level. Most of our students aim at obtaining two Master’s degrees, that is to say in PNS and in Neuroscience. There are no additional criteria beyond the admission criteria for the Master’s programme Neuroscience that is followed.

English
All lectures and student presentations are in English, all written assignments as well. Therefore all prospective students must be proficient in English. The VU Amsterdam courses Academic English: Grammar and Academic English: Writing (or similar courses at another university) are strongly recommended in your Bachelor's programme.

Dutch students and international candidates with a Dutch degree can apply via Studielink before the June 1st for the Master's programme Philosophy of Neuroscience under the label Filosofie 2 jaar/Philosophy 2 years.

After you have applied for the Master's programme in Studielink, you will receive two emails with your login details for VUnet (VU studentportal). Please complete your application in VUnet. Don’t forget to fill in your specialization on VUnet: Philosophy of Neuroscience.

Your application will be reviewed by the Admission Board of Faculty of Humanities. You will be informed whether you have been admitted via Studielink.

See here for more information on admission requirements and procedures.

For more information on the requirements
Send an e-mail to Leontien Diergaarde: l.diergaarde@vumc.nl.

For more information on courses and study programme
Please contact dr. Leon de Bruin: l.c.de.bruin@vu.nl.

Information days
Meet us at the next Master's Event!

International students

Generally speaking, students must complete their Bachelor’s or pre-Master’s before starting on their Master’s programme. This is known as the ‘Bachelor's before Master's rule’. Due to the corona crisis, however, some students have had to partially stop their studies, resulting in an unfortunate delay.

In April a nationwide decision was taken to abandon the so-called “harde knip” because of Corona and to formulate alternative requirements for admission to master’s programmes. For this reason, and following general VU guidelines, the Humanities Faculty has opted for a smoother transition. Find out what this means for you below. Please note: if you are a non-EEA student, the Bachelor's before Master's rule does still apply.

Guidelines for Bachelor’s to Master's     
Non-EEA students enrolled in a VU Bachelor and EEA students  

•    Minimum percentage of EC’s: 90%     
•    Deadline for completion of the BA thesis (including thesis seminar if applicable): 1 December 2020     
•    Deadline for completion of other missing Bachelor's courses: 15 July 2021      
•    Demonstrably admissible to another master's programme on 1 September, which may be subject to other “zachte knip” requirements     

We strongly advise students to do everything possible to complete their Bachelor’s or pre-Master’s programme before the end of this academic year. The study load makes it very difficult to complete missing courses while on an intensive Master’s programme.

All students who enroll on the basis of the “zachte knip” will be invited by the academic advisor and will be assigned a mentor, who will have a finger on the pulse for the completion of the Bachelor's degree.

Due to the corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this master programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection 'Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s'.

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application.

To be considered for admission to the Master’s programme Philosophy of Neuroscience (PNS) you must meet the following requirements:

  1. Hold an academic Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Biomedical Sciences, or Psychology with a Biological Psychology or Neuropsychology profile. If you hold a BSc degree in a closely related discipline (e.g. Movement Sciences, Artificial Intelligence or Medicine), you are also eligible to apply.
  2. Eligibility to a Neuroscience Master’s programme. Since PNS applies philosophy on neuroscience, 30 ECTS must be obtained in this discipline at a Master’s level. Most of our students aim at obtaining two Master’s degrees, that is to say in PNS and in Neuroscience. There are no additional criteria beyond the admission criteria for the Master’s programme Neuroscience that is followed.

You must always present official test results proving your proficiency in English. Only students who have completed a full high school/International Baccalaureate in English or bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. You can already apply online without having the test results. In case you haven’t taken a test yet we advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. Below you will find the minimum English test scores for the English taught programmes at the Faculty of Humanities:

  • TOEFL score (score 600 paper based with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE, score 250 computer based or score 100 internet based with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests).
  • IELTS score of 7.0 overall band score (with none of the separate section scores dropping below a minimum score of 6.5).
  • Cambridge English: Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C.

Please refer to the language requirement page for the general requirements.

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required. 

Step 1: Meet admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online
Please prepare the following documents. All documents should be provided in English.

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Transcript of records
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education and a list of all the main literature

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via email.

Step 3: Await decision on admission
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation what to do after admission. When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information:
Accommodation
Visa
Tuition fees

For more information on the requirements
Send an e-mail to Leontien Diergaarde: l.diergaarde@vumc.nl.

For more information on courses and study programme
Please contact dr. Leon de Bruin: l.c.de.bruin@vu.nl.

For questions about the application procedure
Please contact our International Student Advisor at the International Office:

Irena Paap
E: masters.hum@vu.nl
T: +31 (20) 59 85252

Information days
Meet us at the next Master's Event!

Download brochure

Overview Philosophy: Philosophy of Neuroscience

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION

English

DURATION

2 years

TUITION FEE

APPLICATION DEADLINE

1 June for Dutch and EU-students. 1 April for non-EU-students.

START DATE

1 September

STUDY TYPE

Full-time

FIELD OF INTEREST

Philosophy
Behavioural and Social Sciences
Health and Movement

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