The Role of Literature and the Humanities in the Development of a Consciousness Culture and Ethics

Name of applicant

Mette Leonard Høeg


University of Oxford: The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and the Oxford Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities


DKK 1,092,625



Type of grant

Visiting Fellowships at University of Oxford


With recent advances in consciousness research and neuroscience, a new anthropology is emerging which calls for the development of new ideas of subjectivity, a new ethics and a 'consciousness culture'. With a focus on literary representations of selflessness, the aim of my project is to explore and develop tenable philosophical frameworks and models in response to the ethical, existential and psychological challenges this new image of man entails. The project explores the concepts, perceptions and representations of self and consciousness in Modernist, postmodern and contemporary literature that are compatible with the undermining of the notions of a centered self, free will and agency in recent empirical consciousness research, focusing in particular on the notions of dissolution of self.


The project takes on the task to identify the role of literature and the humanities in filling the normative vacuum that is appearing as subjective experience is becoming increasingly technologically accessible, and in the handling of the resulting uncertainties. It thus includes in the field of consciousness research ideas and concepts from literature and philosophy and insists on an interdisciplinary integration of research questions, methods and arguments. Thereby it consolidates this new and promising scientific discipline and bridges a gap between the natural sciences and the humanities, committing the humanities to the development of adequate theoretical and philosophical frameworks for the future of human thinking and existence.


The project looks for answers in existing ideas, investigating the literary representations of subjectivity and the mind that are compatible with the undermining of the notions of self in empirical consciousness research: and it sheds light on the connection of the literary ideas to relevant concepts in science, psychology and philosophy. Furthermore, the project outlines a new area of interdisciplinary research: consciousness culture and ethics. Recognising not only the emancipatory potential of the realisation of the illusion of free will and agency but also the existential challenges that the materialist notions of consciousness pose, the project develops philosophical positions of subjectivity for the contemporaneity and future that are compatible with the new anthropology.

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