“From Magic Mushrooms to Magic Mountains: Visions of the Contemporary Humanities”: Raphaël Millière and Karolina Watroba

At last September’s Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors, the Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in the Humanities was featured. The Ertegun session was titled: “From magic mushrooms to magic mountains: visions of the contemporary humanities” and showcased the doctoral research of two current resident alumni. As the session was such a great success, we felt that the Scholars should also be given the opportunity to hear Karolina and Raphaël’s talks and arranged a rerun of the CCB session at an additional scholars’ seminar towards the end of Michaelmas Term.

Raphaël Millière presented “From molecules to consciousness.” Raphaël explained that scientists traditionally use questionnaires to assess the subjective effects of psychoactive drugs and how they relate to neuroimaging data, but that questionnaires have their limitations and can be effectively complemented by interviews. He illustrated this claim by presenting a recent study of the effects of the drug Dimethyltryptamine, drawing upon this example to discuss the usefulness of philosophy to the natural sciences.

The second speaker was Karolina Watroba, who asked “Who reads The Magic Mountain?”. Finding references to the Magic Mountain from a blockbuster Japanese anime to the promotional materials of the World Economic Forum, Karolina looked through a wealth of untapped material to understand what this iconic German novel by Thomas Mann means to its readers around the world.

The presentations were followed by a lively Q & A with Raphaël and Karolina answering questions by the current Scholars.