“Grand Entretien” with Boris Cyrulnik

“Grand entretien” with Boris Cyrulnik

This “grand entretien” is organized in partnership with the French Institute in Prague and the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2024, at 6:00 PM
Location: French Institute in Prague, Štěpánská 35, Prague 1
Langue: French with simultaneous translation into Czech
Moderator: Alice KOUBOVÁ (Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences)


Since the advent of neuroimaging, it has become evident that environmental deficiencies lead to brain dysfunction. When the environment is impoverished, the corresponding brain areas atrophy, causing individuals to perceive the world differently, often as hostile. All mammals can suffer from such disrupted development.

Humans, however, predominantly live in a world of ideas, which also influence the brain and emotions. In this ideational world, narratives and unverifiable beliefs take root, provoking belief-driven conflicts, as seen globally today.

As early as the 1930s, it was known that mammals or birds placed in sensory isolation exhibited self-centred behaviours such as rocking, spinning, and self-aggression when their emotions became too intense. Neuroimaging has shown that these disturbances in beings deprived of social interaction are due to atrophy in the frontal and limbic brain areas and hyper-reactivity of the rhinencephalic amygdala.

Humans experience the same sensory deprivations as animals. However, they possess a brain capable of completely decontextualizing information, enabling them to respond to representations that are imperceptible yet deeply felt: God, an event from a thousand years ago, a story of Paradise, or another that warns of a Martian attack. When we believe in these, we feel a sense of alert that drives us to defend ourselves against an imaginary enemy. This explains the countless and cruel wars of belief that still plague us today.

Boris Cyrulnik is a French neuropsychiatrist and psychoanalyst, celebrated for his pioneering contributions to psychology and clinical ethology. His passion for human ethology led him to serve as the Director of Education for the University Diploma in Human Ethology at the University of Toulon. Cyrulnik is widely recognized by the public for his popular science books that delve into the mysteries of the human mind and the mechanisms of resilience. Among his most notable works are Dialogue on Human Nature, co-written with Edgar Morin (2015), Psychotherapy of God, Souls and Seasons: Psycho-Ecology (2021), and Resilience: Factors of Protection and Vulnerability (2022).

Alice Koubová is a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences, where she leads the Resilience Systems (SYRI) project. She also serves as the Vice-Dean for Science and Research at the Faculty of Theatre at the Academy of Performing Arts. Her primary research interests include resilience, political psychology, performance, ethics, and artistic research. Koubová has been actively fostering collaborations between science and art in public spaces for many years.