Gerhard Roth (biologist)

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Gerhard Roth (born August 15, 1942 in Marburg ) is a German biologist and brain researcher . He was director at the Institute for Brain Research in Bremen. He participated in current neurobiological and philosophical issues with book publications.



After attending the humanistic Friedrichsgymnasium in Kassel from 1963 to 1969, Roth first studied musicology , German studies and philosophy in Münster and Rome as a scholarship holder of the German National Academic Foundation . In 1969, Roth received his doctorate in philosophy with a thesis on the Marxist Antonio Gramsci . He then completed a degree in biology , u. a. in Berkeley ( California ), which he obtained in 1974 at the University of Münster with a second doctorate in Zoology finished.


Roth has been a professor of behavioral physiology at the University of Bremen since 1976, and since 1989 a director of the Institute for Brain Research there, which is now the Center for Cognitive Science . From 1997 to 2008 he was rector of the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg . He is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and was President of the German National Academic Foundation from 2003 to 2011 . During this time, the financial contributions to the Study Foundation and the number of scholarship holders doubled. Roth was particularly committed to increasing the proportion of scholarship holders from non-academic and families with a migration background.

In 2008 he founded the consulting company Roth GmbH, and in 2016 the private Roth Institute in Bremen, which is also dedicated to consulting and further training.

Research content

Roth's research interests are cognitive and emotional neurobiology in vertebrates , theoretical neurobiology, and neurophilosophy . In several publications, Roth has discussed the importance of newer brain biological findings for philosophical, moral and educational questions, for example in the book “The brain and its reality. Cognitive Neurobiology and its Philosophical Consequences ”(1994) and in“ Feeling, Thinking, Acting. How the brain controls our behavior ”(2001). The first and last reasons for action of consciousness, Roth explains, are negotiated in the limibic system, i.e. on that level of the brain that we are currently not aware of. At the comprehensive school in Bremen-Ost, Roth was involved in educational policy with a reform project. The theoretical basis of his commitment can be found in his book “Education needs personality. How learning succeeds ”(2011). With Nicole Strüber, Roth published the book “How the Brain Makes the Soul” in 2014, in which the soul is described as the product of extremely complex neurobiological processes. According to Roth, mental illnesses leave clear traces in the brain down to the cellular and molecular level.



Roth's statement has been discussed controversially that from the point of view of scientifically operated neurobiology there is no equivalent for what is called free will in moral philosophy. Roth criticizes free will as a traditional metaphysical conception. The feeling of being able to follow one's own will is not impaired by knowing that one's own personality is conditioned. Roth takes some of the views that characterize radical constructivism . Because of its sensory-physiological components , Roth's thinking shows, especially in its epistemological consequences, a close proximity to philosophical sensualism . So he assumes " the reality " will constructed by our brain, only those constructed by the brain reality is tangible for us. As a consequence, Roth distinguishes a real brain from a real brain . He regards the “real brain” as a part of the tangible reality, this as the construction of the “real brain”.

Roth's theses on criminology, according to which the culpability of a crime must be seen against the background that no one can do anything for their genes, their early childhood experiences or other personality-building influences, came under criticism, as in the book Personality, Decision and Behavior . Roth's position is criticized as "biological determinism " and is underpinned with the charge that Roth and others interpret free will as unconditional freedom. As a natural scientist, Roth objects to his critics, he knows that there are random processes even on the lower physical level. Causalities on higher levels such as in the brain cannot be scientifically represented due to the excessive complexity of neuronal and social processes. For Roth, however, “guilt” is a theological-metaphysical term.

Fonts (selection)

  • Gramsci's philosophy of practice. A new interpretation of Marxism. Patmos-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1972, ISBN 3-491-00364-4 (Münster, University, dissertation, 1969).
  • as editor: Critique of Behavioral Research. Konrad Lorenz and his school (= Beck's black series. Vol. 109). Beck, Munich 1974, ISBN 3-406-04909-5 .
  • The brain and its reality. Cognitive Neurobiology and its Philosophical Consequences. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 3-518-58183-X (numerous editions).
  • Interface brain. Between spirit and world = interface brain. Benteli, Bern 1996, ISBN 3-7165-1003-3 .
  • as editor with Wolfgang Prinz : head work. Brain functions and cognitive performance. Spectrum - Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg et al. 1996, ISBN 3-86025-256-9 .
  • Origin and function of consciousness. In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt . Vol. 96, No. 30, 1999, pp. A-1957-A-1961.
  • Feel, think, act. How the brain controls our behavior. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-518-58313-1 (numerous editions).
  • with Michael Pauen : Neuroscience and Philosophy. An introduction (= UTB . Vol. 2208). Fink, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-7705-3548-0 .
  • From the point of view of the brain. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-518-58383-2 .
  • The problem of free will. The empirical findings. In: Information Philosophy. Vol. 32, No. 5, 2004, ISSN  1434-5250 , pp. 14-21 ( online ; critical reply to it ).
  • Possibilities and limits of knowledge transfer and knowledge acquisition - explanatory approaches from learning psychology and brain research. In: Ralf Caspary (ed.): Learning and the brain. The way to a new pedagogy (= Herder spectrum. Vol. 5763). Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau et al. 2006, ISBN 3-451-05763-8 , pp. 54-69 (with further contributions by Joachim Bauer , Manfred Spitzer , Gerald Hüther , Elsbeth Stern et al.).
  • as editor with Klaus-Jürgen Grün : The brain and its freedom. Contributions to the neuroscientific foundation of philosophy. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2006, ISBN 3-525-49085-2 ( going back to a symposium of the same name on January 20-21, 2005 in Frankfurt am Main).
  • Personality, decision and behavior. Why it is so difficult to change yourself and others. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-608-94490-7 .
  • with Michael Pauen : freedom, guilt and responsibility. Basic features of a naturalistic theory of free will (= Edition Unseld. Vol. 12). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-518-26012-8 .
  • Education needs personality. How learning succeeds. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-608-94655-0 .
  • The brain does not perceive the world as it is. In: Matthias Eckoldt : Can the brain understand the brain? Conversations about brain research and the limits of our knowledge. Carl-Auer-Verlag, Heidelberg 2013, ISBN 978-3-8497-0002-7 .
  • with Nicole Strüber: How the brain makes the soul. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart, 1st edition 2014, 7th revised edition 2017, ISBN 978-3-608-96169-0 .
  • with A. Ryba: coaching, counseling and brain . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart, 2016. ISBN 978-3-608-94944-5 .

DVDs and videos

  • How does the brain make the soul? 2001.
  • The linked brain: construction and performance of neurobiological networks. 5-part lecture series on the occasion of the Lindau Psychotherapy Weeks 2002.

Individual evidence

  1. "Prof. Dr. Dr. Gerhard Roth. Roth GmbH, accessed on November 15, 2011 .
  2. Agile leadership culture & employee loyalty .
  3. "Good school is feasible". taz report by Klaus Wolschner
  4. Fabian Kröger: It is not man who murders, but his brain (In Telepolis from October 10, 2005) .
  5. ^ "The time of philosophizing is over" ( Memento of March 2, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), interview with Ernst Tugendhat in the Taz , July 28, 2007

Web links