Nayef Al-Rodhan

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Nayef Al-Rodhan
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Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan
Born 1959
AlJouf - Saudi Arabia
Occupation Philosopher, Neuroscientist, Geostrategist, and Author
Nationality Saudi
  • Newcastle University Medical School – Newcastle University, Newcastle, England
  • Ph.D. in Neuropharmacology, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Medicine - Mayo Clinic. Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  • Neurosurgical Residency, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Medicine – Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  • Neuroscience/Neurosurgery Fellow, Yale University School of Medicine – Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  • Neuroscience/Neurosurgery Fellow, Harvard Medical School/ Massachusetts General Hospital - Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA
Alma mater
  • Newcastle University (UK)
  • Mayo Clinic (USA)
  • Yale University (USA)
  • Harvard University (USA)
Notable works
  • Sustainable History and the Dignity of Man
  • Emotional Amoral Egoism (EAE)
  • The Multi-Sum Security Principle
  • Transcultural Synergy
  • Symbiotic Realism
  • Meta-Geopolitics
  • The Ocean Model of one Human Civilization
  • Just Power
  • Sustainable Neurochemical Gratification (SNG)
  • Neurochemical Man
  • Pre-Disposed Tabula Rasa
  • Geostrategic Trip-Wire Pivotal Corridor (TPC)
  • Civilizational Triumphalism
  • Inevitable Transhumanism

Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan (Arabic: نايف الروضان‎; born 1959) is a Saudi philosopher, neuroscientist, geostrategist, and author. He is an Honorary Fellow of St. Antony’s College at Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom,[1] Senior Fellow and Centre Director of the Geopolitics and Global Futures Programme at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Geneva, Switzerland.


The Saudi Arabian Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan began his career as a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist. As a medical student, he was mentored and influenced by the renowned neurologist, Lord John Walton of Detchant. He trained in neurosurgery and conducted neuroscience research at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota in the United States. He became Chief Resident in neurosurgery and was influenced by Thoralf M. Sundt, David Piepgrass, and Patrick J Kelly at the Mayo Clinic. He obtained a Ph.D. in 1988 for his work on the Characterization of Opioid and Neurotensin Receptor Subtypes in the Brain with Respect to Antinociception.[2]

In 1993, on a fellowship from the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, he joined the department of neurosurgery at the Yale University School of Medicine as a fellow in epilepsy surgery and molecular neuroscience under the direction of Dennis Spencer.[3]

In 1994, Nayef Al-Rodhan became a fellow at the department of neurosurgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School, where he worked on the study of neuropeptides, molecular genetics, and neuronal regeneration. In 1995, he was appointed to the faculty of the Harvard Medical School and while at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital, he founded the neurotechnology program with Nobel Prize winner James E. Muller. Working with Robert Martuza, Al-Rodhan also founded the Laboratories for Cellular Neurosurgery and Neurosurgical Technology at the department of neurosurgery of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School.[4][5]

Neuroscience awards[edit]

Nayef Al-Rodhan has received the following research awards: Sir James Spence Prize,[6] the Gibb Prize, the Farquhar-Murray Prize, the American Association of Neurological Surgeon Prize (twice), the Meninger Prize, the Annual Resident Prize of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the Young Investigator Prize of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, and the Annual Fellowship Prize of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.[7][8]

Neuroscience and international relations[edit]

Since 2002, Nayef Al-Rodhan has shifted his scholarly focus to the interplay between neuroscience and international relations.[9] Through several publications,[10] he has pioneered the application of neuroscience and the neuro-behavioural consequences of the neurochemical and cellular mechanisms that underpin emotions, amorality, egoisms, fear, greed, and dominance, into the analysis and conceptualization of trends in contemporary geopolitics, global security, national security, transcultural security, and war and peace.[11]

In 2006, Nayef Al-Rodhan joined the Geneva Center for Security Policy in Geneva, Switzerland, as a Senior Scholar in geostrategy and Director of the Geopolitics and Global Futures Programme.[12] In 2009, Al-Rodhan became a Senior Member of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, where he analyses, amongst other things, critical turning points in the Arab-Islamic world and their current and future regional and global geopolitical relevance.[13] In 2014, he became an Honorary Fellow of St. Antony's College.[14] His current geostrategy interests include: Geopolitics of the Middle East; sustainable national and global security; geopolitics of outer space and strategic technologies; and global strategic cascading risks. His philosophical interests include:global justice; human dignity and international order; shared history of humanity and transcultural security and synergy; philosophy of sustainable history and the dignity of man; history of ideas; neurophilosophy of human nature and its implications for war, peace and moral and political cooperation between ideologies, states and cultures.[15][16]

Major works[edit]

Philosophy of human nature: "Emotional Amoral Egoism"[edit]

Philosopher Nayef Al-Rodhan published his neuro-chemically based theory of human nature in 2008. In this, he argues that the enduring assumption that human behaviour is governed by innate morality and reason is at odds with the persistence of human deprivation, injustice, brutality, inequality and conflict.[17] He draws on a wide range of philosophical, psychological and evolutionary approaches to human nature as well as neuroscientific research. He argues that human behaviour is governed primarily by "emotional self-interest" and that the human mind is a "predisposed tabula rasa". Al-Rodhan argues that "most human beings are innately neither moral nor immoral but rather amoral and that circumstances and needs will determine the survival value of humankind's moral compass". He suggests that this has profound implications for the re-ordering of governance mechanisms at all levels with a strong emphasis on the role of society and the global system in relation to stability, security, peace, cooperation, justice, human security, identity construction, transcultural relations, conflict, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, morality and global governance.[18] Al-Rodhan’s theory of human nature challenges the views of Hobbes and Rousseau and lays the foundation for a hopeful and pragmatic approach. It also advocates that the moral compass of man can be influenced positively by constructive behaviors of the society and its various mechanisms and frameworks. He also proposes a concept he calls "Fear-Induced Pre-emptive aggression" and cautions us against being complacent about the virtues of human nature. This book is entitled: "emotional amoral egoism": A Neurophilosophical Theory of Human Nature and its Universal Security Implications (Berlin, LIT, 2008).

International relations theory: "Symbiotic Realism"[edit]

In 2007, Nayef Al-Rodhan published his symbiotic realism theory of international relations[19] that best fits a connected, interdependent and globalized world. Symbiotic realism expands the number of unitary actors in global politics beyond state and non-state actors and allows for non-conflictual competition while allowing absolute gain in a symbiotic yet realist framework. Symbiotic realism theory also posits that international peace and security can only be attained through a governance structure that ensures a mutually beneficial (Symbiotic) coexistence for a myriad of actors as well as the fulfilment of human needs everywhere. The book is entitled: Symbiotic Realism: A Theory of International Relations in an Instant and an Interdependent World (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2007).

Diplomacy and geostrategy: "Neo-statecraft and Meta-geopolitics"[edit]

In 2009, Geostrategist Nayef Al-Rodhan proposed the concept of "Meta-geopolitics".[20] The Meta-Geopolitics paradigm proposes a multi-dimensional view of power that accounts for seven capacities of states and assess their relative strengths and weaknesses and enables predictions about their ability to project power. This also includes his concept of "Just Power" as the only sustainable kind of power in the service of the national interest. "Just Power" employs soft, hard and smart power tools. He also proposes a geostrategic "Trip-Wire Pivotal Corridor (TPC)" which accounts for the world’s most volatile geopolitical area: a corridor that runs from north to south between 30 and 75 degrees east. The corridor includes countries from three continents: Africa, Europe and Asia as well as the pivotal Middle East. In the east, it incorporates the disputed territories of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as China’s Xinjiang province. At its western edge, it includes the Horn of Africa and the entire east coast of Africa. The corridor also includes the Arctic Circle in the north and Antarctica in the south. Al-Rodhan argued that, without stability in the TPC, there can be no stability or cooperation at the international level. This book is entitled Neo-statecraft and Meta-Geopolitics: Reconciliation of Power, Interests and Justice in the 21st Century (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2009).

Geopolitics: "Meta-Geopolitics of Central Asia"[edit]

Inspired by Nayef Al-Rodhan's proposed concept of "Meta-geopolitics", Hossein Aghaie Joobani from Linköping University conducted a comparative case study of the meta-geopolitical influence of the European Union and Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the Central Asian region by interweaving both realist and constructivist theories of International Relations.[21] The seven capacities of states were placed as variables under a constructivism-realism synthesis, termed "meta-geopolitics" in this context, to analyse and explain how and to what extent the EU and China/Russia have employed distinctive normative as well as non-normative instruments of leverage to play an active role in the 21st century Great Game of Central Asia. By making a detour from pure geopolitical narratives, the author attempted to depict the EU and China as normative powers seeking to shape and alter power dynamic in the region by means of soft power capabilities.

Philosophy of history: "Sustainable History and the Dignity of Man"[edit]

In 2009, Nayef Al-Rodhan also published his Philosophy of history, in which he discusses the role of good governance and the ever-present tension between human nature (attributes) and human dignity (needs) in the sustainability of history and that of any political order.[22][23] In this book, he advocates his concept of "Civilizational Triumphalism through his "Ocean Model of One Human Civilization". He also insists that the attainment of dignity for all, at all times and under all circumstances, is what drives/propels human history and ensure its sustainability.[24] In this, Al-Rodhan suggests that "a good governance paradigm that limits excesses of human nature and ensures an atmosphere of happiness and productivity by promoting reason and dignity is required".[25] This book is entitled Sustainable History and the Dignity of Man: A Philosophy of History and Civilisational Triumph (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2009).

Theory of knowledge: "Neuro-rational Physicalism"[edit]

Nayef Al-Rodhan also proposed a theory of knowledge called, "Neuro-rational Physicalism NRP". Al-Rodhan's theory of knowledge recognises the role of interpretation, sense-data and reason in the acquisition of knowledge and that knowledge is to some extent indeterminate. He suggests that knowledge may also be temporally, spatially and perhaps culturally constrained and that all energy and matter are physical, even if unobservable with our current technologies and knowhow, making their existence "possible truths subject to proof". He adds that emotional acts, cognition and all other thought processes are also physical and, as such, material. This was included in his philosophy of history book Sustainable History and the Dignity of Man: A Philosophy of History and Civilisational Triumph (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2009).

Global security paradigm: "The Multi-Sum Security Principle"[edit]

Geostrategist Nayef Al-Rodhan advocated a "Multi-Sum Security Principle" that promotes win-win cooperative security interactions between states and cultures based on global justice. He explains that "in a globalized world, security can no longer be thought of as a zero-sum game involving states alone. Global security, instead, has five dimensions that include human, environmental, national, transnational, and transcultural security, and, therefore, global security and the security of any state or culture cannot be achieved without good governance at all levels that guarantees security through justice for all individuals, states, and cultures". This principle insists that the promotion of global justice should be central to global politics, not for altruistic reasons, but in order to achieve sustainable interests of states and cultures. This book is entitled The Five Dimensions of Global Security: Proposal for a Multi-sum Security Principle (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2007).

"Inevitable Transhumanism": "Politics of Emerging Strategic Technologies"[edit]

Nayef Al-Rodhan proposed his concept of "Inevitable Transhumanism", where he argues that human enhancement and the future evolution into transhumans is inevitable. He suggests that this is so because of our own human nature attributes namely (emotionality, amorality and egoism) that will inevitably push us towards that end. To prepare for these potential existential threats, Al-Rodhan calls on the global community to urgently establish strict moral and legal guidelines that balance the need for innovation with the guarantee of dignity for all. In addition to human enhancement, he also analyses the interplay between emerging strategic technologies, geopolitics and national power in the same book. The book is entitled The Politics of Emerging Strategic Technologies: Implications for Geopolitics, Human Enhancement and Human Destiny (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Trans-cultural security: "The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West"[edit]

The latest book by Nayef Al-Rodhan (2012), explores the role of the Arab-Islamic world in the rise of the West. He hereby seeks to challenge the common Eurocentric interpretation that Modern Europe has emerged as the result of a unique progressive trajectory that begins with Antiquity and proceeds from there through feudalism to the Renaissance and capitalism. Al-Rodhan focuses on the influence of the Arab-Islamic world on the rise of the West rather than its general influence on Europe. The objective of the book is not to question the importance of commonly identified landmarks in the rise of the West, but to argue that they are in part the result of the contributions of the Arab-Islamic world. The book also represents an important and timely contribution, because it aims to contribute to improving contemporary political and trans-cultural relations between the West and the Arab-Islamic world by highlighting the shared nature of our collective history.

Geopolitics: "Meta-Geopolitics of Outer Space"[edit]

With this book, published in spring 2012, Nayef Al-Rodhan takes geopolitics to a whole new realm: outer space. This environment is changing rapidly. States and international companies are increasingly present; competition rises; space technologies are always more used for commercial purposes; and a wide range of risks and challenges result from the development of activities. To be able to draw new policy lines and make space more useful and safer for humanity, Al-Rodhan develops in this book comprehensive tools to insure space security and governance in a connected, interdependent yet competitive world. To do so, he applies his comprehensive and innovative theory of Meta-Geopolitics to space, which goes beyond traditional geopolitical approaches by including seven different dimensions.


  • The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West: Implications for Contemporary Trans-Cultural Relations Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Meta-Geopolitics of Outer Space: An Analysis of Space Power, Security and Governance Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan
  • The Politics of Emerging Strategic Technologies: Implications for Geopolitics, Human Enhancement and Human Destiny Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Sustainable History and the Dignity of Man: A Philosophy of History and Civilisational Triumph Berlin: LIT
  • Neo-statecraft and Meta-geopolitics: Reconciliation of Power, Interests and Justice in the 21st Century Berlin: LIT
  • Multilateralism and Transnational Security: A Synthesis of Win-Win Solutions Geneva: Slatkine
  • Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan (ed.), Potential Global Strategic Catastrophes: Balancing Transnational Responsibilities and Burden-sharing with Sovereignty and Human Dignity Berlin: LIT, 2009
  • Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan, The Three Pillars of Sustainable National Security in a Transnational World Berlin: LIT
  • "Emotional amoral egoism:" A Neurophilosophical Theory of Human Nature and its Universal Security Implications Berlin: LIT
  • Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan, L. Nazaruk, M. Finaud, and J. Mackby, Global Biosecurity: Towards a New Governance Paradigm Geneva: Slatkine
  • The Five Dimensions of Global Security: Proposal for a Multi-sum Security Principle Berlin: LIT
  • The Emergence of Blogs as a Fifth Estate and Their Security Implications Geneva: Slatkine
  • Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan and S. Kuepfer, Stability of States: The Nexus Between Transnational Threats, Globalization, and Internal Resilience Geneva: Slatkine
  • Symbiotic Realism: A Theory of International Relations in an Instant and an Interdependent WorldBerlin: LIT
  • Policy Briefs on the Transnational Aspects of Security and Stability Berlin: LIT
  • Policy Briefs on the Transcultural Aspects of Security and Stability Berlin: LIT
  • Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan and G. Stoudmann, Pillars of Globalization Geneva: Slatkine
  • The Geopolitical and Geosecurity Implications of Globalization Geneva: Slatkine
  • Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan, Lisa Watanabe, A Proposal for Inclusive Peace and Security Geneva: Slatkine

Selected articles[edit]

Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding[edit]

The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize is awarded annually by the British Academy for outstanding scholarly contributions to transcultural understanding. Established by Al-Rodhan in 2013, the award is worth £25,000. [26]

Recipients have been:


External links[edit]