Gerrit Mannoury (1867–1956). A relativist thinker

PhD Defence Mireille Kirkels

PhD candidate Mireille Kirkels conducted text analyses and historical research into the work and life of Gerrit Mannoury, a Dutch mathematician, philosopher and communist. On June 6 she will defend her doctoral thesis at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research was part of the NWO project "From Criticism to Methodology" under the supervision of prof.dr. FA. Muller.

Mannoury’s relativistic thinking

In her doctoral thesis, Mireille Kirkels describes and analyzes Mannoury’s most important scientific and political texts and places them against the background of his life in order to provide an overview of Mannoury's relativistic thinking. 

Mannoury taught at the Gemeentelijke Universiteit (Municipal University) of Amsterdam as a private teacher and became a professor of geometry, mechanics and philosophy of mathematics. Mannoury’s main fields of interest, outside mathematics pure, were philosophy of mathematics, history of mathematics and didactics of mathematics, as well as philosophy, significs, mass psychology and politics. Each of these fields was approached from a relativistic point of view and in this sense one could say that Mannoury’s relativism – the idea that distinctions are not to be understood as absolute, but as gradual distinctions – was the only subject of activity for most of his life.

Mannoury’s application of relativism

Mannoury applied his relativism consequently to his own ideas. He was never asking for consent, but always for critique.  He did not accept any fixed definitions, he did not use any consistent terminology, and he always tried to avoid that his ideas were considered as a kind of philosophical system.

Kirkels’s doctoral thesis, in which text analysis and historical investigation are in constant interplay, is not only based on Mannoury’s published works, but also on archival materials like manuscripts, typescripts, personal notes, newspapers, diaries, postcards and letters.

More information

For more information about the ceremony, please contact Evaline Bender, communications officer a Erasmus School of Philosophy, by phone +31 010 4088980 or by email: