The Making of Modernity

In this research project, we are concentrating on the history of philosophy in the Dutch Republic. We all firmly agree the history of philosophy should be studied in close connection both to the history of science and to the political as well as the theological and religious contexts in which it flourished.

While we are specifically interested in the way in which ‘modern’ philosophical notions arose from the early modern age, we also agree we are only able to locate and identify these notions
once we are prepared to study their genesis in their own, historical surroundings. Over the years we have produced a steady stream of papers, edited volumes, monographs and text editions relating to such authors as Erasmus, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, and Bayle.

While the History of Philosophy in the Netherlands will continue to occupy our Group, three separate research trajectories have emerged, in which as a matter of fact both the themes of Rationality and Subjectivity play a crucial role.  

Scientific explanation of natural phenomena

By connecting the rationalist stance in early-modern natural philosophy and science to the earlier development of a classical notion of ratio that thrived within the tradition of humanism, we hope to demonstrate how Renaissance moral conceptions of rationality and early-modern appeals to mental discipline accompanying the transformation from classical forms of natural philosophy and metaphysics both contributed to increasingly pragmatic formulations of what might count as a scientific explanation of natural phenomena.

Connecting the world of Erasmus and Vives to that of Descartes and Comte, our investigation into the origins of scientific rationality will address both the epistemic and the moral backgrounds to the emergence of science in early modern Europe.

War in the (early) modern history of ideas

The topic of war in the early modern history of ideas has received little attention in contemporary philosophy. There is however a range of rich and fascinating topics that pertain both to philosophy and to war. What is the nature of warfare and what are its causes? What is the relation between war and politics? In which way can the rationalization and the growth of discipline of the Early Modern armies be seen to have resulted from the changing intellectual climate, and did these military developments themselves influence the intellectual debate?

The Philosophy of War is a young and growing branch at the tree of knowledge. We seek to contribute to this new and interdisciplinary enterprise by focusing on the period 1500-1850, the period in which the methodology of scientific reasoning took shape, and in which the map of modern Europe was drawn.

Dutch Enlightenment

Finally, we are trying to write a History of Philosophy of the Dutch Enlightenment by aligning our research into the Dutch reception history of canonical thinkers such as Spinoza, Bayle, Leibniz and Newton with the most recent findings on the literary, social and political history of the eighteenth century Dutch Republic. The Dutch Enlightenment has only recently been rediscovered by cultural historians, but in their perspective philosophy plays hardly any part.

We hope to deliver an interpretation of the eighteenth-century Dutch philosophy which is informed by the wider cultural history of the dying decades of the Dutch Republic. It will address both the way in which Dutch philosophers reacted to the growing autonomy of the natural sciences and the impact the late eighteenth-century ‘culture of sensibility’ had on the practice of philosophy.

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