Preamble on the Nature and Current State of Philosophy

Philosophy is the project to think through the most fundamental, general and important issues about
reality in general and human existence in particular, encompassing the following: the nature and
hope of the human species; the meaning, value and methods of science and technology; the
foundations and origins of morality; the role, influence, scope and impact of politics; the explanation
of consciousness and our subjective experience; the essence and development of art, and its
meaning for man and society; the complex relationships between man, culture, society, history,
science and technology; the analysis of the most general concepts we use and introduce to
understand the world and to make sense of it all; human freedom and free will; the rights, plights
and responsibilities of man and society; the role of knowledge and emotions in our moral
judgements; the general principles governing reality and underlying all scientific endeavours; and
many more.

Although philosophy is the mother of many scientific disciplines, over the centuries she has
developed into an academic activity that differs decisively from scientific disciplines. Philosophers
articulate, criticise and exchange thoughts and ideas about arguments, conceptual distinctions and
views that underly scientific and societal practices in journals and books, and on conferences, they
take part in a discourse. They scrutinize each other’s ideas and judge them. Philosophy harbours a
great many variety of discourses, which grow because novel arguments, criticisms, principles,
accounts and ideas enter as time passes. Dissimilar as these discourse may be, they also share
important similarities. The discourse about the origin, development and impact of the Enlightenment
differs from the one about the philosophy and foundations of modern physics, and the one about
role of art in society and politics differs from the one about ethics in economics, and so forth. What
brings them all under a single header is that they are philosophical discourses they aim at clarity and
argumentative soundness, as other disciplines, but with an eye to the broader perspective that
relates insights from a certain domain of knowledge to its wider societal, historical or scientific

Every since the early 20th Century, science branches and branches further into ever more
specialisations, producing various branches with a varying impact on society, on culture and on our
lives. The last-mentioned is a concern of many philosophers, EUR philosophers notably included,
who try to detect convergences and shared presuppositions, revealing tacitly operating views on
man, on science, and technology.

One Research Programme
The members of the Faculty of Philosophy take part in various discourses. More often than not, their
interlocutors and critics live abroad. Although secure specialization and drilling deeply occur in
philosophy as they do in science, these activities certainly do not exhaust philosophy. The
panoramic view and the all-embracing account are still very much part of the philosophical ethos.
Diversity, depth and generality form the holy trinity of philosophy. Closed compartmentalisation
about specific fixed themes gathered around a Chair for long-term planning makes no sense. On a
more mundane level, SEP requires a minimum of 8 FTE per Research Unit, which cannot possibly
be me by any standard Chair Group in philosophy of The Netherlands, the Rotterdam Faculty being
no exception. Although we believe this requirement is based on science, not on the humanities, and
certainly not on philosophy, we decided to unite the entire Faculty of Philosophy into a single
Research Programme, simply called Philosophy. The past decades the department has been
extremely successful in securing external funds, as a result the emphasis on research themes tends
to shift quite some bit every four or five years. Nevertheless within the four domains of philosophy —
continental, practical, theoretical and history of philosophy — Rotterdam is persistently strong in
three themes: the making of modernity (history), constitution of subjectivity (quite unique to
Rotterdam is the cooperation between practical philosophers who work in the more analytic tradition
and continental philosophers) and philosophy of economics. Currently Rotterdam also is the only
department with a strong group who works on structure of physical reality (theoretical philosophy).
Below we elaborate shortly on these four themes.