History and Philosophy of the Humanities


Dr. J. Maat

Members of the research group

prof. dr. J.A. v. Belzen 

prof. dr. R. Boast

prof. dr. L.W.M. Bod

dr. J. Bos

dr. E.H.C. Elffers

prof. dr. J.J.E. Kursell

dr. M.M. Leezenberg

dr. J. Maat

dr. L.K. Marácz

dr. D.K.W. van Miert

dr. J.A.T. Rock

prof. dr. T.H.P.M. Thomassen

prof. dr. M.T.C. Mathijsen - Verkooijen

dr. M.A. Weststeijn

dr. O.J. Zwartjes

prof. dr. I.E. Zwiep


Description of the research programme of the research group

The group brings together researchers working on the history and philosophy of various disciplines in the humanities, such as linguistics, art history, philology, rhetoric, musicology, history, philosophy, logic, literary studies, theatre studies and media studies. The programme aims at developing a broad perspective on the history of the interrelationships between these disciplines, and on the history of the relations between the humanities and the natural and social sciences. Furthermore, the programme aims to explore the impact of the humanities on the political and social environment in which they were embedded, and to reflect on the value of the humanities for society as a whole. The programme takes a global perspective, including not only Western European developments among its objects of research, but also the history and philosophy of the humanities in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, Africa and the Americas.
The programme encompasses several projects:
1. The Making of the Humanities
This is an ongoing project aimed at developing a comparative history of the humanities, which has so far resulted in three conferences (2008, 2010, 2012), a monograph by Bod and two edited volumes by Bod, Maat and Weststeijn. A third volume is in preparation, as is a fourth conference in Rome, 2014.
2. History and philosophy of the language sciences
This project, carried out by Leezenberg, traces the conceptual and historical dimensions of the rise of the modern study of language and its interaction with broader cultural and political developments. In particular the interrelation between the modern philological language sciences, nationalism and different forms of colonial rule are elaborated, as well as the interaction of new Western methods with local forms of vernacular learning, especially in the Ottoman empire.
3. The history of linguistic ideas in the early modern period
This project contains an individual subproject: Leibniz's Rational Grammar (Maat) and two subprojects carried out by Maat in collaboration with David Cram as part of The Wallis Project (AHRC-funded project at Oxford): 'Logic in the Seventeenth Century', and 'Teaching Language to a Boy Born Deaf'.
4. Historicism around 1800
This project by Mathijsen investigates the historicism found in various disciplines in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, focusing on the Dutch context.
5. Revision of 19th-century hypotheses of language kinship
This project, carried out by Maracz, aims to investigate the debate on the validity of the hypothesis of the Indo-European language family, and to evaluate the arguments on both sides.
6. The history of musicology in Amsterdam (J. Kursell)
This project asks whether and how three branches of musicological research can be said to ground in a common episteme. After 1900, the systematic, historical, and ethnological research in musicology struggle with defining their objects of reference, testing media and material objects as potential objects of reference for a scientific enterprise. Exemplary case studies shall focus on Geza von Revesz, Joseph Smits van Waesberghe, and Jaap Kunst.
7. Several projects by Rock, Zwartjes and Zwiep

Envisaged results

- A New History of the Humanities (Bod, OUP 2013)
- Teaching Language to a Boy Born Deaf (Cram & Maat, OUP 2013)
- Historiezucht. De democratisering van de geschiedenis rond 1800. (Mathijsen, Van Tilt 2013).
- Leibniz's Rational Grammar (Maat, 2014)
- From Coffee House to Nation State: The Rise of national Language in the Modernizing Ottoman Empire (Leezenberg)
Edited volumes:
- The Making of the Humanities III (Bod, Maat, Weststeijn, AUP 2014)
- Logic in the Seventeenth Century (Maat & Cram, Brill 2014)
The Making of the Humanities IV, Rome 2014
A number of articles in peer-reviewed journals will appear.
An NWO open competition proposal is planned

Work plan and time schedule

See the description of the projects and the envisaged results above.

Societal relevance

The results of the research done by participants in this group will be disseminated by means of books, articles, and lectures that will contribute to a better understanding of how the products of the human intellect have shaped our experiences and changed our world. Without such an understanding no advanced culture can flourish, and no education is complete. In rethinking the position of the humanities within the sciences and addressing the impact of research done in the humanities, this programme may help develop ideas on how this research can benefit third parties, including NGO's, political parties, cultural institutions and private companies. For this reason, the programme is also relevant to policy-makers working for governments and national and international funding bodies.

23 September 2014