Universiteit Leiden

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Institute for Philosophy


The philosophers at the Institute of Philosophy develop new perspectives and insights not only on fundamental philosophical questions, but also on topical and interdisciplinary themes such as secrecy, migration, and climate change.

The research is organised in five research groups: Theoretical Philosophy, Practical Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, Comparative Philosophy, and History of Philosophy. Several of the institute’s members are affiliated with more than one of these groups. The institute’s teaching programmes also range over these fields as well as their interrelations.

The institute works partly in the tradition of Western philosophy, represented by names such as Descartes and Spinoza, both of whom worked in and around Leiden. Leiden philosophers also look more widely, however: driven by intellectual curiosity, they conduct research into philosophical traditions of other parts of the world.

Theoretical and Practical Philosophy
The Theoretical Philosophy group looks at the philosophy of knowledge and all that relates to knowledge and reality. Its researchers draw their research themes from logic, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of language, science, and mind.

The Practical Philosophy group studies value and normativity and forms of social organisation. Its researchers take a critical look at political, social, and cultural developments. With regard to migration, for example, they consider in depth questions such as: What does it mean to be a citizen of a country? How do you treat new arrivals fairly?

Human Experience
The Continental Philosophy group studies especially the work of European philosophers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its researchers focus on understanding the human experiences of “being” in the world. What does it mean to be a human surrounded by others, by nature, and by technology? What does it mean to be part of a historical trajectory?

History of Philosophy Beyond the West
The Comparative Philosophy group is unique in the Netherlands. Most European and US universities approach philosophy from a typically Western perspective, based on the classical Greek tradition. The philosophers within the Comparative Philosophy group look further, at the traditions of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Lastly, the History of Philosophy group currently focuses on ancient and medieval philosophy. Its researchers look at the works and ideas of Plato and Aristotle, their reception, and their later development into the modern era. The Middle East also plays a role within this group’s research, given the strong influence of Arab philosophy on medieval European thought.

Impact on Society
Leiden philosophers are highly visible. They take part in societal debates, train civil servants, members of political parties, and other professionals, and advise government bodies, on, for instance, state secrecy and Middle East politics.

Collaboration Centres
Each of the five research groups has a collaboration centre, such as the Centre for Political Philosophy and the Centre for Intercultural Philosophy. These centres organise lectures and discussion forums, providing a platform where researchers meet their peers and the wider public. Such encounters further inspire the philosophers at the Institute of Philosophy, helping them keep both their minds open and their feet on the ground.

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