Universiteit Leiden

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Douglas Berger new professor of Comparative Philosophy

Starting September 1st, philosopher Douglas Berger will be professor of Comparative Philosophy at the Leiden Institute for Philosophy. His appointment marks a new direction for research and education in philosophy at Leiden University.

A cross-cultural dialogue

“It is vital for the inevitably interconnected future of all human beings that cross-cultural dialogue and mutual understanding be given more depth”, says Douglas Berger who  in his scientific career – currently at Southern Illinois University - has researched and compared both Western philosophy and Indian, East Asian and Arabic philosophy.

Bergers arrival and the simultaneous start of the new Bachelor’s programme Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives in September 2017 mark the start of a new era for the Leiden Institute for Philosophy – one of more culturally diverse philosophy research and education.

New ground – in the West

“In the West, comparative philosophy is fairly new ground. Most European and American universities approach philosophy from a typically Western perspective, based on the ancient Greek tradition”, says Eelkje Meindertsma, policy officer at the Institute for Philosophy. “Comparative philosophy treats the traditions of thought from all parts of the world and of all different periods as equal and aims at opportunities for interaction and comparison.”

For a few years now, the Leiden Institute for Philosophy has been part of the Humanities Faculty of Leiden University, world-renowned for its cultural studies. This provides the perfect environment for Global Philosophy; the embedment in the Humanities Faculty offers many possibilities for collaboration.

Not as new as you’d think

According to Berger, comparative philosophy isn’t as new as Western tradition has us believe. He explains: “In a sense, all philosophy is comparative and cross-cultural, and always has been.  The ancient and medieval traditions of thought we now call ‘Western’ were informed to varying extents by Egyptian, Central Asian and Islamic influences. European philosophers in the Modern, Enlightenment and Romantic periods were aware, through missionary ventures and Orientalist scholarship, of philosophical traditions in South and East Asia and re-envisioned their own traditions to themselves based partly on these encounters.”

Prof. Douglas Berger

Unique chair in The Netherlands

Berger’s chair in Comparative Philosophy is unique in The Netherlands. Leiden’s Institute for Philosophy aims for inclusivity of other, non-Western traditions of thought into its programmes. So that “the world’s traditions can complement and enrich each other”, according to the website of the new Bachelor’s programme.

Douglas Berger is excited to start at Leiden University. “I am very much looking forward to working not only with my very talented colleagues at the Institute for Philosophy, who have such diverse strengths, but also with the exceptionally strong scholars in Leiden's illustrious Area Studies programs.  From my foregoing visits to Leiden University, I noticed that the students are bright, intellectually broad and full of potential, and I'm also excited about working with them.”

Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives