Universiteit Leiden

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Research programme

Philosophy of knowledge: The universal, the global and the local

In what way is constructivist logic able to account for both the role of the judging agent in inference and the universal claims of logical validity?

This research programme pursues selected themes in the philosophical theory of knowledge. Our research spans the disciplines of constructive logic, philosophy of science, and the history and historiography of logic, science, and philosophy.

The programme is affiliated to the Leiden University research theme, Global Interactions of People, Cultures and Power through the Ages. The cluster’s contribution to this university-wide theme takes the form of investigations of epistemic and cognitive interactions in the
local–global polarity, which complement the cultural-historical orientation of other theme participants.

Unifying theme

Our unifying theme is the interplay of the universal, the global, and the local in the construction and validation of knowledge claims. Whereas concrete processes of knowledge construction take place in settings that are local in place, culture, and time, epistemically successful cases emancipate themselves from these settings, developing global reach and attaining what is described as universal validity. Our members study this process and its difficulties, tensions, and resistances in various domains of knowledge.

Processes by which findings transcend the local context of their production take place in each of the disciplines that we investigate. For example, experimental findings in natural science are gathered in particular places (the laboratory), in particular cultures (the culture of a research school), and at particular times (the 1820s, say); but from these findings the natural scientist establishes results that lay claim to universal validity, such as laws of nature.

Another example is provided by research in philosophy and its history. Philosophical traditions are often characterised by their locality: the rationalist tradition and phenomenology as continental, analytic philosophy as Anglo-Saxon. This characterisation has prompted the idea that discussions between different philosophical traditions have more in common with wars than with scientific debates. Most of the groundbreaking research that is done today in philosophy and its history is crossing these borders by showing, for example, the rationalist roots of the empiricist tradition, the empiricist roots of phenomenology, and the phenomenological roots of the analytic tradition. This means that the supposed incommensurability of the different traditions should be reconsidered, and that a dialogue that crosses the borders should be possible. It is here that the new topic of Comparative philosophy will find its natural place in the research programme.

Research questions

Representative research questions include:

  • In what way is constructivist logic able to account for both the role of the judging agent in inference and the universal claims of logical validity?

  • How do universal standards of validity of scientific explanations relate to domain-specific explanatory factors?

  • What is the relation between individual observational data and universal claims in scientific practice?

  • How do psychologically and culturally specific traits of researchers such as emotional responses and aesthetic preferences relate to the ideals of rationality and objectivity in science and scholarship?


Related research

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