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Research Theme Knowledge Formation and its History

The research theme Knowledge Formation and its History aims at the discussion of the components at stake in the formation of knowledge and its history.

Knowledge is a key concept and an instrument of high value in contemporary society. The Netherlands, for instance, intend to rejoin the global top five of knowledge-intensive and innovative countries (Knowledge and Innovation Agenda 2011-2020). This ambition of the Dutch parliament is supported by employer's organizations, trade unions and all main actors in the fields of education, research and innovation.

The ambition illustrates the idea that knowledge is conceived as a goal and an ideal for education and development of individuals and groups, including academic education and research, as well as a profitable instrument for researchers, employers, entrepreneurs, and government institutions in our society.

The preconditions for attributing these functions to knowledge include critical reflections of the nature of knowledge, its possibilities and limitations. And these discussions of knowledge - be it theoretical, practical, moral, or esthetical knowledge for that matter - cover the sources of knowledge, its history, and justification narratives, its strengths, limitations, and the distinctive levels of knowledge, its stakeholders and gatekeepers, as well as the embodiment of knowledge in written texts, oral traditions, printed documents, literature, codices, e-humanities, institutes, objects, architecture, machines, public opinions, common practices, identities, etc.

The formation of knowledge is taken to refer to the construction of normative orders. These normative orders are formed by distinctions such as true-untrue, good-bad, justified-unjustified, beautiful-ugly, as in science, art, law, history, philosophy, economy, sociology, anthropology, and religion. These normative orders are grounded and developed historically, in legal systems, narratives, cultural and religious traditions, and academic disciplines, each including norms and values, and a method of justification. The discussions of these normative orders cover the analyses of their formation, embodiment, application and education, their histories and their constituents.

The critical reflection of the idea and the ideal of the university, the praesidium libertatis for generating the normative orders under discussion, is included in the program as well, covering the history of the university, the history of science, sociology and economy of science and knowledge, the valorization of knowledge, and its related fields of intellectual property, copyright, patents, fraud, plagiarism, and the circulation and visualisation of knowledge in society.

The theme includes a number of subthemes. The subthemes are cross-linked with other CLUE-themes, and the CLUE-centres, including the Migration and Diversity Centre, the Stevin Centre for History of Science and Humanities, the VU Centre for Dutch Religious History, and the AKC.

The subthemes include:

  • Human life, Culture, and Organization
  • Theoretical Philosophy
  • Philosophy in Historical Context
  • History of Science and Humanities:
  • Knowledge practices and normativity within their historical context
  • History
  • Religious studies

Research Coordinator Prof. Dr. Ir. Jeroen de Ridder

In 2021, Jeroen de Ridder was appointed as coordinator of the research team Knowledge Formation and its history. His appointment is for the duration of three years. Jeroen is associate professor of Philosophy at VU Amsterdam, professor by special appointment of Christian Philosophy at the University of Groningen and president of The Young Academy, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Jeroen’s research focuses on issues in social epistemology, philosophy of science, and philosophy of religion. Currently, most of it is in collective epistemology and political epistemology: can groups have beliefs and knowledge, are there collective intellectual virtues, how do people form and change beliefs about politics, what determines the epistemic performance of groups?