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Rik Peels appointed as professor in the URC Chair

26 June 2023
The Executive Board of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has appointed philosopher of religion Rik Peels as professor of Analytical and Interdisciplinary Philosophy of Religion in the University Research Chair (URC) at the Faculty of Religion and Theology, effective from September 1, 2023.

With the URC program, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam recognizes outstanding scholars who are considered future leaders in their field. VU Amsterdam congratulates Rik Peels and is very pleased with his appointment to the University Research Chair.

URC Chair
Peels will hold the URC Chair in Analytical and Interdisciplinary Philosophy of Religion and will use concepts, theories, distinctions, and arguments from analytical philosophy and theology to contribute to empirical debates on religious and worldview issues.

Peels is currently conducting research on extreme beliefs as found in conspiracy thinking, fundamentalism, extremism, and terrorism. Peels states, "In the coming years, I aim to complement existing research in three ways: through rigorous conceptual and normative research within a largely empirical debate, by better incorporating the perspectives of people with extreme beliefs into research that seeks to understand and explain extremism, and by integratively considering the major questions about extremism from various disciplines - psychology, sociology, history, law, theology, and philosophy."

Dean of the Faculty of Religion & Theology, Ruard Ganzevoort, says, "As a faculty, we are extremely proud of this recognition for Rik's work. It is of world-class academic quality and crucial for understanding what is needed for a peaceful society."

Interdisciplinary research
Peels' research is embedded in the Strong Religion and Extreme Beliefs research group and the Abraham Kuyper Center for Science and the Big Questions. As his research encompasses both theology and religious studies on the one hand, and philosophy on the other, he will also maintain a connection with the Faculty of Humanities. The chair provides a platform for interdisciplinary research.

Peels' research focuses on how people arrive at religious and non-religious beliefs, how these beliefs do or do not influence their actions, and how we can form well-founded believes in times of polarization and misinformation. In 2012, he obtained his Ph.D. from Utrecht University with a dissertation titled "Believing Responsibly: Intellectual Obligations and Doxastic Excuses." In 2016 and 2019, he received two major Templeton World Charity Foundation grants on, respectively, the Responsibilities of the progress in the university. In 2019, he was awarded an ERC Starting Grant titled "Extreme Beliefs: The Epistemology and Ethics of Fundamentalism" to conduct philosophical research on extreme beliefs. Peels is an alumnus of the Amsterdam Young Academy. Since 2023, he has also been a Research Associate at the African Center for Epistemology and Philosophy of Science at the University of Johannesburg.

photo: Sander Heezen