Jobs: Two PhD positions in History of Humanities and Sciences (Amsterdam University; Deadline: 1 April 2016)

The Faculty of Humanities (Institute for Logic, Language and Computation) and the Faculty of Science (Institute of Physics (IOP) of the University of Amsterdam) are looking for two PhD candidates.

Both institutes are located at the Amsterdam Science Park. The positions will reinforce the newly founded Center for the History of Humanities and Sciences, and are funded by the NWO Humanities open competition programme ‘The Flow of Cognitive Goods: Towards a Post-Disciplinary History of Knowledge’. This programme is led by Prof. Rens Bod (ILLC) and Prof. Jeroen van Dongen (IOP).

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) is a renowned research institute in the interdisciplinary area between philosophy, mathematics, linguistics, cognitive science, computer science, and artificial intelligence. The ILLC is staffed by members of the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Science. The institute is the editorial home of the journal History of Humanities and hosts projects on the history of the humanities (led by Prof. Rens Bod).

The Institute of Physics (IOP) is a world leading research institute with exceptionally strong programmes in theoretical and experimental physics. Its theory division ITFA (NWO Zwaartekracht 2012), has a long tradition in history of science of excellent quality. Prof. Jeroen van Dongen currently heads the group that studies the history of science, and the history of physics in particular.

Project description

Historiography of both the sciences and the humanities is almost invariably carried out within the confines of modern disciplinary categories. This produces a serious problem: crucial processes of knowledge transfer receive insufficient attention or are not studied at all, even though great innovations are often produced when disciplinary boundaries are crossed. Disciplinary historiography tends to obscure that academic disciplines are not static but dynamic and implicitly keeps the idea intact that the sciences and the humanities are distinct endeavours. To solve these problems we propose to move beyond the disciplinary approach and to write a, what we will call, ‘post-disciplinary’ history of knowledge. Our project will focus on the period from 1800 to 2000, because in this period the process of formation and institutionalization of modern disciplinary categories has taken place. We intend to leave disciplinary biases behind yet at the same time wish to provide the means to come to a better understanding of the construction of disciplinary categories. To this end, we will focus on what we call ‘cognitive goods’: the epistemic notions and objects (i.e. ‘goods’) that are transferred when knowledge is increased by crossing or transcending disciplinary boundaries. Examples of ‘cognitive goods’ are research methods, formalisms, virtues, theoretical concepts, metaphors, and argumentative and demonstrative techniques.

PhD position 1 (ILLC): Cognitive goods unbound (supervised by Prof. Rens Bod)

This project investigates the transfer of cognitive goods in cases where there are no clear-cut disciplinary boundaries. This happens, for example, in the first phase of discipline formation of fields that have (or had) a decisively interdisciplinary character, such as linguistics and cognitive science. A post-disciplinary perspective is necessary to write the history of these fields. The project will need to provide insight in the flow of cognitive goods across upcoming disciplines. As concrete examples transfers between disciplines that integrated parts of the humanities and the sciences will be studied.

PhD position 2 (IOP): Knowledge transfer across disciplinary boundaries (supervised by Prof. Jeroen van Dongen)

This project focuses on the transfer of cognitive goods in the case of relatively stable disciplinary boundaries. When and why do such transfers occur? Does the transfer entail a change in the cognitive good, which now has to manifest itself in a different context? What changes in a field of research take place due to the transfer? Is a transfer always successful? As concrete examples, transfers between the humanities and exact sciences will be studied in particular the nineteenth century relation between the historical discipline and physics.

Tasks of the two PhD candidates will include:

  • conducting (evaluation) research within the NWO open competition program;
  • completion and defense of a PhD thesis within four years;
  • regular presentations of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • publication of peer-reviewed articles;
  • co-organization of expert meetings and international workshops;
  • assist in teaching activities at ILLC / IOP;
  • participation in the PhD training program.


  • MA or MSc (or equivalent) with a strong affinity or experience in history of humanities and/or sciences;
  • good qualitative research skills;
  • good academic writing and presentation skills;
  • excellent communication, social and organizational skills;
  • proficiency in English.

Further information

For additional information, please contact:


The PhD candidates will be appointed at the Faculty of Humanities (position 1) and the Faculty of Science (position 2) at the University of Amsterdam. Each appointment is for 4 years for 1,0 fte under the terms of employment currently valid for the Faculty. In the first instance, a contract will be given for 12 months, with an extension for the following 36 months on the basis of a positive evaluation. The starting date of the contract is to be agreed upon, but as soon as possible. The gross monthly salary will be €2,174 during the first year to €2,779 during the fourth year, based on 38 hours per week, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.

Job application

The candidate should send a motivation letter, a CV, two names and addresses of referees (who are willing to write letters of recommendation), an official list of course grades (grade trans- cripts), and a written sample of the candidate’s work (e.g. a course paper or MA/MSc thesis – a link to the paper or thesis may be enough).

Applications may be submitted no later than 1 April 2016 by sending your application to Please state the PhD position 1 (ILLC) or PhD position 2 (IOP) and vacancy number 16-074 in the subject field.

Click here to apply (e-mail link).