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About the centre

leden Center for the History of Philosophy and Science

Left to right: Oki Utamura, Paul Bakker, Antonio Cimino, Erik-Jan Bos, Fiammetta Iovine, Leen Spruit, Lukas Wolf, Frederik Bakker, Carla Rita Palmerino, Cees Leijenhorst, Lyke de Vries, Christoph Lüthy, Davide Cellamare, Hans Thijssen, Elena Nicoli, Chiara Beneduce.

In a nutshell

The Center for the History of Philosophy and Science (CHPS) researches how the histories of philosophy and science are woven together. Researchers centre on the rise and development of natural philosophy, from antiquity to the arrival and blossoming of modern scientific disciplines. Mapping this path, the centre contributes to an understanding of the influence of science and technology on our society, both in the past and the present. This approach under one roof is unique in the world.

History and objective

In the Center for the History of Philosophy and Science (CHPS), (natural) science and philosophy historians come together in one, joint research centre. The centre’s objective is to work the seam of the rich tradition of natural philosophy; a tradition stretching all the way from antiquity to the 21st century.

The centre pays particular attention to the period from 1250 to 1700 and to the consequences of the splintering of the Aristotelian world view into a range of modern scientific traditions; traditions that no longer share common ontological and epistemological fundamental concepts. This fragmentation of natural philosophy into different sciences confronts the contemporary science philosopher with some key questions. These are also addressed by the CHPS.

Thanks to this unique position we attract researchers and students from around the globe. The CHPS also functions as an international hub for academics interested in the combination of the histories of philosophy and science.

Research and themes

Major topics addressed by the CHPS research include notions of space and time, matter and motion, chance and necessity, as well as the soul, mind and cognition. The CHPS is unique in its approach to the history of philosophy and the history of science as two intrinsically intertwined phenomena.

The CHPS is part of the Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies Research Institute of the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies. The faculty boasts one of the finest libraries of philosophical works, as well as one of the largest collections of microfilms with manuscripts in the field of mediaeval natural philosophy and rational.

In addition, the CHPS plays an active role in the social public debate and reaches out to a wider audience, contributing to the understanding of the history of science and technology. Examples include investigating how thought experiments help us better understand the world around us, or the role of philosophy in the debate on looted art from the colonial era. The CHPS aims to clarify to a broad range of people what influence these various developments exert on current societal matters.

Results and assessment

The members of CHPS publish the Early Science and Medicine journal and the Medieval and Early Modern Sciencebook series. The largest collective project includes the edition of Buridan’s commentary on Aristotle’s Physics.

Other projects that have been awarded funding address issues as diverse as Francis Bacon’s matter theory, the development of psychology during the Renaissance, the effect of Einstein’s theory of relativity on the philosophy of time in the 1920s and 1930s and the relation between the power of imagination and scientific imaging.

CHPS research received the overall assessment as “excellent” in a 2006 report by an international panel on behalf of the Quality Assurance Netherlands Universities (QANU), where it was defined as “outstandingly successful” and “among the strongest, most coherent and impressive programmes” in the Netherlands. The 2013 Research Assessment describes the CHPS’s “quality of research” as having over the past years been “excellent” and “at the international forefront of the field.”