Philosophers Win Several Large Grants in the Netherlands

Several philosophers are among the winners of large grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Theo van Doesburg and Cornelis van Eesteren, “Contra-Construction Project (Axonometric)”

They are:

  • Reinhard Muskens (UvA) for “A Sentence Uttered Makes a World Appear” (€770,850 / $860,000)
    Hearing a sentence enables one to make a mental picture of its content. ‘The cat is on the mat’ is a sequence of words first and then an image. But how does that work? Our research uses logic and computation to answer this question.
  • Robert van Rooij (UvA) for “Why We Believe Sharks Are Dangerous” (€514,000 / $571,000)
    We accept generic sentences like ‘Sharks are dangerous’, although sharks only seldomly attack us. It is important to understand why, because stereotypes are also expressed by such generic sentences. We  want to investigate whether the acceptance of such generalizing sentences can be explained by the way  expectations are learned.
  • Han van Ruler (EUR) for “Decoding Descartes”
    Decoding Descartes unravels the ideas of the founder of modern philosophy and science René Descartes (1596–1650) in response to contemporary deadlocks in philosophy, psychology and neuroscience. By reevaluating Descartes’ work and correspondence, the project shows Descartes is still decisively relevant for contemporary debates in multiple disciplines from humanities to neuroscience.
  • Maartje Schermer (EUR) for Health and disease as practical concepts: a pragmatist approach to conceptualization of health and disease”
    Scientific, technological and societal developments affect the way we understand health and disease. These concepts mean different things for different stakeholders, and in different contexts. This project develops a new, pragmatic approach to defining ‘health’ and ‘disease’, taking into account the function of these concepts in various health-related practices.
  • Eric Schliesser (UvA) for “A New Normative Framework for Financial Debt” (€769,716 / $859,000)
    Society is drowning in financial debts. But it is unclear how to deal with debt morally when it cannot be repaid or causes harmful side effects. This project develops practical, normative guidelines that help policymakers, creditors, and debtors to regulate and manage debt.

Of the 41 researchers in the social sciences and humanities awarded these grants, five (12.2%) are philosophers.

(I am waiting to hear back from a few of the winners on the amounts of their grants.)



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