What the Humanities Contribute to the University

August 21, 2017 - August 23, 2017
Faculty of Humanities, VU University Amsterdam

Agora 1
De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam 1081 HV

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

Main speakers:

Andrew Briggs
Oxford University
Marcus Düwell
Utrecht University
Jennifer Gosetti-Ferencei
University of Birmingham
Stephen Grimm
Fordham University
Maartje Janse
Leiden University
Suzanne Keen
Washington and Lee University
Michael Lynch
University of Connecticut
Rik Peels
VU University Amsterdam
Ben Peperkamp
VU University Amsterdam
Mary Poplin
Claremont Graduate University
Sabine Roeser
Delft University of Technology
Alan Torrance
University of St. Andrews
Gijsbert van den Brink
VU University Amsterdam


Rik Peels
VU University Amsterdam
Jeroen de Ridder
VU University Amsterdam
Rene van Woudenberg
VU University Amsterdam

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The theme of the seminar is the epistemic status and relevance of the humanities within the university. It is widely felt that the humanities have something valuable to offer to its students, to academia, and to the life of the mind in general: wisdom, certain sorts of insights, a sense of value and meaning. Still, it is often questioned whether the humanities provide us with knowledge; and if it is assumed that they can, it is suggested that the sort of knowledge they are capable of providing pales compared to the sort of knowledge that the natural sciences deliver. It is also suggested that if the humanities are to improve their performance in this respect, they better adopt methods of research styled after natural scientific methods. These developments trigger questions such as:

  • Do the humanities and the natural sciences have the same sort of epistemic goals, or do have different goals?
  • Should the humanities strive to model themselves methodologically in the image of the natural sciences or do they have methods different from and complementary to those of the natural sciences?
  • Are there things we cannot know but through the humanities?
  • Are there humanistic modes of knowing involved in pursuing the natural sciences?
  • Why should universities facilitate the humanities?
  • Are there things that natural scientists can learn from humanistic scholars, vice versa?

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August 12, 2017, 9:00am CET

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