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The conclusion of the appeals procedure is that the NWO board decided to change the motivation supporting the earlier score and ranking, without changing the score and ranking. The changes in the motivation are intended to show in more detail why the score and ranking were correct despite my appeal. There are two major changes in the motivation for criterium 2 (regarding the quality, innovation, and scientific impact of the research project). Instead of claiming that according to the commission the “translation into current debates in philosophy is insufficiently clear, specifically regarding the implications of the proposed research for these debates” (I actually never promised in the project to contribute to or participate in contemporary systematic debates), the motivation now tells me that according to the commission “the connection with current debates in mathematics and computer science is somewhat unclear, specifically regarding the implications of the proposed research for these debates”. However, the motivation goes on to state something completely new: “Despite these criticisms, the commission holds the opinion that the candidate should not in fact have to participate in current debates.” (Original Dutch: “Ondanks deze kanttekening is de commissie van oordeel dat de kandidaat zelf niet daadwerkelijk zou hoeven deelnemen aan hedendaagse debatten”).

So the result of my appeal is that it should now be clearer why my project obtained its score and ranking: I should have been more specific about something I don’t actually need to do … Or to be less glib, I should have pointed out how the potential results of my five-year research project could contribute to current debates in mathematics and computer science (not the philosophy of mathematics or computation). However, my project doesn’t intend to do that, it is a historical, not a systematical project:

The project will investigate in how far 19th century mechanical calculators can instantiate symbolic intentionality. Brentano and his School introduced the notion of symbolic intentionality in the context of their philosophy of mathematics precisely at the time when mathematics was being mechanized. Ehrenfels and Husserl took these developments explicitly into account in their philosophy of mathematics. The project hence focuses on the 19th century, when both universal mechanical computation and the notion of intentionality were introduced. This requires an inquiry into the machines, their operations, and the notion of symbolic intentionality as pertaining to mathematics and logic.

Why should a potential contribution to current debates be a criterium at all? Are historians of art expected to paint? Should historical work on the context of Darwin’s theories be judged by its potential contributions to current cladistics? I’m not going to invent a faster computer or solve a millennium problem, I’m doing history of philosophy. My expected results will be results in the history of philosophy and science.

The project builds on two breakthroughs in my research: the reconstruction of the Brentanist philosophy of mathematics and the new approach to intentionality. The innovative element lies in the combination of the concept of intentionality and the philosophy of mathematics in the School of Brentano and its application to the mechanization of mathematics and logic in the 19th century.

Could this be useful to contemporary debates? Yes, probably, but first and foremost debates in current historiography, in our understanding of (the unity of) the School of Brentano, in the historical origins and development of the notion of (symbolic) intentionality. And then, also, likely down the road for those using historical concepts and terminology from the School of Brentano, phenomenology, and Gestalt philosophy, including Chalmers, Crane, Dennett, etc., but I am not going to develop a rivalling theory of mind and consciousness myself.

Had I known that the potential result of the appeal would only have been revision of the motivation, but not the score and ranking, I would not have appealed the original decision. Now the only option left, would be to sue the NWO, which I decline to do, given that I do not expect this to yield any meaningful result. The discussion should be about whether or not the criterion of relevance for current debates is applicable to historical projects, not about the procedures or formulations. This discussion, however, has not been adequately addressed in the internal appeals procedure and could not have been adequately addressed by a lawsuit either. The problems of evaluation, criteria, principles vs practice, etc. for funding are huge and not easily addressed by an individual candidate. I hope to be able to help future applicants understand the process by making these struggles public and possibly move the relevant NWO committees to reflect on the criteria and arguments they use and accept in evaluating (historical) projects.