Reverse Engineering the Canon

History of philosophy is taught nearly exclusively in chronological order with a very narrow canon of authors and texts. This canon has come under increasing pressure: too sexist, too racist, too eurocentric. Due to the linear approach everything seems to happen in pre-ordained fixed order. Students, teachers, and researchers are attempting to reform this rigid “dead white males” canon. However, there is no clear consensus about what the new standard should be. In practice, the old canon is still being used, with some ad hoc alternative substitutions and additions.

The goal of the Comenius project “Reverse Engineering the Canon” is to radically change and turn around the traditional approach. This will lead to a new teaching method which will approach the history of philosophy explicitly from within the present: which authors and texts from the past are necessary to understand the present? We can reverse engineer the required textual basis step by step going backwards into history. Students will be directly and actively involved in the process of deconstructing the canon and discovering a richer historical context. The project will develop materials to teach Modern Philosophy and based on this case study propose a more broadly applicable method for teaching history (of philosophy) in general. 

(2020 – 2021: Comenius Teaching Fellowship, Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

HERMES: Hybrid Enhanced Regenerative Medicine Systems

The HERMES consortium is joining their efforts to establish a new paradigm in regenerative medicine, aiming at overcoming the biological uncertainty inherent to it. This paradigm is named enhanced regenerative medicine and it is rooted in the establishment of biohybrid neuronics (neural electronics), that is the symbiotic integration of bioengineered brain tissue, neuromorphic microelectronics and artificial intelligence.

I contribute to HERMES with my expertise in the philosophy of mind and consciousness and in the history and philosophy of the cognitive sciences, in order to contextualize and reflect on enhanced regenerative medicine for the brain; analyze the conceptual, sociological and ethical framework of the awareness, acceptance, expectations and fears related to biohybrid approaches for brain repair; inform the public debate on these topics.

(March 2019 – January 2024, EU Horizon 2020, FETPROACT-2018-2020 GA n.824164, Radboud University Nijmegen)

Philosophy as Science: The Project of the School of Brentano

What makes science science? What would make philosophy science? These questions dominated 19th century philosophy and determined the structure of academia as we know it today, in particular in conceptualizing the contrast between human and natural sciences. One of the most radical and influential proponents of the idea of philosophy as science was Franz Brentano. On July 14, 1866 Brentano stepped up to the pulpit to defend his thesis that the true method of philosophy is none other than that of the natural sciences. This became the north star of his school. Brentano considered the mind as the main field for philosophy, a descriptive science of consciousness: empirical, but not experimental, and subjective, but not introspective. This engendered the misconception that Brentano wanted merely to establish psychology as a science, but his project was far more ambitious. Only if we grasp the true scope of Brentano’s project, we can understand the theoretical unity of his school. Brentano’s students Stumpf, Marty, Meinong, Von Ehrenfels, Husserl and Twardowski, put his ideal in practice in the movements they founded and influenced: Gestalt psychology, Prague linguistics, phenomenology and Polish logic. Their diversity and success eclipsed the common origin of the underlying ideal and their unity as a school, acknowledging Brentano merely as precursor. My project will show that their shared mission of elaborating philosophy as science fundamentally determined the development of these diverse movements. Contrary to current mainstream interpretations, which dismiss any psychological foundation of science as “psychologistic”, I will avoid such pigeonholing. Overly broad and dismissive labels hide the subtlety and nuance of the foundational debates in the 19th century, which cut across disciplinary sub-divisions. I will show how the ideal of philosophy as science enabled the School of Brentano to overcome the false dichotomy between logical and psychological foundationalism.

(October 2012 – October 2016: NWO VENI Grant, Utrecht University )

Former Grants:

October 2009 – September 2012: postdoctoral research grant, FWO – Vlaanderen (“Mathematics and Logic in the School of Brentano”, KULeuven, Husserl-Archives Leuven)

October 2004 – September 2009: doctoral research grant, FWO – Vlaanderen

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