PhD Extreme Beliefs

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD Extreme Beliefs
  • University Graduate
FTE: 0.8 - 1

Job description

The PhD position is embedded in both the Philosophy Department (Faculty of Humanities) and the Faculty of Religion and Theology. It is part of Dr. Rik Peels’ ERC-funded Starting Grant project ‘Extreme Beliefs: The Epistemology and Ethics of Fundamentalism’, which is devoted to a conceptual and normative assessment of fundamentalist belief. The purpose of the PhD project is to conceptualize fundamentalist belief. It will do so by addressing three sub-questions. First, what is fundamentalist belief and how does it relate to radical belief and extreme belief? Second, how does fundamentalist belief relate to other epistemically detrimental phenomena, such as a variety of intellectual vices like dogmatism and narrow-mindedness, and belief in conspiracy theories? Third, what positive and negative epistemic statuses can fundamentalist belief have, such as (ir)rationality, (lack of) justification, reason-responsiveness, or even knowledge? The hypotheses developed by way of conceptual analysis will be applied, tested, and fine-tuned in four cases studies. The project will be carried out in close collaboration with the project’s principal investigator, Rik Peels, and the other PhDs and post-docs in the project. The position includes ample funding for research and travel. A detailed project description is available here: . Candidates are strongly encouraged to read the project description carefully when preparing their applications. The PhD project will start in the spring of 2020.

Your tasks
  • conduct research on the project’s topic, resulting in a PhD dissertation and in journal articles
  • participate in teaching and research activities in one or both departments, that is, the Philosophy Department of the Faculty of Humanities and/or the Faculty of Religion and Theology
  • complete the required PhD coursework for the Graduate School
  • co-organize lectures and a workshop


The candidate should have demonstrable affinity with contemporary analytic epistemology and/or the field of theology and religious studies. Preferably the candidate has a degree in one or both fields, but we will consider outstanding candidates with master degrees in other relevant fields, such as social psychology, criminology, psychiatry, cognitive science, and law. The candidate will have a strong academic record as well as interest in fundamentalism. Familiarity with debates about fundamentalism would be a plus. Excellent spoken and written English as well as strong academic writing skills are essential.

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,325 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €2,972 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. And to be a university where personal education and societal involvement play a leading role. Where people from different disciplines and backgrounds work together on innovations and on generating new knowledge. Our teaching and research embrace the whole spectrum of science – from the humanities, the social sciences and the pure sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,500 students. We employ more than 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible, located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

Diversity is one of our university’s core values. We are an inclusive community, and we believe that diversity and international activities enhance the quality of education and research. We are always looking for people who can enhance diversity on our campus thanks to their background and experience.

Faculty of Humanities
The Faculty of Humanities links a number of fields of study: Language, Literature and Communication, Art & Culture, History, Antiquities and Philosophy. Our teaching and research focus on current societal and scientific themes: from artificial intelligence to visual culture, from urbanization to the history of slavery, from ‘fake news’ in journalism to communication in organizations. We strive to ensure small group sizes. Innovative education and interdisciplinary research are our hallmarks.

Working at the Faculty of Humanities means making a real contribution to the quality of leading education and research in an inspiring and personal work and study climate. We employ more than 250 staff members, and we are home to around 1,300 students.

The Philosophy Department of the Faculty of Humanities
The Department of Philosophy, which is one of three departments of the Faculty of Humanities, is a vibrant and international community of philosophers committed to high-quality teaching and research in various areas of philosophy. The Theoretical Philosophy group, where the advertised positions will be based, is internationally recognized as an outstanding research group, with strengths in particular in epistemology and philosophy of science.
Faculty of Religion and Theology
The Faculty of Religion and Theology is a leading academic centre of expertise on religion in society. Its students, lecturers and researchers focus on the major questions in society and in religious communities. We study religious traditions, sources and contemporary expressions of the religious experience. The faculty practices ‘engaged scholarship’ as expressed in cooperation with governments and partners in civil society on themes such as war and peace, sustainable development and inter-religious dialogue. We are the most comprehensive theological faculty worldwide, with ten seminaries that encompass all world religions and many Christian denominations.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload the following materials (all in English) before January 31st 2020:

  • a letter in which you describe your motivation, qualifications, exactly what you aim to investigate when it comes to the three sub-questions distinguished above, and how you intend to carry out that research
  • a curriculum vitae
  • a writing sample or published paper of about 6,000 – 8,000 words
Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:
Name: Elisa Matse
Position: project coordinator Abraham Kuyper Center
Telephone: 0031 20 598 5534

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