Postdoc Philosophy: Fundamentalist Belief and Excusing Conditions

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Postdoc Philosophy: Fundamentalist Belief and Excusing Conditions
  • Doctorate
FTE: 0.8 - 1

Job description

The postdoc position is embedded both in 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 developing a conceptual and normative analysis and assessment of fundamentalist belief. This postdoc project zooms in on particular aspects of the ethics of fundamentalist belief. The purpose is to get a better grip on the conditions under which one is excused (blameless) for one’s fundamentalist belief despite violating certain obligations in coming to hold or in maintaining such beliefs. The postdoc will do so by answering three main questions. First, to what extent do excuses from (the philosophy of) law translate to moral and epistemic excuses for fundamentalist belief? Second, how can various doxastic excuses, such as ignorance, manipulation, peer pressure, cultural difference, social isolation, and indoctrination, for fundamentalist belief be conceptualized? Third, can we provide a detailed set of criteria (stereotypical properties) that can be used to identify which specific doxastic excuses hold in cases of fundamentalist beliefs? The hypotheses developed by way of conceptual analysis and reflective equilibrium will be applied, tested, and fine-tuned in four cases studies. This project will enrich ethics and fundamentalism studies by providing an account of the conditions under which someone or a group of people is excused for holding certain fundamentalist beliefs, such as indoctrination. It will complement existing empirical and historical research on brainwashing, indoctrination, and other excuses, with a rigorous conceptual analysis and balanced ethical evaluation of such excuses that is thoroughly informed by related work in the philosophy of law and empirical reality, based on four case studies. The project will be carried out in close collaboration with the project’s principal investigator, Rik Peels, and the other PhD’s 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 postdoc project will start in January 2021.

Your duties
  • conduct research on the project’s topic, resulting in at least five journal articles (in philosophy journals, particularly general philosophy journals and journals in ethics and the philosophy of law, and various journals in fields that contribute to fundamentalism studies, such as criminology and law)
  • participate in teaching and research activities in one or both departments, that is, the Philosophy Department and the Faculty of Religion and Theology
  • co-edit a special issue or book
  • co-organize lectures and a workshop  


The candidate should hold a PhD degree and have demonstrable affinity with contemporary ethics. We will consider outstanding candidates with degrees in other relevant fields than philosophy and theology/religious studies, such as law, social psychology, criminology, psychiatry, and cognitive science. The candidate will have a strong academic record and affinity with contemporary ethics, broadly understood, 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. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €2,790 (scale 10)
and a maximum €4,402 (scale 10), depending on your education and experience. The job profile 'onderzoeker-4' is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE. The initial employment contract will affect a period of 1 year, with the possibility of extension.

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)
  • 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. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

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
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 until September 17, 2020. and upload the following materials (all in English):
• a letter in which you describe your motivation and qualifications;
• a brief statement as to what exactly 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 published paper of about 4,000 – 10,000 words.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:
Name: Imane Amara

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