On this page you can find some of the things I have done since I became involved in philosophy. I hope you like this page, and above all: get inspired to contribute your part to an involved philosophy.
This page will be updated now and again. So check back some time!
Involved philosophy is the motto of this blog – involved doesn’t mean just being engaged, it also means a philosopher is always up to her/his knees involved in life with all its complexities, dilemmas and ambiguities. The philosopher, and philosophy is not outside of this world, this life.
Involved philosophy is not at odds with being academic philosophy. To stay relevant and sharp, academia is a good environment to continuously remind you to let your work be critiqued, reviewed, and improved by dialogue, discussion, and collegial dispute even.
My research can be followed through several sites, given here:
If you think we should exchange our findings or can meaningfully collaborate on any of the projects mentioned there, you can contact me through those sites or my university email.
My first teaching experience I had at 22, when I was a student-assistant to professor Kees Bertels, the Philosophy professor in the Sociology Department at Leiden University. So at present I have almost forty years of teaching experience. I have required a lot of experience on speaking techniques, teaching groups of varying sizes and students of different levels; on how to organize interaction or online study materials; and now, since covid19, also with purely online lecturing and discussing.
My approach has not changed that much: I always prefer interactive teaching over straightforward lecturing; reading and discussing primary texts over working with introductory books; inciting critical thinking over making sure you get the grade. My most sacred wish is always that being in a learning environment helps students and teacher(s) alike to grow and develop as human beings.
Over the past years I have worked with many student-assistants myself, and I hope they will look back on the experience as a formative one, as it was for me, a long time ago. Photos below left – around the age I first started teaching (at a philosophy event) and right coaching student assistants a few years ago.
Some of the special topics I taught are listed here:
- Feminist Ethics (Joan Tronto and Margaret Urban Walker)
- The Social Self in African and American Philosophy (works from George Herbert Mead, Ifeanyi Menkiti and others)
- Hospitality, Justice, Friendship (Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida)
- The Prison (Michel Foucault, Angela Davis, a.o.)
- Phenomenology – from Husserl to Fanon
- Value Ethics (some Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Taylor, but main focus on Max Scheler’s work)
- Black thinkers on Humanity (Carter Woodson, Charles W. Mills, Emmanuel Eze, Michael Eze)
- Diversifying Philosophy – discussing critical approaches such as Queer Philosophy, Postcolonial Theory, Feminism
- Intercultural Philosophy (focus on European and African Philosophy)
Collaborations and Conferences
My first conference experience was in 1989 – a former teacher invited me to participate in an exchange (funded by the Dutch government) between Hungarian and Dutch philosophers on social ethics. Conferencing often made me meet nice people with which I somehow worked together later, be it in the humble sense of exchanging articles of interest, providing mutual support to pursue research projects, or writing funding applications and organizing further teaching and research collaborations.
For many years two societies provided my main focus – The Societas Ethica and ESSSAT – both based in Europe, and their conferences gave me the opportunity to travel to so many university towns on the continent, see different academic cultures, and learn to dialogue beyond the confines of Dutch philosophical subculture.
Changes in my research focus made me travel to African countries the last few years, which provided me with more eye-opening intercultural and intercontinental experiences. It made me even more aware as well (as in the past meeting with Eastern and Western European academics) how economical and political hurdles frustrate the free and open exchange of information and ideas that academic work should provide.
Here are some published papers of conference contributions:
From a conference in Prague in 2015 on Cultural and Political Identity resulted this paper.
From a conference of the Societas Ethica in the early 2000s on Pluralism in Europe resulted this paper.
Doctoral courses & supervisions
My first PhD supervision was done, almost predictive of the time we are now in, completely online. Makoto Katsumori, from Japan, sent his chapters by e-mail to his promotor in Philosophy of Science (Hans Radder) and me, the co-promotor. The doctorate ceremony took place in 2005 and the book is still available.
Below photos of my first and my present PhD student
The tone was set for a global and interdisciplinary focus. Now I am involved in projects on Waste, on projects in their design phase – on Humility, and on Intercultural African Philosophy. PhD students come to me for a firm background in continental philosophy (whether it is hermeneutics, deconstruction or critical theory), for African Philosophy of course, and always for my interest in interculturality and interdisciplinarity.
I have been on many doctoral committees – on subjects related to Spinoza, to environmental philosophy, and to spirituality, in the Netherlands, in Belgium, and this year it will be for the first time in South Africa.
Because doctoral work is more than working only for the grade of doctor, but also collaborating, dialoguing with others at that specific level, I created a group of PhD students who mostly were not ‘mine’, to share this type of exchange in a free space. We read and discussed Specters of Marx together, chapter for chapter, over the course of a year, and then One- Dimensional Man.
A new and interesting adventure was the Winter Course for graduate students on Intercultural Philosophy and Postcolonial Theory, this past January – which will be followed up this next winter with a course on African Philosophy in Global Times – information will appear here soon.
Writing and making books
Writing books seems at first sight to be the most individualistic aspect of doing philosophy. And yes, one spends months alone in a room behind a computer. And this structure is in your head, and cannot be fully shared untill it is finished. But no book can be made without publishers, friends that support you when you think it cannot be done, reviewers, proofreaders, cover designers, booksellers, more reviewers when it is published, people who invite you for lectures, etc. etc. All books, but especially academic books, owe to a village of helpers and co-thinkers… not to mention the students with whom you discuss the first ideas before there is even a bookproposal.
Above are photos of all my books – the PhD book on Spinoza, the postdoc book, on Nature in ethics. The little essay on truth, the introduction to the philosophy of spirituality and my book on Spirits/ghosts. All of them in Dutch, and among them two co-edited volumes on ethics of life and spiritual formation, also in Dutch.
Then I turned to English, with my book on Environmental Intercultural Philosophy, which followed my first co-edited volume, on theological ethics of values. Two more collections, on African philosophy are under contract, and two other book projects under construction. Having devoted a blog once to the tables where they all were written, I wonder at what table the next one will be done…
Links to my books are among the links in the sidebar. Here is a review of my latest book:
Organizing & administration
Part of my job is doing administrative and organizational work, inside and outside the university. This has covered many different tasks – among them:
- member of examination and admissions committees (several times)
- member of selection committees
- Faculty board member responsible for education
- initiator and chair of faculty research group (philosophical anthropology and gender studies)
- chair of the national research network Theological Ethics
- chair and initiator of the national research network African Intercultural Philosophy
- board member of academic societies, such as VvEN, Thomas van Aquino (both Dutch), Societas Ethica (European)
- editor for book series and academic journals
- co-organizer of departmental lectures
My main qualities in such work are taking initiative and connecting people to work toward a common goal in a well-structured way. I am enthusiastic and know how to tune in to momentum. I like writing position papers and plans. I am future oriented and can be somewhat impatient when institutional structures slow down needed change. People have often said that I am an excellent chair, creating space for dialogue while keeping time and the agenda for the meeting. You have the picture.
The work is not philosophical, but it is part of making academic philosophy possible, and therefore important to be taken seriously. I took up and take up those tasks that I am good at, and in which I can add something positive.
Values reflection in education
Education as a space for reflection on one’s own values and those of others has always had my special interest. How to dialogue, how to create a safe space for students and teachers to share not only knowledge, but also one’s value orientations – these are crucial questions in order to realize the effect of academic education. The importance of these questions lies in the possibility they create to reflect on the relation between any search for truth and the commitment to values. How are they interconnected? Which values support dialogue and critical thinking? When do values become prejudices that hinder the same? How can people who do not share the same value frame take part in a shared pursuit of knowledge?
I have worked in many ways to promote such reflection:
- as philosophy teacher for non-philosophy students, among them students of fields as diverse as dentistry, theology, sociology and communication studies.
- in a leadership role as developer and coordinator for all lecturers of philosophy courses for non-philosophy students at my university
- in lectures and academic articles on the topic
- as collaborator in the ‘values project’ in my university, and as advisor on diversity in many informal roles
Adventures of thought
Now the most interesting part of becoming involved in philosophy has been and is the following of philosophical questions that draw you towards them. I would advise every (young) philosopher to not forget this, even under all the pressures of publishing, writing funding applications, and securing jobs.
The questions that led me and sustained my work – as philosophical questions – were first sparked and oriented by my philosophy teachers, who brought me in touch with all these great thinkers and their works: Spinoza, Aristotle, Derrida, Nietzsche are among the ones that stayed with me after my student years. I started on a path of the systematic pursuit of questions concerning the nature and possibility of knowledge, reality, the place of human beings in nature, freedom and the possibility of agency.
These questions came to organize themselves into a questioning of modernity, revolving around the divorce of science and religion in modern European thought. How to deconstruct this? Should one deconstruct it? Or go beyond it? Being a member of the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology (ESSSAT) helped here. A later turn to the epistemology of Indigenous and shamanistic knowledge took me to new circles of researchers. The questions are and remain leading.
Public lectures and Media
Over the years I have given numerous public lectures on topics in my range of expertise, such as African Philosophy, Spirituality, Spinoza, Emotions, Hermeneutics, and much more.
Next to giving lectures, I have been interviewed on my research for radio many times, and for paper and online media as well. I have written for media that bring academic research to a wider audience, such as Hippo Reads.
Interested to host me as your speaker? Or to invite me for an interview or critical contribution on a topic within my expertise? Send in the contact form below this page.