3. Being Human – What Can We Know?

In this course you will examine different doctrines of knowledge and truth, by means of a thorough and critical reading of some of their proponents. It implies theories like idealism (Plato, Hegel), rationalism (Descartes, Spinoza), empiricism (Locke, Hume), scepticism (Sextus Empiricus, Montaigne), (neo)positivism (Comte, Carnap), pragmatism (James, Dewey), phenomenology (Husserl, Merleau-Ponty), hermeneutics (Heidegger, Ricoeur). But these fashionable and impressive labels do not really matter; important are the basic ideas that they convey and the discussions they evoke – discussions you are invited to participate in.

Basic questions are: “What are the preconditions for human knowledge?” “Is human knowledge finite, and, if so, what are its limitations, and does it make sense to talk about things beyond these limitations?” “what kinds of truth are there (in math, in science, in the humanities, in poetry, in religion)?” “what exactly is a (scientific) truth claim?” “what is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?”

This course will take place in the first quartile of the second year. It will be given by René Munnik and Jan Hoogland. Every class on Wednesday is intended as a seminar for information, reading suggestions and study guidelines, and for discussion with the teacher. Classes on Monday (except the first one) are preparatory group sessions. An extensive study guide will be available at the beginning of the course.

René Munnik graduated in chemistry (1974), theology (1980), and philosophy (1982). In 1987 he defended his PhD thesis on the metaphysics of the mathematician-philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, entitled De wereld als creatieve voortgang – De ontwikkeling van een totaliteitsgedachte bij A.N. Whitehead.

Since 1987 he teaches philosophy – especially metaphysics, philosophy of science for the humanities, philosophy of culture, and philosophy of religion – at the universities of Nijmegen, Tilburg and Twente. At the moment he is associate professor at Tilburg School of Theology (Tilburg/Utrecht) and he holds the (endowed) Thomas More chair in philosophy at the University of Twente.

After his doctorate, most of his research was devoted to epistemological questions regarding the relationship of natural sciences and the humanities. At the moment, his academic interests concern philosophy of technology and technological mediation, which resulted in his most recent Dutch book –Tijdmachines. Over de technische onderwerping van vergankelijkheid en duur (Klement, 2013).

Jan Hoogland (1959) studied Sociology (bach.) and Philosophy in Rotterdam (Erasmus University). In 1992 he defended his PhD thesis on the German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno and his view on the role of metaphysics in modern philosophy: Autonomie en antinomie. Adorno’s ambivalente verhouding tot de metafysica (Autonomy and antinomy. Adorno’s ambivalent relationship to metaphysics) (cum laude). Since 1997 he is holder of the Chair of Christian Philosophy at the University of Twente.

Hoogland has published some books and many articles in books, journals and magazins. Last year he published with Jochem Quartel Levenskunst voor iedereen. With three colleagues he wrote Denken, ontwerpen, maken. Basisboek techniekfilosofie (2007), which recently is published in English: Philosophy of technology. An introduction for technology and business students.

Beside his special chair at the University of Twente, Jan Hoogland is professor in ‘Formative Education’ at Viaa University of Applied Sciences in Zwolle and assistant professor in Public Administration at VU University in Amsterdam.