Summer Seminar 2017: The humanities

What the Humanities contribute to the University

Summer Seminar 2017

August 21-23, 2017
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


What the Humanities teach us

The theme of the seminar is the epistemic status and relevance of the humanities within the university. It is widely felt that the humanities have something valuable to offer to its students, to academia, and to the life of the mind in general: wisdom, certain sorts of insights, a sense of value and meaning. Still, it is often questioned whether the humanities provide us with knowledge; and if it is assumed that they can, it is suggested that the sort of knowledge they are capable of providing pales compared to the sort of knowledge that the natural sciences deliver. It is also suggested that if the humanities are to improve their performance in this respect, they better adopt methods of research styled after natural scientific methods. These developments trigger questions such as:

  • Do the humanities and the natural sciences have the same sort of epistemic goals, or do have different goals?
  • Should the humanities strive to model themselves methodologically in the image of the natural sciences or do they have methods different from and complementary to those of the natural sciences?
  • Are there things we cannot know but through the humanities?
  • Are there humanistic modes of knowing involved in pursuing the natural sciences?
  • Why should universities facilitate the humanities?
  • Are there things that natural scientists can learn from humanistic scholars, vice versa?

Stephen Grimm (Fordham University, USA)
Mary Poplin (Claremont Graduate University, USA)
Gijsbert van den Brink (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Jennifer Gosetti-Ferencei (University of Birmingham, UK)
Andrew Briggs (Oxford University, UK)
Marcus Düwell (Universiteit Utrecht)
Sabine Roeser (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam)
Ben Peperkamp (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Maartje Janse (Leiden University)
Suzanne Keen (Washington and Lee University, USA)
Michael Lynch (University of Connecticut, USA)

Theatre Play

Part of the programme is the play “An Evening with C.S. Lewis”, performed by Philip Crowley and written by David Payne.

For whom?

The Summer Seminar unites participants from a wide range of academic backgrounds, all interested in the value of the humanities. We welcome (PhD-) students and others working in academia, as well as policy officers.

Amsterdam Summer Seminar

The seminar is the fourth in a series of seminars we have been organizing over the last four years. They are organized by the Abraham Kuyper Center for Science and the Big Questions, based at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The Center is named after the founding father of this university, who had definite ideas about the university, the sciences, the humanities, and their relations with the big quesions.


The fee includes participation to the summer school, drinks, food and a social and cultural program.

 Price (€)
StudentsBursaries available*
PhD students100

* Please contact Irma Verlaan (


Registration opens soon.
Please send an email to Irma Verlaan ( if you’d like to recieve a notification.

Conference Venue

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Agora 1
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Organization committee

Rik Peels
Jeroen de Ridder
Irma Verlaan
René van Woudenberg

The organizers gratefully acknowledge the support of Templeton World Charity Foundation.