Abraham Kuyper Center

prof. dr. René van Woudenberg

BiographyRene van Woudenberg

I am a professor of philosophy. My areas of specialisation are epistemology and metaphysics. I did my Ph.D. with Nicholas Wolterstorff (who was at the time at Yale University), am the recipient of an Academy Research Grant (from KNAW), worked for two years at the University of Notre Dame, and was the dean of the philosophy department at VU University from Sept. 2008 through December 2012.

I am greatly interested in how ordinary knowledge relates to scientific knowledge, and in how our common sense view of the world relates to the scientific image of the world. The “Science Beyond Scientism” squares perfectly with this interest, as does the Abraham Kuyper Center for Science and the Big Questions.

Areas of Expertise

Epistemology and Metafysica: scientism, responsible belief, chance & design, the philosophy of Thomas Reid, and the relationship between philosophy, science and Christianity.


My Scientism Project (2013-2016) has three parts:

  1. Scientism is, roughly, the claim that only the natural sciences (including the harder parts of psychology) provide us with knowledge, tell us what exists, and answer, or eliminate, our traditional moral and religions questions. Any discussion of scientism, therefore, will at the very least have to go into the question what knowledge is, and why it is that only science is supposed to be capable of providing it to us.
  2. Scientism, it has been argued, undermines science itself. I will study a number of such arguments, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and make the case thatthese arguments are unassailable. I aim to argue furthermore in detail in what specific ways extra scientific knowledge is required in order for science to be capable to flourish.
  3. A number of evolutionary psychological studies argue that morality is an ilusion and seem to entail that moral realism is false. I will closely scrutinize how these antirealist conclusions are reached and argue that scientism is required in order for such conclusions to follow. I will furthermore argue that taking evolution seriously is fully compatible with some form of moral realism.

Through this all, I anticipe that the contours will begin to sharpen as to how to do science without and beyond scientism. For more on my research that is not directly linked to the “Science Beyond Scientism” project, see my personal website.

Recent publications

Currently I am working on the following projects:

  • The Epistemic Responsibilities of the University (starting September 2016)
  • Science Beyond Scientism
    This is a critical investigation of scientism which is, broadly speakng, the claim that only the natural sciences are capable of giving us knowledge and answering out moral and religious questions.
  • Responsible Belief
    This project aims to solve what I call ‘the doxastic paradox’. This paradox consists of three theses that individually seem eminently plausible but jointly entail a contradiction. (1) Humans can rightly be held responsible for what they believe; (2) One can only be rightly held responsible for what one has a choice about; (3) Humans have no choice as to what they believe.
  • Chance and Design
    This project investigates the interplay between chance and design and deals with the question how claims to the effect that something is due to chance or design can be epistemically justified.
  • The Philosophy of Thomas Reid
    This project deals with various aspects of both Reid’s epistemology and metaphysics.

For an overview of my published work you may consult my personal website.



Additional Information

Personal website & CV