PhD Position Idols of The Mind Modern Variations on A Baconian Theme 1800-2000

Leiden University is pleased to invite applicants to apply for a PhD position in social sciences. The initial contract for this position is three years. There is no application deadline for this position.

The Faculty of Humanities, Institute of History is offering a

"Idols of the Mind: Modern Variations on a Baconian Theme, 1800-2000"

Project description

As per September 1, 2019, the Leiden University Institute for History will be appointing a PhD candidate within the NWO-funded VICI project Scholarly Vices: A Longue Dure History, supervised by Professor Herman Paul. Although "Baconianism" was initially synonymous with inductive methods of a kind regarded as constitutive of British empiricism, Bacon's idola mentis - idols of the tribe, cave, marketplace, and theater - began to attract major attention only when inductivism lost its epistemic authority under the influence of, mainly, Hume and Stuart Mill. They were picked up by a broad range of 19th- and early 20th-century thinkers, including Alexander Herzen, Thomas Huxley, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim, John Dewey, and Max Scheler. Why did these mostly anti-positivist critics hark back to Bacon's idols, despite "Baconianism" increasingly being associated with epistemic naivety? From where did they derive this commonplace and why was it attractive to them? Drawing on a broad array of mostly digitized sources, this sub-project examines modern retrievals of Bacon's idols, thereby testing Justus von Liebig's intriguing observation, back in 1863, that Bacon's name lived on mainly in mottos or stereotypical phrases. More importantly, it examines the rhetorical purposes served by these phrases. To what extent did the classic status of Bacon's idola add rhetorical power to epistemological criticism of "flawed," "biased," or "impure" scholarship?

About our faculty and institute

The Faculty of Humanities is rich in expertise in fields such as philosophy, religious studies, history, art history, literature, linguistics, international studies and area studies, covering nearly every region of the world. With its staff of 930, the faculty provides 27 masters and 25 bachelors programmes for over 6,000 students based at locations in Leiden's historic city centre and in modern buildings in The Hague. For more information: The overall project, Scholarly Vices: A Longue Dure History, revolves around a simple question: Why do scholars still evaluate each other's work in terms that are often centuries old? Although modern science differs considerably from early modern learning, 17th-century terms like "dogmatism," "prejudice," and "speculation" are still being used, even if their meanings have changed over time. The project tries to explain the persistence of this cultural repertoire by zooming in on (1) interaction between idioms (cultural repertoires) available to scholars at certain points in time, (2) mechanisms that help transmit repertoires across time and place, and (3) rhetorical purposes for which repertoires can be used.

Drawing on a wide array of 18th, 19th, and 20th-century sources from across the academic spectrum, the project tests three hypotheses: (1) early modern language of vice persisted in productive interaction with modern notions of "bias," "subjectivity," and "conflicts of interest"; (2) commonplaces, anecdotes, and stereotypes ("dark Middle Ages") were major mechanisms of transmission; and (3) language of vice was attractive, not despite, but because of its time-honored origins.

By doing so, the project hopes to enrich our understanding of continuity and discontinuity between early modern learning and modern science. It hopes to build bridges between fields (in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences) that are too often studied in isolation from each other. Finally, in the realm of knowledge utilization, it wants to encourage scholars to reflect on contemporary scholarly virtues and vices.

Terms and conditions

We offer a full-time position for initially one year. After a positive evaluation of the progress of the thesis, personal capabilities and compatibility the appointment will be extended by a further three years. Salary rangefrom 2,325.- to 2,972.- gross per month (pay scale P, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities). Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. Additional budget allows for research visits abroad and attendance of international conferences. More at .


Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups. Information

A more extensive project description is available upon request from Professor Herman Paul, e-mail . Applications

Applications should be submitted in English and include a: Applications should be submitted no later than 31 May 2019 via the blue button inour application system. Please quote the vacancy number in your application. All requested documents should be sent in PDF format.

An interview with the search committee is part of the procedure. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in the first week of July (presumably on 4 July 2019).

Deadline: As soon as possible
Apply Link: Please send your application via email.

Tags: phd position in social sciences, phd fellowship in linguistics, phd fellowship in humanities, social sciences phd position, linguistics phd position, humanities phd scholarship, phd position in netherlands, phd position at leiden university

Copyright © 2019 All Right Reserved.