Universiteit van Amsterdam

PhD candidate in History and Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics

Deadline: Thursday 21 September 2017
Publication date
14 August 2017
Level of education
Master's degree
Salary indication
€2,222 to €2,840 gross per month
Closing date
21 September 2017
38 hours per week
Vacancy number

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) is a renowned research institute at the University of Amsterdam, in which researchers from the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Science collaborate. The research carried out at Humanities forms one of the six research schools within this faculty. ILLC’s central research area is the study of fundamental principles of encoding, transmission and comprehension of information. Research at ILLC is interdisciplinary, and aims at bringing together insights from various disciplines concerned with information and information processing, such as logic, philosophy, linguistics, musicology, mathematics, computer science, artificial intelligence and cognitive science.

The ILLC is looking to fill one position for a PhD candidate in History and Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics in Arianna Betti’s group Concepts in Motion within e-Ideas (2017-2022), a project funded by a prestigious personal grant (VICI scheme) by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and directed by Arianna Betti (Principal Investigator). The project is carried out by a team of experts in history and philosophy of logic, mathematics and biology, and computational experts. We aim at developing a groundbreaking, new computational methodology to trace how concepts change in writings in the history and philosophy of science from 1749-1940 in English, German, and Polish (about 600 books/240.000 pages in total), including works by Wolff, Kant, Bolzano, Frege, Russell and Quine.

A short description of the project can be found here. A full description of the project is available on request.

Grafted onto a twenty-year old research focus in 19th-20th history and philosophy of logic, the Concepts in Motion group hosted an ERC Starting Grant in history and philosophy of logic and mathematics from Bolzano to Tarski (Tarski’s Revolution, 2008-2013), during which it expanded its focus to 18th century history and philosophy of biology, developed the so-called ‘model approach to the history of ideas’, and conducted pioneering work in applying computational tools to the history and philosophy of science. The group has an extensive international network of experts in history and philosophy of logic, in particular with the whole community of Bolzano scholars, and has strong links with computational groups, both locally and internationally.

Project description

We are looking for a PhD candidate to carry out the subproject on (the first half of) 19th century history and philosophy of logic and mathematics, with special focus on Bernard Bolzano’s work. The successful applicant will be supervised by Arianna Betti and work in close cooperation with a team of researchers with a strongly methodological attitude, and experience with interdisciplinary work. The team will include the PI, a postdoc in computational linguistics, a scientific programmer, at least one research assistant and two philosophy postdocs (Hein van den Berg, 18th history and philosophy of biology focusing on the concept of life; and one postdoc to be hired in 19th century history and philosophy of logic and mathematics, focusing on consequence in the work of Frege and contemporaries). We aim at a constant and truly interdisciplinary interaction between philosophical interpretation, construction and calibration of the tools and the computational exploration of the data.

Most of the work of the PhD candidate will consist in doing traditional research in history and philosophy of logic and mathematics in a ‘history of ideas’-approach (namely based on a mix of close reading, historical contextualisation, and conceptual analysis). Though the PhD results will be used for computational implementation, and although the PhD will regularly contribute to the overall project and do teamwork with all other members, the more pronouncedly implementational aspects will be closely guided by the PI, and effected by other team members. The research questions of the PhD project will regard historico-philosophical investigations in Bolzano´s general idea of science against the background of the so-called classical model of science, the status of mathematics as a science in this respect, and the development of the idea of plurality in Bolzano and coeval German-speaking philosophy and mathematics, in particular issues such as the way the mereological and set-theoretical variants of the concept of plurality can be distinguished and precisely specified, the way the different contexts involved can be distinguished and precisely specified, and so on.

The ideal candidate for the job has a background in philosophy and mathematics, experience with teamwork (ideally interdisciplinary teamwork), intellectual affinity with history of ideas-approaches and a strong methodological attitude and interests. We are looking for an open-minded, curious, flexible, accurate, highly team-oriented person, resilient and capable of working independently and efficiently against deadlines, of quickly adjusting to changes of plan and handle workload peaks, with outstanding social and communicative skills.

The PhD researcher is expected to:

  • participate in regular and frequent interdisciplinary team meetings, and have meetings with supervisor(s);
  • conduct (traditional) research in history and philosophy of logic and mathematics working at a high degree of independence;
  • write a dissertation consisting of about four published and/or publishable papers wrapped up to form a coherent whole;
  • jointly work with other team members as software user to contribute to the development of GUIs;
  • present intermediate research results at international workshops and conferences both individually and collectively for both philosophical and computational audiences in cooperation with the PI and the other team members;
  • help with organizational tasks connected to the project, such as the organization of conferences and workshops (the list is non-exhaustive);
  • (help) disseminating results to non-specialists.

All PhD candidates enrolled in the ILLC PhD Programme are, as an important part of their doctoral training, given the opportunity to gain teaching experience.


  • A master in Philosophy (alternatively, a strong philosophy background and a master such as the Master of Logic with a demonstrably substantial philosophy component), with either an historical specialisation and demonstrable theoretical interests or a theoretical specialisation and demonstrable historical interests;
  • a background in Mathematics (or ability and willingness to acquire the mathematical knowledge needed for the project);
  • excellent academic results as demonstrated by grades of exams and master thesis;
  • strong motivation to pursue academic research;
  • outstanding social, organisational & communicative skills;
  • being able and willing to work in a team and in an interdisciplinary setting;
  • excellent command of English;
  • good working knowledge of German.

Our group is international, diverse, and flexible as regards working times, habits and team organisation. The ILLC counts a few more individuals with expertise and interests in the historical and theoretical topics directly relevant to the project (Benedikt Löwe, Michiel van Lambalgen and Luca Incurvati).

We aim to start the position as soon as possible and no later than 1 October 2017.

Further information

For additional information please contact:


The selected candidate will be appointed for a maximum of 38 hours per week starting as soon as possible. The work will be carried out under the aegis of ILLC. The appointment is initially for a period of 15 months; contingent on satisfactory performance it will be extended up to a total maximum of four years. The gross monthly salary (on a full-time basis) will range from €2,222 to €2,840 gross per month in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.
Location: Amsterdam.

Job application

Applications should include the following information in one single pdf file (not zipped), named using the PI name, applicant’s surname and 'PhD' as file name, e.g.: Betti-Fisher-PhD.pdf:

  1. A cover statement of maximum two A4 pages motivating why you are applying and how you can contribute to the project(s) in terms of (a) experience and know-how; (b) teamwork;
  2. CV, including (a) details of studies, background and relevant experience; (b) full list of relevant output (papers, books, chapters in book, invited talks; if applicable software, software documentation, reports). Names of referees to be contacted are not necessary at this point but might be included.

Applicants must have completed or nearly completed their MA by the time of the closing date of this call.

Please submit your application to solliciteren2017-FGW@uva.nl no later than 23.59 (CEST) on 21 September 2017. Only complete applications submitted to this email address will be considered.

Please state vacancy number 17-411 in the subject line of your application. The subject of the email message and the attachment must consist of the vacancy number and the text '[Betti-applicant's last name-PhD]'. 

The appointment will start as soon as possible. #LI-DNP