Universiteit van Amsterdam

Postdoctoral researcher in History and Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics

Deadline: Thursday 21 September 2017
Publication date
14 August 2017
Level of education
Salary indication
€2,588 to €4,757 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 postdoc 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 extensive experience with all aspects of the typical workflow of philosophers going computational (including OCR challenges, issues in corpus-selection and high quality corpus-building), and are familiar both with information retrieval approaches from computer science and word embedding approaches from computational linguistics. The group has strong links with computational groups, both locally and internationally, and an extensive international network of experts in history and philosophy of logic, in particular with 19th century and early 20th century communities of scholars.

Project description

We are looking for a postdoctoral researcher in history and philosophy of logic and mathematics to carry out the subproject on (the second half of) 19th century history and philosophy of logic and mathematics, with special focus on Gottlob Frege’s work and the concept of consequence (as well as, possibly, plurality). The successful applicant will 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, one philosophy postdoc (Hein van den Berg, a 18th history and philosophy of biology expert focusing on the concept of life) and one PhD student to be hired working on (the first half of) 19th century history and philosophy of logic and mathematics, with special focus on Bernard Bolzano and the concept of plurality. 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 postdoc 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). However, the postdoc is expected to contribute to the overall aim of the project, work in a team with all other members to this effect, and do research with an eye to computational implementation. The latter mainly means that the knowledge obtained in the subproject must be presented in an highly structured, explicit and shareable way, in a process involving the PI and the other team members as well, and that it will be part of the subproject´s work to provide input to the computational experts and evaluate the results of the computational approach for their salience to research in history and philosophy of science. The research questions of the postdoc´s subproject will regard historico-philosophical investigations in Frege´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 ideas of consequence and plurality in Frege and coeval German-speaking philosophy and mathematics. Issues to be researched in particular will be e.g. the way explanation and truth-preservation variants of the concept of consequence in their connection with (conceptual) grounding and deducibility can be distinguished and precisely specified; 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 postdoctoral researcher is expected to

  • participate in regular and frequent interdisciplinary team meetings;
  • conduct research in history and philosophy of logic and mathematics;
  • deliver a number of top publications for a philosophical audience as a single author or in cooperation with the PI and other team members, and a number of joint / team publications for a more computational audience;
  • provide input to the computational experts and evaluate the results of the computational approach for their salience to (their own) research in history and philosophy of science;
  • 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.


  • PhD in Philosophy with demonstrable expertise in 19th century history and philosophy of logic and mathematics, ideally Frege and contemporaries;
  • Background in Mathematics (or ability and willingness to acquire the mathematical knowledge needed for the project);
  • an excellent record of international publications;
  • 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, and up to 33 months at the Department of Philosophy of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Amsterdam. A longer, part-time appointment (up to a minimum of 0,7 fte research time for 48 months) is also 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 33 months (full-time research) or 48 months (part-time research). The gross monthly salary (on a full-time basis) will range from €2,588 to €4,757 gross per month (scale 10-11) depending on experience and qualifications, and 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 'PostdocHist' as file name, e.g.: Betti-Fisher-PostdocHist.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 PhD 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 17-410 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-PostdocHist]'. 

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