Knowledge formation and its history

The research theme aims at the discussion of the components at stake in the formation of knowledge and its history.

Knowledge is a key concept and an instrument of high value in contemporary society. The Netherlands, for instance, intend to rejoin the global top five of knowledge-intensive and innovative countries (Knowledge and Innovation Agenda 2011-2020). This ambition of the Dutch parliament is supported by employer's organizations, trade unions and all main actors in the fields of education, research and innovation.

The ambition illustrates the idea that knowledge is conceived as a goal and an ideal for education and development of individuals and groups, including academic education and research, as well as a profitable instrument for researchers, employers, entrepreneurs, and government institutions in our society.

The preconditions for attributing these functions to knowledge include critical reflections of the nature of knowledge, its possibilities and limitations. And these discussions of knowledge - be it theoretical, practical, moral, or esthetical knowledge for that matter - cover the sources of knowledge, its history, and justification narratives, its strengths, limitations, and the distinctive levels of knowledge, its stakeholders and gatekeepers, as well as the embodiment of knowledge in written texts, oral traditions, printed documents, literature, codices, e-humanities, institutes, objects, architecture, machines, public opinions, common practices, identities, etc.

The formation of knowledge is taken to refer to the construction of normative orders. These normative orders are formed by distinctions such as true-untrue, good-bad, justified-unjustified, beautiful-ugly, as in science, art, law, history, philosophy, economy, sociology, anthropology, and religion. These normative orders are grounded and developed historically, in legal systems, narratives, cultural and religious traditions, and academic disciplines, each including norms and values, and a method of justification. The discussions of these normative orders cover the analyses of their formation, embodiment, application and education, their histories and their constituents.

The critical reflection of the idea and the ideal of the university, the praesidium libertatis for generating the normative orders under discussion, is included in the program as well, covering the history of the university, the history of science, sociology and economy of science and knowledge, the valorization of knowledge, and its related fields of intellectual property, copyright, patents, fraud, plagiarism, and the circulation and visualisation of knowledge in society.

The theme includes a number of subthemes. The subthemes are cross-linked with other CLUE-themes, and the CLUE-centres, including the Migration and Diversity Centre, the Stevin Centre for History of Science and Humanities, the VU Centre for Dutch Religious History, and the AKC.

The subthemes include:

  • Human life, Culture, and Organization
  • Theoretical Philosophy
  • Philosophy in Historical Context
  • History of Science and Humanities:
    Knowledge practices and normativity within their historical context
  • History
  • Religious studies