Gepubliceerd op 08-04-2019

Postdoc Position “Scholarly Dogmatism: A Rhetorical History, 1800-2000”

Job description

Although the history of dogmatism is usually framed in epistemological terms, as ranging from Glanvill’s criticism of Hobbes to Locke, Hume, and Kant, the history of dogmatism as “a weapon of offence” can also be written from a rhetorical point of view, with particular attention to the historical connotations invoked by the term. Why was dogmatism so often presented as a “relapse” (Rückfall) into pre-critical thinking? Was dogmatism, notwithstanding Kuhn’s attempt at rehabilitation, an effective charge mainly because it relegated opponents to a superseded stage in the development of science? And why was dogmatism often associated with phrases such as Glanvill’s “vanity of dogmatizing,” Kant’s “dogmatic slumber,” and Huxley’s “history records that whenever science and dogmatism have been fairly opposed, the latter has been forced to retire from the lists, bleeding and crushed”? This sub-project traces how, why, and under what circumstances 19th- and 20th-century scientists invoked the trope of “dogmatism,” especially though not exclusively in controversies. What does in-depth analysis of such controversies reveal about the rhetorical power of dogmatism and to what extent does this help explain the persistence of dogmatism over time?

Key responsibilities

As per September 1, 2019, the Leiden University Institute for History will be appointing a postdoc researcher within the NWO-funded VICI project Scholarly Vices: A Longue Durée History, supervised by Professor Herman Paul (https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/staffmembers/herman-paul).

Conducting research on the history of scholarly dogmatism;

  • Writing one or more articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals;
  • Together with the PI: co-authoring a monograph on the history of dogmatism;
  • Co-organizing one or more of the workshops envisioned within the project;
  • Contributing actively to the project as a whole (e.g., serving as a peer reviewer for other team members, contributing to the project website).



  • PhD degree, preferably in the history of science;
  • One or more relevant publications (journal articles, book chapters);
  • Fluency in English (passive command of German and/or French would be advantageous);
  • Broad familiarity with the history of science (preferably including the history of the social sciences);
  • Experience in working with 19th- or 20th-century source material;
  • Excellent writing skills;
  • Proven ability to work both independently and as part of a team;
  • Proven ability to work in an international and highly competitive environment.

Conditions of employment

The postdoc position is fulltime (1.0 FTE). The successful applicant will receive a one-year contract. After positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for two years.

The salary is in accordance with the collective salary agreement of the Association of Dutch Universities (CAO) and depending on qualifications and experience, the gross monthly salary is € 2,709 (scale 10) to € 4,978 (scale 11) for a full working week. Leiden University also offers and annual holiday premium of 8% and an end-of-year premium of 8.3%.


Universiteit Leiden

Leiden is a typical university city, hosting the oldest university in the Netherlands (1575). The University permeates the local surroundings; University premises are scattered throughout the city, and the students who live and study in Leiden give the city its relaxed yet vibrant atmosphere.

Leiden University is one of Europe’s foremost research universities. This prominent position gives our graduates a leading edge in applying for academic posts and for functions outside academia. More at https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/working-at.



Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs

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: http://www.hum.leidenuniv.nl.

The overall project, Scholarly Vices: A Longue Durée 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.B

y 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.

Within this overarching project, one fulltime, three-year postdoc position is available.


Additional information


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


A more extensive project description is available upon request from Professor Herman Paul (h.j.paul@hum.leidenuniv.nl).


Apply here.

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