Activities of the group

For more information on talks and publications, see the homepages of Hein van den Berg, Arianna Betti, Iris Loeb and Stefan Roski.

Workshop "Digital Humanities and Philosophy"

June 28, 2013

The Digital Humanities are booming. However, philosophy is underrepresented in the Digital Humanities. This workshop has three aims: (i) to present computational methods that can be used by philosophers; (ii) to present research in which philosophical problems are studied by means of computational methods; (iii) to reflect on the relevance of research in the Digital Humanities for research in the humanities and philosophy.

Everyone interested in the digital humanities and philosophy is cordially invited! Attendance is free - but please register by sending an e-mail to axiom.erc[at]

Location: VU University Amsterdam (Main Building, 2nd floor, Room HG-02A06 ) (directions)

10.30 - 10.45             Coffee + Tea

10.45 - 11.15             Introduction: Digital Humanities and Philosophy
                                    Arianna Betti & Hein van den Berg (VU Amsterdam)

11.15 - 12.15             Natural Language Processing for Digital Humanities
                                    Caroline Sporleder (University of Trier)

12.15 - 13.30             Lunch (at own expenses, sorry!)

13.30 - 14.30             Uncovering Philosophical Influence by Digital Humanities
                                    Rens Bod (University of Amsterdam)

14.30 - 15.30             Armchair with a Monitor: Using Computer-Based Linguistic Text Corpora for Philosophical Purposes.
                                    Roland Bluhm (TU Dortmund)

15.30 - 16.00             Coffee + Tea

16.00 - 17.00             Distributionalism: Meaning or Discourse
                                    Aurelie Herbelot (University of Potsdam)

17.00 - 18.00             Digital Humanities Strategies for analyzing Enlightenment thought and practices: two examples from book history and emotion studies
                                    Inger Leemans (VU Amsterdam)

18.00 - 18.15             General Discussion


Caroline Sporleder: Natural Language Processing for Digital Humanities
Textual data plays a large role in Digital Humanities. This does not only apply to a significant amount of primary data (such as historical manuscripts, inscriptions, old scholarly texts and newspapers etc.) but also to most metadata associated with artefacts (such as catalogue entries). Natural language processing is thus an important area of research when it comes to truly unlocking the potential of Humanities data. Sophisticated processing and mining techniques make it possible to go way beyond keyword-based search. With the help of state-of-the-art language technology, textual data can be semantically searched, sources can be automatically linked, information can be mined and interdependencies and trends can be discovered and visualised. In this talk, I will give a brief overview of how Natural Language Processing has been and can be applied in Digital Humanities.

Rens Bod: Uncovering Philosophical Influence by Digital Humanities
Where did Thomas Jefferson possibly draw his inspiration from when he wrote the Declaration of Independence? Which philosophical texts are "similar" to his text? Descartes? Locke? Burlamaqui? Others? With the ever increasing accuracy of computational-linguistic tools we are now able to answer such questions. I will argue that full-fledged parsers are particularly useful in discovering similarity and possible influence between authors. I shall go into these tools and discuss their surplus and shortcomings for a "digital hermeneutics". (Joint work with Andreas van Cranenburgh.)

Roland Bluhm: Armchair with a Monitor - Using Computer-Based Linguistic Text Corpora for Philosophical Purposes.
Although Ordinary Language Philosophy has largely fallen out of favour, and with it the belief in the primary importance of analyses of ordinary language, reference to the use and the meaning of expressions of interest in ordinary parlance is still frequent among philosophers. In their analyses of ordinary language use, philosophers most commonly appeal to their own linguistic intuition. This armchair inquiry is sometimes supplemented by reference to dictionaries or in recent times by queries of general internet search engines for pertinent linguistic expressions. Apparently the attempt is to surpass the limits of individual linguistic intuition by appeal to factual uses of language (either directly or indirectly, relying on the dictionary writers' expertise). I will argue that this attempt is commendable but that its execution is wanting. Instead of appealing to dictionaries or internet queries, philosophers should use computer-based linguistic text corpora to find evidential support for their analyses of ordinary language use. In Linguistics, this is a well-established practice, and at least some linguistic text corpora are freely accessible on the internet. Surprisingly, they have been almost completely disregarded by philosophers. I will demonstrate some useful applications of corpus analysis, and I will argue that using corpora has a variety of potential benefits and some advantages over alternative (partly) empirical methods in philosophy.

Aurelie Herbelot: Distributionalism: meaning or discourse?
Distributionalism, or the notion that meaning is given by language use, has been an important semantic theory for both philosophy and linguistics since the 1950s. However, it has only been recently, thanks to the advent of very large corpora and fast computing, that the approach has started to be put to the test. A large area of computational linguistics is currently dedicated to building models of lexical meaning using distributional techniques. Research has focused so far on whether state-of-the-art methods are able to appropriately simulate human judgements of similarity, and whether they can model compositionality at the lexical level, but it is now expanding to areas traditionally covered by formal semantics. Whether distributionalism is a good theory of meaning remains to be seen. There is no straightforward answer to how it should account for matters of quantification, negation or modality, just to name a few. However, the structures obtained from distributional systems may be an excellent way to study 'the discourse', i.e. what people standardly say about things, on a large scale. In this talk, I will present experiments where distributional data was used by philosophers to verify their theories in the areas of gender studies and intersectionality. I will show that the cultural fabrication of both femininity and masculinity can be traced in the data obtained from the (relatively unbiased) online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. Similarly, the claims of intersectionality (the combination of various forms of inequality results in types of discrimination which are mostly unseen) is mirrored by distributions. I will finally argue that such considerations are not only of interest to the social scientist but has consequences for linguistic theories of meaning.

Inger Leemans: Digital Humanities strategies for analyzing Enlightenment thought and practices: two examples from book history and emotion studies
The early Enlightenment brought about radical changes in 'the European mind'. These changes have been researched thoroughly by historians of philosophy, science and culture, focusing mostly on texts, books and their dissemination. As many of these texts have been digitised, we can start to ask different questions to this corpus. Combining books with their bibliographical metadata we can research the early Enlightenment from the perspective of the producers and the readers. How did publishers, authors and engravers manage to create (radical) philosophical ideas into 'novelties': objects that people recognise, want and continue to buy? Can we analyse the material coherence of this corpus of thought? What role did illustrations play in this process of reconceptualising knowledge? As cultural historians have tried to stress over the last decades, the Enlightenment is not only characterized by new ideas, but also by new cultural practices. Ideas are embodied. In this lecture, I would like to pose some strategies for researching the changes in attitudes towards emotions and the senses, that took place during the Enlightenment.

Friday Afternoon Lecture

Iris Loeb will give a talk during the Faculty's Friday Afternoon Lecture on May 31, 2013 titled 'Model Theory and Universalism Carnap's Early Logic'.
The lecture will take place at the VU University Amsterdam, room 0G11 (main building) from 15.30h-17.00h. If you are interested, you are cordially invited!

Workshop "Maps and Visualization Techniques in the eHumanities"
Kickoff Event GLAMMap, 3rd of May 2013

This workshop has three aims: i) present ongoing research in the eHumanities in the Netherlands that use maps and visualization techniques,
ii) meet researchers working in this interesting field and discuss possibilities together, iii) kickoff the ERC Proof of Concept GLAMMap project.

Everyone interested in maps and visualization techniques in the eHumanities is cordially invited! (But please register - information below.)

Location VU University (Main Building Room 0G-11)

Program (abstracts below):

11.00 – 11.15             Coffee + Tea

11.15 – 11.30             Welcome
                                    Arianna Betti GLAMMap (Network Institute, VU Amsterdam)

11.30 – 12.15             Mapping the History of Logic
                                    Hein van den Berg GLAMMap (Network Institute, VU Amsterdam & TU Dortmund)

12.15 – 13.00             Lunch

13.00 – 13.45             GLAMMap
                                    Dirk Gerrits & Bettina Speckmann GLAMMap (TU Eindhoven)

13.45 – 14.30             Innovative Strategies in a Stagnating Market, Dutch Book Trade 1660-1750
                                    Wouter Beek & Fernie Maas STCN (VU Amsterdam)

14.30 – 15.00             Coffee + Tea

15.00 – 15.45             Intellectual Geographies of the Digital Republic of Letters
                                    Charles van den Heuvel Circulation of Knowledge / ePistolarium (Huygens ING)

15.45 – 16.30             Fortresses of books: A bibliometric foray into ranking and mapping scholarly publishers
                                    Alesia Zuccala Evaluating the Humanities (Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, University of Amsterdam)

16.30 - 17.00             General Discussion

You are more than welcome to join this event. If you are planning on visiting the event, please invite yourself to the facebook-event,
(alternatively, one can send an e-mail to register to axiom.erc[at]gmail[dot]com).
Also, lunch is free, but limited. First guests who register can enjoy a free lunch.

We hope to welcome you on the 3rd of May!


The GLAMMap project will create a software to visualize large collections of books and other cultural artifacts on geographical maps. The resulting package will be a system with an integrated automatic, user-customizable metadata harvester in a fully functional visualization software prototype apt to large-scale data visualization.
More in technical details, GLAMMap investigates scalability, societal relevance, and innovation and commercialization potential of a rudimental visualization tool we have developed in a previous pilot project, Mapping Philosophy.

On this event a new prototype will be presented!

Mapping the History of Logic, Hein van den Berg (TU Dortmund) GLAMMap
We present a dynamic visualization of bibliographic data of over two centuries of logic books (1700-1940) and discuss how this visualization allows historians of logic to obtain new insights.

GLAMMap, Dirk Gerrits & Bettina Speckmann (TU Eindhoven) GLAMMap
We discuss considerations for the technical design of GLAMMap, and give a demo of a very early prototyp

Innovative Strategies in a Stagnating Market, Dutch Book Trade 1660-1750, Fernie Maas & Wouter Beek (VU Amsterdam) STCN
Despite a stagnating domestic demand near the end of the seventeenth century, Dutch book producers managed to keep up their international market position.
In this project, the strategies and decisions of these publishers, printers and book sellers are traced in the Short Title Catalogue, Netherlands, a retrospective bibliography of publications 1540-1800,
containing information on title, author, book producer, language, subject and collation. Historians and computer scientists collaborate to disclose this STCN, and to connect it to other relevant datasets.
To explore the possibilities of disclosing and linking the STCN, attention is turned to the practice of publishing scandalous books and the way scandalous concepts were recognizable for audiences,
used by book producers to appeal to their audiences.

Intellectual Geographies of the Digital Republic of Letters , Charles van den Heuvel (Huygens ING) Circulation of Knowledge/ePistolarium
The very nature of letters of the pre-Modern period (mixed in content, multilingual, spelling variation) complicates the analysis and visualization of intellectual networks around certain topics.
The Circulation of Knowledge project aim at the development of a platform, together with research groups of Stanford, Oxford, Indiana University and Lancaster University,
in which the scholarly communication in the Republic of Letters around specific topics can be analyzed and visualized from various historical, prosopographical and geographical perspectives.
Here I will focus on the latter perspective discussing the creation of intellectual geographies.
Topic modeling focused at similarity search will be used in combination with natural language processing techniques, such as named entity recognition,
to cover incompleteness in (meta)-data in a vast multilingual corpus while visualization of what we know and do not know must contribute to problems of visualizing uncertainty.

Fortresses of books: A bibliometric foray into ranking and mapping scholarly publishers , Alesia Zuccala (ILLC, UvA) Evaluating the Humanities
Bibliometricians do not know very much about academic book publishers. Unlike journals, which have been studied and ranked quite intensively, book publishers are a bit like fortresses;
shadowy strongholds within the scholarly communication system. Researchers (especially humanists) rely on them to print ‘the book’ that will lead to their career promotion and tenure.
Universities want to maintain and promote their own presses as great additions to their scholarly reputation, and evaluators are curious about whether or not the authority of a publisher is equal to a proven measure of quality.
In this study, we take two approaches to a study of the prestige and ranking of book publishers. First we monitor citations to books from journals and obtain a direct ranking from citation counts,
including a normalization of these counts. To complement this ranking, we also take a network and mapping approach which observes directed links between journal and book publishers.

Amsterdam Workshop on Truth

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation of the University of Amsterdam organizes a workshop on truth. One session is co-organized by our group.
The workshop will take place from Wednesday the 13th of March - Friday the 15th of March 2013.

More information about speakers and registration can be found here.

Workshop in History and Philosophy of Logic and Metaphysics

Our group has organized a workshop on September 3, 2012 on the history of logic & metaphysics in 19th century and history-informed metaphysics. The following talks were given:

Aristotelian powers at work: reciprocity without symmetry in causation. Anna Marmodoro (Oxford). Commentator: Jesse Mulder (Utrecht).

Bolzano on the Hierarchy of Truths. Stefan Roski (Amsterdam) & Antje Rumberg (Utrecht). Commentator: Arianna Betti (Amsterdam).

"It Falls Somewhat Short of Logical Precision." Bolzano on Kant's Definition of Analyticity. Mark Siebel (Oldenburg). Commentators: Marietje van der Schaar (Leiden) & Anita Kasabova (Sofia).

Tarski Workshop

June 5 and June 6 2012, VU University Amsterdam.
More information can be found here.

Video: Hoedje op/ hoedje af quiz

Presented by Floris Tilanus en Arianna Betti, 30 November 2011.

On the occasion of On portable holes and other containers. For more information see here.

MA Seminar on Tarski's The Concept of Truth

September-December 2011
MA-Seminar on Tarski's classic paper The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages at VU University Amsterdam led by Arianna Betti and Iris Loeb.
For more information see here.

Conference 'The Classical Model of Science II'

From August 2-5 2011 an international conference on the Classical Model of Science took place at VU University Amsterdam. The invited speakers were:

Hourya Benis Sinaceur (IHPST, Paris)
Patricia Blanchette (Notre Dame)
Paola Cantu (CEPERC, Universite de Provence)
Paolo Mancosu (Berkeley)
Paul Rusnock (Ottawa)
Lisa Shabel (Ohio State)
Stewart Shapiro (Ohio State/St. Andrews)
Eric Schliesser (Ghent)

Furthermore, there were 10 parallel sessions with contributed papers. More information can be found here.

Video: What is truth?

Arianna Betti on her research -- explained for a non-specialist audience.

Open access publishing

Below see a video on the relevance of open access publishing featuring Arianna Betti.

See also the support page of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Two seminars by Mirja Hartimo on Husserl's critique of psychologism in the Logical Investigations

April 20, 12:45 - 15:30, HG14A11
April 21, 12:45 - 15:30, HG14A11

Graduate workshop on the notion of form with Michael Beaney and Danielle Macbeth

From 20th-21st of January 2011 a graduate workshop entitled 'The notion of form in 19th and 20th century logic and mathematics' took place at the philosophy departement of VU University Amsterdam. Besides six talks of an international selection of graduate students, there were two keynote lectures by Michael Beaney (York) and Danielle Macbeth (Haverford) and two invited talks by Catarina Dutilh Novaes (Amsterdam) and Anssi Korhonen (Helsinki). More information including a programme and abstracts of the talks can be found at

The values of science/De waarden van wetenschap

In the video below, several members of the Young Academy of the The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences give their opinion on the trend towards assessing scientific research on the basis of economic value: science is much, much more than this. Arianna Betti is one of them.

On the 7th of June 2010, two days before national elections, the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad has embedded the video on their webpage and has published an editorial by the Young Academy on the values of science on their webpage and in print: "Munt slaan uit wetenschap is te kortzichtig -Toepassing mag niet voorop staan".

Arianna Betti on the radio

An interview of Arianna Betti on Tarski's conception of truth and formal languages has been broadcasted on the Dutch station Radio 5 on May 17th, 2010. You can listen to the podcast here (in Dutch).

Digital projects

The group is involved in the following digital projects:

Bolzano Newsletter

A Bolzano Newsletter is edited by Arianna Betti and Paola Cantu. News is also posted on Twitter.
To post news via email send a message to; to post via twitter write a tweet including the hashtag #BBPnews.

New Publications:

Now in print:

The Classical Model of Science I: A Millennia-Old Model of Scientific Rationality. Synthese, Vol. 174, 2. Special issue, guest edited by Arianna Betti and Wim de Jong. SpringerLink and pre-prints are available.

The Classical Model of Science II: The Axiomatic Method, the Order of Concepts and the Hierarchy of Sciences. Synthese, Vol. 183, 1 . Special issue, guest edited by Arianna Betti, Wim de Jong and Marije Martijn. SpringerLink and pre-prints are available.

Conference: Logic and Mathematics in the Philosophy of Bernard Bolzano

Conference on the 200th anniversary of Bolzano's "Beyträge zu einer begründeteren Darstellung der Mathematik"
Prague April 15th-18th 2010.

Main organizer: Steve Russ. Co-funded and co-organized by our team.

Talks/comments by Arianna Betti, Iris Loeb, Stefan Roski.

For more information see the conference website.

Bolzano Reading Group

Stefan Roski organizes a reading group devoted to read the *whole* Wissenschaftslehre of Bernard Bolzano. From November 2009 the group meets regularly (about) every two weeks.
Please write Stefan an email if you are interested in joining.

Present dates:

Research Seminar: Quantifiers: from their Birth and Development in Logic to their (Mis)use in Ontology

Every two weeks on Friday 11-12.45 (except first meeting on 4/9: 9-10.45!) September-November 2009, Hoofdgebouw VU, room 14A-11
See also the teaching page (password protected)

A research seminar on the history of quantifiers and ontological commitment. Among the themes we shall discuss: ontological commitment & how the particular quantifier became existentially loaded and a metaphysical dogma, quantification in Frege and Lesniewski, plural quantification, the history of model theory.

Dinsdag 29 september 2009
Hoofdgebouw VU, room 13A-11/13
De Boelelaan 1105

Bolzano Workshop
Satellite event to "The Days of Judgement", Leiden

15:00 Anita Konzelmann Ziv Bolzanian knowing: Infallibility, virtue and foundational truth
15:20 Comments: Maria van der Schaar & René van Woudenberg
15:50 Plenary discussion
17:00 Arianna Betti Explanation in metaphysics and Bolzano’s theory of ground and consequence
17:20 Comments: Jan Willem Wieland & Jan Sebestik
17:50 Plenary discussion

Dinsdag 22 september 2009 15:30-17:00 uur
Hoofdgebouw VU, zaal room 4A-04
De Boelelaan 1105

Venanzio Raspa, University of Urbino
Lies. What they are. What they do.

Not every fiction is a lie, but every lie implies a fiction. A lie is a kind of fiction possessing a certain intentional element (that of selling off the false for true, or viceversa). Hence, a lie differs both from a false proposition and from error. A lie is an action which is inseparable from the agent and which constitutes a real object together with the agent. For a lie produces effects both on the deceiver and on the deceived. Like every real object, a lie is given in a (phenomenological) context and identifies a (dialectical) context. This paper examines the ethical and political aspects of lies in the company of Aristotle, Plato, Augustine, Kant, Nietzsche, Meinong, Sartre, Jankélévitch and Derrida.