Vacancies and Funding Opportunities

The Concepts in Motion group (UvA/ILLC) has a vacancy for a

Student Assistant
(master level) f/m

for the project Modelling Perspectives in Philosophy: A Computational Experiment on Quine’s Word & Object

For 0.2 fte for a fixed period of 10 months.

Modelling Perspectives

Modelling Perspectives is an exciting experimental interdisciplinary research project involving applying tools from computational linguistics to the philosophical exploration of Quine's Word and Object and other coeval philosophical texts. It is embedded in an ongoing research agenda by a group of philosophers aiming at finding out whether by applying ICT-methods philosophers can work faster, more objectively, and on unprecedented scale; something impossible with traditional hermeneutic methods.

More specifically, Modelling Perspectives takes the first steps toward developing a sound method to extract and interpret information about perspectives as expressed in philosophical texts in a computational way. We investigate appropriate calibration of an already existing model combining sentiment/opinion mining and event factuality (Van Son et al. 2014) for application to philosophical texts. We focus on an English corpus including one of the most influential philosophical books of the 20th century, Word & Object (1960) by W. V. O. Quine.

The project combines expertise from Prof. dr. Arianna Betti’s Concepts in Motion group (Philosophy Department, Faculty of Humanities and ILLC, Faculty of Sciences at UvA) and from Spinoza-laureate Prof. dr. Piek Vossen’s Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab (Faculty of Humanities VU) and will be needing one student assistant from philosophy, and one from computational linguistics. (N.B. This is the vacancy solely for the philosophy student, not for the computer science student.)

Please refer to the material behind this link for more information on the project.

Job description

The student assistant is expected to work under Arianna Betti’s supervision to provide domain expertise in philosophy necessary (a) for the assessment of the application of already existing techniques in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and models as they are to philosophical texts; (b) for the calibration and adaptation of these models and techniques to philosophical texts in close collaboration and constant interdisciplinary interplay with a fellow MA student in computational linguistics appointed within the same project at Piek Vossen’s Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab of VU University. Given the fact that the project is the first in its kind, we presume that the student will need to produce annotations for the tasks at (a) and (b).

The start date is October 1, 2015 (non-negotiable).

The student-assistant will be formally hired at VU University.


This job requires background in both systematic philosophy and history of 20th century analytic philosophy, basic knowledge of Quine’s philosophical ideas and most important texts, and excellent command of English. The ideal candidate for this position is a philosophy student with a solid training in philosophy of language (ideally, knowledge in-depth of Quine’s Word & Object), history of early analytic philosophy of language (Carnap, Sellars, Strawson, etc.), history and philosophy of logic, and a keen interest in philosophical methodology. The student should be highly motivated to learn to conduct high-level research in philosophy, have a problem-solving attitude, readiness to work in a team, enthusiasm for engaging in issues going beyond usual challenges in the field, and possess excellent communicative and social skills.

The student should also have a completed BA in philosophy, and be enrolled either in the (Research) MA program in Philosophy or in the Master of Logic (Institute of Logic, Language and Computation) at the University of Amsterdam. Exceptions might be granted for students of other, neighbouring Masters (including Masters at VU Universities) who demonstrate project fit, and accept to defend their thesis externally either at the ILLC or at the Philosophy Department of the University of Amsterdam, (preferably) under Arianna Betti´s supervision.

The project is funded by this scheme

Information and application

Applicants should send a letter with (i) a letter of motivation and (ii) a CV containing grades of courses taken, to before (or on) September 15, 2015. (Questions about the project or the application should also be sent to that address.)

Interviews will take place on September 22, 2015.

Useful links

Concepts in Motion group at UvA

Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab at VU

The Network Institute at VU

Phil@scale, a similar Academy Assistant project successfully completed at VU