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Lodi Nauta appointed Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion

06 September 2017
Lodi Nauta and mayor Michels. Photo: Elmer Spaargaren
Lodi Nauta and mayor Michels. Photo: Elmer Spaargaren

On Wednesday 6 September, Professor L.W. (Lodi) Nauta has received a Royal Distinction during the official opening of the academic year of the Faculty of Philosophy. The distinction has been presented by Mayor Rinus Michels of the municipality of Winsum. Nauta has been appointed Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

Lodi Nauta (Groningen, 1966), Professor of History of Philosophy, is one of the most prominent philosophers in The Netherlands. His work is widely praised. The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded him several prestigious grants, including the highest possible award in the Dutch academic world, the Spinoza Prize. Nauta is also internationally renowned. His research into the origins of humanism has been the standard in the field for years and attracted many academics from all over the world to Groningen. Nauta’s department has become one of largest and most active centres for research into the history of Western philosophy in the world.

History of Western Philosophy

Nauta’s work is characterized by an extraordinary breadth. Where historians of philosophy generally focus on separate periods, or even individual authors, he is a master at connecting highly specialized analyses to general historical developments, an approach that substantially deepens both our understanding of the details and the wider picture. This unique talent, combining highly specialized research with in-depth reflections on general developments, earned him an NWO Vidi grant in 2001 and a Vici grant in 2008, allowing him to extend his research even further.

His ambitious Vici project explored the roots of humanism during the Renaissance and made a unique and very incisive contribution to the history of philosophy because, although the Renaissance has been a central research period in Literature and Art History, it is not in Philosophy. While the Renaissance is considered a period of great cultural blossoming and wealth, it is not seen as an era in which important philosophical developments and innovations took place. Nauta has forever consigned this view to the dustbin of history. His in-depth research into the origins of humanism sheds a completely different, more positive light on Renaissance thought. He has shown that the humanists were highly critical of the thinking of their Medieval predecessors, and thus paved the way for seventeenth-century thought. According to Nauta, they are a vital link in the development of Western philosophy. This discovery has opened up a whole new area of philosophical and historical research.

In 2016 this work resulted in the highest possible academic award in the Netherlands: the Spinoza Prize, making Nauta the first philosopher ever to be honoured in this way. The Spinoza Commission praised him as ‘a young researcher who offers the field truly new ideas’. Winning the Spinoza Prize has allowed him to build a new group of young researchers for further research into the transition between the Middle Ages and the early modern period. His group is expected to make even more important discoveries about this crucial period in our intellectual history.

Philosophy and Society

During his career, Nauta has always sought to acquaint the widest possible audience with the great thinkers of the past. As a Professor he naturally uses his lectures to this end. He has always given introductions to the history of philosophy to both students of philosophy and students from other disciplines. He is also one of the editors of the popular Dutch textbook Kernthema’s van de Filosofie [Key Themes of Philosophy].

In addition, Nauta likes to present his work to a wider audience. He lectured on humanists and the Enlightenment for the Groningen chapter of the Humanist Federation in 2016, and makes annual contributions to the Night of Philosophy, where philosophers give lectures for a wide audience. This event is invariably sold out and allows hundreds of interested people to become acquainted with philosophical research and philosophical questions.

In addition, Nauta was a member of the jury of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) Education Prize for the graduation assignments of secondary school pupils, which aims to raise interest in scholarship and research among children. He has also been President of the jury of the Eureka Prize for Science Communication. The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) have instituted these prizes to reward researchers and journalists who have made a special contribution to the link between academia and society.

Academic Administration

As well as a renowned historian of philosophy, Nauta is a versatile and successful academic administrator, both in and outside the University of Groningen. As Chairman of his Department, he headed the conclusion of partnerships with Radboud University in Nijmegen, Humboldt University of Berlin, the University of Toronto and Harvard University.

In 2013 he left the Chair of the Department to become Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy. As Dean, Nauta heads one of the last independent faculties of Philosophy in the Netherlands with great success. Where most of the faculties elsewhere in the country have merged into the larger faculties of Arts, the Groningen Faculty has remained an independent and highly successful organization.

The philosophy programme in Groningen has won Elsevier’s Best Studies survey no less than nine times in the past ten years. The Research Master received the ‘Top Programme’ (Dutch: Topopleiding) predicate from the Keuzegids Hoger Onderwijs [Higher Education Guide].

The Faculty has become a nationally and internationally renowned research institute under Nauta’s guidance, acting as a magnet for talented young students from around the world and attracting researchers from renowned universities such as Toronto, Oxford, Cambridge and Princeton.

Additionally, the Faculty has demonstrated under Nauta’s guidance that philosophers play an important role in society. High-quality and critical reflection on justice in our economy has proven essential, especially in times of economic crisis. The Faculty is responding to this through the development of two new Master’s programmes: ‘Philosophy and Society’ and ‘Philosophy, Politics and Economics’.

Last modified:10 October 2017 11.18 a.m.
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