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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2019/20 Prof. Dr. Gert-Jan van der Heiden

Prof. Dr. Gert-Jan van der Heiden

Radboud University
External Senior Fellow
January - March 2015


Gert-Jan van der Heiden (1976) is Professor of Metaphysics at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Since 2011, he is a member of The Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). He is a member of the Nijmegen Center for Contemporary European Philosophy. He holds a PhD in Mathematics (University of Groningen, 2003) as well as in Philosophy (Radboud University, 2008). He was a visiting scholar at DePaul University in Chicago in 2006, and a visiting scholar at Boston College in 2012. From 2010 until 2013 he was a Veni fellow for a project entitled ‘Conflicting Pluralities: Rethinking Reality in Contemporary Philosophy’ funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). In 2012, together with others, he received an NWO-Free Competition grant for the four-year program ‘Overcoming the Faith-Reason Opposition: Pauline Pistis in Contemporary Philosophy’.


Selected Publications

  • Ontology after Ontotheology: Plurality, Event, and Contingency in Contemporary Philosophy (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2014).
  • “The Voice of the Past in the Present: On Dialogue and Testimony”, Journal of the Philosophy of History 8:3 (2014): 426-444.
  • "Who Bears Witness for the Witness? On the Testimony of Literature”, International Yearbook for Hermeneutics 13 (2014): 160-173.
  • The Truth (and Untruth) of Language: Heidegger, Ricoeur, and Derrida on Disclosure and Displacement (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2010).


FRIAS Research Project

A Hermeneutics of Testimony

In this project we will explore the meaning of the concept of testimony (Zeugnis) and related concepts such as conviction (Überzeugung) and attestation (Bezeugung) for contemporary philosophy. Along the lines of these three notions – testimony, conviction and attestation – we will investigate three different areas in which the notion of testimony plays a crucial role in contemporary philosophical hermeneutics and its direct partners in conversation.

(1)  Attestation. In hermeneutic accounts of the self, the notions of Bezeugung (Heidegger) and attestation (Ricoeur) play a fundamental role to characterize self-understanding. We will investigate how this concept of attestation affects our conception of self-understanding. In particular, we will zoom in on the question of why the concept of attestation is especially brought into play in the conception of understanding humans in terms of their basic possibilities and capacities.

(2)  Testimony. In the ongoing reflections on the role of testimonial literature in relation to both historiography and poetics, as can be found in the works of Lyotard, Agamben, Derrida, Ricoeur and others, the question of the limits of testimony is addressed. We will investigate the different limits of testimony to which these authors draw our attention.

(3)  Conviction. In different contexts, philosophers are drawing attention to the importance of attesting to one’s conviction in difficult circumstances. Foucault’s later analyses of parrhesia – to speak up for the truth – are exemplary in this respect, but other important examples can easily be given. To what type of speech or testimony does this attention to conviction give rise and what does the specific connection between truth and testimony that is installed here mean?

There are many points of intersection between these three lines of investigation and this project will show how these three lines of investigation may mutually benefit from and clarify each other.