The Quine in Context Project

A Research Lab for Bachelor Students

Principal Investigator & Instructor: Arianna Betti

In Quine in Context  Bachelor students are trained in learning how to produce interdisciplinary research across three fields: Philosophy, Computer Science, and Computational Linguistics. In the project, digital tools are used to answer philosophical questions or establish philosophical hypotheses, working as a part of a real life research team in an interdisciplinary and collaborative settings.

Entry requirements: for Philosophers, completed Text, Context and Debat: Quine (18 EC), and either enrollment in a Honours track  in Philosophy, Computer  Science or Computational linguistics or excellent final grade (above 8) for the Quine course; for other disciplines a decision is taken case by case.

The research topic is centered around the ideas of Willard van Orman Quine as expressed in text form, in particular in his main book, Word and Object (1960). 

2015/16 team: Lotte Dudock, Katjoesja Kruiger, Suze van Scheers

2016/17 team: Lisa Dondorp, Yvette Oortwijn

Current work

We are finalising the building of an extensive Quine corpus. Next step is continuing with the design of a paper titled Quine in Context, directed to a philosophy audience, in particular researchers in the history of analytic philosophy, and jointly written by the team.  The idea is to use digital tools to test a number of hypotheses about Word & Object (1960) and previous Quine work, in a quantitative way. The tasks needed for the work are discussed and assigned during the project. They require varying level of (team) involvement, skills, conceptual depth, and concentration.

Tools  & services used in this project

Trello & extensions Twitter Google Calendar Google Calendar counting hours
Google Docs Google Drive Excel Zotero
e-mail SalVe GlamMap @PhilosTEI
WordPress (blogging software) Fiverr Diff Checker [check differences in text files] Basic UNIX commands [see also UNIX for poets]
A corpus-building flowchart made by the students Diff Now [check difference also in non-text files]


For now, this poster.

A possible list of tasks to be completed within this project

In this practicum you experience the reality of an interdisciplinary, cutting-edge active research group by learning-by-doing:

  • LaTeX editing. LaTeX is an open source typesetting language. [read info]
  • TEI editing [read info here + then read info here]
  • extensive user testing of computational tools: SalVe, GlamMap, PhilosTEI
  • to write use cases, user scenarios and perhaps stories [some info]
  • to increase interdisciplinary awareness by developing some very basic understanding of NLP techniques such as those described here: Unix for Poets
  • to formulate hypothesis and plans of actions on what parts of a philosopher’s work can be automatised;
  • get something really well done that you cannot do yourself or have no time for (learn to effectively delegate)
  • to conduct high-level team research: literature study, hypotheses formulating & testing; in this field in particular this involves formulating hypothesis and plans of actions of different, rather practical kind
  • to share team-conducted research: write, give talk and publish papers, improve/update a poster
  • to improve  team-conducted research and its sharing: receive feedback and questions, clarify your thoughts and writing on this basis
  • identify appropriate dissemination media for any kind of output in this project
  • to manage communication strategies for a research group: web presence writing, blogging & microblogging

Background literature

For Salve:

Van Wierst, Pauline, Sanne Vrijenhoek, Arianna Betti, and Stefan Schlobach. “Phil@Scale: Computational Methods within Philosophy .” Transactions in Digital Humanities, 2016, forthcoming.

Van Wierst, Pauline. “Salva Veritate – A Master Thesis on Bolzanian Analyticity and Computational Methods within Philosophical Research.” MA Thesis, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 2013.

For @PhilosTEI:

Betti, Arianna & Hein van den Berg, @PhilosTEI:Final user evaluation report, November 2014 [14 pp.]

Betti, Arianna, @PhilosTEI: User feedback (internal report) March-April 2015

For GlamMap:

Betti, Arianna, Dirk H. P. Gerrits, Bettina Speckmann, and Hein van den Berg. “GlamMap: Visualizing Library Metadata.” In Proceedings of VALA 2014 – Libraries, Technologies, and the Future. Melbourne, 2014.



You will learn unique skills that are of utmost importance in any sector in which you are required to think, get things done and interact with people  with different skills, ways of operating and ‘conceptual schemes’. In particular you will learn skills that are extremely rarely found in philosophers all at once, basically all bullets above in any combination. You will also learn by experience what the new field of digital humanities can bring to philosophy, and you will learn how to perform research in this field yourself: digital tools applied to philosophy.