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Tim Meijers: 'There are so many questions I still want to ask’

The fact that Tim Meijers ended up becoming a philosopher came as no surprise. Even as a child, the university lecturer endlessly asked questions to himself and others. Now that is his job at the Institute for Philosophy at Leiden University. Tim Meijers researches sustainability and justice between generations. ‘Humanitarianism is central to my work.’

One country, infinite opinions

Tim Meijers: 'I grew up in Amerongen, in a small village on the Utrecht Hill Ridge. I remember that I have always been curious, and interested in society. I remember, for example, the rise of Pim Fortuyn. I found it interesting that within a society, there exist very different visions of society, for example when it comes to migration. At the time I already noticed that this interested me, but I couldn’t yet properly express this feeling.

After finishing high school I moved to Leiden to study Political Science. During my master's I decided to also study Philosophy. I noticed that I was more interested in the moral side of political discussions, in the question: 'how should we live with each other?'

The worldview behind moral judgement

'In our daily lives, we judge events and situations all day long: 'this is good', and 'this is unjust'. And we often can't explain why we think what we think. Some people believe we should exclude migrants, others do not. What are their underlying beliefs? Philosophers and ethicists try to take a critical look at the basis of the beliefs that surround us in public debate.

After obtaining my master's degree, I started my doctoral research in political philosophy at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Louvain-la-Neuve. When I started studying political philosophy, I knew I would never be finished. There are so many questions I still want to ask. Because I started teaching at the Institute for Philosophy in Leiden during my PhD, I ended up back in Leiden after my PhD research.'

What does a better world look like?

'In my current work, I am mainly concerned with the question of what we as the present generation, the people who live in the world today, owe to future inhabitants of the world. This can be linked to issues such as climate change and the depletion of natural resources. My current Veni research 'Who owes what to future generations?' is also on this topic.

As a political philosopher, I look at what a better world would look like. I think that this is what one has to act on in order to make progress. For this reason, with the support of the LUF and the Gratema foundation, I started the Global Justice project in 2019. With visiting fellowships we offer African philosophers the opportunity to spend time in Leiden. I see philosophy as a global undertaking, which is why we also need to engage in dialogues with colleagues from all continents. With Global Justice we try to stimulate global cooperation.' 

Ratio & emotion

‘Aside from work, when I'm not spending time with my family, I spend a lot of time on opera. I like to listen to it and I went to performances a lot, before corona. In my philosophical work I am mainly concerned with reasons and arguments, while in opera the focus is more on the complexity and the emotional side of the human condition. In order to understand ourselves, we need both perspectives.'

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