“There Was No Dutch School of Phenomenology of Religion”: Academic Implacability and Historical Accidents – An Interview with Jan G. Platvoet (The Netherlands)
Markus Altena Davidsen [+]
This chapter contains an interview with Jan G. Platvoet, a retired Associate Professor from Leiden University, about the rise and fall of the phenomenology of religion (PoR) in the Netherlands (c.1877–1973). Reviewing the complex history from Tiele and Chantepie de la Saussaye through Van der Leeuw to Bleeker and Waardenburg, Platvoet points out several overlooked facts of crucial importance for the history of the study of religion. As a corrective to Anglophone scholarship Platvoet stresses that Dutch PoR developed independently of and prior to Husserl’s philosophical phenomenology, and he points out that Van der Leeuw only reluctantly accepted the title Phänomenologie der Religion for the German translation of his first introduction to the history of religion. More surprising, perhaps, is the fact that there was very little interaction among the Dutch phenomenologists of religion, and that both Van der Leeuw and Waardenburg, despite their international fame, were academically isolated figures in the Netherlands where they had little influence and no academic heirs. The absence of a “Dutch school” made possible the rapid collapse of Dutch PoR during the 1970s. Platvoet never practised PoR himself, but joined the anthropologically inspired assault on this approach that was launched by Theo van Baaren and others in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Within his own generation, Platvoet has been the one to most passionately promote a new, strictly secular and methodologically agnostic comparative science of religion(s) in the Netherlands. The interview took place in English in Jan Platvoet’s home in Bunnik on 20 June 2018.