Paul Bernard Cliteur (born 6 September 1955) is a Dutch professor of jurisprudence at Leiden University, as well as a politician, philosopher, writer, publicist and columnist. He is known for his conservative perspective, his atheism,republicanism and efforts for animal rights. He is a member of De Vrije Gedachte. Since 2015, Cliteur is a member of the Dutch political party Forum voor Democratie, where he is chairman of the advisory board and the party's official think tank. In 2019 he was elected to be parliamentary group leader for Forum voor Democratie in the Dutch Senate.
Cliteur has also been on the board of several organisations, including supervisor of the Telders Foundation (think tank of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy), and from 1993 until 1995 chair of the Humanist League (Humanistisch Verbond).
Lawyer and philosopher
Cliteur studied law and philosophy, and graduated on 22 March 1989 with his dissertation Conservatisme en cultuurrecht ("Conservatism and cultural law", published in 2005 under the title Natuurrecht, Cultuurrecht, Conservatisme, "Natural law, Cultural law, Conservatism"). From 1995 until 2002, he was Professor of Philosophy at Delft University. He is Professor of Jurisprudence at Leiden University, where he delivered his maiden speech on 28 May 2004 on "The neutral state, particular education and multiculturalism". His activities mainly include law, cultural history, philosophy and ethics.
Columnist and publicist
Cliteur is mainly known for his opining works, in which he expresses his political views. He served as a columnist for, amongst others, Trouw, and had a spoken column in the TV show Buitenhof. In these, he first and foremost expresses his liberal opinions, his own vision of multiculturism, and also advocates for animal rights.
In March 2004, Cliteur told Het Parool in an interview that he felt he was being limited in freely expressing his opinions on Islam after others branded him a "racist" and "stigmatiser". This was partly due to an AIVD report, which argued criticism of Islam is counterproductive for the social integration of Muslims. Cliteur felt it necessary to moderate the tone of his spoken columns for Buitenhof. After being criticised for taking this position, he decided to terminate his contributions to Buitenhof completely, because he regarded himself to be no longer credible.
An overview of his philosophy is described in Dirk Verhofstadt in gesprek met Paul Cliteur. Een zoektocht naar harmonie (2012), an in-depth interview between Dirk Verhofstadt and Paul Cliteur on Enlightenment values such as the freedom of speech, separation of church and state, the right to self-determination and the equality of every human being.
- Written in his capacity as a lawyer
- Humanistische filosofie ("Humanist Philosophy"), 1990
- Filosofen van het Hedendaags Liberalisme ("Philosophers of Present-Day Liberalism"), co-author, 1990
- Filosofen van het Klassieke Liberalisme ("Philosophers of Classical Liberalism"), co-author, 1993
- Rechtsfilosofische stromingen van de twintigste eeuw ("Schools of Philosophy of Law in the Twentieth Century"), 1997
- De filosofie van mensenrechten ("The Philosophy of Human Rights"), 1999
- Rechtsfilosofie, een Thematische Inleiding ("Philosophy of Law, a Thematic Introduction"), 2001
- Verscheidenheid en Verdraagzaamheid. Op de Bres voor Tolerantie ("Diversity and Tolerance. In Defence of Toleration"), 2001
- Inleiding in het Recht ("Introduction to Law"), 2001
- Natuurrecht, Cultuurrecht, Conservatisme ("Natural law, Cultural law, Conservatism"), 2005, dissertation
- The Secular Outlook: In Defense of Moral and Political Secularism, 2010. Wiley-Blackwell
- Written in his capacity as Socrates Professor
- Onze verhouding tot de apen; de consequenties van het Darwinisme voor ons mensbeeld en voor de moraal ("Our Relation to the Apes"; the Consequences of Darwinism for Our View of Humanity and Morality), maiden speech, 1995
- Written in his capacity as a publicist
- Darwin, dier en recht ("Darwin, Animals and Rights"), 2001
- Moderne Papoea's ("Modern Papuas"), 2002
- Tegen de Decadentie ("Against Decadence"), 2003
- God houdt niet van vrijzinnigheid ("God Does Not Like Liberalism"), Bert Bakker (Amsterdam, 2004), ISBN 9035126297
- Moreel Esperanto ("Moral Esperanto"), 2007 (nl)
- Het Monotheïstisch dilemma ("The Monotheist Dilemma"), 2010, Uitg. De Arbeiderspers
- Dirk Verhofstadt in gesprek met Paul Cliteur. Een zoektocht naar harmonie ("Dirk Verhofstadt in Conversation with Paul Cliteur. A Quest for Harmony"), 2012, Houtekiet
- De succesvolle mislukking van Europa ("The Successful Failure of Europe"), as co-editor with Frits Bolkestein and Meindert Fennema, 2015, Houtekiet
- Het Atheïstisch Woordenboek ("The Atheist Dictionary") with Dirk Verhofstadt as co-author, 2015, Houtekiet
- Lecture on audio cd
- Humanisme. Een hoorcollege over vrijdenken, atheïsme, politiek en moraal ("Humanism. A Lecture on Freethought, Atheism, Politics and Morality"), Home Academy Publishers (The Hague, 2006)
- In 2001, Paul Cliteur was ambassador of the Stichting Varkens in Nood ("Pigs in Distress Foundation"), and supported Hans Baaij's initiative of a "Universal Declaration of Production Animal Rights".
- In his spoken column in the 1 December 2002 episode of Buitenhof, Cliteur favourably discussed Francesco Carotta's theory that Jesus is, in fact, a transformed character of Julius Caesar, originating from erroneous copying. In the 23 December 2002 Nova episode, he called Carotta's theory a "discovery equal to the views of Darwin and Galileo, which overturns all of cultural history". This belief was mocked by Nijmegen's classical historian Anton van Hooff, who dubbed it 'atheist superstition'.
- In 2004 and 2014, Cliteur was lijstduwer during the European elections for the Party for the Animals. He also wrote a contribution in the book "De eeuw van het dier" ("Animal's Century") by Marianne Thieme. During the 2006 Dutch general election he was again lijstduwer, however, he simultaneously endorsed number seven of EénNL, former PM Anton van Schijndel (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy). The JOVD (Youth Organisation Freedom and Democracy) awarded him the prize for Liberal of the Year 2002.
- '[My book Against Decadence] is available at any bookstore, anyone can read it, including jihadists, but I think they can learn a lot from it. I think it's good and that it won't encourage them to commit [terrorist] attacks. But what I am afraid of, is when such a book is summarised as 'It's actually just stigmatising strangers and that is racism', that does somewhat frighten me. And that does induce a safety risk, because types like Volkert van der G. do look at that, and that may be kept in their minds (...).'
- 'What we should be really cautious about, is that right now we won't be going in the direction -and it is going slightly in that direction- where a kind of identification will arise like: 'Criticism of Islam = criticism of Muslims = racism'.'
- 'Nowadays, when you attack Catholicism, nobody cares, right? But when it's about Islam, an entire cordon of people will gather around "the Muslims", thinking they're doing them a service. But I disagree, because things always improve through criticism. And so I think you should be able to subject belief systems to criticism. Liberalism, socialism... you should treat religions the same way we do liberalism. It would be insane if I would say: 'Listen here, I am a liberal! You can't say that about John Stuart Mill, because he provides me with an example!' Or: 'You're now touching my liberal/humanist soul!' No, of course not! You shouldn't. You should freely discuss belief systems, because you respect the people who follow them!'
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