PSTS Master Program

The two-year master of science program Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society (PSTS) is a unique international program with the aim of understanding and evaluating the meaning of (applied) science and technology in today’s world. The programme is taught entirely in English and leads to the title ‘Master of Science’ (MSc). If you have a Bachelor’s degree in Natural or Engineering Science, Social Science, Philosophy or another appropriate background, you are welcome to enroll in this programme.


The program is hosted by the Philosophy Department of the University of Twente in Enschede, The Netherlands. It also involves participation of the philosophy group from the Delft University of Technology, as well as those of the University of Lancaster in Great Britain, and the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. If they wish, students can spend time at any of these three institutions during the second year of the program.

First year

The first year is a common programme for all students. Regardless of your background (whether in Science, Engineering, Social Sciences or Philosophy), you will be introduced to the typical PSTS approach by investigating various domains in Social Sciences and Engineering at the University of Twente’s research institutes. You will be introduced to relevant Philosophical theories and methods, Philosophy of Technology and the multidisciplinary field of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies. You will have the opportunity to become acquainted with a more detailed investigation of topics related to PSTS and to prepare for the research-oriented courses in the second year.

Second year

In your second year you will have the opportunity to choose one or two specialization profiles. These profiles represent an important field or research line in the domain of philosophy of technology. Four different profiles have been compiled. Depending on the profile (or profiles) you choose, you will take a cluster of required courses and choose your own electives, resulting in a personalized programme. You may also include modules from partner institutes abroad. You will be expected to participate in research group activities that are related to their specialization profile. The three profiles are:

  1. Technology and the Human Being: What is a human being? What is (personal) identity? Which cultural and/or natural features constitute human nature? How is the human being different from (other) animals? These questions revolve around how to understand and conceptualize the human condition and have been investigated within different frameworks, such as classical ontology (Aristotle), economy (Marx), phenomenology (Scheler, Heidegger), existentialism (Kierkegaard, Sartre), and psychoanalysis (Freud). In the twentieth century authors like Plessner, Gehlen, and Foucault have, implicitly or explicitly, argued that technology plays an important role in the constitution of human nature and identity. According to them humans have always shaped and extended themselves by virtue of technical tools and artifacts. In our modern era technology (microscopes, MRI-scans) has become an inherent part of scientific investigation and diagnosis, which also has bearings on our view of human nature. This profile focuses on how technology influences and constitutes human nature and human existence. In this context we will also study how in the interaction between the human actor and technological artefacts traditional boundaries between design and use are blurred. The rapid development of mind and body enhancing technologies and their influence on human faculties such as rationality, self-consciousness, agency, and autonomy is another important topic of inquiry in this cluster. In addition, we will also reflect on the moral impact of these technologies on our life.

  2. Technology and Values: This profile focuses on normative, evaluative and critical issues in relation to technology and society. Its central questions are how technology can be developed and used in an ethical way, what good technology is, and how both society and engineering should be organized so as to have technology that is ethically and politically acceptable. The normative focus of the cluster is reflected in its emphasis on public and private values, in relation to individuals and society, and evaluates or prescribes directions for the development of technology according to these values. Values that are studied include freedom, justice, democracy, autonomy, privacy, human dignity, the intrinsic value of humans and nature, responsibility and wellbeing. Technologies that are studied include information technology and robotics, biomedical technology, nanotechnology, environmental technology, and others. Topics include ethical development of technology, ethical use of technology, the ethics and politics of regulating technology, ethics of emerging technologies, technology and the good life, technology and the quality of society, technology and the environment, technology and globalization and others. The cluster focuses on studies in ethics and social and political philosophy and combines these with studies from other disciplines, including science and technology studies (technology assessment, sociology of users, scenario studies, governance studies), social sciences, engineering and medicine.

  3. Dynamics of Science, Technology and Society: This cluster explores the dynamics of science, technology and society by focusing on their practices, interactions, institutional and material arrangements, and their dynamic coevolution. Key questions which will be addressed are: How is knowledge production shaped by its concrete practices and by the material and conceptual resources (instruments, models, laboratory settings) – of its time, in a particular place or discipline? How do science and society mutually shape each other? Which patterns follow socio-technical change? What are possibilities and limitations of governing socio-technical change? How can these insights be mobilized for concrete innovation processes, such as supporting a more sustainable energy system? In the courses we move from a detailed view of processes of knowledge production on the laboratory floor, to a broader perspective, which addresses how socio-technical systems are embedded in particular ways of usage, production and regulation and how sociotechnical change may come about. Finally, we expand historically and geographically, in order to better conceive of how practices, arrangements and dynamics of science, technology and society are situated in time and space. The cluster is self-consciously interdisciplinary, drawing on the perspectives and tools of philosophy, sociology, history and geography.

Students in the PSTS programme can choose, at the end of their first year, to enter a special Ethics and Technology track offered by 4TU.Ethics. This is a one-year track consisting of 30 EC in advanced courses in ethics and technology and a 30 EC master thesis in ethics of technology. Students taking the Ethics and Technology track graduate as regular PSTS students, but with the distinction of having taken the 4TU.Ethics-approved Ethics and Technology Track. The track is also preparatory for a PhD programme in Ethics and Technology, and PSTS students who have completed the track have an increased chance of being accepted into the PhD programme. Many of the courses in the track will be taken together with PhD students in the programme.

More information

The Programme Director of the PSTS Master is Prof. dr. Ciano Aydin. Please visit the PSTS website for more information. You can also contact the PSTS student adviser Jan Nelissen and dowload the Programme Guide PSTS 2014-2015 and the PSTS brochure.
For more information on how PSTS Master Students can enroll in the 4TU.Graduate School, please contact the coordinator of 4TU.Ethics.