Course for PhD students on Ethics & Technology

Who can participate?

The courses of The Netherlands School for Research in Practical Philosophy (NRSPP) are open to PhD students that are part of this research school. Students of a research master in philosophy can also participate, on the condition that the director of the NRSPP gives his permission. PhD students that are not part of the NRSPP can also participate in the course, but they have to pay the standard contribution of 250 euros, to be paid by their institution/university.

Practical information

Period: spring 2009: 5 days, 3 hours of reading preparation required
5 times Thursdays from 5th of march to 2nd of April
Place: Utrecht
Language: English
Coordination: Andreas Spahn, Felicitas Krämer, Philip Nickel
Registration: please send an email to before February 5

Contents of the course

The class aims at providing Ph.D. Students with an overview of different fields within the Ethics of Technology, that at the same time represents a selection of the topics that are current fields of philosophical research (esp. within the Dutch 3TU.Centre for Ethics of Technology). Students will thus have an overview of relevant literature (and some of the ‘classics’ within these fields), will be able to identify and reflect upon important philosophical issues in the field of ethics of technology and will finally get some insight in current and most recent research and ethical debates. They will also be able to reflect upon a possible impact of modern technologies on meta-ethical issues and have a deeper understanding of the complex relation between two important and characteristic human features: ethical evaluation and technological activity.

Besides general metaethical questions, the focus of this year’s class will be on the two fields ‘Medical Ethics’ and ‘Environmental Ethics’. A reader will be available four weeks before the class starts.

Assignment: (4 a 5 A4-pages) about a topic of the student’s choice.


Day One
Morning: Set-up of the class, introduction into the field, overview of the ethical problems linked to technology
Afternoon: Humans and Machines – The machine metaphor

Day Two
Morning: What is health? What is disease? What is their moral
Afternoon: Enhancement, medical technologies and moral values

Day Three
Morning: Trust, Expertise and Medical Technology
Afternoon: Classics of Environmental Ethics – Introduction

Day Four
Morning: The tragedy of the common
Afternoon: Environmentalism, anthropocentrism, and metaethics

Day Five
Morning: technology and virtue ethics, the notions of normativity
Afternoon: course review and presentations of participants