Vacancy: PhD student in Philosophy and Technology

The section of Philosophy and Ethics of Technology of the department of Technology Management at Eindhoven University of Technology
has a vacancy for a:

PhD in Philosophy and Technology (1,0 fte)

Evolutionary Design: Innovative Engineering and/or Imitation of Life?
Testing philosophical analyses of metaphors, models and simulations
(vacancy number V39.464)

The section of Philosophy and Ethics of Technology has the mission (i) to contribute to the bachelor and master programs of the Department of Technology Management and (ii) to contribute to a reflective attitude of engineering students in all engineering disciplines at TU/e, with regard to the development and use of technology. The section has an international orientation.

Job description

Conceptually, the domains of natural, living items and of man-made objects have been interrelated at least since Aristotle. Nowadays, this interaction appears to have entered a new, particularly exciting stage, with the transfer of evolutionary models from their “homeground” of biology to various branches of engineering. Some of this transfer is driven by the vision of a Darwinian unification of various sciences, so-called “Universal Darwinism”. This vision seems to embody, or even realize, the philosophical ideal of the Unity of Science, but has received very little attention in the philosophy of science.

The research program “Darwinism in the Man-Made World: Integrating Intention and Evolution”, sponsored by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), critically examines Universal Darwinism by looking at specific evolutionary models of artefacts.

In (electrical) engineering, for instance, researchers have recently started to develop “evolutionary” design processes, imitating natural selection and the development of organisms. Typically, engineers describe these efforts in terms of metaphors or analogies. Simultaneously, biologists are keenly interested in what they regard as simulations or even experimental evolutionary biology. Furthermore, new subfields of biology, such as Artificial Life and synthetic biology, study living objects by means of designing.

In the project, the ongoing and deepening interaction between engineering and biology is examined. One set of tools employed for this purpose is the growing philosophical literature on the use of models, metaphors and simulations in science and engineering. On a more descriptive level, the interaction will be analyzed by means of Peter Galison’s notion of a “trade zone”.

The results are expected to cast light on progress and dead ends in interdisciplinary fields such as evolutionary design and synthetic biology, but also to enrich accounts of metaphors, modelling and simulation that have very recently been developed in the philosophy of science. In combination with other results obtained in the research program, this project is expected to lead to a sophisticated view of the transfer of evolutionary models: “tailor-made” rather than “Universal” Darwinism.

Close co-operation with researchers active in evolutionary electronics is foreseen.


The PhD student is expected to do both supervised and unsupervised research, write a PhD thesis and research papers on philosophical issues regarding technology and to participate in the PhD program of the Dutch-Flemish Network for Philosophy of Science and Technology. A small part of the studentship may involve teaching in courses offered by the section.


  • Your prior studies and current interests prepare you to do research on and write a thesis on philosophical issues related to science and technology.
  • In particular, you have a degree in philosophy. Preferred areas of expertise include philosophy of biology, philosophy of technology, or general philosophy of science. An interest in technology is a strong recommendation.
  • You aspire to further academic development, you possess excellent analytical skills and you know how to make contact outside your immediate working environment.
  • You must have sufficient knowledge of the English language, proved by an IELTS certificate with a minimum score of 7. Knowledge of Dutch is not (initially) required.

Appointment and salary

  • a full-time temporary appointment for a period of 4 years;
  • a gross monthly salary of € 2000 during the first year up to € 2558 during the fourth year of the appointment;
  • a holiday allowance of 8% of the yearly salary and an end year allowance of 6.4% of the yearly salary;
  • a PhD program of 1,000 course hours, suited to the specific needs of the candidate;
  • a broad package of fringe benefits, including an excellent technical infrastructure, child care, savings schemes, and excellent sports facilities;
  • a stimulating, internationally renowned research environment. In the international assessment of research in philosophy in the Netherlands (1999-2004), the section of Philosophy and Ethics of Technology received top marks on all four criteria of the assessment (quality, productivity, relevance, and viability);
  • the university covers (partly) the costs of publishing your dissertation.

Attaining a PhD at the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven provides you with excellent career opportunities.


More information on the research program “Darwinism in the Man-Made World” may be found at:

Research in the Section of Philosophy and Ethics of Technology is carried out in close co-operation with the Section of Philosophy at Delft University of Technology. The joint research program can be consulted at:

Additional information about this position can be obtained from dr W.N. Houkes, phone +31 40 2474953, email: Further general information: M.E.M. Roelands, personnel officer, phone +31 40 2474886,


Send a written (printed) application letter with a recent, detailed Curriculum Vitae, names and contact details of (at least) two referees, a sample of written work to:

Technische Universiteit Eindhoven
Department of Technology Management
Personnel Department, Pav R.1.23
PO Box 513
5600 MB Eindhoven
The Netherlands

Applications should be received by October 31st 2008. Please include the job vacancy code: V39.464. As part of an equal opportunity scheme, women are explicitly requested to apply.