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Ph.D. Vacancy | University of Twente
Posted on March 31, 2023

Improving ethical analysis through better theories of the moral role of technological products and systems

The central question of this project is how we can conceptualize the moral role of technological products and systems, and what implications this conceptualization may have for ethical analysis. The aim is to develop new theories and approaches for analyzing the moral role of technology.

One of the key challenges of ethical analysis in the context of technology is the question of whether technological products are only instruments that modify human moral action, or whether they can be characterized as moral agents or co-agents in their own right. For instance, what is the moral role of guns in causing harm? While humans ultimately pull the trigger, guns have affordances that make killing much easier, with less risk for the shooter.  Similarly, what is the role of self-driving cars in causing harm or violating rights? Here, a human operator is not even directly involved. Should we therefore assign moral responsibility to self-driving cars? And how should ethical analysis proceed?  Current approaches in ethics of technology often do not have good answers to these questions.

In addition to analyzing individual technological products with individual users, this project will also focus on larger systems with multiple technological components and human operators. Such systems include both sociotechnical systems – predominantly technical systems with human operators and enablers, such as electricity networks, industrial production systems, and the Internet – and technosocial systems – predominantly social systems that rely on technology, such as modern organizations and associations.  The project will investigate how we can describe the moral role of these systems, how they produce moral outcomes, and how we can attribute causal and moral responsibility to humans and machines in them.

To achieve these goals, the project will study existing approaches in ethics, especially ethics of technology, to make explicit what roles are assigned to technology and to assess the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches. Existing conceptualizations of technological products can also be explored, in the fields of philosophy of technology, science and technology studies (STS), technology assessment, and/or impact assessment.

The project will be mostly theoretical, but it will also involve a number of case studies of particular technologies that are to be selected by the PhD student, in consultation with supervisors, for example of autonomous vehicles, Internet-of-Things, human enhancement technologies, or any others that are deemed useful for the study.

This project is funded by the ESDiT research program and will be located within the Department of Philosophy at the University of Twente. For description of both, see below. It will be supervised by Prof. dr. Philip Brey and dr. Adam Henschke at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Twente.



We are looking for a PhD candidate who satisfies the following requirements:

  • Completed masters in philosophy, preferably in normative ethics, applied ethics, metaethics, ethics of technology or philosophy of technology.
  • Excellent speaking and writing skills in English
  • An enthusiasm for combining rigorous theoretical work with practical applications
  • An aptitude for independent work
  • Not required, but a background in interdisciplinary approaches to technology (STS, technology assessment, impact assessment, etc.) is a plus.



The UT provides a dynamic and international environment, combining the benefits of academic research with a topic of high relevance to public and health administration, excellent working conditions, a stimulating scientific environment, and a green and friendly campus. We offer:

  • A personal development program within the Twente Graduate School, combined with excellent mentorship
  • A gross monthly salary of € 2.541 in the first year, growing each year up to € 3.247 in the fourth year
  • A holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, and a year-end bonus of 8.3%
  • A minimum of 29 holidays per year in case of full-time employment;
  • International applicants are likely to qualify for a low 30% tax regime for the first five years of their appointment.
  • You are encouraged to spend a semester abroad, a generous budget is available for this and for conference travel
  • Full status as an employee at the UT, including pension and health care benefits.



Your application should include a CV, a letter of application (including a summary of relevant experience, motivation for pursuing the research, and contact information for two academic references), and a writing sample of 5-8,000 words, to be received no later than May 3rd , 2023.  Please upload documents.  Since only three documents can be uploaded per application, please combine documents if needed. Interviews will take place early May. The expected start date is September 1st, 2023.

A longer description of this vacancy can be found on website.  For more information, please contact Philip Brey ().



About the department of philosophy and ESDiT

The department of philosophy at the University of Twente (, with over forty members, is internationally leading in the philosophy and ethics of technology. At the latest research evaluation of philosophy programs in the Netherlands, it ranked highest in the area of ethics and practical philosophy. The department participates in the interuniversity 4TU.Center for Ethics and Technology ( Both the department and the Center have a strong international orientation and include members from many different nationalities. The department’s research has a strong focus on ethics of emerging technologies and their impact on society, the philosophy of human-technology relations, and the philosophy of engineering and social science.

You will also be part of the ESDiT research community. Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies (ESDiT) is a 10-year long (2020-2030) international research program of 7 academic institutions in the Netherlands (TU/e, TUDelft, Utrecht University, UMC Utrecht, University of Twente, Leiden University, and Wageningen University & Research). ESDiT engages in breakthrough research at the intersections of ethics, philosophy, technology, engineering and social sciences. The consortium has over 100 researchers (PhDs, postdocs, professors, doctors) working on themes in the ethics and philosophy of technology in the Netherlands. ESDiT comes with unique mentoring and career development opportunities for PhD students in the program.



The Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social sciences (BMS) aims to play a key role in understanding, jointly developing and evaluating innovations in society. Technological developments are the engine of innovation. As a technical university that puts people first, we tailor them to human needs and behavior and use social engineering to integrate them into society. We also ensure adequate governance at public and private level, and robust, inclusive and fair organizational structures. We do this by developing, sharing and applying high-quality knowledge in Psychology, Business Administration, Public Administration, Communication Sciences, Philosophy, Educational Sciences and Health Sciences. Our research and education in these disciplines revolves around tackling and solving societal challenges. The research programs of BMS are closely linked to the research of the UT institutes Mesa+ Institute for Nanotechnology, TechMed Center and Digital Society Institute.

As an employer, the Faculty of BMS offers work that matters. We equip you to create new possibilities for yourself and for our society. With us, you will become part of a leading technical university with increasing, positive social impact. We offer an open, inclusive and entrepreneurial atmosphere, in which we encourage you to make healthy choices, for example through our flexible, adaptable benefits.


More information can be found here.

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