Post Doc in Methods of Ethics for Socially Disruptive Technologies

Utrecht University Faculty of Humanities

Postdoc position: Methods of Ethics for Socially Disruptive Technologies (1.0 FTE)

Job description

As part of the inter-university research consortium "Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technology (ESDT)" the Ethics Institute of Utrecht University is looking to hire a Postdoc for a three-year project on “Methods of Ethics for Socially Disruptive Technologies”. The aim of this postdoc project is to investigate the following research question: “Which ethical methods are best suited (and on what grounds) for understanding and adjudicating the normative concerns raised by emerging technologies (particularly, their socially and conceptually disruptive character)?”. This project addresses a complex and multi-faceted range of issues in ethics (and, more broadly, practical philosophy). Some socio-technological developments may require fundamental rethinking of our normative accounts, while others can be addressed using familiar frameworks. Emerging and socially disruptive technologies may share distinctive ethical characteristics, but they may also differ fundamentally in the methods needed to analyze them. And the discussion of these issues occurs against a background of ongoing disputes about methodological pluralism and the relationship between more contextual methods and more principled methods in ethics, political philosophy, and related fields of philosophical and scientific inquiry. The full project description can be found here.

The Postdoc will pursue independent research that engages these topics in a way that supports key research goals of the ESDT consortium. This will involve cooperation with the other concurrent postdoc projects in the consortium, which are devoted to:
distinguishing characteristics of socially disruptive technologies;
the nature of ethical concept change;
and the contribution of STEM perspectives to the ethics of socially disruptive technologies.

In addition, the Postdoc will facilitate methodological reflections in other ESDT projects, which also serve as input for this Methods project. This is primarily a research appointment, focused on research publications, although the postdoc may be expected to devote up to 10% of worktime to teaching or to other non-research activities related to the ESDT programme.

Employment will become effective September 1, 2021 or, by mutual agreement, shortly thereafter.


The successful candidate will have:

  • a PhD degree in philosophy or a closely related discipline by the time of appointment;
  • affinity and aptitude for interdisciplinary research and/or methodological reflection, especially in the areas central to the ESDT consortium;
  • a record (appropriate to career stage) of publications that demonstrates the ability to conduct research which is internationally recognized as contributing to the field;
  • the ability to work both independently and collaboratively, with good organizational and communication skills;
  • creativity and is innovative in her/his work;
  • a willingness and aptitude for teaching in the area of practical philosophy;
  • proficiency in spoken and written English.


We offer a Postdoc position (1.0 FTE), initially for a period of one year. Upon good performance, the contract will be extended for another two years (for a total of three years). The gross salary - depending on previous qualifications and experience - ranges between €3,491 and €3,746 (scale 10 according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.

About the organization

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Faculty of Humanities has around 6,000 students and 900 staff members. It comprises four knowledge domains: Philosophy and Religious Studies, History and Art History, Media and Culture Studies, and Languages, Literature and Communication. With its research and education in these fields, the faculty aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Netherlands and Europe in a rapidly changing social and cultural context. The enthusiastic and committed colleagues and the excellent amenities in the historical city center of Utrecht, where the faculty is housed, contribute to an inspiring working environment.

The Postdoc will be appointed within the Ethics Institute of Utrecht University’s Department of Philosophy and Religious studies, which is part of the Faculty of Humanities. This Postdoc position will be part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme, a ten-year international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands, which started in January 2020. This programme has a combined budget of €27 million, and is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research in the Gravitation funding scheme for excellent research, and by matching funds from the participating institutions. The duration is from January 2020 to December 2029. The programme aims to achieve breakthrough research at the intersection of ethics, philosophy, technology/engineering and social sciences, and to position its consortium at the top of its field internationally. A key objective is to investigate how new technologies challenge moral values and ontological concepts (like “nature”, “human being” and “community”), and how these challenges necessitate a revision of these concepts. The programme includes four research lines, “Nature, Life and Human Intervention”, “The Future of a Free and Fair Society”, “The Human Condition” and “Foundations & Synthesis”. This Postdoc position will be situated within the Foundations & Synthesis research line. More information about the research lines and the consortium as a whole is available here.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact: Joel Anderson ( or Sven Nyholm (


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the ‘apply’ button below.
The application should include:

  • a brief cover letter discussing what interests you about this position, how your background prepares you for carrying out your proposed research plan, and any other information about your circumstances relevant to assessing your suitability for the position;
  • a curriculum vitae, including a list of your publications. Please include the names and contact details of two referees whom we may contact at the end;
  • a research plan, indicating how you propose to approach the research question posed in this vacancy description and the full project description (no more than 750 words);
  • a key, relevant publication (max. 20 pages – you may also include selections from larger work).

Interviews will be scheduled to take place in the first two weeks of July 2021 and are likely to be conducted online, via Teams.

The application deadline is