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Originele vacaturetekst

PhD Position ‘Confucianism and Ethics of Technology'

Job description

Many societies around the world have incorporated new technologies, creating the potential for massive changes in individuals’ daily lives and the political sphere. New technologies have altered cultural practices and social and economic institutions in many societies around the world. This poses a novel and exciting challenge for Confucianism, one of the most ancient and influential philosophical traditions.
Contemporary Confucian political theory aims to create new normative models for real societies by developing new concepts while at the same time remaining attuned with fundamental Confucian ideas. In this regard, the Confucian emphasis on social relations (an important aspect of our moral and political life) makes Confucianism relevant for international debates on the ethics and the politics of technology. Most ethical and political theories that engage with these technological developments have been based on Western and more individualistic approaches. Examining these technologies and their impact on society through a Confucian lens can shed important new light on these developments and can help to rethink important philosophical concepts.

This PhD project investigates the technological challenge for Confucian political theory on the one hand, and the contribution that Confucian political theory can make to debates on the ethics of technology on the other. Confucianism can be especially illuminating for the ethical studies on digital technologies because of its focus on social relationships as opposed to more-individualistic approaches to the ethics of technologies. This PhD project is also relevant for contemporary Confucian political theory. Indeed, a re-conceptualization of some of the fundamental concepts in Confucian political theory is in order to bring Confucian political theory forward. Confucian theorists have for long discussed how Confucian ideals can be realized in a pluralistic and democratic society, but the implications of the digitalization of many social interactions for Confucian political theories generate application problems. How can moral cultivation be achieved in a digital era? Can digital surveillance and the deployment of new technologies, such as facial recognition, hinder or enhance the moral cultivation of the people?

Research Setting
This PhD position will be part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme, a new ten year long international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands that has 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 has the aim of achieving 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 “Synthesis: Ethics of Technology, Practical Philosophy, and Modern Technology-Driven Societies”. More about the ESDT research programme and its four research lines can be found here.


This PhD position is situated at the intersection of the research line “The Future of a Free and Fair Society” and the Intercultural philosophy group of the Gravitation programme. The former gathers the scholars of the Gravitation programme working on issues about technology and political philosophy, while the latter group hosts the researchers who use non-Western philosophical approaches (e.g. Chinese philosophy, African philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, Indigenous philosophy, and intercultural philosophy).

The successful candidate will work under the supervision of Sabine Roeser and Elena Ziliotti. Sabine Roeser works on the role of emotions and values in social and political deliberation on risky technologies. Elena Ziliotti’s research focuses on “A Confucian Theory for the Digital Era”, a research project on disruptive technologies and Confucian political theory. The candidate will be encouraged to spend a semester abroad, and a budget is available to cover expenses, and generous (conference) travel budgets are available for the position.

The candidate is expected to play an active role in the programme described above and to participate actively in the workshops, public events, courses and other activities of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme in general and the “The Future of a Free and Fair Society” and the Intercultural philosophy groups. The position is based at the Ethics and Philosophy of Technology Section at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management at TU Delft, which provides a stimulating and internationally oriented research environment. To this end, the candidate will participate in the activities of in the Graduate School of TU Delft, the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management at TU Delft, and the 4TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology.

• You will have completed, prior to appointment, a Master’s degree or equivalent degree in Philosophy or Ethics. Other Master’s degrees will also be considered if you have demonstrable expertise in conceptual problems and approaches to normative justification, in close connection with the themes of the research project.
• You have a strong interest in Chinese philosophy, political philosophy, applied ethics, and normative issues related to technology.
• Knowledge in a more specialized field relevant to the project (Confucian political philosophy or ethics of technology) is welcome.
• Relative to experience, you have excellent research skills and excellent academic writing and presentation skills.
• You can work both independently and as part of a team.
• You have a high level of proficiency in English.

Conditions of employment

TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2395 per month in the first year to € 3061 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context. At TU Delft we embrace diversity and aim to be as inclusive as possible (see our Code of Conduct). Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale.

Challenge. Change. Impact!

Faculty Technology, Policy and Management

The Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management contributes to sustainable solutions for technical challenges in society by combining the insights from engineering with the humanities and the social sciences.

The Department of Values, Technology and Innovation (VTI) focuses on the value dimension of comprehensive engineering, the overarching research theme of the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management (TPM). It uniquely comprises philosophers, economists and risk scholars. It studies how to develop and diffuse responsible technological innovations that reflect deeply held social and moral values. The department is one of the largest groups in the world studying value aspects, economics and risks for a wide range of sociotechnical systems. The department plays a leading role nationally and internationally in research in responsible innovation and design for values.

The Ethics and Philosophy of Technology section is one of three sections within the VTI Department. The section plays a central role worldwide in research on ethics and philosophy of technology. The section participates in the 4TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology, a world-leading centre in the ethics of technology. The research of the section covers a broad spectrum, ranging from applied research in collaboration with engineering scholars, experimental and empirical ethics in collaboration with social scientists, and foundational research in meta-ethics, risk theory, methodology, ontology and philosophy of science, technology and design. The ethics research program focuses specifically on design for values, risk ethics, and responsible innovation.
The Ethics and Philosophy of Technology section provides for service teaching at all engineering programs of TU Delft, primarily in ethics but also in philosophy of engineering methodology and philosophy of science. For more information on our unique teaching approach, see: https://www.tudelft.nl/ethics

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Elena Ziliotti, e.ziliotti@tudelft.nl.

For more information about the selection procedure, please contact Annekee Vervoort, HR manager, email: hr-tbm@tudelft.nl.

Application procedure

Please note that there will be other vacancies in the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies program at different participating universities. In case several are of interest to you, we want to encourage you to apply to them simultaneously.

TU Delft stands for diversity and inclusion. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

To apply, please submit the following documents online no later than 19 May 2021.
• a one-page letter of motivation
• a curriculum vitae of maximum 3 pages
• the names and contact information of two references
• a one-page research note setting out your ideas about how you propose to carry out the project described above
• a writing sample of maximum 20 pages
• academic grade transcripts of your MA degree program

The first round of interviews with selected candidates will take place on 31 May 2021 and 2 June 2021.

Please note:
- You can only apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and / or post.
- Incomplete applications will not be processed.
- A pre-Employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
- Acquisition in response to this vacancy is not appreciated.

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