Ph.D. position in Philosophy: Reconstructing AI Narratives

Ph.D. position in Philosophy: Reconstructing AI Narratives

Published Deadline Location
1 May 31 May Maastricht

Job description

The Ph.D. project will focus on analyzing the metaphors and symbolism that inform Artificial Intelligence narratives and their ethical and political implications. While contemporary debates around AI often center on steering or limiting its impact, less attention is paid to the underlying concepts and their assumed universality. Concepts such as intelligence, humanity, and ethical prerequisites for responsible AI form the bedrock of AI discourse, necessitating critical scrutiny. This project aims to reconstruct the development of these symbolic and conceptual aspects that contribute to the prevailing narratives around AI. In order to do so, it is important to integrate a theoretical approach with an empirical one that involves different stakeholders.

Job Description
The project will adopt a genealogical approach, drawing from pragmatist tradition (e.g., John Dewey) and critical theory (e.g., Axel Honneth). By tracing the semantic history that converge in mainstream AI discourse, the candidate will highlight the specific worldview expressed by AI and embedded in epistemic, economic, and political traditions. However, a purely theoretical approach is not sufficient to generate a change in the narratives and the policies around AI. The PhD candidate will need to engage with a variety of stakeholders in order to maximize the impact of the project in terms of legitimacy and efficacy.

Key questions include examining the influence of AI metaphors on technical and policy discourse and their societal impact, and identifying alternative conceptions to foster a more democratic governance of AI-based systems.

Key Research Questions:
Amongst the possible research questions, the following may be relevant:
  • What are the different meanings shaping the mainstream narrative of AI, and how do they contribute to a specific vision of the world?
  • How do AI metaphors influence policy discourse, and what are their implications for societal cohesion?
  • Can alternative conceptual understandings be identified to establish a more democratic approach to the deployment of AI-based systems?
  • How can we translate these insights into policy recommendations?

The PhD candidate will be based 50% in the Philosophy department at FASoS, and 50% at Brightlands Institute for Smart Society (BISS).
At FASoS the position is embedded in the Maastricht University Science and Technology Studies Research Group (MUSTS). There you will be supervised by Dr. Darian Meacham and Dr. Robert Gianni.

You will be provided with training on general academic skills in the faculty’s Graduate School. Further training is available through the Dutch national research school in philosophy. As part of this project, you will also work together with a group of other PhD students working topics related to philosophy of technology.

At BISS, Maastricht University scientists work on innovative and responsible solutions to data challenges. All disciplines and faculties collaborate in applying data science and technology to solve real life societal and business needs. BISS offers to researchers a unique opportunity to understanding the technical development of AI, experimenting in an interdisciplinary setting and interfacing with political institutions.

The main task will be to complete the PhD in the allotted time.
The successful candidate is expected to take part to the main activities of the department, the research group (MUSTS) and BISS research group. These include:
  • Publish results at top-tier (international) conferences and in international journals;
  • Assist with educational tasks (e.g., teach at undergraduate level, supervise students and internships);
  • Assist with the organisation of workshops, conferences and meetings;
  • Participate to conferences, workshops and internal meetings and seminars.

We are seeking a highly motivated candidate with a MA or Research Master degree, in one or more of the following fields: philosophy of technology, social philosophy, political philosophy, ethics or related ones.
The ideal candidate should possess excellent analytical and critical thinking skills, with a keen interest in interdisciplinary research.
Prior experience with genealogical, historical or reconstructive approaches are advantageous.
More specifically:
  • critical thinking skills
  • analytical skills
  • philosophical skills
  • genealogical or reconstructive methodology
  • interdisciplinary research
  • knowledge of pragmatism
  • knowledge of critical theory
  • Fluent written and oral English

What we offer
As Ph.D. position in Philosophy: Reconstructing AI Narratives at Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, you will be employed by the most international university in the Netherlands, located in the beautiful city of Maastricht. In addition, we offer you:
  • Good employment conditions. The position is graded in scale P according to UFO profile PhD, with corresponding salary based on experience ranging from €2770,00 and €3539,00 gross per month (based on a full-time employment of 38 hours per week). In addition to the monthly salary, an 8.0% holiday allowance and an 8.3% year-end bonus apply.
  • An employment contract for a period of 12 months with a scope of 1,0 FTE. Upon a positive evaluation, an extension of 3 years will follow.
  • At Maastricht University, the well-being of our employees is of utmost importance, we offer flexible working hours and the possibility to work partly from home if the nature of your position allows it. You will receive a monthly commuting and internet allowance for this. If you work full-time, you will be entitled to 29 vacation days and 4 additional public holidays per year, namely carnival Monday, carnival Tuesday, Good Friday, and Liberation Day. If you choose to accumulate compensation hours, an additional 12 days will be added. Furthermore, you can personalize your employment conditions through a collective labor agreement (CAO) choice model.
  • As Maastricht University, we offer various other excellent secondary employment conditions. These include a good pension scheme with the ABP and the opportunity for UM employees to participate in company fitness and make use of the extensive sports facilities that we also offer to our students.
  • Last but certainly not least, we provide the space and facilities for your personal and professional development. We facilitate this by offering a wide range of training programs and supporting various well-established initiatives such as 'acknowledge and appreciate'.

The terms of employment at Maastricht University are largely set out in the collective labor agreement of Dutch Universities. In addition, local provisions specific to UM apply. For more information, click here.

Maastricht University
Why work at Maastricht University?
At Maastricht University (UM), everything revolves around the future. The future of our students, as we work to equip them with a solid, broad-based foundation for the rest of their lives. And the future of society, as we seek solutions through our research to issues from all around the world. Our six faculties combined provide a comprehensive package of study programmes and research.

In our teaching, we use the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) method. Students work in small groups, looking for solutions to problems themselves. By discussing issues and working together to draw conclusions, formulate answers and present them to their peers, students develop essential skills for their future careers.

With over 22,300 students and more than 5,000 employees from all over the world, UM is home to a vibrant and inspiring international community.

Are you drawn to an international setting focused on education, science and scholarship? Are you keen to contribute however your skills and qualities allow? Our door is open to you! As a young European university, we value your talent and look forward to creating the future together.

Click here for more information about UM.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences FASoS is a close-knit community of approximately 250 staff members and 2100 students. During breaks and before meetings, you can often find us at our favourite local coffee spot Bandito Espresso.

Communication lines within our faculty are short and colleagues are always ready to assist each other. FASoS consists of a highly international student population and a significant part of our staff comes from abroad. Our faculty offers four bachelor programs, eight masters programs and two research master programs that are all characterized by their interdisciplinary approach.

Our research institute studies societies and cultures as they have developed in the modern and contemporary periods. We adopt a radically interdisciplinary approach, analysing the interconnections between Europeanization, globalization, scientific and technological advancement, political change, and cultural innovation.

In addition to teaching and research, our colleagues enjoy expressing themselves creatively. They create podcasts, write poetry as well as fiction.

Working at FASoS means working in a challenging yet informal environment. We believe in crafting your own career path and are always ready to help you in making the most of your job. For more information about FASoS, you can visit our website FASoS

The department of Philosophy participates in all of the faculty's courses. The curriculum's philosophical input is mainly thematically oriented: teaching and research is intended to contribute to conceptual clarification and normative reflection on technological, social, and cultural problems.
The philosophical expertise of the department focuses on three specialist areas or points of special interest relevant to the various Bachelor and Master programmes:
  • Philosophy of technology, particularly the ethics and politics of new and emerging technologies
  • The philosophy of art and culture, with an important focus on artistic research
  • Political and social philosophy, with a special interest in political culture

Are you interested in this exciting position but still have questions? Feel free to contact Dr Robert Gianni at for more information.

Or are you already convinced and ready to become our new PhD? Apply now, no later than May 31, 2024 for this position.
  • Please upload your CV
  • Motivation letter (stating your research interests, the reasons why the PhD project matches your interests and knowledge; what your contribution would be and what practical impact would it have)
  • Copy of your MA Thesis
  • Contact information of 2 referees

The vacancy is open for internal and external candidates. In case of equal qualifications, internal candidates will be prioritized.

Maastricht University is committed to promoting and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community. We believe that diversity in our staff and student population contributes to the quality of research and education at UM, and strive to enable this through inclusive policies and innovative projects led by teams of staff and students. We encourage you to apply for this position.


Maastricht University (UM)


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 931


Maastricht University (UM)

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Grote Gracht 90-92, 6211SZ, Maastricht

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Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 31 May 2024 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam).