PhD in Ethics

PhD in Ethics

Published Deadline Location
13 May 7 Jun Utrecht

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In this position you will join the “Disrupting ageing: Personhood, meaning, and vulnerability across the lifespan” project. Something for you? Apply now!

Job description

The Ethics Institute of Utrecht University’s department of Philosophy and Religious Studies seeks a researcher for a four-year, full-time PhD project “Disrupting ageing: Personhood, meaning, and vulnerability across the lifespan”, as part of the inter-university Gravitation consortium Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technology (ESDiT).

Your job
The ageing of societies is one of the 21st century’s most disruptive demographic trends. Simultaneously, age-related technologies challenge the ‘naturalness’ of ageing and draw into focus ambiguities in the concept of ageing itself. For instance, technologically-mediated relationships, life extension, and technologies such as AI avatars may make biological and chronological age less relevant, and shift the emphasis to socio-cultural conceptions of age. Such shifts have normative significance particularly if ageing is envisaged as a process that occurs throughout the lifespan.

Since ageing is a phenomenon infused with normativity, with normative expectations corresponding to phases in the human life cycle, the conceptual cleavage of ageing invites innovation in related moral concepts. This PhD project examines ways in which technologies that bear on ageing disrupt biological, socio-cultural, and normative understandings of ageing. It considers how these disruptions generate fruitful possibilities for reconceptualisation of ageing itself, as well as intertwined normative ideas of personhood, meaning, and vulnerability. In doing so, the project will investigate non-western and non-canonical ideas that might reinvigorate core moral concepts implicated by ageing.

This PhD position is part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme, a ten year long international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands that started in January 2020. 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 “Synthesis: Ethics of Technology, Practical Philosophy, and Modern Technology-Driven Societies”.

This position is situated within the research line “The Human Condition” and within a working group on conceptual disruption and technology. You will work under the supervision of Christopher Wareham (UU), Marcel Verweij (UU), and Naomi Jacobs (UT). You are expected to play an active role in the project 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 Human Condition” research line and conceptual disruption working group in particular. The position is based at the Ethics Institute, which is part of the department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. It provides a stimulating and internationally oriented research environment.

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


Utrecht University


  • You will have completed, prior to appointment, a Master’s degree or equivalent degree in Philosophy, Ethics, or Political Philosophy/Theory. Other Master’s degrees will also be considered if you have a demonstrable expertise in analytical/conceptual problems and approaches to normative justification, in close connection with the themes of the research project.
  • You have an interest in moral and political philosophy, applied ethics, and normative issues related to technology.
  • Knowledge in a more specialised field relevant to the project (e.g. solidarity, ethics of technology, conceptual disruption, etc.) is welcome.
  • Especially welcome are approaches to this project that engage with traditions and perspectives that are currently marginalised within Western philosophy.
  • You have an excellent track record and research skills, relative to experience, and excellent academic writing and presentation skills.
  • You have the ability to work both independently and as part of a team.
  • You have an active interest in interdisciplinary work which connects philosophical analysis to other relevant disciplines and societal challenges.
  • You have a high level of proficiency in English.

Conditions of employment

We offer:
  • a position for a period of 18 months - in case of good performance and a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining period of 30 months (4 years in total);
  • a working week of 38 hours and a gross monthly salary between €2,770 and €3,539 in the case of full-time employment (salary scale P under the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU));
  • 8% holiday pay and 8.3% year-end bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave and flexible terms of employment based on the CAO NU.

PhD candidates are encouraged to spend a semester abroad. A budget is available to cover expenses. Additionally, a generous (conference) travel budget is available for this position.

In addition to the terms of employment laid down in the CAO NU, Utrecht University has a number of schemes and facilities of its own for employees. This includes schemes facilitating professional development, leave schemes and schemes for sports and cultural activities, as well as discounts on software and other IT products. We also offer access to additional employee benefits through our Terms of Employment Options Model. In this way, we encourage our employees to continue to invest in their growth. For more information, please visit Working at Utrecht University.


Universiteit Utrecht

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 strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

The Faculty of Humanities has around 7,000 students and 1,100 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 centre of Utrecht, where the faculty is located, contribute to an inspiring working environment.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 3924



Janskerkhof 13, 3512BL, Utrecht

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