The research of the section of Ethics and Philosophy of Technology focuses on the philosophical and specifically the normative-ethical examination of modern technology in its social context. we contribute to the normative and conceptual aspects of the research themes of the overarching Department of Values, Technology and Innovation:

Design for Values

Main research question: How can values be integrated into the design of technologies, institutions and sociotechnical systems?  
One of the main approaches to responsible innovation within VTI department and specifically the Ethics and Philosophy of Technology Section is Design for Values. This approach aims at integrating non-instrumental values in the design of new technologies and innovations from the start. This raises a number of challenges. One is how to deal with value conflicts in design. Another challenge is the role of institutions and how they should be designed in order to do justice to values and responsible innovation. A third challenge has to do with possible tensions between collective and individual responsibility and in responsibility gaps.

Management of responsible innovation

Main research question: How can we operationalise, manage and incentivise responsible innovation in sociotechnical systems? One of the challenges studied under this theme in the VTI department is how to operationalise and incentivise responsible innovation in sociotechnical systems. The contribution of the Ethics and Philosophy of Technology Section for this theme is to investigate the way values and practical norms are embodied by engineered structures, from the level of artefacts to the level of large-scale sociotechnical systems, in e.g. water systems, communication infrastructures, or electric power systems.

Responsible risk management

Main research question: How are we to assess, manage and evaluate the risks of technologies and sociotechnical systems in a responsible way?
We investigate how moral values and emotions can be integrated in risk assessment and risk management. Furthermore, because risks cannot be completely predicted or anticipated, we investigate whether it is helpful to see the introduction of a new technology into society as a social experiment in which risks and benefits only gradually become clear. We focus on a large variety of technological domains, such as nuclear energy, water management, and biotechnology.

The Ethics and Philosophy of Technology Section investigates these topics in various projects, many of which are in collaboration with colleagues from other disciplines, for example, within the VTI department.

The research of the Ethics and Philosophy of Technology Section combines research in applied ethics, focused on specific technologies and decision making practices, with more foundational research in metaethics, moral psychology, philosophy, epistemology and methodology of science, technology and design. With our research we aim to contribute to debates in philosophy as well as to interdisciplinary academic debates. Furthermore, we translate our research into practically applicable insights, for example via membership of policy advisory boards, public lectures and contributions to media and the public debate, and via our teaching.

Key Publications


  • Miller, SRM (2010). The moral foundations of social institutions: a philosophical study, Cambridge University Press.
  • Ibo van de Poel & Lambèr Royakkers (2011). Ethics, technology and engineering. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Peter Kroes. (2012). Technical artefacts: creations of mind and matter. A philosophy of engineering design (Philosophy of Engineering and Technology, vol. 6). Dordrecht, etc.: Springer.
  • Van den Hoven, J., Vermaas, P. E., and Van de Poel, I. (Eds.). (2015). Handbook of ethics and values in technological design. Sources, Theory, Values and Application Domains. Springer.
  • Behnam Taebi and Sabine Roeser, eds. (2015). The Ethics of Nuclear Energy: Risk, Justice and Democracy in the post-Fukushima Era, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mark Alfano (2016), Moral Psychology: An Introduction, Polity Press

Journal articles

  • Maarten Franssen (2006), The Normativity of Artefacts, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 37: 1, 42–57
  • Behnam Taebi, Sabine Roeser and Ibo van de Poel (2012), ‘The ethics of nuclear power: Social experiments, intergenerational justice, and emotions’, Energy Policy 51, 202-206
  • Sjoerd Zwart, Urjan Jacobs & Ibo van de Poel (2013). Values in engineering models: social ramifications of modeling in engineering design. Engineering Studies 5(2), 93-116.
  • Pieter Vermaas (2013), The coexistence of engineering meanings of function: four responses and their methodological implications, Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing 8:1, 191-202
  • Neelke Doorn (2014), Rationality in flood risk management: the limitations of probabilistic risk assessment in the design and selection of flood protection strategies, Journal of Flood Risk Management 7 (3), 230-238
  • Sabine Roeser and Udo Pesch (2016), ‘An Emotional Deliberation Approach to Risk’, Science, Technology & Human Values 41: 274-297

Other research

More research and publications of the Ethics/Philosophy of Technology section can be found on each staff member's page or the 4TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology website.

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