Peter Kroes


Professor of Philosophy of Technology.

Private life

Married to Karin, with three children: Mark, Laura and Thomas; three grandchildren: Sven, Isabel and Hannah.

What is your favourite hobby?

I like walking, reading, playing sport and gardening…

Career high point

It is difficult to choose one; I have always really enjoyed my work and continue to do so. If I look back a little further in time, I do recall the relief I felt on finally completing my PhD thesis. It was not so much the PhD conferral ceremony as actually completing my research. It was a wonderful moment. More recently, there was the NWO approval of the Dual Nature project and the time I spent working on it with my colleagues. I should also mention my sabbatical at the NIAS.

Your greatest challenge at the moment?

Establishing a research programme on the conceptualisation and modelling of socio-technical systems.

Most enjoyable aspect of work

Discussing philosophical and other issues with my colleagues and working with PhD candidates and students. Administrative work is what I enjoy least.

Why Delft?

The question implies that the choice for Delft was something completely under my control. Like many things in life, chance also played a role in this. I came second in the application process, but more than six months later I received a telephone call out of the blue asking if I was still interested in the job because the candidate originally appointed had already left the position. I have ended up staying here a long time and that is not purely coincidental. I really feel at home here for many reasons. As a philosopher at a University of Technology, one is continually being challenged, explicitly and implicitly, to clarify how your discipline can contribute both to the education of future engineers and to the issues faced by engineers. This keeps you on your toes and ensures that you keep at least one foot on the ground in your philosophical work.

Best character trait

I would rather leave others to make a judgement on that.

So if I asked someone who knows you well, what would they say?

In that case, I think they would say that you can rely on me, but that may be wishful thinking.

And what would they say was your worst character trait?

I would expect them to say something along the lines of impatient and a control freak.

Key issues on the political agenda

One issue that I find increasingly intriguing and about which I would like to read more (although that will probably have to wait until I retire) is the difference between the public and private sphere and the government’s relationship to both of these. Traditionally, the government has operated in the public sphere alone (the ‘res publica’), but it seems that it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw the distinction or to construct it, because of all kinds of developments in which technology often plays a role. If this issue is ever on the agenda, it is usually based on concrete issues or proposals. What I think is missing is a more general debate about this difference and the basic principles on which it can be based. I would prefer to see such a debate on the social agenda rather than the political one, because it concerns us all.

Source of inspiration

I do not have any specific philosophical or academic heroes. That does not mean that I do not learn a lot from other people; quite the contrary, but I tend to adopt a rather eclectic approach. In terms of philosophy in particular, I have issues with the formation of schools around ‘major’ philosophers, because I find this to be at odds with what philosophy should be about, which is a radical (‘right down to the roots’) questioning of the concepts and assumptions that we use to attempt to understand life. This kind of questioning does not sit well with the formation of philosophical schools because the latter assumes that certain points of departure cannot be questioned. I also hate philosophical fads; one moment everyone is inspired by one philosopher and then suddenly by another.

Personal philosophy

This is a difficult one. Perhaps the best answer I can give is probably also the shortest: none. But an explanation of this answer would call for a long conversation with a good glass of wine under the Christmas tree… Peter Kroes

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