The research mission of the P&E group is to carry out philosophical research at the interface between fundamental philosophical issues and real-world problems that arise from the design and use of innovative technologies. Our guiding idea is that the analysis of many real-world problems concerning technology requires a philosophical perspective; and that these problems in turn inspire a substantial modification and extension of existing philosophical methods and theories. Philosophical analysis in these areas should be informed by and can in turn be informative for design practices and for research on the social, psychological and economic mechanisms that underlie innovation processes. Hence, interdisciplinary cooperation is vital for carrying out our research.
Research in the P&E group covers various areas where fundamental philosophical issues and technology-related real-world problems intertwine. Within philosophy, our expertise lies in a variety of subdisciplines: normative ethics, meta-ethics, philosophy of science, epistemology. In our research, reflection on technology-related problems and technological innovations should go beyond the application of existing frameworks: we seek substantial changes to existing theories such as consequentialism, frameworks for responsible innovation, or the extended-mind hypothesis; or the development of entirely new frameworks, such as the ethical design cycle, and theories of technical functions and of engineering knowledge. Moreover, we work on fundamental critical assessments of technology-related work in various sciences, and of programs in engineering disciplines. Examples are assessments of climate modelling, of theories and models of cultural evolution; and of the use of ‘persuasive’ technology, social robotics, advances in medical technology, and new forms of mobility to realize societal values.
Characteristic of our work in this broad range of areas is a direct engagement with work in the natural, engineering and social sciences. Innovative technologies and technology-related problems are not used merely as a source of illustrations of philosophical views, but studied in detail to enable genuinely ‘empirically informed’ analyses that are meaningful to philosophers, to researchers in other areas, and to society. For this purpose, close interdisciplinary collaborations have been established, in particular with researchers from other groups in the School of IS, as well as with – among others - mechanical engineers, climate scientists and archaeologists.
A sample of research topics that illustrate one or more of the aspects of our research are:
Fundamental philosophical issues
- Theories and models of cultural evolution
- The ontology and functionality of artefacts
- The role of artefacts in the theory of action
- Metaethics and artificial intelligence
- The reliability of moral judgments
Interdisciplinary work and applications to technology
- Human-machine integration
- Technological risks and trust in technology
- Analysis of responsibility in R&D networks
- The validation and predictive power of climate models
- Persuasive technologies and social values (e.g. sustainability, safety, quality of life)
- The ethics of brain implants
- Medical ethics
- Cognitive and social mechanisms of human tool use
- Military robots and ethical decision making