The first year consists of a core programme developed for all students. You will first of all become familiar with relevant philosophical theories and methods, the Philosophy of Technology, and the multidisciplinary field of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies. We will then introduce you to the typical PSTS approach by challenging you to apply what you learn to various engineering projects at our university’s research institutes. You will also engage in a more detailed investigation of concepts, theories and methods relevant to PSTS, and become acquainted with what it means to do research in the PSTS domain by teaming up with one of our research staff members.

COURSES IN YEAR 1

PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY

In this course, we will introduce you to the philosophy of technology, both historically and thematically. You will explore how the philosophy of technology emerged as an independent field of philosophical inquiry and look at the (social) problems it centres on. You will also get to know its main philosophers, developments, and schools of thought. Important themes, such as technological determinism, the nature of technological knowledge, the normative dimensions of technology, and internalism versus externalism, will also be discussed. You will delve deeper into some of these themes in the second semester, with courses such as social and political philosophy, epistemology, ethics and technology, and philosophical anthropology. The core theories you will work with are phenomenology and post-phenomenology, the mediation theory and analytic philosophy.

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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY STUDIES

This course aims to introduce you to the interdisciplinary field of Science and Technology Studies (STS). You will explore the main theoretical approaches in the field, including the Strong Programme; the Social Construction of Technology, Actor Network Theory; and Evolutionary Approaches. You will also get some hands-on experience with STS theories and concepts by performing an empirical analysis of a recent development in science, technology and society.

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PHILOSOPHICAL THEORIES & METHODS

This course introduces you to various methods and approaches within philosophy. The focus is on philosophers and methods of philosophy that play an important role throughout the rest of this Master’s programme. These include analytical methods, hermeneutical methods, and applied empirical methods. The course will also give you a short introduction to formal logic.

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TECHNOLAB

The Technolab project is a great introduction to the kind of integrated projects you may well be involved in later on in your career as a PSTS graduate. You can compare the skills and insights you acquire here to learning how to work as a science journalist. She has to collect information, formulate relevant questions, understand and interpret what she sees and hears, reflect on those findings, and communicate them clearly and comprehensibly to the public, using relevant frameworks and perspectives. In the Technolab project you will develop in these areas. You will get familiar with technological developments being researched across our university’s Engineering Sciences and Social Sciences disciplines and research institutions, and learn to look at them from different scientific and societal angles. This will help you understand research practices as well as their social and political contexts and settings. You will study brochures, websites and scientific articles as well as conducting interviews with researchers. Learning from fellow students with different educational and cultural backgrounds, and sharing your specific expertise, will add to the challenge. 

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ETHICS & TECHNOLOGY I

This course will introduce you to the major ethical theories and some key thinkers in moral philosophy, as well as the fundamentals of critical reasoning and ethical argumentation. The main ethical theories are virtue ethics, deontological ethics, and utilitarianism, but we will also consider other approaches. The course also includes a short introduction to select application domains, such as engineering and bio-medical ethics.

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HISTORY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

This course offers an introduction to the goals, methods and perspectives of the history of science and technology. It will help you understand the development of science and technology historically, and how knowing more about this history will improve your understanding of the interplay of science, technology and society. Rather than offering you a chronological survey of the history of modern science and technology, we will select a series of themes and topics that highlight important historiographical issues and the significance of understanding science and technology as historical phenomena. You will look at science and technology as fields of activity whose content and configurations have changed over time. This offers two advantages: first, it will teach you the virtue and necessity of being cautious about ahistorical, normative statements; and, second, it will prepare you for thinking about the culturally embedded dynamics of techno-science as it continues to develop into the future. The course involves critical reading, in-class discussion and the writing of two analytical/ historiographical essays.

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PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE IN PRACTICE

The Philosophy of Science in Practice course introduces topics belonging to the traditional philosophy of science. First, you will look at epistemological issues: scientific methodology and modes of argumentation in science, scientific explanations, and the demarcation problem. Second, you will look at metaphysical issues: paradigms in science, scientific explanation, realism versus anti-realism. The course will provide you with a broad overview of this new field, both in terms of philosophical topics and methodologies. It will also offer you the opportunity to develop various important skills. Think for example of analytic and critical reading, understanding technoscientific publications, and formulating questions; reconstructing and assessing argumentation; presenting for an academic audience, formulating critical questions and answering questions posed by your teachers or other students in response to presented texts, and the use of supportive media, such as PowerPoint; and research skills, such as identifying and critically reflecting on technoscientific sources.

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PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY & TECHNOLOGY

Philosophical anthropology is the discipline that critically reflects on questions concerning human nature and the human condition. What is a human being? What is (personal) identity? Which cultural and/or natural features constitute human nature? How is the human being different from (other) animals? In this course, we focus not only on classical approaches to technology, but also on specific technologies and technological developments in an anthropological context. We will investigate how technology has influenced and constituted human nature and human existence. We will discuss 1) foundational perspectives in the history of philosophical anthropology; 2) classical views of philosophical anthropology and technology; 3) contemporary perspectives on philosophical anthropology and technology. In the last part of the course the focus is on constructivism, technical mediation, and technical extension. Within these frameworks, human nature and its faculties (rationality, self-consciousness, agency, autonomy) are not considered as an a-historical given, but as the result of a concrete history, in which technology plays an important role. New technologies have an impact on values like freedom, privacy, and friendship, which determine to a great extent how humans are shaped into particular ‘subjects’. This course combines lectures and discussions, texts, movies and documentaries.

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SOCIETY, POLITICS & TECHNOLOGY

Technology is a major force in social and political reality. This course introduces you to five main discussion points within social and political philosophy: democracy, social justice, freedom, equality and community. You will learn to relate these discussions to the political philosophy of technology, both in its classical and contemporary forms.

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TECHNOLOGY & SOCIAL ORDER

The relationship between technology and technological development on the one hand, and society on the other, has been variously theorised and examined by a number of significant philosophers, sociologists and historians. In this course, you will be introduced to the range of interpretive visions regarding their relation. This range includes variations on the themes of ‘technological determinism’, ‘social shaping’, ‘mediation’, ‘co-production’, 'ethical engineering' and ‘hybridity’. You will examine both the philosophical presuppositions and the commitments behind these various interpretive frameworks, while also considering the consequences of adopting them both for interpreting the past and advising on the future.

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ETHICS & TECHNOLOGY II

In a modern society technology is everywhere, touching everything we do. Such a pervasive force calls for moral reflection. In what direction should technology be steered? What are the key concepts and theories moral philosophy has to offer for such a moral deliberation on technology? These are questions that will be discussed in this course. A series of guest lecturers will present and discuss material from their areas of expertise, showing you the many ways in which ethics can be applied to technology. Topics vary but typically include sustainable development, robot ethics, intellectual property, biomedical technology, transhumanism, virtual worlds, risk assessment and digital divides. 

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PHILOLAB

The point of this course is to help you develop research skills that are appropriate for professional philosophical work. The course is built around an academic workshop in the philosophy of science, technology and society. It is supervised by staff members of the research groups and institutes that participate in the PSTS Master’s programme. Each supervisor presents a paper written by him or her that is representative for the type of research done in his or her institute/ research group. Your job is to study the papers, then join a small group of fellow students to study one of the papers in more detail. The course ends with a 'graduate conference' day, during which you present and discuss your results. You then write a short academic essay on a topic related to one of the papers. The objectives of this course are to introduce you to the specialisations of our research groups, and to help you develop your research, writing and presentation skills.

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PSTS SKILLS PORTFOLIO

In between your courses, you will also be working on your PSTS Skills Portfolio in both years of the programme. From the start of year 1, you will have access to a personal electronic learning environment, designed to help you take stock of and reflect on the development of the skills you have to acquire as a PSTS graduate. We will explain the purpose and use of the portfolio system in a special kick-off session. Throughout the first and second year, you will then be invited to attend five Portfolio Meetings with your mentor: three meetings in year 1 and two in year 2. In advance of each meeting, you will be required to upload evidence of specific skills, along with the feedback you’ve received on your performance in the portfolio. During the Portfolio Meetings, you and your mentor will reflect on your development, take stock of what you’ve achieved, and diagnose where and how you need to work on specific skills. Each meeting will provide you with new and/or revised personalised learning objectives for the next period.

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