“Philosophy of Risk” (2015) – OZSW and 3TU.Ethics graduate course

Invitation / Call for application

The Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW) and 3TU.Ethics invite PhD students in philosophy to register for the course “Philosophy of Risk”, to take place in Autumn 2015.

Dates of course        : 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 November, 2015
Location                   : Eindhoven University of Technology, IPO 0.26
Application deadline: 26-10-2015

About the topic

Actions, policies, and new technologies are often probabilistically linked with particular outcomes in more or less predictable ways. Some of these outcomes are of a negative nature. They are considered as risks associated with the actions, policies, or technologies in question. Risk is obviously an important topic for practical philosophy in general, and applied ethics in particular. But what are the best ways to think about risk in our ethical theorizing within the different domains where there are prominent risks involved? That is the guiding question of this seminar.

Risk is a key topic within different areas of human activity. For example, it is a central concept used by those who design and regulate technology to evaluate its impact. It is a central concept with respect to health and medicine, as well as in public policy-making. The identification, assessment, evaluation, distribution, and management of risk also form an interdisciplinary domain of increasing importance and presence in the academic world. Risk is an area where philosophical reflection and ethical theorizing can make important contributions. It is also a fairly new topic on the philosophical scene, where there is lots of work to do.

This seminar approaches the topic of risk via recent work on risk within a number of different sub-domains of ethical theory. We will, among other things, discuss ethical criteria for the distribution of risk, how engineers think about risk, risk as it relates to issues of trust and informed consent, waste management and the social acceptance of risk, and existential risk. While discussing these different particular topics, we will also discuss methodology with respect to philosophical research on risk.


The seminar will take place over the course of one week in Eindhoven, with morning and afternoon sessions devoted to different aspects of the topic. There will presentations by the course coordinator and a number of guest lecturers. There will also be student presentations, discussions of all the topics covered, and joint analysis of the course literature.
Monday Nov 2:

Morning session: General introduction to the topic and introductory overview
Afternoon session: Guest lecturer Neelke Doom (Delft) on the distribution of risk

Tuesday Nov 3:

Morning session: Professional development: how to write papers for peer-reviewed journals
Afternoon session: Guest lecturer Philip Nickel (TU/e) on risk, trust, and informed consent in cases of uncertainty

Wednesday Nov 4:

Morning session: Guest lecturer Wybo Houkes (TU/e) on how engineers think about risk
Afternoon session: Guest lecturer Karim Jebari (Swedish Institute of Future Studies) on existential risk

Thursday Nov 5:

Morning session: on biomarkers and the “right (not) to know”
Afternoon session: Guest lecturer Joel Katzav (TU/e) how to respond to journals’ reviewer reports and guest lecturer Behnam Taebi (Delft) on waste management and social acceptance and the acceptability of risk

Friday Nov 6:

Morning session: student presentations
Afternoon session: summing up and reflecting on the course

Course objectives

After having taken the seminar, students should be familiar with the most important concepts, distinctions, and normative principles in the risk literature (as well as their application in some of the key sub-domains of risk research). For example, students will be familiar with different definitions of risk and uncertainty, the precautionary principle, the concept of trust, and different theories of risk management. They should be able to formulate good objections and replies to major philosophical viewpoints about risk.


The course is organized and taught by Sven Nyholm of Eindhoven University of Technology / the 3TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology.


The participants are expected to read all the assigned literature, to do assignments, to actively participate in the discussions and to write a paper at the end of the course.


The course is free for:

  • PhD students who are a member of the 3TU.Ethics graduate school;
  • PhD students who are a member of the OZSW;
  • MSc students enrolled in the PSTS master of the University of Twente.
  • Research Master students who are a member of the OZSW

Other participants pay a tuition fee of 250 euro for the course. Foreign participants are welcome, but are themselves responsible for arranging their travel and accommodation in Eindhoven.

Registration Form

Register online for the event.

Organization information

This course is coordinated by Sven Nyholm. For further information related to the contents of this course, please contact the lecturer at the following e-mail address: S.R.Nyholm@tue.nl. For practical inquiries, please contact secretariaat@ozsw.nl.