Philosophy of Risk

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The Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW) and the 4TU Center for Ethics and Technology invite PhD students/ ReMa students in philosophy to register for the course Philosophy of Risk to take place  from Tuesday October 31st to Saturday November 4th 2017.


Organizing university

Eindhoven University of Technology


Tuesday October 31st to Saturday November 4th

Type of activity

Gradute course

Type of activity


Primary target group

PhD students, 2nd year ReMa students

Application/registration deadline

3 October, 2017

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 an important topic for practical philosophy in general, and applied ethics in particular. 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. 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.

This course starts with the basic distinctions and key concepts within the philosophy of risk. It then considers the question of how to evaluate risks and risk-impositions. In relation to this, we will investigate how and whether the standard moral theories can adequately deal with the ethical dimensions of risks and risk-impositions. Having discussed risk in more general terms, we then turn to a number of more specific domains where the concept of risk is important, such as the ethics of technology, bioethics, and environmental ethics. Which exact topics we will cover will depend on what guest lecturers will come and visit us. But topics are very likely to include risk-management for self-driving cars, risk and trust, and risks associated with developing neurotechnologies. The course will also have a professional development component. It will be about writing for peer-reviewed journals.

Aim / objective

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 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.


The course is organized by Sven Nyholm of the Eindhoven University of Technology/the 4TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology. The lectures in the course will be given by Sven Nyholm and a number of guest lecturers. Already confirmed guest lecturers include Sabine Roeser, John Danaher, Neelke Doorn, Wybo Houkes, Behnam Taebi, and Michał Klincewicz.

Required preparations

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.

Certificate / credit points



The course is free for:

  • PhD students who are a member of the 4TU.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.

How to apply / register

Please register using this form. The registration deadline is October 3rd.


This course is organized by Sven Nyholm, in cooperation with the OZSW.

Contact info

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: For practical inquiries, please contact