PhD: Reconceptualising Solidarity for Technologically Disrupted Contexts

Faculty of Humanities
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Hours per week: 
36 to 40
Application deadline: 

The Ethics Institute of Utrecht University’s Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies seeks a researcher for a four-year, full-time PhD project “Reconceptualising Solidarity for Technologically Disrupted Contexts”, as part of the inter-university Gravitation consortium Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technology (ESDiT).

Your job

This PhD project is an ethical and philosophical study of how technology might (re)shape communal practices and the concepts to describe such practices, notably the concept of solidarity. ‘Solidarity’ plays a fundamental role in many social practices, ranging from political activism to the norms underpinning the welfare state. Over recent years, solidarity has also (re-)emerged as a central concept in moral and political philosophy. Solidarity relations are typically connected to shared social roles: individuals are in solidarity as democratic citizens, workers, those subject to oppression and domination etc.

Disruptive technologies have the potential to deeply reshape these shared experiences and identities that matter for solidarity relationships. Think of genomic technologies in health care practices or artificial intelligence and big data in the (gig) economy. Will such changes to our practices fundamentally alter our understanding of social and political solidarity? On what basis might we conclude that communal concepts like solidarity or community are disrupted? And in what ways could technological change provide new avenues for solidarity bonds and social mobilisation?

This PhD position is part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme, a ten year long international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands that has started in January 2020 and lasts until December 2029. The programme has the aim of achieving breakthrough research in at the intersection of ethics, philosophy, technology / engineering and social sciences, and to position its consortium at the top of its field internationally. A key objective is to investigate how new technologies challenge moral values and ontological concepts (like “nature”, “human being” and “community”), and how these challenges necessitate a revision of these concepts. The programme includes four research lines, “Nature, life and human intervention”, “The future of a free and fair society”, “The human condition” and “Synthesis: Ethics of Technology, Practical Philosophy, and Modern Technology-Driven Societies”.

This position is situated within the research line “The future of a free and fair society”. You will work under the supervision of Juri Viehoff (UU), Marcel Verweij (UU), and another member of the consortium. You are expected to play an active role in the project described above and to participate actively in the workshops, public events, courses and other activities of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme in general and the “The future of a free and fair society” research line in particular. The position is based at the Ethics Institute, which is part of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies of Utrecht University. It provides a stimulating and internationally oriented research environment.

Please note that there are other vacancies in the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme at different participating universities. In case several are of interest to you, we would like to encourage you to apply to them simultaneously.

Your qualities

  • You will have completed, prior to appointment, a Master’s degree or equivalent degree in Philosophy, Ethics, or Political Philosophy/Theory. Other Master’s degrees will also be considered if you have a demonstrable expertise in analytical/conceptual problems and approaches to normative justification, in close connection with the themes of the research project.
  • You have a broad interest in moral and political philosophy, applied ethics, and normative issues related to technology.
  • Knowledge in a more specialised field relevant to the project (e.g. solidarity, ethics of technology, conceptual disruption, etc.) is welcome.
  • Especially welcome are approaches to this project that engage with traditions and perspectives that are currently marginalised within Western philosophy.
  • You have an excellent track record and research skills, relative to experience, and excellent academic writing and presentation skills.
  • You have the ability to work both independently and as part of a team.
  • You have an active interest in interdisciplinary work which connects philosophical analysis to other relevant disciplines and societal challenges.
  • You have a high level of proficiency in English. 

Our offer

We offer:

  • a position for a period of 18 months - in case of good performance and a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining period of 30 months (4 years in total);
  • a working week of 38 hours and a gross monthly salary between €2,770 and €3,539 in the case of full-time employment (salary scale P under the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU)); 
  • 8% holiday pay and 8.3% year-end bonus; 
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave and flexible terms of employment based on the CAO NU. 

PhD candidates are encouraged to spend a semester abroad. A budget is available to cover expenses. Additionally, a generous (conference) travel budget is available for this position.

In addition to the terms of employment laid down in the CAO NU, Utrecht University has a number of schemes and facilities of its own for employees. This includes schemes facilitating professional development, leave schemes and schemes for sports and cultural activities, as well as discounts on software and other IT products. We also offer access to additional employee benefits through our Terms of Employment Options Model. In this way, we encourage our employees to continue to invest in their growth. For more information, please visit Working at Utrecht University.

About us

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

The Faculty of Humanities has around 7,000 students and 1,100 staff members. It comprises four knowledge domains: Philosophy and Religious Studies, History and Art History, Media and Culture Studies, and Languages, Literature and Communication. With its research and education in these fields, the Faculty aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Netherlands and Europe in a rapidly changing social and cultural context. The enthusiastic and committed colleagues and the excellent amenities in the historical city centre of Utrecht, where the faculty is located, contribute to an inspiring working environment.

More information

For more information, please contact Juri Viehoff at

Candidates for this vacancy will be recruited by Utrecht University.

Apply now

As Utrecht University, we want to be a home for everyone. We value staff with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and identities, including cultural, religious or ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. We strive to create a safe and inclusive environment in which everyone can flourish and contribute.

Your application should include:

  1. a one-page letter of motivation, discussing what interests you about this position, how your background prepares you to carry out your proposed research plan, and any information about your circumstances relevant to assessing your suitability for the position;
  2. a curriculum vitae of maximum 3 pages;
  3. a one-page research note, setting out your ideas about how you propose to carry out the project described above;
  4. a writing sample of maximum 20 pages, (e.g. a chapter of your Master’s thesis);
  5. academic grade transcripts from all relevant degree programmes.

To apply, please send these materials via the 'apply now' button. Please submit items 2, 3, and 4 (in that order) as a SINGLE PDF in the field “CV including a publication list”. Letters of recommendation do not need to be submitted at this time.

Interviews will be held in the week of 1 July 2024. The starting date is 1 October 2024.

The application deadline is 7 June 2024.