Research Area: Ethics and Philosophy of Science and Technology

Philosophy is a tradition of critical inquiry that complements what other disciplines study.  It often seeks to address fundamental questions that underlie other disciplines. For example, philosophers ask: What is the nature of knowledge? What are the conditions of the possibility of knowledge? What are the various methods used in the development of scientific knowledge, and how to they relate to one another? Philosophers also discuss the nature of human values, the question of how ethical decisions can be justified, and what characterizes a good life, a good person, well-designed technology, and a well-ordered society. The School provides a context in which such questions can be integrated into broader deliberations concerning science, technology, the environment, and public policy.

In the School of Public Policy, research related to philosophy covers the following areas:

  • Ethics: matters of value and obligation, as they are relevant for engineering ethics, environmental ethics, bioethics, responsible innovation, and research ethics (Kirkman, Berry, Borenstein, Levine, Biddle)

  • Ethics and philosophy of science and technology: the role of value judgments—particularly ethical value judgments—in science and technology; pragmatism (Biddle, Rosenberger, Rogers)

  • Ethics education: Problem based learning; self-directed learning; learning technologies; assessment of learning (Berry, Kirkman, Hoffmann, Borenstein)

  • Political philosophy: participatory democracy; deliberative democracy; justice and design; institutional design (Hoffmann, Kirkman, Rosenberger, Klein)

  • Wicked problems and conflicts: framing and the perception of reality; biases and cognitive overload; values realized by specific policy implementations and how we assess these; and stakeholder analysis (Hoffmann, Berry, Kirkman, Rogers, Biddle)

  • Epistemology and philosophy of science: the conditions under which knowledge, including scientific knowledge, are developed, with a particular focus on how knowledge claims should be justified; philosophical problems posed by evaluation of research in particular and of policy generally (Biddle, Hoffmann, Rogers)

  • Phenomenology: the philosophy of user experience; laboratory instrumentation interpretation practices; the analysis of everyday technologies (Rosenberger)

  • Reasoning, argument, deliberation, and problem solving: argument visualization; diagrammatic and model-based reasoning; systems thinking and spatial scaling; conceptual change in science and science education; logic and critical thinking (Hoffmann, Rogers, Kirkman)

  • Philosophy of Technology: justice and design; ethics of emerging technologies; values embedded in technologies (Rosenberger, Borenstein, Hoffmann, Berry, Kirkman, Levine, Klein, Biddle)

  • Semiotics (theory of representation) (Hoffmann)

For more information, please visit the Philosophy Program.