Master thesis PHI

The MSc thesis is the final part of the master study program. During a three to six month period - under close supervision of a staff member of Philosophy - students will engage in a full research cycle. The research concerns real-life problems with societal relevance, the results can also be translated into practical recommendations.

Selecting a topic

The first step in working on a Master thesis is the selection of a topic. You can either develop your own thesis topic or select an available thesis topic from the PHI group (see below). Please note that the topic of your thesis must always be approved by your supervisor.
It is advised, to choose a topic that is close to the research being carried out by the chair group, in order to ensure proper supervision and guidance.

If you need some inspiration, here are some options:

  • Check the list of available thesis topics below
  • Attend PHI thesis colloquia of fellow students
  • Visit the research page to see the research interests of the chair group.
  • Check the fields of interest of our staff below

As soon as you have made up your mind contact the PHI thesis coordinator Leon Pijnenburg. After discussing the possible topic(s) and the courses you have followed, he may direct you to a possible supervisor for your thesis within thePHI group.

Below you find the list of available topics by staff member. Over time this list will change as opportunities are taken by fellow students or new opportunities arise. Please check availability with the concerning staff member.

 

Fields of interest by staff member

Henk van de Belt

  • Protecting creative and intellectual achievements of indigenous peoples
    In the contemporary world artistic creations, designs, technological inventions, and other creative productions are increasingly protected by various intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights, trademarks, breeders’ rights). However, the creative productions of indigenous peoples do not usually meet the formal requirements of legal systems and mostly go unprotected. Sometimes their contributions are appropriated by western companies or individuals. Should special rights be created to offer indigenous peoples the possibility to protect their own cultural and technical achievements? How should such rights be designed? Would they be compatible with the worldviews of these peoples?What would be reasonable in the light of justice?
  • Doe-het-zelf biologie als nieuwe sociale beweging: riskant geknutsel aan levensvormen of 'science for the people (and by the people)'?
    Vraagstuk naar aanleiding van ‘DNA-onderzoek kan ook amateurwerk zijn’, De Volkskrant, 28-12-2013.

Vincent Blok

  • Responsible innovation
  • Philosophy of technology and innovation
  • Business ethics
  • Philosophy of management

Bernice Bovenkerk

  • Dier-veiligheid
    Wie ‘veiligheid’ als zoekterm gebruikt komt al snel uit bij veiligheid ...... voor de mens. De vraag is echter of er niet ook een ethische verantwoordelijkheid is voor de veiligheid van het dier in verschillende contexten. Te denken valt aan dier-veiligheid met betrekking tot voedsel, huisvesting, medische verzorging, inzet-mogelijkheden (politie, het leiden van blinden, dierentuin en circus, etc.) ... en wellicht .. de omgang met mensen. Een inventarisatie en overzicht van dier-veiligheid in verschillende contexten moet vervolgens in verband gebracht worden met dier-ethische noties en theorieën om tot weloverwogen meningen en opties te komen.
  • De relationele dier-ethiek
    Kan relationele dier-ethiek beter antwoord geven op dier-ethische vragen, bijvoorbeeld rond wilde dieren of rond dieren die tot een beschermde diersoort behoren, dan traditionele utilistische of deontologische dier-ethiek?
  • Het 'marginal cases' argument in de dier-ethiek
    Is dit argument houdbaar?
  • Wat betekent de theorie van extended cognition voor de morele status van dieren?
  • Bijvangst terug aan land
    Jaarlijks wordt een enorm aantal vissen gevangen. Een deel hiervan is bestemd voor consumptie, maar een nog groter deel is bijvangst. Deze bijvangst bedraagt soms wel vier keer zoveel als voor de consumptie gevangen wordt. Doorgaans wordt de bijvangst weer overboord gegooid. Om de bijvangst tegen te gaan heeft de Nederlandse overheid besloten dat de vissen die worden bijgevangen door boten mee terug aan land moeten worden genomen. Is deze maatregel moreel te rechtvaardigen en is hij effectief?
  • Dier-ethiek
    In de traditionele dier-ethiek wordt morele status toegekend aan dieren op basis van bepaalde eigenschappen (zoals gevoel, doelmatig kunnen handelen, verlangens hebben, etc.). Critici van deze benadering menen dat er teveel nadruk op deze eigenschappen is komen te liggen en te weinig op onze relaties met dieren als basis van morele plichten, en zij wijzen erop dat de traditionele dier-ethiek nog steeds en ten onrechte de mens als standaard neemt. Wat zijn de merites van dergelijke kritiekpunten?

Bart Gremmen

  • Ethics in life sciences
  • Responsible innovation
  • Animal welfare
  • Genetic modification
  • Biomimicy
  • Gene-editing

Josette Jacobs

  • Community based learnin
  • Honours investigation
  • Sustainability dilemma’s
  • Climate change

Henk Jochemsen

  • Een ethiek voor (sociale) interventies in ontwikkelingslanden
  • Ethische criteria voor duurzame landbouw systemen in ontwikkelingslanden
    Filosofische en ethische achtergronden van eco-agricultuur.
  • Een filosofische beschouwing van de synthetische biologie vanuit een reformatorische wijsgerige benadering van de biologie

Koen Kramer

  • Welke rol heeft het voorzorgsprincipe precies gespeeld in de reacties van bloedtransfusiediensten op SARS?
    Sinds de AIDS-crisis is het voorzorgsprincipe veelvuldig gehanteerd ter rechtvaardiging van maatregelen tegen opdoemde ziektes die misschien middels bloedtransfusie overgedragen zouden kunnen worden. Eén zo'n opdoemde ziekte was SARS. Eventuele vervolgvraag: is dit gebruik van het voorzorgsprincipe in overeenstemming met de bedoeling (of normatieve achtergrond)ervan?
  • Hoe hangen de inhoud en de rechtvaardiging van bloedveiligheids-maatregelen samen met de 'deliberation and decision-making tools' die gehanteerd worden?

Leon Pijnenburg

  • Wat houdt MVO in voor een internationaal operende organisatie als WUR?
    WUR is bezig met het ontwikkelen van een document ‘mvo’, en dat dient kritisch bezien te worden
  • Waarom moeten Nederland landen, die de mensenrechten schenden, (niet) steunen middels o.a. ontwikkelingsbeleid?
    Nu in de publiciteit: Rusland, maar ook vele andere landen in b.v. Afrika ontzeggen homo’s en lesbo’s hun rechten.
  • Wetenschap, bedrijf en overheid. Een gouden triangel? Waar blijft de burger?
    Vraagstelling n.a.v. een opmerking van Herman Eijsackers in Resource.

Marcel Verweij

  • The food industry’s responsibility for to promote health
    Many companies have explicit CSR policies, including concern for the environment and respect for human rights. One question is to what extent food companies have a moral responsibility in relation to public health. Coca-Cola has recently started a campaign to fight obesity. How far should a company like this go in preventing overweight or other food-related health problems? This research project combines study of the literature on CSR and business ethics with interviews with stakeholders, notably representatives of food and retail companies.
  • Research ethics for food studies
    Food studies with human subjects must comply with specific laws and international regulations, such as the Declaration of Helsinki and the CIOMS guidelines. These regulations and laws however have been developed specifically to regulate research with human beings in a medical/clinical context. This BSc/MSC project explores to what extent ethical principles for clinical research do or do not clearly apply to nutrition studies on human subjects. What are specific ethical problems that can occur in food studies? Specific attention will be paid to food studies in developing countries.
  • Food fortification to prevent micronutrient malnutrition
    Food fortification can be an efficient strategy to fight micronutrient malnutrition and thus promote public health. What is the state of the art of such programs, notably in developing world? Can such policies be supported by appeal to protection of human rights? And what are the ethical problems and limits of such programs?
  • Fluoridation of drinking water
    Water fluoridation has been practiced in the Netherlands for some decades, but it stopped in 1973 after the Dutch Hoge Raad ruled that this practice lacked a legal basis. Thanks to common use of fluoridised tooth paste, oral health has improved since then. However, in lower social-economic classes, oral health is still problematic. Possibly water fluoridation might reduce socio-economic health inequalities. Is there reason to reconsider current policies? What ethical and legal arguments can be put forward?

Cor van der Weele

  • In vitro meat (cultured meat)
    Cultured meat does not exist yet, but the idea already generates a lot of societal response: media attention, designer activities, etcetera. There are many potential questions to be asked, e.g. concerning the moral and cultural dynamics generated by the idea of cultured meat.
  • Processes of change concerning meat
    The problems of meat production are increasingly discussed, but meat is still at the centre of economic and consumptive practices. What are the alternatives, how attractive are they, which obstacles do they face and what would be needed for alternatives to gain more prominence?
  • Science and its blind spots
    Though scientific curiosity has no in principle boundaries, in practice scientific attention is inevitably limited, guided by paradigms and fashion. A closer look at the questions that are and are not asked may reveal surprising patterns, that can be or moral significance as well. What about studying patterns of attention within your own discipline?
  • Science, philosophy and art
    The philosopher John Dewey said that large redirections of morality are necessarily guided by the imagination. If he is right, living more sustainably on this earth requires great imaginative efforts. What is happening in the boundary area of science, philosophy and art, and how hopeful are these initiatives?
  • Biology, metaphors and philosophy
    Biology is full of metaphors, for example about the role of genes. Genes have often been thought to completely program life, while at present epigenetic phenomena such as DNA methylation are at the centre of attention. Studying metaphors allows an understanding of the rise and fall of ideas concerning biological causation.
  • Pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas..)
    They are the most sustainable meat alternative, but their worldwide consumption declines ever further. Instead, most attention goes to high-tech alternatives such as cultured meat and plant-based burgers. What are the driving forces? Are there currently interesting activities? What has been the effect of the FAO “International year of pulses”? What (else) would be needed for a change of trends?