3 PhD positions Delft University of Technology

“Design for changing values: a theory of value change in sociotechnical systems”: energy systems, artificial intelligence and design strategies.

Delft University of Technology offers three positions for PhD students as part of the research project Design for changing values: a theory of value change in sociotechnical systems. The entire project consists of 3 PhD positions and 2 postdoc positions and will be supervised by prof.dr.ir. Ibo van de Poel. A complete description of the project can be requested. The project aims at better understanding how moral values may change as a result of technological development and how we can better deal with such changing values in the design of new technology. Each of the PhD positions focuses on one of the following more specific topics:

  • Changing values and the design of energy systems
  • Design for value change in robot systems and artificial intelligence
  • Design strategies for value change in sociotechnical systems

Each of the projects involves empirical as well philosophical investigations into the phenomenon of value change and its implications for the design of sociotechnical systems. The first two projects focus on value change in a more specific domain (energy systems and artificial intelligence). The third project focuses on developing design strategies that better allow to deal with value change.

The candidate will carry out doctoral research which will lead to a dissertation, and will also produce relevant publications. The candidate will participate in the Graduate School of TU Delft and in the PhD program of the 4TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology.

When applying please indicate in which position(s) you are interested; you can indicate more than one position.
The candidate will also be involved in the teaching activities of the department.

Requirements

  • A master degree in philosophy, engineering or a relevant socio-scientific discipline, like STS (science and technology studies)
  • A demonstrable interest in applied ethics and in technology
  • It is recommended that the candidate has had experience in carrying out empirical research and has knowledge of the relevant technological domain studied in the PhD project
  • Good analytical and reasoning skills, as demonstrated by, for example, a master thesis
  • Willingness and ability to work in an interdisciplinary team
  • Ability to present his or her ideas clearly also to people with another disciplinary background
  • Openness to criticism
  • Productive and dedicated
  • Good command of both written and spoken English

Conditions of Employment

TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, a discount for health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. An International Children’s Centre offers childcare and an international primary school. Dual Career Services offers support to accompanying partners. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.
As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment; an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor; and a Doctoral Education Programme aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills. Please visit www.tudelft.nl/phd for more information.

Employer

Delft University of Technology, Faculty Technology, Policy and Management

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) is a multifaceted institution offering education and carrying out research in the technical sciences at an internationally recognised level. Education, research and design are strongly oriented towards applicability.

The Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management contributes to sustainable solutions for technical challenges in society by combining the insights from engineering with the humanities and the social sciences.

Information

To apply, please e-mail a detailed letter of application before by November 12, a curriculum vitae and the names and contact information of references to vacature-TBM@tudelft.nl . When applying for this position, please refer to vacancy number ATTBM 18.022.

For information about this vacancy, you can contact Ibo van de Poel, email: i.r.vandepoel@tudelft.nl, tel: +31 15 278 4716

Caring democracy: current topics in the political theory of care

Introduction

In 2013, political care ethicist Joan Tronto((Joan C. Tronto is Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, Professor Emerita at the City University of New York and initiator of the Care Ethics Research Consortium www.care-ethics.org.)) applied a care-ethical view to democratic theory in her book Caring democracy: Markets, equality and justice, and invited scholars from all over the world to think about democracy from a care-ethical perspective.

Petr Urban((Petr Urban, PhD, is Head of the Department of Contemporary Continental Philosophy at the Czech Academy of Sciences)) took up this invitation by organising the ‘Caring Democracy’ conference, with the aim of discussing current topics in the political theory of care in order to contribute to a more caring democracy. Hosted by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the conference was held at the Karolinum, a historical building located in Prague’s Old Town.

The conference programme consisted of a keynote talk by Tronto and work presented by 16 experts from 11 countries. The conference attracted an international audience who actively participated in the discussions. The well-arranged coffee breaks and lunches were excellent moments for attendees to get to know each other and to exchange information.

Keynote

Professor Joan Tronto delivered the keynote address on ‘Neopopulists and exclusionary discourses of care: towards a new politics of inclusion’. She started by stating that we should no longer see care as just a ‘practice’ and a ‘disposition’; we need to think of care as a discursive practice and as ‘an idea that functions in powerful ways’. In the first edition of the International Journal of Care and Caring (IJCC) in 2017, Tronto offered a critique of, and an alternative to, the political discourse of neoliberalism, noting that it is important to rethink the allocation of care responsibilities, but within a democratic framework. In her keynote address, Tronto paid attention to the discourse of neopopulism now evident in the US and Europe as new problems arise, and explained why it is a problematic framework while proposing an alternative one. Tronto explained that neopopulists can be characterised by their shared concerns, for instance, people who feel threatened by immigrants and call for additional security to protect society. She argued that we could not offer an alternative until we understand these beliefs within a discourse of care. To do that, we first have to look at those who vote for neopopulists, and why.

Recent research indicates that especially men, less educated people, those with religious affiliations and majority ethnic groups opt to vote for neopopulists, seeking security and economic protection, with neopopulist leaders responding to these concerns within a context of care: ‘Take care of yourself, blame others’. Tronto associates this discourse with a traditional breadwinner–caregiver model, that is, vulnerable women are protected by strong men who feel good about carrying the responsibility to protect their families. She stressed that we have to understand that neopopulists cling to familiar traditions out of fear. However, this traditional model of caring no longer works in an increasingly diverse society in which women and men have become more equal. Most importantly, this model creates greater levels of economic inequality and endangers democracy. Tronto posed the following question: ‘How can we offer an alternative to this old-fashioned model of caring and formulate a better argument from the political Left to challenge the neopopulists’ framework?’.

Tronto underlined that she does not yet have a precise answer to the question, but she does know that good practices of care and governmental change towards a more caring democracy will help. According to Tronto, care generates more care. She shared some examples showing how new spaces and conditions have created opportunities for strangers to connect and care for each other across racial, age and economic lines: senior citizens spending time in a childcare facility with the children of working parents; and people asked to invite their previously unknown neighbour to share a meal. In Tronto’s words: ‘We don’t need to be afraid, we need to be more caring’. Tronto’s keynote address encouraged us to think about a caring democracy as an alternative political framework to neopopulism, and showed how opportunities to create a more democratic society can be centred around care.

In celebration of the first ever annual CERC conference in Portland, USA this week the latest International Journal Care & Caring special issue is free to access until 30 September.

Contributions

The two-day programme included papers on a range of topics addressing areas related to the political theory of care. At the end of the conference, Tronto summarised the contributions of the papers in three categories: (1) the conceptualisation and meaning of ‘caring democracy’; (2) ‘democratic practices’; and (3) ‘appropriate methods’ for researching topics in care ethics.

In the first category, Elizabeth Conradi’s (DE) paper reflected on conceptualisations of ‘care’ and showed that these often refer to either an ethical-political dimension or a welfare-resourcing dimension, with a tension emerging between these two dimensions. Conradi proposed to separate the dimensions analytically because they translate into different kinds of practical questions, and are sub-structed by different political goals. Brunella Casalini (IT) addressed another conceptual gap, that is, between two different feminist traditions on the meaning of care: one with a vocabulary of care; the other with a feminist vocabulary. She compared both vocabularies by analysing the differences and similarities, and showed how they could be merged. Using a more philosophical language, including Nussbaum’s notion of ‘compassion’, Justin Leonard Cardy (US) presented his work on a philosophy of love, titled ‘Civic tenderness: love’s role in achieving justice’.

In the second category, Helena Olofsdotter Stensöta’s (SE) presentation defended the welfare state as a historical institution that can, under certain circumstances, be seen as a caring institution. Petr Urban (CZ) also stressed the possibility that state institutions care, arguing that, ‘Oftentimes, the tension between bureaucratic and caring values in the practice of public administration is healthy and productive’. However, there were also presentations about state-oriented practices that are not so caring: Lizzie Ward described a disturbing situation concerning elder-care in the UK, which showed the risks and responsibilities inherent in self-funded care; she stressed that intense vulnerability is not a good bargaining position. From the viewpoint of poor women in Japan, Yayo Okano and Satomi Maruyama presented examples that made clear that these women do not have a voice. The lack of care and of the opportunity to participate in political debates on poverty conceals the poverty of these women.

There were three presentations on the problematic role of the state in the field of education. Pokorný indicated that the Czech government shows little interest in education, especially in the school as a niche of positive deviation. Adriana Jesenková presented examples of practices in Slovakia that show the deficits of democratic care, as well as the importance of diversity and pluralism. In a presentation on caring, education and democracy, Tammy Shel pleaded for more philosophy classes in Israel in order to teach students how to debate in a proper way. In the long term, this should benefit democracy in her country. Furthermore, there were presentations that provided alternative ways of developing democratic practices: Jorma Heier (DE) postulated that democratic care starts from social movements, rather than from politics; Anne Cress (DE) explored the critical and transformative potential of care ethics; and Kanchana Mahedevan (IN) raised a global postcolonial concern, namely, that care goes beyond the boundaries of nation-states and causes new care inequalities. Concerning caring practices, Veerle Draulans and Wouter de Tavernier (BE) presented their research on culturally diverse elder-care and the complexity of the intersubjective relations of recognition in this field.

In the third category, the focus was more on the question of how to conduct research on care. The research presented included a variety of methods: Pokorný promoted phenomenology; Jesenková argued for pragmatism; Clardy defended the use of cognitive science; and others used philosophical analyses in various forms (eg Casalini and Cress). Research by Okano and Maruyama (JP), as well as Draulans and De Tavernier (BE), focused empirically on social science data, and Lizzy Ward showed an example of how co-production might be a way to think methodologically about care.

Tronto’s keynote address and the papers presented show that it is a challenging (But not impossible!) task to move from a neopopulist to a democratic framework in which care should be central in our society. Tronto closed the conference with an urgent call to continue to refine the feminist arguments of care and to engage in broader public discussions on care as a research community, and invited participants to become a member of the Care Ethics Research Consortium (CERC) (see: www.care-ethics.org).

  • Honsbeek, K. (2018) Caring democracy: current topics in the political theory of care (23–24 November 2017, Prague, Czech Republic), International Journal of Care and Caring, 2(3): 449–52, DOI: 10.1332/239788218X15355318754221

Krystel Honsbeek

Krystel Honsbeek MA

Krystel Honsbeek has a background in social work, and received her Master’s degrees in philosophy (Tilburg University) and care ethics (University of Humanistic Studies). Currently, she is a PhD student at the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment at the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Using a care ethical perspective, her research focuses on meeting care needs of older LGBT people in changing local care landscapes. Also, she is a social worker at autism organization Leermakers Zorggroep, and is a member of the editorial board of the Care Ethics Research Consortium.

Medical versus care ethics

As a former medical student – but not a doctor – studying the field of care ethics, I was always interested in bringing these two worlds together. Whereas the dominant (bio)medical ethics in healthcare revolves around four principles – beneficence, non-maleficence, respect for autonomy, and justice – care ethics questions whether morality can be derived from abstract principles and suggests it rather emerges from relational practices. As a medical student I wasn’t even aware of an, or any, alternative brand of ethics. Was it just me or was my lack of knowledge a consequence of medical education and the profession I was briefly acquainted with?

My years as a medical student had left me with a negative stance towards medical education and health care practice in general, without actually being able to explain why. My negative feelings were corroborated by several (non-)scientific sources describing harm in the medical encounter. In 2011, Elin Martinsen ((Martinsen, E. (2011). Harm in the absence of care: Towards a medical ethics that cares. Nursing Ethics, 18(2), pp.174-183.)) attributed this harm to the dominant ethics in healthcare.

She pleads to include “care as a core concept in medical ethical terminology” because of “the harm to which patients may be exposed owing to a lack of care in the clinical encounter,” specifically between doctors and patients. She leaves the didactical challenges arising from such a venture open for further enquiry. This left me with a chance to tackle both my personal questions and fill a scientific gap.

The informal and hidden curriculum of medical education

In this paper, medical education in the Netherlands is investigated through a “care-ethical lens”. This means exploring the possibility of enriching medical education with care-ethical insights, while at the same time discovering possible challenges emerging from such an undertaking. We present an overview of what is written on medical education, we describe care-ethical theories and what implementing these theories into medical education would imply, and we consider the accounts of several authors on the subject of care ethics and medical education.[pullquote]Master Care Ethics and Policy, University of Humanistic Studies.[/pullquote]

Personally, I have learnt most from further investigating medical education. Several authors offer alarming insights into its unintended, educational effects. Besides a formal curriculum or the explicated learning objectives, an informal and a hidden curriculum are also described. The informal curriculum is about the interpersonal level of teaching and learning between teacher and student. The hidden curriculum is also about learning objectives, but, as its name suggests, hidden, unintentional, and implicit.

What is so alarming about this, is that these curricula can lead to the erosion of expectations, ideals, and personal traits in students. Several examples of erosion have been described, such as the loss of idealism, adopting a ritualized professional identity, emotional neutralization, change of ethical integrity, tolerance of abuse, and acceptance of hierarchy. Students become hidebound, focused on facts, emotionally detached, cynical, arrogant, and irritable. Important to note here is that erosion doesn’t occur in every medical student nor does it always happen to the same extent.

Enriching medical education

What do these hidden, unintentional, and implicit effects of medical education imply for the possibility of enriching medical education with care-ethical insights? By connecting the collected bodies of knowledge on both medical education and care ethics, possible challenges are identified which can be narrowed down to two: didactical and non-didactical. These challenges might be overcome through focusing more deeply on the clinical phases of training and creating awareness of the medical morality and all that is implicit among healthcare practitioners.

With care ethics, we are dealing with a different way of thinking, one that deviates from what is currently dominant within the medical field, as I quickly realized leaving that field. We should not underestimate the possible resistance to a paradigm shift.

Eva van Reenen, MA Care Ethics

Van Reenen, E. & Van Nistelrooij, A.A.M. (2017). A spoonful of care ethics: the challenges of enriching medical education. Nursing Ethics. doi: 10.1177/0969733017747956

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Call for Papers: Second Global Carework Summit

The Carework Network is organizing a three-day conference to bring together carework researchers from across disciplines and across the globe; June 9-11, 2019, Toronto, Ontario.

Carework Network

The Carework Network is an international organization of scholars and advocates who focus on the caring work of individuals, families, communities, paid caregivers, social service agencies and state bureaucracies. Care needs are shifting globally with changing demographics, disability movements, and climate change driven environmental crises.

Our mission is to address critical issues related to carework, such as how identities influence carework; how inequality structures carework; how caring work is recognized and compensated; how state policies influence the distribution of care; working conditions of care; and whether and to what extent citizens have a right to receive, and a right to provide, care.  Scholars and advocates working on issues related to elder care, child care, health care, social work, education, political theory of care, social reproduction, work/family, disability studies, careworker health and safety, and related issues are encouraged to submit proposals.

The Carework Network welcomes submissions from all academic disciplines, advocacy and non-profit organizations, and public and private sector organizations. We also encourage participation by undergraduate and graduate students. We invite proposals for papers, fully-constituted panels, or workshops.[pullquote]Different perspectives on care work – Global Carework Summit 2017[/pullquote]

Proposal

Authors and organizers should submit a proposal of their paper, panel, or workshop to carework.network@gmail.com (by e-mail only) no later than December 1, 2018.

  1. Individual paper submissions should include title, names and contact information for author(s), and an abstract of 300 words maximum;
  2. Fully constituted panel proposals should include a general title/theme, contact information for the organizer, and title, author, contact information, and abstract (300 words maximum) for each paper.
  3. Workshop proposals should include a title/theme, 300 word abstract, and names and contact information for all participants.

Decisions regarding acceptances should be made by January 31, 2019.

Questions about the Global Summit may be directed to carework.network@gmail.com

Flávia Biroli

Interview with Flávia Biroli, Institute of Political Science, University of Brasília, Brasília, Brazil

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am a professor at the University of Brasília, Institute of Political Science, since 2005.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to care ethics?

My focus is on the social organization of care and its impact on women and democracy. Gender inequalities are connected to women`s poor access to fundamental resources, such as time and income. I am interested in developing theoretical analysis on care and democracy, empirically informed by Brazilian and Latin-American contexts.

I also develop empirical research on conservative reactions to gender and women’s rights in Brazil and Latin America, which have at least two fronts: direct attacks against “gender perspective” in Law and Public Policy; deconstruction of legal guarantees for work and the social security system. In both cases, the “defense of the family” has been key to conservative public discourse, while gendered aspects of work are not being considered and the effective possibilities for care and gender equality are being dismantled.
Poor and black women are the most affected. There is a racial component in the social organization of care in Brazil, thus the importance of intersectional approaches.

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

My researches on gender, politics and democracy have been first focused on women’s under-representation in Brazilian institutional politics, in formal arenas of political representation. Developing empirical analysis about women and politics in Brazil from 2003, I started my dialogue with authors and approaches in Political Feminist Theories, focusing on social barriers for individual and collective autonomy. Issues concerning the voicing of women’s experiences and their social position, as well as the social organization of care, became inescapable in my analysis.

4. How would you describe care ethics?

A human and relational perspective on politics and everyday life, leading to alternative conceptions of justice within the frame of democratic critique. An alternative to the logic of commodification.[pullquote]Caring relationships are part of people’s daily lives and a factor generating inequalities in democracies.[/pullquote]

5. What is the most important thing you learned from care ethics?

A theoretical and methodological perspective informed by women’s experiences and social position.

6. What publications do you consider the most important with regard to care ethics?

I will mention some of the authors from which I have learned and still learn: Carol Gilligan, Joan Tronto, Helena Hirata, Pascale Molinier, Patricia Hill-Collins. I agree and identify with care theories and approaches concerned about privileges and inequalities, focused on the connections between every day experiences, the social organization of care, and democracy.

7. Which of your own books/articles/projects should we learn from?

I would highlight my books on feminist theory and autonomy, such as Autonomia e desigualdades de gênero (Eduff, 2013) and Feminismo e Política (Boitempo, 2014, with Luis Felipe Miguel), and on changes in family structure and organization in Brazil, Família: novos conceitos (Perseu Abramo, 2014). I would also mention two recent articles:  The Sexual Division of Labor and Democracy (2016) and another on care, justice, and democracy: Responsibilities, care and democracy (2015). Most of my work has been published in Portuguese.

9. What are important issues for care ethics in the future?

The crisis of care and the contradictions between capitalism and care, as Nancy Fraser has put it in recent texts and interviews.

10. How may care ethics contribute to society as a whole, do you think?

Developing analysis of the significance of care in everyday life in different national and social contexts and the effects of different social organization patterns of care on people’s lives and democracy. Amplifying the understanding of care as social critique and social ethics, offering alternatives to the commodification of life.

11. Do you know of any research-based projects in local communities, institutions or on national levels, where ‘care’ is central? Please describe.

Recent projects brought together Brazilian and French sociologists. In Brazil, University of São Paulo and Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia para Estudos da Metrópole (INCT-CEM) organized an event on care and care workers in 2010, that produced a book. Later, a project on gender and work in Brazil and France also produced an event and a book has recently been published.

In Brazil, there are current researches on care in bioethics, psychology, collective health. President Dilma Rousseff was deposed. The area of Political Science in Brazil is poor in studies and reflections on care. As one of the editors of Revista Brasileira de Ciência Política from 2008 and 2016, I organized a thematic issue on Care in 2015, but it is still an exotic theme for political scientists in Brazil.

12. The aim of the consortium is to further develop care ethics internationally by creating connections between people who are involved in this interdisciplinary field, both in scientific and societal realms. Do you have any recommendations or wishes yourself?

I wish the consortium could help us to build productive collaboration and develop theoretical and empirical researches facing the challenges for a politics of care (a caring democracy, to quote Joan Tronto), for a social ethics of care, in the actual stage of capitalism. Care and gender equality are being affected in different manners, in different parts of the world. I think comparative research and collective efforts to develop theories well informed by diverse experiences and social data are more than welcome and necessary.

Philosophical Laboratory of the Global Age – Labfileglob

CERC participates in the new and stimulating Philosophical Laboratory of the Global Age (Labfileglob) that has just been launched by professor Elena Pulcini, one of the members of the steering committee of CERC.

The members of Labfileglob share a strong interest in the study of the problems and issues related to the main transformations occurring with the global age. Even though the Labfileglob members come from different disciplines, they strongly believe that philosophy could and should contribute to analyzing the urgent challenges produced by globalization.

Labfileglob

This is the reason why Labfileglob aims to develop a critical approach, able to connect the current challenges with the analytical and methodological tools provided by social philosophy. According to this perspective, Labfileglob wants to outline possible remedies to these challenges at the ethical, social and political levels, not by referring to abstract normative principles, but by following an immanent critique enabled by the subjects and resources within the social reality.[pullquote]Labfileglob’s activities also include publications in peer-reviewed journals, collective volumes and monographs hosting its members’ research.[/pullquote]

Such an immanent approach requires reflection on the psycho-anthropological structure of individuals starting from their socio-historical living contexts, in order to further investigate the motivations – especially the emotional ones – and the world images at the root of the individual and social agency. This philosophical approach provides a critical diagnosis of the present grounded on a transformative perspective and inspired by world images so as to develop a utopic and post-ideological emancipatory project.

Theoretical framework

Within this theoretical framework, Labfileglob devotes special attention to the following issues and approaches:

  • analysis of the global challenges and their ethical, affective and psychological effects on subjectivities;
  • critical diagnosis of capitalism as a dynamic form of life that has assumed a global scale, reframing its relationship with politics, nature and society;
  • an anthropological theory of democracy, able to explain the changed relationships between politics, violence, power and domination better than the traditional approaches;
  • relational theory of the subject, inspired by some feminist reflections and gender studies, going beyond the opposition between the modern idea of a sovereign subject and the postmodern idea of the implosion of the subject;
  • reflection on a set of key concepts – such as vulnerability, interdependence, conflict, care, responsibility, sense, imagination and world image – to outline the possible affective, ethical and political remedies for an emancipatory transformation of the present.

Methodological frame

This methodological frame and this thematic focus entail the following requirements:

  • a careful consideration of the most significant classics for a critical diagnosis of the present;
  • new focus on as-yet-unexplored or underestimated theoretical perspectives;
  • open interdisciplinarity, involving sociology, political science, anthropology and psychoanalysis, neurosciences, literature and cinema;
  • a fresh discussion of fundamental concepts of the philosophical theory of modernity in order to verify whether it is obsolete or continues to be valid in the face of the present epochal transformations.

Laboratorio di Filosofia dell’età globale (Labfileglob)

Why we need narratives about suffering in old age

There is a collective aversion when it comes to facing the realities of old age, or so John Harris argued in The Guardian last February. Harris is, of course, not the first to point at a widespread public revulsion of growing old, and the association with loneliness, isolation, powerlessness and uselessness. Nowadays, many of us view a longer life as a mixed blessing. We embrace the so-called vital ‘third age’, but we collectively turn our backs to the frail ‘fourth age’. I believe we should control this tendency and fully face the fourth age including its difficulties.

‘Good’ old age

It is easily understandable that people want to age as healthily, actively and independently as possible. We seek to achieve a ‘good’ old age that is characterised by personal contentment, physical health and social well-being; and these aims underpin most gerontological research. Driven by emancipatory ideals, a great deal of effort is put into counteracting stereotyping and negative framing of old age through promoting an ethos of good and successful ageing.

This somewhat one-sided emphasis on the bright side of ageing makes it more difficult to acknowledge the darker sides of growing old. It leaves us with a sense of a widening gap between the fit and the frail. As well as making it harder for us to take a realistic view of what our own old age might contain, the prospect of increasing dependency, and the decline towards decrepitude and death, it also – and this might be even worse – exacerbates the difficulties we might have in giving proper attention to older people already dealing with this condition.

Despair

A few days after reading Harris’ opinion piece, I also read an interesting article by Chris Gilleard on suffering in old age. In his article, Gilleard goes one step further by making a strong moral plea for addressing the topic of suffering much more explicitly and emphatically in society as well as in ageing studies.

It so happens that this is what (an important part of) my own research is about, namely mapping out the despair of people suffering from life in old age, and I use the word ‘despair’ here with care. By means of in-depth and longitudinal qualitative research, I have been trying to illuminate the lifeworld of those older people who consider their lives to be over and no longer worth living, and consequently ideate on a self-chosen and self-directed death.

Three reasons

My research has convinced me of the need for plain narratives about the nature of suffering in old age for at least three reasons, namely: 1) understanding, 2) recognition and 3) consolation.

First, narratives about sadness and suffering associated with age are very important for enlarging our understanding, both at a personal and societal level: What does the suffering mean for the person involved? How and to what extent is life threatened in their eyes? Andrew Sayer (2011)((Christian Smith (2015) Why Things Matter to People, Journal of Critical Realism, 12:2, 255-259, DOI: 10.1179/rea.12.2.x27354640x0r1417 )) has highlighted the importance of taking people’s concerns seriously, not merely to recognize them as private emotions, but to view them as illuminations of what is happening in our society. What needs to be taken seriously?

In his book, Sayer states: “Needs, desires, suffering and a lack of well-being indicate a state of the world and some aspects of that world that should be changed.” Personal stories should never to be reduced to (or even neglected as) ‘arbitrary, subjective experiences’, but serve as an imperative for an on-going public debate on the place and role of elderly in society.

Secondly, most of the older people with a death wish whom I interviewed over the last few years experienced an enormous loneliness around their difficulties. They often lacked a sense of recognition by others. They had the impression that their close ones (and professional carers) tended to avoid talking about their suffering, let alone about their wish to die. Instead, these individuals – with the best of intentions no doubt – tended to distract their attention by talking about fun things (i.e. nice weather or nice planned outings).

Witness

The deepest wish of my interviewees was, however, not that somebody would respond to their problems by distracting their attention or by trying to ‘solve’ their suffering – often they didn’t even believe that it was possible to solve their suffering. Rather they wished for somebody who just acknowledged their struggles and was willing to encounter their pain and sadness by listening to and connecting with their stories.

Such acknowledgement of their sadness and suffering was often experienced as deeply consoling. I fully agree with Gilleard that serving as a witness of suffering can be seen as a basic for an ethics of human dignity and a call upon social solidarity. If we want to counteract the social neglect, exclusion and/or abjection of the oldest old, we should control the tendency to turn our backs to tragic (often unsolvable) sides of the fourth age and instead pay full attention to struggles that people might experience, suppressing the impulse to immediately dissolve or intervene their pain.

Author: Dr. Els van Wijngaarden

This blog is a re-post. The original reference is: Three reasons why we need narratives about suffering in old age, The Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, 18th Apr 2018. 

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Top Education certificate for Dutch Master Care Ethics and Policy

The Dutch accreditation organization for higher education (NVAO) awarded the master program Care Ethics and Policy of the University of Humanistic Studies the certificate ‘Top Education University 2018’.

Top Education

The master Care Ethics and Policy, at the University for Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, The Netherlands, is unique in the world. Chair professor dr. Carlo Leget and his team are very pleased with this award, that is an expression of appreciation by their students, as the award is chosen by students themselves through an independent, national survey.
Leget:

“It shows that this unique program is aligned with what our students want to learn. Nowadays, students search for both theoretical depth as the possibility to practice empirical research in the everyday practices they are part of. This is what our program focuses upon: we provide and form a community of inquiry of students, their practices, our professors and their courses.  Not just directed at care in hospitals or nursing homes, but also grounded in policy, education, research and social settings like the home and at work. We are extremely proud and grateful that that we received this esteemed Dutch award”.

Master Care Ethics and Policy

The one-year Master Care Ethics and Policy provides students with an interdisciplinary education focused on improving health care, health systems and policy from a care ethical perspective. The master is specifically tailored to the healthcare and social welfare sector, but also includes guest lecturers and examples from other domains where care is at stake. Our program prepares graduates for staff, management and executive positions in hospitals, long-term care, nonprofits, government, scientific and other organizations, as well as positions in consultancy and research.

Our student population is a mixture of professionals with work experience, and of recently graduated students from other universities. The range of professionals varies from professionals working for nonprofits and local municipalities, to board members of elderly care homes, nurses, midwifes, policy advisors, physical therapists and medical doctors.

All lecturers of the program have close ties with care institutions, where they carry out their own research. Through education and research and through advisory councils and ethical committees they are closely involved in the processes and developments in healthcare institutions. Together they form the Care Ethics research group.

Course in English

The first semester course: Introduction to Care Ethics is offered in English. European students can follow this semester with the Exchange program, including four courses from the Master’s program in Humanistic Studies.

Care Ethics Research Consortium

Prof. Carlo Leget launced CERC with prof. dr. Joan Tronto, who received an honorary doctorate from the University of Humanistic Studies in 2014. On the occasion of each lustrum, the University confers honorary doctorates on prominent individuals, both domestic and international, whose work and life have a significant bearing on Humanistic Studies
Read the laudatio from prof.dr. Carlo Leget for prof. dr. Joan Tronto.

Call for abstracts: Ethics in action

EACME annual conference, September 2018 Amsterdam

Ethics in Action

The significance of ethics in clinical practice, education & research

Doing ethics consists of reflecting, reasoning and contributing to a good life: in practice, with practice and for practice. Ethics is about thinking what it means to realize a better practice and which moral competences are needed in order to do so. More and more, doing ethics requires acknowledging different perspectives on what is morally right and justified. Truly meeting other perspectives requires a participatory, systematic and critical dialogue with various stakeholders. Stakeholders are not merely objects of study but are partners in research and contributing to a good life. At this conference we will continue to do so, together with you and other stakeholders.

The Department of Medical Humanities at the VU University Medical Center Amsterdam (VUmc) welcomes you to the 35th conference of the European Association of Centres of Medical Ethics (EACME) in beautiful Amsterdam. In addition, the European Clinical Ethics Network (ECEN) and the Cambridge Consortium on Bioethics Education will organise satellite pre-conference meetings on the 5th of September 2018.

Themes

The conference ‘Ethics in action’ will focus on the following four themes:

  • Towards a further professionalization of Clinical Ethics Support (CES)
  • Rethinking the ethics of ageing and the end of life
  • Chances and challenges of participation and diversity
  • Resilience and recovery in psychiatry

Submission

Interested in sharing your experiences and research at EACME conference 2018 in Amsterdam?
Please submit your abstract form for your oral paper, poster presentation, workshop or panel session (symposia).
To submit your abstract and read further details about this conference please click here.

If you have questions about abstracts you can mail them to: EACME2018@vumc.nl.
Deadline for submission of abstracts is 15th of April, 2018.

www.EACME2018.amsterdam

Vacancy: PhD Student Maastricht

PhD Student “Synthetic embryos: an ethical reflection”. Dept Health, Ethics & Society, Maastricht University, The Netherlands, start between 1 June and 1 September 2018, 48 months, full time

For a PhD-project on the ethics of ‘synthetic embryos’, a vacancy will become available for a PhD student at the Department of Health, Ethics & Society of Maastricht University, the Netherlands. This concerns a full-time 4 year dissertation opportunity for a philosopher/bioethicist. A project description can be acquired from dr Wybo Dondorp, email: w.dondorp@maastrichtuniversity.nl

Background

Recent reports have shown that, under the right conditions, human pluripotent stem cells can form structures that resemble early human embryos. These “synthetic human entities with embryo-like features (SHEEFs)” seem highly useful for studying early human development, but also raise ethical concerns that are relevant for how this emerging field of research should be regulated.

Aims and methods

This project aims to contribute to a robust and sustainable normative framework for creating and using SHEEFs. In addition to contributing to the international debate, an explicit goal of the project is to advice policy makers in the Netherlands on whether the Dutch Embryos Act is sufficiently ‘SHEEFS-proof’. Methods: conceptual analysis, normative analysis, qualitative stakeholder research (focus group discussions).

Funding and collaboration

This project is funded by The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), GROW (School for Oncology & Developmental Biology, Maastricht University) and MERLN (Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine, Maastricht University). Collaborating centers are the Department of Health, Ethics & Society (HES), GROW and MERLN (all Maastricht University), the University Medical Center Utrecht (Department of Medical Humanities)  and the Hubrecht Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem Cell Research (both Utrecht University).

Location and supervision

The PhD student working on this project will be based at the Department of Health, Ethics & Society of Maastricht University, in Maastricht, the Netherlands with regular visits to Utrecht. The project will be supervised by prof dr Guido de Wert and dr Wybo Dondorp (bioethicists, Maastricht University) together with prof dr Annelien Bredenoord (bioethicist, Utrecht University).

Candidate profile

Completed research master in Philosophy or Applied Ethics. Proven interest in bioethical aspects of developmental biology. Experience with qualitative empirical research. Mastery of writing English for publication. Mastery of Dutch will be considered an advantage.

Start: The start date of the project is 1 June 2018.

Terms of employment

The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website www.maastrichtuniversity.nl > staff > index and forms > HR from A-Z.
Temporary employment: 4 years.

Applications

Applications consisting of a motivation letter and CV can be sent until 8 April 2018 to the below postal or email address (on the envelope/in the header please state “Synthetic embryos”). The first interview round will be held on Monday 16 April 2018 in Maastricht.

Maastricht University
Dept of Health Ethics & Society
t.a.v. Angelique Heijnen
Postbus 616
6200 MD Maastricht
00 31 43 3882145 (except on Wednesdays)
a.heijnen@ maastrichtuniversity.nl