Ethics and Philosophy

Its usefulness and necessity for education and research

Paul Vader, editor HZ Discovery

Similar to other universities of applied sciences, HZ is setting up an advisory committee that will assess applied research against ethical standards and integrity. In addition, the Minor Philosophy has delivered satisfied students who immersed themselves in the most important philosophical movements for ten years. This raises questions as why is an ethics advisory committee would be necessary and for which students would it make sense to become proficient in ethics and philosophy? HZ Discovery is looking for the answers.

Kees Bal of the Education Department is establishing an ethical advisory committee. HZ is obliged to do so through the code of conduct for scientific integrity that was adopted in 2018 by all public research bodies in the Netherlands.

The ultimate goal of the code of conduct is that integrity becomes the guiding principle in the reseacher’s thinking and acting. Kees: “We see the Ethics Advisory Committee as an instrument to achieve this goal. It will not only perform an ethical review on research proposals, but also advise on questions researchers may have.”

This functioning as an ‘ethics counter’ makes the ethics committee an accessible sparring partner in addition to an independent jury. “The work of the advisory committee will strengthen the ethical feeling of the researchers", Kees expects. “And the students will also come in touch with it through the researchers”, is his conviction.

It is not exactly known how the committee will set out to work and who will take part in it, but it is expected that the first proposals will be assessed by the committee this year on the basis of a checklist that has yet to be drawn up. The proposal that Kees has drawn up with several colleagues hopes the committee’s work will lead to increased ethical awareness at HZ. This also fits in well with HZ’s ambition to train students for a better world.

Flexible thinkers

Vincent de Rooij and Bram Vercruijsse have been working on this ethical and philosophical awareness for some time. They are both passionate advocates for the Philosophy Minor. Together they teach the minor, which has been taught for ten years. “We deliver professionals who can think flexibly in future situations”, Vincent de Rooij explains when asked what the benefit of philosophy is for an HBO student. “They learn to look at the world critically, to wonder and to ask questions. They may also answer questions, but that is not the most important part.”

He emphasizes that the asking of philosophical questions is structured according to fixed methodologies: “It is not just a chat in space. We offer the students all kinds of techniques, such as the Socratic conversation.”

The most important philosophical movements and theories are related to the study programmes of the participating students.

Dialogue

In theory, the minor is accessible to students from all study programmes, but in practice it is mainly students from the health and education domain who enrol. The engineering students are completely absent. Bram Vercruijsse regrets this, as he is affiliated with the Water Management study programme. “Technology offers a rich range of philosophical questions and perspectives. In ICT you can talk about the influence of ‘deep-fake’ and in architecture you can talk about the background of the different building styles. The students discuss these questions together and learn from each other’s fields of expertise. Some technology students would therefore enrich and broaden the minor.”

Personal enrichment

Mads Mohnen (pabo) and Anisha Hanuman (social work) have just completed the minor and are enthusiastic about what they have learned. Mads: “I have come to insights that I would never have achieved on my own. I feel like my personality has broadened.”

Anisha adds that in addition to personal development, she has also benefited professionally from the minor: “Through dialogue instead of opposition with others, you learn to understand the other person better, which is important for my profession.”

They also regret that no technology students took part. They suspect that many students believe that philosophy is vague and that it is of no use to them in their future work. And that, according to Mads, is not true. “Everyone will work in the social context of an organisation, large or small, including the technical people. The insights and conversation techniques you gain in the minor help you deal better with the dynamics of that context.”

Nevertheless, the minor is not suitable for every student, admits Bram Vercruijsse. “You must like to read. The students study a lot and keep everything in their portfolio. It is a lot of work, but they come out differently than when they started.”