Dr T.E. Swierstra (1960) has been named professor by special appointment of Philosophy and Ethics in the Life Sciences, from a Humanistic Perspective, at the University of Amsterdam's (UvA) Faculty of Science. The chair was designated on behalf of the Socrates Foundation.
Tsjalling Edsger Swierstra studies the way in which ethical and political beliefs influence scientific and technological research, and how science and technology change our moral values, philosophies and political beliefs. How do we go about analysing, evaluating and anticipating this dynamic interaction between science and technology on the one hand, and ethics and politics on the other? Swierstra regards humanism as both a source of inspiration and a challenge. On the one hand, it serves as a source of inspiration: humanists regard morals and politics as the product of human resourcefulness, and thus the subject of learning processes and revisions. Science and technology are dynamic forces that continually challenge the status quo. In order to influence the development of science and technology, our moral framework must learn to be dynamic. On the other hand, humanism also poses a challenge, as it requires continual reassessment in the light of the new life sciences. If human nature itself becomes malleable as a result of technology, to what extent can it continue to serve as the basis for humanism?
Swierstra studied philosophy and political science at the University of Amsterdam. He obtained his doctorate in Groningen in 1998 based on a dissertation on the relationship between ethics, politics, science and technology. He has held a position at Twente University's Philosophy group since 1996, where he heads the ‘Ethics and Politics of Emerging Technologies' research programme in his capacity as senior university lecturer. The majority of his publications focus on public opinion trends with regard to developments in the life sciences and nanotechnology. In addition to the philosophy of technology, Swierstra also regularly publishes articles on social issues, such as the drawbacks of the ideal of freedom of choice, the need for a civilisation offensive, the developments underlying social polarisation, or the meritocratisation of society