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Philosophy, Ethics and Politics of Artificial Intelligence


Admission requirements

Students need to be registered for the minor AI and Society to follow this course.
This course is to be taken in parallel with the other foundational course in the minor: Fundamentals of AI.
Students of all faculties can register for the minor.


This course is an interdisciplinary introduction to the philosophical, ethical, and political dimensions of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

We will build an understanding of the project of Artificial Intelligence and how building machines that “show intelligent behaviour” raises fundamental questions about knowledge and intelligence, what it is that makes us human, what we consider to be good, and questions of power and distribution of resources. This course will focus on the more conceptual fundamentals and how these are connected to transformation of how we perceive the world, what is possible and what is desirable. What is intelligent behavior? Can a machine think? What is the relationship between human understanding and behaviour and the tools that we build? How does our development, use and thinking about AI transform societal infrastructures such as law, markets and democracy?

This course will cover topics such as the following:

  • History of AI

  • Philosophical underpinnings of the project of AI

  • Philosophy of mind and AI: Consciousness and Intelligence

  • Existential risk and AI: artificial general intelligence and singularity

  • Ethical considerations around AI, such as * How AI mediates human values * Machine Learning and bias * (Human) Autonomy and AI * Responsibility and AI: accountability, transparency

  • Human-Machine interactions: Psychological and Anthropological perspectives on AI

  • Technology and society: artifacts have politics, social impacts of automation

  • Power structures and AI: who controls and decides about the use of AI?

This is a new course for the academic year 2023-2024 and details are to be confirmed.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The course Philosophy, Ethics and Politics of AI has four main objectives:

  • To develop a common frame of reference and terminology for AI for the students of the minor program

  • To develop basic knowledge and understanding of the history, philosophy and ethics of AI

  • To provide a fundamental understanding of the project of AI and vocabulary for critical reflection on AI in Society (throughout the minor)

  • To let students from different backgrounds actively share their perspectives on the role of AI in society

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

By the end of the course, students will have gained a fundamental understanding of the main philosophical, ethical, and political dimensions of AI, and will be equipped with the conceptual and critical thinking skills necessary to engage with these issues in the rest of the minor, and to connect the issues discussed to their major program.


Check MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

This is a new course for the academic year 2023-2024 and details are to be confirmed.

Throughout the course, we will draw upon readings at the intersection of a variety of disciplines, including philosophy and ethics, science and technology studies, computer science, anthropology, history, political studies etc.

Part of the course is dedicated to active reading of the book "Atlas of AI" by Kate Crawford, and class discussions prepared by the students. The book provides a foundation for exploring the ways in which AI is shaping our world, and the ethical, political, and social considerations that come with its development and deployment. Students will be encouraged to think critically about the arguments presented in the book, and to develop their own perspectives on the issues raised.

Attendance and participation is required.


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 6

  • Names of lecturers: Dr. Francien Dechesne, lecturers from Social Sciences, Humanities and Computer Science

  • Required preparation by students: selected topical readings for each session, write short reflections on the readings for class discussion.


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 4

  • Names of instructors: Francien Dechesne, TBA

  • Required preparation by students: reading the book Atlas of AI by Kate Crawford, prepare debate questions in groups

Other methods of instruction

  • Description: Course wrap-up and exam preparation session

  • Number of (2 hour) instructions: 1

  • Names of instructors: Francien Dechesne

  • Required preparation by students: prepare questions about the exam materials

Assessment method

This is a new course for the academic year 2023-2024 and details are to be confirmed.

Examination form(s)

  • Reflective journal (20%)

  • Group assignment for the debate sessions (20%)

  • Written exam (60%)

Please note that all subjects are mandatory to pass the course and that it is possible to compensate the individual parts. It is not possible to retake the group assignment. The obtained grades will expire after this academic year if the course has not been completed.

Submission procedures

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • Kate Crawford, Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence, 2021. Yale University Press

  • Selected readings to be specified via Brightspace.

Recommended course materials

Some recommended fiction for nice discussions (but make sure to bring your own suggestions as well!):

  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun (2022)

  • Dave Eggers, The Circle (2013) and The Every (2021)

  • Ian McEwan, Machines Like Me (2019)

  • Series: Black Mirror (Netflix)

  • Movie: Stanley Kubrick, 2001 A Space Odyssee

  • Movie: Minority Report (2002)


Registration for courses and exams takes place via MyStudymap. If you do not have access to MyStudymap (guest students), look here (under the Law-tab) for more information on the registration procedure in your situation.


  • Coordinator: Francien Dechesne

  • Work address: KOG, Steenschuur 25

  • Contact information: via the communication platform of the minor

  • Telephone number: 071-5277608

  • Email:


  • Institute: Metajuridica

  • Department: eLaw

  • Telephone number secretary: 071- 527 8838

  • Email:


This course is a central element of the interdisciplinary minor on AI and Society. At the time of writing of this course description, the first run of this new minor is still ongoing. Details may be adjusted on the basis of the evaluation of the first complete run.