Zurich: 4-year PhD Position: Meaning In Life in the Digital Society

Deadline: May 20, 2024

We invite applications for a 4-year PhD position at the University of Zurich, Switzerland (80%), to work on the project

Meaning in Life in the Digital Society

funded by the Digital Society Initiative (DSI). As a PhD student you will be part of the Digital Society Initiative and the Philosophy Department at the University of Zurich. You will be supervised by Muriel Leuenberger, PhD (Digital Society Initiative, University of Zurich) and Prof. Christoph Halbig (Chair of General Ethics, Department of Philosophy, University of Zurich).


About the project

This research project investigates the risks and opportunities presented by virtual reality technology (VR) and generative AI (GenAI) for meaning in life. In the last four decades, philosophers have increasingly emphasized that, contrary to a widely held philosophical position, humans are not only motivated either by self-interest or moral demands but additionally, by a pursuit of meaning in life. Digital technologies such as VR and GenAI may contribute to a meaningful life or make our lives less meaningful. However, the conceptual and normative issues around meaning in life in the digital society have been widely neglected so far. The project addresses this research gap and provides a conceptual and normative analysis of how VR and GenAI contribute to or disrupt meaning in life. The research project focuses on the impact of VR and GenAI on meaning we may achieve through relationships, creating art, and playing games. The PhD student is free to develop their own research project within the topic area of meaning in life through art and games, either in the field of general ethics (e.g., do games contribute to a meaningful life?) or applied to digital technologies (e.g., is creating art with generative AI meaningful?).         
Your responsibilities
Write a PhD thesis under supervision of Prof. Halbig and Dr. Leuenberger.
Collaborate with team members and other researchers and institutions.
Participate in international conferences and public outreach activities.
Actively contribute to the research environment at the DSI and the Department of Philosophy.
Your profile
You are a creative and motivated researcher with a master's degree (or equivalent) in Philosophy. A specialization relevant to the project (philosophy of technology, aesthetics, philosophy of games, or meaning in life) is not required but welcome.


Excellent academic record (as shown by a list of master level grades and, potentially, academic work experience or academic publications).
Ability to conduct independent and original research.
Willingness for disciplinary and interdisciplinary collaboration.
Sufficient command of English to conduct research and other activities listed above, knowledge of German is desirable.

What we offer

Four-year PhD funding with competitive pay rates (based on SNSF standards).
Opportunity to apply to the DSI PhD Excellence Program: a highly successful PhD program with graduates at top-rated institutions worldwide.
An excellent opportunity to develop academic qualifications and gain credentials and experience in general and applied ethics.

Strong support for your personal development and career planning.

Opportunity to contribute to planned collaborative projects with the Immersive Arts Spaces at the Zurich University of the Arts and the Future of Work Virtual Reality Lab of the University of Zurich.

An attractive work environment: the University of Zurich is one of Switzerland's leading universities in the middle of a vibrant, cosmopolitan city that regularly ranks as one of the cities with the highest quality of life in the world.
Start of employment and application
Employment start August 1, 2024. 

Please submit your application containing your CV, academic records, a writing sample (e.g., a section of your master thesis or a publication) and a short letter of motivation (max. 2 pages A4) by May 20, 2024 via https://jobs.uzh.ch/offene-stellen/phd-student-position-meaning-in-life-in-the-digital-society/edcd7d48-203e-43fe-8c2e-19801d618046