Philosophical Internship

Faculty: ESPhil
Educational theme: Student competences
Project lead: Reindert Engwerda
Faculty Liaison: Liesbeth Noordegraaf-Eelens
Duration: September 2020 - December 2022
Status: Running


Philosophy students address wicked problems or the causes of ‘wickedness’ - a disagreement on values or goals, and uncertainty of knowledge - on a daily basis. They possess philosophical knowledge and skills with which wicked, societal problems can be identified, analysed, and restructured. Such knowledge and skills are of good use in a societal context, where challenges are often complex and uncertain.

To use their knowledge and skills to make a societal impact, students need to interact and cooperate with the outside world so they can develop a variety of professional, practical and communicative skills. ESPhil challenges its students to contribute to society by using their philosophical knowledge and skills outside the academy. By doing so, students learn how to make an impact while contributing to possible solutions for wicked problems with their philosophical perspective.  


The project consists of two educational programmes: a philosophical internship in Bachelor 3 in which students work on a wicked problem of an organization, and a preparatory course in which students work towards their development as what could be called an impact-driven philosopher or ‘philosophical professional’. The internship focuses on identifying, analyzing and restructuring a wicked problem of an organization and, in a response to this problem, developing a philosophical intervention in collaboration with the stakeholder. During the internship, students work on their personal development and impact skills. This happens in close and intense collaboration with peer-students in workshops and reflection sessions. The preparatory course will prepare them for their internship and focuses on personal and professional development of students. In this project-based course, students organize their own development by setting personal goals and following workshops which enable them to make impact during their internship.

A good example of an internship is that of a philosophy student who worked at the Police Department. In this environment, people encounter complex and recurrent issues such as undermining, ethnic profiling and neighborhood degradation as a result of criminal activities. The student analyzed one of these issues, thereby distinguishing current underlying assumptions in police actions and policies. The student questioned these assumptions, ‘shaked them up’ as it were, reformulated the issue and distinguished various new focal points using different philosophical perspectives. In the end, not only did the student write down the analysis and reformulation of the issue ‘passively' in a report; he ‘actively’ translated the findings into a workshop. With such an intervention, the student engaged with - and partly tackled - a complex issue.

The philosophical internship focuses on learning activities inside and out the academy which help students to develop their professional identity and work towards learning the skills necessary to fulfill their ambitions.

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