Massimiliano Simons is an Assistant Professor in Philosophy of Technology at Maastricht University. He teaches mainly in the BA Digital Society and his research is focused on developments in contemporary technosciences (synthetic biology, robotics, data science), 20th-century French philosophy of science and technology, philosophy of expertise and conspiracy theories, and the history of philosophy of experimentation.
In his work, he mainly focuses on mapping contemporary shifts in scientific practices, especially in newly emerging domains such as synthetic biology, robotics or data science. The main question is in what ways these domains embody a series of shifts in the relationship between science and society, and science and technology. To examine these practices, Simons primarily uses methods within French philosophy of science and science studies. Scientific practices are thus studied from a historical and sociological point of view.
A second way in which these shifts show themselves is in changes in the relationship between science and the public, which shows itself in a changing attitude and appreciation of science in the public debate. Hence Simons' interest in themes of expertise and conspiracy theory that focus on the shifting role of scientific institutions in our society.
Areas of specialization:
- Philosophy of technology, historical epistemology, science studies, History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), philosophy and history of the life sciences, 20th-century French philosophy, philosophy of expertise
Areas of current research:
- 20th century philosophy of science and technology in France and how earlier generations, ranging from Léon Brunschvicg, Gaston Bachelard and Georges Canguilhem have influenced recent scholars such as Michel Serres, Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers. Currently also focusing on interactions with French philosophy of technology, linked with authors such as François Dagognet, Gilbert Simondon, Gilbert Hottois and Bernard Stiegler.
- Contemporary technoscience and the history of technoscience as a concept. What is meant with the term technoscience by authors such as Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway or Gilbert Hottois and can it help us to make sense of new scientific disciplines such as synthetic biology, nanotechnology, robotics or data science? Also a focus on these new technosciences, how they function and what kind of research questions drives them, taking actual projects in synthetic biology and data science as starting point.
After a MA in Philosophy (KU Leuven, 2014) and a MSc in Sociology (KU Leuven, 2015) he started a PhD in philosophy (funded by FWO) at the Institute of Philosophy at the KU Leuven in 2015, under the supervision of Prof. Paul Cortois. He defended his PhD in 2019, entitled "The Raven and the Trojan Horse: Constructing Nature in Synthetic Biology". It focused on the recent emerging discipline of synthetic biology, which aims to understand life by synthesising it in the lab, and how to understand this discipline in the light of constructivist claims in philosophy of science.
From 2019 to 2022 he did an FWO postdoc at Ghent University, under supervision of Prof. Maarten Van Dyck, focusing on the concept of 'technoscience'. The goal was to investigate how the concept is understood by numerous philosophers and sociologists and to confront these conceptions with contemporary technoscientific fields such as synthetic biology and data science.