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Understanding causation in virtual reality

Explore more about how objects causally interact in virtual worlds

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CIVIS focus area
Digital and Technological transformation
Open to
  • Master's
  • Phd
Field of studies
  • Computer Science and IT
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Social Science and humanities
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
18 March- 17 May 2024

This Blended Intensive Programme aims to provide the CIVIS students with the necessary thinking abilities for understanding the nature of virtual reality, for acting responsibly in VR, for identifying how to integrate this technology into our everyday lives. VR/AR devices have a wide range of applications in multiple fields, such as healthcare, education and psychology, and they raise many philosophical questions that address the nature of the worlds we experience in VR, the way we learn and how we relate to others in VR.

The aim of this blended intensive program is to explore ways of understanding causality in VR – the way objects interact with one another and the role of causality in how we relate to virtual worlds. Causality is essential in our understanding of both physical and virtual reality, it influences debates on action, agency, and user responses in VR. Causal perception is very important for understanding user interaction and the experiences users have in VR. However, there is little work in the literature dedicated to it. We will focus on how the questions raised by VR bear on debates in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of perception, philosophy of technology, and philosophy of mind. The main outcome of the program will be a better understanding of the nature of our experiences in VR and the mechanisms that drive them.

Main topics addressed

  • Metaphysics of VR
  • Ethics of cognitive technology / Ethics in the Virtual World
  • Epistemology of VR
  • Social dynamics in VR
  • Counterfactual reasoning
  • Action and morality in VR 
  • The role of VR in teaching-learning processes
  • Design stance in VR
  • Rule-governed behavior in VR

Learning outcomes

The Blended Intensive Programme will give the students the chance to deepen their knowledge about the nature of virtual reality in order to access further studies and to improve their analytical abilities. This will allow them to adopt a strongly trans-disciplinary point of view on the most influential theories and research areas in Virtual Reality and its uses in multiple fields, such as psychology, cognitive science and philosophy.

In terms of professional competencies and skills, the Blended Intensive Programme offers students the opportunity to understand, reflect and act upon VR devices and applications. In this respect, professors and trainers will introduce the students to the latest concepts, theories, principles and fundamental methods of research in VR. This Blended Intensive Programme give to students a valuable preparation for careers in VR-related fields. 

In a nutshell, by attending the course students will enhance their skills/compertencies such as:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Reflection upon digital humanities
  • Engagement with cognitive-scientific, philosophical and VR literature
  • The ability to discuss digital and virtual reality
  • Writing skills
Dates: 18 March - 17 May 2024 Language: English (B2)
Location: Bucharest, Romania ECTS: 6*
Format: Blended Workload: 170 hours

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university. 

Physical mobility

The physical mobility part will be running from 25 to 29 March 2024 in Bucharest, Romania.

We envision that the physical part of the course will consist in five full days of courses (comprising lectures and seminars) that will take place at the University of Bucharest, Romania. 

Virtual part

The virtual part will be running from 18 March to 17 May 2024 .

The virtual component of this course will consist in 25 hours of lectures delivered online (synchronous) and meetings that will take place a week before the physical part of the course in Bucharest. In addition to the forementioned, the professors will also offer online supervision based on individual meetings with the students, when necessary. The online lectures will be delivered by professors and scholars from University of Bucharest and CIVIS partner universities.


This course is open to Master's and PhD students at CIVIS member universities enrolled in the following fields of study: Healthcare, Education, Cognitive science, Philosophy, Psychology, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Philosophy of Technology, or any other fields related.

The students should be proficient in English. A level B2 in English is required. 

It is also recommended (but not mandatory) that students have already taken an introductory course in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind or philosophy of technology.

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

Application process

Interested students should apply by filling in the online application form by 7 November 2023. 

Students will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • CV
  • Motivation letter
  • Level of English- according to CEFR
  • Fit of student research interests with the course and the instructors
  • Feasibility of pursuing the course (schedule, workload, etc.)

Apply here


As far as the assessment of the course the following are foreseen:

  • A seminar activity (asking questions, contributing to the conversation)
  • An essay writing
  • A final exam

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

Mircea Dumitru - Vice-President of the Romanian Academy & Head of the Philosophy Doctoral School, University of Bucharest

Reinhard Kahle - Prof. Dr., Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker-Stiftungsprofessor für Theorie und Geschichte der Wissenschaften, University of Tübingen

Constantin Stoenescu - Director of the Department for Theoretical Philosophy, University of Bucharest

Neil McDonnell - Professor of Philosophy, Chair of the ARC XR Operations board within the University's Muzumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre, and Principal Investigator of the Scoping Extended Educational Realities (SEER) research group, and the Levelling Up Innovation Accelerator project Museums in the Metaverse, University of Glasgow

Annalisa Cusi - Associate Professor, Dipartimento di Matematica, Sapienza Università di Roma

Mircea Tobosaru - Associate Professor, Department for Instructor Formation, Polytechnic University of Bucharest

Andrei Marasoiu - Vice-Chair of the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest

Micah Thomas Pimaro, Jr. - Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Calabar, Nigeria

Andreea Popescu - Postodoc in Philosophy, Research Institute (ICUB), University of Bucharest  

Daniel Raffini - Postdoc, Dipartimento di Ingegneria Informatica Automatica e Gestionale & Dipartimento di Lettere e culture moderne, Sapienza Università di Roma

Alexandru Dragomir - Scholar in Residence, Research Institute (ICUB), University of Bucharest