Etienne Vermeersch

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Etienne Vermeersch
Etienne Vermeersch 675.jpg
Vermeersch in 2015
Etienne Vermeersch

(1934-05-02)2 May 1934
Died18 January 2019(2019-01-18) (aged 84)
Ghent, Belgium
Alma materGhent University
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern Philosophy
InstitutionsGhent University
Main interests
Philosophy of science, Bioethics, Environmental philosophy, Moral philosophy, Cultural philosophy

Etienne Vermeersch (2 May 1934, Sint-Michiels, Bruges – 18 January 2019, Ghent) was a Belgian moral philosopher, skeptic, opinion maker and debater. He is one of the founding fathers of the abortion and euthanasia law in Belgium. He is also former Vice-Rector of Ghent University.

Vermeersch became an atheist after five years with the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Later he became a philosophical materialist. In the 1990s there was some commotion in the Belgian media when Vermeersch wrote a rational-scientific article entitled "Why the Christian God cannot exist".

In January 2008, Vermeersch was chosen by hundred prominent Flemings as the most influential intellectual of Flanders.[1]

He died in a hospital in Ghent on 18 January 2019 by euthanasia after a long illness.[2]


Etienne Vermeersch had an MA in classical philology and in philosophy. In 1965 he obtained his PhD on the philosophical implications of information theory and cybernetics at Ghent University, Belgium. He became a professor at Ghent University in 1967 and taught introductory courses in philosophy and in the philosophy of science, as well as courses in 20th-century philosophy and in philosophical anthropology.

He worked on the foundations of the social sciences, on the philosophical aspects of research into informatics, on artificial intelligence, and on general social and ethical problems, mainly with regard to bioethics, environmental philosophy, and cultural philosophy.

He was a vice-rector at Ghent University from 1993 until 1997. He was, among others, a member of the Flemish Board for Scientific Policy, of the governmental board of the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology, of the Environmental Board of Flanders, and of the Federal Board for Scientific Policy. He was also president of the Advisory Committee of Bioethics.

Etienne Vermeersch published about 80 articles, about 10 lemmas in the (Flemish) Encyclopaedia of World Literature, many op-ed articles in newspapers and journals, three syllabi, and six books, among which An Epistemological Introduction to the Science of Man (1967), Current Philosophy (1970), and the bestseller The Panda's Eyes: An Environmentally Philosophical Essay (1988). At his retirement the book From Antigone to Dolly (1997) was published, an edited volume containing articles spanning his entire career.

Professor Vermeersch was also a major Belgian skeptic. He was a founding member of SKEPP ('Research Society for Critical Evaluation of Pseudoscience and the Paranormal'). He lectured and published on this topic for more than 40 years.

Vermeersch considered the overpopulation of the earth as the most profound problem in the world and related it to the problem of overconsumption. He supported the human birth control of Taiwan since 1967 and later Thailand.[3]

In the beginning of January 2005 he survived a second heart attack. He remained active as a prominent intellectual in Belgium and the Netherlands.

When he died he was widely seen as one of Belgium's most influential philosophers.


  1. ^ "De grootste intellectuelen van Vlaanderen". Knack (in Dutch). 22 January 2008. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012.
  2. ^ Filosoof, ethicus en opiniemaker Etienne Vermeersch overleden
  3. ^ "Wanhopig op weg naar 10 miljard". De Morgen (in Dutch). 12 March 2011.

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