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Anton van Niekerk


Anton van Niekerk (MA, BTh, DPhil, Lic in Theology) is distinguished professor of Philosophy and director of the Centre for Applied Ethics at Stellenbosch University. He specializes in the fields of Bioethics, Philosophy of Religion and Philosophy of the Human Sciences. He is the course director of the postgraduate programs in applied ethics that are offered by the departement and Centre for Applied Ethics. He is the author, co-author and editor of 20 books and more than 150  peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters. He also written 32 book reviews and more than 170 popular articles. He is rated  by the National Research Foundation of  South Africa as a researcher with considerable international recognition (B2), and has served as convenor for the panel of experts involved in rating researchers in philosophy and political science. He was appointed by the Minister of Health and served as a member of the National Health Research Ethics Council (NHREC), the highest policy making body for research ethics in the country, for three years (2014-2016). In 1980, Van Niekerk was awarded the Chancellor's Medal of Stellenbosch University for the best final year student on campus, having attained all his degrees cum laude. In 1995, he was awarded the Stals Prize for Philosophy by the SA Academy for Science and Arts. He is a founding director and chairperson of the Board of the Ethics Institute of South Africa (EthicsSA). He has been a member of the Ethics Committee of the Medical Research Council (2003-2013) and, from 2007 to 2012, a director of the International Association of Bioethics (IAB). He is also a member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf), as well as a member of ASSAf's committee for biosafety and biosecurity. He is a former President of the Philosophical Society of Southern Africa, a former editor of the South African Journal of Philosophy and a former member of the council of Stellenbosch University. He has delivered 80 papers at international conferences and has supervised 77 completed masters and 26 completed doctoral dissertations. In 2014, he was one of only 20 professors that Stellenbosch University promoted to the rank of distinguished professor. In 2016, Stellenbosch University honoured hom with the Chancellor's Award for a career of research excellence. In 2017 he was formally invited by he university to postpone his retirement (he will be 65 in 2018) for another five years, i.e. until 2023.

See also:



Philosophy of religion (second year level)

Phenomenology and existentialism (third year level)

Philosophy of medicine and medical ethics (second and fifth year level for Faculty of Medicine and Health Care Sciences)


Hermeneutics and the philosophy of the human sciences (honours level)

Introduction to philosophy and ethics (post-graduate diploma level)

Shifts in the contexts of moral reasoning (post-graduate diploma level)

Bioethics (MPhil level)

Ethical theories and bioethics in various other post-graduate programmes (including the post-graduate diploma offered by ARESA at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Care Sciences)

Selected Publications

Journal articles

Van Niekerk, AA. 2017. Reconsidering counselling and consent (with David Hall). Developing World Bioethics, 17 (1): 4-10. Accessible at:

Van Niekerk, AA. 2017. Human life invaluableness: an emerging African biomedical principle (with Francis C.L. Rakotsoane). SA Journal of Philosophy, 36 (2): 252-262. Accessible at:

Van Niekerk, AA. 2017. Targeting mothers and selling men what they do not want: a response to 'Missed opportunities for circumcision of boys'. SA Medical Journal, 107 (4): 28. Accessible at:

Van Niekerk, AA. 2017. A department under siege: how Philosophy at Stellenbosch was split in order to survive. Stellenbosch Journal of Theology, 3, (1): 451-473. Accessible at:

Van Niekerk, AA. 2017. Vriendskap teenoor vyandskap in taalbeplanning vir die Universiteit Stellenbosch: die bydrae van Leon de Stadler. Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus, vol 53. Accessible at: http://doi: 10.5842/53-0-747 [Friendship versus enmity in language planning for Stellenbosch University: the contribution of Leon de Stadler]

Van Niekerk, AA. 2016. Healing without waging war: beyond military metaphors in medicine and HIV care research (with Jing-Bao Nie, Adam Gilbertson, et al.)  The American Journal of Bioethics, Volume 16(6): 3-11. Accesible at:

Van Niekerk, AA. 2016. Non-racism as core value in Bioethics. Ethics, Medicine and Public Health, vol. 2(2), April-June: 263-271. Accessible at:

Van Niekerk, AA. 2016. A response to Penrose's: 'Sandel on enhancement: a response to Van Niekerk'. SA Journal of Philosophy, 35 (3): 164-170. Accessible at:

Van Niekerk, AA. 2016. Reproductive autonomy: a case study (with David Hall). SA Journal of Bioethics and Law, 9 (2): 61-64. Accessible at:

Van Niekerk, AA. 2016. Power and ethics in humanities research: a response to Stolp, (with L Horn, T. Theron, L Swartz & L le Grange. Acta Academica 2: 1-15. Accessible at:

Van Niekerk, AA. 2015. Oor historisme en verstaansraamwerke: hoe beoordeel ons historiese gebeure en agente? LitNet. [On historicism and intterpretation frameworksL how do we judge historical events and agents?]

Van Niekerk, AA. 2014. Moral perspectives on covert research, The South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, 7 (2): 55-58. Accessible on:

​Van Niekerk, AA. 2014. Three ethical issues in the development of public genetic health policies in Africa, The Journal of AIDS and Clinical Research, 5, (12):

Van Niekerk, AA. 2014. Spreke en saamleef: oor korrektheid en waarheid in Suid-Afrika se kultuurpolitieke diskoers. Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe, 54 (4): 726-730.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2014. Biomedical enhancement and the pursuit of mastery and perfection: a critique of the views of Michael Sandel. South African Journal of Philosophy, 33 (2): 155-165. Accesible at:

Van Niekerk, AA & Nortjé, N. 2013. Phronesis and an ethics of responsibility, South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, 6 (1): 28-31.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2012. Biomediese verbetering: maakbaarheid of onttowering?, Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe, 52 (4): 581-595. [Biomedical enhancement: makeability or disenchantment?]

Van Niekerk, AA & Verster, C. 2012. Moral perspectives on stimulant use in healthy students, SA Medical Journal, 102 (12): 909-911.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2011. Deliberating about race as a variable in biomedical research, South African Medical Journal (SAMJ), 101 (4): 248-250.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2011. Understanding theology as understanding, Acta Theologica, Supplementum 14, (Faith, religion and the public university, ed. R Venter): 110-124.

​Van Niekerk, AA, Reid, S & Dawad, S. 2010. Iatrogenic HIV transmission in South Africa: evidence, estimates, and moral perspectives, South African Family Practice, 52 (5): 476-477.

Van Niekerk, AA, Reid, 2009. Injection risks and HIV transmission in the Republic of South Africa, International Journal of STD & AIDS, 20: 816-819.

Van Niekerk, AA & Arnason, G. 2009. Undue fear of inducements in developing countries,  Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 18: 122-129.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2008. Is die sorg om lewenskwaliteit die moeite werd?, Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe, 48 (3): 326-337. [Is the care about quality of life worth the bother?]

Van Niekerk, AA., Sidler, D & Arndt, HR. 2008. Medical futility and end-of-life care, SA Medical Journal, 98 (4), April 2008: 284-286.

Van Niekerk, AA & Kopelman, LO. 2007. Response to GR McLean's review of Ethics and AIDS in Africa: the challenge to our thinking, Developing World Bioethics, 7 (3), 2007: 163-165.

Van Niekerk, 2007. Oor tradisie, hermeneutiek en wetenskap: mistastings in Sakkie Spangenberg se lesing van Geloof sonder sekerhede. Ned. Geref. Teologiese Tydskrif, 48 (3&4), September en Desember: 674-685. [On tradition, hermeneutics and science: mistakes in Sakkie Spangenberg's reading of Faith without certainties]

Van Niekerk, AA & De Roubaix, JAM. 2006. Separation-survivability as moral cut-off point for abortion,  SA Journal of Philosophy, 25(3): 206-223.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2006. Die kennisvraagstuk in wetenskap en geloof, Acta Academica, 38(1), ​April 2006: 30-54. [The knowledge question in science and religion]


​Van Niekerk, AA. 2017. Die dood en die sin van die lewe. Cape Town: Tafelberg, 287 pp. [Death and the meaning of life].

Van Niekerk, AA. 2015. Contributor and member of the National Health Research Ethics Council (NHREC): Ethics in Health Research: Principles, Processes and Structures. (Guidelines for Ethical Health Research). 2nd edition. Pretoria: Dept of Health, Republic of South Africa, 93 pp.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2014. Geloof sonder sekerhede. Hoe glo ek vandag?. [Completely revised second edition] Cape Town: Lux Verbi-BM, 2014, 336 pp. [Faith without certainties. How do we believe today?]

Van Niekerk, AA & Kopelman, LO. 2005 & 2006. Ethics and AIDS in Africa. Cape Town: David Philip, 2005. 222 pp. Republished in the USA by Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, California, 2006.

Van Niekerk, AA. 1992. Rasionaliteit en relativisme. Pretoria: R.G.N., 1992, 246 pp. [Rationality and relativism]

Van Niekerk, AA., Landman, JP & Nel, PR. (eds.) 1988. Wat kom na Apartheid? Johannesburg: Southern Books, 132 pp. [What comes after apartheid?]

Van Niekerk, AA, Esterhuyse, WP & Du Toit, P. (eds.) 1987. Moderne Politieke Ideologieë, (co-editor and -author) Johannesburg: Southern Books, 326 pp. [Modern political ideologies]

Van Niekerk, AA (co-author) 1987. Staatsgesag en Burgerlike Ongehoorsaamheid, (co-editor and –author) Cape Town: Lux Verbi, 79 pp. [State authority and civil disobedience]


Book chapters

Van Niekerk, 2018. Ethics and the biotechnology revolution of our time, in: C Jones (ed.): Justice-based ethics: challenging South African perspectives. Johannesburg: AOSIS. (Forthcoming)

Van Niekerk, AA. 2018. The debate between Rorty and Habermas, in: A Malachowski (ed.): The Cambride Companion to Rorty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Forthcoming

Van Niekerk, AA. 2016. Exploitation in: Henk ten Have (ed.): Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics. Springer Science+Business Media; Dordrecht. Accessible at: http://10.1007/978-3-319-05544-2_187-1.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2016. Sexual ethics, in: Henk ten Have (ed.): Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics. Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Accessible at: http:// 10.1007/978-3-319-05544-2_393-1.

Van Niekerk, AA & Stein, D. 2016. Ethics of Psychopharmacology, in: J. Sadler, W. Fulford & C.W. van Staden (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Psychiatric Ethics,volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2015. Vriendskap en Liefde, in: M Becker, E Brugmans & J Hermens (eds.): Rondom vriendschap: Filosofische Beschouwingen. Opstellen aangeboden aan Paul van Tongeren. Zoetermeer: Klement: pp. 33-46. [Friendship and (erotic) love]

Van Niekerk, 2013. AA. Disability and biomedical enhancement: conflict or co-existence?, in: L Swartz, J Claassen & LD Hansen (eds.): Searching for dignity: conversations on human dignity, theology and disability. Stellenbosch: Conference-RAP (Sun MeDIA): 103-116.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2013. Pragmatism and religion. In: Alan Malachowski (ed.): The Cambridge Companion to Pragmatism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 300-323.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2013. South African Bioethics, in H. ten Have & B Gordijn: Handbook of Global Bioethics. Amsterdam: Springer: 1475-1493.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2012. Op soek na identiteit – Die taaldebat op Stellenbosch, in: H Ester, CN van der Merwe en  E  Mulder (reds.): Woordeloos tot verhaal: Trauma en narratief in Nederlands en Afrikaans. Stellenbosch: Sun Press, 2012: 215-229.  [In search of identity in the aftermath of the trauma of the Stellenbosch language debate]

Van Niekerk, AA. & Benatar, SR. 2011. The social functions of bioethics in South Africa. In: Catherine Myser (ed.): Bioethics around the globe. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 134-151

Van Niekerk, AA. 2011. Ethics and philosophy. In: K Moodley (ed.): Medical Ethics, Law and Human Rights. Pretoria: Van Schaik: 7-18.

Van Niekerk, AA. 2011. Ethics theories and the principlist approach in bioethics. In: K Moodley (ed.): Medical Ethics, Law and Human Rights. Pretoria: Van Schaik: 19-40.

Van Niekerk, AA & Van Rinsum, H. 2008. Health, culture, knowledge and society: in- and exclusion. In: A Vermeer &H Tempelman (eds.): Health care in rural South Africa: an innovative approach (Third revised and extended edition). Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit (VU) University Press: 515-524.

Van Niekerk, AA, Whiteside, A, Barnett, T & George, G. 2006. Through a glass, darkly: data and uncertainty in the AIDS debate, in B. Bennett: Health, Rights and Globalisation, Aldershot: Ashgate. (part of series edited by M.D. Freeman: The International Library of Medicine, Ethics and Law): 65-92.