Metaethics: Moral Objectivity 2023

The Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW) and Leiden University invite PhD candidates and Research Master students in philosophy to register for the course Metaethics: Moral Objectivity to take place in Oct-Dec 2023.

Organizing university

Leiden University


Oct 20, 27, Nov 10, 17, 24 and Dec 1, 15, 2023. Time: 14:00-17:00


P.J. Veth building, Leiden University

Type of activity

PhD course

Primary target group

PhD candidates and 2nd year Research Master students.

If places available, also open to

Master students. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to to be put on a waiting list. You will be notified asap if you can register and join the course.

Application/registration deadline

The deadline for registration is on September 15, 2023.

About the topic

This is a course on moral objectivity; roughly, the idea that moral judgments are true or correct, if they are, independently of what (individual) agents may think about their truth or correctness. We explore how the notion of moral objectivity shapes the landscape of contemporary metaethical theories, we study the various ways in which some of these theories understand the objectivity of morals, and we assess these theories’ strengths and weaknesses. The theories that we discuss in detail are: realism, expressivism, Kantian and contractarian constructivism, relativism and the error theory. We study, among other ideas, moral objectivity as standpoint-independence (realism), as standpoint-invariance (constructivism), as a major source of the sceptical claim that morality is a myth (error theory) and as not even a desideratum for moral judgments to begin with (relativism).

Aim / objective

Students who successfully complete this course can:

  • understand the notion of moral objectivity and the (important) role that it plays in contemporary metaethical theories;
  • describe the following metaethical theories, including their strengths and weaknesses: realism, expressivism, Kantian and contractarian constructivism, relativism and the error theory;
  • explain how these theories understand moral objectivity;
  • formulate their own views on (some of) these theories and on moral objectivity in a written paper and in an oral presentation.


The program below is provisional.

Session 1A: The landscape of contemporary metaethics & What is the objectivity of morals?

Session 1B: Moral realism and the objectivity of ethics

Session 2: Expressivism

Session 3: Kantian Constructivism

Session 4: Contractarian Constructivism

Session 5: Moral Relativism

Session 6: Moral Error Theory

Session 7: Presentations



Key note speakers

Sebastian Köhler

Required preparations

Students are required to attend all classes, to do the required readings before coming to class, to actively participate in class, to write a final paper and to give a presentation on their final paper on the last day of the course.

Certificate / credit points

For this activity PhD students and ReMa students can – after successful completion – earn a certificate. However, the OZSW is not accredited to reward students with credits/ECTS directly. The study load is mentioned on the certificate, which can usually be exchanged for ‘real’ credits (ECTS) at your home university. For more info please see

The study load for this activity is as follows: 3 ECTS.
1. Attending the course and writing a short paper (3,000 words, excluding bibliography) after the course (submission deadline: 31 December 2021): 2 EC. Papers are not graded but assessed by the organisers (Kalf and Verbeek) as follows: sufficient or insufficient.
2. Simple attendance, including preparation by reading the assigned literature and participation in the discussions: 1 EC.


Coffee and tea included, as well as lunch on the first day.

Attendance is free for

Attendance is 300 euros for all others.

How to apply / register

You can register through this registration form.

If registration has been closed because the maximum amount of participants has been reached, you can submit your name to the waiting list by sending an email to Please also indicate whether you are a ReMa student or PhD candidate and whether you are a member of the OZSW or not.

Cancellation and registration policy


Wouter Kalf & Bruno Verbeek (Leiden University)

Information about the course:
Information about registration and ECTS certificate: