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Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and who have also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including Political Philosophy.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.


Metaethics concerns the most fundamental philosophical questions that are raised by reflection on ethics. Thus, whereas ethicists ask questions such as ‘how should one live?’ and ‘what should I do?’, metaethics ask questions like ‘what do moral judgments mean?’ (moral semantics), ‘are there moral truths?’ (moral metaphysics) and ‘how do we gain moral knowledge?’ (moral epistemology). In this course, we study a number of core texts in metaethics and we discuss and assess the most important metaethical theories that are currently discussed in the literature, such as emotivism, expressivism, naturalist and non-naturalist realism, and the error theory.

Course objectives

This course aims to:

  • give students an overview of and introduction to the metaphysical, epistemological and semantic questions that we can ask about ethics;

  • introduce students to a number of central (historical and contemporary) primary texts in metaethics;

  • train students to analyse primary texts and to write compelling, argumentative papers in metaethics.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the most important theories in metaethics, including but not limited to emotivism, expressivism, naturalist and non-naturalist realism, and the error theory;

  • the strengths and weakness of each of these theories.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • recognize these theories in primary texts;

  • form a considered judgment about these these theories and other issues in metaethics and to defend their position with valid and compelling arguments.


The timetable is available on the following websites:

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending seminars (13 x 3 hours): 39 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 181 hours

  • Writing papers: 60 hours

Assessment method


  • Midterm essay (2,000 words)

  • Final essay (2,500 words)


  • Midterm essay (30%)

  • Final essay (70%)

The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the two subtests.


The resit consists of one examination for all parts at once (100%), consisting of an essay of 4,500 words. The mark for the resit will replace all previously earned marks for subtests. No separate resits will be offered for subtest. Class participation is required for taking the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • posting texts and other documents (syllabus, etc.)

  • announcements

Reading list

The reading list will be posted on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. W.F. Kalf


Not applicable.