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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.

  • 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:

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


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Mid-term essay (2,000 words)

  • Final essay (2,500 words)

Attendance is required – without sufficient attendance students will be excluded from submitting a final paper.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the two subtests (midterm essay, final essay):

  • Midterm essay (30%)

  • Final essay (70%)


The resit will consist of a written final essay of 4,500 words (100%). No separate resits will be offered for mid-term or final tests. The mark will replace all previously earned marks for subtests.
Attendance is required – without sufficient attendance students will be excluded from taking the resit.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examinations 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.

Reading list

The reading list will be posted on Brightspace.


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.