Postdoc position in Ethics/Practical Philosophy (1.0 FTE, 3 years)

Hours per week: 
38 to 40
Faculty of Humanities
departement Filosofie en Religiewetenschap
Application deadline: 
1 April 2020

Job description

The position is part of the research project The Enemy of the Good. Towards a Theory of Moral Progress (PI: Hanno Sauer) funded by the European Research Commission (ERC Starting Grant 851043, PROGRESS). The successful candidate will be part of the Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies and the Ethics Institute.

The aim of the project is to develop a conceptually rigorous, empirically informed and normatively sophisticated theory of moral progress. The Postdoc will be in charge of fleshing out an empirically supported and philosophically significant assessment of the social and individual conditions that hinder or promote moral progress, investigate whether and which of these conditions obtain or whether and how they can be promoted, and identify suitable social institutions in order to sustain progressive developments in the direction of moral improvement. When it comes to lasting moral change for the better, individual psychologies seem too frail and susceptible to situational forces to be left to their own devices. Moral attitudes require institutional support. Institutions can be put to use both for promoting moral progress as well as for blocking moral regress. Moral regress happens when illegitimate forms of exclusion are reinstalled, when neutral traits or actions become re-moralized, or when vulnerable people are singled out for ostracism and dehumanization. One of the main tasks of political philosophy should be to look at institutions from this perspective. Moral progress, then, happens when institutions facilitate improvements in people’s well-being through cooperative efforts and in ways that are accessible to all. This project will suggest various ways for building institutions to sustain robust moral progress, and sketch the institutional profile of social practices suitable to stabilize various progressive moral gains. The Postdoc will deal with these questions, and establish interdisciplinary links between debates in evolutionary psychology, political philosophy and meta ethics.

Tasks include:

  • research on the respective subproject of PROGRESS;
  • publication of journal articles in high-profile venues;
  • (co)organization of workshops and conferences on the project’s themes;
  • dissemination of project results at scientific events and other outlets.


  • an excellent PhD degree (prior to appointment) in Philosophy with a demonstrable research specialization in ethics (broadly construed: ethics, meta ethics, moral psychology or political philosophy); 
  • a strong research track record (publications in international top journals and talks at international research events) in ethics/practical philosophy; 
  • good organizational skills; 
  • excellent command of English.


We offer a position (1.0 FTE) for a total of three years. Initially the contract will be for one year. In case of good performance and a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining two years. The gross salary - depending on previous qualifications and experience  - ranges between €3,389 and €4,274 (scale 10 according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.

About the organisation

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Faculty of Humanities has around 6,000 students and 900 staff members. It comprises four knowledge domains: Philosophy and Religious Studies, History and Art History, Media and Culture Studies, and Languages, Literature and Communication. With its research and education in these fields, the Faculty aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Netherlands and Europe in a rapidly changing social and cultural context. The enthusiastic and committed colleagues and the excellent amenities in the historical city center of Utrecht, where the Faculty is housed, contribute to an inspiring working environment.

Additional information

For additional information about the project, please contact Hanno Sauer, via and/or see the project website. Starting date is 1 September 2020 (negotiable).


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the ‘apply’ button below.

Applications should contain the following documents/information: 

(1) a cover letter;
(2) a curriculum vitae, including contact information of two references;
(3) a writing sample; 
(4) a degree certificate.

The application deadline is 1 April 2020.