Two PhD positions in Ethics/Practical Philosophy (1.0 FTE)

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

Job description

The positions are 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). Successful candidates 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 two PhD positions will be in charge of fleshing out a response to various “conservative” challenges to the feasibility of moral progress and to sketch a framework for understanding the driving mechanisms of social change for the better. On the one hand, evolved psychological dispositions and cultural practices seem to impose severe constraints on achieving further progressive gains. On the other hand, the connection between the processes driving social change and various types of moral progress (demoralization, liberalization, inclusivism) remains poorly understood. One aim of this project will be to explain why neither biological nor cultural evolution hold moral progress on a short leash, and whether there are any elective affinities between various mechanisms and forms of moral progress. The two PhD candidates will deal with the above questions, and establish interdisciplinary links between debates in evolutionary psychology, political philosophy and meta ethics.


  • research on the respective subproject of PROGRESS;
  • the completion of a PhD thesis;
  • the publication of journal articles;
  • the (co)organization of workshops and conferences on the project themes; 
  • the dissemination of project results at (scientific) events.


  • a demonstrable interest and expertise in ethics (broadly construed: Ethics or Meta Ethics or Moral Psychology or Political Philosophy);
  • an excellent MA degree in Practical Philosophy/Ethics;
  • proficiency in English;
  • excellent organizational skills.


We offer a position (1.0 FTE) for the duration of 18 months. In case of good performance and a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining period of 30 months (4 years in total). The gross salary ranges between €2,325 in the first year and €2,972 in the fourth year (scale P 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, and/or see the project website. The 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, incl. contact information of two references;
(3) a writing sample;
(4) grade transcripts; 
(5) a degree certificate.

The application deadline is 1 April 2020.