Coming to terms with an evolutionary perspective on morality.

I work at the intersection of metaethics, epistemology, and moral psychology, with a focus on how the causal influences of (moral) beliefs might undermine their justification.

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About Michael Klenk

I obtained my PhD in Philosophy in June 2018 at Utrecht University, under the supervision of Herman Philipse. My thesis, Survival of Defeat - Evolution, Moral Objectivity, and Undercutting is available here.
In my dissertation, I assessed whether and how Darwinism about morality, the view that moral thought has an evolutionary origin, impacts moral objectivism, a metaethical view that says that moral facts are independent of anyone's opinion. The challenge is to say how both views can be combined. If they can't be combined, then why is that the case?

Apart from my research, I enjoy organising conferences (examples: Evolution and Moral Epistemology 2018, Debunking and Disagreement 2017, Dutch-Flemish Day of Philosophy 2017, or Science Slam Stuttgart). From September 2018 onward, I will be a lecturer in engineering ethics at Delft University of Technology. If you want to get in touch, please contact me via email.

Below is a visualisation of what I have done so far: Degrees and working experience Michael Klenk

News!

  • 2018/10: My paper on evolution and moral disagreement was accepted by the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy! Also, my introduction to evolution and ethics is now out at 1000-Word Philosophy: here
  • 2018/08: I will be at GAP 10 in Cologne to present my paper on modal security and undercutting defeat. Looking forward to it!
  • 2018/06: I obtained my PhD, with three months left on my contract and, to my great satisfaction, my thesis was awarded 'cum laude', the highest possible distinction in the Netherlands (given to the top 3-5% of the field) (Link to the announcement).

Submitted / Working Papers

I am currently working on the projects below. Feel free to get in touch!

Modal Security and Moral Objectivity

I argue against a alethic constraint on undercutters, but that it raises a puzzle about the aim of (moral) belief.

Status: under review.

Independence and Objectivity in Ethics

Objectivity in ethics is often understood in reference to an independence relation. Roughly, the ethical values are said to be independent of what we humans think about them. I present some counterexamples to this formulation and try to make the notion more precise.

Introduction to Evolutionary Ethics

A brief introduction on evolutionary ethics for an undergraduate Introduction to Philosophy textbook.

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The Ethics of Multi-Rater Feedback

A case study about the ethics of so-called multi-rater feedback, where decisions about salary and continued employement are based on the evaluations of multiple raters, such as colleagues, subordinates, and clients.

Undercutting Defeat

Undercutting defeat is relatively well understood for experientially justified beliefs. I assess how it works in the case of a priori justified beliefs.

Status: under review.

Higher Order Evidence and Moral Epistemology

Higher order evidence, evidence about the rationality of our beliefs, may help to shed some light on recent discussions in moral epistemology, such as the debate about debunking arguments in metaethics. This will be a proposal for an edited volume.

Status: under review.

Publications

Click on the journal cover to get to the published article.

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Book Reviews

These are the books that I have reviewed. Click on the book to get to the published review.

Terence Cuneo, Speech and Morality
Ethical Perspectives 22 (2) 2015
Bobbi S. Low, Why Sex Matters
Metapsychology 19 (36) 2015
Finn Janning, The Happiness of Burnout
Metapsychology 19 (50) 2015
Zygmunt Bauman et al, Management in a Liquid Modern World
Ethical Perspectives 23 (2) 2016
Erik Wielenberg, Robust Ethics
Dialectica 70 (3) 2016
Thompson, A Remarkable Journey
The Quarterly Review of Biology 91 (3) 2016
Michael Tomasello, A Natural History of Human Morality
Metapsychology 20 (20) 2016
Nicholas Baumard, How Evolution Explains our Moral Nature
Metapsychology 20 (36) 2016
Jussim et al, The Social Psychology of Morality
Metapsychology 20 (48) 2016
Bowles, The Moral Economy
Marx and Philosophy Review of Books, 25.01.2017
Richard Joyce, Essay in Moral Skepticism
Ethical Perspectives 24 (1) 2017
Matthew Liao, Moral Brains
Metapsychology 21 (23) 2017