Understanding moral change and moral progress.

I work at the intersection of metaethics, epistemology, and moral psychology. I focus on values and value change in the context of technology, and on how causal explanations of evaluative beliefs affect their justification.

Portrait image of Michael Klenk

About Michael Klenk

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the ERC-funded project Value Change at Delft University of Technology. During the academic year 2019/20, I will be working at the University of St Gallen and the Stanford Social Media Lab as a Visiting Scholar, funded by a Niels Stensen Fellowship. If you want to get in touch, please contact me via email.

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, was awarded the distinction 'cum laude', the highest possible distinction in the Netherlands.

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).

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


  • 2019/09: I started my Niels Stensen Fellowship and will research the ethics of social media use. The fellowship is awarded annually annually to outstanding researchers who recently received their PhD to enable them to gain research experience at a top university or institute abroad. More info here.
  • 2019/08: Together with my colleague Martin Sand, I won the 1st price in the essay competition of the Institute of Philosophy in Hannover. More here.
  • 2019/05: Very happy to start as a postdoctoral researcher in Ibo van de Poel's ERC project on Value Change in techno-social systems.

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 an alethic constraint on undercutters and that rejecting it raises a puzzle about the aim of (moral) belief.

Status: under review.

Free Will, Persuasive Technology, and the Attention Economy

I suggest that the use of persuasive technology in social media threatens the free will of its users because persuasive technology aims to inhibit volitional control.

Status: work in progress.

Independence and Objectivity in Ethics

Ethical values are often said to be independent of what we humans think about them. I present some counterexamples to this formulation and try to make the 'independence' relation more precise.

Status: work in progress.

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.

Status: forthcoming.

Folk Perceptions of Moral Objectivity

Together with Jeroen Hopster I set up an experiment to explain why conceptions of moral objectivity differ between and within people.

Status: work in progress.

Situationism and Moral Progress

Moral judgments are easily influenced by situational factors. I argue that this hinders moral progress and any viable conception of moral progress.

Status: work in progress.


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

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picture of Michael Klenk's thesis

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
Elizabeth Anderson, Psyche and Ethos
Metapsychology 22 (48) 2018
Joshua May, Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind
Metapsychology 23 (24) 2019
Sauer, Debunking Arguments in Ethics
Utilitas forthcoming
Poelzler, Moral Reality
International Journal for the Study of Skepticism forthcoming