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PhD student (4 years, fully funded) in the philosophy of morality, moral responsibility, and the history of analytic philosophy (EXPIRED)

Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven

Job category Graduate fellowship / Fixed term
AOS the nature of morality, moral responsibility, history of 20th century analytic philosophy (especially P.F. Strawson and H.L.A. Hart)
AOS categories 19th/20th Century Philosophy
AOC Open
Workload Full time
Vacancies 1
Location Leuven, Flanders, Belgium
Start date 1 March 2024 or later
Job description
We are looking for a PhD candidate with an interest in the philosophy of morality, moral responsibility, and the history of analytic philosophy. The position is full-time, for four years (starting with a one-year contract, to be renewed after positive evaluation). The candidate will start on March 1st 2024 (or as soon as possible thereafter), and will have limited teaching duties and organizational tasks. The candidate will work with prof. Benjamin De Mesel (supervisor, https://hiw.kuleuven.be/ripple/people/00085917) on his project ‘Morality and Moral Responsibility. The Strawson-Hart Account and the Responsibility-First Approach’, funded by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). The candidate will be a member of RIPPLE (Research in Political Philosophy and Ethics Leuven) and is expected to participate in its activities. Website unit Project The project has two main objectives. (1) To develop a new account, the Strawson-Hart account, of the nature of morality. (2) To present a new approach, the responsibility-first approach, to the study of moral responsibility. We start from the thought that P.F. Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’, the key text in responsibility theory, cannot be understood without grasping Strawson’s conception of morality. We argue that H.L.A. Hart’s work sheds light on Strawson’s. Their accounts of morality are mutually enriching, which makes it possible to develop a ‘Strawson-Hart account’. We argue that this account is convincing and distinct from existing ones. Moreover, the similarities between law and morals highlighted in the Strawson-Hart account open up the possibility of a new approach to the study of moral responsibility, the ‘responsibility-first approach’. The key idea here is that, instead of explaining responsibility in supposedly more basic terms like ‘free will’, responsibility is itself explanatorily basic. We show how the responsibility-first approach can deal with skepticism about responsibility through a new, historically informed and empirically supported argument. This project promises to yield substantial gains. It may have a deep impact on debates about the nature of morality and responsibility, it will enhance the understanding of two major 20th century analytic philosophers, and it will show how historically informed work leads to original contributions to contemporary debates.
Role of the Candidate
The project will be carried out by the supervisor and the PhD student. The student will be a member of the Ethics group within RIPPLE (Research in Political Philosophy and Ethics Leuven). The student will work on topics closely related to those investigated by other PhD students and postdocs working with prof. De Mesel (the nature of morality, moral responsibility, punishment, philosophical methodology, history of analytic philosophy, Ludwig Wittgenstein, P.F. Strawson, ordinary language philosophy).   Profile The candidate must:
  • Have a master’s level degree in philosophy (with an overall percentage of at least 75%).
  • Show potential as an academic researcher.
  • Have a broad philosophical background. 
  • Be willing to contribute to debates in analytic philosophy.
  • Be motivated to work in an international academic environment.
  • Have an excellent command of the English language.
  • Be willing to carry out minor educational and organizational tasks.


Your application should contain:

- A motivation letter (maximum 400 words) in which you explain why you are a good fit for the project. This might be the case because of previous work, and/or because of excellent study results, a particular interest in a specific part of the project, etc. Please include answers to the following questions: which parts of the project sound particularly attractive to you and why, which additional questions or authors do you deem relevant for this project? There is room to adjust the project to your own interests. Please explain how your personal input will advance the main objectives of the project (as outlined in the Project Summary above). 

- A Curriculum Vitae, including a detailed overview of previous study results (BA and MA). 

- A writing sample in English of maximum 10 pages. This could be a paper you wrote for a course, a chapter of your MA thesis, etc. In case the writing sample is part of a larger whole, please make sure that the sample can be read independently. Although it should be an exercise demonstrating your research capacities in philosophy, it should not necessarily be about any of the central topics of the project. Please submit what you believe to be your best philosophical work, regardless of the philosophical subfield it belongs to. 

- Two names and contact details (e-mail) of people who are willing to recommend you for the position. Please do not include recommendation letters.  

The application deadline is December 4th 2023, 23:59 (CET). Interviews with selected candidates will be held on December 12th. 

For any questions concerning the application, the project or the position, do not hesitate to contact prof. Benjamin De Mesel ([email protected]). Please note that we will not provide more details about the content of the project than provided in the Project Summary above in order to guarantee a level playing field for all candidates. Only the selected candidate will get access to the full project description.

You can apply for this job no later than December 04, 2023 via the online application tool KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at [email protected].
How to apply
Application type Online
Web address to apply https://www.kuleuven.be/personeel/jobsite/jobs/602...
Hard deadline December 4, 2023, 11:59pm CET
Web address for more information https://www.kuleuven.be/personeel/jobsite/jobs/602...
Contact name Benjamin De Mesel
Contact email
Time created October 23, 2023, 5:34pm UTC
Scheduled expiry date December 4, 2023, 11:59pm CET
Expired on December 6, 2023, 12:46am CET
Last updated February 4, 2024, 3:00pm UTC
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