Wouter F. Kalf





Picture of Wouter Floris Kalf, philosopher


Wouter Floris Kalf (PhD (Leeds) 2013) is a postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University. His current research is on moral error theory (see work in progress). He has published on moral error theory, emotivism and expressivism (Philosophical Studies, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Ethical Perspectives, and Journal of Value Inquiry), the history of political philosophy (Res Publica), and applied ethics (Ethics, Policy and Environment). He teaches philosophy of science at Utrecht University.
Before coming to Utrecht he held a Teaching Fellowship in Bioethics (University of Bristol) and Jacobsen Research Fellowship (Royal Institute of Philosophy, London). He has also taught philosophy and applied ethics at the University of York, the University of Leeds and Radboud University Nijmegen.
Latest publication: 'Against Hybrid Expressivist-Error Theory'
Journal of Value Inquiry
All publications


Please find my CV downloadable as PDF.
Please find a summary of my course evaluations.


Moral Error Theory and Normative Ethics, Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2018 In this monograph, I argue for moral error theory on the basis of pragmatic presupposition and rationality. I also argue for a substitutionist approach to questions in normative ethics.
'Against Hybrid Expressivist-Error Theory' Journal of Value Inquiry (2017) I argue that in order to successfully account for moral motivation, radical error, and the imperative function of moral judgments, error theorists do not have to accept the hybrid expressivist-cognitivist semantics of hybrid-expressivist error theory. To go directly to this publication, click here
'Review of Guy Fletcher and Michael Ridge: Having it Both Ways: Hybrid Theories and Modern Metaethics' Ethical Perspectives forthcoming I explain what hybrid theories in metaethics are and I discuss some of their benefits and problems. To go directly to this publication, click here
'Are moral properties impossible?' Philosophical Studies 2015 172(7): 1869-87 I argue that although moral error theory and emotivism entail that there are no moral properties in the actual world, these theories do not entail that moral properties are impossible. To go directly to this publication, click here
'Why solar radiation management is (much) more likely to be morally permissible' Ethics, Policy and Environment 2014 17(2): 150-2 I argue that a plausible consequentialist moral theory with deontological side-constraints on the pursuit of good consequences entails that solar radiation management is morally permissible. To go directly to this publication, click here
'The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and the Received View of Spinoza on Democracy' Res Publica 2014 20(3): 263-79 I argue that one of Spinoza's arguments for democracy is (a) sound, (b) not currently recognized in the literature and (c) relevant to contemporary political philosophy. To go directly to this publication, click here
'Moral Error Theory, Entailment and Presupposition' Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2013 16(5): 923-37 I distinguish between the presupposition failure, conceptual entailment and metaphysical entailment versions of moral error theory. I argue that the metaphysical entailment view is most plausible and I suggest that under certain conditions it is a notational variant of the presupposition view. To go directly to this publication, click here
'Morale Verantwoordelijkheid en Wetenschap' Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte 2010 102(1): 69-72 I discuss the relation between moral responsibility and science (in Dutch).
'Het Postmodernisme Voorbij?' Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte 2008 100(2): 154-6 I discuss postmodernism and post-postmodernism (in Dutch).

Work in progress

A paper on the Humean theory of reasons (under review, Erkenntnis) I formulate and defend a new version of the motivation argument for Humean Theory of Reasons. According to this argument, the anti-Humean has to explain how we can create a basic desire to perform an action that we have an (alleged) reason to perform, but according to which we cannot create basic desires.
A paper on what to do after error theory (under review) Error theorists think that all moral judgments are false (or untrue, or neither true nor false). Does this mean that there is no reason to refrain from performing immoral acts? I argue that most of us have sufficient prudential reason to do this. I also argue that moral language could perform the function of indicating speakers' basic desires to refrain from performing such actions and that we have a prudential reason to use moral language for this purpose. Moral language should no longer be used for its old purpose; viz., describing the existence of moral facts. Finally, I explain that there is a satisfactory conception of normative ethics that is consistent with error theory.
A paper on error theory and companions in guilt (under review) A prominent objection to error theory is that its claim that there are no moral reasons entails, per impossibile, the non-existence of epistemic reasons and that error theory should therefore be rejected. Existing error-theoretic responses focus on the queerness of moral and epistemic reasons. I am the first to argue that a difference in content between moral and epistemic reasons saves error theory from the companions in guilt objection.
A paper on quietist moral realism (under review) I argue that Scanlon's quietist realism suffers from what I call the normative influence objection: normative facts that do not exist in the same realm as human moral agents cannot tell these agents what to do (Scanlon 2014). I also argue that Enoch's traditional non-naturalist realist alternative suffers from the queerness objection (Enoch 2011). I formulate a quietist realist position that is not subject to either of these objections.
A paper on presupposition error theory (under review) There are two kinds of arguments that error theorists have used to justify their claim that ordinary moral judgments are truth-apt, true in virtue of a correspondence with moral facts, and that moral facts are irreducibly normative; viz., conceptual entailment and presupposition. I argue against entailment and in favour of presupposition error theory. The main reason why presupposition error theory fares better is that it does not make moral judgments' commitment to moral reasons an 'all-or-nothing' conceptual affair. Instead whether moral judgments carry this commitment depends on pragmatic features of moral discussions. The commitment is there in the most important kinds of discussions and this licences an error-theoretic interpretation of moral discourse.
A paper on moral rationalism and rational requirements (accepted conference presentation, Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the MIND Association) There are two kinds of rational facts: reasons and requirements (Broome 1999). I argue that moral rationalism, according to which moral facts are rational facts, fails if it either just focusses on reasons or just focusses on requirements. I also argue that a view that combines the force of reasons and requirements can yield a plausible version of moral rationalism.


Dr. Wouter F. Kalf
Janskerkhof 13-A
The Netherlands