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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Practical Philosophy/Ethics

Benjamin Kiesewetter

Dr. Benjamin Kiesewetter

Email: [firstname] [dot] [lastname] [at] hu-berlin [dot] de
Office: Unter den Linden 6, room 3042d
Phone: +49 30 2093-2556

Personal website

PhilPapers profile

Google-Scholar profile

CV (.pdf)


Research Interests

Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, and Metaethics; Normativity, Rationality, and Reasons; selected areas of Applied Ethics, the History of Ethics, and Epistemology.



Benjamin Kiesewetter studied Philosophy, Early Modern and Modern German Literature, and Cultural Studies at the Humboldt University of Berlin and the University of Nottingham, U.K. (M.A. 2007). He wrote a dissertation on the Normativity of Rationality (Ph.D. 2014), which was awarded with the Humboldt Prize (2014) and the Stegmüller Prize (2018). From 2001-2006 and 2008-2011, he held a scholarship by the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes). Since 2009, he is research associate at the Department of Philosophy at Humboldt University. Since 2015, he is principal investigator of a DFG-funded research project. He was visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley (2009-2010), and the Torcuato Di Tella University, Buenos Aires (2011). From March to July 2014, he was a Research Associate at the School of Philosophy of the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra. From October 2016 to September 2017, Benjamin Kiesewetter was visiting professor (Vertretungsprofessor) at the University of Hamburg.



The Normativity of Rationality, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017 (Discount link).

Reviews and discussions:

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, review by Vuko Andrić (Print version).

Ethics, review by Clayton Littlejohn (Preprint, Print version).

Journal of Moral Philosophy, review by Zachariah Wrublewski (Print version).

Mind, review by Conor McHugh (Print version).

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, review by Alex Worsnip (Webpage).

PEA Soup, book review discussion forum (Webpage).

The Philosophical Review, review by John Brunero (Preprint, Print version).

Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung, book symposion with comments by Gerhard Ernst (Print version) and Erasmus Mayr  (Print version), and a précis (Preprint, Print version) and replies (Preprint, Print version) by Benjamin Kiesewetter.

Zeitschrift für philosophische Literatur, review by Eva Schmidt (Webpage).

Publications (Selected Articles)


“How Do Reasons Transmit to Non-Necessary Means?” (with Jan Gertken), forthcoming in Australasian Journal of Philosophy (Preprint).

“Rationality as Reasons-Responsiveness”, forthcoming in Australasian Philosophical Review. (Preprint).

“Can the Lottery Paradox be Solved by Identifying Epistemic Justification with Epistemic Permissibility?”, Episteme 16 (3): 241-61, 2019 (Original Article, Preprint).

Contrary-to-Duty Scenarios, Deontic Dilemmas, and Transmission Principles, Ethics 129 (1): 98–115, 2018 (Original Article, Preprint).

What Kind of Perspectivism?, Journal of Moral Philosophy 15(4): 415–43, 2018 (Original Article, Preprint).

The Right and the Wrong Kind of Reasons” (with Jan Gertken), Philosophy Compass 12 (5), e12412, 2017 (Original ArticlePreprint).

“You Ought to Φ Only If You May Believe that You Ought to  ΦThe Philosophical Quarterly 66 (265): 760-782, 2016 (Original Article, Preprint).

“Instrumental Normativity: In Defense of the Transmission Principle”, Ethics 125 (4): 921-946, 2015 (Original Article).

“A Dilemma for Parfit’s Conception of Normativity”, Analysis 72 (3): 466-474, 2012 (Original ArticlePreprint).

“‘Ought’ and the Perspective of the Agent”, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 5 (3): 1-24, 2011 (Original Article).

“Dürfen wir Kindern das Wahlrecht vorenthalten?”, Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie 95 (2): 252-273, 2009 [“Are We Justified to Deny Children the Right to Vote?”] (Original ArticlePreprint).


(See here for a complete list.)



Recent and forthcoming talks

Rationality as Reasons-Responsiveness, Research Seminar on Practical Reasons and Rationality, University College London, 27 February 2020.

Reasons and Value, job talk for the W3 Professorship for Practical Philosophy, MLU Halle-Wittenberg, 28 January 2020.

Are All Practical Reasons Value-Based?”, job talk for the W3 Professorship for Practical Philosophy, JGU Mainz, 13 January 2020.

“Are climate activists justified in breaking the law?”, job talk for the W1-Tenure-Track-W2 Professorship for Practical Philosophy, JGU Mainz, 13 December 2019.

Are All Practical Reasons Value-Based?, job talk for the Professorship in Moral and Political Philosophy, University of Vienna, 19 November 2019.

Normativität und Rationalität, Otto von Guerike Universität Magdeburg, 13 November 2019.

Reasons-responsiveness Supervenes on the Mind, Workshop Higher-Order Evidence in Epistemology Ethics and Aesthetics, University of Southampton, 17 September 2019.

"Heuer on Value-Based Reasons",  Workshop Agency and Norms, HU Berlin, 5 July 2019.

Are the Right Kind of Reasons Normative Reasons?, Konferenz Dimensions of Rationality“, Goethe university Frankfurt, 06-07 June 2019.

Are Epistemic Reasons Normative?, 7th Annual Workshop on Normativity and Reasoning, NYU Abu Dhabi, 14 January 2019.

Rationalität und Normativität, lecture series ''Philosophie kontrovers“, University of Cologne, 06 December 2018.

The Myth of Structural Rationality, Workshop MetaEssen 3, University of Duisburg-Essen, 23 November 2018.

Migration und Moral, University of Hamburg, 13 November 2018. [Migration and Morality]

Are Epistemic Reasons Normative?, Conference "Norms and Reasons, University of Zurich, 1-3 November 2018.

Are Epistemic Reasons Normative?, 10th international conference of the Society for Analytical Philosophy (GAP), University of Cologne, 19 September 2018.

The Myth of Political Authority, 10th international conference of the Society for Analytical Philosophy (GAP), University of Cologne, 18 September 2018.

Gründe der falschen Art, Goethe University Frankfurt, 06 February 2018. [Reasons of the Wrong Kind]

Author Meets Students, Goethe University Frankfurt, 06 February 2018.


(See here for a complete list.)



Principles of the Deliberative Ought (DFG Project)

Practical reasoning aims to answer the question “What ought I to do?”. This research project is concerned with the concept of ‘ought’ that figures in this core question of practical deliberation and may thus be called the deliberative ought. The goal of the project is to systematically examine fundamental principles of the deliberative ought and their philosophical implications, where a principle is assumed to be fundamental if its claim to validity does not depend on any substantive normative theory. Fundamental principles of the deliberative ought include e.g. principles that correspond to the laws of deontic logic and the so-called instrumental transmission principles.


Political legitimacy and political authority

Both advocates and critics of philosophical anarchism typically agree that the excercise of political power is legitimate only if the power holder has political authority, which is here understood as the normative competence to establish moral obligations or reasons to comply with the law – reasons that are independent of the law's content. This assumption impsoses a great burden on the defence of political power, as even in ideally democratic states, the claim that citizens always have reasons to comply with every law or regulation is very ambitious. The aim of this research project is to explore the prospects of a theory of political legitimacy according to which political authority is not a necessary condition for legitimacy.


The Normativity of Rationality (PhD)

Sometimes our intentions and beliefs exhibit a structure that proves us to be irrational. This dissertation is concerned with the question of whether we ought (or have at least good reason) to avoid such irrationality. The thesis defends the normativity of rationality by presenting a new solution to the problems that arise from the common assumption that we ought to be rational. The argument touches upon many other topics in the theory of normativity, such as the form and the content of rational standards or requirements, the preconditions of criti­cism, and the function of reasons in deliberation and advice. Over and above an exten­sive and careful assessment of the problems discussed in the literature, the thesis provides a detailed defence of a reason-response conception of rationality, a novel, evidence-relative account of reasons, and an explanation of structural irrationality in terms of these accounts.

The dissertation was awarded with the Humboldt Prize 2014 and the Stegmüller Prize 2018.


Children’s rights

It is widely acknowledged that children are bearers of both legal and moral rights. At the same time, however, the legal status of minors is subject to significant restrictions. Young people are denied many rights that adults can take for granted, such as, for example, the right to vote. The research project focuses on questions such as the following: Is our practice of constraining fundamental rights by age limits justified? Do children only have a limited moral status, or do they have an equal claim to fundamental human rights? What follows from accepting children as rights-bearers for the concept of a ‘right’?


„Dürfen wir Kindern das Wahlrecht vorenthalten?“, in: Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie 95 (2), 252-273 (2009). [“Are We Justified to Deny Children the Right to Vote?”] (Original ArticlePreprint)

Translated into Japanese by Toshiro Terada: “子どもに選挙権を与 えないことは許されるか?”, PRIME 33, Meiji Gakuin Daigaku, 63-81 (2011). (Original Article)


Courses Taught 

Introduction to Political Philosophy
Lecture, SS 2017 (University of Hamburg)

Why Democracy?
Advanced Seminar, SS 2017 (University of Hamburg)

The Ethics of Migration
Introductory Seminar, SS 2017 (University of Hamburg)

Research colloquium Practical Philosophy
SS 2017, WS 2016/17 (University of Hamburg)

Reasons and Rationality
Lecture, WS 2016/17 (University of Hamburg)

Uncertainty and ignorance in Ethics
Advanced Seminar, WS 2016/17 (University of Hamburg)

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
Introductory Seminar, WS 2014/15 (HU Berlin) and WS 2016/17 (University of Hamburg)

What are Rights?
Advanced Seminar, co-taught with Felix Koch, WS 2014/15

Poverty and Global Justice
Introductory Seminar, WS 2013/14

Dworkin's Theory of Justice
Advanced Seminar, WS 2013/14

Introduction to Bioethics and Medical Ethics
Introductory Seminar, SS 2013

Why Be Moral?
Introductory Seminar, SS 2013

Derek Parfit, On What Matters
Advanced Seminarco-taught with Jan Gertken, WS 2012/13

Introductory Seminar, SS 2011

Recent Work on Practical Reason
Advanced Seminar, co-taught with Thomas Schmidt, WS 2010/11

Doing and Allowing
Introductory Seminar, co-taught with Jan Gertken, SS 2009