Metaethics as here conceived of includes moral semantics (What do we mean by moral words such as “right” and “wrong”?), moral metaphysics (Are there moral facts, existing independently of our conceptualisation and thought?), and moral epistemology (Is there such a thing as moral knowledge, and how can we, in that case, obtain it?). Torbjörn Tännsjö defends moral (normative) realism in the books Moral Realism (1990) and From Reasons to Norms (2010). Jonas Olson has, in his dissertation, discussed a variety of problems in value theory, and he has published many articles in international peer-reviewed journals. His book Moral Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence has just come out from Oxford University Press. He is also co-editor (with Iwao Hirose) of The Oxford Handbook of Value Theory, which is under contract with Oxford University Press and expected to be published in 2014. Daan Evers primarily works on issues in metaethics, such as moral language and the nature of morality. He is also interested in the relation between moral and epistemic normativity.

Normative ethics

Lars Bergström’s dissertation from 1966, The Alternatives and Consequences of Action, is still a minor classic. Torbjörn Tännsjö, Ragnar Ohlsson, Björn Eriksson, Gustaf Arrhenius, and Frans Svensson have all done recent research in normative ethics (including axiology and population ethics). Tännsjö has defended hedonistic utilitarianism in Hedonistic Utilitarianism (1998). Ragnar Ohlsson has in the book Morals Based on Need developed a needs based theory of ethics. Björn Eriksson has in his dissertation Heavy Duty developed a normative theory where various different duties are given different weights and where heavy duties are seen as less strict than those we can more easily fulfil. Gustaf Arrhenius has worked extensively in axiology and population ethics and published a dissertation and many articles in the field. He has applied formal methods to axiological problems and often ended up with “impossibility” results. He has a book forthcoming from Oxford University Press where he sums up his research on population ethics. Together with Torbjörn Tännsjö and Jesper Ryberg (Roskilde) he has also written an entry on the repugnant conclusion for Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Tännsjö and Ryberg have previously edited an anthology on the same subject, The Repugnant Conclusion (2004). Frans Svensson has written extensively on virtue ethics, mainly as it can be found in its present neo-Aristotelian form, but also in Descartes. His dissertation was titled Some Basic Issues in Neo-Aristotelian Virtue Ethics (2006). Krister Bykvist is working on three issues at the moment: (1) evaluative and normative uncertainty, i.e., what to do when you are not certain about what is good or what is right, (2) population ethics, in particular the question of whether we can benefit people by creating them, and (3) some problems about combining individual and collective beneficence. Together with his co-authors William McAskill (Oxford University) and Toby Ord (Oxford University) he has signed a contract with Oxford University Press for a monograph on moral uncertainty, which is expected to be published late in 2014 or early in 2015.

Political philosophy

Gustaf Arrhenius, Lars Bergström, and Torbjörn Tännsjö have published extensively in political philosophy. Torbjörn Tännsjö has published three books in the field, Conservatism for Our Time (1990), and Populist Democracy. A Defence (1992) and Global Democracy. The Case for a World Government (2008). Arrhenius and Tännsjö are together with Katharina Berndt Rasmussen (as a local coordinator) involved in two Scandinavian networks on political and moral philosophy. Topics discussed have been democratic theory, in particular the so- called boundary problem (Who should be included/excluded in democratic decision- making?). Katharina Berndt Rasmussen wrote her dissertation in political philosophy. Arrhenius has an on-going collaboration with professor Marc Fleurbaey at CNRS, Paris, regarding how to measure and distribute power fairly, and the former has in connection with this spent extensive periods in Paris as chercheur invité at CNRS and l’Institut d’études avancées-Paris. One PhD student at the department, Mats Ingeström, works on problems relating to this project.


Metaphysical problems tend to surface in moral philosophy even outside metaethics. Moral thinking relies on metaphysical assumptions about such things as personal identity, life, death, and free will. Sofia Jepsson, whose dissertation was on free will, continues to work in this area. One PhD student, Maria Svedberg, studies the free will problem; a central question in moral metaphysics is, of course, whether we have a free will or not. Her dissertation will take place in March 2014. Lars Bergström has written several articles on the metaphysics of time and also on a priori knowledge, analyticity, and truth (see list below).

The history of practical philosophy

Frans Svensson has investigated the role of virtue ethics in Descartes, Jonas Olson has studied the history of the error theory in ethics. He has recently published a paper on Hume’s metaethics in a volume of papers on David Hume, in Swedish. One research student, Hege Dypedokk Johsen, is writing her dissertation on the notion of love in ancient Greek philosophy. 

Applied ethics (bioethics)

The researchers at the department, involved in Stockholm Centre of Health Care Ethics (Gustaf Arrhenius, Nicolas Espinoza, Lisa Furberg, Torbjörn Tännsjö, and Claudio M. Tamburrini) have published extensively on problems in medical ethics and bioethics more generally. Several books have been published, such as Torbjörn Tännsjö, Coercive Care (1999) and Torbjörn Tännsjö och Claudio M. Tamburrini (eds.), Sports and Values (2000), Claudio. M. Tamburrini and Torbjörn Tännsjö (eds.) Genetic Technology and Sport (2005) and Claudio M. Tamburrini and Torbjörn Tännsjö (eds.), The Ethics of Sport Medicine (2009), and Torbjörn Tännsjö (ed.) Terminal Sedation. Euthanasia in Disguise (2004). Lisa Furberg’s dissertation discussed personal identity and living wills.