Gunnar Björnsson Umeå University, University of Gothenburg
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  • Faculty, Umeå University
  • Faculty, University of Gothenburg
  • PhD, Stockholm University, 1998.

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About me
I am Professor of Philosophy at Umeå University and a research fellow at the University of Gothenburg. My research interests are far-reaching, and I am currently working on the analysis of moral judgments, on disagreements in morals, matters of taste and epistemic modals, on objectivism in ethics, on the analysis of conditionals, and on various issues relating to moral responsibility. I am the principal investigator of MMER (Moral Motivation: Evidence and Relevance), funded by the Swedish Research Council, and Responsibility in Complex Systems, funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.
My works
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  1. Gunnar Björnsson (forthcoming). Disagreement, Correctness, and the Evidence for Metaethical Absolutism. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics. Oxford.
    Metaethical absolutism is the view that moral concepts have non-relative satisfaction conditions that are constant across judges and their particular beliefs, attitudes, and cultural embedding. If it is correct, there is an important sense in which parties of moral disputes are concerned to get the same things right, such that their disputes can be settled by the facts. If it is not correct, as various forms of relativism and non-cognitivism imply, such coordination of concerns will be limited. The most influential (...)
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  2. Gunnar Björnsson (forthcoming). Incompatibilism and "Bypassed" Agency. In Alfred R. Mele (ed.), Surrounding Free Will. Oxford University Press.
    Eddy Nahmias and Dylan Murray have recently argued that when people take agents to lack responsibility in deterministic scenarios, they do so because they take agents’ beliefs, desires and decisions to be bypassed, having no effect on their actions. This might seem like an improbable mistake, but the Bypass Hypothesis is bolstered by intriguing experimental data. Moreover, if the hypothesis is correct, it provides a straightforward error theory for incompatibilist intuitions. This chapter argues that the Bypass Hypothesis, although promising and (...)
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  3. Gunnar Björnsson, John Eriksson, Caj Strandberg, Ragnar Francén Olinder & Fredrik Björklund (forthcoming). Motivational Internalism and Folk Intuitions. Philosophical Psychology:1-20.
    Motivational internalism postulates a necessary connection between moral judgments and motivation. In arguing for and against internalism, metaethicists traditionally appeal to intuitions about cases, but crucial cases often yield conflicting intuitions. One way to try to make progress, possibly uncovering theoretical bias and revealing whether people have conceptions of moral judgments required for noncognitivist accounts of moral thinking, is to investigate non-philosophers' willingness to attribute moral judgments. A pioneering study by Shaun Nichols seemed to undermine internalism, as a large majority (...)
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  4. Gunnar Björnsson & Ragnar Francén Olinder (forthcoming). Enoch's Defense of Robust Meta-Ethical Realism. Journal of Moral Philosophy.
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  5. Gunnar Björnsson & Derk Pereboom (forthcoming). Comments on Eddy Nahmias, “Is Free Will an Illusion?”. In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (ed.), Moral Psychology, Vol. 4. MIT Press.
    Discusses Eddy Nahmias' “Is Free Will an Illusion?”.
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  6. Gunnar Björnsson, Caj Strandberg, Ragnar Francén Olinder, John Eriksson & Fredrik Björklund (eds.) (forthcoming). Motivational Internalism. Oxford University Press.
    Motivational internalism—the idea that there is an intrinsic or necessary connection between moral judgment and moral motivation—is a central thesis in a number of metaethical debates. In conjunction with a Humean picture of motivation, it provides a challenge for cognitivist theories that take moral judgments to concern objective aspects of reality. Versions of internalism have potential implications for moral absolutism, realism, non-naturalism, and rationalism. Being a constraint on more detailed conceptoins of moral motivation and moral judgment, it is also directly (...)
     
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  7. Gunnar Björnsson (2014). Essentially Shared Obligations. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 38 (1):103-120.
    This paper lists a number of puzzles for shared obligations – puzzles about the role of individual influence, individual reasons to contribute towards fulfilling the obligation, about what makes someone a member of a group sharing an obligation, and the relation between agency and obligation – and proposes to solve them based on a general analysis of obligations. On the resulting view, shared obligations do not presuppose joint agency.
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  8. Gunnar Björnsson & Tristram McPherson (2014). Moral Attitudes for Non-Cognitivists: Solving the Specification Problem. Mind 123 (489):1-38.
    Moral non-cognitivists hope to explain the nature of moral agreement and disagreement as agreement and disagreement in non-cognitive attitudes. In doing so, they take on the task of identifying the relevant attitudes, distinguishing the non-cognitive attitudes corresponding to judgements of moral wrongness, for example, from attitudes involved in aesthetic disapproval or the sports fan’s disapproval of her team’s performance. We begin this paper by showing that there is a simple recipe for generating apparent counterexamples to any informative specification of the (...)
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  9. Gunnar Björnsson (2013). Contextualism in Ethics. In Hugh LaFolette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Wiley-Blackwell.
    There are various ways in which context matters in ethics. Most clearly, the context in which an action is performed might determine whether the action is morally right: though it is often wrong not to keep a promise, it might be permissible in certain contexts. More radically, proponents of moral particularism (see particularism) have argued that a reason for an action in one context is not guaranteed to be a reason in a different context: whether it is a reason against (...)
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  10. Gunnar Björnsson (2013). Quasi-Realism, Absolutism, and Judgment-Internal Correctness Conditions. In Christer Svennerlind, Jan Almäng & Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson (eds.), Johanssonian Investigations. Ontos Verlag. 96-120.
    The traditional metaethical distinction between cognitivist absolutism,on the one hand, and speaker relativism or noncognitivism, on the other,seemed both clear and important. On the former view, moral judgmentswould be true or false independently on whose judgments they were, andmoral disagreement might be settled by the facts. Not so on the latter views. But noncognitivists and relativists, following what Simon Blackburn has called a “quasi-realist” strategy, have come a long way inmaking sense of talk about truth of moral judgments and itsindependence (...)
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  11. Gunnar Björnsson & Ragnar Francén Olinder (2013). Internalists Beware—We Might All Be Amoralists! Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (1):1 - 14.
    Standard motivational internalism is the claim that by a priori or conceptual necessity, a psychological state is a moral opinion only if it is suitably related to moral motivation. Many philosophers, the authors of this paper included, have assumed that this claim is supported by intuitions to the effect that amoralists?people not suitably related to such motivation?lack moral opinions proper. In this paper we argue that this assumption is mistaken, seeming plausible only because defenders of standard internalism have failed to (...)
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  12. Gunnar Björnsson & Karl Persson (2013). A Unified Empirical Account of Responsibility Judgments. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (3):611-639.
    Skeptical worries about moral responsibility seem to be widely appreciated and deeply felt. To address these worries—if nothing else to show that they are mistaken—theories of moral responsibility need to relate to whatever concept of responsibility underlies the worries. Unfortunately, the nature of that concept has proved hard to pin down. Not only do philosophers have conflicting intuitions; numerous recent empirical studies have suggested that both prosaic responsibility judgments and incompatibilist intuitions among the folk are influenced by a number of (...)
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  13. Fredrik Björklund, Gunnar Björnsson, John Eriksson, Ragnar Francén Olinder & Caj Strandberg (2012). Recent Work on Motivational Internalism. Analysis 72 (1):124-137.
    Reviews work on moral judgment motivational internalism from the last two decades.
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  14. Gunnar Björnsson (2012). Do 'Objectivist' Features of Moral Discourse and Thinking Support Moral Objectivism? Journal of Ethics 16 (4):367-393.
    Many philosophers think that moral objectivism is supported by stable features of moral discourse and thinking. When engaged in moral reasoning and discourse, people behave ‘as if’ objectivism were correct, and the seemingly most straightforward way of making sense of this is to assume that objectivism is correct; this is how we think that such behavior is explained in paradigmatically objectivist domains. By comparison, relativist, error-theoretic or non-cognitivist accounts of this behavior seem contrived and ad hoc. After explaining why this (...)
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  15. Gunnar Björnsson & Karl Persson (2012). The Explanatory Component of Moral Responsibility. Noûs 46 (2):326-354.
    In this paper, we do three things. First, we put forth a novel hypothesis about judgments of moral responsibility according to which such judgments are a species of explanatory judgments. Second, we argue that this hypothesis explains both some general features of everyday thinking about responsibility and the appeal of skeptical arguments against moral responsibility. Finally, we argue that, if correct, the hypothesis provides a defense against these skeptical arguments.
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  16. Gunnar Björnsson (2011). Joint Responsibility Without Individual Control: Applying the Explanation Hypothesis. In Jeroen van den Hoven, Ibo van de Poel & Nicole Vincent (eds.), Compatibilist Responsibility: beyond free will and determinism. Springer.
    This paper introduces a new family of cases where agents are jointly morally responsible for outcomes over which they have no individual control, a family that resists standard ways of understanding outcome responsibility. First, the agents in these cases do not individually facilitate the outcomes and would not seem individually responsible for them if the other agents were replaced by non-agential causes. This undermines attempts to understand joint responsibility as overlapping individual responsibility; the responsibility in question is essentially joint. Second, (...)
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  17. Gunnar Björnsson (2011). Towards a Radically Pragmatic Theory of If-Conditionals. In K. P. Turner (ed.), Making Semantics Pragmatic (CRiSPI, Vol. 24). Emerald.
    It is generally agreed that constructions of the form “if P, Q” are capable of conveying a number of different relations between antecedent and consequent, with pragmatics playing a central role in determining these relations. Controversy concerns what the conventional contribution of the if-clause is, how it constrains the pragmatic processes, and what those processes are. In this essay, I begin to argue that the conventional contribution of if-clauses to semantics is exhausted by the fact that these clauses introduce a (...)
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  18. Gunnar Björnsson & Alexander Almér (2010). The Pragmatics of Insensitive Assessments: Understanding The Relativity of Assessments of Judgments of Personal Taste, Epistemic Modals, and More. In Barbara H. Partee, Michael Glanzberg & Jurģis Šķilters (eds.), The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication; Vol. 6. 1-45.
    In assessing the veridicality of utterances, we normally seem to assess the satisfaction of conditions that the speaker had been concerned to get right in making the utterance. However, the debate about assessor-relativism about epistemic modals, predicates of taste, gradable adjectives and conditionals has been largely driven by cases in which seemingly felicitous assessments of utterances are insensitive to aspects of the context of utterance that were highly relevant to the speaker’s choice of words. In this paper, we offer an (...)
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  19. Gunnar Björnsson & Stephen Finlay (2010). Metaethical Contextualism Defended. Ethics 121 (1):7-36.
    We defend a contextualist account of deontic judgments as relativized both to (i) information and to (ii) standards or ends, against recent objections that turn on practices of moral disagreement. Kolodny & MacFarlane argue that information-relative contextualism cannot accommodate the connection between deliberation and advice; we suggest in response that they misidentify the basic concerns of deliberating agents. For pragmatic reasons, semantic assessments of normative claims sometimes are evaluations of propositions other than those asserted. Weatherson, Schroeder and others have raised (...)
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  20. Gunnar Björnsson & Alexander Almér (2009). Contextualism, Assessor Relativism, and Insensitive Assessments. Logique Et Analyse 52 (208):363-372.
    Recently, contextualism about epistemic modals and predicates of taste have come under fire from advocates of assessment relativistic analyses. Contextualism, they have argued, fails to account for what we call "felicitous insensitive assessments". In this paper, we provide one hitherto overlooked way in which contextualists can embrace the phenomenon by slightly modifying an assumption that has remained in the background in most of the debate over contextualism and relativism. Finally, we briefly argue that the resulting contextualist account is at least (...)
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  21. Gunnar Björnsson & Karl Persson (2009). Judgments of Moral Responsibility – a Unified Account. In [2009] Society for Philosophy and Psychology, 35th Annual Meeting (Bloomington, IN; June 12-14). 326-354.
    Recent work in experimental philosophy shows that folk intuitions about moral responsibility are sensitive to a surprising variety of factors. Whether people take agents to be responsible for their actions in deterministic scenarios depends on whether the deterministic laws are couched in neurological or psychological terms (Nahmias et. al. 2007), on whether actions are described abstractly or concretely, and on how serious moral transgression they seem to represent (Nichols & Knobe 2007). Finally, people are more inclined to hold an agent (...)
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  22. Gunnar Björnsson, Alternatives. Philosophical Communications.
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  23. Gunnar Björnsson (2008). Strawson on 'If' and ⊃. South African Journal of Philosophy 27 (3):24-35.
    This paper is concerned with Sir Peter Strawson’s critical discussion of Paul Grice’s defence of the material implication analysis of conditionals. It argues that although Strawson’s own ‘consequentialist’ suggestion concerning the meaning of conditionals cannot be correct, a related and radically contextualist account is able to both account for the phenomena that motivated Strawson’s consequentialism, and to undermine the material implication analysis by providing a simpler account of the processes that we go through when interpreting conditionals.
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  24. Gunnar Björnsson (2007). How Effects Depend on Their Causes, Why Causal Transitivity Fails, and Why We Care About Causation. Philosophical Studies 133 (3):349 - 390.
    Despite recent efforts to improve on counterfactual theories of causation, failures to explain how effects depend on their causes are still manifest in a variety of cases. In particular, theories that do a decent job explaining cases of causal preemption have problems accounting for cases of causal intransitivity. Moreover, the increasing complexity of the counterfactual accounts makes it difficult to see why the concept of causation would be such a central part of our cognition. In this paper, I propose an (...)
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  25. Gunnar Björnsson, If You Believe in Positive Facts, You Should Believe in Negative Facts. Hommage à Wlodek. Philosophical Papers Dedicated to Wlodek Rabinowicz.
    Substantial metaphysical theory has long struggled with the question of negative facts, facts capable of making it true that Valerie isn’t vigorous. This paper argues that there is an elegant solution to these problems available to anyone who thinks that there are positive facts. Bradley’s regress and considerations of ontological parsimony show that an object’s having a property is an affair internal to the object and the property, just as numerical identity and distinctness are internal to the entities that are (...)
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  26. Gunnar Björnsson, Comments on Lycan's ‘Conditional-Assertion Theories of Conditionals’. Philosophical Communications.
    The overall strategy of Lycan’s paper is to distinguish three kinds of conditional assertion theories, and then to show, in order, how they are variously afflicted by a set of problems. The three kinds of theory were the Quine-Rhinelander theory (or the Simple Illocutionary theory), The Semanticized Quine-Rhinelander, and the No Truth Value theory (or NTV). This strategy offers considerable clarity, but it comes at a cost, for what I take to be the best version of a conditional assertion theory (...)
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  27. Gunnar Björnsson & Arvid Båve (2007). Meaning as a Normative Concept. Theoria 73 (3):190-206.
    IN LATE SPRING 2007, professor Allan Gibbard gave the Hägerström Lectures at Uppsala University, Sweden, under the title of “Meaning as a Normative Concept”. He met up with Gunnar Björnsson and Arvid Båve to talk about the views he develops and defends in the lectures.
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  28. Gunnar Björnsson (2004). A Naturalist's Approach to Modal Intuitions. In Erik Weber Tim De Mey (ed.), Modal Epistemology.
    Modal inquiry is plagued by methodological problems. The best-developed views on modal semantics and modal ontology take modalstatements to be true in virtue of relations between possible worlds. Unfortunately, such views turn modal epistemology into a mystery, and this paper is about ways to avoid that problem. It looks at different remedies suggested by Quine, Blackburn and Peacocke and finds them all wanting. But although Peacocke’s version of the popular conceptualist approach fails to give a normative account of correct modal (...)
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  29. Gunnar Björnsson (2002). How Emotivism Survives Immoralists, Irrationality, and Depression. Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (3):327-344.
    Argues that emotivism is compatible with cases where we seem to lack motivation to act according to our moral opinions.
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  30. Gunnar Björnsson (2001). Why Emotivists Love Inconsistency. Philosophical Studies 104 (1):81 - 108.
    Emotivists hold that moral opinions are wishes and desires, and that the function of moral language is to “express” such states. But if moral opinions were but wishes or desires, why would we see certain opinions as inconsistent with, or following from other opinions? And why should our reasoning include complex opinions such as the opinion that a person ought to be blamed only if he has done something wrong? Indeed, why would we think that anything is conditional on his (...)
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  31. Gunnar Björnsson (1998). Moral Internalism: An Essay in Moral Psychology. Dissertation, Stockholm University
    An ancient but central divide in moral philosophy concerns the nature of opinions about what is morally wrong or what our moralduties are. Some philosophers argue that moral motivation is internal to moral opinions: that moral opinions consist of motivationalstates such as desires or emotions. This has often been seen as athreat to the possibility of rational argument and justification inmorals. Other philosophers argue that moral motivation is external to moral opinion: moral opinions should be seen as beliefs about moral (...)
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