Papers and chapters

"Autonomy, Community, and the Justification of Public Reason", Canadian Journal of Philosophy (2024) [FirstView]. Full text (open access)

Abstract: Recently, there have been attempts at offering new justifications of the Rawlsian idea of public reason. Blain Neufeld has suggested that the ideal of political autonomy justifies public reason, while R.J. Leland and Han van Wietmarschen have sought to justify the idea by appealing to the value of political community. In this paper, I show that both proposals are vulnerable to a common problem. In realistic circumstances, they will often turn into reasons to oppose, rather than support, public reason. However, this counterintuitive result can be avoided if we conceive of autonomy and community differently.

"Freedom,  Equality, and Justifiability to All: Reinterpreting Liberal Legitimacy", The Journal of Ethics (2022) Vol. 26: 591-612. Full text (open access)

Abstract: According to John Rawls’s famous Liberal Principle of Legitimacy, the exercise of political power is legitimate only if it is justifiable to all citizens. The currently dominant interpretation of what is justifiable to persons in this sense is an internalist one. On this view, what is justifiable to persons depends on their beliefs and commitments. In this paper I challenge this reading of Rawls’s principle, and instead suggest that it is most plausibly interpreted in externalist terms. On this alternative view, what is justifiable to persons is not in any way dependent on, or relativized to, their beliefs and commitments. Instead, what is justifiable to all in the relevant sense is what all could accept as free and equal. I defend this reinterpretation of the view by showing how it is supported by Rawls’s account of the freedom and equality of persons. In addition, a considerable advantage of this suggestion is that it allows for an inclusive account of to whom the exercise of political power must be made justifiable. 

"Distributive Justice, Social Cooperation, and the Basis of Equality", Theoria (2022) Vol. 88, No, 6: 1180-1195. Full text (open access)

Abstract: This paper considers the view that the basis of equality is the range property of being a moral person. This view, suggested by John Rawls in his A Theory of Justice (1971), is commonly dismissed in the literature. By defending the view against the criticism levelled against it, I aim to show that this dismissal has been too quick. The critics have generally failed to fully appreciate the fact that Rawls's account is restricted to the domain of distributive justice. On Rawls's view distributive justice is a matter of the fair terms of cooperation among the participants of a system of social cooperation. I argue that this understanding of distributive justice can provide a compelling rationale for considering moral personality as the basis of equality for this domain of morality. That moral persons are indeed equal is further supported by an intuitive argument concerning the irrelevance of morally arbitrary factors, giving us reasons to believe that varying capacities among moral persons does not result in an unequal moral status. The dismissal of Rawls's account of equality has thus been premature, and it remains an important view to consider. 

"The Repugnant Conclusion: An Overview", The Oxford Handbook of Intergenerational Ethics (ed. Stephen M. Gardiner) (2021). Co-authored with Gustaf Arrhenius. Full text

Abstract: The repugnant conclusion can be formulated as follows: For any population consisting of people with very high positive welfare, there is a better population in which everyone has a very low positive welfare, other things being equal. As the name indicates, this conclusion appears unacceptable. Yet it has proven to be surprisingly difficult to find a theory that avoids it without implying other very counterintuitive conclusions. Moreover, the conclusion is a problem not just for total utilitarians or those committed to welfarism but for all moral theories according to which welfare matters at least when all other things are equal, which arguably is a minimal adequacy condition for any moral theory. And, not the least, how to deal with it has implications for the present generations’ duties to future generations and intergenerational justice. The question as to how the repugnant conclusion should be dealt with has thus become one of the cardinal challenges of modern ethics, and the inquiry into what it shows about the nature of ethics has opened up many new avenues for research. This chapter covers the different suggestions in the literature on how to do deal with the conclusion, both on the axiological and on the normative levels. Moreover, the conclusion and different ways of deriving it are explained in detail. 

"Constructivist Contractualism and Future Generations", The Oxford Handbook of Intergenerational Ethics (ed. Stephen M. Gardiner) (2021). Co-authored with Gustaf Arrhenius. Full text

Abstract: In constructivist contractualist theories, such as Rawls’, principles of justice should mirror beliefs that we all, in some sense, share. One would then arrive at principles that everybody could, in that sense, accept. These principles should specify, among other things, to whom to distribute the relevant benefits and burdens and to whom to assign responsibility for the distribution. In addition to this classical assignment problem, however, constructivist contractualism must also deal with a new, and quite different, assignment problem since what to count as beliefs that we all share depends on how the set of people that make up the “we” is delimited. Thus, for constructivist contractualism, the questions of whom to assign a part in the justification procedure and whom to exclude, and how to justify these inclusions and exclusions, are of crucial importance. In this chapter we consider the inclusion or exclusion of future generations, and how this case illuminates a general problem for constructivist contractualism. 

"A Theory of Justice - en radikal vision om det fullständigt rättvisa samhället", Tidskrift för politisk filosofi (2021), Vol. 25, No. 2-3: 4-28. Full text (open access)

Abstract: John Rawls A Theory of Justice har haft ett monumentalt inflytande på den moderna politiska filosofin. Jag försöker här genom några nedslag i den nutida diskussionen förmedla en bild av detta inflytande, och av bokens fortsatta filosofiska relevans. Jag inleder med en kort presentation av huvuddragen i Rawls rättviseteori. Efter det går jag igenom, och bemöter, kritiken mot idealteori. Jag diskuterar sedan förhållandet mellan rättvisa och ekonomisk ojämlikhet, och förklarar varför teorin är radikalare än vad många kritiker insett. Slutligen går jag igenom hur en kontraktsteori av detta slag kan hantera frågan om rättvisa mellan generationer. 

"Political Liberalism and the Interests of Children: A Reply to Timothy Michael Fowler", Res Publica (2011) Vol. 17, No. 3: 291-296. Full text

Abstract: Timothy Michael Fowler has argued that, as a consequence of their commitment to neutrality in regard to comprehensive doctrines, political liberals face a dilemma. In essence, the dilemma for political liberals is that either they have to give up their commitment to neutrality (which is an indispensible part of their view), or they have to allow harm to children. Fowler’s case for this dilemma depends on ascribing to political liberals a view which grants parents a great degree of freedom in deciding on the education of their children. I show that ascribing this view to political liberals rests upon a misinterpretation of political liberalism. Since political liberals have access to reasons based upon the interests of children, they need not yield to parent’s wishes about the education of their children. A correct understanding of political liberalism thus shows that political liberals do not face the dilemma envisaged by Fowler. 

Book reviews

"Actualizing Human Rights: Global Inequality, Future People, and Motivation by Jos Philips", Nordic Journal of Human Rights (2022) Vol. 40, No. 1: 261-263. Full text

"Leva fritt och leva väl av Per Bauhn", Filosofisk Tidskrift (2021) No. 3: 44-52. Full text (open access)

"Om falsk och äkta liberalism av Lena Andersson", Tidskrift för politisk filosofi (2019) Vol. 23, No. 2: 49-56. Full text (open access)

"The State of Democratic Theory av Ian Shapiro", Tidskrift för politisk filosofi (2010), Vol. 14, No. 3: 55-63. Full text (open access)


Reinterpreting Liberal Legitimacy (2019) Department of Philosophy, Uppsala University. More details

Abstract: This thesis is an inquiry into the Liberal Principle of Legitimacy, formulated by John Rawls in his later writings. According to this principle, the exercise of political power is legitimate only if it is justifiable to all citizens. This view can be interpreted in different ways, and I argue that the presently most popular way of doing so faces serious problems. The aim is to identify and defend a more plausible version of the principle, which overcomes these problems, and yet preserves the most essential and appealing features of the approach. Among the most central issues for how to interpret the principle are how to understand the notion of justifiability to a person, and who should be included in the group of persons referred to as "all citizens". On the currently received view, only justifiability to those who count as "reasonable" matter, and justifiability to these persons is understood in non-moral terms, as being determined by what is accessible to them, given the beliefs that they happen to hold. I argue that we have good reasons to reject both of these suggestions. We should instead spell out justifiability to a person in terms of what could be reasonably accepted in a moral sense, which allows us to retain the appealing idea that legitimacy is dependent on justifiability to all citizens over whom political power is exercised. I further suggest that we can use the original position – Rawls’s version of the social contract – to determine what is justifiable to all in this sense. I defend this suggestion against the expected objection that it will not be able to take reasonable pluralism – the assumption of deep disagreement between citizens – into account, by explaining why we should sharply distinguish this principle of political legitimacy from the theory of Political Liberalism. This distinction also contributes to my response to the objection, raised against this principle, that it is self-defeating. That my suggested interpretation allows us to convincingly respond to this line of criticism is yet another reason as to why it is preferable to the standard view.