Gunnar Björnsson

Visiting Research Fellow

Philosophy and Logic unit
Visiting address
Renströmsgatan 6
41255 Göteborg
Postal address
Box 200
40530 Göteborg

About Gunnar Björnsson


After receiving my PhD from Stockholm University in 1998, I've held postdoctoral and research fellowships at the University of Connecticut, Stockholm University and the University of Gothenburg, an Associate Professorship at Linköping University, and a Professorship at Umeå University, before taking up my current position as Professor of Practical Philosophy at Stockholm University. I've recently led a research projects on moral motivation (in Gothenburg) and one on responsibility in complex systems (in Umeå). I also coordinated what is now the Lund Gothenburg Responsibility Project from its inception in 2011 until 2015, when we secured a 10-year SRC grant and recruited Professor Paul Russell to lead the project. My current research project, Explanations of Responsibility, is funded by the SRC and is concerned with developing a general theory of moral responsibility and the psychology of responsibility attributions. Apart from research, my time has been devoted to co-authoring several books in Swedish on critical thinking and informal logic.

Research interests

Most of my research interests fall into metaethics, moral psychology, naturalized theories of cognition, philosophy of language, and moral responsibility. In the area of moral responsibility, I work on unified accounts of responsibility and attributions of responsibility, with a particular interest in moral responsibility skepticism and attributions of responsibility to groups and organizations. The guiding idea has been to start with an empirically adequate account of why attributions of responsibility display the patterns they do. Based on such an account, we can understand why people are prone to skepticism when considering the possibility of determinism or external causes of actions, and why people are tempted to attribute shared moral responsibility to groups and to hold nations and corporations responsible while being worried that lack of individual control undermines responsibility. With that understanding, we are then better placed to determine the correctness of compatibilist and incompatibilist intuitions and judgments and attributions of moral responsibility to groups.

In metaethics, my main interests have been moral disagreement and the relation between moral judgment and moral motivation, and what these tell us about the nature of moral judgment. My effort to understand moral disagreement has been largely guided by an effort to understand disagreement phenomena more generally, in particular disagreement about what seems to be relative or subjective matters of fact: taste, epistemic modalities, and certain kinds of normative judgments. Based on completely general accounts of attributions of disagreement and attributions of correctness and incorrectness, I have argued that such attributions do not lend any support to absolutist accounts of moral judgments.

My attempt to understand the relation between moral judgments and motivation have used a similar method, beginning with an attempt to understand why we classify certain states of mind as judgments of moral wrongness, and how information about an agent’s motivational states affects such attributions. Some aspects of these classifications might seem to support motivational internalism—the idea that moral judgments necessarily involve motivational states such as desires—whereas others point in the opposite direction. Motivational internalism seems to go particularly well with the idea that moral judgments are non-cognitive states while being in tension with the idea that moral judgments are beliefs in non-subjective facts. Here I have argued that the best account for classificatory intuitions falls within a broadly non-cognitivist tradition without assuming that moral judgments are necessarily motivating.

Selected recent publications relevant to issues of moral responsibility

Björnsson, Gunnar forthcoming: “Individual and Shared Obligations: In Defense of the Activist's Perspective”. In Philosophy and Climate Change. Budolfson, Mark, McPherson, Tristram and Plunkett, David (eds) Oxford University Press.

Björnsson, Gunnar 2020: “Experimental Philosophy and Moral Responsibility”. In Oxford Handbook of Moral Responsibility. Nelkin, Dana and Pereboom, Derk (eds) Oxford University Press.

Björnsson, Gunnar and Shepherd, Joshua 2020: “Determinism and Attributions of Consciousness”. Philosophical Psychology, 33, pp. 549-68.

Björnsson, Gunnar 2020: “Collective Responsibility and Collective Obligations without Collective Agents”. In The Routledge Handbook of Collective Responsibility. Bazargan-Forward, Saba and Tollefsen, Deborah (eds) New York: Routledge pp. 127–41.

Björnsson, G. and Hess, K. M. 2017: “Corporate Crocodile Tears? On the Reactive Attitudes of Corporations”. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 94 (2):273–98.

Björnsson, Gunnar. 2017. “Explaining Away Epistemic Skepticism about Culpability”. In Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, edited by David Shoemaker, 141–64. Oxford University Press.

Björnsson, Gunnar. 2017. “Explaining (away) the epistemic condition on moral responsibility”. In Responsibility: The Epistemic Condition, edited by Philip Robichaud and Jan Willem Wieland, 146–62. New York: Oxford University Press.

Björnsson, Gunnar, and Bengt Brülde. 2017. “Normative Responsibilities: Structure and Sources”. In Parental Responsibility in the Context of Neuroscience and Genetics, edited by Kristien Hens, Daniela Cutas and Dorothee Horstkötter, 13-33. Cham: Springer.

Björnsson, G., McPherson, T. 2014: “Moral Attitudes for Non-Cognitivists: Solving the specification problem”, Mind, 124: 1–38.

Björnsson, G. 2014: “Essentially Shared Obligations”, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, vol. 38 Forward-Looking Collective Moral Responsibility, pp. 103–120.

Björnsson, G., Persson, K. 2013: “A Unified Empirical Account of Responsibility Judgments”. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 87: 611-39.

Björnsson, G., Persson, K. 2012: “The Explanatory Component of Moral Responsibility”, Noûs 46(2): 326–354.


Björnsson on Academia

Björnsson on Researchgate

Björnsson at Stockholm University