Johan E. Gustafsson

I am a lecturer in philosophy at the University of York. While I am intrested in most areas of philosophy, most of my work focuses on the areas that relate the question of what we, rationally or morally, ought to do. Much of it covers theoretical problems in ethics and value theory. And much of the rest is on decision theory and more specifically on preferences, money pumps, and moral uncertainty. In metaphysics, I work on free will and personal identity. And, sometimes, I work on the history of these topics. I have dabbled in meta-ethics and freedom of choice. I also design flags.



Consequentialism with Wrongness Depending on the Difficulty of Doing Better
Thought 5 (2): 108–118, 2016
Moral wrongness comes in degrees. On a consequentialist view of ethics, the wrongness of an act should depend, I argue, in part on how much worse the act’s consequences are compared to those of its alternatives and in part on how difficult it is to perform the alternatives with better consequences. I extend act consequentialism to take this into account.
Sequential Dominance and the Anti-Aggregation Principle
Philosophical Studies 172 (6): 1593–1601, 2015
The anti-aggregation principle says that it is wrong to save a larger number of people from minor harms rather than a smaller number from much more serious harms. I show that this principle, in some cases, requires that one knowingly makes everyone worse off. This result holds regardless of how much worse a harm has to be in order to count as a much more serious harm and whether one accepts a counterfactual or temporal view of harm.
Combinative Consequentialism and the Problem of Act Versions
Philosophical Studies 167 (3): 585–596, 2014
If both an act and a more specific version of that act are among an agent’s alternatives, act consequentialism yields deontic paradoxes. The standard response to this problem is to restrict the application of act consequentialism to certain relevant alternative sets. One such approach is maximalism, which says that act consequentialism should only be applied to maximally specific acts. This paper argues against maximalism and proposes instead that the relevant alternatives should be the exhaustive combinations of acts the agent can jointly perform without performing any other act in the situation.

Moral Uncertainty

In Defence of My Favourite Theory
with Olle Torpman
Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (2): 159–174, 2014
This paper defends the My Favourite Theory approach to moral uncertainty. On this approach, a morally conscientious agent chooses an option that is permitted by the most credible moral theory. In defence of this approach, we argue that, unlike its main rivals, it prescribes dynamically consistent choices without relying on intertheoretic comparisons of value. We rebut the arguments that have been levelled against the approach and offer some arguments against intertheoretic comparisons of value.

Decision Theory

A Note in Defence of Ratificationism
Erkenntnis 75 (1): 147–150, 2011
Andy Egan argues that neither evidential nor causal decision theory gives the intuitively right recommendation in the cases The Smoking Lesion, The Psychopath Button, and The Three-Option Smoking Lesion. Furthermore, Egan argues that we cannot avoid these problems by any kind of ratificationism. This paper develops a new version of ratificationism that gives the intuitively right recommendations in each of these cases.
Preference and Choice
Doctoral Thesis, Royal Institute of Technology, 2011

Freedom of Choice

Freedom of Choice and Expected Compromise
Social Choice and Welfare 35 (1): 65–79, 2010
This paper develops a new measure of freedom of choice based on the proposal that an option set offers more freedom of choice than another if and only if the expected degree of dissimilarity between a random alternative from the universal set of all possible alternatives and the most similar offered alternative in the option set is smaller.


A Computer Simulation of the Argument from Disagreement
with Martin Peterson
Synthese 184 (3): 387–405, 2012
According to the argument from disagreement, widespread and persistent disagreement on ethical issues indicates that our moral opinions are not influenced by moral facts, either because no such facts exist or because they are epistemically inaccessible or inefficacious for some other reason. This paper sheds new light on this argument by putting it to test in a computer simulation. Note: You can run your own simulations in the web complement.

Value Theory

Still Not ‘Good’ in Terms of ‘Better’
Noûs, 50 (4): 854–864, 2016
Erik Carlson puts forward a new way of defining monadic value predicates, such as ‘good’, in terms of dyadic value relations, such as ‘better’. Earlier definitions of this kind have the unwanted feature that they rule out some reasonable axiologies by conceptual fiat. Carlson claims that his definitions do not have this drawback. This paper argues that they do.
Neither ‘Good’ in Terms of ‘Better’ nor ‘Better’ in Terms of ‘Good’
Noûs 48 (3): 466–473, 2014
This paper argues against defining either of ‘good’ and ‘better’ in terms of the other. Against defining ‘good’ in terms of ‘better’, I argue that this approach rules out reasonable axiologies. Against defining ‘better’ in terms of ‘good’, I argue that this approach either cannot allow for the incorruptibility of intrinsic goodness or it breaks down in cases where both of the relata of ‘better’ are bad.
Value-Preference Symmetry and Fitting-Attitude Accounts of Value Relations
The Philosophical Quarterly 63 (252): 476–491, 2013
Value-preference symmetry is the claim that for every value relation, there is a corresponding preference relation, and vice versa. This paper argues that, if this symmetry holds, Joshua Gert’s and Wlodek Rabinowicz’s frameworks for value relations are either inadequate or without support. I present a simpler framework for value relations that allows for value-preference symmetry.
Indeterminacy and the Small-Improvement Argument
Utilitas 25 (4): 433–445, 2013
The small-improvement argument is the standard argument against the view that, for any two things, either one is better than the other or they are equally good. This paper argues that the small-improvement argument fails since it relies on some comparisons that might be indeterminate. I defend this view from two objections by Ruth Chang, namely, the argument from phenomenology and the argument from perplexity. I also offer a new counter-example to John Broome’s collapsing principle.

Money Pumps

Money Pumps, Incompleteness, and Indeterminacy
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (1): 60–72, 2016
The money-pump argument is the standard argument that rational preferences are transitive. This argument, I argue, fails if preferences are rationally permitted to be incomplete but it works if preferences are rationally permitted to be indeterminate and rationally required to be complete.
The Irrelevance of the Diachronic Money-Pump Argument for Acyclicity
The Journal of Philosophy 110 (8): 460–464, 2013
The money-pump argument is the standard argument that rational preferences are acyclic. It shows that, if one has cyclic preferences, one may accept a series of trades that results in a sure loss. Two stock objections are that one may get the drift and refuse the trades and that one may adopt a plan to only accept some of the trades. This paper argues that, if the diachronic money-pump argument is cogent, so is a more direct synchronic argument. The stock objections to the money-pump argument do not affect this synchronic argument.
A Money-Pump for Acyclic Intransitive Preferences
Dialectica 64 (2): 251–257, 2010
The standard argument that rational preferences are transitive is the money-pump argument. Still, the standard version of this argument only works against cyclic preferences. This paper presents a money-pump argument that also works against acyclic intransitive preferences.


An Extended Framework for Preference Relations
Economics and Philosophy 27 (3): 360–367, 2011
The traditional framework for preference relations analyses them in terms of a hypothetical choice between the relata. I extend this approach by analysing dyadic preference relations in terms of two hypothetical choices: the choice between keeping the first relata or swapping it for the second relata; and the choice between keeping the second or swapping it for the first. Note: A misprinted version was published in Economics and Philosophy 27 (2): 101–108, 2011.
Conflicting Reasons in the Small-Improvement Argument
with Nicolas Espinoza
The Philosophical Quarterly 60 (241): 754–763, 2010
The small-improvement argument is the standard argument that rational preferences need not be complete. This paper argues that while there might be reasons to believe each of the premises in the small-improvement argument, there is a conflict between these reasons such that they provide no reason to believe the conclusion.

Free Will

A Strengthening of the Consequence Argument for Incompatibilism
Analysis, forthcoming
The aim of the Consequence Argument is to show that, if determinism is true, no one has, or ever had, any choice about anything. The argument has two premises: the fixity of the past and the fixity of the laws. The traditional version of the argument has fairly weak versions of these premises, but it requires an invalid inference rule. A standard response is to strengthen both premises. I show that we only need to strengthen one of them.

History of Philosophy

Bentham’s Binary Form of Maximizing Utilitarianism
British Journal for the History of Philosophy, forthcoming Jeremy Bentham is often read as defending a satisficing, rather than maximizing, version of utilitarianism, where an act is right as long as it produces more pleasure than pain. This is surprising given his maximizing slogan ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’. I argue that Bentham consistently defends a binary form of maximizing utilitarianism, where an act’s consequences are compared to those of not performing the act.
Did Locke Defend the Memory Continuity Criterion of Personal Identity?
Locke Studies 10:113–129, 2010
This paper argues that the traditional memory interpretation of John Locke’s account of personal identity is mistaken and defends a memory continuity view according to which a sequence of overlapping memories is necessary and sufficient for personal identity. On the new interpretation, Locke is not vulnerable to Thomas Reid’s Brave Officer argument.

Personal Identity

The Unimportance of Being Any Future Person
Philosophical Studies, forthcoming
Derek Parfit’s argument against the platitude that identity is what matters in survival does not work given his intended reading of the platitude, namely, that what matters in survival to some future time is being identical with someone who is alive at that time. I develop Parfit’s argument so that it works against the platitude on this intended reading.
Phenomenal Continuity and the Bridge Problem
Philosophia 39 (2): 289–296, 2011
Any theory that analyses personal identity in terms of phenomenal continuity needs to deal with the ordinary interruptions of our consciousness that it is commonly thought that a person can survive. This is the bridge problem. This paper offers a new solution to the bridge problem based on the proposal that dreamless sleep need not interrupt phenomenal continuity.


Review of Iwao Hirose, Moral Aggregation
Mind, forthcoming
Review of Karin Enflo, Measures of Freedom of Choice
Theoria 81 (1): 87–92, 2015

In Swedish

Om konsekventialism med grader av fel’
Filosofisk tidskrift 33 (3): 31–38, 2012


An errata for my published work