NeuroethicsPessimism Counts in Favor of Biomedical Enhancement:
A Lesson from the Anti-Natalist Philosophy of P.W. Zapffe
– in Neuroethics

Online ahead of print. Click to read.

Abstract: According to the Norwegian philosopher Peter Wessel Zapffe (1899–1990), human life is filled with so much suffering that procreation is morally impermissible. In the first part of this paper I present Zapffe’s pessimism-based argument for anti-natalism,and contrast it with the arguments for anti-natalism proposed by Arthur Schopenhauer and David Benatar. In the second part I explore what Zapffe’s pessimism can teach us about biomedical enhancement. I make the (perhaps surprising) case that pessimism counts in favor of pursuing biomedical enhancements. The reason is that the worse we take the baseline human condition to be, the stronger are our reasons to try to alter humanity, and the weaker are our reasons to fear technology-driven extinction. The prospect of enhancement, I further argue, gives pessimists a reason to reject anti-natalism.


Philosophical_StudiesThe Ethics of Emergencies – in Philosophical Studies

With Aksel Braanen Sterri. Online ahead of printClick to read.

Abstract: Do we have stronger duties to assist in emergencies than in nonemergencies? According to Peter Singer and Peter Unger, we do not. Emergency situations, they suggest, merely serve to make more salient the very extensive duties to assist that we always have. This view, while theoretically simple, appears to imply that we must radically revise common-sense emergency norms. Resisting that implication, theorists like Frances Kamm, Jeremy Waldron, and Larry Temkin suggest that emergencies are indeed normatively exceptional. While their approach is more in line with common-sense, however, it is theoretically less simple, and it is has proven difficult to justify the exception. In this paper we propose a model of emergencies that we call the Informal-Insurance Model, and explain how this can be used to combine theoretical simplicity with common-sense emergency norms.


Individual Solutions to Social Problems  in Journal of Medical Ethics

Online ahead of print. Click to read.

cover jmeAbstract: Non-medical egg freezing (sometimes called “social egg freezing”) is the freezing of human eggs for the sake of delaying parenthood. In “Arguments on thin ice”, Thomas Søbirk Petersen defends non-medical egg freezing against the individualization argument, according to which non-medical egg freezing is objectionable in virtue of being an individual to a social problem. Petersen distinguishes between three variants of the individualization argument and provides strong reasons against each. I argue, however, that he fails to address properly the worry that non-medical egg freezing is a mainly a positional good.


Judicial Corporal Punishment 
– in Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy

jespVol 17, No 1, 2020. Click to read.

Abstract: Most of us think that states are justified in incarcerating criminals, sometimes for decades. In this paper I suggest that if states are justified in this, they are also justified in inflicting certain forms of corporal punishment. Many forms of corporal punishment are less burdensome than long-term incarceration, and arguably, they are also cheaper, fairer, more deterring, and less destructive of the social and economic networks that convicts often depend on for future reintegration into society. After presenting a pro tanto case for corporal punishment, I consider a number of objections. I conclude that although there are genuine downsides to corporal punishment that must be taken very seriously, the case for the judicial use of this punishment method is much stronger than what is commonly assumed.


bioethicsThe Unabomber’s Ethics – in Bioethics

Vol 33, No 2, 2019. Click to read.

Abstract: In this paper I present and criticize Ted Kaczynski’s (‘The Unabomber’) theory that industrialization has been terrible for humanity, and that we should use any means necessary, including violent means, to induce a return to pre-industrial ways of living. Although Kaczynski’s manifesto, ‘Industrial Society and its Future,’ has become widely known, his ideas have never before been subject to careful philosophical criticism. In this paper I show how Kaczynski’s arguments rely on a number of highly implausible philosophical premises. I further make the case that although his theory as a whole should be rejected, Kaczynski raises a number of worries about technological development that ought to receive serious attention. Some of these worries have recently come to be shared by prominent defenders of human enhancement, including Nick Bostrom and Julian Savulescu. In the last section I indicate why I believe it is important that academic philosophers scrutinize ideas that motivate acts of violence.


Palgrave handbookPedophilia & Computer-Generated Child Pornography
in Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy & Public Policy

D. Boonin (ed.). Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.  Click to read.

Abstract: To be a pedophile, according to the World Health Organization, is to have a sexual preference for children, boys or girls or both, usually of prepubertal or early pubertal age. Pedophilia is widespread—approximately two percent of the adult population is primarily sexually attracted to children—and world-wide, approximately 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 12 boys, is a victim of sexual abuse. Most researchers working on pedophilia are psychologists, psychiatrists, and criminologists. How might ethicists contribute to the discussion? In this chapter, we ask, and seek to answer, three distinctively ethical questions about pedophilia: (1) Is it immoral to be a pedophile? (2) Is it immoral for pedophiles to seek out sexual contact with children? (3) Is it immoral for pedophiles to satisfy their sexual preferences by using computer-generated graphics, sex dolls, and/or sex robots that mimic children? We show, through our discussion of these questions, how an ethical investigation of pedophilia can help advance our understanding of how pedophilia should be understood, assessed, and handled.


nordic journal of applied ethicsThe Ethics of Wild Animal Suffering
– in Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics

Vol 10, No 1, 2016. Click to read.

Abstract: Animal ethics has received a lot of attention over the last four decades. Its focus, however, has almost exclusively been on the welfare of captive animals, ignoring the vast majority of animals: those living in the wild. I suggest that this one-sided focus is unwarranted. On the empirical side, I argue that wild animals overwhelmingly outnumber captive animals, and that billions of wild animals are likely to have lives that are even more painful and distressing than those of their captive counterparts. On the normative side, I argue that as long as we have duties of assistance towards humans suffering from natural causes, and we reject anthropocentrism, we also have duties of assistance towards animals suffering in the wild.


Checking People Out
– in Philosophers Take on the World

D. Edmonds (ed.). Oxford University Press, 2016. Click to read.

Opening: You’re walking down the street. Approaching in the opposite direction you see a very attractive person. As he or she passes, you feel tempted to turn your head so as to, well, check them out. I assume that you have felt this temptation. I, at least, have felt it many times. I have resisted turning my head, however, since doing so is supposedly a bad thing. But what, exactly, is supposed to make it bad? One answer might be that it is a privacy invasion. But that can’t be right. By turning your head, you don’t come to see anything that isn’t already public. The perspective that you get is identical to the perspective available to whoever is already walking behind the person.


cover jmeThe Case for Cryonics – in Journal of Medical Ethics

Vol 41, No 8, 2015. Click to read.

Cryonics is the low temperature preservation of people who can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine in the hope that future medicine will make it possible to revive them and restore their health. As it is a speculative practice at the outer edge of science, cryonics is often viewed with suspicion. In this paper I defend two theses. I first argue that there is a small, yet nonnegligible, chance that cryonics is technically feasible. I make the case for this by reference to what we know about death and cryobiology, and what we can expect of future nanorobotics. I further argue that insofar as the alternatives to cryonics are burial or cremation, and thus certain, irreversible death, even small chances for success can be sufficient to make opting for cryonics a rational choice. Finally, I reply to five objections.


BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Point of View of the Universe’ by Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek & Peter Singer
– in Utilitas

Vol 27, No 1, 2015. Click to read.

Opening: One of Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer’s aims in The Point of View of the Universe: Sidgwick and Contemporary Ethics is ‘to enable you to appreciate Sidgwick’s thought without having to face the difficulties of reading all 500 pages of The Methods [of Ethics]’ (viii). Although Lazari-Radek and Singer themselves end up at 403 pages, they make Sidgwick’s ethical theory – including the finer details of that theory – significantly more accessible than it has hitherto been made. Importantly, however, The Point of View of The Universe is not just a book about Sidgwick. In each chapter, after presenting an aspect of Sidgwick’s ethics, the authors provide a tour of how this topic is discussed in contemporary philosophy. Finally, in response to contemporary challenges, Lazari-Radek and Singer provide an up-to-date defence of Sidgwick. On a systematic level, the book is a defence of hedonistic act-utilitarianism…


BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Problem of Political Authority’  by Michael Huemer
– in Philosophical Quarterly

Vol 64, No 256, 2014. Click to read.

Opening: We are all against theft, extortion, and kidnapping. But when the state does strikingly similar things, and these are called expropriation, taxation, and imprisonment, our estimations change. The state and its agents, we think, may rightfully do many things that individual citizens may not do. What gives them this privilege? This is what Michael Huemer calls ‘the problem of political authority’ and, in his view, such authority does not exist. Huemer examines the central justifications for political authority: actual and hypothetical social contract theories, democratic theories, consequentialist theories, and theories that appeal to fairness. He argues that they all fail and seeks support for this by appealing to widely shared intuitions about when we are justified in using coercion to reach our goals. Importantly, Huemer does not argue that everything that states do is done without authority. States, he claims, do have the authority to stop crimes such as theft, rape, and murder. These are also, however, things that ordinary citizens have the authority to stop and this is in line with Huemer’s overall point: that the ethical limits to what the state and its agents may do are as strict as the ethical limit to what ordinary citizens may do…


cover jmeIs Prostitution Harmful?  in Journal of Medical Ethics

Vol 40, No 2, 2014. Click to read.

A common argument against prostitution states that selling sex is harmful because it involves selling something deeply personal and emotional. More and more of us, however, believe that sexual encounters need not be deeply personal and emotional in order to be acceptable—we believe in the acceptability of casual sex. In this paper I argue that if casual sex is acceptable, then we have few or no reasons to reject prostitution. I do so by first examining nine influential arguments to the contrary. These arguments purport to pin down the alleged additional harm brought about by prostitution (compared to just casual sex) by appealing to various aspects of its practice, such as its psychology, physiology, economics and social meaning. For each argument I explain why it is unconvincing. I then weight the costs against the benefits of prostitution, and argue that, in sum, prostitution is no more harmful than a long line of occupations that we commonly accept without hesitation.

This was a feature article with invited commentaries: Commentary by Rosalind McDougallCommentary by Scott A. Anderson; Commentary by Anna Westin.

My responses: Response to McDougall and Anderson, Response to Westin.


Other articles and reviews:.

Racial Justice Requires Ending the War on Drugs – American Journal of Bioethics, forthcoming. With 50 other authors.

An Argument for Intrinsic Value Monism – Philosophica 44 (4) 2016

An Argument for Hedonism – Journal of Value Inquiry 50 (2) 2016

Paying for Sex: Only for People With Disabilities? – Journal of Medical Ethics 42 (1) 2016. With Brian Earp.

Hedonism Before Bentham – Journal of Bentham Studies 17 (1) 2015

Should We Give Money to Beggars? – Think 13 (37) 2014

Slutten på mennesket slik vi kjenner det – Samtiden 4/2014

The Unity and Commensurability of Pleasures and Pains – Philosophia 41 (2) 2013

Bokanmeldelse: Morten Magelssen, ‘Menneskeverd i klinikk og politikk’ – Norsk filosofisk tidsskrift 48 (3-4) 2013: 315–317

Åpenhet om eget livssyn overfor elever – Religion og livssyn 2 2013

Is Life the Ultimate Value? A Reassessment of Ayn Rand’s Ethics – Reason Papers 32 (2) 2012. (See response by David Kelley.)

Cosmetic Surgery – Think 11 (31) 2012 

Book review: Jan Narveson, ‘This is Ethical Theory’ – Journal of Value Inquiry 45 (3) 2011

Innledende essay – Statsmakens grenser av Wilhelm von Humboldt. Andreas Harald Aure (ed.). Oslo: Unipub, 2011.