Jakob Elster

Associate Professor - Norwegian Centre for Human Rights
Image of Jakob Elster
Norwegian version of this page
Phone +47 22845530
Visiting address Kristian August gate 17 Domus Juridica 7.etg 0164 Oslo
Postal address Postboks 6706 St Olavs plass 0130 Oslo


I obtained my PhD in philosophy from the University of Oslo in 2007. My PhD-thesis, entitled Transforming Moral Motivation, discussed the government’s right to influence people’s moral motivation in order to change their behavior in morally desirable ways, and the moral constraints which should be imposed on this right.

After my PhD, I have been research school coordinator at the Ethics Programme, University of Oslo (2007-2008), postdoctoral researcher at the Ethics Programme and at the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of art and Ideas (IFIKK), University of Oslo (2008-2011) and senior adviser at the Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research Ethics (REC) South-East Norway (2011-2016).

Academic interests

I have a broad set of research interests within ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of human rights. Among the topics I am interested in, are:

  • Autonomy, paternalism and legitimate limits to the right to autonomy
  • Consequentialist moral theories and the relationship between consequentialism and rights
  • Methodological issues in ethics and political philosophy
  • Medical research ethics
  • Bioethics, and the relationship between bioethics and human rights


I contribute/ have contributed to teaching the following courses:


In 2020/2021, I will be one of the group leaders of the project “What is a Good Policy? Political Morality, Feasibility and Democracy (GOODPOL)” at the Centre for Advanced Study (CAS) at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.


  • Member of the Regional committee for medical and health-research ethics South-East, committee A (2017-)
  • Member of the working group for life science at the Faculty of Law, University of Oslo (2016-)


My article “How Outlandish Can Imaginary Cases Be?” (2011) won the Journal of Applied Philosophy’s annual prize for the best article published in the year’s volume.

Tags: human rights, ethics, political philosophy, bioethics, research ethics, autonomy


View all works in Cristin

  • Elster, Jakob (2022). Samspillet mellom empiriske og normative premisser i utformingen av god politikk.
  • Elster, Jakob (2020). Bør vi ha mindre strenge samtykkekrav i helseforskningen? Khrono.no. ISSN 1894-8995.
  • Elster, Jakob (2020). Ville utsatt skoleåpning ha vært etisk forsvarlig? Khrono.no. ISSN 1894-8995.
  • Elster, Jakob (2020). Hvilken etiker skulle man stole på? Salongen – nettidsskrift for filosofi og idéhistorie. ISSN 2703-7053.
  • Elster, Jakob (2015). Review of Fiona Woollard, Doing and Allowing Harm. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. ISSN 1538-1617.
  • Elster, Jakob (2010). The Brain and its Law.
  • Elster, Jakob (2010). ”You don’t know what it’s like!” –personal experience in morality and public reason.
  • Elster, Jakob (2009). Democratic authority in non-ideal theory: some thoughts on David Estlund’s defence of hopeless political theories.
  • Elster, Jakob (2009). "You Don't Know What It's Like!" - The Role of Personal Experience in Moral Argumentation.
  • Elster, Jakob (2008). Bioethics committees between moral epistemology and political legitimacy.
  • Elster, Jakob (2008). Ought implies can.
  • Elster, Jakob (2008). What do we explain when we explain morality?
  • Elster, Jakob (2008). Bioetiske komiteer – mellom etikk og politikk.
  • Elster, Jakob; Roll-Hansen, Nils & Storm, Johan Frederik (2008). Upop-aften: Nevroetikk.
  • Elster, Jakob (2008). Hvilken rolle skal moralsk motivasjon ha i velferdspolitikken?
  • Elster, Jakob & Bomann-Larsen, Lene (2007). Deltagelse i radioprogram om moralske intuisjoner og drap i krig, mm. [Radio]. Verdibørsen.
  • Block, Ned; Galaaen, Øistein Schmidt & Elster, Jakob (2007). Empiricism in the Philosophy of Mind? An Interview with Ned Block. [Newspaper]. Filosofisk Supplement 1, 2007, pp. 30-34.
  • Elster, Jakob (2007). Hjerneskadete utilitarister - Hvordan fungerer vår moralske dømmekraft?
  • Elster, Jakob (2007). How does the mind matter for the law?
  • Elster, Jakob (2007). (How) Can We Draw Normative Conclusions From Empirical Work In Moral Psychology?
  • Elster, Jakob (2006). Legitimate Motivational Transformation.
  • Elster, Jakob (2006). Om å undervise i bioetikk i skolen: Hva underviser man i og hvorfor?
  • Bomann-Larsen, Lene & Elster, Jakob (2005). Deltagelse i radioprogram: Debatt om moralske dilemmaer og de hvite bussene. [Radio]. Verdibørsen, NRK P2.
  • Elster, Jakob (2005). Umotiverte for det gode. [Newspaper]. Klassekampen.
  • Elster, Jakob (2005). Gud, gener og moral. [Internet]. forskning.no.
  • Elster, Jakob (2005). Intervju i Østlandssendingen. [Radio]. NRK Østlandssendingen.
  • Elster, Jakob (2005). Intervju på P4s Helgefrokost. [Radio]. P4s Helgefrokost.
  • Elster, Jakob (2005). - Mangler moralsk motivasjon. [Internet]. Apollon.
  • Elster, Jakob (2005). Teaching bioethics in the secondary education – the Norwegian experience.
  • Elster, Jakob (2005). Simone Weil on the Purificational Role of Atheism and Amoralism.
  • Elster, Jakob (2005). Can the Level of Our Moral Motivation Influence the Content of Our Moral Duties?
  • Elster, Jakob (2004). Wrongful life problems and euthanasia.
  • Elster, Jakob (2003). Moral Motivation and Political and Social Institutions.
  • Elster, Jakob (2007). Transforming Moral Motivation. Unipub forlag. ISSN 0806-3222.
  • Elster, Jakob & Von Troil, Helena (2004). How to best teach bioethics. Report from a workshop March 2003 organised by The Nordic Committee on Bioethics and NorFA. Nordisk ministerråd. ISSN 92-893-1005-7.

View all works in Cristin

Published Aug. 30, 2016 1:29 PM - Last modified Feb. 22, 2019 11:18 AM