About me

I am a philosopher working at the intersection of ethics, philosophy of action, and the philosophy of behavioral and brain sciences. My main interest is in self-control, agency, and responsibility; further interests include philosophy of disability and psychopathology, and the application of emerging technologies in healthcare. Since February 2021, I have worked as Senior Researcher (fi: erikoistutkija) in the multidisciplinary Academy of Finland Nudging for Climate research project, where my attention is on the conceptual and ethical aspects of nudge theory and the development of nudge interventions.

Best contacted by e-mail at polaris.koi (at) utu (dot) fi.
I can also be found at PhilPeople, ResearchGate and Academia.edu.

My pronouns are he/him, they/them.

Photo: Tinksu Wessman

Research statement

My primary research programme explores self-control, agency and responsibility in our changing scientific landscape.

In my dissertation, ”An access theory of self-control: Essays on self-control, ADHD, and stimulant medication”, I defend a value-deflationist definition of self-control, according to which self-control is that which is enacted to align one’s behaviour with intention in the face of competing motivation. or my account, self-control is defined by its behavioural function, not by its reliance on any specific cognitive or neural process. As a result, self-control can be realized by a large range of functionally equivalent processes. Not all self-control processes are equally available for all agents, however. Some processes that are heavily reliant on executive functioning, such as inhibition and rehearsal of reasons, are unavailable for agents with executive dysfunction. For other self-control processes, social and economic constraints delimit their availability. I analyse individual differences in self-control in terms of differences in access to self-control behaviours, articulating criteria for access to self-control and demonstrating how epistemic and practical constraints contingently modulate access to self-control in a manner that results in aggravated individual differences in self-control. 

As an extension of my ecological approach to self-control, I have come to appreciate the complexity of how people come to make decisions in complex environments. One upshot of this has been my ongoing research in the Nudging for Climate research consortium on the ethics and underlying mechanisms of nudging, a form of behavioural public policy that steers citizen behaviour by altering the salience of certain cues in the environment.

Understanding action selection is foundational for philosophical debates on topics as diverse as decision theory, behavioral economics, delayed gratification, and freedom of the will. Sometimes action follows a conscious decision; at other times, behaviors are selected without a decision having taken place, such as when habits or environmental cues cause us to act. In both philosophy and empirical sciences, attention and action selection are typically studied in isolation from each other; exceptions to the rule exist but are few. A future direction for my research is to inquire into the connection of attention and action by exploring the role of attentional processes in option generation.

My second, overlapping research programme examines causal, conceptual and metaphysical issues in complex traits, particularly within psychiatry. From 2016 to 2019, I participated as Junior Investigator in the Genetics and Human Agency research project. Within that project, I investigated genetic explanations of ADHD and their import for assessments of moral and criminal responsibility. Studying the biological causation of human behavior within GHA has left me with a sustained interest in thinking about gene-environment interaction in the context of individual differences in complex traits. I have also inquired into the metaphysics of psychopathology, wishing to clarify the ways in which social causes interact with individual biology in the ontology of mental disorder.

I have a further interest in the ethics of emerging technologies in healthcare. I have recently worked on the promises and concerns raised by the prospective use of AI and big data in healthcare, particularly for the off-label use of stimulant medication.


Peer reviewed articles and book chapters

Polaris Koi (Forthcoming). ”Towards informed user decisions about pharmacological cognitive enhancement”. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics.

Polaris Koi (2021). ”Demarcation, instantiation and individual traits: realist social ontology for mental disorders.” Philosophical Psychology.

Polaris Koi (2021). ”Accessing self-control.” Erkenntnis.

Helena Siipi & Polaris Koi (2021). ”The ethics of climate nudges: Central issues for applying choice architecture interventions to climate policy”. European Journal of Risk Regulation. DOI 10.1017/err.2021.49

Polaris Koi (2021). ”Genetics on the neurodiversity spectrum: Genetic, phenotypic and endophenotypic continua in autism and ADHD.Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2021.07.006

Polaris Koi & Olli I. Heimo (2021). ”Koneoppimisalgoritmit mahdollistavat jo ihmisen parantelun” (Machine learning algorithms enable human enhancement). in Panu Raatikainen (ed.), Tekoäly, ihminen ja yhteiskunta: Filosofisia näkökulmia (AI, humanity and society: Philosophical perspectives). Helsinki: Gaudeamus.

Polaris Koi (2020). ”Born Which Way? ADHD, Situational Self-Control, and Responsibility”. Neuroethics. DOI 10.1007/s12152-020-09439-3

Polaris Koi, Susanne Uusitalo and Jarno Tuominen (2018). “Self-Control in Responsibility Enhancement and Criminal Rehabilitation.” Criminal Law and Philosophy. DOI 10.1007/s11572-017-9423-z

Juha Räikkä and Polaris Koi (2016). “Mahdolliset ja mahdottomat poliittiset järjestelyt” (Possible and Impossible Political Arrangements). in Ilkka Niiniluoto, Tuomas Tahko & Teemu Toppinen (eds.), MahdollisuusHelsinki: Suomen Filosofinen Yhdistys (Philosophical Society of Finland).

Popular articles and publications

Polaris Koi & Kaisa Kärki (2020). ”Toimijuuden tutkimus monitieteisessä lukupiirissä” (Study of agency in a multidisciplinary reading group). Niin & Näin 3 (20): 129.

Polaris Koi (2018). “Human Enhancement for Freedom.” In Ezio di Nucci & Stefan Storrie (eds.), 1984 and Philosophy. Chicago: Open Court.

Book reviews

Polaris Koi (2019). “Behaving: What’s Genetic, What’s Not, and Why Should We Care? By Kenneth F. Schaffner, New York, Oxford University Press.” Philosophical Psychology.

Polaris Koi (2018). “Review – In Praise of Desire, by Nomy Arpaly and Timothy Schroeder, Oxford University Press, 2014.” Metapsychology online reviews.

Policy briefs

Polaris Koi & Helena Siipi (2021). ”Eettisesti kestävillä tuuppauksilla kohti ilmastoviisasta toimintaa.” (Ethically sustainable nudging for climate wise action). Climate-Nudge. 

Curriculum Vitae