Dr Ole Koksvik

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of Philosophy, University of Bergen

Upcoming Event: The Department of Philosophy will host a workshop on first personal data on August 29 - 30, 2013: koksvik.net/ws.


ole.koksvik [at] gmail.com or fof.uib.no

Published and Forthcoming Papers

Koksvik, Ole. Forthcoming. `Phenomenal Contrast: A Critique'.
  • American Philosophical Quarterly. [Abstract] [local file]
    • A fundamental obstacle to understanding conscious experience is the lack of authoritative methods for determining what the character of a given experience is. Recently, an optimistic consensus has begun to arise, according to which phenomenal contrast arguments can provide answers. This paper argues that important facts about human mental lives systematically block a large class of uses of phenomenal contrast from achieving their aim, and that these minimal pair arguments therefore fail, quite generally.
Koksvik, Ole. Forthcoming. `Three Models of Phenomenal Unity'.
  • Journal of Consciousness Studies. [Abstract] [local file]
    • There is something it is like for me to hear a seagull crying, something it is like to see a boat in the distance, and something it is like to suffer a slight headache. Each of these local conscious experiences have their own phenomenal character. The experiences are phenomenally unified just in case there is also something it is like to enjoy these and all the other local experiences I have at the relevant time together. For there is also something it is like to be me overall: my global conscious experience has a phenomenal character.
    • But what is it like to be me overall? What is the relationship between the phenomenal characters of local experiences and the phenomenal character of the global experience to which they contribute?
    • This paper argues that our concepts of local and global conscious experiences allow for three completely different conceptions of how the former combine into the latter. It also argues that this shows that our concepts of local conscious experiences, global conscious experiences, and of their relationship are much more permissive than we might have thought.
Koksvik, Ole. Forthcoming. `Aspects of of Phenomenal Unity'.
  • Journal of Consciousness Studies. [Abstract] [local file]
    • There is my introduction to a Symposium I edited in the Journal of Consciousness Studies.
Koksvik, Ole. 2013. `Intuition and Conscious Reasoning'.
  • Philosophical Quarterly 63: 709 – 715. [Abstract] [local file]
    • This paper argues that, contrary to common opinion, intuition can result from conscious reasoning. It also discusses why this matters.
Koksvik, Ole. 2010. `Metaphysics of Consciousness'.
  • In A Companion to Philosophy in Australia and New Zealand. [Abstract]
    • Australasian philosophers have made important contributions to the philosophical understanding of consciousness in many areas. This entry is exclusively concerned with the philosophical treatment of certain metaphysical questions about consciousness, in the analytic tradition, and in particular with the questions: what kind of thing is consciousness, and how does it fit in with the rest of the world?
Koksvik, Ole. 2007. `Conservation of Energy is Relevant to Physicalism'.
  • Dialectica 6: 573 – 582. [Abstract] [local file]
    • I argue against Barbara Montero's claim that Conservation of Energy (CoE) has nothing to do with physicalism. I reject her reconstruction of the argument for physicalism from CoE, and offer an alternative reconstruction that better captures the intuitions of those who believe that there is a conflict between interactionist dualism and CoE.

Doctoral Dissertation

  • Intuition [Abstract] [5p summary] [pdf] [pdf - links in colour]
    Accepted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy with no revisions.
    • In this thesis I seek to advance our understanding of what intuitions are. I argue that intuitions are experiences of a certain kind. In particular, they are experiences with representational content, and with a certain phenomenal character.
    • In Chapter 1 I identify our target and provide some important preliminaries. Intuitions are mental states, but which ones? Giving examples helps: a person has an intuition when it seems to her that torturing the innocent is wrong, or that if something is red it is coloured. We can also provide an initial characterisation of the state by saying that it has representational content, often causes belief, and appears to justify belief. In addition, there is something it is like to have an intuition: intuition has a certain phenomenal character.
    • Some argue that intuition does not explain anything which cannot be explained by other mental states. One version of this view takes intuition to reduce to belief. In Chapter 2 I argue that this entails that agents are rationally criticisable in situations where we know they are not, and that such views are therefore untenable. A parallel argument shows that the corresponding approach to perception fails. This suggests a similarity in nature: both intuition and perception are experiences.
    • Others take intuition to reduce to a disposition to have a belief. In Chapter 3 I consider a line of argument against such views, find it unsuccessful, and present two new arguments. One is likely to be dialectically ineffective. The other suffers no such weakness: it shows that the proposed reduction fails. As before, the argument also applies to perception, and suggests that intuition and perception are both experiences.
    • In the remainder of the thesis I develop an account of intuition as an experience. I distinguish between content-specific and attitude-specific phenomenology, and argue that intuition lacks the former (Chapter 4), but has the latter (Chapter 5). This allows us to say what intuition is: it is is an experience with representational content and with attitude-specific phenomenology of a certain kind.
    • In Chapter 6 I put this account of intuition to use. When a person has a perceptual or intuitional experience, I argue that simply having the experience is what makes the subject justified in believing what the experience represents. Moreover, what explains that intuition and perception can justify belief in this way is precisely their phenomenal character.

Works in progress

  • Single Author
  • The Phenomenal Character of Intuition and Perception [Abstract]
    • Based on Chapter 5 of my doctoral dissertation, this paper explores similarities in the phenomenal character between intuition and perception. At issue is attitude-specific phenomenology: aspects of phenomenal character that are in common between different instances of the same propositional attitude (or other type of mental state), but which can differ between different attitudes.
    • I argue that intuition and perception both have phenomenology of objectivity: the phenomenal character an experience has when the fact that it purports to be about subject-independent facts is itself an aspect of the experience. Not only can we recognise this aspect of the character of intuitional and perceptual experience, but it also explains features of the content of these experiences, and it explains the transparency of perceptual experience.
    • Intuition and perception also both have phenomenology of pushiness: the phenomenal character an experience has when the fact that it pushes its subject to accept its content is itself an aspect of the attitude-specific character of the experience. Not only can we recognise this aspect of the character of intuitional and perceptual experience, but it also explains why perception and intuition appear to inform the subject about the ways things are.
    • This account answers what I call the absent experience challenge against intuition: the clam that in the case of intuition, no experience is even a candidate to play the role of justifying belief which perceptual experience is often thought to play in the case of perception. The account also explains why the challenge was raised in the first place: those who raise it—among them, Ernest Sosa and Timothy Williamson—do so because they are looking for an experience with content-specific phenomenology. Unlike perception, intuition does not have such phenomenology. But it does have attitude-specific phenomenology, and so qualifies as an experience, properly speaking.
  • Phenomenology of Objectivity Explains Transparency [Abstract]
    • In recent years, an alleged feature of perceptual experience described as its 'transparency' has received much attention. This can be taken to be a fact either about attention, or about awareness.
    • Construed as a fact about attention, I take the transparency datum to be that focusing attention on features of experiences apparently does not come easily, and that it often appears to us that we focus attention on features of experiences by focusing attention on something else, namely on that which we experience. Taken as a fact about awareness I construe the transparency datum to be that awareness of features of our experiences apparently does not come easily, and that we are apparently usually aware principally of features of that which we experience.
    • Phenomenology of objectivity is the phenomenal character an experience has when the fact that it purports to be about subject-independent facts is itself an aspect of the experience. I argue that on either interpretation of what transparency is, the fact that perception has phenomenology of objectivity explains the datum.
  • Liberalism about Intuition [Abstract]
    • Based on Chapter 6 of my doctoral dissertation, this paper is about liberalism for intuition. Liberalism is the position that, when certain necessary conditions are met, a subject having an intuitional experience is what makes her justified in believing the content of the experience. I argue that reflection on the phenomenal character of intuition and perception makes it clear that these two are on a par with respect to liberalism, and, moreover, that liberalism should be accepted in both cases.
    • I also briefly discuss the view that, aside from defeaters being absent, there are no further necessary conditions (a view often called dogmatism), and argue that some of the prominent objections to this view fail.
  • Co-authored
  • Killer Belief and Access Internalism (with Dr Simon) [Abstract]
    • Access Internalism states that epistemic facts about which doxastic attitudes one has justification to hold are accessible to one by introspection and a priori reflection alone (Smithies 2014). We present a series of cases, among them the case of killer beliefs, which we argue are counterexamples to this thesis.
  • Conscious Belief (with Dr Tang) [Abstract]
    • The class of conscious beliefs is often treated as uniform and well understood. We argue, however, that many different kinds of mental states answer to the term—states which have importantly different properties, and which can play very different theoretical roles.
  • Against Practice Dependence (with Dr Southwood) [Abstract]
    • We consider whether answers to moral questions can correctly be seen to hinge on actual practice—on what moral agents actually do—and present arguments for a negative conclusion.
  • Global Poverty and the Petroleum Fund (with Dr Øverland) [Abstract]
    • The Norwegian Petroleum Fund is a very large sovereign wealth fund—it is currently valued at around 558 billion US dollars—which is owned by the Norwegian people. The fund has attracted some attention from moral philosophers, but most of it has been focused on questions such as what the fund's responsibility is to avoid investing in companies with unsafe working practices or child labour. Very little attention has been paid to the question of whether the fund is even morally legitimate to begin with: whether it is legitimate for the Norwegian people to save this money for future generations of Norwegians, when there are so many people currently living who suffer severe deprivation.
    • We argue that very weak formulations of Peter Singer's principle of assistance—formulations that it is very difficult to reject—force the conclusion that the Norwegian people are morally obliged to spend most of the wealth in the fund on poverty eradication.
  • Is Profiting from Poverty Illicit? (with Dr Øverland) [Abstract]
    • We consider whether and under what conditions it is morally illicit to profit from poverty. We argue, first, that when profit counterfactually depends on poverty in certain ways, there is a very strong case for subjecting that profit to further scrutiny. Second, we argue that in many cases the agent making the profit is morally obliged to relinquish it, either by changing her behaviour (so that she no longer profits), or by redirecting the funds to other agents. Finally, we argue that the people to whom the profit should be redirected are those on whom it counterfactually depends.

Masters Thesis

  • In Defence of Interactionism [pdf]

I am Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bergen. Previously I was a postdoc at The Australian National University, and before that I was a doctoral candidate there. My principal supervisor was David Chalmers.

Prior to arriving in Canberra, I completed a Master of Arts and an Honours degree in philosophy at Monash University. I did my undergrad in Bergen.
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I carry out research both in philosophy of mind, and in global justice. In the former area I concentrate on conscious experience, especially on its role in human rationality. In my doctoral dissertation I argue that intuition is a type of experience, and that having such an experience can justify belief in its content for precisely the same reason as why perceptual experience justifies belief.

In global justice I focus on the obligations of the affluent to the global poor. Central questions are whether associative duties justify giving priority to compatriots over the greater need of the distant needy (and if so, to what degree), and whether certain business relationships give rise to significant obligations to alleviate poverty.

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