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Res Philosophica

Volume 92, Issue 2, April 2015
Transformative Experiences

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Displaying: 1-10 of 15 documents


1. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
L. A. Paul What You Can’t Expect When You’re Expecting
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It seems natural to choose whether to have a child by reflecting on what it would be like to actually have a child. I argue that this natural approach fails. If you choose to become a parent, and your choice is based on projections about what you think it would be like for you to have a child, your choice is not rational. If you choose to remain childless, and your choice is based upon projections about what you think it would be like for you to have a child, your choice is not rational. This suggests we should reject our ordinary conception of how to make this life-changing decision, and raises general questions about how to rationally approach important life choices.
2. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Elizabeth Barnes Social Identities and Transformative Experience
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In this paper, I argue that whether, how, and to what extent an experience is transformative is often highly contingent. I then further argue that sometimes social conditions are a major factor in whether a certain type of experience is often or typically transformative. Sometimes social conditions make it easy for a type of experience to be transformative, and sometimes they make it hard for a type of experience to be transformative. This, I claim, can sometimes be a matter of social justice: social conditions can make transformativeness too easy or too hard, in a way that harms people.
3. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Rachael Briggs Transformative Experience and Interpersonal Utility Comparisons
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I consider an old problem for preference satisfaction theories of wellbeing: that they have trouble answering questions about interpersonal comparisons, such as whether I am better off than you are, or whether a particular policy benefits me more than it benefits you. I argue that a similar problem arises for intrapersonal comparisons in cases of transformative experience. I survey possible solutions to the problem, and point out some subtle disanalogies between the problem involving interpersonal comparisons and the problem involving transformative experience.
4. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Jennifer Carr Epistemic Expansions
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Epistemic transformations—changes in one’s space of entertainable possibilities—are sometimes rational, sometimes irrational. Epistemology should take seriously the possibility of rationally evaluable epistemic transformations. Epistemic decision theory compares belief states in terms of epistemic value. But it’s standardly restricted to belief states that don’t differ in their conceptual resources. I argue that epistemic decision theory should be expanded to make belief states with differing conceptual resources comparable. I characterize some possible constraints on epistemic utility functions. Traditionally, it’s been assumed that the epistemic utility of a total belief state determines the epistemic utility of individual (partial) beliefs in a simple, intuitive way. Naive generalizations of extant accounts generate a kind of repugnant conclusion. I characterize some possible alternatives, reflecting different epistemic norms.
5. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Ruth Chang Transformative Choices
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This paper proposes a way to understand transformative choices, choices that change ‘who you are.’ First, it distinguishes two broad models of transformative choice: 1) ‘event-based’ transformative choices in which some event—perhaps an experience—downstream from a choice transforms you, and 2) ‘choice-based’ transformative choices in which the choice itself—and not something downstream from the choice—transforms you. Transformative choices are of interest primarily because they purport to pose a challenge to standard approaches to rational choice. An examination of the event-based transformative choices of L. A. Paul and Edna Ullman-Margalit, however, suggests that event-based transformative choices don’t raise any difficulties for standard approaches to rational choice. An account of choice-based transformative choices—and what it is to be transformed—is then proposed. Transformative choices so understood not only capture paradigmatic cases of transformative choice but also point the way to a different way of thinking about rational choice and agency.
6. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
John Collins Neophobia
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L. A. Paul argues that epistemically transformative choice poses a special problem for standard theories of decision: when values of outcomes cannot be known in advance, deliberation cannot even get started. A standard response to this is to represent ignorance of the nature of an experience as uncertainty about its utility. Assign subjective probabilities over the range of possible utilities it may have, and an expected utility for the outcome can be figured despite the agent’s ignorance of its nature. But this response to Paul’s challenge seems inadequate. Decision theory should leave conceptual room for rational neophobia. A decision theory like Isaac Levi’s, which allows for indeterminacy in utility, might accomodate the phenomenon. Levi’s discussion of indeterminate utility has focused on examples of risk aversion like the Allais problem and on situations in which there are conflicts of value. Cases of unknowable value arising in transformative choice problems might be handled similarly.
7. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Tom Dougherty, Sophie Horowitz, Paulina Sliwa Expecting the Unexpected
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In an influential paper, L. A. Paul argues that one cannot rationally decide whether to have children. In particular, she argues that such a decision is intractable for standard decision theory. Paul’s central argument in this paper rests on the claim that becoming a parent is “epistemically transformative”—prior to becoming a parent, it is impossible to know what being a parent is like. Paul argues that because parenting is epistemically transformative, one cannot estimate the values of the various outcomes of a decision whether to become a parent. In response, we argue that it is possible to estimate the value of epistemically transformative experiences. Therefore, there is no special difficulty involved in deciding whether to undergo epistemically transformative experiences. Insofar as major life decisions do pose a challenge to decision theory, we suggest that this is because they often involve separate, familiar problems.
8. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Elizabeth Harman Transformative Experiences and Reliance on Moral Testimony
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Some experiences are transformative in that it is impossible to imagine experiencing them until one experiences them. It has been argued that pregnancy and parenthood are like that, and that therefore one cannot make a rational decision whether to become a mother. I argue that pregnancy and parenthood are not like that; but that if even if they are, a woman can still make a rational decision by relying on testimony about the value of these experiences. I then discuss an objection that such testimony will be unreliable because parents will reflect on their being glad that their children exist, and will not realize that it’s reasonable to be glad their children exist even if the parents’ lives are thereby worse. I argue that despite this possible route to unreliable testimony, in general it is reasonable to rely on others’ testimony about the value of their lives.
9. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Dana Sarah Howard Transforming Others: On the Limits of "You'll Be Glad I Did It" Reasoning
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We often find ourselves in situations in which it is up to us to make decisions on behalf of others. How can we determine whether such decisions are morally justified, especially if those decisions may change who it is these others end up becoming? In this paper, I will evaluate one plausible kind of justification that may tempt us: we may want to justify our decision by appealing to the likelihood that the other person will be glad we made that specific choice down the line. Although it is tempting, I ultimately argue that we should reject this sort of appeal as a plausible justification for the moral permissibility of our vicarious decisions. This is because the decisions that we make on behalf of another may affect the interests and values that that person will hold in the future. As I will show, this complicates the justificatory relationship between present decisions and future attitudes, since the latter can depend on the former.
10. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Antti Kauppinen What's So Great about Experience?
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Suppose that our life choices result in unpredictable experiences, as L. A. Paul has recently argued. What does this mean for the possibility of rational prudential choice? Not as much as Paul thinks. First, what’s valuable about experience is its broadly hedonic quality, and empirical studies suggest we tend to significantly overestimate the impact of our choices in this respect. Second, contrary to what Paul suggests, the value of finding out what an outcome is like for us does not suffice to rationalize life choices, because much more important values are at stake. Third, because these other prudential goods, such as achievement, personal relationships, and meaningfulness, are typically more important than the quality of our experience (which is in any case unlikely to be bad when we realize non-experiential goods), life choices should be made on what I call a story-regarding rather than experience-regarding basis.