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Res Philosophica

Volume 92, Issue 2, April 2015
Transformative Experiences

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Displaying: 1-15 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.
11. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Ryan Kemp The Self-Transformation Puzzle: On the Possibility of Radical Self-Transformation
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In this paper, I argue that cases of radical selftransformation (cases in which an agent willfully changes a foundational element of their motivational structure) constitute an important philosophical puzzle. Though our inclination to hold people responsible for such changes suggests that we regard radical transformation as (in some sense) self-determined, it is difficult to conceive how a transformation that extends to the heart of an agent’s practical life can be attributed to the agent at all. While I contend that the best way to solve this puzzle is to deny that radical transformations are in fact self-determined, many maintain the opposite. The defense of my thesis involves showing how the conditions that must be met in order to coherently attribute transformation to an agent are not satisfied in cases of radical transformation. Radical transformation is, thus, something that happens to an agent, not something that is done by her.
12. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Rachel McKinnon Trans*formative Experiences
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What happens when we consider transformative experiences from the perspective of gender transitions? In this paper I suggest that at least two insights emerge. First, trans* persons’ experiences of gender transitions show some limitations to L. A. Paul’s (2015) decision theoretic account of transformative decisions. This will involve exploring some of the phenomenology of coming to know that one is trans, and in coming to decide to transition. Second, what epistemological effects are there to undergoing a transformative experience? By connecting some experiences of gender transitions to feminist standpoint epistemology, I argue that radical changes in one’s identity and social location also radically affects one’s access to knowledge in ways not widely appreciated in contemporary epistemology.
13. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Nathaniel Sharadin How You Can Reasonably Form Expectations When You're Expecting
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L. A. Paul has argued that an ordinary, natural way of making a decision—by reflecting on the phenomenal character of the experiences one will have as a result of that decision—cannot yield rational decision in certain cases. Paul’s argument turns on the (in principle) epistemically inaccessible phenomenal character of certain experiences. In this paper I argue that, even granting Paul a range of assumptions, her argument doesn’t work to establish its conclusion. This is because, as I argue, the phenomenal character of an experience supervenes on epistemically accessible facts about its non-phenomenal character plus what the deciding agent is like. Because there are principles that link the non-phenomenal character of experiences (together with what a particular agent is like) to the phenomenal character of experiences, agents can reasonably form expectations about the valence of the phenomenal character of the experiences that they are deciding whether to undergo. These reasonable expectations are, I argue, enough to make the ordinary, natural way of making a decision yield rational decision.
14. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Muhammad Velji Change Your Look, Change Your Luck: Religious Self-Transformation and Brute Luck Egalitarianism
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My intention in this paper is to reframe the practice of veiling as an embodied practice of self-development and self-transformation. I argue that practices like these cannot be handled by the choice/chance distinction relied on by those who would restrict religious minority accommodations. Embodied self-transformation necessarily means a change in personal identity and this means the religious believer cannot know if they will need religious accommodation when they begin their journey of piety. Even some luck egalitarians would find leaning exclusively on preference and choice to find who should be burdened with paying the full costs of certain choices in one’s life too morally harsh to be justifiable. I end by briefly illustrating an alternative way to think about religious accommodation that does not rely on the choice/chance distinction.
15. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
L. A. Paul Transformative Choice: Discussion and Replies
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In “What you can’t expect when you’re expecting,” I argue that, if you don’t know what it’s like to be a parent, you cannot make this decision rationally—at least, not if your decision is based on what you think it would be like for you to become a parent. My argument hinges on the idea that becoming a parent is a transformative experience. This unique type of experience often transforms people in a deep and personal sense, and in the process, changes their preferences.In section 1, I will explain transformative experience in terms of radical first-personal epistemic and self change. In section 2, I’ll explain the notion of subjective value that I use to develop the decision problem. In section 3, I will discuss the way we ordinarily combine our introspective assessments with testimony and evidence. In section 4, I will discuss the problems for rational decision-making. In section 5, I will explore the problem of first-personally transformed future selves. In section 6, I will engage with the main themes and arguments and ideas of the authors of the papers contributed to this volume.