Transformative Experience: theoretical and applied challenges

Workshop, 9-10 October, University of Stirling

Provisional Programme & Abstracts

Wednesday 9th, October:

10.00-10.30 Welcome Tea & Coffee

10.30-12.00 Richard Pettigrew "Choosing for Changing Selves"

12.00-13.00 Lunch

13.00-14.30 Havi Carel "Expanding transformative experience" (with Ian James Kidd)

14.45-16.15 Nilanjan Das "Near-Bias and Self-Locating Desires"

16:30-18.00 Rachel Fraser "Aesthetic Revelation"

7pm Conference Dinner

Thursday, 10th October

9.00-9.30 Tea & Coffee

9.30-11.00 Krister Bykvist "Transformative Experience and Attitude-sensitive wellbeing"
11.15-12.45 Laurie Paul "Irrational Perseverance"


Richard Pettigrew
What we value, like, endorse, want, and prefer changes over the course of our lives, sometimes as a result of decisions we make—such as when we choose to become a parent or move to a new country—and sometimes as a result of forces beyond our control—such as when our political views change as we grow older. This poses a problem for any theory of how we ought to make decisions. Which values and preferences should we appeal to when we are making our decisions? Our current values? Our past ones? Our future ones? Or some amalgamation of all them? But if that, which amalgamation? In this book, I present a theory of rational decision making for people whose values have changed in the past and will change again in the future.

Havi Carel and Ian James Kidd
We develop a broader, more fine-grained taxonomy of forms of transformative experience, inspired by the work ofL. A. Paul. Our vulnerability to such experiences arises, we argue, due to the vulnerability, dependence, and affliction intrinsic to the human condition. We use this trio to distinguish a variety of positively, negatively, and ambivalently valenced forms of epistemically and/or personally transformative experiences. Moreover, we argue that many transformative experiences can arise gradually and cumulatively, unfolding over the course of longer periods of time.

Nilanjan Das
It is often thought that near-bias (i.e., greater concern for what is in our near future than what is in our distant future) is irrational, because it gives rise to preferences that are inconsistent over time. Here, I resist this thought. I sketch a framework for representing time-biased agents, i.e., agents whose desires for hedonic goods like pains and pleasures vary depending on the time at which they undergo those experiences (all else equal). In this framework, time-biased preferences are derived from self-locating preferences, i.e., preferences about being someone in a certain state of the world at a certain time. I show that this framework allows us to distinguish two kinds of diachronic inconsistency that near-bias can induce. Once we see the distinction, it’s no longer obvious that all kinds of inconsistency-inducing near-bias are irrational.

Rachel Fraser
Feminists often criticise contemporary beauty norms. I argue that most extant feminist critiques of beauty norms fail, because they presuppose an implausible metaphysics of value. I suggest an alternative, more metaphysically flexible model of beauty critique, and suggest that beauty-sceptical feminists should commit to aesthetic revelation.

Krister Bykvist
L. A. Paul has reminded us that some of our choices are truly transformative. They result in experiences that both teach us something we could not have learned without having had that kind of experience (epistemically transformative) and change our fundamental preferences (personally transformative). One well-discussed example is choosing to become a parent. Paul argues that these choices pose a serious challenge for traditional decision theory, a challenge that cannot be met without some radical revisions of this theory. In my talk, I want to extend this discussion and ask whether transformative experiences also pose a challenge for attitude-sensitive accounts of wellbeing. I shall argue that there is indeed such a challenge, but that it can be met.

Laurie Paul
I will explore the tension between choosing in accordance with expert testimony and choosing in accordance with first personal forecasting as a frame coordination puzzle, what I describe as the “matching” problem, where we desire to coordinate our first person perspective with our third person perspective when making a high-stakes choice. I’ll focus on the case of mountaineering as an illustrative example.