Familiar transformative experiences

Petronella Randell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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On the standard Paulian definition of epistemically transformative experiences (ETE), we can’t know what an ETE is like before we have it. ETEs are new kinds of experiences and, importantly, can’t be imagined—this is why they have a unique ability to teach us what a particular experience is like. Contra Paul, some philosophers (Sharadin, 2015; Wilkenfeld, 2016; Ismael, 2019; Kind, 2020; Daoust, 2021; Cath, 2022) have argued that transformative experiences can be imagined. A neglected consequence of this argument is that if transformative experiences can in fact be imagined, then it is unclear how they could be epistemically transformative. What do they teach us if we can imagine what they’re like in advance? I will argue not only that imaginable experiences can be transformative, but that experiences of a kind which an agent is experientially acquainted with can also be transformative. This latter kind of transformative experiences, which I will call familiar transformative experiences, are transformative not because the agent learns what a new kind of experience is like—by definition, they are not new kinds of experiences—but because the transformativeness of the experience is brought out by features of the agent experiencing them. Epistemic transformation in these cases may be explained by facts about the agent’s perspective and social environment, which allow them to appreciate elements of the experience they did not previously.
Original languageEnglish
Article number45
Number of pages16
Early online date27 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2023


  • Transformative experience
  • Imagination


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