Transformative experience

L. A. Paul

Research output: Book/ReportBook


As we live our lives, we make decisions that shape our future selves and circumstances. When making such choices, such as whether to start a family, or which career to pursue, we often try to assess our options by imagining what different futures would be like. This book argues that, for choices involving dramatically new, life-changing experiences, we are confronted by the brute fact that we can know very little about our subjective futures. If we make major life choices, choices that can even change who we will become, in the way we naturally and intuitively want to—by considering what we care about, and what our future selves will be like if we choose to have the experience—we only learn what we really need to know after we have already committed ourselves. If we try to escape the dilemma by avoiding an experience, we have still made a choice. Choosing rationally, then, may require us to regard big life decisions as choices to make discoveries, small and large, about the nature of experience, and to recognize that living authentically involves experiencing one’s life and preferences as they evolve from the choices you make. Using classic philosophical examples about the nature of consciousness, and drawing on recent work in normative decision theory, cognitive science, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind, this book develops a rigorous account of transformative experience that sheds light on how we should understand real-world experience and our capacity to rationally map our subjective futures.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages208
ISBN (Electronic)9780191787409
ISBN (Print)9780198717959, 9780198777311
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2014


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