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Transformative choice and “Big Decisions”

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Imagine being invited by a trusted friend to a “life-changing” event. Should you go? Your friend says her life has been transformed by such events and you believe her. The event could be a church service, self-help talk, concert, movie, festival, hike, play, dinner party, book club, union organizing meeting, etc.: whatever you find easiest to allow unfolding such that you are likely to be changed in some fundamental way. Do you go? Why or why not? What sorts of considerations do you reach for in making your choice?Most prominently in her book Transformative Experience (OUP, 2014), the philosopher L. A. Paul has put problems like these, termed transformative choices, on the map for philosophical and scientific inquiry. Focusing on some exemplary cases, such as that of whether to become a parent, Paul has argued that there may not be satisfactory reasons available for making transformative choices, at least given certain common assumptions, some of which are codified in standard decision theory.The problem of how to make transformative choices is not simply a philosophical one, but rather a predicament that can arise for anyone in their daily life. Nor is Paul the first philosopher to identify the force of this problem. Prior to Paul’s work, Edna Ullmann-Margalit also discussed the phenomenon of transformative decision-making, and identified some of the philosophical  issues it raises (see the essay “Big Decisions”, reprinted in her Normal Rationality, OUP, 2017). While Paul and others have duly acknowledged Ullmann-Margalit’s work, we believe it remains underappreciated for what it can add to current discussions, and wish here to continue amplifying her distinctive contribution. Of particular interest is the detailed framework that Ullmann-Margalit constructs for making sense of transformative choices. As our way into this framework, let’s begin by considering what rational choice generally involves.“The problem of how to make transformative choices is not. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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