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The problems of transformative experience

  • Yoaav IsaacsEmail author
Article
  • 116 Downloads

Abstract

Laurie Paul has recently argued that transformative experiences pose a problem for decision theory. According to Paul, agents facing transformative experiences do not possess the states required for decision theory to formulate its prescriptions. Agents facing transformative experiences are impoverished relative to their decision problems, and decision theory doesn’t know what to do with impoverished agents. Richard Pettigrew takes Paul’s challenge seriously. He grants that decision theory (in its traditional state) cannot handle decision problems involving transformative experiences. To deal with the problems posed by transformative experiences, Pettigrew proposes two alterations to decision theory. The first alteration is meant to handle the problem posed by epistemically transformative experiences, and the second alteration is meant to handle the problem posed by personally transformative experiences. I argue that Pettigrew’s proposed alterations are untenable. Pettigrew’s novel decision theory faces both formal and philosophical problems. It is doubtful that Pettigrew can formulate the sort of decision theory he wants, and further doubtful that he should want such a decision theory in the first place. Moreover, the issues with Pettigrew’s proposed alterations help reveal issues with Paul’s initial challenge to decision theory. I suggest that transformative experiences should not be taken to pose a problem for decision theory, but should instead be taken to pose a topic for ethics.

Keywords

Probability Utility Decision theory Transformative 

Notes

Acknowledgements

For helpful comments, I thank John Hawthorne, Alan Hájek, and Laurie Paul.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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