Epistemic Transformation and Rational Choice

Publication year: 2017

Bykvist, Krister , Stefánsson, H. Orri

Economics and Philosophy, 33(1), 2017: 125-138. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266267116000274


Most people at some point in their lives face transformative decisions that could result in experiences that are radically different from any that they have had, and that could radically change their personalities and preferences. For instance, most people make the conscious decision to either become or not become parents. In a recent but already influential book, L. A. Paul (2014) argues that transformative choices cannot be rational – or, more precisely, that they cannot be rational if one assumes what Paul sees as a cultural paradigm for rational decision-making. Paul arrives at this surprising conclusion due to her understanding of transformative experience as being both epistemically and personally transformative. An experience is epistemically transformative if it ‘teaches [a person] something she could not have learned without having that kind of experience’ (11), but it is personally transformative if it changes the person's point of view and her fundamental preferences (16).

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