Transformative Experience and the Shark Problem

Mosquera, Julia , Campbell, Timothy | 2020

Philosophical Studies

Abstract

In her ground-breaking and highly influential book Transformative Experience, L.A. Paul makes two claims: (1) one cannot evaluate and compare certain experiential outcomes (e.g. being a parent and being a non-parent) unless one can grasp what these outcomes are like; and (2) one can evaluate and compare certain intuitively horrible outcomes (e.g. being eaten alive by sharks) as bad and worse than certain other outcomes even if one cannot grasp what these intuitively horrible outcomes are like. We argue that the conjunction of these two claims leads to an implausible discontinuity in the evaluability of outcomes. One implication of positing such a discontinuity is that evaluative comparisons of outcomes will not be proportionally sensitive to variation in the underlying features of these outcomes. This puts pressure on Paul to abandon either (1) or (2). But (1) is central to her view and (2) is very hard to deny. We call this the Shark Problem.

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Philosophical Studies

Abstract

In her ground-breaking and highly influential book Transformative Experience, L.A. Paul makes two claims: (1) one cannot evaluate and compare certain experiential outcomes (e.g. being a parent and being a non-parent) unless one can grasp what these outcomes are like; and (2) one can evaluate and compare certain intuitively horrible outcomes (e.g. being eaten alive by sharks) as bad and worse than certain other outcomes even if one cannot grasp what these intuitively horrible outcomes are like. We argue that the conjunction of these two claims leads to an implausible discontinuity in the evaluability of outcomes. One implication of positing such a discontinuity is that evaluative comparisons of outcomes will not be proportionally sensitive to variation in the underlying features of these outcomes. This puts pressure on Paul to abandon either (1) or (2). But (1) is central to her view and (2) is very hard to deny. We call this the Shark Problem.

Read the article