Call for papers: Transformative Experiences

Here’s a really interesting call for papers.

Transformative Experiences

Deadline for Submission
October 1, 2014

Call for Papers
Res Philosophica invites papers on the topic of transformative experiences for a special issue of the journal.

Some potential experiences are transformative experiences: they will change us in broadly cognitive—and perhaps significant—ways, and yet the full nature of the phenomenal characters of these cognitive changes are epistemically inaccessible to us before we have the experiences.

Philosophers are familiar with some of these types of experiences from the literature on consciousness—for example, the “what it’s like” properties involved in the knowledge problem. When Mary sees color for the first time, her experience is transformed in a way that she could not have predicted: she could not know what it would be like for her to see red for the first time. Such experiences are transformative for an agent in the sense that they are radically unlike the agent’s previous experiences with regard to their phenomenal character, intensity, and overall cognitive significance.

These sorts of transformative experiences include seeing color for the first time, but may also involve other sorts of experiences that involve significant changes in the agent’s phenomenal point of view, such as converting to belief in God, becoming sighted for the first time or becoming a hearer for the first time, becoming paraplegic, becoming female (or male), going to the front in wartime, or having one’s first child. Contemporary psychological and sociological research suggests that one’s actual experiences are often very different from how we expect they will be.

The special issue, in broad outline, invites papers exploring the implications of the possibility that certain major life experiences are phenomenologically transformative: that is, they are relevantly just like Mary’s when she leaves her black and white room. The transformative nature of such experiences raises many questions. For example, if choosing to believe in God, choosing to have a cochlear implant, or choosing to have a child is a choice to undergo a phenomenologically transformative experience, how should agents evaluate the values of the outcomes of acts that bring about such experiences? Are there decision-theoretic implications? Since such choices, especially when they are irreversible, may also change the values and belief structure of the agent, how should agents assess the choice before having the experience, and how are they to reflect on whether having such an experience improves well-being? Papers that address these and related issues are welcome.

Selected papers will be included in a special issue of Res Philosophica along with invited papers from Elizabeth Barnes, Rachael Briggs, Ruth Chang, Elizabeth Harman, Rae Langton, and L. A. Paul.

Further details, including guidelines for submission, are available here.

6 thoughts on “Call for papers: Transformative Experiences

  1. The paper that I plan to contribute is here:

    It argues that the transformative experience of having one’s first child raises questions about our ordinary conception of how to make major life-changing decisions.

  2. Laurie, thank you so much for posting your paper, because I saw that CFP and hesitated, thinking I’d like to submit a draft of my work on miscarriage, and then thinking that maybe miscarriage was not the sort of experience they’d be interested in. Your provision of your article here has made a significant difference in my (un)certainty that I have something to offer.

    You’re a really helpful cat, you know that? Way to support philosophical endeavors.

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