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Chan, Rebecca. Religious Experience, Voluntarist Reasons, and the Transformative Experience Puzzle
2016, Res Philosophica 93 (1):269-287 (2016)
Added by: Andrea Blomqvist
Abstract: Transformative experiences are epistemically and personally transformative: prior to having the experience, agents cannot predict the value of the experience and cannot anticipate how it will change their core values and preferences. Paul argues that these experiences pose a puzzle for standard decision-making procedures because values cannot be assigned to outcomes involving transformative experience. Responding philosophers are quick to point out that decision procedures are built to handle uncertainty, including the uncertainty generated by transformative experience. My paper enters here and contributes two points. First, religious experiences are transformative experiences that are especially resistant to these responses. Second, a procedure that appeals to voluntarist reasons - reasons arising from an act of the will - can allow an agent to rationally decide to undergo or avoid an outcome involving transformative experience. Combining these two points results in some interesting implications with respect to practical aspects of religion.

Comment: This text could be used as a further reading in a week focusing on transformative experiences. It would be most suitable for a third year module, but could also work in lower years.

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