Choosing to be changed: Revelation, integrity and the ethics of self-transformation

Ethical Perspectives 24 (4):545-568 (2017)
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How should one decide whether to undergo an experience that changes who one is? In her discussion of ‘transformative experiences’, L.A. Paul argues that to choose rationally when deliberating first-personally, one should base one’s decision on ‘revelation’, i.e. to discover out what the experience will be like. If this solution is taken as the sole means by which a transformative choice is made, then I argue it is problematic. This is because (i) it overlooks the role that one’s practical identity ought to play when making a major life decision; and (ii) it ignores morally relevant reasons for action. Even if we retain the revelation approach as only part of the means through which a transformative choice is made, I argue that revelation should frequently carry little weight in our decision-making. Rather than focusing on the subjective quality of future experiences, it is often preferable to reflect on who one is and what one’s endorsed practical identity commits one to.

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Paddy McQueen
Swansea University


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