Sunday, August 13, 2017

Olivia Goldhill — A philosopher who studies life changes says our biggest decisions can never be rational

At some point, everyone reaches a crossroads in life: Do you decide to take that job and move to a new country, or stay put? Should you become a parent, or continue your life unencumbered by the needs of children?
Instinctively, we try to make these decisions by projecting ourselves into the future, trying to imagine which choice will make us happier. Perhaps we seek counsel or weigh up evidence. We might write out a pro/con list. What we are doing, ultimately, is trying to figure out whether or not we will be better off working for a new boss and living in Morocco, say, or raising three beautiful children.
This is fundamentally impossible, though, says philosopher L.A. Paul at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a pioneer in the philosophical study of transformative experiences. Certain life choices are so significant that they change who we are. Before undertaking those choices, we are unable to evaluate them from the perspective and values of our future, changed selves. In other words, your present self cannot know whether your future self will enjoy being a parent or not....
Having established the epistemological significance of transformative life choices, there still remains the question of how, exactly, we should make such decisions. Paul is still figuring this out. So far, her best proposal is that, while you can’t know which choice you’ll prefer, you can at least decide whether you want to experience a transformation.
Perennial wisdom suggests the principle, It is always reasonable to go beyond reason to love. The transformational power of love is the strongest force in human life.

From a systems perspective, this transformation involves emergence, and emergence involves uncertainty.


jrbarch said...

I think L. A. Paul is on to something here, and note it began with her experience, profound enough to kick her mind into gear in an effort to analyse and interpret.

To offer another view - I always see an interaction between the personality and the self.

Between them is a two-way street; narrow at first, barely traversable – a fine thread. Experiences accumulate in the personality and the self reacts, feeding back its view to the personality life; in the early stages this area of awareness in the personality is called conscience. The thread vibrates, widens and grows stronger – ‘moral’ character develops; the emotional and thought life change accordingly; mental capacity and emotional sensitivity (intelligence) expand; the ‘I’ becomes more humanitarian. At some point, thread upon thread has been woven into a cable, stable and strong enough for the self to send a life changing pulse down to the personality. The personality registers in its own way that the self exists and makes a conscious determination to turn this cable into a bridge. It wants to know more. Conscience widens into awareness of a ‘presence’. Mind interprets this perhaps culturally, religiously, philosophically – ’the good, the beautiful and the true’. When the connection becomes strong enough a second pulse is sent, and the personality becomes a dedicated humanitarian, working in whatever field of life the self has chosen. At the third pulse, personality meets self, face to face, and all doubt is removed. At the same time, the self completes its first tenuous conscious connection to its parent above. This registers in the personality life also, because of the lower bridge. At the fourth pulse all bridges are complete. Life proceeds from revelation to revelation. All new pulses come directly from the Life and the Ageless Wisdom maps the path ahead for the little spark of spirit, become man. Why mothers become philosophers, beyond rationality ...??!

djrichard said...

All decision making is emotional.

Stressful decision making requires involvement of the Gods. Alluding to The Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.