published on July 3, 2015
Tom Dougherty, Sophie Horowitz, Paulina Sliwa
Expecting the Unexpected
In an influential paper, L. A. Paul argues that one cannot rationally decide whether to have children. In particular, she argues that such a decision is intractable for standard decision theory. Paul’s central argument in this paper rests on the claim that becoming a parent is “epistemically transformative”—prior to becoming a parent, it is impossible to know what being a parent is like. Paul argues that because parenting is epistemically transformative, one cannot estimate the values of the various outcomes of a decision whether to become a parent. In response, we argue that it is possible to estimate the value of epistemically transformative experiences. Therefore, there is no special difficulty involved in deciding whether to undergo epistemically transformative experiences. Insofar as major life decisions do pose a challenge to decision theory, we suggest that this is because they often involve separate, familiar problems.