Transformative Experiences

The Beacon Unitarian Humanists will meet on Sept 24, 2023 to discuss Transformative Experiences.

How can we be, or resist being, transformed by experience, a minister’s service, an advertisement, a book, a podcast and culture? Are we mostly inert or mostly malleable? Let us compare and contrast L.A. Paul’s philosophical approach to transformation with Luc P. Beaudoin’s integrative cognitive science approach and with your approach.

Luc. P. Beaudoin will give a 10-min presentation and moderate the subsequent group discussion. The meeting will take place over Zoom (7:30PM to 9PM).

See also Beyond L.A. Paul’s theory of transformative experiences | by Luc P. Beaudoin | on

A. Preparations

Before the meeting, members are invited to prepare as follows (but not a strict requirement).

A.1 Reflect on your transformative experiences

  1. List a dozen transformative experiences
  2. choose two to analyze in detail, asking yourself in relation to the experiences what XXX changed and how did the XXX in question change, where XXX is your

  • beliefs,
  • attitudes (a form of value),
  • goals and projects (another form of value),
  • norms and standards (yet another form of value),
  • habits, and/or
  • something else. in this process you will likely find other types of changes that you experienced as a result of the experience, changes that do not fit nicely in the categories above (belief, attitudes, etc.)

A.2 Information resources

A.2.1 L.A. Paul on transformative experience

L.A. Paul is considered the leading expert on transformational (aka “transformative”) experience. So, Beaudoin will summarize and assess her contributions.

L.A. Paul’s book explicitly focuses on a narrow subset of philosophical problems posed by transformative experience, namely rationally framing transformative choices. She believes standard decision theory cannot handle transformative choices because future preferences cannot be understood or predicted from the vantage point prior to the transformation.

Here are some resources aligned with Paul’s (philosophical) approach to questions of transformation:

A.2.1 Transformation writ large

For a more psychological and general understanding of transformation, with particular focus on self-directed change from an integrative design-oriented perspective, consider:

B. Notes

Luc P. Beaudoin will argue that L.A. Paul’s theory focuses on a narrow range of problems regarding transformative experiences that are relevant only to a narrow class of philosophical problems, i.e., decision theory. (As argued in chapter 6 of Beaudoin’s accessible Ph.D. thesis, decision theory is of limited usefulness for understanding autonomous agency. )

  • L.A. Paul’s book ignores the problems that someone who takes an integrative design-oriented perspective would find most challenging, interesting, and worthy of attention.
  • L.A. Paul’s book fails to communicate models of mind in relation to which transformation can be described — let alone an integrative design-oriented model of mind. For all intents and purposes, what she describes is folk psychology or the intentional stance, not the designer stance, let alone an integrative designer stance.
  • Her book focuses on experience without considering the most deliberate source of self-transformation, adult self-directed learning.
  • Her book fails fails to show an appreciation (let alone communicates) the concepts of mindware (in David Perkins’ , Keith Stanovich and my sense of the term, not Andy Clark’s usurping of the term ‘mindware’), mind-design, and mental architecture.

The problems mentioned above were not raised by podcast hosts who interviewed L.A. Paul. To our knowledge, no one has previously related them to L.A. Paul’s work, perhaps because Paul’s book has mostly been considered by philosophers.

B. Self: architecture of mind; mechanisms (ontology and processes); content

section to be expanded