The End of Intersubjectivity? : Science, Literature, and Transformative Experiences
AbstractIn a highly recognized paper from 2015 L. A. Paul shaped the notion of transformative experiences. She hereby means experiences so fundamental that one is incapable of assessing ex ante how one's life will be affected by them. Whereas Paul uses this notion to make a (surely laudable) case against Rational-Choice-Theory I argue that the notion has a more profound impact on contemporary philosophy. In particular, it challenges the concept of intersubjectivity which has become central to a number of ethical theories, e. g. pragmatism and Critical Theory. By questioning men's competence for, at least roughly, anticipating how they will perceive future experiences, Paul's research a fortiori questions their competence for understanding how others perceive certain experiences. However, this competence is a necessary condition of any ethically meaningful account of intersubjectivity. I defend the concept of intersubjectivity against the challenge thus sketched and thereby distinguish two approaches for overcoming the challenge: the scientific and the narrative approach. The scientific approach, as I define it, gathers as many facts about the experience as possible. The narrative approach relies on stories about the experience especially as they appear in literature (broadly conceived). I argue that there is overwhelming evidence that the first approach is likely to fail. Moreover I outline why the second approach is likely to succeed whereby the supposition that stories about experiences shape how experiences are perceived will prove essential. Beyond its core argument my paper has two further implications. The one is the insight that, opposed to most philosophical accounts, conceptualizations of intersubjectivity need to start from a concept of narration. The other is that, in line with previous evidence, narration is not an enemy of the sciences but its ally in the wider quest to determine, as closely as possible, how things are (which includes how they are felt).
Festl, Michael: The End of Intersubjectivity? : Science, Literature, and Transformative Experiences. Literature & Philosophy. International Workshop. St. Gallen, 17 October 2015.