Jelena Markovic
University of British Columbia
Unchosen transformative experiences—transformative experiences that are imposed upon an agent by external circumstances—present a fundamental problem for agency: how does one act intentionally in circumstances that transform oneself as an agent, and that disrupt one’s core projects, cares, or goals? Drawing from William James’s analysis of conversion and Matthew Ratcliffe’s account of grief, I give a phenomenological analysis of transformative experiences as involving the restructuring of systems of practical meaning. On this analysis, an agent’s experience of the world is structured by practically significant possibilities that form organized systems on the basis of the agent’s projects and relationships. Transformative experiences involve shifts to systems of possibility, that is, changes to habitual meanings and to how an agent’s projects are situated in relation to one another. I employ the enactivist notion of sense-making to analyze how an agent rebuilds the meaning structures disrupted by a transformative experience. In an unchosen transformative experience, an agent adjusts to a significant disruption through a process of sense-making in precarious conditions. By establishing new patterns of bodily and social interaction with the world, one alters the practical meanings of one’s surroundings, and thereby reconstitutes oneself as an intentional agent.
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DOI 10.1007/s11097-021-09753-y
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