Transformative Understanding Acquisition

Res Philosophica 94 (1):67-93 (2017)


Some experiences change who we are in ways we cannot understand until we have that very experience. In this paper I argue that so-called “transformative experiences” can not only bring about new understanding, but can actually be brought out by the gain of understanding itself. Coming to understand something new can change you. I argue that not only is understanding acquisition potentially a kind of transformative experience; given some of the recent philosophy of the phenomenology of understanding, it is a kind that is potentially rare in not being dependent on a particular subjective phenomenology. The goal of this paper threefold. First, I argue that coming to gain cognitive understanding of an academic subject matter can, under some circumstances, itself be a transformative experience. A second, subsidiary goal of this paper is to argue that such transformative understanding merits further study. Finally, I give a rough taxonomy of under what conditions we should expect understanding acquisition to be transformative.

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Daniel Wilkenfeld
University of Pittsburgh

References found in this work

Understanding Why.Alison Hills - 2015 - Noûs 49 (2):661-688.
No Understanding Without Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):510-515.
Is Understanding a Species of Knowledge?Stephen R. Grimm - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (3):515-535.
The Essential Moral Self.Nina Strohminger & Shaun Nichols - 2014 - Cognition 131 (1):159-171.

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