Much is made these days of ideological bubbles and commitment cocoons (OK, I made up that one), in which people stick to their beliefs regardless of any “evidence” or “reasoning” otherwise. But, let’s admit it, it’s hard to change your mind about something you’ve been committed to solely based on your assessment of reasons. This is true even for — perhaps especially for — professional philosophers.
It might be worth hearing, then, about your true conversion stories and the role contrary reasons played for you: What moral/political view were you committed to — perhaps even published about — that you abandoned solely in the face of good reasons otherwise? Were the reasons available to you all along and you just saw them in a newly salient light, or were they new reasons to you? Have you “backslid”? Have you gone on to publish on the contrary view? (See my conversion story below the fold.)
For my part, I used to be a died-in-the-wool psychological theorist about personal identity, convinced by the standard thought experiments Parfit leaned so heavily on: teletransportation, brain transplant cases, fission cases, and so forth. I wrote a dissertation and published 5-6 articles defending a version of this view. But in finally reading Eric Olson’s Human Animals in 2001, I came to realize that I’d been convinced to be a psychological theorist by my sympathetic responses to the normative applications of the theory, that, for instance, it would be rational to anticipate the thoughts and experiences of the person “teleported” to Mars, and that it would be appropriate to view the products of fission as nevertheless morally responsible for the actions of the pre-fission person. But once I realized that the person-related metaphysics could be prized apart from the person-related ethics, as it were, I was free to shop around for the right metaphysical theory of personal identity. And then the reasons given by the animalists (that we are all human animals, and so our persistence conditions across time are just those of biological/animal continuity) were freed up, in a way, to make their case to me, which was strong. I haven’t backslid, and I’ve published a few articles since in defense of animalism (or at least making clear that those inclined toward my normative views are free to be animalists).
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