Thursday, 24 October 2013

What Laurie Paul expected about expecting

Laurie Paul says that when we become mothers, we are in the same situation as Mary leaving the black and white room, and seeing colour for the very first time. Becoming a parent is a "phenomenologically transformative experience" and therefore one for which rational decision-making procedures simply don't apply.
"The intensity and uniqueness of the extended act of carrying the child, the physicality of giving birth, the recognition of the new fact of the existence of one’s very own child, and the exertion involved in caring for a newborn results in a dramatic change in one’s physical, emotional and mental states."*
Choosing to have a child involves a leap of faith, not a carefully calibrated rational choice." As the saying goes, you get experience just after you need it."

There are parallels between what Paul says and what I claim in post 'Exiting the Cave' - there are emotions experienced by parents which cannot be experienced by non-parents. It's like switching on a new channel. Or discovering a whole unknown frigging satellite dish hiding up there on the roof. Paul is much more careful than me not to enrage non-parents by suggesting that the new states are definitely must-have.

One thing that is under-attended to in all this is just how radical it is, given all this, to decide to have children, to take that leap of faith. The baffling question is, how come so many people decide to have children?! Is it just cultural inertia from back when we didn't have contraception?

*L. A. Paul, "What You Can't Expect When You're Expecting" Forthcoming in Res Philosophica 92:2 (2015).

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