ELIZABETH TULENKO | FEATURES COLUMNIST
On Sept. 21, L.A. Paul spoke in the Fort Howard Theater about self-discovery through transformation.
Paul’s lecture was titled “Who Will I Become” and her lecture was the first in a series of lectures sponsored by the Killeen Chair of Theology and Philosophy that is held every year on campus. Paul’s lecture was the inspiration for this year’s theme for the series. Our campus was honored to have her as the opening speaker. L.A. Paul is a Eugene Falk Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, who holds a position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
LA. Paul conveyed in her lecture that personal experiences form a person’s self and help lead to how you construct your future self. To be able to know what we want our future selves to be, we must step into our future selves’ shoes and see what type of person we are. To complete this evaluation, a person must have empathy. Empathy is used to understand, judge and make decisions for others, allowing us to simulate their viewpoint. By simulating their view, we can understand the position another person is in. Some examples Paul used were jobs like doctors, ministers and counselors that require both empathy and simulation. The doctors, ministers and counselors have a great amount of influence in the lives of other people, so they cannot lack empathy in their decision making.
Throughout her speech, Paul continued the subject of empathy, by relating it to moral understanding. Moral understanding is about knowing what is right in front of you, such as when a person is suffering. Refusing to understand the horrendous facts of a person’s suffering shows a lack of empathy. When a person has Alzheimer’s disease, a person can experience lack of empathy towards themselves. Paul states that a person’s current self can make them ignore the signs of the disease and deny it is happening to them. By doing this, the person is not empathizing with their future self, who will be subjected to medications, care needs and funeral arrangements. The person that they will become will not be someone that they will empathize with.
When making a decision that changes our lives, Paul argues that we cannot predict how that experience will affect us. She states that we should just do it. This experience will change someone’s personal life and a person’s self will be completely new and different. The personal change will develop a new self because the cognitive process in the brain is changed by the experience. Paul used examples of transformative experiences that can occur for people, including events such as immigration, war, the birth of a child, cognitive diseases, political experiences and religious experiences.
Paul also mentioned how a person can fear the experiences, because we cannot predict what the change will do to ourselves. These experiences cannot be reversed, but the changes will help us understand what is happening around us. A person will not be able to understand or empathize with others if their own self has not been changed.