Prof Sophie-Grace Chappell: Epiphanies in experience and in ethics (Dec 2020)
An epiphany is an overwhelming existentially significant manifestation of value in experience, often sudden and surprising, which feeds the psyche, which feels like it “comes from outside”—it is something given, relative to which I am a passive perceiver—which teaches us something new, which “takes us out of ourselves”, and to which there is a natural and correct response. (At least one; possibly more.) Often the correct response is love, often it is pity, or again creativity. It might also be anger or reverence or awe or a hunger to put things right—a hunger for justice; or many other things. It may be something that leads directly to action or new knowledge, but it may also be something that prompts further contemplation or reflection; or other responses again.
Epiphanies are central to ethical experience, but not to ethical theory. I address this mismatch, and show how what needs to change to fix the mismatch is not experience—but theory.