Thanks in large part to my recent email correspondence with L. A. Paul (see here and here for some background on that), I've formulated a position which, as far as I know, is novel in the philosophy of mind. The basic assumption is this:
This seems to pose a direct challenge to Professor Paul's argument that the common way to decide whether or not to have children is irrational. Her argument is that people make assumptions about what it would be like to have children, but since they can't possibly know what it would be like, they are fundamentally wrong about the way they are making the decision. If the position I have outlined is correct, then they might not be making a mistake. They might have reasonable, justified and even true beliefs *about* what it would be like without knowing what it would be like to have children . Their decision may therefore be rational.
I am not sure if Paul will accept (1). If she does, she might still respond that people making The Decision really are under the false impression that they know what it would be like. In her view, they're not just relying on beliefs *about* what it would be like. She might even say it is "bizarre" to approach the decision by focusing on knowledge *about* what it would be like. I don't see anything bizarre about it, though. I think it is simpler and more intuitively appealing to think that people are not making the mistake Paul says they are making. I think people commonly go about such decisions much the way Mary would when deciding how to experience colors for the first time.
This question could perhaps be answered with better sociological data, but that may not be so easy, since we'd need a way of clearly distinguishing between two sorts of assumptions: on the one hand, assumptions which purport to involve the phenomenal content in question and, on the other hand, assumptions about that phenomenal content. More importantly, the data that is available, and which Paul draws on in her paper, seems to support my view at least as well as, and I think even more than, hers.