Archive for March 22nd, 2015

March 22, 2015

Experience Machine


poor yorick

The Experience Machine or Pleasure Machine is a thought experiment put forward by philosopher Robert Nozick in his 1974 book ‘Anarchy, State, and Utopia.’ He describes a choice between everyday reality and an apparently preferable simulated reality as a refutation of ethical hedonism, the idea that people have the right to do everything in their power (that doesn’t infringe on others) to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them.

If the primary thesis of hedonism is that ‘pleasure is the good,’ then any component of life that is not pleasurable does nothing directly to increase one’s well-being. This is a view held by many value theorists (who study how, why, and to what degree people value things), but most famously by some classical utilitarians (who believe that the morally best action is the one that makes the most overall happiness or ‘utility’ (usefulness). Nozick argues that if he can show that there is something other than pleasure that has value and thereby increases our well-being, then hedonism is defeated.

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