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Mood Enhancement and the Authenticity of Experience: Ethical Considerations

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Abstract

Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. Superduper neuro-psychologists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into this machine for life, pre-programming your life’s desires? […] Of course, while in the tank you won’t know that you’re there; you’ll think it’s all actually happening…Would you plug in? What else can matter to us, other than how our lives feel from the inside?

This section of Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974, p. 42) introduces the Experience Machine, a famous thought experiment that Nozick used in an attempt to refute mental state theories of well-being. Nozick conceived the Experience Machine to put forward an argument along the following lines: in spite of the fact that we will experience more pleasure if we plug into the Experience Machine than if we do not, we have good reasons not to plug in. This suggests that experiencing as much pleasure as we can is not all that matters to us. According to Nozick, there are three reasons why we should not plug into the Experience Machine.

Keywords

Emotional Response Experience Machine Authentic Individual Human Enhancement Authentic Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Lisa Forsberg 2014

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