In his book The Examined Life, philosopher Robert Nozick suggests the following “thought experiment”: Imagine a machine that could give you any experience (or sequence of experiences) you might desire. When connected to this experience machine, you can have the experience of writing a great poem or bringing about world peace or loving someone and being loved in return. You can experience the felt pleasures of these things, how they feel “from the inside.” You can program your experiences for tomorrow, or this week, or this year, or even for the rest of your life. If your imagination is impoverished, you can use the library of suggestions extracted from biographies and enhanced by novelists and pschologists. You can live your fondest dreams “from the inside.” Would you choose to do this for the rest of your life? If not, why not? . . . The question is not whether to try the machine temporarily, but whether to enter it for the rest of your life. Upon entering, you will not remember having done this; so no pleasures will get ruined by realizing they are machine produced. Nozick suggests that at least the first instinctive impulse of most of us would be to choose not to enter the machine where we would live forever in a dream world that, unknown to us, was not real. 1. Would you enter the experience machine? Why or why not? 2. Nozick claims that the reason most of us would not enter the experience machine forever is because we don’t just care about the feelings and sensations we experience but also want our lives to be based on reality and not on illusion. Do you agree? Is it enough to spend your life just thinking that you are accomplishing great things, are engaged in fulfilling and worthwhile activities, and are loved by, say, your children and a wonderful spouse? Or would these things have to be real to be worth devoting your life to them? Explain. 3. If a person in the experience machine thinks his experiences are real, then are they real? Is reality whatever you experience and think is real?


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