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Nozick’s Experiment Opposing Hedonism Essay

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Updated: Sep 15th, 2020

The main claim of hedonism is based on the idea that pleasures and happiness are key goals in an individual’s life, and this person is usually focused on pursuing happiness and avoiding pain. However, Robert Nozick’s argument opposes this claim while offering that happiness cannot be the only state that is valuable for a person (Hindriks and Douven 278). In this context, the ideas of hedonism based on the importance of happiness are viewed by the researcher as wrong (Nozick 42-45). It is necessary to discuss why Nozick developed such vision of hedonism and focus on the things that are viewed by the researcher as intrinsically valuable in this particular context.

In his experiment involving the experience machine, the researcher proposed people to plug into this machine in order to have pleasurable experiences instead of facing their usual daily experiences. Nozick found that, in most cases, people refused to plug into the machine and, as a result, to reject experiences associated with their real life (42-43). The researcher concluded that hedonism is wrong in terms of stating that happiness should be viewed as the only valuable thing for people because, in the conducted experiment, people refused to experience pleasures associated with happiness in spite of proposed limitless opportunities (Hindriks and Douven 278-279). From this perspective, happiness cannot be directly and exclusively associated only with pleasures, and the pursuit of happiness is not the only intrinsically valuable thing for many people. Therefore, the reference of hedonism only to happiness and pleasures cannot be viewed as reasonable according to the researcher.

As a result of conducting the experiment, the author proposed his own vision of intrinsically valuable things in this context. Thus, Nozick suggested viewing the contact with reality while experiencing certain situations or feelings as the more intrinsically valuable aspect for people (44-45). The reason is that many people rejected to use the experience machine because they wanted to contact with reality, do certain things by themselves, and be certain personalities or live a certain way. The experience machine allowed people to feel many pleasures and become happy that way, but these pleasures were the result of the virtual reality (Nozick 44-45). According to the researcher, the contact with reality is extremely important for people in order to feel happy, and this aspect should be viewed as the intrinsic value because individuals feel happy or live happily not only as a result of pleasurable experiences but also as a result of acting or doing something important for them (Fletcher 356-358). Thus, living in reality is often regarded by persons as a more valuable thing than pleasures.

These ideas stated by the researcher are discussed as the counterargument to the philosophy of hedonism and its focus mainly on pleasures and associated happiness. Following the ideas proclaimed by Nozick, it is possible to state that the author does not agree with the opinion that pleasures and happiness are directly connected, and that both pleasures and happiness are intrinsically valuable for individuals. On the contrary, the researcher supported the vision that real-life experiences, not only pleasant ones, have more effects on people and their happiness associated with living, acting, and doing something. As a consequence, Nozick’s argument based on the results of his experiment can be viewed as effective to oppose the key principles of hedonism.

Works Cited

Fletcher, Guy, editor. The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being. Routledge, 2015.

Hindriks, Frank, and Igor Douven. “Nozick’s Experience Machine: An Empirical Study.” Philosophical Psychology, vol. 31, no. 2, 2018, pp. 278-298.

Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Basic Books, 2013.

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