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Robert Nozick’ Ideas about Utilitarianism Essay


John Stuart Mill summarized utilitarianism as the greatest good for the greatest number meaning anything that has the capability of benefiting many people in society is intrinsically good. The aim of any action, according to hedonists, is to attain the greatest amount of happiness and prevent any form of pain.

Fort Mill, pleasure is desirable, whereas misery is inherently bad. While other forms of pleasures exist, they only serve one purpose of promoting happiness and preventing pain (Haber 24). Robert Nozick developed a hypothesis that sought to challenge the reasoning of Mill, noting that human beings do not operate in the same way as machines. This paper presents the major arguments of utilitarianism that refute the claims that Nozick presents.

Nozick published an article in 1974 challenging readers to think critically about the postulations of Mill, arguing that a human being simulates certain forms of experiences that he or she considers pleasurable. Nozick was of the view that people are not in a position to differentiate between their experiences when in the experience machine and when outside. Nozick asked a fundamental question, “would everybody plug into the machine.” Unfortunately, some people would be reluctant to enter into this machine to reshape their experiences. He went on to give at least four reasons why some people will refuse to enter the machine.

Being different is a special human feature, and forcing people to be the same with others is compared to helping them to commit suicide (Haber 32). In the third reason, Nozick notes that human beings are likely to lose touch with reality by plugging into a simulated reality. He went on to claim that happiness and pleasure are simply some of the synthetic realities, which do not exist; hence, a majority of people would definitely refuse to adopt and apply them in their lives.

Finally, the experience machine is likely to prevent a person from making a difference in the real world, yet a number of individuals would want their impacts and contributions known in society. He refuted Mill’s postulations on utilitarianism since he suggested that other important issues in human life other than pleasure and happiness exist. His view was that desirability is not based on happiness.

Unfortunately, the reasons that Nozick gave are insufficient in supporting his hypothesis since he was never keen on conceptualizing the important aspects of utilitarianism. This means ideas on the experience machine are not sufficient to refute Mill’s postulations. Mill suggested that the quality of pleasure matters rather than its quantity, something that Nozick was never keen to evaluate before coming up with the assumptions on the experience machine.

Fort Mill, pleasures are grouped into two categories, including lower and higher pleasure, which means some are desirable as compared to others. He observed that it would be pleasurable for somebody like Socrates to be dissatisfied than a satisfied fool. Mill suggested that a competent judge has to be given the opportunity to distinguish between a higher pleasure and a lower one.

It is concluded that Nozick never conducted sufficient research to challenge the ideas of Mill on utilitarianism. His study neglected various concepts of utilitarianism, including the idea that pleasures are hierarchically ranked, with the lower pleasures occupying the lower cadre. Again, he failed to take into consideration an important aspect of competence, which is needed in giving a verdict on whether the pleasure is desirable or not.

Works Cited

Haber, Joram. Doing, and Being: Selected Readings in Moral Philosophy. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993. Print.

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