What do our intuitions about the experience machine really tell us about hedonism?

Philosophical Studies 151 (3):331 - 349 (2010)
Robert Nozick's experience machine thought experiment is often considered a decisive refutation of hedonism. I argue that the conclusions we draw from Nozick's thought experiment ought to be informed by considerations concerning the operation of our intuitions about value. First, I argue that, in order to show that practical hedonistic reasons are not causing our negative reaction to the experience machine, we must not merely stipulate their irrelevance (since our intuitions are not always responsive to stipulation) but fill in the concrete details that would make them irrelevant. If we do this, we may see our feelings about the experience machine becoming less negative. Second, I argue that, even if our feelings about the experience machine do not perfectly track hedonistic reasons, there are various reasons to doubt the reliability of our anti-hedonistic intuitions. And finally, I argue that, since in the actual world seeing certain things besides pleasure as ends in themselves may best serve hedonistic ends, hedonism may justify our taking these other things to be intrinsically valuable, thus again making the existence of our seemingly anti-hedonistic intuitions far from straightforward evidence for the falsity of hedonism
Keywords Pleasure  Pain  Hedonism  Utilitarianism  Experience machine  Intuitions  Metaethics  Thought experiments
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