The Journal of Ethics 26 (2):175-192 (2022)

Alan H. Goldman
College of William and Mary
Robert Nozick argued that we would not plug into his machine that could give us any experiences we chose. More recently Richard Kraut has argued that it would be prudentially rational to plug into the machine, since only experiences count for personal welfare. I argue that both are wrong, that either choice can be rational or not, depending on the central desires of the subjects choosing. This claim is supported by the empirical evidence, which shows an almost even split between those who would enter and those who would not. If we interpret those on both sides as making rational choices to maximize their personal well-being, and if such rational choice tends to enhance well-being, then the experience machine thought experiment supports neither experientialism nor its denial, but instead a rational desire satisfaction account of personal well-being. Unlike objective list and perfectionist accounts, the desire satisfaction account of well-being easily accommodates rational choices on both sides, depending on the motivational sets of the choosers.
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DOI 10.1007/s10892-020-09349-9
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Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
Hedonism Reconsidered.Roger Crisp - 2006 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (3):619–645.

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