Hedonism and the Experience Machine [4:08]


Hedonism, like utilitarianism, is one of the most popular theories in the philosophy of ethics.  The Experience Machine is a thought experiment that critiques hedonism by proposing a perfect virtual reality, kind of like the movie The Matrix, where you experience basically anything you want, however, the experiences aren’t real and an illusion.  The people, accomplishments, etc are all fake.  The example questions whether experiences are really all that matter, as hedonism and utilitarianism claims.  Since most people, including hedonists, would opt for the real thing, this implies that we care about more than just experiences.  There are tons of replies, counter-replies, and alternative versions of this thought experiment.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think there is any difference between someone who lived their life in the real world and someone who lived the same kind of life in a virtual reality?
  • Would you permanently plug yourself into this machine to live out the rest of your life if all of your dreams could come true?
  • What would you do or feel if you found out on your death bed that you were always experience machine?

Keywords: hedonism, Nozick, thought experiment, philosophy, utilitarianism, ethics, moral theory


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