Chapter Eight

1. Describe the Experience Machine thought experiment from Robert Nozick. Do you think that you could be happy living in the machine for the rest of your life? Why or why not?

2. Nozick argues that the conclusion we should draw from the Experience Machine thought experiment is that more matters to our lives than just happiness, which he identifies with our subjective experience of life “from the inside.” Discuss the other values he identifies as important to life and why the Experience Machine cannot give us these. In answering this question, offer an example of each value. Do you agree with Nozick that more matters to our life other than subjective experience? Why or why not?

3. Recall the case of Truman Burbank discussed in Chapter Two. Apply each of Nozick’s three values discussed in Chapter Eight to the case of Truman. In so doing, be sure to explain whether or not you think that Truman was happy living on Seahaven Island prior to discovering that his life was radically deceived, and give your reasons.

4. Nozick argues that one lesson we can learn from the Experience Machine is that more matters to a good life than happiness. According to Nozick, happiness is only one element of well-being. He thus believes that while we might be happy living in the machine, we would choose not to plug in because we would see that we would be missing other crucially important elements of a good life. Do you agree that this is the correct conclusion to draw? Or do you think, instead, that we should interpret the experiment as illustrating that there is more to happiness than mere subjective experience? In answering this question, be sure to carefully explain the difference between these two possible conclusions one might draw from the Experience Machine, as well as the reasons behind your answer.

5. According to Richard Kraut, the question of whether a person is happy is really about whether his or her life measures up to some standard, and not whether he or she is in some particular psychological state. Explain why Kraut thinks this. Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

6. Kraut describes the example of a high-school student who has been subjected to a cruel trick: his classmates have deceitfully voted him to be the most popular student, causing him to experience the most euphoric joy he has ever felt in his life. However, days later, he discovers that he had been duped, and he is devastated. Must the high-school student still maintain that this particular day was among the happiest days in his life? Or can we make sense of his actually judging it to be one of his unhappiest days? What does your answer imply about whether or not happiness is the same as being in a certain psychological state? What does Kraut think we can learn from this example?

7. Contrary to what Nozick and Kraut argue, some might think that our happiness can actually be served by some measure of deception. What would be some reasons for believing this? Do you agree with this assertion, and why or why not? Then again, would such a claim necessarily undermine the claims of Nozick and Kraut? Explain your answer.

8. Explain how thinking about cases of radical deception might offer support for the eudaimonist theory of happiness. In answering this question, be sure to discuss what it means to think of happiness as our telos and why this suggests that there is more to happiness than simply our first-hand subjective experience.

9. Julia Annas offers an example of a woman who loses her job as a result of whistle-blowing on corrupt practices. Describe the two different interpretations she offers of this scenario, and how these responses support the idea that happiness is not merely about one’s experience of pleasure and satisfaction. Do you agree with Annas, and why or why not?