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Exam 1 Instructions
Phil 100, Winter 2021

Due Date: 12/30, 10PM
(If you do not submit your exam on time, I will not be able to give you feedback on it.)

400 points possible

You will upload your written-exam document to Canvas. To submit, click “Assignments.” The assignment
will be processed through Turnitin, which is cloud-based, originality-checking software. Make sure that
you understand plagiarism and its repercussions.1

The length must be between 850–950 words. Double-spaced, size 12 font, one-inch margins on all sides.
The top left of the first page of your paper should include the following heading, which should not be
— Your name 

— “Exam 1”

— Title and section number of the course 

— Name of the instructor 

— Date
— Word count of your paper

MSU “University Writing Standards”
[The following is quoted from the MSU Student Handbook]

Standard English, Grammar, Style

Your papers should be written in formal, standard English. They should be free of nonstandard
constructions (such as double negatives) and of informal usage (such as “The experiment went

Your sentence structure should be free of major grammatical problems, such as sentence
fragments, subject-verb disagreement, inconsistent verb tenses, unclear pronoun reference, and
misplaced modifiers.

Your sentences should be clear and concise, showing capable use of the tools necessary to a
mature writing style, such as coordination, subordination, parallelism, and transitional devices.
Your choice of words should be precise and appropriate to your subject. You may sometimes find it



essential to use technical terms, but you should always avoid unnecessary jargon. [In this course,
when you use technical terms, you must explain them.]

Mechanics And Appearance

Your papers should contain no errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, or typing. You should
show careful attention to matters of appearance, including legibility, neat corrections, and suitable

[Handbook quotation end]

Additional Instructions
Begin the process early. Begin by jotting down the main themes, arguments, or concepts that you think
the exam requires. What are the sub-themes? What is required in order to thoroughly present these
themes? (You can ascertain much of this by reviewing lecture notes and by skimming the text—which you
have already read carefully and marked strategically.) From these initial notes you can construct a
working outline.

Concision will be a factor in your grade; avoid verbiage. Avoid grandiose introductory comments. Do not
include, for example, a philosophers’ biographical information or an evaluation of his or her importance.
Get right down to business.

Philosophical writing should be focused on concepts, claims, and arguments; this dictates the order of
presentation. Typically, you must take information from different parts of the text and present it in the best
order for making the claims and their justifications clear and effective. Do not present information in the
order given in the text, as you might in a book report (unless this order just happens to be effective).

Give reasons (justification) for all positions you set out, and for evaluative comments you make (thereby
making your comments more than opinions).

Your imaginary reader is not someone who has read the text you are writing about; she does not already
understand the claims and arguments. You must explain the positions and criticisms. You might imagine a
reasonably intelligent friend or family member as your reader. Relatedly, in grading your exam, I shouldn’t
have to read the exam sympathetically; what you have to offer should be clearly on the page. When you
use terms that have a special meaning for an author (e.g. “experience” or “a good life”), you must give
that meaning.

Your exam should contain no quotations from the text; describe the author’s ideas in your own words. Be
sure to use very plain language. You ought to strive to breakdown the ideas into the simplest, most
straightforward terms possible; this involves thoughtful word-choice and uncomplicated sentence
structure (but of course, you don’t want to simplify expression at the expense of accurately representing
the details and subtleties of the concepts and arguments). 

To find an objective perspective on a draft, write an outline from it.


Do not use secondary sources; do not use internet sources. This is an exercise in working with the text,
lecture notes, and discussing the issues in the discussion group, with me and others.

Feel free to ask me any questions that might occur to you during the writing process.

Grading Criteria
—Does your exam have a proper heading, including the word count? And is your paper the proper
—Is your exam written grammatically, clearly, concisely, and do you avoid quotations?
—Do you unpack, flesh-out the claims and terminology sufficiently by using plain language, rather than
merely paraphrasing the philosopher’s statements? (In other words, is the proper imaginary reader taken
into account?)
—Do you demonstrate that you have read the texts carefully, and have invested time in attempting to
answer the questions?
—Is your example of a person clear and effective?
—Are most of the relevant and important issues addressed?
—Do you accurately describe the relevant claims and reasoning of the theories?
—Have you answered the questions correctly?


Exam Instructions
Number the parts of your exam as below.

1. Devote about 200 words to describing a particular person’s life or a part of their life. Keep this short.
Describe key relationships, work-life, goals, values, etc. This might be a person you know, someone you
only know of, yourself, or an imaginary person. You’ll want to focus on the kinds of features of the life that
seem to be especially relevant to well-being.

Your answers to each question below should be approximately the same length as #1. Importantly, at
least 3/4 of each answer below should consist of direct explanations of the philosophical views; only 1/4
should pertain to your example. Why the emphasis on direct explanations?—because the main goal of
the exam is to demonstrate that you understand the details of the claims and arguments in the texts
we’ve read. You do not need to repeat what you have said in 1, just refer back to 1 concisely. Write in
your own words, in plain language, with no quotations. See above regarding your imaginary reader.

2. Explain the main components of default hedonism. Assess the well-being of the person in your
example in terms of the theory.

3. Explain the main components or desire theory. Distinguish between the present (actual) desire theory
and the informed desire theory. Assess the well-being of the person in your example in terms of the

4. Briefly describe the experience-machine thought experiment. Would the person of your example want
to plug-in? Why or why not? What does this tell you about the success or failure of DH and desire theory
as theories of well-being? That is, can you use your example to help the reader to understand how the
experience-machine thought experiment might serve as a criticism of these two theories? (See Bramble)

In the writing process you should develop and adjust your example to help you to bring out a better and
better explanation of the theories (by fine-tuning your example, which you can use for illustrative
purposes). For instance, you want aspects of your example’s life to enable you to draw the distinction
clearly between hedonism and desire theory, by referring to features of that life to help you to explain the


Philosophy Compass 11/3 (2016): 136–145, 10.1111/phc3.12303
The Experience Machine

Ben Bramble*
Lund University

In this paper, I reconstruct Robert Nozick’s experience machine objection to hedonism about well-
being. I then explain and brief ly discuss the most important recent criticisms that have been made
of it. Finally, I question the conventional wisdom that the experience machine, while it neatly disposes
of hedonism, poses no problem for desire-based theories of well-being.

1. Introduction

Theories of well-being attempt to explain what it is in virtue of which lives can be good or bad
for their subjects.1 According to one such theory, hedonism, lives can be good or bad for their
subjects just in virtue of their ability to feel pleasure and pain (where ‘pain’ is shorthand for
unpleasurable experience more generally).2

Hedonism has a straightforward appeal. Many feel that something that has no effect on some-
one’s experiences does not ‘touch’ or ‘get to’ this person in the sort of way required for something
to benefit or harm her.3 If this is true, then it seems only a relatively small step to hedonism.
Nonetheless, hedonism has few contemporary advocates.4 This is mainly due to a single,

highly inf luential objection to it, widely considered to be decisive: Robert Nozick’s experience
machine. Discussions of well-being – whether in scholarly journals, academic conferences, or
university lecture halls – often begin with a quick dismissal of hedonism by reference to
Nozick’s objection before turning to ‘more interesting matters’ (usually the question of which
desire-based or hybrid theory of well-being is true).5

In this paper, I will do three things: First, reconstruct Nozick’s objection. While the objec-
tion is oft-cited, it is rarely formulated in a clear or careful way. Second, explain and brief ly
discuss the most important recent criticisms that have been made of Nozick’s objection.
Third, question the conventional wisdom that the experience machine, while it neatly dis-
poses of hedonism, poses no problem for desire-based theories of well-being.

2. The Objection

Nozick’s most famous statement of the objection appears in his early work, Anarchy, State, and
Utopia (1974). But it is his mature work, The Examined Life (1989), that contains his clearest
formulation of it. There, he writes:

Imagine a machine that could give you any experience (or sequence of experiences) you might desire.
When connected to this experience machine, you can have the experience of writing a great poem or
bringing about world peace or loving someone and being loved in return. You can experience the felt
pleasures of these things, how they feel “from the inside.”You can program your experiences for…the
rest of your life. If your imagination is impoverished, you can use the library of suggestions extracted
from biographies and enhanced by novelists and psychologists. You can live your fondest dreams “from
the inside.” Would you choose to do this for the rest of your life?…Upon entering, you will not
remember having done this; so no pleasures will get ruined by realizing they are machine-produced.6
© 2016 The Author(s)
Philosophy Compass © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Experience Machine 137
If hedonism were true, Nozick suggests, then ‘plugging in would constitute the very best life, or
tie for being the best, because all that matters about a life is how it feels from the inside’.7

Intuitively, however, this is not so – there are alternatives that would be better for one. There-
fore, hedonism is false.
We can state Nozick’s objection simply, as follows:

(1) Plugging in would not be best for one.
(2) Hedonism entails that plugging in would be best for one.


(3) Hedonism is false.

In a nutshell: Hedonism entails something false, so hedonism is false.
How does Nozick argue for (1)? Some philosophers have suggested that he argues for it by

appeal to a claim about what we would want or choose to do if we were given the option of plug-
ging in, in the following sort of way:

We would not want or choose to plug in to the machine, and this makes it the case that plugging in
would not be best for us.8

Some who attribute this argument to Nozick object that nothing follows from the fact that
something is desired (or would be desired under certain conditions) when it comes to whether
it is desirable (i.e., worthy of being desired).9

Others point out that if Nozick’s objection to hedonism includes this argument, then it begs
the question against hedonism by presupposing that well-being is determined by something
other than pleasure and pain – namely, desire satisfaction and frustration.10

These worries miss the mark, however, since Nozick never intended to argue for (1) in this
way. He explicitly disavows this argument here:

Notice that I am not saying simply that since we desire connection to actuality the experience machine
is defective because it does not give us whatever we desire…for that would make “getting whatever
you desire” the primary standard. Rather, I am saying that the connection to actuality is important
whether or not we desire it—that is why we desire it—and the experience machine is inadequate
because it doesn’t give us that.11

Not only, then, is Nozick not appealing to a desire-based theory of well-being in his objec-
tion to hedonism, he intends the machine to make trouble for desire-based theories as well
(a point I will return to in Section 4).
Why, then, does Nozick ask us to consider what we would want or choose to do at all? The

most charitable answer is: merely as an intuition pump for (1). That is, he asks us to consider
whether we would want to plug in as a way of getting us to have the intuition that plugging in would
not be best for someone. Imagining oneself faced with the choice of whether to plug in, and seeing
what one would want or choose to do in this scenario, makes vivid the fact that it would not be
in the best interests of a normal human being to plug in.
What, then, is Nozick’s argument for (1)? It may be suggested that he argues for (1) by

pointing out some of the things that a person would be missing out on by plugging in – for
example, in Nozick’s words, the ability ‘to do certain things, and not just have the experience
of doing them’,12 to ‘focus on external reality, with [one’s] beliefs, evaluations, and emotions’,13

to explore ‘reality and [respond], altering it and creating new actuality ourselves’,14 and so on.
© 2016 The Author(s)
Philosophy Compass © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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138 Experience Machine
But this suggestion, too, seems to mistake Nozick’s intention. While Nozick does indeed say
that it is for reasons such as these that plugging in would not be best for one, this is not part of
some argument that he has for (1). Instead, he seems to think that ref lection on the experience
machine case yields two distinct revelations – on the one hand, that hedonism and desire-based
theories are false, and on the other, that well-being includes something like an ability to connect
with or interact with reality.
Nozick, I believe, does not attempt to argue for (1). Instead, he takes it for granted that

most of his readers will find (1) intuitive. This has proven to be a safe assumption. Even
those sympathetic to hedonism have admitted to finding (1) intuitive.15 The genius of
Nozick’s argument lies simply in pointing out that something interesting and contested
(i.e., the falsity of hedonism) appears to follow from something that is found almost univer-
sally acceptable (i.e., (1)).
Before moving on, it is worth noting that, while the objection I have attributed to Nozick

here is the important one that has loomed so large in recent literature on well-being, not
everyone is convinced that it is Nozick’s own. The chief dissenter is Feldman (2011). Feldman
considers roughly the interpretation of Nozick I have offered and says of it: ‘Possibly an
interesting argument; definitely not in the text.’16 His reasoning is as follows:

Careful study of the passage will reveal that Nozick does not explicitly claim to be refuting any theory
of welfare or of value in general. He never mentions welfare or wellbeing or value or intrinsic value in
the passage. Instead, he speaks almost exclusively about certain psychological matters. Thus, for exam-
ple, he says (p. 43, 44) that reflection on the Experience Machine teaches us something about “what
matters to us” or what is “important to us”. In other places he suggests that it tells us something about
what we desire (p. 43), or what we would choose. All of these remarks more strongly hint that he was
interested in a psychological claim about what we value rather than in an axiological claim about what
is valuable.17

But Feldman is here basing his interpretation of Nozick’s objection solely on the text of
Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Oddly, he admits that Nozick’s ‘remarks in later writings tend to
suggest’18 the interpretation he (Feldman) finds so implausible. He notes, for example, that in
The Examined Life,

[Nozick] explicitly says that the example of the Experience Machine is intended to shed light on a
question about value. In this context [Nozick] mentions the idea that “plugging in constitutes the very
best life”.19

Feldman also concedes that ‘it is possible that when Nozick says that something ‘matters to us’
he means not just that we care about it, but that it is in fact good for us.’20

Finally, Feldman admits that the objection I have attributed to Nozick is ‘fairly interesting’,21

while the alternative interpretations of Nozick he considers are pretty clearly ‘bad arguments’.
In light of these points, not to mention my earlier observation that we can interpret Nozick’s

appeal to what we would want or choose to do if given the option of plugging in merely as an
intuition pump for (1), it seems most charitable to ascribe to Nozick the objection as I have
outlined it here.

3. Recent Criticisms of Nozick’s Objection

In this section, I will explain and brief ly discuss the most important recent criticisms of Nozick’s
© 2016 The Author(s)
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142 Experience Machine
Why might plugging in kill one? Perhaps it is because, if one agrees to plug in, the machine
would have to erase one’s memory of choosing to plug in, and this form of mental tampering
might interrupt one’s psychological continuity in such a way that one’s consciousness would
come to an end and be replaced with a numerically distinct one.
But this suggestion, quite apart from its radical claim that the form of mental tampering in

question would literally kill one, seems unable to explain why being plugged in by somebody else,
without one’s knowledge (say, while asleep) would still seem not best for one. If I am plugged in
without my knowledge, there is no need for the machine to tamper with any of my memories.
A third possibility is that, while plugging in might not kill one, there are certain pleasures that

no machine like Nozick’s could give one. For example, the pleasures of autonomy or free action
may require the actual exercise of free will, something that is impossible in the machine (perhaps
the machine can give one at best the impression of acting freely – a pale imitation of the
real thing).
But presumably, the machine could be set up in such a way that it works, not by merely

playing one a video tape of a life, as it were – including the false appearance not only of having
various options, but also of choosing freely among them – but by improving one’s apparent
options (i.e., one’s options as they appear to one). If the machine were set up in this latter
way, it would still be required that one choose among various options. So, one would still be
capable of exercising a kind of free will, and so (even if the pleasures of free action require
the actual exercise of free will) have access to the associated pleasures.
Another suggestion is that the machine could not give one the full range of the pleasures of

love and friendship. People often say that an important reason they would not plug in to the
machine is that it would involve permanent separation from their friends and loved ones.
Nozick himself writes:

…we want a connection to actuality that we also share with other people. One of the distressing things
about the experience machine, as described, is that you are alone in your particular illusion. (Is it more
distressing that the others do not share your “world” or that you are cut off from the one they do share?)37

Perhaps the reason permanent separation from one’s friends and loved ones would be so bad for
one is that it would necessarily have experiential consequences for one. The pleasures of love and
friendship may require a certain subtlety in the language, facial expressions, bodily gestures, and
actions of those around one that is beyond the capability of AIs (or at least AIs that fall short of
real conscious selves – the sort that would populate Nozick’s machine).38

A general problem for this third account of why hedonism is consistent with (1) is that, what-
ever pleasures one would be unable to get in the machine (whether of free action, love and
friendship, etc.), these pleasures would have to be so very valuable for one that their absence
could not possibly be compensated for by the very many pleasures that one surely could get in
the machine.

4. The Desire-based Theorist’s Explanation

Many who claim that Nozick’s machine refutes hedonism accept some form of desire-based
theory of well-being – i.e., the theory on which lives can be good or bad for their subjects just
in virtue of their ability to get (and fail to get) what they want. According to these philosophers,
while hedonism cannot account for why plugging in would not be best for one, desire-based
theories can. This is because most of us want contact with reality – or, at least, real accomplish-
ment, real friendship, etc. – and plugging in would frustrate these desires.
As I noted earlier, Nozick himself explicitly considered and rejected this account of why

plugging in would not be best for one. According to Nozick, the reason we would want
© 2016 The Author(s)
Philosophy Compass © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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Experience Machine 143
not to plug in is that we would realise (even if only implicitly) that plugging in would not be best
for us. The reason that plugging in would not be best for us is not that it would deprive us of
things that we want, but that it would deprive us of things that we shouldwant even if we do not.
Nozick’s opinion aside, it is worth questioning the adequacy of the desire-based theorist’s ex-

planation. One reason for thinking it inadequate is that seemingly not everyone has an intrinsic
desire for contact with reality (or for things such as real accomplishment, real friendship, etc.),
yet intuitively, even those who lack such desires would still be missing out on something by
plugging in.When we encounter those rare individuals who say they would not mind plugging
in, or would even welcome the opportunity to do so, we tend not to feel ‘Ohwell, plugging in
would be best for them.’ Instead, we tend to feel that these people are making some kind of
mistake – and not simply because they do not properly understand their own preferences
(whether actual or idealized).39

In light of both Nozick’s opinion of the matter and the serious worry I have just mentioned
for the desire-based theorist’s explanation, it may be more accurate for philosophers to start
thinking of Nozick’s experience machine as an objection, not to hedonism in particular, but
to hedonism and desire-based theories taken collectively.

5. Conclusion

In this article, I have had three main goals: First, to reconstruct Nozick’s objection. Second, to
explain and brief ly discuss themost important recent criticisms that have beenmade of it. Third,
to question the conventional wisdom that the experience machine, while it neatly disposes of
hedonism, poses no problem for desire-based theories of well-being.

I wish to thank an anonymous referee and the editor at Philosophy Compass for their invaluable
feedback on this paper.

Short Biography

Ben Bramble obtained his PhD in philosophy from the University of Sydney in 2014. He is
currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at Lund University, Sweden. His main research interests are
moral philosophy, applied ethics, and political philosophy.

* Correspondence: Lund University, Sweden. Email: [email protected]
1 For a useful discussion of the concept of well-being, see Campbell (2015).
2 While rough, this definition will suffice for present purposes.
3 See Sumner (1996) and Kagan (1992) for further discussion.
4 Contemporary advocates of hedonism include Feldman (2004), Crisp (2006), Heathwood (2006), Bradley (2009), and
Bramble (forthcoming).
5 For an extensive list of authors who have ‘stated or implied that the experience machine thought experiment is a knock-
down refutation’ of hedonism, see Weijers and Schouten (2013).
6 Nozick (1989), p. 104.
7 Nozick (1989), p. 105.
8 See, for example, Kawall (1999), Baber (2008), Silverstein (2000), Hewitt (2010).
© 2016 The Author(s)
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144 Experience Machine
9 See Kawall (1999), Silverstein (2000), Hewitt (2010).
10 See Baber (2008).
11 Nozick (1989), p. 106.
12 Nozick (1974), p. 43.
13 Nozick (1989), p. 106.
14 Nozick (1989), p. 106.
15 See, for example, Bradley (2009), p. 10.
16 Feldman (2011), p. 81.
17 Feldman (2011), p. 72.
18 Feldman (2011), p. 80.
19 Feldman (2011), p. 85, n. 22.
20 Feldman (2011), p. 85, n. 23.
21 Feldman (2011), p. 81.
22 See Sumner (1996), p. 95. See also Hewitt (2010) and Goldsworthy (1992).
23 Crisp (2006), Hawkins (2015), and Lin (forthcoming A) suggest that Nozick could deal with this first criticism by
dropping the appeal to a choice situation altogether, and instead having us consult our intuitions concerning the
respective levels of well-being of two individuals whose lives have been experientially identical from birth to death, but
where only one is connected to reality. But this amendment seems to me to substantially weaken Nozick’s objection, as it
seems much more intuitive that these experientially identical lives are equal in well-being than that it would be best for
someone halfway through her existing life to plug in.
24 See, for example, Kolber (1994), De Brigard (2010), and Weijers (2014).
25 See De Brigard (2010).
26 See Hewitt (2010).
27 Nozick (1974), p. 43.
28 See, for example, Sobel (2002), Glover (1984).
29 See, for example, Heathwood (2006), p. 553.
30 Silverstein (2000).
31 Silverstein (2000), p. 296.
32 Crisp (2006), p. 122.
33 Crisp (2006), p. 121.
34 For a similar criticism of Silverstein, see Lin (forthcoming A).
35 Feldman (2004), p. 112.
36 Nozick (1974), p. 43. For further discussion, see Glover (1984).
37 Nozick (1989), p. 107.
38 I develop this suggestion further in Bramble (forthcoming)
39 For a related point, see Lin (forthcoming B).
Works Cited

Baber, H. ‘The Experience Machine Deconstructed.’ Philosophy in the Contemporary World 15.1 (2008): 132–7.
Bradley, B.Well-Being and Death. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Bramble, B. ‘A New Defence of Hedonism about Well-Being,’ Ergo (forthcoming)
Campbell, S. ‘The Concept of Well-Being.’ The Routledge Handbook to the Philosophy of Well-Being. Ed. Guy Fletcher.
New York City: Routledge, 2015. 402–14.

Crisp, R. Reasons and the Good. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
De Brigard, F. ‘If You Like it, does it Matter if it’s Real.’ Philosophical Psychology 23.1 (2010): 43–57.
Feldman, F. Pleasure and the Good Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
——. ‘WhatWe Learn from the ExperienceMachine.’ The Cambridge Companion to Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Eds.
Ralf M. Bader and John Meadowcroft. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 59–88.

Glover, J.What Sort of People Should There Be? New York: Penguin, 1984.
Goldsworthy, J. ‘Well-Being and Value.’ Utilitas 4 (1992): 1–26.
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Hawkins, J. ‘The Experience Machine and the Experience Requirement.’ The Routledge Handbook to the Philosophy of
Well-Being. Ed. Guy Fletcher. New York City: Routledge, 2015. 355–64.

Heathwood, C. ‘Desire Satisfactionism and Hedonism.’ Philosophical Studies (2006): 539–63.
Hewitt, S. ‘What Do Our Intuitions about the Experience Machine Really Tell Us about Hedonism?’ Philosophical Studies
151 (2010): 331–49.

Kagan, S. ‘The Limits of Well-Being.’ The Good Life and the Human Good. Eds. Paul, Miller Jr., and Paul. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1992. 169–89.

Kawall, J. ‘The ExperienceMachine andMental State Theories ofWell-Being.’The Journal of Value Inquiry 33 (1999): 381–7.
Kolber, A. ‘Mental Statism and the Experience Machine.’ Bard Journal of Social Sciences 3.3–4 (1994): 10–7.
Lin, E. ‘How to Use the Experience Machine.’ Utilitas (Forthcoming A).
—— ‘Against Welfare Subjectivism.’ Noûs (Forthcoming B).
Nozick, R. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic Books, 1974.
——. The Examined Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.
Silverstein, Matthew. ‘In Defense of Happiness: AResponse to the ExperienceMachine.’ Social Theory and Practice 26 (2000):

Sobel, D. ‘Varieties of Hedonism.’ Journal of Social Philosophy 33.2 (2002): 240–56.
Sumner, L. W.Well-being, Happiness, and Ethics. Oxford University Press, 1996.
Weijers, D. ‘Nozick’s Experience Machine Is Dead, Long Live the Experience Machine!’ Philosophical Psychology 27 (2014):

Weijers, D. and V. Schouten. ‘An Assessment of Recent Responses to the Experience Machine Objection to Hedonism.’
Journal of Value Inquiry 47.4 (2013): 461–82.
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in that case the pain itself will not count as pleasurable. Someone
enjoys an activity to the extent he engages in the activity because of
its own intrinsic properties~ not simply because of what it leads to or
produces later. Its intrinsicpmperties are not limited to felt qualities,
though; this leaves open the possibility that something is enjoyed yet
not pleasurable. An example might be tennis played very forcefully;
lunging for shots, scraping knees and elbows on the ground, you
enjoy playing, but it is not exactly-‘-not precisely-pleasurable.

From this definition of pleasure, it does not follow that there
actually are any experiences that are wanted because of their own felt
qualities; nor does it follow that we want there to be pleasurable
experiences, ones we desire because of their felt qualities. What does
follow from ( my use of) the term is this: If experiences are pleasurable
to us, then we do want them ( to some extent). The term pleasurable
just indicates that something is wanted because of its felt qualities.
How much we want it, though, whether enough to sacrifice other
things we hold good, and whether other things also are wanted, and
wanted even more than pleasure, is left open. A person who wants
to write a poem needn’t want (primarily) the felt qualities of writing,
or the felt qualities of being known to have written the poem. He may
want, primarily, to write such a poem-for example, because he thinks
it is valuable, or the activity of doing so is, with no special focus upon
any felt qualities.

We care about things in addition to how our lives feel to us from
the inside. This is shown by the following thought experiment.
Imagine a machine that .could give you any experience ( or sequence
of experiences) you might desire.* When connected to this experi-
ence machine, you can have the experience of writing a great poem
or bringing about world peace or loving someone and being loved
in return. You can experience the felt pleasures of these things, how
they feel “from the inside.” You can program your experiences for
tomorrow, or this week, or this year, or even for the rest ofyour life.
If your imagination is impoverished, you can use the library of
suggestions extracted from biographies and enhanced by novelists
and psychologists. You can live your fondest dreams “from the

* I.first presentedanddiscussedthis experience-machine example inAnarchy, State,
and Utopia, pp. 42-45.


Robert Nozick, The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations. Touchstone, 1989.



inside.” Would you choose to do this for the rest of your life? If not,
why not? (Other people also have the same option of using these
machines which, let us suppose, are provided by friendly and trust-
worthy beings from another galaxy, so you need not refuse connect-
ing in order to help others.) The question is not whether to try the
machine temporarily,· but whether to enter it for the rest of your life,
Upon entering, you will not remember having done this; so no
pleasures will get ruined by realizing they are machine-produced.
Uncertainty too might be programmed by using the machine’s op-
tional random device (upon which various preselected alternatives
can depend).

The question of whether to plug in to this experience machine
is a question of value. (It differs from two related questions: . an
epistemological one-Can you know you are not already·plugged
in?-and a metaphysical one-Don’t the machine experiences them-
selves constitute a real world?) The question is not whether plugging
in is preferable to extremely dire alternatives-lives of torture, for
instance-but whether plugging in would constitute the very best
life, or tie for being best, because all that matters about a life is how
it feels from the inside.

Notice that this is a thought experiment, designed to isolate one
question: Do only our internal feelings matter to us? It would miss
the point, then, to focus upon whether such a machine is techno-
logically feasible. Also, the machine example must be looked at on its
own; to answer the question by filtering it through a fixed view that
internal experiences are the only things that can matter (so of course
it would be all right to plug into the machine) would lose the op-
portunity to test that view independently. One way to determine if
a view is inadequate is to check its consequences in particular cases,
sometimes extreme ones, but if someone always decided what the
result should be in any case by applying the given view itself, this
would preclude discovering it did not correctly fit the case. Readers
who hold they would plug in to the machine should notice whether
their first impulse was not to do so, followed later by the thought that
since only experiences could matter, the machine would be all right
after all.

Few of us really think that only a person’s experiences matter.
We would not wish for our children a life of greatsatisfactions ·that



all depended upon de~eptions they would never detect: although
they take pride in artistic accomplishments, the critics. and their
friends too are just pretending to admire their work yet snk:ker
behind their backs; the apparently faithful mate carries on secret love
affairs; their apparently loving children really detest them; and so on.
Few of us upon hearing this description would exclaim, “What a
wonderful life! It feels so happy and pleasurable from the inside,”
That person is living in a dream world, taking pleasure in things that
aren’t so. What he wants, though, is not merely to take pleasure in
them; he wants them to be so. He values their being that way, ·and he
takes pleasure in them because he thinks they are that way. He doesn’t
take pleasure merely in thinking they are.

We care about more than just how things feel to us from the
inside; there is more to life than feeling happy. We care about what
is actually the case. We want certain situations we value, prize, and
think important to actually hold and be so. We want our beliefs, or
certain of them, to be true and accurate; we want our emotions, or
certain important ones, to be based upon facts that hold and t;o be
fitting. We want to be importantly connected to reality, not to live
in a delusion. We desire this not simply in order to more reliably
acquire pleasures or other experiences, as Freud’s reality principle
dictates. Nor do we merely want the added pleasurable feeling of
being connected to reality. Such an inner feeling, an illusory one, also
can be provided by the experience machine.

Whatwe want and value is an actual connection with reality. Call
this the second reality principle ( the first was Freud’s): To focus on
external reality, with your beliefs, evaluations, and emotions, is
valuable in itself, not just as a means to more pleasure or happiness.
And it is this connecting thatis valuable, not simply having within
ourselves true beliefs. Favoring truth introduces, in a subterranean
fashion, the value of the connecting anyway-why else would true
beliefs be (intrinsically) more valuable within us than false ones? And
if we want to connect to reality by knowing it, and not simply to have
tnie beliefs, then if knowledge involves tracking the facts-a view I
have developed elsewhere-this involves a direct and explicit external
connection. We do not, of cour$e, simply want contact with reality;
we want contact of certain kinds: exploring reality and responding,
altering it and creating new actu,ality ourselves. Notice that I am not


· Happiness

saying simply that since we desire connection to actuality the expe-
rience machine is defective because it does not give us whatever we
desire-though the example is useful to show we do desire some
things . in addition .to experiences-for that would make “getting
whatever you desire” the primary standat;d. Rather, I am saying that
the connection to actuality is important whether or not we desire
it-that is why we desire it-and the experience machine is inadequate
because it doesn’t give us that.*

No doubt, too, we want a connection to actuality that we also ,
share with other people. One of the distressing things about the
experience machine, as describedj is that you are alone in your
particular illusion. (Is it more distressing that the others do not share
your “world” or that you are cut off from the one they do share?)
However, we can imagine that the experience machine provides the
very same illusion to everyone ( or to everyone you care about), giving

, each person a coordinate piece of it. When all are floating in the same
tank, the experience machine may not be as objectionable, but it is
objectioµable µevertheless. Sharing coordinate perspectives mightbe
one criterion of actuality, yet it does. not guarantee that; and it is both
that we want, the actuality and the sharing.

* One psychologist, George Ainslie, offers an ingenious alternative explanation of
our concern for contact with reality, one that sees this as a means, not as intrin-
sically valuable. According to Ainslie, to avoid satiation ( and hence a diminution·
of pleasure) by imagining satisfactions, we need a clear line to limit pleasures to
those less easily available, and reality provides that line; pleasures in reality are
fewer and farther between (George Ainslie, “Beyond Microeconomics,”.in Jon
Elster, ed., The Multiple Self[Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press,
1986], pp. 133-175, especially pp. 149-157). Note that the phenomenon of
satiation itself presumably has an evolutionary explanation. Organisms that don’t
get satiated in an activity ( as in the experiments where apparatus enables rats to
stimulate the pleasure centers in their brains) will stick to it to the exclusion of all
else, and hern;:e die of starvation or at any rate not go on to have or raise offspring.
But in a reality framework too organisms wiU have to show some self-control, and
not simply pursue easy pleasures even when they have not yet been satiated, so a
reality principle would not completely fulfill the purpose Ainslie describes, and
presumably other quite clear lines also could serve the purpose as well. One line
might depend upon a division of the day according to biological rhythms-is sleep
the time for easy pleasures and dreams the vehici<;? Other lines might depend upon whether you were alone or accompanied, recently fed or not, close to a full moon, or whatever; these too could be used to restrict when the easy gain of pleasure was acceptable. Reality is not a unique means to this, noris our concern with reality simply a means. 107 THE EXAMINED LIFE Notice that we have not said one should never plug in to such a machine, even temporarily. It might teach you things, or transform you in a way beneficial for your actual life later. It a.liio might give pleasures that would be quite acceptable in limited doses. This is all quite different from spending the rest of your life on the machine; the · internal contents of that life would be. unconnected to actuality. It seems too that once on the machine a person would not make any choices, and certainly would not choose anythingfreery. One portion of what we want to be actual is our actually ( and freely) choosing, not merely the appearance of that. My reflections about happiness thus far have been about the limits of its tole in life. What is its proper role,_ though, and what exactly is happiness; why has its role so often been exaggerated? A number of distinct emotions travel under the label of happiness~ alorig with one thing that is more properly called a mood rather than an emotion. I want to consider three types of happiness emotion here: first,. being happy that something or other is the case ( or that many things are); second, feeling that your life is good now; and third, being satisfied with your life as a whole. Each of these three related happiness emotions will exhibit the general threefold structure that emotions have (described in the previ,ous meditation): a belief, a positive evaluation, and a feeling based upon these. Where these three related emotions differ is in the object of the belief and eval- uation, and perhaps also in the felt character of the associated feeling.* The first type of happiness, being happy that some particular thing is the case, is reasonably familiar and dear, a straightforward instance of what has been said about emotion earlier. The second type-feeling that your life is good now-is more intricate. Recall those particular moments when you thought and felt, blissfully, that there was nothing else you wanted, your life was good then. Perhaps this occurred while walking alone in nature, or being with someone you loved. What marks these times is their completeness. There· is something you have that you want, and no other wants come crowd- ing in; there is nothing else that you think of wanting right then. I * There is a need for an accurate phenomenology of the specific character of these · feelings. 108 tr 42 State-of-Nature Theory of the life of the person you killed? After all, there would be no net diminution in total utility, or even any change in its profile of distribution. Do we forbid murder only to prevent feelings of worry on the part of potential victims? (And how does a utilitarian explain what it is they're worried about, and would he really base a policy on what he must hold to be an irrational fear?) Clearly, a utilitarian needs to supplement his view to handle such issues; perhaps he will find that the supplementary theory becomes the main one, relegating utilitarian considerations to a corner. But isn't utilitarianism at least adequate for animals? I think not. But if not only the animals' felt experiences are relevant, what else is? Here a tangle of questions arises. How much does an animal's life have to be respected once it's alive, and how can we decide this? Must one also introduce some notion of a nondegraded existence? Would it be all right to use genetic-engineering tech- niques to breed natural slaves who would be contented with their lots? Natural animal slaves? Was that the domestication of ani- mals? Even for animals, utilitarianism won't do as the whole story, but the thicket of questions daunts us. THE EXPERIENCE MACHINE There are also substantial puzzles when we ask what matters other than how people's experiences feel "from the inside." Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. Superduper neuropsychologists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into this machine for life, prepro- gramming your life's experiences? If you are worried about missing out on desirable experiences, we can suppose that business en- terprises have researched thoroughly the lives of many others. You can pick and choose from their large library or smorgasbord of such experiences, selecting your life's experiences for, say, the next two years. After two years have passed, you will have ten minutes or ten hours out of the tank, to select the experiences of your next Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Blackwell 1974. Moral Constraints and the State 43 two years. Of course, while in the tank you won't know that you're there; you'll think it's all actually happening. Others can also plug in to have the experiences they want, so there's no need to stay unplugged to serve them. (Ignore problems such as who will service the machines if everyone plugs in.) Would you plug in? What else can matter to us, other than how our lives feel from the in- side? Nor should you refrain because of the few moments of distress between the moment you've decided and the moment you're plugged. What's a few moments of distress compared to a lifetime of bliss (if that's what you choose), and why feel any distress at all if your decision is the best one? What does matter to us in addition to our experiences? First, we want to do certain things, and not just have the experience of doing them. In the case of certain experiences, it is only because first we want to do the actions that we want the experiences of doing them or thinking we've done them. (But why do we want to do the activities rather than merely to experience them?) A second reason for not plugging in is that we want to be a certain way, to be a certain sort of person. Someone floating in a tank is an inde- terminate blob. There is no answer to the question of what a per- son is like who has long been in the tank. Is he courageous, kind, intelligent, witty, loving? It's not merely that it's difficult to tell; there's no way he is. Plugging into the machine is a kind of suicide. It will seem to some, trapped by a picture, that nothing about what we are like can matter except as it gets reflected in our experiences. But should it be surprising that what we are is impor- tant to us? Why should we be concerned only with how our time is filled, but not with what we are? Thirdly, plugging into an experience machine limits us to a man-made reality, to a world no deeper or more important than that which people can construct. 10 There is no actual contact with any deeper reality, though the experience of it can be simulated. Many persons desire to leave themselves open to such contact and to a plumbing of deeper significance.* This clarifies the intensity • Traditional religious views differ on the point of contact with a transcen- dent reality. Some say that contact yields eternal bliss or Nirvana, but they have not distinguished this sufficiently from merely a very long run on the experience machine. Others think it is intrinsically desirable to do the will of a higher 44 State-of-Nature Theory of the conflict over psychoactive drugs, which some view as mere local experience machines, and others view as avenues to a deeper reality; what some view as equivalent to surrender to the experi- ence machine, others view as following one of the reasons not to surrender! We learn that something matters to us in addition to experience by imagining an experience machine and then realizing that we would not use it. We can continue to imagine a sequence of machines each designed to fill lacks suggested for the earlier ma- chines. For example, since the experience machine doesn't meet our desire to be a certain way, imagine a transformation machine which transforms us into whatever sort of person we'd like to be (compatible with our staying us). Surely one would not use the transformation machine to become as one would wish, and there- upon plug into the experience machine! * So something matters in addition to one's experiences and what one is like. Nor is the reason merely that one's experiences are unconnected with what one is like. For the experience machine might be limited to pro- vide only experiences possible to the sort of person plugged in. Is it that we want to make a difference in the world? Consider then the result machine, which produces in the world any result you would produce and injects your vector input into any joint activity. We shall not pursue here the fascinating details of these or other machines. What is most disturbing about them is their living of our lives for us. Is it misguided to search for particular additional being which created us all, though presumably no one would think this if we discovered we had been created as an object of amusement by some superpower- ful child from another galaxy or dimension. Still others imagine an eventual merging with a higher reality, leaving unclear its desirability, or where that merging leaves us. • Some wouldn't use the transformation machine at all; it seems like cheat- ing. But the one-time use of the transformation machine would not remove all challenges; there would still be obstacles for the new us to overcome, a new pla- teau from which co strive even higher. And is this plateau any the less earned or deserved than that provided by genetic endowment and early childhood en- vironment? But if the transformation machine could be used indefinitely often, so that we could accomplish anything by pushing a button to transform our- selves into someone who could do it easily, there would remain no limits we need to strain against or try to transcend. Would there be anything left to do? Do some theological views place God outside of time because an omniscient omnipotent being couldn't fill up his days? Moral Constraints and the State 45 functions beyond the competence of machines to do for us? Per- haps what we desire is to live (an active verb) ourselves, in contact with reality. (And this, machines cannot do for us.) Without elaborating on the implications of this, which I believe connect surprisingly with issues about free will and causal accounts of knowledge, we need merely note the intricacy of the question of what matters for people other then their experiences. Until one finds a satisfactory answer, and determines that this answer does not also apply to animals, one cannot reasonably claim that only the felt experiences of animals limit what we may do to them. UNDERDETERMINATION OF MORAL THEORY What about persons distinguishes them from animals, so that stringent constraints apply to how persons may be treated, yet not to how animals may be treated? 11 Could beings from a!lother galaxy stand to us as it is usually thought we do to animals, and if so, would they be justified in treating us as means a la utilitar- ianism? Are organisms arranged on some ascending scale, so that any may be sacrificed or caused to suffer to achieve a greater total benefit for those not lower on the scale? * Such an elitist hierarchi- cal view would distinguish three moral statuses (forming an inter- val partition of the scale): Status 1: The being may not be sacrificed, harmed, and so on, for any other organism's sake. Status 2: The being may be sacrificed, harmed, and so on, only for the sake of beings higher on the scale, but not for the sake of beings at the same level. • We pass over the difficulties about deciding where on the scale to place an organism, and about particular interspecies comparisons. How is it to be de- cided where on the scale a species goes? Is an organism, if defective, to be placed at its species level? Is it an anomaly that it might be impermissible to treat two currently identical organisms similarly (they might even be identical in future and past capacities as well), because one is a normal member of one species and the other is a subnormal member of a species higher on the scale? And the problems of intraspecies interpersonal comparisons pale bdore those of interspecies comparisons. My Bookmarks Experience Machine - Page 42 • Desire Theory (aka the Desire-Fulfillment theory or the Desire-Satisfaction theory) • Compiled by Roholt, 2019. The passages below are quotations by these authors. The numbers are page numbers. Chris Heathwood1 135. The desire-fulfillment theory of well-being . . . holds, in its simplest form, that what is good in itself for people . . . is their getting what they want, or the fulfillment of their desires, and what is bad in itself for them is their not getting what they want, or the frustration of their desires. 138. . . . whenever someone wants something to be the case, and it is or becomes the case, this is a benefit to the person. Julia Annas2 46a. Surely having a happy life has something to do with getting what you want, rather than being frustrated and deprived of what you want? We all have desires; the happy person will be the person whose desires are fulfilled. The philosopher's term for this is the 'desire-satisfaction' account. 46b. Why wouldn't a happy life be one of getting what you want? People, after all, can live happy lives in many different ways. We feel that there is something wrong in trying to build any particular content into our notion of happiness such that only people living certain kinds of life could be happy. The idea that happiness is desire-satisfaction seems suitably neutral on the content of happy lives, allowing happiness to the intellectual and the incurious alike as long as they are getting what they desire. It is possible to think of happiness as desire-satisfaction if we are prepared to think of happiness—in the spirit of the suggestion that it is subjective—as some thing on which each of us is the authority. I am happy if I think I am, since I am getting what I want. For who could be a better authority than I am on the issue of whether I am getting what I want? 46c. Why might we be dissatisfied with this result? We would have to hold that anyone getting what he or she wants is happy, whatever the nature of the desire. Happiness would thus lose any purchase as an idea that could serve to rank or judge lives; Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, and Madonna, if they are all getting what they want, are all happy, so any comparative judgments about their lives cannot involve the idea of happiness. We might accept this, thinking that there must be something else about lives which can be compared. 46d. One thing the desire-satisfaction account disables us from doing is making judgments about the happiness of people whose desires are in obvious ways defective. Notoriously, some desires are based on radically faulty information or reasoning. Some desires are unresponsive to the agent's reasoning powers because of the force of addiction or obsession. At a deeper level, some desires are themselves deformed by social pressures. Girls who desire less for themselves than for their brothers, poor people who see desire for self-betterment as unimaginable [See Heathwood, below, 144]— these are just two of many kinds of desires that are open to Chris Heathwood, “Desire-Fulfillment Theory” In The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being. Edited by Guy Fletcher. Routledge, 2016. 1 Julia Annas, “Happiness as Achievement.” Daedalus, Vol. 133, No. 2 (Spring, 2004). 2 1 criticism, despite being honestly expressed and open to modification in the light of reason and information, because they spring from the internalization of ideas that deny the agents themselves proper respect. 47a. Once again, the idea that happiness is desire-satisfaction can absorb these points and even deny their faults, at the cost of shrinking [the concept or phenomenon of] happiness to something where only I am authoritative. Suppose, however, that I am happy if I think I am, because I am happy if I am getting what I want, and I am the authority on whether I am getting what I want. If we take this point seriously, we can see that we have not really moved forward from the smiley-face-feeling conception of happiness [i.e., hedonism]. Happiness is still just a state I am in that I report on: getting what I want, rather than feeling good, but still a state, namely a state of having my desires fulfilled. Roger Crisp3 4.2a. Historically, . . . the reason for the current dominance of desire theories lies in the emergence of welfare economics. Pleasure and pain are inside people’s heads, and also hard to measure—especially when we have to start weighing different people’s experiences against one another. So economists began to see people’s well-being as consisting in the satisfaction of preferences or desires, the content of which could be revealed by the choices of their possessors. This made possible the ranking of preferences, the development of ‘utility functions’ for individuals, and methods for assessing the value of preference-satisfaction (using, for example, money as a standard). 4.2b. The simplest version of a desire theory one might call the present desire theory, according to which someone is made better off to the extent that their current desires are fulfilled. This theory . . . has serious problems. . . . Consider the case of the angry adolescent. This boy’s mother tells him he cannot attend a certain nightclub, so the boy holds a gun to his own head, wanting to pull the trigger and retaliate against his mother. . . [T]he scope of theories of well-being should be the whole of a life. It is implausible that the boy will make his life go as well as possible by pulling the trigger. We might perhaps interpret the simple desire theory as a theory of well-being-at-at-a-particular-time. But even then it seems unsatisfactory. From whatever perspective, the boy would be better off if he put the gun down. 4.2c. We should move, then, to a comprehensive desire theory, according to which what matters to a person’s well-being is the overall level of desire-satisfaction in their life as a whole. A summative version of this theory suggests, straightforwardly enough, that the more desire-fulfillment in a life the better. But it runs into Derek Parfit’s case of addiction. Imagine that you can start taking a highly addictive drug, which will cause a very strong desire in you for the drug every morning. Taking the drug will give you no pleasure; but not taking it will cause you quite severe suffering. There will be no problem with the availability of the drug, and it will cost you nothing. But what reason do you have to take it? 4.2d. A global version of the comprehensive theory ranks desires, so that desires about the shape and content of one’s life as a whole are given some priority. So, if I prefer not to become a drug addict, that will explain why it is better for me not to take Parfit’s drug. But Roger Crisp, “Well-Being.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Fall 2017 Edition. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 3 2 now consider the case of the orphan monk. This young man began training to be a monk at the earliest age, and has lived a very sheltered life. He is now offered three choices: he can remain as a monk, or become either a cook or a gardener outside the monastery, at a grange. He has no conception of the latter alternatives, so chooses to remain a monk. But surely it might be possible that his life would be better for him were he to live outside? 4.2e. So we now have to move to an informed desire version of the comprehensive theory. According to the informed desire account, the best life is the one I would desire if I were fully informed about all the (non-evaluative) facts. But now consider a case suggested by John Rawls: the grass-counter. Imagine a brilliant Harvard mathematician, fully informed about the options available to her, who develops an overriding desire to count the blades of grass on the lawns of Harvard. . . . Some will believe that, if she really is informed, and not suffering from some neurosis, then the life of grass-counting will be the best for her. 4.2f. [A] desire theorist and a hedonist may agree [—may, but they may not agree] on what makes life good for people: pleasurable experiences. But they will differ . . . [about what makes pleasure good for people]: the hedonist will refer to pleasantness as the good-maker, while the desire theorist must refer to desire- satisfaction. (It is worth pointing out here that if one characterizes pleasure as an experience the subject wants to continue, the distinction between hedonism and desire theories becomes quite hard to pin down.) Chris Heathwood 138a. . . . another line of reasoning in support of the desire- fulfillment theory begins with the intuitive idea that getting what you want is at least a good thing for us, and then subjects the strengthened, unified hypothesis that it is the only good thing to scrutiny, attempting to falsify it; the argument then claims that the unified hypothesis survives the scrutiny, and we are thus justified in accepting it. Hedonism can be argued for on similar grounds. But desire theorists may claim that the desire-fulfillment hypothesis is more plausible than the hedonistic hypothesis. [Here is the reasoning:] if we consider someone who is familiar with pleasure and doesn't want it as much as she wants other things, there is some plausibility to the claim that it is better for her to get the other things. This intuition favors the desire theory over hedonism. 138b. When it comes to putative objective goods, such as knowledge or friendship, the desire theorist may note that such goods are desired by virtually everyone. The desire theorist can thus explain why they might seem to be universal, objective goods. And when we imagine a strange person who truly has no interest them, the desire-theoretic commitment that they are of no benefit to that person may be at least as plausible as the objectivist insistence that they are. . . Desire fulfillment may be the common denominator on the scene in cases of apparent objective and hedonic goods, the factor that indeed explains the value in these cases. 139a. The ill-informed desires criticism. There is a cherry pie before me and I am dying for a slice. Unbeknownst to me, I have recently developed a severe allergy to cherries and so it would in fact not be in my interests to satisfy my desire to eat the slice. This 3 appears to conflict with the unadorned desire-fulfillment theory, according to which any desire fulfillment benefits a person. 139. Reply. About such cases, it might often be true that if the person knew all the facts, he would not have the problematic desire. The informed desire theory holds . . . that what is good in itself for us is our getting what we would want if we knew and vividly appreciated all of the non-evaluative facts. If l knew how eating the pie would affect me, I probably wouldn't want to eat it. 144. Adaptive Preferences Criticism. There are other objections to the desire approach worthy of our attention. When someone can't get what he really wants, he may adapt his preferences to his predicament. If he succeeds in doing this, he is now getting everything he wants. This seems like an unfortunate situation, but the desire theory may be unable to accommodate this intuition. [See Annas, above, 46d.] 145a. Euthyphro Criticism. [W]hen we are thinking just about 4 ourselves and our interests, don't we want the things we want because they are good for us? But the desire theory suggests the opposite, that these things are good for us because we want them. 145b. Advertising Criticism. There are objections from manipulated or non-autonomous desires: if subliminal advertising brainwashes us into wanting some silly gadget, does it really benefit us to get it? The Euthyphro is a dialogue by Plato in which he employs this structure of reasoning but about piety.4 4 Martha Nussbaum on Preference and Desire Excerpts from Martha Nussbaum's Women and Human Development. Cambridge University Press, 2000. The Examples of Asanti and Jayamma 21-22. The problems faced by Jayamma and Vasanti are particular to the social situation of women in particular caste and regional circumstances in India. One cannot understand Jayamma’s choices and constraints without understanding, at many different levels of specificity and generality, how she is socially placed: what it means to be an Ezhava rather than a Pulaya, what it means that she lives in Kerala rather than some other state, what it means that she is in the city rather than a rural area, what it means that she is Hindu in Kerala rather than Christian, why she prays every evening and why she thinks it matters, and, of course, what it means more generally that she was born in India rather than in Europe or the U.S. 22a. One cannot understand Vasanti without understanding the double bind of being both upper-caste – with lots of rules limiting what it’s proper to do – and very poor, with few opportunities to do nice proper things that bring in a living. One also cannot understand her story without knowing about family planning programs in Gujarat, the progress of the SEWA [the Self-Employed Women's Association] movement, the background Gandhian tradition of self-sufficiency on which the Gujarati women’s movement draws, and many other highly particular things. Circumstances Affecting Inner Life 22b. No doubt all this particularity shapes the inner life of each woman, in ways that it is hard for an outsider to begin to understand. ¶ On the other hand, in this highly concrete set of circumstances, in some ways so unlike the circumstances of poor working women in the U.S., are two recognizable and imaginable women, with problems not altogether and unrecognizably different from problems of many women (and many poor people generally) in many parts of the world. The body that labors is in a sense the same body all over the world, and its needs for food and nutrition and health care are the same – so it is not too surprising that the female manual laborer in Trivandrum is in many ways comparable to a female manual laborer in Alabama or Chicago, that she doesn’t seem to have an utterly alien consciousness or an identity unrecognizably strange, strange though the circumstances are in which her efforts and her consciousness take root. 23. Again, the fact that Vasanti did not go to school again seems odd, but the more general idea that women are basically wives and mothers and that men are workers in the outside world is not in the least unfamiliar. The fact that she does not even seem to want to go to school is not so surprising either, or the sign of an alien consciousness, given that she does not see any signs of a better way of life that she could enjoy by becoming educated. (As we shall see, many women in the SEWA organization become literate quickly enough – when they see women serving as bank tellers and union organizers, and using literacy to better their lives.) 31a. We should do as much as we can to master these and many other facts that construct the circumstances within which women like Vasanti and Jayamma attempt to flourish. These circumstances affect the inner lives of people, not just their external options: what they hope for, what they love, what they fear, as well as what they are able to do. Neither Vasanti nor Jayamma even thinks about getting a college degree – that would be totally alien to their sense of what is possible for them, and there would be no point in even entertaining the thought, however strong-willed, able, and determined they are. By contrast, Meeghan D., a cashier at the Hyde Park Co-op who sometimes rings up my groceries, is finishing her B.A. at Roosevelt College while working full time, and has already been accepted for graduate study in social science at Howard University. She doesn’t know how easy it will be to get a job to support herself in Washington, but she says, ‘‘It doesn’t matter. I’ll make it somehow.’’ Universalism 31b. This [Meeghan D.’s situation] both is and is not similar to the determination and strength of both Vasanti and Jayamma. We should not underrate the extent to which such differences in options construct differences in thought; neither, however, should we overrate these differences, thinking of them as creating an Indian ‘‘essence’’ that is utterly incomprehensible to other imaginations. Certain basic aspirations to human flourishing are recognizable across differences of class and context, !1 Martha Nussbaum on Preference and Desire however crucial it remains to understand how context shapes both choice and aspiration. 31b. There are obtuse ways of thinking [blunt, unsubtle] across cultural boundaries. Some of these ways were characteristic of colonialism all over the world, which typically assumed that the ways of the colonial power were progressive and enlightened, the ways of the colonized people primitive. Such mistaken judgments can still be found today, even among feminists, who sometimes characterize developing cultures as uniformly reactionary and their own as progressive, neglecting the history of sexism in the West and of progressive traditions in the ‘‘East.’’ Such blindness to complexity has made many sensitive thinkers skeptical about all forms of universalism; but of course universalism need not have these defects, and universal values may even be necessary for an adequate critique of colonialism itself. 31-32. Other forms of obtuse universalizing can be found in the current global economy, where it is sometimes assumed that people are all simply rational agents in the global market, seeking to maximize utility whatever their traditions or context. It is because such approaches seem obtuse – neglecting tradition and context and their role in constructing desire and preference, neglecting the many different conceptions of the good that citizens of different nations have and their urgent need to be able to live in accordance with these conceptions – that many sensitive thinkers feel all universalizing approaches are bound to be obtuse, and mere accomplices of a baneful globalizing process. Such thinkers see before them the prospect of a world in which all interesting differences, all the rich texture of value, have been flattened out, and we all go to McDonald’s together. But the fact that some universal approaches are obtuse does not indict them all. Pluralism and respect for difference are themselves universal values that are not everywhere observed; they require a normative articulation and defense. . . Influences on Desires/Preferences 113a. ...when her husband took his earnings and spent them on himself in somewhat unthrifty ways, leaving Jayamma to support the children financially through her labor, as well as doing all of the housework, this didn’t strike her as wrong or bad, it was just the way things were, and she didn’t waste time yearning for another way. Unlike Vasanti, Jayamma seemed to lack not only the concept of herself as a person with rights that could be violated, but also the sense that what was happening to her was a wrong. 113b. ...let me introduce one new example, to show the way entrenched preferences can clash with universal norms even at the level of basic nutrition and health. In the desert area outside Mahabubnagar, Andhra Pradesh, I talked with women who were severely malnourished, and whose village had no reliable clean water supply. Before the arrival of a government consciousness-raising program, these women apparently had no feeling of anger or protest about their physical situation. They knew no other way. They did not consider their conditions unhealthful or unsanitary, and they did not consider themselves to be malnourished. Now their level of discontent has gone way up: they protest to the local government, asking for clean water, for electricity, for a health visitor. They protect their food supplies from flies, they wash their bodies more often. Asked what was the biggest change that the government program had brought to their lives, they immediately said, as if in chorus, ‘‘We are cleaner now.’’ The consciousness-raising program has clearly challenged entrenched preferences and satisfactions, taking a normative approach based on an idea of good human functioning. 114. ...feminists who challenge entrenched satisfactions are frequently charged with being totalitarian and antidemocratic for just this way of proceeding. Who are they to tell real women what is good for them, or to march into an area shaped by tradition and custom with universal standards of what one should demand and what one should desire? Aren’t they just brainwashing women, who already had their own ideas of what was right and proper? 115. One of the things this liberal tradition has emphasized is that people’s preference for basic liberties can itself be manipulated by tradition and intimidation; thus a position that refuses to criticize entrenched desire, while sounding democratic on its face, may actually serve democratic institutions !2 Martha Nussbaum on Preference and Desire less well than one that takes a strong normative stand about such matters, to some extent independently of people’s existing desires. Considering something like informed-desire theory 125. ...when we think of our cases we can easily spot some people who are not in a state of mind that seems conducive to rational choice: Vasanti, intimidated by her husband’s physical abuse and terrified about her survival prospects should she leave him; Jayamma, habituated to thinking that unequal control over household income is just women’s lot. Second Epigraph, Chapter Two: When we make videos, and women like us watch them, we get confidence to try and make changes. When we see women like us who have done something brave and new, then we get the confidence that we can learn something new too. When poor women see other poor women as health workers on the video, they say, ‘‘I can also learn about health and help solve these problems in my neighborhood.’’ When other self-employed women see me, a vegetable vendor, making these films, they also have the confidence that they can do things which at first seem impossible. (Lila Datania, SEWA, Ahmedabad, 1992) 126a. Again, consider the women of SEWA in my second epigraph [chpt 2], who see videos of women doing daring new things and thereby gain confidence that they can do these things too. Now clearly it is Lila Datania’s point that the experience of watching the videos helps these women make adequate choices for the future – not only by giving them new information but by enhancing their sense of their own possibilities and worth. But we wouldn’t think of this as progress, or a correction of malformed preferences in the direction of ‘‘true’’ preferences, if the women were taught by the videos to hide away in the house all day, or to believe that they were made for physical abuse....It is because we have an implicit theory of value that holds self-respect and economic agency to be important goods that we think the preferences constructed by the videos are good... 126b. Datania’s point is very similar to one made by economist Gary Becker in his 1992 Nobel address, when he observed that women and minorities frequently underinvest in their own human capital, where education and training are concerned, making bad decisions because they have been brought up to believe that they can’t do certain things that other people can do. Becker argued that social prejudices of various sorts, especially ‘‘the beliefs of employers, teachers, and other influential groups that minority members are less productive can be self-fulfilling,’’ causing the members of the disadvantaged group to ‘‘underinvest in education, training, and work skills’’ – and this underinvestment does subsequently make them less productive. In short, disadvantaged groups – among whom Becker includes ‘‘blacks, women, religious groups, immigrants, and others’’ – internalize their secondclass status in ways that cause them to make choices that perpetuate that second-class status. {Nussbaum note, p. 126: It is not made clear here whether the preferences are deformed or whether the women are led to make choices that are contrary to what they really prefer (since Becker, unlike Paul Samuelson and other advocates of the ‘‘revealed-preference’’ view of choice, makes a conceptual distinction between preference and choice). Probably one should distinguish two levels of generality: at a more general level, the woman’s preference for a flourishing life is not distorted, but is frustrated by the counterproductive choice she makes; at a more concrete level, however, her preference for not getting very much education – which may seem to her the best route available to a flourishing life – can be held to be distorted by the false beliefs she holds.} True Preferences 129. ...since [philosopher, Richard] Brandt recognizes that errors are frequently deeply implanted in people and cannot always be driven out by a simple disclosure of the relevant facts, he concludes that we can get to the person’s true preferences only by a prolonged process of ‘‘cognitive psychotherapy.’’ The desires that result from this process are used to define rationality for persons. The basic principles of society are then defined in terms of what a fully rational person would support. Thus the account of cognitive psychotherapy forms the core of Brandt’s view of how to choose basic political principles. !3 6 Introduction objections I can think of. When it seems necessary, I revise that version of hedonism so as to generate versions of the doctrine that yield evaluations consistent with the intuitions of the objectors. I repeat the process until I have found a version (or a couple of versions) of hedonism that seem to me to be acceptable. They are not refuted by the standard objections. Insofar as there is an argument here, this is the form it takes. Perhaps it would be acceptable to say that my procedure is to attempt to get myself (and my patient and sympathetic reader) into reflective equilibrium with some form of hedonism. A second thing that will not be found here is a discussion of Bentham’s hedonic calculus. This may seem a bit surprising, since I devote quite a lot of attention to puzzles concerning the calculation of the amount of pleasure (or value) in various stipulated lives. Since Bentham did it first, why is there no discussion of his way of doing it? I of course have tremendous admiration for Bentham. He is a giant among hedonists. However, I think his discussion of the hedonic calculus is hopelessly confused. I sketch his view and explain my misgivings elsewhere. I see no point in repeating them here. 2 I discuss Bentham’s hedonic calculus in the article ‘Hedonism’. CHAPTERI The Quest for the Good Life 1.1. Pleasure and the Good sz'e Since the earliest days of recorded philosophy, philosophers have been interested in a cluster of questions about the Good Life. This focus can easily be seen in the writings of Plato and Aristotle and in their remarks about Socrates. It can also be seen in descriptions of the various schools of philosophy that followed the Golden Age. It has even been suggested that some of these schools understood the point of philosophy in general in such a way as to forge an essential link between doing philosophy and living the Good Life. The Epicureans and Stoies, for example, seem to have advertised in this way, each claiming that students who enrolled in their programs of study would thereby be given a good shot-—perhaps the best possible shot—at getting to live the Good Life. Subsequent philosophers have continued to be interested in this topic, though it seems to have lost its central position as the whole point of doing philosophy. In this book I defend one of the oldest, simplest, and most intuitively plausible views on this question. I claim that the Good Life is the pleasant life. I claim that pleasure is the Good. Since I make these claims, I am a hedonist. Since its earliest days, hedonism has been in bad repute. Critics have dismissed it with scorn. They have presented a barrage of classic objections. Advocates of the view often insisted that the hedonism they defended was not refuted by the objections of the critics. They frequently claimed that their view had been misunderstood or misrepresented. They often tried to explain more carefully what they had in mind when they said that the pleasant life is the Good Life. I join this line of defenders. I try to explain what I mean (and what I think some of my predecessors meant) by saying that pleasure is the Good, and I try to show that, when charitably interpreted, hedonism is not refuted by the classic objections that have been raised against it. Tiger Roholt Tiger Roholt Fred Feldman, Pleasure and the Good Life. Oxford Press, 2004. 8 The Quest for the Good Me 1.2. Clarzfi'cation of “the Good sze” The central intuition of hedonism is that the pleasant life is the Good Life. But this sentence——‘The pleasant life is the Good Life’—is open to a number of interpretations. It can be misunderstood. In fact, I think it has been misunderstood and that the misunderstandings have in many cases led critics to dismiss hedonism prematurely. Something like this often happens: a hedonistic philosopher pro- poses a theory about the Good Life. He says, ‘Pleasure is the Good; possession of a lot of pleasure makes for a good life.’ Another philosopher comes along and denies this, pointing out that it is pos- sible for a person to be disgusting and disgraceful even though he has a lot of pleasure. Thus, the second philosopher concludes, having a lot of pleasure does not necessarily make you a good person or ensure that you lead a good life. But, as I see it, the dispute might be at cross—purposes. Perhaps the first philosopher took the question about the Good Life in one way, and proposed a view about that question as he conceived it, and the second philosopher took it in another way, and rejected the view as an answer to the question as he conceived it. Such disputes would be pointless. If we are to have a meaningful debate, we must have a shared understanding of the question. Thus it seems to me that we should attempt to make the question at least a little bit clearer before we begin. To clarify the question, let us distinguish among several different things that we might have in mind when we ask whether someone has a good life. A. When we speak of a good life, we might mean a morally good life; or (to use an old—fashioned—sounding phrase) a life of virtue. So, for example, if certain popular views about the life of virtue are correct, we could say that Mother Teresa had a good life in this sense. If a Kantian view is correct, we might want to say that someone who steadily acted for the sake of duty would therefore have had a good life. If we think that the moral virtues are traits from some list (e.g., justice, wisdom, courage, temperance) then we might think that a person who exemplifies these traits (and few vices) would therefore have a good life in this sense. B. When we speak of a good life, we might use ‘good’ in a sense in which it means ‘good as a means’ or ‘causally good’. We use the word in this sense when we say, for example, ‘although it was not good in itself, it was still a good thing that I had my teeth drilled’. Such things are good because of what they cause or prevent or lead to. A life might be like that. So when you say that Mother Teresa had a good life, you 9The Quest for the Good Lfie might mean that her life as a whole was benefiaa'l. You might say this if you thought it was a good thing that she lived her life as she did— a good thing because of its effects, largely on other people who bene- fited from her good works. C. Another sort of good life would be the beautiful life. We might want to know what makes a person’s life aesthetically good. A certain' person’s life might make a fine subject for a moving and beautiful biography, or even for a novel or play. Yet at the same time, that life might have been pretty rotten in itself for the one who lived it. Tragic figures come to mind. If someone lived the life of King Lear, we might think he had an aesthetically outstanding life—~a skilled playwright might be able to cook up a good play about it—but a life that was less than ideal for him. Only a man absurdly obsessed with being memorialized in drama could want such a life. D. Someone might take the question about the Good Life to be equivalent to a question about what sort of life best exemplifies human life. He might be looking for lives that are good examples, or ideal specimens, of human life. Imagine that you are setting up a museum exhibit designed to illustrate some of the main species here on Earth. You might want to include a good sample of a blue whale, and a good example of a garter snake. Additionally, you might want to include a good example of a human being. An ideal candidate for that position would be someone who leads a ‘good human life’ in this “exemplar” sense. Finally, we come to the sense of the phrase that is relevant here. Sometimes, when we speak of the Good Life, we have in mind the concept of a life that is good in itself for the one who lives it. Some philosophers speak here of ‘personal welfare’ or ‘well—being’. A good life, in this sense, would be a life that is outstanding in terms of welfare, or well—being. Other philosophers seem to have the same idea in mind when they speak of ‘a life well worth living’. I think we may be able to get ourselves to focus on the relevant notion if we engage in a little thought experiment.1 Imagine that you are filled with love as you look into the crib, checking on your newly arrived firstborn child. The infant is sleeping peacefully. You might think of various ways in which the baby’s life could turn out. What schools will he attend? What career will he choose? What sort of personality and intellect will he have? Will he someday have children ‘ I first appealed to this thought experiment in 1988 in my ‘On the Advantages of Cooperativeness'. Since that time I have come to see that it is problematic. Robert Adams appeals to the same test in his Finite and Infinite Goods. Stephen Darwall elevates it to the status of a metaethical analysis of the concept of welfare in his Weflare and Rational Care. 10 The Quest for the Good Lfie of his own? Your concern for the baby might express itself in the hope that, whatever he does, things will turn out well for him. You might hope that this baby gets a good life—a life good in itself for him. That hope—the hope for a life good in itself for the one who lives it—is a hope about the topic of this book. It is not entirely clear that this thought experiment will always work. Suppose a religious fanatic looks into his child’s crib. Suppose he wants the child to have a wonderful life. Suppose he thinks that the best imaginable life for the child is one in which the child becomes a martyr for God. This religious fanatic might be filled with love, and he might be thinking about the Good Life for his child. But it is not clear that he is expressing a hope about what we would normally think of as the child’s weflare. Perhaps he is thinking about what he takes to be moral or religious virtue. Perhaps he is thinking about the most beneficial life the child could live. So the mere fact that he is a parent filled with love, and is looking into his child’s crib, and is saying something about ‘the Good Life’, does not absolutely guarantee that he is thinking about the topic of this book.2 These five concepts of the goodness of lives are indeed five distinct concepts.3 In the absence of actual views about what makes for a morally good life, or a useful life, or a beautiful life, or a good life in itself, or an exemplary life, it might be hard to prove conclusively that these are different ideas. But there are some considerations that may help to make the differences more apparent. Reflection on these differences may also help to clarify the concept that is of central importance here. I am convinced that it is one thing to have a morally good life, and another to have a life good in itself for the one who lives it. Many would agree that Mother Teresa had a morally good life. Perhaps this is because she tried so hard to be helpful to others. Perhaps she always tried to do her duty for duty’s sake. Maybe she never committed a sin. But it is consistent with this to suppose that things did not turn out well for her. Remarks in some of her personal letters indicate that she suffered from persistent depression, especially as she got older and her health began to fail. In some letters she said that she felt as if God had abandoned her, and that her life was meaningless. In addition to this, she suffered from a number of painful physical ailments. Some who advocate her beatification appeal to these facts in support of her 2 I thank Chris Heathwood for helping me to see this point. 3 Owen McLeod has reminded me that there are more than just five such concepts. There is the concept of the legally good life, perhaps the etiquettically good life, the religiously good life, etc. Even this list is not intended to be complete. 11The Questfor the Good Lfie claims to sainthood. She endured considerable suffering as she tried to do her morally good works. In this case, it seems to me that we might want to say that Mother Teresa’s own personal welfare was not outstandingly high. Though her life might have been one of the most impressive in terms of moral goodness (Scale A), that life was not outstandingly good in itself for her (Scale E). Her moral standin'g was high, but her welfare was low} We can make the case even more dramatic. Imagine Mother Teresa again. Imagine that there is some sort of malicious but powerful deity. Imagine that the deity watches Mother Teresa closely, even looks III-I0 her heart. When she is motivated by her goodwill to perform morally admirable actions, the deity gives her heartburn, or serious pain in the knee and elbow. The better she is from the moral point of view, the worse things go for her. Since she is such a good person, her life is a disaster for her. She suffers constantly. In this imagined situation, Mother Teresa’s life is morally good but intrinsically bad for her. This strongly suggests that these two kinds of evaluation diverge. They evaluate lives from two different perspectives. Similarly, there’s a difference between the extrinsically good life (Scale B) and the life good in itself for the one who lives it. I assume that Mother Teresa did a lot of good in the world. She made things better for others. Her life as a whole was tremendously beneficial. So in one sense it was a good life. That is, it was extrinsically good, or good as a means. At the same time, we can easily imagine that doing all these good deeds took a toll on her. She sacrificed her own welfare in order to benefit others. As a result, her life went less well for her. She suffered; she took less pleasure in this life. We can imagine that she lived with constant frustration; she was not happy. This illustrates a way in which a person can have a life that is good for others (Scale B), but not so good for herself (Scale E). I think it is interesting to note that this talk of the beneficial life presupposes the concept of the life good in itself for the one who lives it. Presumably, when Mother Teresa benefited others, she did this by making their lives better. But when we say that she made their lives better, we surely do not mean to say that she made their lives better for others. That would just induce a long chain of lives, each making the next better for others. Rather, what we mean is that Mother Teresa helped other people to live lives that were better in themselves for ‘ The information about Mother Teresa's suffering can be found in her letters, excerpts of which have been published in the ]ouma[ of Theological Reflection. The topic is discussed in ‘Mothcr Teresa's Letters Reveal Doubts’ by Satindcr Bindra that appeared in (he CNN/World website dated September 7, 2001. 12 The Questfor the Good Life those others. That is, as a result of Mother Teresa’s efforts, each of those others got a life that was somewhat better in itself for that other person than the life that other person would have gotten had it not been for Mother Teresa’s efforts. So if you fully understand the idea of the beneficial life, then you must also understand the idea of the life good in itself for the one who lives it. It takes only the briefest reflection to see that there is a difference between the aesthetically good life (Scale C) and the life good in itself for the one who lives it. King Lear’s life is widely taken to be an example of an aesthetically good life. I would not wish it for my beloved first— born child. Suppose that it is typical, or normal, for human lives to be filled with suffering and misery. Then a good example of a human life would have to be one that illustrated this unfortunate fact about people. It would have to be a life of relatively low welfare. This shows that it is at least possible that a life could rank high on Scale D (which assesses lives for their value as exemplars) while ranking low on Scale E (which assesses them for their welfare—value). A life might be good as an example of a human life, while being not so good in itself for the unfortunate individual who has to live it. My focus here is on a question about the life that is good in itself for the one who lives it. If such lives turn out (by some surprising chance) also to be good for Others, or beautiful, or morally outstand— ing, or good examples of lives, then I will be delighted. But if in the end it turns out that there are no connections among these scales of evaluation, I will not be dismayed. I will still be interested in the Good Life (in the sense I have tried to identify). When I say that the pleasant life is the Good Life, What I mean is that the pleasant life is the life that is good in itself for the one who lives it; it is the life of high personal welfare.5 Thus, I focus on goodness as evaluated by Scale E. 1.3. What is the Question about the Good Lfie? There are several different questions we could ask about the Good Life. One is a fundamentally metaethical question: what do we mean when we say that a certain life is “good in itself for the one who lives 5 I sometimes suspect that some writers—especially ancient writers~conceived of the Good Life as the life that was at once good on all five (or more) scales. To be truly excellent, on this conception, a life would have to be morally good, useful, beautiful, typical of humans, and good for the one who lives it. I certainly would not defend the claim that the pleasant life would have to be truly excellent in this five (or more)-fold way. 13The Quest for the Good Lfie it”? To answer this question, we would have to engage in conceptual analysis, or at least semantical theorizing about ethical language. Perhaps we would have to consider various forms of naturalism, nonnaturalism, emotivism, prescriptivism, and other theories about the meanings of ethical terms. A much more practical question concerns the steps one must take in order to have a good life. We might focus on some puzzles such as these: If you hope to have a good life, is it essential to complete high school? Are your chances of getting a good life better if you take a job working for a big company, or would you be better off going into business for yourself? What about investment strategies? And how about the details of your personal affairs? Is it a good idea to marry young, or would you be better off waiting until you reach a more settled period in your life? Those are undoubtedly interesting questions, but they are not examples of the sort of question I mean to discuss here. Indeed, it seems to me that we cannot do a fully responsible job of anSWering these practical questions until we have a somewhat clearer answer to the question I do mean to ask. I mean to be asking, not for an analysis of the meaning of the phrase ‘the Good Life’, and not for a lot of practical tips about how to get a good life. Rather, I mean to be searching for a suitably general state— ment of necessary and sufficient conditions for a life’s being good in itself for the one who lives it. I want to know, in the abstract, what features make a life a good one for the one who lives it. Ideally, I would like to find a principle that would yield a ranking of lives—a principle that would tell us when one life is better in itself for the one who lives it than some other life would have been. I would like to find a theory that would locate the fundamental sources of value in lives. Ideally, I would like the theory to assign specific (perhaps numerical) values to those elements, and then to give a systematic way of aggreg— ating those values so as to yield a value for the whole life. As I proceed, it may very well appear that I have been making some large and controversial assumptions in metaethics. More exactly, it may appear that I have assumed some sort of Moorean or other objectivism about the meaning of ‘the Good Life’. That is because I will frequently write about considerations that Show that certain statements about the Good Life are “true” and will present and discuss various arguments for and against theories. In some cases, I will say that certain views are “closer to the truth” than others. All this suggests that I think that there is some objective truth about good and evil. 2%; 14 The Quest for the Good Life While Iam inclined to accept some such view in metaethics, Ithink itplays no role in what follows. Iam inclined to think that my arguments and claims are all firmly in a branch of substantive normative cthics—axiology. Ithink that my remarks can be understood (and per- haps interpreted) in accord with any plausible metaethical view. Perhaps Iam describing an independent moral reality; perhaps Iam describing the valuation scheme of some ideal observer; perhaps Iam just emoting or issuing imperatives. Iprefer to remain neutral on that issue. 1.4. Why Should We Be Interested in this Question? My focus in this book isthe attempt to develop a view about the sort of life that would be good in itself for the one who lives it. Iam interested in this topic for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Iam inclined to believe that philosophical discussions since ancient days have presup— posed, roughly, that the central pro'ect of an important part of moral philosophy is the attempt to identify the Good Life in this sense. So there isample historical precedent for undertaking the project. Iam also inclined to think that many familiar theories about ration- ality presuppose this notion. According to these theories, the concept of rationality isto be explained by appeal to t e concept of individual welfare. What’s rational for you to do is what will most enhance your welfare (usually weighted for probability). Your welfare, as Isee it, is to be explained by appeal to the Good Life. Those who have high welfare are precisely those who live good lives. Some consequentialist views in the normative ethics of behavior are similarly linked to views about the Good Life. On these views, the morally right act is the one that most enhances the aggregate of welfare of all affected. Another reason to pursue this topic isa bit more practical. Medical personnel are often called upon to give evaluations of “quality of life”. For example, ifa fetus isdiscovered to have some serious abnormality, parents might want to know about the quality of life the baby would enjoy (or suffer) ifallowed to live. If the baby were destined to have a life of very low quality, they might think that it would be better to abort this fetus and try again. So they might ask the doctor to make some predictions about the baby’s expected quality of life. But what is the doctor to think about? Should he reflect on likely income adjusted for inflation? Or net worth? Or the baby’s chances of having a satisfy- ing social life? As Isee it,the real question in such cases presupposes an answer to our question: will the baby get a life good in itself for the baby? And ifnot, how bad in itself for the baby will it be? This provides yet another reason to be interested in the Good Life. The Quest for the Good Life 15 My own view is that the project needs no such justification. The question about the Good Life is intrinsically worthy of our attention. We are people. We are alive. It is reasonable for us to wonder about what would make our lives good ones.6 So Itake the question about the lGood Life to be a substantive axiological question about what sort of life is good in itself for the one who leads it. The answer (if one should be discovered) might have some connection to questions about the rationality or moral tightness of behavior; but then again itmight not. It might have some connec— tion to questions about virtue and vice and excellence of character, but then again it might not. Iproceed on the assumption that it is an independent question in axiology. In what follows Iwill try to be wary of arguments that presuppose some other interpretation of the question. So, for example, ifsomeone were to say that a life filled with sensual pleasures is not a good one because it involves lots of disgraceful, immoral behavior, Iwill be cautious. Maybe the person who puts forth that argument is confus- ing evaluation of a life in terms of goodness for the one who lives it with evaluation of a life in terms of its moral excellence. The life of sensual pleasure might still rate high on one scale of evaluation, even if it isoff the bottom of the other scale. 1.5. What are the Main Sorts ofAnswer that have been Given? It seems to me that the most widely discussed answers to our question fall into a couple of main categories. They are as follows: a. Eudaimonism. Aristotle seems to endorse this view in the Nicomachean Ethics when he says ‘the general run of men and people of superior refinement say that [the highest of all goods] is happiness, and identify living well and doing well with being happy’.7 A bit later he 6 Near the end of the Apology, Socrates says that the unexamined life is not worth living. Although Iam not entirely sure that Iunderstand what he meant. Ithink the remark could naturally be taken to mean that ifa person does not engage in philosophical reflection on the Good Life and the goodness of his own life (in other words, ifhe has not examined his life), then his life cannot be good in itself for him (his life is not worth living). The Socratic claim seems to be this: ifyou don’t think about the Good Life, you can’t be having one. So understood. the doctrine seems very implausible. Surely there are plenty of unreflective, philosophically unsophisticated people who have been happy. and whose lives have been morally good, beneficul to others, and good in themselves for those who lived them. To say otherwise. itseems to me, is to suggest that if you are not happy in the peculiar way preferred by some philosophers. then your life is not worth living. This seems to me to be an astonishing view (whether Socrates’ or not). 7 Ntcomachean Ethics, I. 4. Tiger Roholt 20 The Quest for [be Good Life I think similar problems would infect other forms of pluralism, too. That is, this problem would arise unless advocates could somehow guarantee that the items on the list would be things that would simply have to be enjoyed by the one who had them. I would be prepared to look more closely into a form of pluralism that had that feature.20 e. Hedonism. Finally we come to hedonism. Hedonism is roughly the idea that the Good Life is the pleasant life. Or somewhat more exactly, it is the view that a life is better in itself for the one who lives it as it contains a more favorable balance of pleasure over pain. Hedonism comes in many forms. Before selecting the present title for this book, I thought I would call it ‘Forms and Limits of Hedonism’.21 That would not be such a bad title, since quite a lot of this book is devoted to a discussion of these different forms, and one of my aims is to show that the limits of hedonism are further out than they are often assumed to be. My discussion of hedonism will begin in Chapter 2. 2° I think it is important to distinguish between (a) pluralist theories according to which there are several goods, and each is something that is necessarily enjoyed, and (b) hedonist theories according to which enjoyment is the Good, and enjoyment in certain things—the ones on some objective list, for example—is especially good. I discuss such forms of hedonism in chs. 4, 5, and 7. I explain the distinction in ch. 8. 2' Alluding thereby to the title of David Lyons's wonderful book on utilitarianism. C HAPTE R 2 Hedonism: A Preliminary Formulation 2.1. Problems Concerning the Formulation ofHedonism I want to defend a number of substantive views concerning hedonism. These include views about the forms it can take and the plausibility of the doctrine in many of its guises. However, before turning to my presentation and defense of these views concerning the truth or plaus- ibility of hedonism, I think it is important to have a clear conception of the nature of the doctrine. Otherwise, you may not know what I am trying to defend. In common parlance, ‘hedonism’ suggests something a bit vulgar and risque’. We may think of someone like the former publisher of a slightly scandalous girlie magazine. He apparently enjoyed hanging out with bevies of voluptuous young women, drinking and dining perhaps to excess, traveling to tropical resorts where the young women would reveal extensive amounts of tanned flesh, and reveling till dawn. In an earlier era the motto was ‘wine, women, and song’. Nowadays, we are required to substitute the somewhat more RC. ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll’. No matter what the motto, the vision is misguided. It reveals a misconception of the views of most serious hedonists (though, perhaps, it gets one of them approximately right). In an apparent expression of exasperation, Epicurus lamented this sort of misunderstanding. He insisted: ‘So when we say that pleasure is the goal we do not mean the pleasures of the profligate or the pleasures of consumption, as some believe, either from ignorance and disagreement or from … ---... - ~-_____; -.~ ... I UTILITARIAN ACCOUNTS: STATE OF MIND OR STATE OF THE WORLD? How are we to under sta nd 'well-being'? A,i 'utility', say the utilit a rians, aware that this t hnical t ·rm it elf needs exp lain- ing.' Wh a t i 'utility'? 'Pleasure a nd the ab s n e f pain', the classical utilitarians said,~ not r alizing how mu h the words 'pl easure' and 'pain', especia lly ln th 11tretchecl s nsc they attnched to them, needed explaining. Two main traditiom about ' utility' hav e grow n up . One sees it as a state of mind, th e other as a sta te ol' the world . h 1 ' utility' mental s tates (e.g. plcasur , pain) or slate s of lhc world which fulfil desires (e .g. cco nomiKts' ' pr efi rcnce')? If mental s tates, is it only one sort, or m a ny? lfm any, what linkH them? If fulfilment of d esires, desire s as th ey happe n Lo be, or in some way improved? If improved, how ? We ca n forget morality for the moment. Utilitarians use ou r rou gh, everyday notion of ' well-being', our notion of what it is for a single life lo go well , in whi ch morality may have n pla e but not the dominant one. This docs not me a n that our job i11 merely to describe the everyday use. It is too shadowy and incomplete for that; we still have to be ready for stipulation. 1 , Mmtal stale accounts When some utilitarians have spo ken of mental sta tes such as ple asure and pain, they have mea nt these terms so widely that their accounts get very near desire accounts of ' utility' . So we cannot always take thi s verbal difference as marking any real difference. Still, the difference is often real enoug h. Bentham and Mill arc, with ample reason, taken to be offering a psychological tr Griffin, James. 1986. Well-Being. Oxford University Press. 8 MEANING cco un t of 'utility'. Pleasure or happiness is presented as a sta tc of feeling', an d pain or unhappiness as a feeling on the :.amc scale as, an d the opposite of, pleasure or happiness. And the utilities of all our expe riences are supposed to be determin- able by measuring the a mount of this homogeneous mental stat e that th ey con tain. The trouble with thinking of utility as one kind of mental state is that we cannot find any one state in all that we regard as having utility-eating, reading, working, creating, helping . What one mental state runs through them all in virtue of which we rank them as we do? Think of the following case. At the very end of his life, Freud , ill and in pain, refused drugs except aspirin. 'I prefer', he said, 'to think in torment than not to be ab le to think clearl y'. 3 But can we find a single feeling or mental state pr esent in both of Fr eud 's options in virtue of which he ranked them as he did? The truth seems, rather, that often we just rank options, period. Some preferences-Freud's seems to be one-are basic. That is, preferences do not a lways rest upon other judgments about the quantity of some homogeneou s mental state found in , or produced by, each option. When, in these cases, one speaks of one thing's yielding greater satisfaction than another, this seems best understood as saying that having the first is the fulfilment of a greater desire than having the second would be. One wants the first more than the second . But these desires are not ranked by independ- ent quantities of satisfaction. So, if the mental state account takes this simple form, the objections to it are insurmountable. And if we do not want to go over to a desire account, there are two ways we might now move . We might accept that utility is not one mental state but many, and then look for an explanation of how th ey are linked. Or we might, on the other hand , decide that utility is neither a matter of mental states nor of desire-fulfilment but of something . in a way, in between; we might say that it is a matter of finding en ·o ment in various things, where 'e nj oy - ment' is what we might call an attitude or u o __ nsciou ~;_state or a state of a person. I wa n't to eave the second move until later; it is not easy to grasp, and it will be easier after we have looked at both the mental state and the desire accounts . So let us go back to the first move. STATE OF MIND OR STATE OF THE WORLD? 9 2. Sidgwick' s compromise Suppose we said that utility consisted of several different mental states. What then would make them into a set? The obvious candidate would be desire; we could say, following Henry Sidgwick in borrowing something from each of the competing accou n ts, that utility combines a psyc hological element and a preference element. 'Utility', we could say, is 'desirable consciousness', meaning by 'desirable' either con- sciousness that we actually desire or consciousness that we would desire if we knew what it would be_ like to have it. 4 The trouble with this eclectic accoupt is that we do seem to desire things otheir than states of mind, even independently of the states of mind they produce. This is the point that Robert Nozick has forcefully made with some science fiction.~ Imagine an experiience machine programmed to give you any experience you want; it will stimulate your brain so that you think you are living the most ideal life, while all the while you float in a tank with electrodes in your brain. Would you plug in? 'What else can matter to us', Nozick asks, 'other than how our lives feel from the inside?' And he replies, surely rightly, that we also want to do certain things, to be certain things, and to be receptive to what there is in life beyond 'what humans make. The point does not need science fiction; there are plenty of examples from ordinary life. I certainly want control over my own fate. Even if you convince me that, as my personal despot , you would produ .ce more desirable consciousness for me than I do myself , I shall want to go on being my own master, at least so long as your record would not be much better than mine. I prefer, in important areas of my life, bitter truth to comfortable delusion. Even if I were surrounded by consummate actoirs able to give me sweet simulacra of love and affection , I should prefer the relatively bitter diet of their authentic reactions . And I should prefer it not because it would be morally better, or aesthetically better, or more noble, but because it would make for a better life for me to live . Perhaps some: such preferences, looked at with a cold eye, will turn out to be of dubious rationality, but not all will. This fact presents a serious challenge to the eclect -ic account of utility. If not all desirable things are mental states, yet they 10 MEANING m atter to our well-being, the eclectic account is fissile. Which n rt of it should we retain: desire or mental states? It is hard to ·e tain mental states; for if we did, we should the~v ~ u zzlingly, to accept that when, with eyes wide open, I prefer ,;nmething not a mental state to a mental state and so seem to ,alue the former more than the latter, I get greater utility from what I value less.6 Of the two, it is better to retain desire. 7 Of course, 'mental state' is a vague expression. Perhaps Sidgwick and others use it broadly enough to include, say, knowledge. However, that does not seem to be Sidgwick's intention, and in any case it would stiJJ not be broad enough. I also want to be my own master, and it would take more broadening to include that. It seems more promising _ tq_ abandon 'mental state' altogether and to try defining 'utility' solely in terms of desire: utility consists, we might try saying, in the fulfilment of desire. 3. The actual-desire account The simplest form of desire account says that _1:1tility is tl!_e fulfilment of actual desires. It is an influential account. Economists have been dra~n to it .because actual desires are often revealed in choices and 'revealed preferences' are observable and hence a respectable subject for empirical science. 8 Also the same account of utility can then do service in both moral theory and theory of action; explanation of action has to appeal to what we in fact want rather than to such ideal notions as what we ought to want or would want if well-informed. And both philosophers and social scientists have been powerfully drawn to it because it leaves no room for paternalism; if actual desires determine distributions, con- sumers are sovereign and agents autonomous . Yet, notoriously, we mistake our own interests. It is depressingly common that when even some of our strongest and ·most central desires are fulfilled, we are no better, even worse, off. Since the notion we are after is the ordinary notion of 'well-being', what must matter for utility wiJJ have to be, not persons' actual desires, but their desires in some way improved. The objection to the actual-desire account is overwhelming. STATE OF MIND OR STATE OF THE WORLD? II In any case, considerations of autonomy are, on reflection, no recommendation of it. Well-being and autonomy, no doubt, both matter morally. It is even likely that living autonomously would be part of any enlightened person's conception of a good life. But it just confuses two quite different ideas to adopt the actual-desire account of well-being just because it makes autonomy prominent. One consideration to keep in mind is that the question, 'What is the best account of "utility"?', should be kept distinct from the question, 'What is the account of "utility"-perhaps highly artificial and ad hoc-that yields a one principle, utility maximizing, moral theory that comes closest to adequacy?' It is wrong to try to I 1/ 1 ; build into the notion of 'utility' all the restrictions that morality needs, if they fit more naturally elsewhere in the theory. 4. The informed-desire account At this point, an obvious move is to say that desires count I towards utility only if 'rational' or 'informed'. 'Utility', we might try saying, is the fulfilment of desires that persons would have if they appreciated the true nature of their objects . But we shall have to tone this definition down a bit. Althougr 'utility' cannot be equated with actual desires, it will not de either, simply to equate it with informed desires. It is doubtl e true that if I fully appreciated the nature of all possible objec of desire, I should change much of what I wanted. But if I do not go through that daunting improvement, yet the objects of my potentially perfected desires are given to me , I might well not be glad to have them ; the education, after all, may be , necessary for my getting anything out of them. That is true, for instance, of acquired tastes; you would do me no favour by giving me caviar now, unless it is part of some well-conceived . training for my palate. Utility must, it seems, be tied at least to desires that are actual when satisfied. (Even then we should have to stretch meanings here a bit: I might get someth i'lg I find that I like but did not want before because I did not know about it, nor in a sense want now simply because I already have it; or I might, through being upset or confused, go on _ resisting something that, in some deep sense, I really want.) It I 12 MEANING is hard to get the balance between actual and infurmed desires quite right. But, to be at all plausible, the informed-desire account has to be taken to hold them in a balance something like the one I have just sketched. The move to 'informed-desires' marks the first important break with the classical utilitarian tradition (we shall see several more in the course of the discussion). Bentham and · Mill used 'utility' both to explain action and to set a moral standard; they used its empirical role in arguing for its moral role. But now 'utility' has taken on a shape to fit it for a normative role (it need not be only in moral theory; it could also be in an account of one person's well-being or an account of practical reason), and it is of doubtful relevance to a purely empirical accoupt of motivation. So this account of 'utility' should no longer be seen to b<' attached, except historically, to certain theories of action. It is not committed to the view that action is the result purely of a vector of desire-forces. It is not committed to any Hume-like account of the role of reason and desire. We can no longer use historical connections as a guide to theoretical connections. The informed-desire account starts with the recognition that actual desires can be faulty. What sorts of fault matter? Obviously, for one, lack of information. Some of our strongest desires rest on mistakes of fact. I make my fortune, say, only to discover I am no better off because I was after people's respect an along and mistakenly thought that making a fortune would command respect. Or I want an operation to restore me to health, not realizing that some pill will do just as well. What matters is the ultimate, not the immediate, object of my desire, and factual mistakes creep into matching the one to the other. 9 Or I develop one set of material desires not realizing that they are the sort that, once satisfied, are replaced by another set that are just as clamorous and I am no better off. The consumer-desires at the centre of the economists' stage can be like that. 10 Then another relevant fault is logical ~istake. A lot of practical reasoning is about adapting means to ends and, like any reasoning, it can be confused, irrelevant, or question-begging. Then there are subtler faults. 11 Some- times desires are defective because we have not g(!t enough, or the right, concepts. Theories need building which will STATE OF MIND OR STATE OF THE WORLD? 13 supply new or better concepts, including value concepts. For instance, it is easy to concentrate on desires to possess this or that object, at the cost of the more elusive, difficult- to-formulate, desires to live a certain sort of life. And it is / almost impossible to strike the right balance between the two 1 main components of happiness-on the one hand, the dis- content that leads to better and , on the other, contentment with one's lot. 12 One needs more than facts and logic to sort those problems out: one needs insight and subtle, perspicuous concepts. And with information, more is not always better. It might cripple me to know what someone thinks of me, and I might sensibly prefer to remain in ignorance .13 What seems most important to the informed-desire account is that desires have a structure; they are not an on one level. We have local desires (say, for a drink) but also higher order desires (say, to distance oneself from consumers' material desires) and global desires (say, to live one's life autonomously). The structure of · desires provides the criterion for 'informed' desire: information is what advances plans of life; information is full when more, even when there is more, will not advance them further. So there is only one way to avoid all the faults that matter to 'utility': namely, by understanding completely what makes life go welJ.'4 This brings out another break with classical utilitarian tradition. Bentham, Mill, and Sidgwick an saw utility as having to enter our experience. But we desire things other than states of mind; I might sometimes prefer, say, bitter truth to comforting delusion. The informed-desire account has the advantage of being able to accommodate such desires. But the desire account does this by severing the link between 'fulfil- ment of desire' and the requirement that the person in some way experience its fulfilment, dropping what we might call the Experience Requirement. 15 If the delusion is complete, one believes that one has the truth; the mental states involved in believing something that really is true and believing a successful deception are the same. Or if a father wants his children to be happy, what he wants, what is valuable to him, is a state of the world, not a state of his mind; merely to delude him into thinking that his children flourish, there(ore, does not give him what he values. That is the important point; the 14 MEANING I informed-desire account does not require that fulfilment of desire translates itself in every case into the experience of the person who has the desire, and that is what gives the account its breadth and attraction as a theory of what makes life valuable. This seems to me the way that the informed-desire account has to develop. The definition itself is short: '.utility' is the fulfilment of informed desires, the stronger the desires, the greater th e µtili t . The way that the account develops, however, shows that all of those key terms are to a fairly large degree technical. (a) 'Desire'. In the present technical sense, desires clearly do not have to have felt intensities; they need not be linked exclusively with appetitive states (some are, but others are aims we adopt as a result of understanding and judgement); they need not have existed before fulfilment. Rather, desiring_ something is, in the right circumstances, going (or j _t, or not !!Voiding or being indifferent to getting it. (b) 'Informed'. In its technical sense, 'informed' 16 is the absence of all the faults that I listed just a moment ago. There is a historically important account of practical reason that goes roughly like this: reason alone can never determine action. The end of action must be something fixed on, in its own reasonless way, by desire; we reason, but deliberation is only of means. 17 It is hard to see what is at issue between those who say, with Hume, that reason alone cannot supply a motive and those who say, with Kant, that it can. But those of the latter pursuasion are right to this extent: in deciding how to act, we must try to understand what properties things and states of affairs have, and we must put our desires through a lot of criticism and refinement to reach this understanding. 18 In this sense, deliberation may be of ends, and important deliberation often is. So an 'informed' desire is one formed by appreciation of the nature of its object, and it includes anything necessary to achieve i t. 19 (c) 'Fulfilment'. Being 'fulfilled' cannot be understood in a psychological way, or we should be back with mental state accounts. A desire is 'fulfilled' in the sense in which a clause in a contract is fulfilled: namely, what was agreed (desired) comes about. (d) 'Strength'. 'Strength of desire' has several senses, STATE OF MIND OR STATE OF THE WORLD? 15 appropriate to different theoretical settings. The 'strongest' desire can be the winner, or it can be the most intensely felt. But strength of desire, in its technical sense here, has to be understood in connection with the structure that informed desires have. One does not most satisfy someone's desires simply by satisfying as many as possible, or as large a proportion. One must assess their strength, not in the sense of felt intensity, but in a sense supplied by the natural structure of desire. The desires I feel most intensely could be satisfied by your constantly imperilling my life and saving me only at the Jast moment, 20 whereas I should clearly prefer peace to peril; anyway, felt intensity is too often a mark of such relatively superficial matters as convention or training to be a reliable sign of anything as deep as well-being. That I prefer peace to peril suggests that global desires provide, in large part, the relevant notion of strength of desire: I desire the one form of life more than the other. True, sometimes we form global desires only on the basis of having summed local desires (for example, the global desire for a way of life based on a reckoning that day-to-day pleasures will be maximized that way). But even then we must rank that way of life against others that it excludes, and our preference between them will, it seems, be basic-that is, a global judgment not based on any other quantitative judgments. This means that the relevant notion of aggregation cannot be simply that of summing up small utilities from local satisfactions; th!! structure of desires already incorporates, constitutes, aggregation. It means also that the relevant sense of 'strength' is not simply the desire that wins out in motivation. If my doctor tells me that I shall die ifl do not lay off drink, I shall want to lay off it. But I may later crack and go on a binge, and at that point my desire to drink will, in a perfectly clear sense, be strongest. If strength were interpreted as motivational force, then 'utility' would lose its links with well-being; what would be good for me would then be fulfilment not of my informed desires but of what I 'ought to desire' or 'have reason to desire'. So to retain the links with well-being, the relevant sense of 'strength' has to be, not motivational force, but rank in a cool preference ~rdering, an ordering that reflects a~E!eciation of the nature of the objects of desire. 21 16 MEANING 5. Troubles with the informed-desire account There are strong objections to such an account. _Is it even intelligible? 22 If our desires never changed with time, then each of us would have a single preference order, by reference to which what most fulfilled his desires over the course of his life could be calculated. However, life is not so simple; preferences change, ~nd not always in a way that allows us totally to discount earlier ones. Suppose that for much of his life a person wanted his friends to keep him from vegetating when he retired but, now that he is retired, wants to be left to vegetate . Is there any intelligible _ programme for weighing desires that change with time and hence for maximizing fulfilment? If not, we may be driven back to a happiness or mental state account. Yet all the problems that we have just seen with mental state accounts remain; defects in one account do not obligingly disappear with the appearance of defects in another. How do we determine how happy a person is? Is happiness a single mental state? If many, how are they linked? Mental state accounts are hardly a refuge from troubles. Moreover, there may be an acceptable programme for handling cases where preferences change with time. The notion of an informed desire needs still further development and may eventually be able to supply the weighting of desires that we need in these troublesome cases. Has our retired friend simply forgotten the satisfactions of a busy life? If so, his later desire has much less weight. Is it just a change in taste, on the model of no longer liking ice cream? If so, his earlier desire has much less weight. We shall have to come back to these problems when we discuss measurement, but for now I have to be content with suggest- ing that the prospects of making the informe"d-desire account work are certainly not less rosy than those of making a mental state account work. 23 The other troubles are much more worrying. The breadth of the account, which is its attraction, is also its great flaw. The account drops the Experience Requirement, as we called it. It allows my utility to be determined not only by things that I am not aware of (that seems right: if you cheat me out of an inheritance that I never expected, I might not know but l L--~---- STATE OF MIND OR STATE OF THE WORLD? 17 still be worse off for it), but also by things that do not affect my life in any way at all. The tr::9J1ble is that one's desires spread themselves so widely over the world that their objects extend far outside the bound of what, with any plausibility, one could take as touching one's own w~ll-being ...: The restriction to inform,ed desire is no help here. I might meet a stranger on a train and, listening to his ambitions, form a strong, informed desire that he succeed, but never hear of him again. And any modeirately decent person wants people living in the twenty- second century to be happy and prosperous. And we know that Leonardo had an informed desire that humans fly, which the tTright brothers fulfilled centuries later. 24 Indeed, with- out the Experience Requirement, why would utility not include the desires of the dead? And would that not mean the account had gone badly awry? And if we exclude these desires that extend beyond the bounds of what affects well-being, would! we not, in order to avoid arbitrariness, have to reintroduce the Experience Requirement, thereby losing the breadth that makes the informed-desire account attractive? The difficulty goes deep in the theory . In fact, it goes deep, one way or other, in any account of well-being. Another attraction of the account is that desires have to be shaped by appreciation of the nature of their objects. Without that restriction, the account is not even a starter. But with it, do desires even matter any longer? It may be somewhat too simple to say that things are desired because valuable, not valuable because desired. Yet the informed-desire account concedes much of the case for saying so. What makes us desire the things we desire, when informed, is something about them--their features or properties. But why bother then with informed desire, when we can go directly to what it is about objects that shape informed desires in the first place? If what really matter are certain sorts of reason for action , to be found outsidle desires in qualities of their objects, why not explain well-being directly in terms of them? It does not seem that it is fulfilled desire that is the basis of well-being, but certain of its Qbjects. And that points us, depending on what we decide those objects are, either back towards mental states or beyond utility altogethe i-C~ , 7 1 l ronrANCE equality except when gain is 6. quA.‘ Two general points emerge from thinking about distribu. tion. One is the multi-level structure that its principles display, Property rights, for instance, are high storey and cannot be used, as some conservative political theorists use them,“l to restrict what is on the ground floor. If, say, a freak storm wipes out your crop and not mine, then even though you had as much and as good as I,since the point of the .Uockean Proviso is to recognize your equal claim to a good life, Imust help you. Property rights have to be limited by such considerations, because no rights are so powerful as to override these central values. The only way to miss this point is to have no sense of what a substantive theory of rights is like. The second point is a specific instance of the first. There is no one principle of equality; principles of equality crop up on many levels. What we need in moral and political philosophy more than anything else is to identify them and to plot their relations to one another. snaua- nvuvn NOTES CHAPTER ONE Bentham’s precursors generally spoke of ‘pleasure‘ or ‘happiness'. Hume used ‘utility’, though more narrowly than Bentham. See the discussion in Sidgwick 1907, bk. 4, ch. III, sect. 1, n. 2. Bentham seems to have given ‘utility’ its wide modern sense. Mill claims the dubious credit for the term ‘utilitarian’; see Utilitarianism, ch. 11, n. to para. 1. 1t avoids, he says, ‘tiresome circumlocution’; but that hardly justifies its own bulk, ugliness, and inaccuracy. It could have been bulkier; Bentham once thought of proposing ‘eudaimonologian’; see Baumgardt 1952, p. 505. 2. J. S. Mill, Utilitan'anism, ch. II, para. 2. See also j. Bentham, An 3. l0. Introduction to the Principles of Moral: and Legislation, eh. I, sects. 2 and 3. Neither of them was aware that the words ‘happiness’ and ‘pleasure' are too vague and slippery to be much of an explanation. And Bentham, having used ‘pleasure' and ‘pain‘ to explain ‘utility', immediately turned around and undid whatever specificity the ordinary use of those terms lent in adding, ‘By utility is meant that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness . . .‘ (sect. 3). Jones 1964, pp. 655-6. Sidgwick 1907, esp. pp. 111—12, 127—9, 396—8. For a good discussion of Sidgwick's account see Schneewind 1977, pt.2, esp. chs. 11—12. Nozick 1974, pp. 42—5. I talk here in terms of Iseeming to value‘, which is enough to make the retention of mental states look puzzling, but Ishall go on to argue that this appearance is not misleading; see ch. 1sect. 6; ch. ll sects. 3, 4, 6; ch. Ill sect. 7; ch.IV sects. 3, 5, 6. Sidgwick is well aware of this line of thought, but his objection to it is uncharacteristically thin. See Sidgwick 1907, pp. 398—402. . But for acute criticism from economists, see Vickers 1975; Sen 1980—1, sects.3 and 6; Hahn and Hollis …

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