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Experiments In Thought

Would you take the happy pill?

People when asked what they want for themselves in life, will frequently say that what the they want is to be happy. These people understand taht they don't want expensive cars, or to be famouse, that really the secet is just to be happy. The things, are desitred because peopel belive that they will make them happy, but if you can skip the middle step and just get to the happyness then thats better right? People just want to be happy. Or do they?

The Happy Pill

Imagine you could take a pill that would casue you to fall into a deep coma like sleep. You would need no caring for at all as your body will magically look after itself, taking care of food and health etc, you would be no burdon to others and never need anything ever again. Further more the entire time you are in this state you would feel truely meangingfully happy. You would remain in this coma like state, feeling happy, for the rest of your natural life, however long that would have been had you not taken the pill.

Would you take the pill?

Strangly the same people that would agree that what they want out of life simply just to feel happy; woul dnot take the pill. The pill is designed to be the perfect solution to those who simply wnat to be happy for the rest of there life. So why is the idea of taking it so unappealing?

The Experience Machine

A similar but importantly distinct thought experiment was put forward by philosopher Robert Nozick in his 1974 book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. The experience machine or pleasure machine is a thought experiment designed to refute ethical hedonism, the idea that all people have the right to do everything in their power to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them.

Imagine a machine that could give us whatever desirable or pleasurable experiences we could want. Psychologists have figured out a way to stimulate a person's brain to induce pleasurable experiences that the subject could not distinguish from those he would have apart from the machine. He then asks, if given the choice, would we prefer the machine to real life?

Nozick also believes that if pleasure were the only intrinsic value, people would have an overriding reason to be hooked up to an "experience machine," which would produce favorable sensations.

What do you want out of life?

The Happy Pill and The Experience Machine show us that simply maximising pleasere and happiness in our life isn't really what we want after all. Pleasere and happiness are certainly desierable but in solving for them alone we instinctivly feel that we are missing out on greater meaning or purpose. Even though not choosing these soloutions would result in us encountering much more much more unhappyness and experaincing much less pleasure in our life, we would choose that path.