Let’s start our discussion of human well-being by considering a thought experiment (Links to an external site.).
A thought experiment is just a conceptual tool, an imaginary situation that we can use to consider important philosophical questions. A thought experiment brings to the fore a crucial feature of an imagined situation and how we assess that feature has important ramifications for our philosophical views about some larger question.
Consider for a moment the possibility that scientists can simulate any experience you want by using a powerful, advanced computer called an experience machine.
In fact, imagine that they could simulate an extended sequence of experiences, even up to simulating the experience of living your ideal life for the next 80 or so years. Imagine that from this moment until the moment you die, you can have the experience as of living your ideal life. But, of course, all the while, you’re actually connected to a computer that is directly stimulating your brain, which causes this thoroughly realistic seeming simulation.
So, for example, while it seems to you as if you’re riding a horse–and keep in mind that the experience includes everything, including all the sights, sounds, smells, and bodily feels as well as your completely believing that you’re riding a horse and the pleasures, emotions, and feelings that such a belief evokes–you’re actually connected to the computer in some laboratory somewhere merely having an experience as if you were riding a horse.
And imagine that this happens every waking moment for the remainder of your life. It seems real and you fully believe that it’s real.
Here are some questions that might naturally arises when presented with such a choice:
Would I plug into such a computer? If so, why? What would plugging in provide or allow that real life does not? If not, why not? What does real life provide that would be absent in the computer and that you cannot do without?
Should I plug in? If so, why? And how would you respond to those who say that you should not plug in? If not, why not? What are reasons that make plugging in something you should not do?
Would I be better off plugging in (that is, better off than my life will probably be for the next 80 or so years in the real world)? If so, why? If not, why not?
Discussion posting instructions
Submit one post and comment to two posts . Before submit initial post and two comments, read carefully the instructions below
In your post, answer one of the three questions above.
Be sure to (1) state which questions you’re answering and then (2) compose a thoughtful, considered response to the question, explaining your answer in a way that leaves the reader with a good understanding of your thinking.
After you have written your thoughtful response, (3) end your post with a question that you think would need to be answered in light of what you’ve written or by anyone else attempting to answer the question you’ve answered (or, for that matter, any other question raised by the thought experiment itself). Doing this encourages the idea that there’s always more that needs to be thought about, that your response will not have said it all and addressed every aspect of the question. In a way, you’re asking your reader to contribute to your response, to add to it.
Then explain why you’re asking this question. A good question is one that would require a thoughtful, reflective paragraph-long response. It should not be able to be answered in a word, phrase, or short sentence. So the question needs to be an open-ended question. It should not just repeat one of the questions above. Nor should it merely ask what the reader thinks of your response. Note that you are not answering your own question; rather you are explaining why you’re asking this question, why it’s an important question to be asked.
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