Imagine if you could plug
your brain into a machine that would bring you ultimate pleasure
for the rest of your life. If you were given the choice to sign up
for that kind of existence, would you? That’s the question philosopher
Robert Nozick posed through a thought experiment
he called the Experience Machine. The experiment asks us
to consider a world in which scientists have developed
a machine that would simulate real life while guaranteeing experiences
of only pleasure and never pain. The catch? You have to permanently
leave reality behind, but you’ll hardly know the difference. Your experiences will be
indistinguishable from reality. Life’s natural ups and downs will just be replaced
with an endless series of ups. Sounds great, right? It may seem like a tempting offer,
but perhaps it’s not as ideal as it sounds. The experiment was actually designed
to refute a philosophical notion called hedonism. According to hedonists, maximizing net pleasure
is the most important thing in life because pleasure is the greatest good
that life has to offer. For hedonists, the best choice that
a person could make for himself is one that brings him the greatest
possible amount of pleasure while bringing him no pain. Limitless pleasure minus zero pain
equals maximum net pleasure, or in other words, the exact scenario
the Experience Machine offers. Therefore, if hedonism
is your philosophy of choice, plugging in would be a no-brainer. But what if there’s more to life
than just pleasure? That’s what Nozick believed
he was demonstrating through his Experience Machine
thought experiment. Despite the machine’s promise
of maximum net pleasure, he still found reason not to plug in, as do many other experimenters
who consider the proposition. But what could possibly dissuade us from
choosing a future of ultimate pleasure? Consider this scenario. Betsy and Xander are in a loving,
committed relationship. Betsy is head over heels
and has never felt happier. However, unbeknownst to Betsy, Xander has been romancing
her sister, Angelica, with love letters and secret rendezvous
for the duration of their relationship. If Betsy found out, it would destroy her relationships
with both Xander and Angelica, and the experience would be so traumatic,
she would never love again. Since Betsy is in blissful ignorance
about Xander’s infidelity, hedonists would say she’s better off
remaining in the dark and maintaining her high level
of net pleasure. As long as Betsy never finds out
about the relationship, her life is guaranteed to go on
as happily as it is right now. So, is there value in Besty knowing
the truth of her situation? Imagine if you were Betsy. Would you prefer to know the truth? If the answer is yes, you’d be choosing an option
that sharply decreases your net pleasure. Perhaps, then, you believe
that there are things in life with greater intrinsic value
than pleasure. Truth, knowledge, authentic connection
with other human beings. These are all things
that might make the list. By never learning the truth, Betsy is essentially living life
in her own personal Experience Machine, a world of happiness
that’s not based in reality. This love triangle is an extreme example, but it mirrors many of the decisions
we make in day to day life. So whether you’re making a choice
for Betsy or for yourself, why might you feel reality
should be a factor? Is there inherent value
in real experiences, whether pleasurable or painful? Do you yourself have more value when you’re experiencing
real life’s pleasures and pains? Nozick’s experiment may not provide
all the answers, but it forces us to consider whether
real life, though imperfect, holds some intrinsic value
beyond the pleasure of plugging in.

100 thoughts on “Would you opt for a life with no pain? – Hayley Levitt and Bethany Rickwald”

  1. im a masochist so it would be kind of annoying for me because everytime i wanted something bad to happen to me it wouldn't.

  2. A life without pain wouldn’t be so nice because how could you tell if it’s a nice experience if it’d what always experience

  3. True satisfaction comes after conquering the challenges life gives you, and if there is no risk to be taken before a challenge then it’s not as satisfying to experience
    Besides, without pain there is no evolution to our species. If there is no pain, there is no reason to evolve

  4. Like it would be good for a while then it would just be boring because you won't get TEH same realise from the thing you live and go to bigger things to get that pleasure. While real life allow you to enjoy little victories due to the randomised nature of life

  5. I don't want a life of endless pleasure. I simply want my scoliosis, uneven arms, legs and defective heart to be fixed. That would solve alot of my problems.

  6. I think people who haven’t experienced much pain at all shouldn’t, but someone who has experience a lot of pain should

  7. “Pain is pleasure’s cushion” is one of my favorite and one of the most succinct song lyrics of all time. I quote it all the time.

  8. Let's say Betsy had a month to live. Would you prefer her living those last days in pain or happy and clueless of what's happening around her. (just curious about how the answers might differ)

  9. I think a better version of the machine is that you still have pain, but your life gets slowly better and better and you don't have any terrible, tramautic moment. Like in the machine its literally the life you have now but (lets say you have some relative who is extremely sick) your relative starts getting better. There are still hard times but they ultimately get better. Also it should be that once we are in the world we wouldn't know it

  10. The only reason people want to know bad things is for the opposite impulses like curiosity and intelligence, something the machine would satisfy. So people are merely seeking pleasures of a different kind

  11. “But how will you struggle and learn to appreciate the pleasures??? Your brain would get desensitized!!” You wouldn’t need to in this hypothetical situation, you’re being plugged in after living life rather than being born into the simulation. The characters in the example had know what the difficulties awaiting them are and would choose ignorance. Your brain wouldn’t be desensitized because it’s a hypothetical situation in which you would be able to achieve pleasures after pleasure so ultimately there wouldn’t be a max peak.

  12. Wait, so hedonists cannot be as interested in knowledge and truth as their are in pleasure? What if those things bring one pleasure?? What happens then? Paradox? Time loop? Explanations please…

  13. In a world where pleasure becomes everything, it is instantly reduced to nothing, irrelevant and unnoticeable like the air we breathe. When you attained all the pleasure and there is nothing more pleasurable to achieve, wouldn’t that actually destroy hedonism? Think about it. It’s like being a hunter when everything has already been hunted down, or in a garden full of flowers, where that is all there is to the world. As someone who views themselves as a hedonist I would see little sense in traversing into a world where no more pleasure can be obtained. Because, as humans, we tend to get bored of things real quickly.

    That said, i would probably say YES to the question (if taken on a bad day) but I might regret it later..

  14. Okay, for those who chose to reality over pleasure,I have a question for you.
    Would you ever wear a glass that has the power to read people's mind?

  15. Pleasure is only pleasing because we don’t get it all the time, if you were fulfilled everyday is it really fulfilling? If you keep going up what happens when you go too far?

  16. I don't see much intrinsic value of "real" things. Real is just a tag we attached to the stuff happening in the one place we need to interact with to survive (maintaining our body) if there was no need to do those things I think "real" would loose a lot of its importance.

  17. I'd opt for no pain so I could run the full PT exercise with my squad without having to fall out. I want to grow stronger with them, but I am in near constant pain.

  18. I don’t know if I was to take it, I would but not in complete pleasure. Because a most pain comes from ones own mistakes and the things he/she lost. That pain can then become strength and gives us desire for something else. A life without pain will become a life without meaning, in my opinion.

  19. I used to think limitless pleasure is such paradise. But after I get used to hardship, it's kinda not bad at all and somehow benefits are coming to me than not

  20. I would not wish for eternal pleasure as pain and suffering is the only thing that teaches us , helps us learn .

  21. did they make a hamilton reference? betsy was hamilton’s nickname for eliza hamilton, zander is short for alexander, and eliza hamilton’s sister was called angelica!

  22. One thing um curious about: If you lived a life with only pleasure wouldnt you slowly get used to the feeling and thus finding no pleasure in pleasure anymore?

  23. "…You gotta have opposites: dark and light, light and dark. If you have light on light, you have nothing; if you have dark on dark you basically have nothing. You know, it's like in life: you gotta have a little sadness once in a while to know when the good times come.
    I'm waiting on the good times now."
    -Bob Ross

  24. Morpheus: Blue pill or Red pill?

    Me: Takes the Red pill and shaft it in Morpheus's where the sun don't shine then pop the Blue pill and hop away.

  25. Stop even thinking about it, it's just a thought experiment. There are 2 types of pain, one pain is the pain of Discipline and going through, and the other is the pain of regret and giving up. You choose between the these two don't even think of forever happiness it's just illusion, impossible and most importantly not good.

  26. I believe pleasure in that case won't have any meaning with the absence of pain . Life is built on dualities/dichotomies such as pleasure/pain good/bad hot/cold and so on . The unity of all these elements is what to make life as whole meaningful ?

  27. I think there is no such thing as infinite pleasure even if there was we could become numb to that feeling and it could become boring in the long run so I think its not an good idea to Plug its better to face reality then numbing yourself away from it.

  28. One would not realize theyre happy unless they realize pain…so you cant really be happy without experiencing pain. pain is there so that theres happiness, one cant exist without the other

  29. It's a silly experiment because it assumes we will experience untreatable clinical depression outside the machine. That's an atypical and unfortunate condition for only a few people. The rest of us cope, develop improved coping strategies, and discover other things in life to enjoy when one doesn't work out. The machine is useless.

  30. Nerds. Um that's why you got to do work. You feel your blood pumping faster. It like having your wimpy heart pump. Then upgrading to a bigger motor.

  31. >Proposes ultimate pleasure machine where nothing bad happens
    >Tries to refute it with something bad happening behind the scenes

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