Weijers, D. M., & Nicholls, G. (2018). Nozick’s experience machine thought experiment has many problems, but the freebie problem ain’t one of ‘em. Presented at the Philosophy Seminar Series, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12537
For at least 30 years, many have argued that Robert Nozick’s Experience Machine thought experiment is the basis of a knockdown argument against mental state theories of wellbeing. In the last 10 years, a few objecting voices, and mounting empirical evidence, have provided strong reason to doubt this “knockdown” status. Even more recently, Eden Lin has constructed a revised Experience Machine thought experiment that intends to avoid these criticisms. In this paper, we illustrate that Lin’s revised thought experiment structure suffers from the ‘Freebie Problem’. This problem can be seen in thought experiments that investigate intrinsic value through the comparison of cases that are identical in all aspects except for a costless good present in one of the cases. We argue that these costless goods, or ‘freebies’, interfere with readers’ judgment making processes, leading thought experiments with the freebie problem to be unfit-for-purpose. As such, Lin has just traded the old set of problems for a new problem, leaving us still wondering whether experience machine thought experiments can help us learn anything about the plausibility of mental state theories of wellbeing.
© 2018 copyright with the authors.