The freebie problem: A pervasive flaw in how we work out what has value
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Weijers, D. M. (2018). The freebie problem: A pervasive flaw in how we work out what has value. Presented at the Philosophy Research Seminar Series, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12999
Nozick’s Experience Machine and Kagan’s Deceived Businessman thought experiments have both been widely used to discredit classical prudential hedonism. The common usage of both thought experiments requires a comparison of two lives in order to show that more than how our experiences feel to us on the inside matters for wellbeing. I identify a structural difference in the way the comparisons work, labelling one method the ‘freebie structure’. I then argue that all thought experiments designed to work out what we value that have the ‘freebie structure’ also have the ‘freebie problem’, which makes them unfit for the purpose of working out what we value. In addition to identifying a serious internal problem with the ‘freebie structure’, I also point out that general acceptance of the ‘freebie structure’ as fit-for-purpose would effectively result in pluralism for all issues of value. It is surprising and alarming, then, that the ‘freebie structure’ is one of our main tools for working out what we value, visible and even prominent in many important philosophical debates.
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