On one view, what determines how well your life is going is what feelings or sensations you have had over the course of your life. Nozick’s “experience machine” is often taken to refute that view. For it seems that, according to the view in question, a life spent hooked up to the experience machine would be a fantastic life—one that was going extraordinarily well. Yet it does not seem that it really would be a great life. It seems that a life hooked up to the experience machine would in fact be bad for the person plugged in to it.
Assuming that plugging in to the experience machine would be bad for you, why would it be bad for you? Kagan writes, “A natural response to these examples—the deceived businessman, the experience machine—is that these people don’t really have what they want. They think they do, but they don’t” (257). In your paper, first, explain why Kagan says that someone who is hooked into the experience machine does not really have what they want.
Second, the idea that getting what you want is the key to having your life go well is what the desire or preference theory of well-being claims. Kagan discusses a number of different versions of this theory. What does the unrestricted preference theory say, and why does Kagan think that it is false? What does the restricted preference theory say, and what problem does Kagan think it has? Finally, what does the ideal restricted preference theory claim? Do you think that theory is true? If not, why not?