The desire machine

Analysis 84 (2):249-257 (2024)
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Abstract

The experience machine poses the most important problem for hedonist theories of well-being. I argue that desire satisfactionism about well-being faces a similar problem: the desire machine. Upon entering this machine, your desires are altered through some minor neurosurgery. In particular, the machine causes you to desire everything that actually happens. The experience machine constructs a simulated world that matches your preexisting desires. The desire machine reconstructs your conative state to match the preexisting world. Desire satisfactionism recommends entering the desire machine because you will then have more satisfied desires, but this seems wrong. In this paper, I consider how desire satisfactionists might avoid the result that entering the desire machine increases one’s well-being. First, I further motivate why this problem arises. Second, I consider coherence-based norms of rational desire change. Finally, I argue that introducing a substantive account of fitting desire is the only plausible solution, but that this response requires abandoning pure subjectivism about well-being.

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Author's Profile

Paul Forrester
Yale University (PhD)

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References found in this work

A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1958 - Philosophical Quarterly 8 (33):379-380.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
Desire satisfactionism and hedonism.Chris Heathwood - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 128 (3):539-563.
The Nature of Rationality.Robert Nozick - 1993 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 186 (1):187-189.
How to Use the Experience Machine.Eden Lin - 2016 - Utilitas 28 (3):314-332.

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