(Option A) Consider Robert Nozick’s thought experiment of the experience machine. Compose an essay in which you address the question of whether it matters that you spend your entire life in the machine. To answer this question, consider a life that you consider worth living. Does it matter whether things actually happen? Or is it sufficient to merely have the experience.  

 

Be sure to focus your essay around the reasons you give in favor of your position (your thesis can even be a blend of yes and no, if you like). State whether your argument is inductive or deductive, and say why. Finally, consider at least one objection to your view, and respond to it. (NB1: You may wish to discuss the conditions under which you would use the machine, and use the appropriate argument forms, if necessary.)  (NB2: Importantly, this is NOT an essay about Hedonism.  The issue here is not whether Hedonism is true or false, or what scholars think about this thought experiment.  The central issue of the assignment is: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT IT?  WHAT REASONS WOULD YOU GIVE FOR OR AGAINST A LIFE IN THE MACHINE?)

 

(Option B) Robert Nozick argues that he would not sign up to use an experience machine for life.   While this possibility is remote for us, it could be argued that we have many technologies which function as local experience machines.  Compose an essay or dialogue (approximately 1500 words) in which you address the following issue:

 

Consider a type of technology that you currently use, and address to what extent this technology is analogous to the experience machine in Robert Nozick’s essay.  Be sure to focus on features that are similar as well as different.  Next, address whether you agree with Nozick’s position by considering whether his argument provides reasons why you yourself might wish to limit the amount of time you spend using your chosen technology.  (For example, if you agree with Nozick, does this mean that you should give up your Netflix account?)  Be sure to clearly state your own reasons.  Finally, consider an objection that someone might raise against your viewpoint, and respond to the objection.

 

Important points to keep in mind:

 

I recommend you begin as soon as possible, and work in short bursts every day. (For example, work in 5-20 minute blocks, and aim for 200 words per day.

 

If you wish, you may compose your essay in the form of a letter, dialogue, or narrative form.  (If you choose this option, please discuss your essay with me as you develop it.   Dialogues can sometimes be challenging to construct.  Remember: your narrative is a vehicle for your argument.)

 

Late assignments will be penalized one letter grade for every day they are late, unless arrangements are made with me in advance.

 

Essays are to be typed, using standard fonts and margins (e.g. 12 point font, 1 inch margins) Remember: concision is a virtue!

 

The citation format is your choice.  Just keep it consistent. 

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