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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 40, 1998

Philosophy of Values

Eduardo Rivera-López
Pages 100-105

What Does Nozick’s Experience Machine Argument Really Prove?

Nozick's well-known Experience Machine argument can be considered a typically successful argument: as far as I know, it has not been discussed much and has been widely seen as conclusive, or at least convincing enough to refute the mental-state versions of utilitarianism. I believe that if his argument were conclusive, its destructive effect would be even stronger. It would not only refute mental-state utilitarianism, but all theories (whether utilitarian or not) considering a certain subjective mental state (happiness, pleasure, desire, satisfaction) as the only valuable state. I shall call these theories "mental state welfarist theories." I do not know whether utilitarianism or, in general, mental-state welfarism is plausible, but I doubt that Nozick's argument is strong enough to prove that it is not.

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