16-04-2014
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Ethical Perspectives
Issue : 18/1 (March - 2011)
Can We Test the Experience Machine?
Basil Smith
   Page : 29 - 51
  Robert Nozick famously asks us whether we would plug in to an ‘experience machine’, or whether we would insist upon ‘living in contact with reality’. Felipe De Brigard, after conducting a series of empirical ‘inverted’ experience machine studies, suggests that this is a false dilemma. Rather, he says, '…the fact is that people tend to prefer the state of affairs they are in currently,' or the status quo.

In this paper, I argue that these studies are a test case for ‘experimental philosophy’ as such. Specifically, I argue that De Brigard offers a series of faulty studies, and so, reaches unfounded conclusions. More generally, I argue that certain philosophical thought experiments cannot be tested empirically at all, and this limits what experimental philosophy can do.
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