Eliezer on happiness (hedonism)

Another entry in the discussion of hedonism. Remember the experience machine? Discussed on this blog a while ago. Same topic, I would say. Eliezer:

I value a life complicated enough to be challenging and aesthetic - not just the feeling that life is complicated, but the actual complications - so turning into a pleasure center in a vat doesn't appeal to me. It would be a waste of humanity's potential, which I value actually fulfilling, not just having the feeling that it was fulfilled.

Nozick's experience machine argument (Wiki outline):

  • P1: Hedonism means that the only thing that affects our well-being is pleasure
  • P2: If hedonism were correct, then we would plug into the machine because we would want pleasurable experiences
  • P3: We would not plug into the machine because we are concerned about the reality of our experiences
  • C: Therefore, there is something other than pleasure that affects our well-being and hedonism is therefore defeated.
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I saw your comment there. I

I saw your comment there. I was surprised you were the only one to bring up Nozick.

In fact, I'm this close to

In fact, I'm this close to charging Eliezer with plagiarism, but I don't remember Nozick's position on Intellectual Property, and don't want to go against his wishes. Also, while I've got this rare opportunity to rant, let me sound off a bit. If I hear one more person object to Nozick's thought experiment on the grounds that it's impossible to know what is real, I'm going to blow a blood vessel. If a person really is some kind of Cartesian skeptic and believes knowledge beyond the cognito ergo is impossible, then by all means, criticize away, but if you're one of the 99.9% of people who's not in that category, shut the hell up. Moving on, has anyone seen It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia? First time I saw it was last week, but I've got to say I regret the three years or so I went by without watching it. Hilarious, and--bonus--no laugh track. I also saw 300 again this weekend: still awesome. And yes, it's not historically accurate. Most modern sources suggest that Spartans didn't even speak with British accents. Sparta was built on slave labor (that's how all the real Spartans could afford to be in the military) and it was Athens, not Sparta, that was the West's best hope for logic and reason. So the details were tweaked, get over it--it's not a documentary, it's an opera. I know what you're going to say: you'd feel differently if you were Persian. Bullshit--and to test this, I imagined what if instead Sparta had been the U.S.S.R and the Persians had been the U.S. I imagined this quite vividly, and let me tell you, in my fantasy, when Lenin threw that spear into Thomas Jefferson's facial piercings, it was still fucking cool. When I get on the bus on DC, the homeless gather around and jockey for my luggage, trying to take it, place it under the bus, and then guilt me out of a tip. No, thank you, I'll exert the five seconds of effort to throw my own luggage under the bus. It's not that I disapprove of working, quite the contrary, but come on, at least do something useful. There was a guy playing Baroque trumpet at a Metro stop yesterday--that guy I happily gave money to. Are you all watching The Wire yet? Definitely the best show on television at the moment, and probably will be for some time. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I really find it harder and harder to understand the mechanics of road closings. Tuesday night, someone closed 95-N, close to Philly, down to one lane. There was no accident. There wasn't even any construction. Can someone explain this?


Assuming I cannot be sure I live in a "real" world, at least there is a chance that I am, however, if I enter the machine, there is no chance at all. If I value real experience enough I may not find the increased happiness worth the risk of leaving actual reality.

Oh here's a related quote by Comte Sponville describing wisdom

"Le maximum de bonheur, dans le maximum de lucidité" Maximum happiness within maximum lucidity