Daniel Haybron defines happiness as something more than experiencing pleasurable moments. Pleasure, whether sensual, physical or sexual cannot, by itself make one happy. Haybron defines happiness using the life satisfaction theory. This theory states that happiness is “a judgement of one’s life” (Haybron, Happiness, 12). It also consists of three different aspects: endorsement, the level of engagement and state of attunement. If I were plugged into the Experience Machine I would not be happy. I will further discuss the following reasons as to why | would not be happy if I was plugged into The Experience Machine.
The Experience Machine would not allow me to actually “do” certain things, it would not allow me to actually “be” a certain way and finally, is a man-made reality, therefore lacking causal depth. Before I explain my reasons for why I would not be happy if I was plugged into the Experience Machine I will further explain the three aspects of happiness: endorsement, engagement, and attunement. Endorsement is based on feeling happy, for example feeling joy or sadness. Though endorsement is important we must keep in mind that these feelings are “emotions that quickly dissipate” (Haybron, Happiness, 20) because they are superficial and not deep.
Engagement is simply how engaged you are with your life, “not bored, listless, and withdrawn, but energetic, interested, and engaged” (Haybron, Happiness, 20). Vitality and flow both makeup engagement. Vitality “what we might call the exuberance” (Haybron, Happiness, 20) is the excitement or passion you have for living. Next, “flow is the state you assume when fully engaged in an activity” (Haybron, Happiness, 21). Flow can also be achieved when you are engaged in an activity that is challenging. Overcoming the challenge, being in the state of flow, you achieve happiness.
Lastly, attunement is a state of being tranquil, “in this state a person relaxes and blossoms, living as seems natural to her, without inhibition” (Haybron, Happiness, 23). Attunement is a state of mind where you are at peace, feel calm and have no cause to be anxious, feel stressed or insecure. I would not be happy if I was plugged into the Experience Machine because I would not be able to actually “do” things. “In the case of certain experiences, it is only because first we want to do the actions that we want the experiences of doing them” (Nozick, 150).
The Experience Machine allows you to experience “doing” a certain thing though you wouldn’t actually “do” it, instead it would just be an experience. For example, if | was plugged into the Experience Machine as a scientist who finds the cure for cancer, I’d experience it but I would not actually be curing real cancer patients. I would not be happy with solely the experience of finding the cure to cancer if I am not able to actually help those affected by cancer. I don’t want to just experience it, I want to actually do it and help change other people’s lives for the better.
This also links to the aspect of engagement of happiness. As mentioned before, vitality is the excitement or passion you have for living. In relation to the example above, in reality, I’d have the passion in living to find the cure for cancer whereas I would not in the Experience Machine because I’d simply just experience it. In terms of flow, in reality, I’d have flow while searching for the cure and applying the cure to those that are ill, whereas in the Experience Machine I would not even be able to have such an opportunity since it’s just an experience and not the real world.
Engagement is an important aspect to happiness, however, if I was in the Experience Machine I would not be engaged with my life since || would be floating in a tank and everything happening would just be an experience. Next, being plugged into the Experience Machine would not allow me to actually “be” a certain way. In order to actually be plugged into the Experience Machine, I would be “floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain” (Nozick, 149).
The real me would be floating in a tank while everything, that is the experience, takes place in a virtual reality. Plugging into the machine is a kind of suicide” (Nozick, 150). I would be “something” floating in a tank, not a certain type person that anyone would be able to know. Simply because there would be no way of knowing who I am and what kind of characteristics, values, and morals I hold. Without actually “being” a certain way I would not be able to attain tranquility, a very important aspect of happiness. Finally, the Experience Machine confines us to a man-made reality and lacks causal depth.
As Haybron notes happiness is not simply a case of having one’s pleasurable experiences outweigh the unpleasurable ones (Haybron, Hedonism, 141). Instead, happiness is based on more than just feelings of pleasure. The quality and depth of one’s life experiences are important. “Fleeting pleasures are made to count towards happiness. Yet such pleasures manifestly play no constitutive role in determining how happy a person is” (Haybron, Hedonism, 142). Haybron explains that superficial pleasure doesn’t bring happiness.
Therefore, because the Experience Machine is not real, life while hooked must also be seen as superficial. In fact, life while hooked up to the Experience Machine ,is simply a form of man-made reality that seeks pleasure. However, we did not define happiness simply as seeking pleasure. In addition to the Experience Machine only allowing you to experience superficial pleasures, it lacks causal depth. “Plugging into an Experience Machine limits us to a man made reality, to a world no deeper or more important than that which people can construct” (Nozick, 150).
In the Experience Machine, you can’t actually be in touch with a deeper reality even though you may “feel” as though you are. Causal depth is important because “they are in some sense psychologically deep” (Haybron, Hedonism, 144). This aspect of causal depth being psychologically deep is important because it would then also have a lasting effect compared to having a superficial effect. Some may argue that they would be happy to plug into the Experience Machine because people don’t always feel they need to experience everything for themselves. Many people like to “experience adventure” without the risk.
They may also argue the fact that the Experience Machine would allow them to experience things they can’t do in real life. I don’t believe that those reasons are enough to actually make someone happy. Actually doing something in real life is important in the engagement aspect of happiness. The Experience Machine would allow you to experience something that you can’t do or want to do in real life but this would not bring you happiness. Vitality, one of the aspects of engagement would not be achieved while in the Experience Machine because you would not be able to have the passion for living if you are simply experiencing.
Similarly, you would not be able to be in the state, flow,” a highly pleasant state, and clearly a state in which you are happy” (Haybron, Happiness, 21) because in order to have flow you need to be engaged in an activity including challenging activities which could also mean something you can’t do in real life. In the Experience Machine you would not be engaged in the activity, you would only experience it. Haybron defines happiness with the life satisfaction theory, which is one judging one’s life based on three aspects: endorsement, engagement, and attunement.
I have decided that if I were to be plugged into the Experience Machine I would not be happy because I would not be able to really do certain things rather than just experience it and I would not actually be able to be a certain way. Lastly, the Experience Machine is a man-made reality and therefore lacks causal depth. Though some may argue that the Experience Machine will make them happy because it would allow them to experience things they don’t want to and can’t do in real life, they would not be engaged with experience. Being in engaged with your life is essential to being happy.