October 10, 2011
Nozick “Happiness” Summary
In “The Examined Life,” Robert Nozick takes a chapter to examine happiness. He argues that there are limits and roles of happiness. Nozick states that the limits of happiness are the amount, the inner feelings of pleasure, and the connection happiness has to reality. He says the roles of happiness are as a mood or as an emotion. Nozick argues that all of the limits and roles of happiness must be taken into account in order to be satisfied with your life as a whole.
Nozick analyzes the amount of happiness and concludes that one must care about more than the total amount of happiness within one’s life. In order to be truly satisfied with life, one must be concerned with when this happiness was distributed within life. One’s life would be considered more satisfactory if they were happy for the most part with occasional times of unhappiness, rather than if one were an extremely happy child and an unhappy adult.
Nozick claims that the second limit of happiness is inner feelings of pleasure. We must fill our lives with things that have depth, such as education, wisdom and success, rather than just pleasurable things. Nozick argues that although one may have to give up some happiness in order to gain something with depth, they would be more satisfied in the end because pleasures are only desired for their felt qualities.
Nozick argues that the third limit of happiness is reality. He claims that you cannot be truly happy unless your happiness is connected to reality. He uses the example of an “experience machine” to prove his conclusion. If only inner feelings matter, the experience is delusional and not linked to reality. If outside influences matter, the experience connects to reality. Nozick says that within this experience machine you can have any experience you desire, but it would not make you truly happy because it is not an actual experience that is happening. Nozick’s reality principle...
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