Nozick's experience machine is usually described as able to bring about any desired experience. If it can't do that, then it's not a suitable object for the thought experiments Nozick and others build upon it.

Surely our friends Russell and Gödel would point out a weakness in the definition, as outlined by their friend Richards. Suppose that I wish to have the experience of becoming convinced, via formal proof, that the experience machine is physically impossible. Such a proof would be a syntactic object. If the proof exists, then the machine can't exist; if the proof doesn't exist, then the machine can't feed it to me.

I doubt that this is an original line of thought; who has studied this before, and what did they conclude?

  • depending on how the machine works, the proof does not need to be valid. Just like the machine can give you the satisfaction of, say, have been awarded a gold medal in the olympics, presumably by manipulating your brain and convince you that you have indeed won the competition when you havent even participated, it should be able to convince you that you have read the proof and found it convincing without having to produce any valid proof in the first place.
    – armand
    May 24 at 5:27
  • @armand: If the proof's not valid, then the experience won't be convincing. The same proof is used inside and outside, because syntactic objects are the same inside and outside simulations. For what it's worth, Gödel's theorems hold in doxastic logic, the logic of agents who hold beliefs; we should expect them to apply in this scenario, too.
    – Corbin
    May 24 at 5:49
  • I'm not familiar with Nozick's work, but from the description of the machine, if it can persuade you that you are on the top of an olympic podium or on a beach at Acuapulco in spite of you not being in those situations and therefore having abundant evidence available that it's a mere illusion, it should be able to persuade you that an invalid proof is valid. Otherwise you are simply negating the basic principle of the machine. Either you do that and your agument is redundant, or you admit the machine's principle and your argument doesn't work.
    – armand
    May 24 at 6:04
  • How is this relevant to the Nozick's argument? Does his argument not go through if the machine only gives pleasurable experiences that it is logically possible to have? May 24 at 6:50
  • Magnifique! Much obliged mon ami. Explore relationships and Nozick survives the assault. May 24 at 7:08


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