Hammond Society Essay Contest: What is a Good Life?

The Hammond Society of graduate philosophy students at Johns Hopkins is sponsoring an essay contest with the following prompt:

What is a Good Life?
When asked, ‘What do you want from life?’, or ‘What is a good life?’, many respond with the age-old slogan, ‘All that really matters is that you’re happy’. Does this slogan capture all that is relevant to a good life?
Imagine that in the future, scientists and engineers develop an ‘experience machine’. People can program into the machine whatever experiences they want to undergo, and hook themselves up to this machine such that once inside, the experiences are indistinguishable from reality. Subjects can choose to live out their entire lives in the machine, experiencing whatever joys and achievements their hearts desire just like it were really happening.  Once in the machine the person is ignorant of the fact that they are really just lying in a vat or on a table having their brains manipulated according to the plan they had previously invented.
A machine like this seems sufficient to ensure a person’s happiness, but would a life in the experience machine be a good life?  Assuming that the machine is without flaws, would you agree to be hooked up to the machine and live out your dreams? Why or why not?

Instructions: Open to all undergraduates.  Length: 500 -1000 words.  Due: Fri, March 27th 2009. Submit electronically in MSW with name and email on a title page to hammondsociety@gmail.com.  Winners announced: Fri, April 10th 2009.
1st prize: $100 Gift Certificate to Barnes & Noble
2nd prize: $50 Gift Certificate to Barnes & Noble

3 thoughts on “Hammond Society Essay Contest: What is a Good Life?

  1. For this year at least, yes, the contest is only for undergraduates at JHU. This is because the reason for acquiring funding was to raise involvement in philosophy at Hopkins.

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