Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Precocious Teenager's Perspective


I interviewed Ajay Dave, my younger brother. He is a fifteen-year old high school freshman who lives with me and our mother in Coppell, Texas. Along with school, he plays football (for his one of his school’s teams) and is heavily involved in activities at his local Hindu temple. Ajay is a firm believer in the principles of BAPS Hinduism.

Survey Responses: 

1. B
2. B
3. B
4. A
5. A
6. A
7. B
8. B
9. A
10. B
12. B
14. A
15. B
16. A
17. B
18. B
19. B
20. A
21. C
22. A 
24. 13-17
25. not much 

Analysis of Survey Response:

Ajay’s responses to the survey are difficult to categorize. This could be due to many reasons: inconsistencies in his thinking and worldview, flawed questions, or other reasons.
There were a couple of interesting inconsistencies with his survey response. First, all of Ajay’s answers concerning the experience machine, except for one, indicate that he values contact with reality. The lone exception is that Ajay would “plug in” to an experience machine in the case of the Antarctic trip. When asked about this discrepancy, and informed that the “experience machine” questions concern how much the interviewee values contact with reality, Ajay said that he “values reality when it matters, not on a vacation for fun.” In light of the various “experience machine” questions and their respective answers, Ajay’s view is a reasonable one.
The other inconsistency occurred in regards to Angela and the questions that test Hurka’s views concerning errors in knowing one’s place. Though Ajay feels that it is appropriate to lower the dosage of pain killer so that Angela would stop thinking that she is on Mars, he does not feel that the further reduction in pain-killers is worth it. (The second reduction would shift Angela from being at a loss as to her whereabouts to knowledge of them.)  When pressed about this point, Ajay said that in the case of the further reduction, the doctors’ input could inform Angela as to her whereabouts. Ajay feels that this could be done instead of using a reduction in pain-killer dosage. Upon hearing this defense of his answers, I looked again at the relevant survey questions (numbers nine and ten), and saw that number ten (about the second reduction) does not explicitly preclude the possibility that Angela’s doctors (or others) might help her. Though this is also true of number nine (concerning the first reduction), it is reasonable in that question’s circumstances to assume that others’ input might be useless because Angela is suffering from a delusion. I find Ajay’s view to be reasonable, and also feel that these two questions might be bettered. 

In-depth Analysis:

I chose to interview my brother because of his deep religious commitment, which I do not share. Therefore, my non-survey questions concerned religion, belief in God, and how both affect his views of a good life and a meaningful life. At no point did I inform him as to why he was chosen, as I thought this might bias his answers.
I first asked Ajay how he would define a good life. He said that it is “a life that makes you happy but is morally right so that others around you are happy.” I noted that he did not mention either God or religion in his response. I next asked him about what constitutes a meaningful life. His first response was that it is one that “makes you feel fulfilled.” When I pressed him about this tautology, he elaborated and said that a meaningful life would involve success, “[helping] other people,” and “[doing] things that make them happy.” When I asked him if one can have a good life without believing in God, he answered affirmatively. Given his values, this surprised me very much. When I asked him whether one can have a meaningful life without believing in God, he said “No.” Though he didn’t mention God in his original description of a meaningful life, I think that this was mere oversight on his part. I continued and asked him about how belief in God changes a person and his life. Ajay said that it can make a person feel happy, protected, and satisfied, help him achieve his goals, and cause him to help other people. He added that it makes tough situations easier to deal with.
I think Ajay’s views on how belief in God adds to a person’s life resemble Layard’s conception of religious belief. Layard categorizes religion as a personal value, and my brother thinks along similar lines. Unlike Tolstoy, my brother did not mention meaninglessness as caused by death. Nor did he mention how belief in a true God can connect one to the infinite, which was essential to Tolstoy and his views. 
Though I did not ask Ajay any questions arising from Wolf's perspective, I do think that his views fit, in some sense, into Wolf's framework for having meaning in life. Ajay yearns for both God and religious experience, and fulfills Wolf's criteria in that he has a positive subjective experience relating to something (the redemption of his soul) that is objectively worthwhile.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Perspective from Chinese

Interview Report
Philosophy – the meaning of life
Nov.13th, 2012
     My interviewee is JinZhang. Jin is 35 years old Chinese man. He spent most of his life living in the north part of China and then he move to the south. Now he is a CEO of a marketing company in Shenzhen, the most fast developed city in southern China. He know a lot about eastern philosophy and he loves to think about philosophic questions in his leisure time. However, he is not a professional philosopher. I hope Jin’s unique culture background can provide a difference perspective to our philosophic issues, and also helps us to have a more comprehensive understanding towards our topics.

Survey result:
1) A 2) A 3) A 4) A 5) A 6) A 7) A 8) B 9) A 10) A 11) B 12) B 13) B 14) B 15) B 16) B 17) B 18) B 19) B 20) B

      Jin was asked to finish the survey at the beginning of our interview. He chose A from question 1 to question 7. According to the survey interpretation, it indicates that Jin is a person who agree with the idea that autonomy, self, morality, progress, and some of our happiness needs to come from valuable activities are the necessities that should be on the objective list of a good life. Mostly, those items overlap with the items of Kazez’s list. In addition, he gave A for question 9 and 10. Experience machine questions consistently show him value the reality heavily.  They are also correlated with he is willing to know more about the reality at the expense of increasing the physical pain. Also, Jin gave B for question 8 as well as all the questions from 11 to 20. For Tom, he did agree that Tom must not have a good life since the morality is missing for his life. However, he thinks that pleasure do add to Tom’s life even when it has a morally wrong sources. Furthermore, he agrees that morality is essential to the good life even for disabilities. Additionally, achievement is not inherently life- enhancing.
By choosing “ no one should judge” for the last question, he shows that he is a culture relativist. 

In depth:
     According to the survey, I have basic understanding that Jin is a culture relativist and generally support Kazez’s objective list of a good life. However, after we have a deep discussion, I realize that it is not that simple. 
I asked him what kind of life is counted as a good life. His answer looks simple: as long as the person thinks he is having a good life, then his life is good. There is no objective standards should place on the person. This statement confuses me. For the survey, his answer shows that he supports the objective list view. Jin further explains that to determine that whether a person possesses a good life or not, we have to look at this question from two perspectives. Take the life Bella as an example. From some people’s view, Bella was not living in a good life because the autonomy is missing. “If you asked whether I want to have a life like her, I would not want. However, as long as Bella herself does feel that everything is going well and she is satisfied with her life, then she is living a good life.”, Jin said.
     Jin further explains that the appropriate attitude of living a good life is to do what we cares about instead of fulfilling the expectation of the society. As long as one person has chosen by himself to pursue a specific kind of life, he is doing what he should do. We ought to distinguish our social expectation towards a good life of a person and his own expectation. A person choose to behavior morally is having a good life only when it is a life that he want to live with. For example, Tom has drilled a hole through the wall and enjoyed his neighbor undress every night. For sure, Tom is performing morally wrong behaviors. Not surprisingly, from the perspectives of the society and other people, he was a demoralized person and he must not live a good life. However, from Tom’s perspective, his behaviors did add happiness to his life. If Tom to choose to live his life in this way, and he has fully realize the risk of being caught and punished by the law, then he is living a good life from Tom’s perspective. Both perspectives are equally right.  
    Jin’s statement makes me feel that it is somehow like the combination of objective list view and the desire fulfill theory. Jin takes chess players as another example. If both chess players value the achievement of chess as a necessity of a good life, then the better player is having a better life. However, if both chess players do not value achievement heavily, their lives are equally well. To Jin’s understanding, there is no an objective list of a good life that is applied to everyone. For every individual, there may be a specific list for him/her to have a good life. But items on the lists can vary from person to person. Also, there may be no list for a particular person. The subjective feeling of meaningfulness becomes the only standard to evaluate that whether a person possesses a good life or not.         

A Religious Viewpoint

    Patti Florey is a retired 63 year old woman who lives in Mt. Pleasant, TX.  Before retirement she worked for Region VIII Education Service Center working specifically with educating teachers and administrators on how to recognize and deal with substance abuse in students.  I chose her for two reasons.  One, because of her strong ties to religion and her belief in God.  The second, because she has health issues causing her to be in chronic pain which seem to influence some of her survey answers.
    There were two main categories of survey questions where Patti's answers were very consistent.  In six out of six questions (9, 10, 17-20) that deal with mentally knowing your reality and wanting to be in contact with reality, Patti chose the choice in favor of reality.  In three out of four questions (6, 7, 16, 21) her answer indicated favorability to morality.  The one time that Patti did not choose the option indicating the most moral behavior was when it dealt with Carlos, who was the person that had some degree of mental disability and as a result, committed some immoral acts.  
    She views a good life as one based largely on morality and reality.  She also doesn't view autonomy or progress as adding meaning to life; however a sense of self is important.  As will become evident in the interview, these answers and her views are strongly influenced by her religion.  For example, in the question about the glow worms, she indicated that their life is not meaningless.  This is most likely because of her belief in God and that everything is according to his plan and has a meaning.  
    According to her, she views the meaning of life to be to prepare for the one (Jesus) yet to come.  Likewise, living a good life means having relationships with the people around you that have sound morals.  To live a good life also means to live knowing there is something much greater and more powerful than ourselves, and as a result, making choices reflecting that belief.  She has a strong religious Christian faith.    Growing up in a faith based on "the law" and importance of rituals, she is now involved in a faith focused on grace.  Her religious beliefs influence her views on the meaning of life by helping her to realize that things of worldly importance are not important when thinking of God and eternity.  Furthermore, there is no meaning without focusing on what is to come in the next life.  With regards to how her religion effects her view on how to live a good life, her beliefs influence both the small things that she sees as important to living a Christian life such as reaching out in kindness to those hurting or in need to the large moral decisions we are faced with from time to time.  To her, there is no good life help others come to know Christ on a day to day basis.  Also, focusing inward will not lead to a good life but rather an outward focused life of bringing others to God will.  Though she is strong in religious faith now, this was not always her belief.  There was a time when she questioned her belief in God.  Going through a divorce at the age of 25 and having the legalistic religious beliefs she had at the time, she could not reconcile her divorce with the belief that she would no longer be accepted by God because of it.  As a result, she decided to "give up on God."  However, no matter how much she tried she was not able to do this.  This is when she came to understand the grace of Christ which allows for failures and subsequent forgiveness.  
    The health conditions she faces include Psoriatic Arthritis, Undifferentiated Spondyloarthrapy, and Sjogren's Disease along with other autoimmune diseases.  These diseases damage and/or destroy ligaments, tendons, joints, bones, internal organs, and other parts of the body.  These conditions cause her to be in chronic pain.  She has daily pain ranging anywhere from a severity of 5-10 (10 being the most painful on a 1-10 scale).  I noticed that both of her answers on the survey regarding Angela, the girl on pain medication, were that the increased pain was favorable in order to know reality.  Because of this, I decided to look into her views on pain medication.  Her view is that pain medication should be taken if physical movement is dramatically effected by the pain and if qualified doctors deem the medication necessary for the patient to have some quality of life and activity.  She does however believe that pain medication should be taken carefully as it can be easy to become addicted to such medicine.  In her mind, addiction is wrong because it removes your ability to focus on others and their needs and can destroy important relationships in your life.  Some people have a reluctance to take pain medications because it conflicts in some way with their religious beliefs.  This is not true for Patti.  Her viewpoint is that God understands the extreme pain she is in and how it can affect not only her body, but also her mind.  She does feel that she should stay focused on God and those around her.  Because of this, Patti constantly battles the pain without pain medication for the most part.    Because of this pain, Patti's life has been dramatically affected.  At times, it causes her to not be able to be with family or friends.  However, she usually does not let that happen.  I decided to further try and get an idea of her importance of social interactions and if social interaction is important enough to merit taking pain medication.  She places a great deal of importance on social interaction with both family and friends as it plays a part in her idea of the meaning of life.   Though of great importance, she does not take pain medication any time it would have an affect on her social interactions.  Instead, Patti only takes medication if the pain restricts her social interaction for an extended period of time.  She does however see that there would be circumstances that would warrant medication but that they would be rare occasions.  
    The views she expressed in the interview coincided with her answers in the survey.  Her value of reality and having real interactions with people are shown in her favoring reality in the survey questions as well as in her answers in the interview relating to pain medication.  Her religion is also evident in that her survey answers show a strong sense of morality which is driven by her religion and belief in God.  


Nikita Agarwal 
PHIL 3375- The Meaning of Life
November 13, 2012


For this project, I chose to interview my friend and colleague who wished to remain anonymous. For the purpose of this blog, we shall name her ‘Mary’. She is a senior college student at Southern Methodist University, majoring in psychology and French. After college, Mary plans on pursuing her education in graduate school to attain her Ph.D. She was born in Mumbai, India, until the age of one when she and her family moved to Muscat, Oman. She remained in the Middle East until the age of six due to her father’s career. Since then, Mary has been living in Irving, Texas from age six to twenty-one. She is a devout Hindu. Mary has a mother, father, and one older brother in her family. She has taken only one prior philosophy class, but participated in a philosophy-based debate team throughout high school. 

SURVEY:  Mary took the survey, and her results revealed the following information. 

1a) Bella’s life can’t be going entirely well. This suggests that Mary values autonomy. 
2b) It’s quite possible Norbert’s life is going very well. This suggests that Mary 
does not believe ‘self’ is a necessity.
3a) Constance’s life can’t be going entirely well. This suggests that Mary values progress. 
4a) & 5a) Maggie’s life can’t be going entirely well. This suggests that Mary places value on happiness with good or valuable things. 
6a) Not at all. This answer suggests that Mary doesn’t believe pleasure adds to life when achieved morally wrongly.
7a) Carlo’s life can’t be going entirely well. This suggests that Mary believes that everyone has the same list which includes morality. Therefore, Mary values morality. 
8b) Alan’s life is going no better than Ben’s. This suggests that Mary believes achievement is not inherently life-enhancing. 
9b) The extra pain is not worth it, to avoid her error about where she is. This answer suggests that Mary believes an error in knowing your place is not so important. 
10b) The extra pain would not be worth it, to understand where she really is. This suggests that Mary believes it is not worth the pain to obtain knowledge.
11b) & 12c) No. These answers suggest that Mary believes Sisyphus’s life is meaningless, regardless of his desire to push the rock. 
13a) Making him keep pushing, but with a strong desire to push. This answer suggests that Mary values subjective meaningfulness. 
14a) Since he wants to push and enjoys it, his situation is good for him. This answers tells us that Mary doesn’t see a need for Sisyphus to want or identify with that desire. Therefore, Mary only requires the enjoyment of pushing. 
15a) Yes. The lives of the glow worms are meaningless.
16a) The person driven by morality. This answer suggests that Mary believes morality is more important for people than doing what you care about. 
17b), 16b), 19b), & 20b) All of these answers suggest that Mary highly values contact with reality. 
21a) He was probably living a good life. This answer suggests that Mary is not a relativist. 

Through the survey, we are able to conclude several things about the way Mary views the good life. It is clear that she values autonomy, progress, happiness with good things,  morality, and contact with reality. These elements fit her objective list view. When faced with questions that do not follow the guidelines of her objective list view, Mary becomes uneasy and hesitant of what to do next. Throughout the survey, we can also identify what is not important or necessary for Mary to live a good life. She does not believe having a 'self' and knowing your place is very necessary. Mary also believes there is a balance between the amount of pain people can handle and the knowledge they will gain. 

IN DEPTH: After Mary took the survey, I interviewed her on her opinions of what makes a good life. Below is an excerpt from our conversation. Taking information from both the survey and the interview, I am able to report that Mary's opinions about the good life are consistent. She values family, education, and friends. Mary highly values progress and achievement. She also believes a strong educational background will help her attain this achievement. However when pressed to choose between an education and her family, she has difficulty choosing a definite answer. We continue our conversation to sports and games, which are also highly important to Mary. Games add to her sense of achievement. Next we move on to a more delicate topic of conversation. Mary's mother is not in perfect health, and has been unwell for sometime. Her mother is handicapped to a wheelchair and is no longer able to do many of the things she used to enjoy before. I asked Mary if her mother's disabilities hinder her from a good life. Mary answered affirmatively, stating that if her mother was not handicapped, her life would be better. 

  • Do you believe you have a good life right now? “Um.. Can I come back to you? Yeah, yeah.”
  • How would you define a good life? “Um, having a family, being able to achieve an education, having a very good group of good friends.That’s kind of it for me. Being able to spend time for family friends.”
  • If there was something preventing you from getting an education, would you say your life is still good? “If I knew I could continue it after, maybe. But I would mostly say no.”
  • So if you didn’t have any education at all, would you still say your life.. “No, in the sense that I want to advance in my life. And my family holds education very highly. But I wouldn’t put education above my family. 
  • What if you have family, but no education? Would your life still be okay? “Maybe. Ugh Nikita, you’re killing me.”
  • Okay. So you hold achievement highly as well. Could we say if you had achievement in other means, not through education, could we say your life was still a good life? “No.”
  • Are games/sports important to you? “Yes, very important.”
  • Why are they important? “They’re a source of happiness. I enjoy them. It also has built my competitive nature.”
  • I know that your mother is not in perfect health. Why is your mother not well? “She has a lot of complications in her body. Like heart stuff and cancer.”
  • Would you say her life is hindered because of her ailments? “Yes. She tries for it not to,but it does physically. 
  • Would you say her life is not as good because of her difficulties? “She’s had to sacrifice a lot of things. From an outsider point ,some things could be better. The sacrifice is tremendous. From her point, she’s given up a lot but she’s still staying strong.”
  • She used to be a teacher, correct? “Yes, but she hasn’t been able to work since 2000.”
  • Okay. Let's continue. 
  • Is morality important to you? “Very important.”
  • Why is it important? “I don’t think you can progress in life without having morals.” 
  • Would you steal money to save your family? “I don’t think I could forgive myself if I did  something like that. I don’t think my family would want me to.”
  • What is the meaning of life? “It’s what you make it.”
  • What does that mean? “You define your own life. But I also feel like an individual’s life is also defined by the people around them and their background.” 

Sports and Achievement in Life


            I decided to interview my close friend and suitemate of two years, an SMU athlete named Maureen, preferred name is “Mo”. She had no problem participating in the survey and was glad to share her experience of being on the SMU Rowing Team and how it has affected her life. Having little philosophy experience, she was a prime candidate for the survey. Also, having non-religious beliefs her results were excellent for non-biased interpretation. Originally from Iowa, the 21 year old has been playing sports since the age of 4 but has been attending Southern Methodist University since 2009 and is a pleasant and happy girl. Aside from the extreme dedication on the rowing team and for a while as an equestrian she is a happy and confident woman. Most of her interview questions led me to come to the conclusion that the ideas of ability and achievement play a huge role in both self-esteem and life purpose for her. Apart from musical hobbies, they are the central focus of her life. However, her idea of the meaning of life differs in a few ways.

Survey Results:

1. B       6. B      11. A       16. B        21. A
2. B       7. B      12. A       17. B
3. B       8. A      13. B       18. B
4. B       9. B      14. A       19. B
5. A      10. B     15. B       20. B


            From interpreting the first five questions which address what goods the individual deems are crucial and necessary for the good life, I found that Mo not only disvalued autonomy and self but progress as well. However, because of her response to the following question which focuses on Maggie and her dependence on gambling we see that though Mo believes that the magic drug could very well be adding pleasure and contributing to Maggies idea of a good life she sees fault in using gambling in the same way. She also answered the peeping Tom question (b), showing that she does believe that pleasure can come from a morally wrong sources as well as perfectly acceptable behaviors.
            When looking at Maureen’s answers to the questions relating to disability and the good life I found that she thought that Carlos’ life could be going well irregardless of his disability, there will be further more on what she thought of this in the interpretation section. Mo became really interested in this question as well as the chess player question, in which she answered a showing that she believes achievement is life enhancing though it does not impact all the aspects of an individual’s life.
            She did not value knowing your place in questions 9 or 10 and nor did she think it was important to resolve error if it amounted to any feeling of pain which were consistent with her answers to the following questions involving Sisyphus. Though it was thought that most people would answer B to number 11, my candidate actually found meaning in Sisyphus’ life whether he was continually pushing the rock with or without a pity drug from the gods. She also held that Sisyphus would be better off building a castle, which made it seem as if the idea of achieving an actual goal and having something to show for it mattered to Mo though she thought that if he enjoyed pushing it was a good life as well, addressed again in her interview. Mo also answered that glowworms have meaningful lives no matter how circular or pointless they may seem at a glance and her inclination towards the morality driven life was that it would be better off being driven by a goal than by a dedication to morality. These responses can be related back to the question about Carlos and her feelings that autonomy, self and progress are not necessities but are rather based on valuable activities.
            Mo’s responses to the experience machine questions were all consistent with showing that she values contact with reality and thinks that any real life is better than a virtual one, no matter how appealing we make it. Finally, when asked if Simeon Styllites was living a good life atop that pillar covered in sores Mo responded that she believed he was, a non-relativist claim.

In Depth:

            In my interview with Mo I took her survey results and first inquired as to why she found almost all things on the Objective List View unnecessary to actually live a happy life. Mo disregarded morality, autonomy, knowledge of self, and progress in her responses. Her response to this was that there was no way that anybody else “could judge whether Bella, Maggie, Norbert or even ‘me’ was living a good life” because while somebody could live life the exact same way, everyday of their lives; they could still be happy. Her justification of this was “some people just like what they like.” She found the pain for knowledge questions confusing and didn’t know how knowing your place was exactly related to living a happy life. Her view was that pain was the one thing that inhibited a happy life so even if knowledge came with that pain; it was only pain to her.
            I was curious about her responses to the magic drug question and how they differed to the gambling in the same nurse’s situation. She couldn’t differentiate between why she thought the situations did not hold the same weight but she felt that in taking the drug she was at least still focusing on her responsibilities where as if she was gambling she would be in some way neglecting her family or other things by “spending time away.” Her ideas about Carlos were pretty strong, she explained she worked with disabled children for some time and when I explained the different lists for different people ideas she thought it was an extremely interesting concept and when I talked about applying it to disabled it showed that she primarily agrees with Jean Kazez in that each list differs dependent on a person’s capacity.
            Her experience machine questions were not of primary concern, she thought that contact with reality was important. However I did talk to her about why she thought Sisyphus and the glowworms had meaning in their lives and she explained that she thinks that though she is an ‘atheist/apathetic’ everything is here, “however it is here” for a reason- nothing is meaningless especially if it makes the person happy who is doing it.” However, she did express that building a castle would probably add more to Sisyphus’  life and when I asked her about this she compared it to winning and receiving a trophy. She said that “achievement could significantly impact my life- If I work hard at something, I expect myself to do well. So when I fail at something I work at, it really frustrates me”.
            When I focused more on achievement in sports relating to the meaning of life she answered yes and no, however her responses and her passion in the interview showed support towards Hurka’s idea that they impact life for the better- chess question, etc. Her exact response was that sports both make her life better and hinder it- they give her structure and consistency but at times she finds this restrictive, other times it’s freeing. When asked point blank what she thought made life good she answered,

“I think a good life involves having the opportunity to work towards your goals and accepting failures as an inevitability; it also involves being able to create meaningful relationships and achieve what you want” 

- Mo

Desiree Aardema

Business Major View

Drew Brydon
MOL Project
            The person I interviewed for the meaning of life survey is a twenty three year old white male named David. He is the first United States citizen in his Irish Catholic family and just recently graduated from the Cox business school at Southern Methodist University. He is from Houston, Texas but now lives permanently in Dallas to pursue a career in business management. He graduated high school with honors and participated in many sports during that time. He has taken a couple philosophy courses but was not too familiar with most of the topics this survey was examining.
            For question one, David answered (B) that it’s quite possible for Bella’s life to go well even without autonomy. The next question he said (B) that self is not a list necessity. Question three he said (B) again thinking that progress is not on the list. Question four he said that (A) Maggie’s life is not going entirely well because happiness comes from valuable activities. For question five he answered (A) the same as the question four. In the next question, David said (A) that pleasure from morally wrong acts does not add to our lives. For question seven David said (B) that same list does not apply to all and morality is not on the list. He said (B) sports achievement is not life enhancing for question eight. He thinks that (A) knowing your place is worth the extra pain but (A) not worth the pain to obtain exact knowledge. He answered (B) for question eleven. He said (B) that Sisyphus’ life is meaningless to outsiders but to him it has meaning. Allowing Sisyphus to build a castle is more benevolent than having a desire to push (B). David believes that care makes a situation good (B) and that the lives of animals are not meaningless (B). He thinks that morality is not superlatively important and people should follow their passions over pure morality (B). When given a choice of whether to plug into the experience machine or stay in reality, David would stay in reality (B). When the experience machine scenario is changed to already having him plugged in, he preferred to stay where he was (A) and even when both lives were the same he still wanted to stay plugged in (A). For question twenty, David said he valued reality over the machine (B) even with the possibility of a perfect vacation. David said nobody should judge Simeon (C) so he is cultural relativist.
            David’s answers have some conflicting results especially when considering how he values reality. He is a cultural relativist and his views on a good life reflect that. He does not believe that a person has to have autonomy to live a good life. Some people may just want to be directed how to live their lives everyday and so an outsider cannot judge whether that person’s life is good or not. Self and progress are also not necessary for a person to have a good life according to David. He does think that happiness should be on the list for a good life. The source of that happiness does matter and it should come from moral and valuable activities. Having false happiness from a pill or gaining happiness from only one particular activity is not a good life. Happiness should come without drugs but from sources that are considered valuable. He thinks that pleasure does add to our lives but pleasure from morally wrong acts does not add to people’s lives. Pleasure must come from a moral source that does not diminish the pleasure of others. He thinks that morality does not need to be on the list for a good life and that this list does not apply to all. When examining whether achievement adds to our lives, David said that having the ability to play a sport better than everyone else does not make your life better therefore achievement is not life enhancing. He believes that not making errors about your place in the world is more important than pain and he would accept more pain to not mistakenly identify his location but would not accept more to obtain knowledge of his whereabouts. According to David, a life has meaning if it accomplishes something of value. He thinks that having passion about what you accomplish is necessary to live a good life. He thinks that reality adds to a good life but believes in the status quo bias even when reality is on par with the experience machine.
In Depth:
            Even though David was a big athlete in high school when I asked him why achievements did not add to our lives he said that he believes that achievements do enhance people’s lives but not sports achievements. He thinks that sports are there to add personal enjoyment but a professional athlete does not have a better life than non-athletic people because he is much better at a sport; others reasons could make his life better than the latter. David believes that a life has meaning when it accomplishes something of value even when the process to do this is repetitive and boring like Sisyphus building a castle. He also thinks that the lives of animals are meaningful because they add to a greater system (ecosystem) and add aesthetic enjoyment to people’s lives. He values status quo over reality because he thinks to have a good life one must be always improving their life and never drop below their current status. He said there are certain circumstances where reality is better than the machine life like the Antarctica trip. The possibility of negative experiences on the trip makes it feel real and a perfect trip would seem too good to be true.
            David is a cultural relativist who believes that happiness and pleasure make a life good as long as they come from a moral source and valuable accomplishments give a life meaning.

An Athletes Viewpoint

Taylor Lasecki
Phil 3375
Professor Kazez
November 13, 2012
An Athletes Viewpoint
1. Who?
            When I was trying to figure out whom I wanted to interview and fill out the survey, I wanted someone who knew a little about philosophy, but not too much. I also wanted a person who had something interesting to say. The person who I decided to interview is my roommate. My roommate “Ben” is a male who is from Los Angles. We both now live here in Dallas just outside of SMU. Ben plays football with me and played on a high school team that won state championships and only lost one game in three years. He is the youngest of all of his siblings and his family has been very successful. Ben is also very outgoing and has many friends. He is usually very personable and seems very happy. Overall, he is someone who appears to be living a fairly good life.
2. Survey
            Here is how Ben responded to the questions in the survey.
 1. Bella is a dancer who works hard to please a domineering company director, who controls every aspect of her life—what to eat, how to dress, who to spend time with, how to dance, etc. Under his tutelage, she makes rapid progress as a dancer. She's quite happy, though, and holds on to a strong sense of who she is, despite being pushed around all the time. What's your assessment?
(a) Bella's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible Bella's life is going very well
Ben answered (a)
2. Norbert can't make up his mind. First he's active in Republican politics, then he's earnestly supporting the Socialist Party. He gets excited about Catholicism and then he's moved on to Jewish mysticism. He joins an animal rights organization, but a month later he gets into hunting. None of this bothers him--he's a happy-go-lucky guy, self- supporting, and moving ahead in his job as a software engineer. What's your assessment?
(a) Norbert's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible Norbert's life is going very well
Ben answered (b)
3. Constance works as a piano teacher, plays Beethoven sonatas splendidly, enjoys going to the symphony. She wears attractive, timeless fashions and reads the Bible in her spare time. She’s a good friend to her neighbors and a generous donor to the American Cancer Society. What’s noteworthy is that she’s been doing exactly these things since she was 21 and now she’s 81. What's your assessment?
(a) Constance's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible Constance's life is going very well
Ben answered (b)
4. Maggie works as a nurse in an intensive care unit. She's the head nurse, performs her job impeccably, and
supports good causes. She has a husband and three fine children and over time she's blossomed as an excellent poet as well. She's extremely happy all of the time, but that's because every six hours she takes a dose of Magic Drug. If she stops taking it, she doesn't derive any great happiness from any aspect of her life, but isn't depressed either. What's your assessment?
(a) Maggie's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible Maggie's life is going very well
Ben answered (b)
5. Maggie works as a nurse in an intensive care unit. She's the head nurse, performs her job impeccably, and supports good causes. She has a husband and three fine children and over time she's blossomed as an excellent poet as well. She's extremely happy all of the time, but that's because she's looking forward to gambling on the weekends. Gambling is enough to keep her in a good mood all of the time. If she stops gambling she doesn't derive any great happiness from any aspect of her life, but isn't depressed either. What's your assessment?
(a) Maggie's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible that Maggie's life is going very well
Ben answered (b)
6. Tom has drilled a hole through the wall of his apartment and enjoys watching his neighbor undress every night. In one respect this detracts from his life in a major way-- he's doing something morally wrong. In another respect, perhaps it also adds. How much do you think it adds?
(a) not at all (b) a little bit (c) possibly a lot
Ben answered (c)
7. Carlos has a serious cognitive impairment. He has little ability to live autonomously. Many of his choices are made for him. Nevertheless he's social and cheerful and he can learn and grow. One of his impairments is that he lacks an adult understanding of morality. He steals small things and tells occasional lies, though he's gentle and loving. Others understand his impairment and adjust their expectations. What's your assessment?
(a) Carlos's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible that Carlos's life is going very well
Ben answered (b)
8. Assume two people are just the same in every way except that Alan has worked hard to become an excellent chess player and Ben is a mediocre player. They both play chess regularly, and other than that, they are equally successful lawyers, equally happy fathers, etc. The chess playing doesn't have an impact on any other aspect of their lives. What's your assessment?
(a) Alan's life is going a little better than Ben's (b) Alan's life is going no better than Ben's
Ben answered (b)
9. Angela has recently had an operation and is expected to make a full recovery. She is in considerable physical pain, so she is given a high dose of a pain-killer and a sedative. The pain-killer causes cognitive confusion, making her believe she is on Mars. Because of the sedative, this causes her no suffering or anxiety. The doctors lowers the dose of her pain- killer, so she no longer thinks she is on Mars, but feels a little bit more pain. What's your assessment?
(a) the extra pain is worth it, to avoid her error about where she
is (b) the extra pain is not worth it, to avoid her error about where she is
Ben answered (a)
10. This is a continuation of the story of Angela. Recall that to stop her from thinking she's on Mars, her pain medication had to be reduced, so her pain increased by 5%. Now when asked where she is, she no longer says "Mars" but says "I don't know." If a second dose reduction would make her understand where she really is, would this understanding be worth another 5% increase in pain?
(a) the extra pain would be worth it, to understand where she really
is (b) the extra pain would not be worth it, to understand where she really is
Ben answered (a)
11. Sisyphus is a man condemned by the gods to continually push a rock to the top of a hill. Whenever he makes it to the top, the rock rolls back to the bottom. His life consists of only these repetitive actions. Does his life have meaning?
(a) yes ( b ) n o
Ben answered (b)
12. Sisyphus continues to push rocks to the top of a hill, day after day, but now the gods take pity on him and inject him with a drug so that he strongly desires to engage in exactly this activity. Does his life have meaning?
(a) yes (b) his life is objectively meaningless but subjectively meaningful (c) no
Ben answered (b)
13. The gods have two options. They can inject Sisyphus with a drug so that he strongly desires to push a rock up a hill or they can allow him to push many rocks up the hill, build a beautiful castle, and then gaze upon it for years. Which option is more benevolent?
(a) making him keep pushing, but with a strong desire to push  (b) allowing him to build the castle and gaze upon it for years
Ben answered (a)
14. Sisyphus receives the injection and continues to push a rock up the hill. He doesn't identify with that desire or want to have that desire. Nevertheless, he does want to push, and enjoys pushing. What would you say?
(a) Since he wants to push and enjoys it, his situation is good for him (b) Since he doesn't identify with his desire to push and doesn't want to
have that desire, he doesn't care about pushing; thus, his situation is not good for him.
Ben answered (b)
15. Glow worms have been living on the sides of a cave in New Zealand for millions of years. They live for a few days, reproduce, then are eaten by their young, who live a few days, reproduce, and are eaten by their young. Are the lives of these animals meaningless?
(a) yes ( b ) n o
Ben answered (b)
16. Imagine two people. One person lives his life as virtuously and ethically as possible. His desire to be good seems rationally unavoidable to him, like believing that 2+2=4. He makes decisions about his career accordingly, always with an eye to being morally good. The other person wants to become a master chef. He identifies strongly with that desire and tries to strengthen it when (occasionally) it fades. Who is taking the best approach to life?
(a) the person driven by morality (b) the person who wants to be a master chef
Ben answered (a)
17. Suppose there were an "experience machine" that could stimulate your brain so that you felt as if you were living any life you wanted. Expert and trustworthy scientists would program the machine to stimulate your brain so it seemed as if you were living any life you wanted--you could be rich, famous, well-loved, or whatever you like. After choosing to plug in, your body would lie attached to the computer, but you would feel as if life continued, only better. You wouldn't remember plugging in, so it would seem as if life continued normally. Would you choose to plug in to the "experience machine"?
(a) yes  (b ) n o
Ben answered (a)
18. Guess what? You were given the choice in question (17) 10 years ago. You've been plugged in to the "experience machine" all these years. You chose an option called "normal life," which is why things haven't gone quite perfectly for you. In fact, you are plugged in right now. You are not looking at a real computer screen, but only experiencing an illusion generated by the "experience machine". After choosing to unplug, you would go on with life out in the real world. The real world may or may not be the way you remember it being 10 years ago. Whatever you decide, your memory of choosing will be erased. Would you choose to unplug?
( a ) n o (b) yes
Ben answered (b)
19. Same as (18), but this time suppose there are reliable life-forecasters who can tell you what your life will be like if you unplug. They tell you that your hopes for the future will be fulfilled if you unplug. If you remain plugged in, you can change the programming so your hopes for the future will also seem to be fulfilled.
Whatever choice you make, your memory of choosing will be erased. Would you unplug?
( a ) n o (b) yes
Ben answered (b)
20. You've always wanted to go to Antarctica, and a wealthy benefactor has decided to pay for the $50,000 super-deluxe trip. She offers you a choice between the best real trip to Antarctica that money can buy, and plugging into the "experience machine" for an even more flawless trip. (The machine is very expensive to operate.) On the real trip, there are possible negatives that cannot be controlled--cold, wind, etc. If you opt for the "experience machine" it will seem as if you are having a perfect trip. Rest assured, you won't remember plugging in or unplugging. Either way, it will seem just as if you took the real world trip. Would you plug in or take the real trip?
(a) plug in (b) real trip
Ben answered (b)
21. Simeon Stylites, a 4th century hermit, lived full-time on top of a narrow 60 foot tall pillar in Syria for 30 years. Exposed to the elements, and with his body covered with sores, he spent his time rapidly bowing to the ground in prayer. Pilgrims constantly visited him and one historian says "the general voice of mankind pronounced him to be the highest model of a Christian saint." What would you say about Simeon Stylites?
(a) he was probably living a good life (b) he was probably living a bad life (c) nobody should judge
Ben answered (c)
22. What is your gender?
(a) male (b) female

Ben answered (a)
23. Is religious belief an important part of your life?
(a) yes l( b ) n o
Ben answered (b)
24. What is your age?
(a) under 13 (b) 13-17 (c)18-25 l (d)26-40 (e)41-60 (f) over 60
Ben answered (c)
25. How much do you know about philosophy?
(a) not much (b) I have taken a few philosophy courses (c) I have studied philosophy in depth (d) I am a professional philosopher
Ben answered (b)
3. Summary
            One of the most interesting results of this survey is that Ben believes that the only things that are essential to a good life are happiness/pleasure and autonomy.  This is shown in how he answered the first group of questions. The only situation that he thought wasn’t good was where Bella is constantly being told what to do. It appears that Ben doesn’t believe that a strong self, progress, or happiness from valuable sources is relevant to living a good life. Another interesting aspect of the results is that Ben believes that a desire can make an activity that is objectively meaning less subjectively meaningful but that one has to identify with the desire. Some inconsistencies arise when we look at the results of the morality questions. On one hand, Ben believes that we can gain pleasure from immoral activities but then he thinks that when it comes down to it, we should follow morality in our lives. Another inconsistency comes up in the experience machine questions. At first, Ben shows a lack of desire for connection with reality when he says that he would plug into the experience machine. The inconsistency comes up because he then shows a very strong desire for connection with reality in the way he answers the next series of questions. It also appears that Ben has a relativist attitude when it comes to judging the lives of other people.
4. In depth
            After I looked at the survey results, I asked Ben a few questions to clarify some of his responses. The first thing I wanted to know is why he only seems to view autonomy and happiness as important factors in a good life. He told me that he believes that is someone chooses to life a life with no progress then he believes that if they have free will in their decision then it would be a good life for them to live. He believes that as soon as someone else is controlling your life, it instantly restricts you from having a good life. I then wanted to get a better understanding on Ben’s stance on morality. I asked him why he thinks that it is okay for pleasure to come form immoral activities but that we should still live a life or morality. He said that he believes that the question about the peeping tom didn’t really appear to be morally wrong and that one could be a peeping tom and still live a very moral life. The last thing that I wanted to get an understanding of is why he showed such a strong desire for connection to reality but he still wanted to plug into the experience machine at first. Ben told me that he believes that pleasure is slightly more important than reality in his mind so when it comes down to it, if the experience machine has the same amount of pleasure as reality, he would choose reality. I asked him if he thought this contradicted the way he answered the pain killer questions and he told me that in that scenario, the reality is clearly skewed where as the experience machine seems to still hold on to a lot of the aspects of true reality. I also asked him, since he is an athlete, if achievement is an important aspect and he said that it is but that achievement in sports doesn’t make you better. He thinks that sports are a gateway for more meaningful achievement.