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.
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.