CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: Experience Machines: The Philosophy of Virtual Worlds

Abstracts are being solicited for an anthology of essays on the significance of Robert Nozick’s “experience machine” argument for ethics, political theory, cultural criticism, and broader philosophical questions of value.

September 30th, 2015 (final drafts of accepted papers due June 15th, 2016). The book will be published by Rowman & Littlefield International late in 2016.

Mark Silcox (University of Central Oklahoma)
Co-author of Philosophy through Video Games (Routledge, 2008) and co-editor of Raiding the Temple of Wisdom: Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy (Open Court, 2012)

In Anarchy, State and Utopia, Robert Nozick conducts a brief but famous thought experiment, in which he asks his reader to imagine being permanently plugged into a “machine that would give you any experience you desired.” He speculates that, in spite of the many obvious attractions of such a prospect, most people would choose against passing the rest of their lives under the influence of such an invention.
The conclusion Nozick draws from this observation is that hedonistic accounts of morality provide an inadequate basis for theories of political justice. But he made the argument about a decade before the full fruition of the personal computer revolution. Since then, opportunities for the citizens of industrialized societies to experience virtual worlds and simulated environments have multiplied, both in general availability and in variety, to an extent that no philosopher could have predicted. The goal of this anthology will be to use Nozick’s argument as a jumping–off point for the philosophical examination of these subsequent cultural developments.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:
-    Does the argument as presented by Nozick constitute a successful refutation of hedonism?
-    Does the widespread contemporary use of technologies such as the Oculus Rift, MMORPGS, social media platforms, or VR therapy show anything about the argument’s plausibility or implausibility?
-    To what extent is it rational or morally permissible to prefer spending one’s time in virtual realms over the experience of ‘real life?’
-    Are the contents of virtual worlds suitable objects of aesthetic contemplation? Can they be beautiful?
-    Can one have political or moral obligations to the occupants of virtual worlds?
-    Discuss a philosophical puzzle or an ethical dilemma explored in some recent work of art, film, or literature that depicts human beings interacting with virtual worlds, or undergoing simulated experiences.

Confirmed contributors to Experience Machines: The Philosophy of Virtual Worlds include:
Jon Cogburn, author of Tristan Garcia and the Dialectics of Persistence (U. of Edinburgh Press, forthcoming)
Eva Dadlez, author of What’s Hecuba to Him?: Fictional Events and Actual Emotions (Penn State,1997)
Peter Ludlow, editor of Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias (MIT Press, 2001)
Grant Tavinor, author of The Art of Videogames (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)

Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words to