Hedonism & The Experience Machine (Upper-Intermediate)

ESL/EFL Level: Advanced (C1/C2)
Lesson Topics: hedonism, reality
Skill Focus: Speaking, Listening, Vocabulary
Approximate Class Time: 2 hours
Lesson Plan Download: hedonism-nozick-upper-intermediate-022024.docx
Lesson Overview:

  • After warm-up questions, students read a 288-word summary of a TED-Ed video about Robert Nozick's Experience Machine thought experiment, which he designed as a refutation of hedonism. Essentially, the video presents and then argues against the question of whether a life of only pleasure is worth living.
  • Next, after a read, recall, retell activity, students complete comprehension questions, a vocabulary-matching exercise, and an activity where they make questions using the target vocabulary.
  • After a debate on whether a life of pure pleasure is preferable, students describe the last time they felt several emotions. This is followed by four roleplays, covering topics such as a virtual reality experience machine, the value of blissful ignorance, and discovering that your father lived a life of lies.
  • As a unique feature, the lesson has a speaking activity that reviews the first conditional called "Ruin a Life".
  • The lesson also includes famous quotations related to the themes of the lesson. It then ends with a final vocabulary review, a review of collocations, and final discussion questions.

A lesson about Nozick's experiment machine.

UPPER-INTERMEDIATE (B2/C1) Lesson Plan on Hedonism


  1. In life, what activities or actions make you feel like you are really alive?
  2. So far, have you had more pleasure or pain in life?
  3. If you had unlimited money, would your happiness also be unlimited?

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- This lesson plan was created by Matthew Barton of EnglishCurrent.com (copyright). Site members may photocopy and edit the file for their classes. Permission is not given to rebrand the lesson, redistribute it on another platform, or sell it as part of commercial course curriculum. ChatGPT was used to generate answer keys and some famous quotations. For questions, contact the author.

Comprehension Question Answer Key

  1. The Experience Machine is a hypothetical device proposed by philosopher Robert Nozick that allows a person to experience constant joy without any pain, making the user's experiences feel just like real life but only filled with pleasure.
  2. The catch is that you would have to leave your real life behind forever, although you would hardly notice the difference because the experiences would be indistinguishable from reality.
  3. The example of Betsy and Xander is meant to illustrate the idea that there may be things in life more valuable than pleasure, such as truth and authenticity. Betsy is happy because she is unaware of Xander's affair, but this happiness is based on a lie.
  4. The passage suggests that things like truth, knowledge, and real connections with other people might have greater value in life than pleasure.
  5. Betsy's situation might be considered similar to being in the Experience Machine because her happiness is based on not knowing the painful truth about her partner's infidelity, much like the machine provides pleasure based on simulated experiences, not reality.
  6. …

Vocabulary Answers: 1-b, 2-j, 3-g, 4-a, 5-h, 6-k, 7-I, 8-f, 9-e, 10-c, 11-d

Collocations: 1-b, 2-d, 3-c, 4-a

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