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The Brain in a Vat Argument

Discussion in 'Metaphysics' started by Num7, Dec 28, 2015.

  1. Num7

    Num7 Administrator

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    The Brain in a Vat thought-experiment is most commonly used to illustrate global or Cartesian skepticism. You are told to imagine the possibility that at this very moment you are actually a brain hooked up to a sophisticated computer program that can perfectly simulate experiences of the outside world. Here is the skeptical argument. If you cannot now be sure that you are not a brain in a vat, then you cannot rule out the possibility that all of your beliefs about the external world are false. Or, to put it in terms of knowledge claims, we can construct the following skeptical argument. Let “P” stand for any belief or claim about the external world, say, that snow is white.

    • If I know that P, then I know that I am not a brain in a vat
    • I do not know that I am not a brain in a vat
    • Thus, I do not know that P.

    The Brain in a Vat Argument is usually taken to be a modern version of René Descartes' argument (in the Meditations on First Philosophy) that centers on the possibility of an evil demon who systematically deceives us. The hypothesis has been the premise behind the movie The Matrix, in which the entire human race has been placed into giant vats and fed a virtual reality at the hands of malignant artificial intelligence (our own creations, of course).

    One of the ways some modern philosophers have tried to refute global skepticism is by showing that the Brain in a Vat scenario is not possible. In his Reason, Truth and History (1981), Hilary Putnam first presented the argument that we cannot be brains in a vat, which has since given rise to a large discussion with repercussions for the realism debate and for central theses in the philosophy of language and mind. As we shall see, however, it remains far from clear how exactly Putnam’s argument should be taken and what it actually proves.

    Read more about it here:
    “Brain in a Vat” Argument, The | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

    Maybe it reminds you of The Matrix. It's not very far from it.

    Think about it. It's another theory that makes you reconsider if everything we see and experience is really what it seems to be. What if it's not... how would you know?
     
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  3. Itheblaze

    Itheblaze Senior Member

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    Just curious. Can scientists keep a brian alive without its heart, liver, etc? Without the nose, could it smell? Without the eyes, see? How would fresh blood carrying oxygen be produced to keep it alive? You cut out a man's brain, the body and brain die. And that would be one pissed-off ghost who would haunt that mad scientist. How could this ever be possible?
     


  4. TimeFlipper

    TimeFlipper Senior Member Premium

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    I prefer Schrodinger`s Cat in a box thought experiment lol...A cat is put into a box that contains a radioactive source and a poison thats released when the radioactive source decides itself to emit radiation...The cat is now thought to be both dead and alive at the same time, but nobody knows until the box is actually opened and the cat observed :XD:
     


  5. Itheblaze

    Itheblaze Senior Member

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    Strap a web cam to kitty, then you can observe when/if kitty keels over.
     
  6. PaulaJedi

    PaulaJedi Survivor Premium

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    A few random thoughts come to mind:

    P could still be real even if we were a brain in a vat. Being the brain in a vat does not automatically devalue P.

    True, we would have no way of knowing IF we are indeed just a brain in a vat.

    Either way, WHAT we are is irrelevant. P is the key here.

    P could be confirmed by another brain in a vat. If two brains experience P the exact same way, is it real?
     
  7. tymeonadime

    tymeonadime Member

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    I know this an old post, an dsorry for resurrecting ancient history. I recently had an odd dream about a similar topic.
    Supposing we ARE just brains in jars, thta would explain why technology advancement has slowed to a crawl. IF we are B.I.J's whoever put us thee would have carefully designed the VR experience to avoid letting us know the truth. By omitting a hand full of scientific discoveries from the program, they would be able to keep us in the dark. Way back when a doctor or two attempted whole head transplants with monkeys. Of course it was a failure, but with what they did, combined with modern neuro-surgen technology, they may be able to succeed in modern times. I don't believe ewe are B.I.J.'s , just saying....
     
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  8. Num7

    Num7 Administrator

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    Presumably, if we were in a controlled environment, they wouldn't allow us to reach a certain level of technology because it might endanger the simulation, or whatever you call it. So yes, "they" would possibly interfere regarding our technological evolution.

    Believing or not doesn't prevent you from pondering. I, for one, love to think about such hypothesis that can't be proved right or wrong.

    I'm wondering what kind of program, instrument or "thing" might be able to show 100% proof that we're either in a simulation (or brains in jars!), or not...
     
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