Brain in a vat

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by James R, Nov 22, 2016.

  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    You're certainly aware of the possibility. It's your choice whether to acknowledge the possibility or deny it.
     
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  3. OceanBreeze Registered Member

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    I agree there is no way of differentiating between these alternatives.

    But my point was, if we somehow knew we were in a simulation, we would then also know that our reality is constrained by the size and complexity of the sim.

    In Nick Bostrom’s own words:
    “The simulated world that we experience would, however, be only a part of reality. Reality would also contain the computer that runs the simulation, the civilization that built the computer, and perhaps many other simulations and much else beside.”

    That would mean our minds are also constrained, as they are just a part of the sim. Assuming the sim-conroller has complete control over everything in the sim, how could we have free will?

    But I don’t want to divert this thread into another topic altogether.
     
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  5. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

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    I consider we have free will within the confines of physics.

    Also I think free will is confined within the brains operations.

    Our thoughts dictate our actions.

    My question about my thoughts is that tiny voice I know is there but I cannot hear - my unconscious activity.

    I know it's there because it thinks out what to do before it tells my conscious thoughts what to do.

    A few times it develops footinmouthitus and bypasses my conscious brain.

    Fortunately this is almost never fatal.

    However I would like to know who whispers to my unconscious brain?
     
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  7. Jan Ardena Valued Senior Member

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    I'm not talking about acknowledgement or denial.

    Now that you have informed me, and I understand that this is possible. Do I possess knowledge of the possibilityo f being a brain in a vat?

    Jan.
     
  8. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    How are you defining knowledge?

    If you define it as a Justified True Belief then the question of whether you possess knowledge of it or not rests on those three things:
    True: is it true that it is a possibility that you could be a brain in a vat? Well, yes, it is indeed a possibility.
    Belief: do you believe that it is possible? If yes, then great, but if not then you can not possess the knowledge.
    Justified: if you hold the belief then is it justified. Ther are many philosophical musings about what is justification, with some saying that if you believe it then you must have justified it at least to yourself. So let's just say yes, if you believe it then you would have justified it.

    Thus the crux is whether or not you believe it, Jan. Do you believe that it is a possibility at you are a brain in a vat? Yes or no?
    If yes, then you have knowledge of the possibility of being a brain in a vat.
    If no, then you do not have knowledge of the possibility.
     
  9. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    You tell me. I can't guess what you're thinking. The knowledge is certainly available to you.
     
  10. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    I'm not sure that it's true... That the universe would be impossible.
    All it would mean is that, for as long as we have been aware, and all that we are of, would suggest that the universe operates by stable (or to use your words "fixed unbreakable law of physics"), but that is not to say that we weren't created an instant ago with all those memories in place - created through magic etc.

    Have you ever seen Dark City? Great film where this city is physically altered every night, people are given new names, identities, memories etc, and then wake up thinking they have always been who they now think they are.
    Maybe God's magic works in the same way?

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  11. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    I don't think a brain in a vat knows it's a brain in a vat...do you Jan?
     
  12. Jan Ardena Valued Senior Member

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    So regardless of whether I think it, is it knowledge?

    It stands to reason if as you say "the knowledge is certainly available to you." Right?

    Jan.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2016
  13. Jan Ardena Valued Senior Member

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    I haven't got that far as yet. I'm still wondering if a brain in a skull knows that it is a brain in a skull.

    Jan.
     
  14. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    Then you've answered your own question.

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  15. Jan Ardena Valued Senior Member

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    What question is that?

    Jan
     
  16. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    I think an interesting exercise would be to present a series of questions that could logically establish if the brain could somehow work it out...
    I for one think I could work it out and have been tring to establish if I am indeed a brain in a vat and so far I am inclined to think I am I am caught in some sort of a loop. Can I sence someone via somesort of mind to mind messaging from the minor electrical excitements within in you and the "keeper"
    So how do we seperate here, does the brain have a mind say ram like and it processes incoming signals, could that part ask any questions re incoming data....
    Alex
     
  17. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    If a brain in a skull knows it's a brain in a skull..."no".
     
  18. Jan Ardena Valued Senior Member

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    Yet, we know brains reside in skulls.
    Is the brain in a vat, a brain as we know it, or is it something entirely different?

    Jan.
     
  19. Jan Ardena Valued Senior Member

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    Supposing our definitions are only what the evil scientists want us to believe?

    If I have knowledge of such a possibility. Can I have knowledge of other things?

    Jan.
     
  20. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Who says they are evil?
    And definitions are used in context, so as long as we have same definition / understanding then who gave it to us or whether it used differently elsewhere is irrelevant.
    So again, how are you defining knowledge?
    Yes.
     
  21. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    The precise point is that it cannot know anything.
    It can assume. It can spend the rest of its life behaving as if it does. It can even assert that - in its heart - it knows. It can simply take it on faith.

    But it doesn't know.

    In every sense that a brain - real or simulated - can claim to know anything at all about the world, it is subject to its fallible external inputs.
     
  22. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Yes. For example, I know that it is possible that you are a brain in a vat. I have made this knowledge available to you. You are free to accept this knowledge or to reject it. But it is knowledge regardless of what you do with it. The knowledge is out there.

    The answer is: no it doesn't. I've already walked you through this is detail. It can't know that it isn't a brain in a vat, as I have explained.
     
  23. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

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    Isn't this brain in a vat scenario the justification for absolute / ultra-hard agnosticism?
    The notion that we can know absolutely nothing at all, other than perhaps "I am"?
    At best we can only ever "know" what is in our local reality with us, not the wider reality in which our local reality may reside.

    Note:
    "Local reality" would be the simulation that the brain in a vat is experiencing.
    Perhaps "subjective reality" would be a better phrase?
    The wider reality would be the fact that you're a brain in a vat.
    Or maybe this is the "objective reality"?

    In practical, non-philosophical discussions and everyday life, we give no consideration to the possibility of any wider reality, because for all practical purposes we exist within the local reality.
    Our language thus limits itself only to consideration and reference of this local reality.

    So it could be confusing to say "I know X" when context is with regard the local reality, but then to say "you can't know X" when the context includes any wider reality.

    For example, within the context only of the local reality, I do indeed know that I'm not a brain in a vat.
    I have the pictures to prove it.
    But in the context of discussions involving a possible wider reality, I can no longer say that I know that I am not a brain in a vat.
     
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