Brain in a vat

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

  1. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    Is that true?

  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Jan Ardena:

    Are you going to post your proof that you're not a brain in a vat?
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    Is it true that your not in two places at the same time as you red this response? If it is. Can you prove it ?
    Can the laws of logic be wrong?

  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Is that a "no" then, Jan?
  8. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    There'sn o need to to prove it. It is true, you know it and I know it.

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

    There's no getting through to you, is there?

    Ah well, never mind. Maybe you'll think it over later and come to appreciate why you're wrong. My posts will still be there.
    Tralay likes this.
  10. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    On the contrary.
    On the internet, there is no such thing as explicitly conceding a debate.
    Concessions come in the form of non-answers such as "I don't have to prove it".
    Its pretty clear you've gotten through.
  11. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    Let's say you go into laboratory and you see a brain in a vat, would you ask it how it knows it is a brain in a vat, and not a human being involved in a discussion? No you wouldn't.

  12. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    What am I wrong about?
    Am I a human being or not?

    It is only because you ARE a human being why you have the capacity to imagine that you could be a brain in a vat.

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

    It's a pity that some people can't bring themselves to say "You know, I never really thought about that before. Thanks for letting me know about that." or "I don't think I'm entirely convinced by what you said, but it's been an interesting discussion." or "You're right. Now that you have put it that way, I realise that there is no way to prove I'm not a brain in a vat, after all."

    The "I don't have to prove anything to you; I just know" response is like slinking away and pretending the conversation never happened, rather than facing the implications head on.
    Tralay likes this.
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Jan Ardena:

    On the off-chance that you are making a legitimate inquiry in order to better understand my point, I will answer you.

    The point is: that brain in a vat that I'm talking to wouldn't automatically know that it is a brain in a vat.

    Say, for example, that the sensory apparatus of that brain was connected to a sophisticated robot that the brain controlled. The robot would walk around, and look at things, and hear and smell and feel and all that. The brain in the vat would believe that it was the robot. It would have no perception of its existence in a vat.

    In exactly the same way, you have no perception of your "self" as a brain encased in your skull. You might imagine that you have a brain encased in your skull, and so on, but you have no direct perception that your brain is you.

    Can you say that you know for sure that your body is being controlled by you, as a brain-in-your-skull, right now? You can't. Suppose that your body is, in fact, a sophisticated android made of flesh and blood and bone, but with all the control and sensory mechanisms merely wired to a transmitter in your head (or elsewhere in your body, for that matter). And somewhere, in a vat elsewhere, a real brain communicates with your body via that transmitter. Would you be able to tell the difference between that situation and the situation that you believe actually pertains - i.e. that your brain is actually in your head?

    Now, you might argue that you could, in principle, go and get your head x-rayed, and it would show a transmitter or a brain, and that would resolve the matter one way or the other. Two points: (1) until and unless you did something like that, you wouldn't know whether your "real" brain was in a vat or not. And (2) bear in mind that, in this thought experiment the "brain in a vat" is merely a device to help you visualise the kind of situation being described. The bundle of sense perceptions that you call "myself" could be, in principle, nothing but a simulation in a sophisticated-enough computer, with no "hardware" accessible to you at all. If that is the case, then an x-ray of your head will show a brain in your head, as you expect, but it will be a simulated brain in the same computer - or to put it another way, your perception that you're looking at an x-ray of a brain is just one more simulated experience you have rather than anything "real".

    As far as you can tell, you're human. You said that yourself. But you can't know that. Understand?

    For practical purposes, it obviously makes zero difference to your life whether your brain is in your skull or in a vat somewhere else. You act as if you have a brain in your head. No perception that you have says otherwise. But the perceived state of affairs need not be the actual state of affairs.

    Well this is part of what's interesting about this philosophical thought-experiment.

    What does it mean to be a "human being"?

    A brain in a vat would have exactly the same capacity to imagine things as a brain in your skull, presumably. So, the brain in the vat would be just as "human" as you are. In fact, the brain in the vat would be you, to all intents and purposes. All of the capacities you attribute to a brain in your head could, in fact, be capacities of a brain in a vat.

    In fact, when it comes down to it, your brain is in a vat. You call that vat your head. What you're quibbling over here is an argument over where the vat is located - something that you can't actually be sure of.
  15. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    How do you know?

    Again, how do you know?

    I know I'm a human being, you don't according to you.

    I'm not a brain in a vat.

    Would the relationship between the Android and the world be exactly the same as the relationship between a human and world. If yes can you explain how you know it would?

    So this is a thought experiment. Okay.

    Would the person helping me, be me, or another being?

    If it is another being, and it wrote my programme. Would that other being actually be me?
    If the controller was you let's say. And you programmed my perception. Wouldn't I be acting out your program, seeing , feeling, saying what you want.
    Wouldn't that be you?

    If the brain in vat is merely device to help me visualise. Who is 'me'?
    Or to put it another way who and what is the "you"?

    But I do know. Do you understand?
    How could it be that I am not a human being?
    Do you have any hinkling of knowledge, or experience of what it is like to be not what you are not (assuming you believe yourself to be human)?

    How do you know the experience will be the same? Or do we have to pretend that experiences and perceptions will be the same?

    Could it be true that I am a human being, and the brain in a vat idea is nothing but a mind experiment?

    Do you have experience of being a human being?

    The brain is in my head. I know.
    I'm not quibbling, you are. I know I'm not a brain in vat, and so do?

    That's reality.

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

    Jan Ardena:

    I know because of the reasons I already explained. The brain's only sensory inputs come from outside the vat. How could it possibly know it was in a vat?

    How do you know this? You keep dodging that question.

    Repeated assertion does not make an argument. I have given you my argument. Your task is to refute it, if you can. Mere assertion that I am wrong counts for nothing, no matter how many times you repeat yourself.

    Why wouldn't it? What possible difference could there be?

    It's not up to me to try to demolish my own argument. If you want to do that, you'll have to put in some mental effort of your own, I'm afraid.

    It doesn't much matter whether you consider it a thought experiment or a consideration of the real state of affairs. The argument is the same in both cases.

    The person helping you is me, in this instance. However, I could be a brain in a vat myself, for all you know. Or I might just be a part of your perception via a simulation. Or whatever.

    There's no reason to suppose that you suddenly lacked the capacity to think independently. You're still you, even if you're a brain in a vat.

    I'm not sure at this point whether you're now confusing the word "device" as meaning some kind of physical mechanism with "device" as in a rhetorical device useful for putting a particular philosophical argument to you. I meant "device" in the latter sense, not the former, in case you're confused.

    I understand that you claim to know that you're not a brain in vat. You haven't told me why you think you know that. Do you intend to, or are you just going to keep asserting it?

    I think you're probably going to have to specify what you mean by "human being" now.

    If by "human being" you mean an integrated flesh-and-blood being with a localised brain, then I have previously explained exactly how it could be that you aren't that.

    If by "human being" you mean something more metaphysical - a kind of "I" that might exists independently of any "hardware", then in that sense you are a human being regardless of whether you have a physical body or you are a brain in a vat or you are a simulation.

    But I think you need to explain to me what you think a "human being" is. You seem to regard this as somehow important to the argument you keep stopping yourself from actually making.

    In what sense? I'm sure I have an inkling of what it might be like to be other than I am. As far as direct experience of being other than what I am, of course I don't have that. Nobody does. Nobody can.

    How could they be different?

    See above.

    Obviously, assuming I am a human being. ;-) But what of it?

    How do you know?

    No you don't, and I have explained why you don't at some length.

    Do you have anything substantive to add to your claim, or do you intend only to repeat that you "just know"?

    No. That's your belief.
  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Well, I have, more than once (I sort of thought I was beating it to death), but I will provide the quote again:

    "As far as you know" is an acknowledgement that what you know has a limit.

    The entire point behind brain-in-a-vat is to force us to recognize that the only things we can conclude about the world must come through our senses - our imperfect senses - our senses that can - and do - fool us.

    Every utterance any human has ever made about the world is (implicitly) prefaced with "If I am to believe my senses. then ..."

    And, to bring this full circle to the thread topic, it applies equally to everything you know.

    To-wit: as far as you know, God exists.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2016
  18. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    You presume to know reality.
    You presume to be more than human then. You presume to be infallible. You presume to be a god.
  19. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    Once again Jan has demostrated sheer mastery and control of the direction and focus of the thread.
    And Jan having sidestepped the issue that the scriptures are arguably made up, and leading the thread off topic Jan now allows the readership to witness a riveting arguement for and against what a brain in a vat may experience as reality.
    Well done Jan.
  20. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    You haven't given any reasons, you simply shift the goalposts to continue your game.

    Stop saying you've given an argument, when you cannot possibly give a coherent argument. It is a mind game nothing more.

    That's what I'm asking you?
    Are you saying you are your brain? Or what?

    You don't have an argument. Stop lying.

    No I don't. You're a human being.

    Elaborate on what is the "me" and "I" in this context?

    Why is there no reason?
    You said "'re a brain in a vat.
    It seems you are saying I have a separate identity to the brain in the vat. That said, I cannot be something that I am not. Do you agree? Unless the laws of logic does not apply in your mind game.

    Let's look at the definition of 'device'.

    Device: a thing made or adapted for a particular purpose, especially a piece of mechanical or electronic equipment.
    "a measuring device"

    a plan, method, or trick with a particular aim

    You mean like the second definition, with the emphasis on 'trick'?

    I mean what you are. A human being.

    So you're existence is all you know. You're existence as a human being is the reason you have the capacity to think it is possible that you are a brain in vat.
    That proves you are what you are and are not what you're not.

    That's what I'm asking you.
    If you assert that "you" are a brain in a vat, you are saying that either you are the brain, or you are independent of the brain meaning you are not a brain in a vat, but controlled by the brain in the vat, or some intelligent being . Which is it?

    "How could that be different"?
    How does that answer the question?

    You're a human being. Work it out yourself.

    You haven't.

    Yes I have confidence in the truth that I am a human.
    So do you.

  21. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    Yes We are human beings, that is reality.
    Unfortunately you are confused.

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


    It's not my fault that (a) you choose to avoid addressing most of the substance of my posts, (b) that you refuse to answer direct questions I have put to you, answering instead only with questions of your own, (c) that you repeatedly assert that you know things without ever saying how you know them.

    But I have given a coherent argument, in the posts linked above. You refuse to acknowledge it, but that's your problem, not mine.

    That's one of the issues I have raised with you. In fact, that's the important philosophical issue raised by the whole "brain in a vat" idea. What is "I"? What is "you"?

    Specifically, I have suggested that "you" may be a brain in vat somewhere. Or that "you" may be a simulation in some sufficiently-advanced computer. Neither of these ideas rule out "you" being a "human being". It could be, for example, that "you", the brain in the vat, are the only "human being" there is, and that everything you think you perceive is just a sensory input into that brain in the vat. There's no necessity in this scenario that there exist actual flesh-and-blood bodies "out there" in some kind "real world".

    As I said previously, at some point you'll have to put in some mental effort yourself, Jan, if I am to take you seriously in this conversation. You'll have to actually actually address what has been put to you, and perhaps even - shock horror - tell me what you think (as opposed to merely asking rhetorical questions). That's if you actually have any opinions or thoughts on the topic.

    See the posts linked above, where my argument is set out in enough detail. I have told no lies.

    Your argument in this thread, so far, boils down to this:

    1. I, Jan, assert that I am not a brain in a vat.
    2. I, Jan, know this, absolutely, without a doubt.
    3. The reason I know this is that I am a human being and not a brain in a vat.

    Now, points (1) and (2) are mere empty assertion. Point (3) suggests that you think, for some reason, that being a "human being" somehow rules out the possibility that you are a brain in a vat. But seeing as you have so far completely neglected to develop an actual argument in this regard, there is nothing we can discuss about point (3) as things stand. As usual, I am left to guess at what you might possibly mean, because you refuse to, or are afraid to, tell me, for whatever reason.

    "Me" and "I" are terms I use to refer to myself. I could, in principle, be a creature of flesh and blood typing on an internet connection, or I could be a computer simulation, or I could be a brain in vat. My claim is that you can't know which of those I am. Possibly you have some argument that you could make on the topic of my being a "human being", but if so you haven't make it yet.

    Quite the opposite. If you're a brain in a vat, then brain-in-a-vat is your identity.

    You claim you are not a brain in a vat, and therefore that your identity is something else. You claim to know this without a shadow of a doubt. But you have done nothing so far but to repeatedly assert that you somehow know this absolutely. You refuse to say how it is that you know. Why is that?

    Yes. If you're a brain in a vat, you're a brain in a vat. You say you aren't. But why?

    Let's not. Quibbling over silly tangential points is just a tactic to try to avoid addressing the content.

    And by that you mean ... what?

    I mean, I went to all the effort of suggesting some possibilities in my previous post. You have just ignored all of that and you're back to making empty statements again. Why is that? Do you agree with any of the options I put to you? Do you have a different option of your own to offer? Or have you got some issue with actually answering the question honestly?

    See, I think that what is really going on here is that you know you can't "win" this argument, and you probably were vaguely aware of that at the start, when you got yourself into this mess. But you're not big enough to admit that you hadn't thought things through properly. So now you're playing for time and working out how you can exit the discussion without having to admit you were wrong.

    A brain in a vat could think it was a human being, and while believing that it could still consider the possibility that it was a brain in a vat, for the reasons I gave in previous posts (linked above).

    In saying that you are a brain in a vat, I'm identifying "you" with the brain in the vat. You say you know that you cannot be identified as a brain in a vat, but you have so far given no actual reason why you think you know that.

    If you are a brain in a vat, the matter of "control" can be discussed in various ways. For example, you, as a brain in a vat, have all the usual sense that you have a physical body that walks around and sees things and eats and sleeps etc. If you decide to walk to the shops, then in that sense the "you" as the brain in the vat is controlling something that generates the sense impressions of you walking to the shops. That "something" could be an actual body. Alternatively, it could be that some simulation merely stimulates the appropriate sense receptors of the brain in the vat to give you the appropriate illusion that there are shops and that you have a body and so on.

    Do "you" have free will, in this scenario? Yes, at least insofar as any "you" that is a flesh-and-blood brain in a flesh-and-blood body is thought to have free will. The extra "intelligent being" you mentioned might have the job of maintaining the brain and its external wirings in the vat, and/or controlling the sensory inputs to the brain, but this would do nothing to change your sense of free will.

    How do you know I'm a human being?

    Good for you. How do you know that you're not a brain in a vat?
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
  23. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    I'm not avoiding anything, I just want more than speculation as you are now accusing me of not knowing what I know.

    If it is simply a mind experiment, then accept the contents of my mind that I bring to the experiment.
    You seem to be under illusion that it's air tight for everybody.


    I don't mind playing your games, but don't tell me what I know and what I don't know, otherwise you should demonstrate the reality, as opposed to speculation, of the proposition.

    My own philosophical position states that this existence we experience is an illusion of sorts, and the body I inhabit, is merely a vehicle for my consiousness. But I wouldn't tell you that you are living in an illusion, and the body you inhabit, is not you.

    I take it, you don't want me to simply agree with you, but you want some resistance to test the validity of the experiment. Okay.

    These aren't arguments, they are fundamental facts. If you wish to show otherwise, the onus is on you, not me.

    You could also be a human being with the ability to indulge in pure speculation, and then try to pull it off as though it's true. So which of the list, including my input, is more likely?

    I am a...
    Brain in a vat, a Computer simulation, or a Human Being capable of generating these notions.

    What reason do you have to consider the first two options?

    If you consider me asserting that I am a human being, a projection from the brain in a vat, why can't you consider that I am a human being projecting being a brain in a vat?
    Why does it have to be that way round?

    The 'brain in the vat' is the ''something else''.
    As far as we know we are what we perceive ourselves to be. Right?

    No, I don't think my identity is something else. I am me, and I have a brain that is situated within my skull which is a part of my body. Anything outside of that, including the possibility of being a brain in a vat, is something else.

    You are assuming that this brain in a vat concept has merit outside of your own speculation. So much so that I should prove that I am not a brain in a vat. It's ridiculous.
    Who do I need to prove it to, and why?

    The ''I'' does not identify itself as a brain in a vat. I can't be here and there at the same time.
    When I dream, I may not be fully aware that I'm in a dream, but at some point it becomes clear. I can understand that my mind is capable of project imagery, concepts, and experiences that I did not induce. In the same way I can understand philosophical mind games, as constructs to gain a better comprehension of what is, and what isn't.

    Now can you explain to me how it could be possible for us to actually be a brain in a vat transmitting these realistic images of life?

    Come on James, just answer the question. Yes or no?

    I've told you already what my philosophical position is on this.
    It wouldn't surprise me at all if this experiments are the result of vedic literature, regarding the self.
    Only thing it is more complete there.

    Stop kidding yourself James, it's not an argument. It is at best a philosophical experiment, at worst, as device.

    If I am me, and I am also the brain in the vat, the defies the laws of logic. So my question to you is: Can the laws of logic be not what they are?

    Are you just throwing these abilities in, regardless of whether it could actually happen?
    Is it just part of the game?

    I take it the brain in the vat is responsible for desires, disagreements, love, and all the other things human beings take for granted?
    The problem is, you are simply taking the human experience and replacing it with a brain in the vat.
    Another proof that we are in fact human.

    Because only a human being converses in this way.
    Do you know of any other species that does?

    Because ''I'' am here conversing with you, and ''I', cannot be in two places at the same time, lest ''I'' can change the laws of physics and logic.



Share This Page