Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

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Are You a Brain in a Vat in a Mad Scientist's Lab?

No, and that's a stupid question.
0
No votes
I can't be sure, but I feel it's reasonable to say I'm not.
5
20%
In all likelihood yes, but that doesn't change anything.
2
8%
I can't be sure, but it doesn't matter either way.
12
48%
In all likelihood yes, and this is deeply worrying.
0
No votes
No, but I do keep live brains hooked up to a virtual reality simulation in my lab.
2
8%
No, because all minds only exist as part of my vast linux server complex.
4
16%
 
Total votes: 25
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Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 01:19

So, I'm nearly done with one of my two philosophy final papers (got one or two pages, double spaced), I've gotten to the part where I say that George Berkeley is wrong and there must actually be both an internal mental world and an external (potentially) physical world and they must be codependent on each other to justify existence as we know it.

Next, I'll have to write about twelve pages on why the epicureans and stoics are full of crap on the topic of death and why the other ancient greeks and post greek philosophers agree with me. I tell ya, ya really do have to kind of ego trip to get through this kind of essay and just feel I am better than all the great thinkers of history, cause it really renders so much more material to be contrarian rather than just agree with them). So I'm taking a bit of a break before I tackle these last two pages (papers due at Noon, EST, so I figure I'll finish it by 7-8 and send it off, then take a nap before the 5pm screening I have of the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus I lucked into some tickets for), so I just thought I'd lob this live intellectual grenade into the forums as a lark and see what happens while I break and watch some shows to let the mind rest. So let me start you off with an oldy but a goody:

Can you know whether or not you're a brain in a vat and does it matter whether or not you are?


EDIT: here's a text for this topic:
http://consc.net/papers/matrix.html

on your marks, get set, THINK!
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Gordon Fearman » 17 Dec 2009, 01:24

If I find proof, it will matter. But I'm not about to inconvenience myself based on an unfounded theory.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Nevrmore » 17 Dec 2009, 01:29

So, what, are we able to know if we're really in The Matrix or not? Is that the question?

No, I'd say. We don't know what it feels like to not be in the faux-reality we think we're in, so there's no way to verify that we aren't in it. You can't just say, "Well, if I'm a brain in a vat I'll lift up my brain stem and scratch my frontal lobe." because even if that were antatomically possible, you wouldn't know how to do it.

Since we're talking philosophy, here's my favorite philosophy-related story, starring Sidney Morgenbesser:

Another unfortunate encounter with the police occurred when he lit up his pipe on the way out of a subway station. Morgenbesser protested to the officer who tried to stop him that the rules covered smoking in the station, not outside. The cop conceded he had a point, but said: "If I let you get away with it, I'd have to let everyone get away with it." To which Morgenbesser, in a famously misunderstood line, retorted: "Who do you think you are, Kant?" Hauled off to the precinct lock-up, Morgenbesser only won his freedom after a colleague showed up and explained the Categorical Imperative to the nonplussed boys in blue.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 01:36

Gordon Fearman wrote:If I find proof, it will matter. But I'm not about to inconvenience myself based on an unfounded theory.


there is actual a statistical theory which supposedly proves that we more likely are in a simulation based reality than not, but i'm too tired to find it right now.

On the other hand:

http://consc.net/papers/matrix.html

this is a very interesting and importantly free text on this topic, which i think may be an excellent resource.

[quote="Nevrmore"]So, what, are we able to know if we're really in The Matrix or not? Is that the question?

No, I'd say. We don't know what it feels like to not be in the faux-reality we think we're in...
[/close quote]

Ah, but you see the more interesting question is whether or not it would matter, i.e. (at least in one interpretation) would the world being simulation based actually make our reality any more or less valid, or would it simply be the legitimate metaphysical nature of our reality?
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Gordon Fearman » 17 Dec 2009, 01:42

Uh...no, it would make the simulation less valid. Well, I say make. Actually, it's not the simulation becomes less valid, it's just that the reality outside the simulation is/has always been more valid.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Nevrmore » 17 Dec 2009, 01:46

Less valid as a world to live in, but does it make it less valid to exist in? (Yeah, I'm using italics so you know shit is getting deep).
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Gordon Fearman » 17 Dec 2009, 01:49

You don't exist in a fake reality. You may think you do, but you don't. You are only represented in a fake reality.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 01:50

Gordon Fearman wrote:Uh...no, it would make the simulation less valid. Well, I say make. Actually, it's not the simulation becomes less valid, it's just that the reality outside the simulation is/has always been more valid.


You're in good company in saying that; classically this argument is taken as a skeptical argument where the world is an unreal perception. However, recently this view has come under extreme challenge based on this simple question:

Why? And I'm not trying to be a prick about it, but let me put it this way: Why is it any less legitimate to have a universe which has it's fundamental building blocks made up of binary code than one where they're made of molecular particles? Take a gander at the paper I linked to for a far more thorough argument to this effect.

Nevrmore wrote:Less valid as a world to live in, but does it make it less valid to exist in? (Yeah, I'm using italics so you know shit is getting deep).
To be honest, this is starting to confuse me. Why would it be one but not the other?
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Nevrmore » 17 Dec 2009, 01:56

I'm thinking of "existing" as more of a state of mind than "living" is, which is more of a state of being. Take Descarte for example, who decided that the only thing he can possibly be sure exists in the universe is himself, because "I think, therefore I am." So if you for some reason found out that the world you've been in for your life has been a simiulation, it might illegitimize how you've lived, but you still exist the same way no matter what you think reality is.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Gordon Fearman » 17 Dec 2009, 02:00

The fact that you think only proves you exist an a reality, it may not be the one you think it is, though.
epocalypse wrote:Why? And I'm not trying to be a prick about it, but let me put it this way: Why is it any less legitimate to have a universe which has it's fundamental building blocks made up of binary code than one where they're made of molecular particles? Take a gander at the paper I linked to for a far more thorough argument to this effect.

Because the binary reality is one that exists inside another reality, and was spawned by that reality.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 02:01

Nevrmore wrote:I'm thinking of "existing" as more of a state of mind than "living" is, which is more of a state of being. Take Descarte for example, who decided that the only thing he can possibly be sure exists in the universe is himself, because "I think, therefore I am." So if you for some reason found out that the world you've been in for your life has been a simiulation, it might illegitimate how you've lived, but you still exist the same way no matter what you think reality is.


But why would it illegitimize how you've lived? as I've already said:

epocalypse wrote: Why is it any less legitimate to have a universe which has it's fundamental building blocks made up of binary code than one where they're made of molecular particles? Take a gander at the paper I linked to for a far more thorough argument to this effect.


Simulation has a certain connotation to it of deception, but instead of thinking of it as a simulated world, think of it as a synthesized one, or a simply a world based on digital data.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Nevrmore » 17 Dec 2009, 02:07

The world can be as real, Hell, more real than what we know it to be, but it doesn't matter. Once you learn that what you're living in has a larger world exisiting as a shell above it, looking on you from the outside in, you are going to feel as if your life has been a lie. That's human nature.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 02:11

So if God exists the living world is a sham? And if not, how is that any different?

(not saying one way or the other)

Also, for a different tact, what if we don't know that there is anyone else looking in, but simply that we are in a digital, code based reality (i.e. there might still be no observers)?

And my last counter argument to your statement on human nature is that though that is emotionally valid, is it logically valid?
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Nevrmore » 17 Dec 2009, 02:20

As a personally admitted atheist, I'd say that yeah, if it turned out God was real and watching us that would certainly disassemble everything I knew about the world.

But the comparison is not completely apt because I'm not trying to imply that it's the presence of an outside being watching us that invalidates what we believe to be the one world we're living in, it's the existence of another, entirely different world around ours that is necessary to exist for the hypothetical situation of us being a brain in a vat to work. It would be like the digital world is the bubblegum at the center of a Blow Pop, and the world which creates the digital world for us is the hard shell wrapped around it, if that makes any sense. You'd have to phyiscally penetrate through the sucker before you could get to the gum inside - that's what makes the world "fake." You have to be in that outer world to put someone in the inner one.

And no, human nature is hardly ever, if ever at all, logically valid. But I'd think that once you found out the world you lived in is a "synthetic" one then all pretenses of logic would go out the window for you, heh.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 02:33

Nevrmore wrote:As a personally admitted atheist, I'd say that yeah, if it turned out God was real and watching us that would certainly disassemble everything I knew about the world.

But the comparison is not completely apt because I'm not trying to imply that it's the presence of an outside being watching us that invalidates what we believe to be the one world we're living in, it's the existence of another, entirely different world around ours that is necessary to exist for the hypothetical situation of us being a brain in a vat to work. It would be like the digital world is the bubblegum at the center of a Blow Pop, and the world which creates the digital world for us is the hard shell wrapped around it, if that makes any sense. You'd have to phyiscally penetrate through the sucker before you could get to the gum inside - that's what makes the world "fake." You have to be in that outer world to put someone in the inner one.

And no, human nature is hardly ever, if ever at all, logically valid. But I'd think that once you found out the world you lived in is a "synthetic" one then all pretenses of logic would go out the window for you, heh.
I give you props for being thus far logically consistent (though I think you underestimate how apt the comparison is, any halfway cognizant theory of god states god being on a higher plane), but really, to push it even further, say the world is computational in nature (our fundamental blocks are, for the sake of themes, 1s and 0s) and there is no confirmation of any higher planes of existence.

Lastly, though, I would add that you're taking to broad a leap in throwing out logic altogether. The world could be all a greater deception but it would, more likely than not, not destabilize things like logic or mathematics at all. You must assume that our base logic system is valid, for as Descartes (who actually originated this scenario as the "Evil Demon" thought experiment) put it, You cannot doubt your ability to doubt.
Otherwise, reasoning cannot move forward.

Also, really reccomend you read that paper I linked to, it's very interesting.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Gordon Fearman » 17 Dec 2009, 02:34

Nevrmore wrote:The world can be as real, Hell, more real than what we know it to be, but it doesn't matter.

It can't be more real. That makes no sense. The reality will always have the same level of "realness", it's just that it's parent reality will be realer.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 02:39

Gordon Fearman wrote:
Nevrmore wrote:The world can be as real, Hell, more real than what we know it to be, but it doesn't matter.

It can't be more real. That makes no sense. The reality will always have the same level of "realness", it's just that it's parent reality will be realer.

Can we switch out terms like more real or realer for "more substantial" or "of greater validity"? I just want to avoid things devolving into a semantic nightmare.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 06:13

and i'm done with my essay. TAKE THAT, GEORGE BERKELEY!!


You're next, Epicurus. anywho, any other philosophy contributions would be appreciated. I loved the Kant joke.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Metcarfre » 17 Dec 2009, 07:38

I love philosophy. My goal is, when I retire at 65 or whatever, to go back to school and get my Bachelor's in Philosophy. I wrote one awesome, awesome paper, "Paul Churchland's Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes, and Thomas Nagel's What Is It Like to be a Bat?", (basically dualism vs. materialism) in 24 hours including research for which I got 95%. Admittedly, this was for a first-year course, so expectations were low. Especially when classmates don't know how to use the library even.

That being said, I seem to recall Berkeley's thesis was not exactly brain-in-a-vat, but rather, that our mental selves and/or souls are exterior to this world (and maintained by God), and that this world is but images imprinted on those minds by God.

My feeling is that it is a possibility, however, effectively this does not affect how we live our lives, and is therefore irrelevant.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 07:56

oh no, it's not at all. we just talked about it a few weeks ago and I brought up here. My paper was a counter argument to subjective idealism. I started this as a break from it. All I'm currently writing is that paper and one on the epicureans which is far more conversational (oddly enough, the way these two courses were structured, neither required research outside the class. The first called on us to approach them as contained thought experiments, and the second class is just psychotically organized.) I actually meant to bring up Nagel, but was running really long already and couldn't figure out a good way to incorporate it.

Have you ever heard of the David Chalmers Paper I linked to? It's really interesting in that it presents brain-in-vat as a metaphysical scenario rather than a skeptical one.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Metcarfre » 17 Dec 2009, 08:07

Unfortunately I don't have time at the moment, but I might at some point in the nebulous 'future', when I'm not trying to finish a work term report, move, and have Christmas.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Alja-Markir » 17 Dec 2009, 08:33

This is kinda like belief in a god.

People find thinking about it interesting, but it never gets anyone anywhere.

~Alja~

Addendum: On that note, how many of you believe it relatively feasible that I am, as I claim, a demi-god? (An entity which possesses personal powers within a certain range.) None of you can prove I'm not, nor can any of you prove I am. So long as I refuse to do, or am incapable of doing, either, you cannot possibly know for certain one way or the other and you must admit it is entirely possible and about equally as likely as it is unlikely based on your limited knowledge.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 08:57

Well, i'd agree with you, accept that the point of actively thinking and analyzing it is more fun and useful then the simple belief. exercise your brain muscle!

As to whether or not your a demi-god, I can't prove or disprove it based on my current knowledge of you, but it's reasonable to say that it is, based on available data, far more likely that you're a human being. However, based on my current knowledge of you, it is also far more feasible that you're an advanced AI gif creation program than a supernatural being.

(both are excellent choices)
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Matt » 17 Dec 2009, 09:04

Alja-Markir wrote:This is kinda like belief in a god.

People find thinking about it interesting, but it never gets anyone anywhere.

~Alja~

Addendum: On that note, how many of you believe it relatively feasible that I am, as I claim, a demi-god? (An entity which possesses personal powers within a certain range.) None of you can prove I'm not, nor can any of you prove I am. So long as I refuse to do, or am incapable of doing, either, you cannot possibly know for certain one way or the other and you must admit it is entirely possible and about equally as likely as it is unlikely based on your limited knowledge.


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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Alja-Markir » 17 Dec 2009, 09:04

What if I'm both?

*waggles eyebrows*

~Alja~

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