Sunday, May 10, 2009

3a A brain in a vat

Suppose that it really happened. On night I sat at my computer and an alien attacked me. He put my brain in a vat on my desk and linked it to my computer and then started the SL Viewer. (I complete have forgotten that.) And here I am -in mouselook -

My nerve endings have been connected to a my super-computer (a Mac :-) which causes me to have the illusion that everything is perfectly normal.

There you are, the pictures, the walls, my books, etc.; but really all I am experiencing is the result of electronic impulses travelling from the computer to the nerve endings.

Do I live in a completely virtual world or is it all real what I see. How could I tell?
If I know that I sit at my computer, 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. So,
I do not know that I sit at my computer.

Of course I have the experience of sitting at my computer now, but how can I tell whether it is an illusion or real in an external world? How do I find arguments to proof that all experience is real, independent of my mind, so to speak.

To have certain and undubitable knowledge in this situation would mean that I know that my brain is in a vat next to my keyboard, but there is no way of getting to that knowledge.

The philosophical sceptic doesn't claim that we know nothing - not least because to do so would be obviously self-defeating (one thing we could not know is that we know nothing). Rather, the sceptic's position is to challenge our right to make claims to knowledge.

We think we know lots of things, but how can we defend those claims? What grounds can we produce to justify any particular claim to knowledge?

Our supposed knowledge of the world is based on perceptions gained via our senses, usually mediated by our use of reason. But are not such perceptions always open to error?

This isn't a modern line of questioning our certainty of knowledge. The best of all philosophers in that was Descartes, who in 1641 in his "Meditations on First Philosophy" invented an Evil Genius.

In the Evil Genius world, nothing physical exists, and all of your experiences are directly caused by the Evil Genius.

So your experiences, which represent there to be an external world of physical objects (including your body), give rise to systematically mistaken beliefs about your world (such as that you are now sitting at a computer).

And in this world of delusion there was only a tiny light: the COGITO......I THINK. In fact Descartes got a little bit trapped in his own skepticism, for his way out wasn't as fancy as his way in.

The history of philosophy can be seen, in part, as a struggle with skepticism. The attacks of the skeptics also have served as a check on rash speculation;

the various forms of modern skepticism have gradually eroded the metaphysical and theological bases of European thought.

Most contemporary thinkers have been sufficiently affected by skepticism to abandon the search for certain and indubitable foundations of human knowledge.

Instead, they have sought ways of living with the unresolved skeptical problems through various forms of naturalistic, scientific, or religious faiths.

This is the basic philosophical problem concerning our knowledge of an external world.
In a second lecture I'll try to bring forward some arguments against this kind of epistemological skepticism.

In the meantime, everytime I go offline in SL and shut downn my computer I ask myself......what is my avatar doing now?

The Discussion

[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:26] Daruma Boa: haha
[13:26] Qwark Allen: ehehh
[13:26] Ze Novikov: having a beer
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: dancing
[13:26] Daruma Boa: relax
[13:26] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:26] itsme Frederix: Herman I checked that once - its really offline
[13:26] Thoth Jantzen: there are some things we're better off not knowing, heman.
[13:26] Daruma Boa: LOLOL
[13:27] herman Bergson: And Vladimir..yes movies like the Matrix and 13th Floor play with these ideas
[13:27] Jangle McElroy: What sound does a virtual tree falling make?
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes Thoth with your godly vision you might know :-)
[13:27] ChatNoir Talon: It makes -crash-
[13:27] Qwark Allen: depends on the script in
[13:28] Nikki Jolbey: lol
[13:28] Jangle McElroy: :)
[13:28] herman Bergson: Our knowledge of the external world is our question for today
[13:28] itsme Frederix: Despite the broken limit of 17 ;) I think I got the idea, but what is the point we discus here right know (that makes 25 including).
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: real or not
[13:29] herman Bergson: Come on Itse...we arent bureaucrats here....
[13:29] Qwark Allen: we are blind to the reality that surrounds us
[13:29] Daruma Boa: sl or rl
[13:29] Samuel Okelly: it is an act of “faith” to hold that our sensory info corresponds to an objective external reality
[13:29] Qwark Allen: rl at least
[13:29] itsme Frederix: What about "not real" is real to! Just another reality
[13:29] Qwark Allen: no we can`t
[13:29] hope63 Shepherd: what we see.. but not what is..
[13:29] herman Bergson: Yes Samuel....that is in fact the situation
[13:29] itsme Frederix: Please first define "real"
[13:29] Marya Blaisdale: We aren't blind to reality Qwark, we just see one aspect of it, as it relates to us - there is a difference there
[13:29] Qwark Allen: cause our sensorial organs are to weak
[13:30] Jangle McElroy: Is debate made more complex through added virtual world dimension? Since 'I think therefore I am' days?
[13:30] Daruma Boa: there are more senses to see and feel
[13:30] Jangle McElroy: 17 word cap doesn;t help grammer :)
[13:30] Qwark Allen: we can have a intuition of what reality is
[13:30] hope63 Shepherd: the objectiveness is common sense agreements..
[13:30] herman Bergson: Just keep in mind that philosophers like Hume and Kant were trapped by this problem themselves
[13:30] Qwark Allen: but for sure don`t know, what it is
[13:31] herman Bergson: That intuition may be an illusion too, Qwark
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: put it this way: we see and agree with others on what we see..
[13:31] Marya Blaisdale: There only becomes a trap, imo, when people forget about context, or the importance of context, and attempt to comprehend 'everything' at the same time, which of course, is not possible
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes Hope that is one step....consensus and pragmatism
[13:31] itsme Frederix: How can you say something "whole" about a system if you are trapped in the system. You cann't
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: a bee.. a bat.. any other animaqls sees too.. but completely different things..
[13:32] Marya Blaisdale: right, itsme
[13:32] herman Bergson: That is the quintessence of the sceptical argument Itsme :-)
[13:32] Qwark Allen: and we can start by learning how much really our "sensors" sense
[13:32] itsme Frederix: And it real proven, in mathematical reality
[13:32] herman Bergson: I remeber me saying here that we are trapped in our minds
[13:32] Qwark Allen: to have a idea of what we are missing at it
[13:32] Vladimir Apparatchik: Herman, Prof Bostrom of Oxford argues that it is almost certain we live in a computer simulation - worth looking at
[13:32] hope63 Shepherd: trapped in the whole construction of a human..
[13:32] Jangle McElroy: All things are ultimately imaged and heard in our heads. Virtual or otherwise.
[13:32] itsme Frederix: The next thing is if we cann't we shouldn't or ...
[13:33] Jangle McElroy: or in our minds I should say
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes I read about Nick Bostrom...
[13:33] Yakuzza Lethecus: hey everyone
[13:33] Qwark Allen: worst even, is how our brain composes what doesn`t understand well, like at vision
[13:33] Marya Blaisdale: hi Yakuzza :)
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yet we can live our daily lives ...scientist seem to do their job too
[13:35] herman Bergson: It seems we have found ways to create a real world yet
[13:35] itsme Frederix: Maybe its the Evil one (ypo spoke about) that is making us think these things. Lets be practical and keep our thiny place in life
[13:35] hope63 Shepherd: define real
[13:35] herman Bergson: What do you mean by being practical Itme
[13:36] herman Bergson: REAL..yes good question Hope
[13:36] itsme Frederix: Some thing cannot be spoken/thought about - do not get hacked by those
[13:36] herman Bergson: I'll define
[13:36] itsme Frederix: Oke define real
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: CAILLEACH!
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:37] herman Bergson: What I meant by 'real' is some kind of stable context we can live in
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: c al.. HELLOO
[13:37] herman Bergson: Welcome Cailleach ^_^
[13:37] itsme Frederix: Gemma is greeting every existing virtuallity
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:37] Cailleach Shan: Thanks Herman. Sorry to be so late. I will just sit and listen.
[13:37] Jangle McElroy: So Real doesn;t have to be absolute, a completely fixed idea.
[13:38] herman Bergson: No Jangle
[13:38] herman Bergson: Just a context
[13:38] herman Bergson: in which our concepts get their meaning
[13:38] ChatNoir Talon: SL is real, it's just isn't physical.. to us RL dwellers
[13:38] itsme Frederix: real is what I can think about (and what I know I cann't think about)
[13:38] Daruma Boa: there are real avas behind the keys ^^
[13:38] Anne Charles: a context that can vary by the individual
[13:39] herman Bergson: Yes Anne, but you also see wider contexts...say..Science for instance
[13:39] Jangle McElroy: Real can be anything we perceive it to be. And human perception changes - child vs. adult for example
[13:39] hope63 Shepherd: what about the time there were no humans.. coupéle of million years ago.. was there a "real 2 world?
[13:39] Rodney Handrick: true hope
[13:40] herman Bergson: That is another philosophical problem, Hope...
[13:40] itsme Frederix: more concrete Hope, what about if you do not "exist"
[13:40] herman Bergson: but a genuine one
[13:40] Samuel Okelly: is it being suggested here that “objective reality” is relative?
[13:40] herman Bergson: If Hope says..Here I am ...he exists for me...
[13:40] hope63 Shepherd: i exist is another question itsme..
[13:41] itsme Frederix: Oke but lets blow up the example Hope gave, what about before the big banfg (or whatever)
[13:41] Vladimir Apparatchik: One interpretation of quantum mechanics is that "reality" doesn't exist until it is observed by a conscious being
[13:41] herman Bergson: Yes Samuel....the idea of an 'objective reality" has been abandoned
[13:41] itsme Frederix: Vla then we need an observer of that consious being
[13:41] herman Bergson: That means that the mind creates reality Vladimir
[13:41] Samuel Okelly: by whom herman?
[13:41] Marya Blaisdale: Well Vladimir, then that can go back to the question about what is consciousness (which I think is a separate issue)
[13:42] Daruma Boa: by everyone himself
[13:42] Vladimir Apparatchik: Indeed - deep waters !
[13:42] Marya Blaisdale nods :)
[13:42] herman Bergson: By a number of philosophers, Samuel....or I should formulate it otherwise...
[13:42] Jangle McElroy: Your avie disappears from your screen on exit after left screen of others. When did existance stop?
[13:42] Scope Cleaver: Many of the idealists...
[13:42] herman Bergson: The idea of an "objective reality/ external world" hasnt been abandoned
[13:43] herman Bergson: But the septic argument is that you can t claim there exists one, you cant justify your knowledge claim
[13:43] herman Bergson: Belief in it...ok.....but not undubitable knowledge of it
[13:44] itsme Frederix: My argument would be .. so what ... what makes the difference
[13:44] Scope Cleaver: But you can't go from that to the conclusion that there isn't one of course
[13:44] herman Bergson: That Itsme is exactly the point....
[13:44] Scope Cleaver: itsme: yes, thats the idea, is it a difference that makes a relevant difference
[13:44] Vladimir Apparatchik: Another interpretation of quantum mecahics is that all possible worlds exist - there is a multi-reality . We are just in one tiny part
[13:44] herman Bergson: Your point of view has important consequences for science
[13:45] Scope Cleaver: I think for the purpose of language words still refer, we agree?
[13:45] itsme Frederix: I guess most science has adoped that view already
[13:45] herman Bergson: That is a start Scope ^_^
[13:45] herman Bergson: Are you refering to Putnam's approach?
[13:46] Scope Cleaver: I am refering to a paper by Chalmers on the semantics of words in simulations
[13:46] herman Bergson: Yes Itsme....since Kuhn and Feyerabend I guess science has taken that view
[13:46] herman Bergson: Ah..ok....
[13:46] Scope Cleaver: chairs can still be refered successfully as chairs here
[13:47] itsme Frederix: Feyeraband also stated that it is the doing that counts not the motiv or explanation
[13:47] Scope Cleaver: even if they are made out of bit, I think ultimately the ontology of the world shouldn't that much impact on how we work with it, it's a different issue
[13:47] Scope Cleaver: The *structure* of it is what would matter, mostly for science if thats the topic... for a scientific program
[13:47] herman Bergson: Yes....for those who dont know Kuhn or Feyerabend....
[13:47] herman Bergson: In a nutshell.....
[13:48] Jangle McElroy: itsme, how does that affect reality for criminal intent, when no action completed / observed?
[13:48] Scope Cleaver: if you were a brain in a vat herman, your scientific method would still be valid is my point
[13:48] Vladimir Apparatchik: Yes scope - its mathematical structure. Mathematics is reality - the rest is just "simulation"
[13:48] herman Bergson: Those Philosophers of science said...we just stick to a theory/explanation of reality that works as long as it works
[13:48] Scope Cleaver: *nods*
[13:48] Scope Cleaver: I think there is a bit of whitehead in that as well
[13:48] herman Bergson: if we get too many anomalies we change the theory...regardless what "reality" might be
[13:49] Qwark Allen: yes hermaan
[13:49] Scope Cleaver: Agreed yes
[13:49] itsme Frederix: Jangle the enemy of good is ... ment to be good
[13:49] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:49] Jangle McElroy: Minority Report
[13:49] Scope Cleaver: You can derive truths even in an evil demon world... ㋡
[13:49] Scope Cleaver: inference is still a valid scientic tool I eman
[13:50] Thoth Jantzen: hmm.
[13:50] herman Bergson: Yes works....but still based on beliefs...called axioms
[13:50] Samuel Okelly: are we confusing “reality” with "personal perception of reality" i wonder
[13:50] Nikki Jolbey: isnt reality a personal perception?
[13:50] Scope Cleaver: I don't think you need beliefs, you can offset that in the world
[13:50] herman Bergson: HOLD ON...
[13:50] Rodney Handrick: I believe it is Nikki...
[13:50] Scope Cleaver: You can deal with probabilities just like they do in Quantum physics
[13:51] herman Bergson: The remark of Samuel needs to be answered..
[13:51] Jangle McElroy: Reality is only personally encountered, we can't experience it for others, only theorise their experience
[13:51] Thoth Jantzen: math is really just a language we use to describe reality, math being really little more than descriptions of relationships, etc.
[13:51] Scope Cleaver: Ultimately Samuel you can't guarantee that both are tied
[13:51] herman Bergson: THERE ARE SOME PRESENT THAT DIDNT READ THE RULES.....??? ^_^
[13:51] itsme Frederix: mmm ... so what makes the difference between 'a brain in a vat opinion" and a "human as we like to think about"
[13:51] Thoth Jantzen: (lag is bad so it's too hard to type much)
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:51] Rodney Handrick: hmm..I don't know about that Scope
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: shhhhhhh
[13:52] herman Bergson: Samuel said: are we confusing “reality” with "personal perception of reality" i wonder
[13:52] Cailleach Shan: Is there a difference?
[13:52] Jangle McElroy: Answered above, obviously not well :)
[13:52] herman Bergson: That is exactly what it is all about Samuel...
[13:52] Scope Cleaver: thats the Kantian problem right?
[13:53] herman Bergson: We tend to think of an external reality and that what goes on in our mind
[13:53] itsme Frederix: Should we grow from "personal percepttion of reallity' to shared perception?
[13:53] herman Bergson: And a lot of philosophers didnt get any further than the content of their mind....
[13:54] Vladimir Apparatchik: That's what science does - the shared perception
[13:54] itsme Frederix: thats what etics tries
[13:54] herman Bergson: And all who claimed to go beyond the mind, have to answer for that
[13:54] Jangle McElroy: Surely perception is never shared? At least within any great degree of accuracy ?
[13:54] herman Bergson: Science works by consensus....
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: sorryy to leave
[13:55] herman Bergson: and even that only among certain groups of scientists
[13:55] herman Bergson: dissidents arent appreciated always
[13:55] Jangle McElroy: Science works by repeatable truths perhaps? But the debate amongst scientists shows not consensus :)
[13:55] Thoth Jantzen: perceptions are not shared, but can be compared.
[13:55] Samuel Okelly: so we can conclude that all "knowledge" starts and ends with faith?
[13:55] Scope Cleaver: Not all science is consensus based though...
[13:56] Marya Blaisdale: faith?
[13:56] itsme Frederix: Still it is a little strange that we focus on the mind/thought a.s.o. - is it because we do not have that mote tools to deal with life?
[13:56] Jangle McElroy: Bye guys
[13:56] Thoth Jantzen: how about replacing 'faith' with 'supported belief'?
[13:56] Anne Charles: Thanks, Professor, must go, bye all
[13:56] Daruma Boa: bye anne
[13:57] Samuel Okelly: ill stick with "faith" ;-)
[13:57] Marya Blaisdale: supported belief is more accurate than faith
[13:57] herman Bergson: Yes Thoth.....but there sneaks in another thing....
[13:57] Thoth Jantzen: faith is something unsupported by evidence or logic.
[13:57] Vladimir Apparatchik: Scientific Theories eg Relativity are shared "preceptions" - agreed frameworks
[13:57] herman Bergson: what does that supporting mean?
[13:57] Samuel Okelly: saying that marya makes an assumption that "faith" is not supported
[13:58] Jangle McElroy: It is largely through the ability to replicate the finding / experience, that reality is established in science. Not consensus.
[13:58] Thoth Jantzen: supported belief is based on observational evidence and logical resaoning.
[13:58] Vladimir Apparatchik: I like that Marya - supported belief
[13:58] herman Bergson: OK.....
[13:58] Samuel Okelly: the same can be said about faith thoth
[13:58] herman Bergson: I think that we have reached a point that points to the next lecture.
[13:59] Marya Blaisdale: that is what faith is, by definition, Sam
[13:59] Thoth Jantzen: there is a 'good chance' this is 'true'. of course we cannot 'know' with certainty in this world...
[13:59] herman Bergson: you already suggest answers to the sceptic argument..
[13:59] Thoth Jantzen: ...but we can achieve pretty high probabilities that something is true.
[13:59] Marya Blaisdale: Faith = Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence
[13:59] Jangle McElroy: Reality is faith?
[13:59] Samuel Okelly: i disagree marya
[13:59] Marya Blaisdale: then you disagree with the dictionary there, Samuel
[13:59] Thoth Jantzen: on what grounds, sam?
[13:59] Vladimir Apparatchik: Or some things are "truer" eg Einstein is truer than Newton
[14:00] Cailleach Shan: There could be a whole lecture of 'one's' understanding of Faith!
[14:00] Thoth Jantzen: Newton is truer than King James
[14:00] Thoth Jantzen: ;o)
[14:00] itsme Frederix: Vla read Feyerabend about that .
[14:00] Jangle McElroy: But Einstein never had to see the things he proved through logical deduction.
[14:00] Ze Novikov: ty Herman... see you all next week....
[14:00] Jangle McElroy: Bye Ze
[14:00] Rodney Handrick: Bye Ze
[14:00] herman Bergson: OK.....Ze :-)
[14:01] Thoth Jantzen: there were many other ways those things coule be seen, jangle.
[14:01] Vladimir Apparatchik: Never taken to Feyerabend - anything doesn't go in my view
[14:01] Samuel Okelly: fides et ratio
[14:01] herman Bergson: Time to put an end to our discussion...
[14:01] Thoth Jantzen: e.g. the M-M experiment, etc.
[14:01] Daruma Boa: thank u herman
[14:01] herman Bergson: We dont need to solve the problem here and now ^_^
[14:01] Jangle McElroy: That's philophy all over :)
[14:01] itsme Frederix: or ever
[14:01] Samuel Okelly: thanks again herman :)
[14:02] Rodney Handrick: thanks Herman
[14:02] Samuel Okelly: cheerio every1 :)
[14:02] Nikki Jolbey: thank you herman : )
[14:02] herman Bergson: My were a good class today ^_^
[14:02] Scope Cleaver: thanks herman ㋡
[14:02] Yakuzza Lethecus: thx!
[14:02] Thoth Jantzen: you only had to use caps a couple of times. ;o)
[14:02] hope63 Shepherd: rather well behaved he meant..:9
[14:02] Vladimir Apparatchik: Thanks Herman - that was better than the chapter in the Philosophy Gym
[14:02] Cailleach Shan: Thanks Herman... I see the quality hasn't diminished while I was away.
[14:02] Jangle McElroy: Have a break until next week as a reward Herman
[14:02] itsme Frederix: Nice issues - a lot as been said as usuall) THX all
[14:02] herman Bergson me smiles
[14:03] herman Bergson: Yes Vladimir..:-)
[14:03] herman Bergson: The chapter in the book is a bit biased and even unclear to some extend
[14:04] Daruma Boa: see tomorrow or next week;-) bye
[14:04] herman Bergson: Bye Daruma :-)
[14:04] Marya Blaisdale: How was it one sided, Herman?
[14:04] Jangle McElroy: Bye Daruma
[14:04] herman Bergson: CLASS DISMISSED...^_^
[14:04] herman Bergson: And Thank you all
[14:04] Nikki Jolbey: Thank you
Posted by herman_bergson on 2009-05-08 03:14:45

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