FACTOID # 12: It's not the government they hate: Washington DC has the highest number of hate crimes per capita in the US.
 
 Home   Encyclopedia   Statistics   States A-Z   Flags   Maps   FAQ   About 
   
 
WHAT'S NEW
RELATED ARTICLES
People who viewed "Brain in a Vat" also viewed:
 

SEARCH ALL

FACTS & STATISTICS    Advanced view

Search encyclopedia, statistics and forums:

 

 

(* = Graphable)

 

 


Encyclopedia > Brain in a Vat

In philosophy, the brain in a vat is any of a variety of thought experiments intended to draw out certain features of our ideas of knowledge, reality, truth, mind, and meaning. It is drawn from the idea, common to many science fiction stories, that a mad scientist might remove a person's brain from the body, suspend it in a vat of life-sustaining liquid, and connect its neurons by wires to a supercomputer which would provide it with electrical impulses identical to those the brain normally receives. According to such stories, the computer would then be simulating a virtual reality (including appropriate responses to the brain's own output) and the person with the "disembodied" brain would continue to have perfectly normal conscious experiences without these being related to objects or events in the real world. Image File history File links Size of this preview: 563 × 599 pixel Image in higher resolution (819 × 872 pixel, file size: 134 KB, MIME type: image/png) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Brain in a... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 563 × 599 pixel Image in higher resolution (819 × 872 pixel, file size: 134 KB, MIME type: image/png) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Brain in a... The philosopher Socrates about to take poison hemlock as ordered by the court. ... In philosophy, physics, and other fields, a thought experiment (from the German Gedankenexperiment) is an attempt to solve a problem using the power of human imagination. ... Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... Caucasian, male, aging, crooked teeth, messy hair, lab coat, spectacles/goggles, dramatic posing, beaker with strange colored liquid — one popular stereotype of a mad scientist. ... Italic text // ahh addiing sum spiice iin hurr`` For other uses, see Brain (disambiguation). ... Neurons (also called nerve cells) are the primary cells of the nervous system. ... Virtual reality (VR) is a technology which allows a user to interact with a computer-simulated environment, be it a real or imagined one. ...


The simplest use of brain-in-a-vat scenarios is as an argument for philosophical skepticism and Solipsism. A simple version of this runs as follows: Since the brain in a vat gives and receives the exact same impulses as it would if it were in a skull, and since these are its only way of interacting with its environment, then it is not possible to tell, from the perspective of that brain, whether it is in a skull or a vat. Yet in the first case most of the person's beliefs may be true (if he believes, say, that he is walking down the street, or eating ice-cream); in the latter case they are false. Since, the argument says, you cannot know whether you are a brain in a vat, then you cannot know whether most of your beliefs might be completely false. Since, in principle, it is impossible to rule out your being a brain in a vat, you cannot have good grounds for believing any of the things you believe; you certainly cannot know them. Philosophical skepticism (UK spelling, scepticism) is both a philosophical school of thought and a method that crosses disciplines and cultures. ... Solipsism is the philosophical idea that My mind is the only thing that exists. Solipsism (Latin: solus, alone + ipse, self) is an epistemological or metaphysical position that knowledge of anything outside the mind is unjustified. ...


This argument is a contemporary version of the argument given by Descartes in Meditations on First Philosophy (which he eventually rejects) that he could not trust his perceptions on the grounds that an evil demon might, conceivably, be controlling his every experience. It is also more distantly related to Descartes' argument that he cannot trust his perceptions because he may be dreaming (Descartes's dream argument is preceded by Zhuangzi in "Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly".). In this latter argument the worry about active deception is removed. René Descartes (French IPA: ) (March 31, 1596 – February 11, 1650), also known as Renatus Cartesius (latinized form), was a highly influential French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and writer. ... Meditations on First Philosophy (subtitled In which the existence of God and the real distinction of mind and body, are demonstrated) is a philosophical treatise written by René Descartes first published in Latin in 1641. ... The Evil Daemon is the name of an argument in philosophy that attempts to prove that the only knowledge one may be certain to possess is knowledge of ones own existence. ... Zhuāngzǐ (pinyin), Chuang Tzŭ (Wade-Giles), Chuang Tsu, Zhuang Tze, or Chuang Tse (Traditional Chinese characters: 莊子; Simplified Chinese characters: 庄子, literally meaning Master Zhuang) was a famous philosopher in ancient China who lived around the 4th century BCE during the Warring States Period, corresponding to the Hundred Schools of Thought...

Contents

Philosophical responses

Such puzzles have been worked over in many variations by philosophers in recent decades. Some, including Barry Stroud, continue to insist that such puzzles constitute an unanswerable objection to any knowledge claims. Others have argued against them, most notably Hilary Putnam. In the first chapter of his Reason, Truth, and History Putnam claims that the thought experiment is inconsistent on the grounds that a brain in a vat could not have the sort of history and interaction with the world that would allow its thoughts or words to be about the vat that it is in. Hilary Whitehall Putnam (born July 31, 1926) is an American philosopher who has been a central figure in Western philosophy since the 1960s, especially in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science. ...


In other words, if a brain in a vat stated "I am a brain in a vat," it would always be stating a falsehood. If the brain making this statement lives in the "real" world, then it is not a brain in a vat. On the other hand, if the brain making this statement is really just a brain in the vat then by stating "I am a brain in a vat" what the brain is really stating is "I am what nerve stimuli have convinced me is a 'brain,' and I reside in an image that I have been convinced is called a 'vat'." That is, a brain in a vat would never be thinking about real brains or real vats, but rather about images sent into it that resemble real brains or real vats. This of course makes our definition of "real" even more muddled. This refutation of the vat theory is a consequence of his endorsement, at that time, of the causal theory of reference. Roughly, in this case: if you've never experienced the real world, then you can't have thoughts about it, whether to deny or affirm them. Putnam contends that by "brain" and "vat" the brain in a vat must be referring not to things in the "outside" world but to elements of its own "virtual world"; and it is clearly not a brain in a vat in that sense. Likewise, whatever we can mean by "brain" and "vat" must be such that we obviously are not brains in vats (the way to tell is to look in a mirror). // Overview A causal theory of reference is any of a family of views about how terms acquire specific referents. ...


Many writers, however, have found Putnam's proposed solution unsatisfying, as it appears, in this regard at least, to depend on a shaky theory of meaning: that we cannot meaningfully talk or think about the "external" world because we cannot experience it sounds like a version of the outmoded verification principle. Consider the following quote: "How can the fact that, in the case of the brains in a vat, the language is connected by the program with sensory inputs which do not intrinsically or extrinsically represent trees (or anything external) possibly bring it about that the whole system of representations, the language in use, does refer to or represent trees or any thing external?" Putnam here argues from the lack of sensory inputs representing (real world) trees to our inability to meaningfully think about trees. But it is not clear why the referents of our terms must be accessible to us in experience. One cannot, for example, have experience of other people's private states of consciousness; does this imply that one cannot meaningfully ascribe mental states to others? In the early twentieth century, the logical positivists put forth what came to be known as the verifiability theory of meaning. ...


Subsequent writers on the topic, especially among those who agree with Putnam's claim, have been particularly interested in the problems it presents for content: that is, how if at all can the brain's thoughts be about a person or place with whom it has never interacted and which perhaps does not exist.


References in popular culture

Note that these are all references to the "brain in a vat" thought experiment, as described above.


The use of similar ideas in movies is not infrequent, as in Vanilla Sky, and The Matrix (a clear reference to both Plato's Allegory of the Cave and the brain-in-a-vat theory, though in that case entire bodies were preserved, rather than just brains). Vanilla Sky is a 2001 film which has been variously characterized by published film critics as an odd mixture of science fiction, romance, and reality warp [2], part Beautiful People fantasy, part New Age investigation of the Great Beyond[3] a love story, a struggle for the soul, or an... The Matrix is a science fiction/action film written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski and starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano and Hugo Weaving. ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ...


The Tom the Dancing Bug comic strip by Ruben Bolling has a recurring Brain in a Beaker story, detailing the influence of minor events in the real world on the virtual inhabitants of a disembodied brain. Tom the Dancing Bug is a weekly comic strip by Ruben Bolling which presents critical commentary on modern life, current events, and conventional wisdom and cliches. ... This article is about the comic strip, the sequential art form as published in newspapers and on the Internet. ... Ruben Bolling is a pseudonym for Ken Fisher, a cartoonist, the author of Tom the Dancing Bug. ...


The cartoon series Codename: Kids Next Door features an episode in which Numbuh One is trapped in a body-vat a la The Matrix and is made to believe he is on a dream island. He breaks out by tapping his heels together, which in the "real world" activates his jet boots. The Codename: Kids Next Door logo. ... Nigel Uno, codenamed Numbuh 1 is a fictional character in Codename: Kids Next Door. ... The Matrix is a science fiction/action film written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski and starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano and Hugo Weaving. ...


The game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri involves the base facility "Bioenhancement Center", the construction of which, plays the quote: Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri (sometimes abbreviated to SMAC or Alpha Centauri) is a 4X turn-based strategic computer game created by Brian Reynolds and Sid Meier under the auspices of Firaxis Games in 1999. ...

"We are all aware that the senses can be deceived, the eyes fooled. But how can we be sure our senses are not being deceived at any particular time, or even all the time? Might I just be a brain in a tank somewhere, tricked all my life into believing in the events of this world by some insane computer? And does my life gain or lose meaning based on my reaction to such solipsism?" This is then ironically revealed to be the thought of an individual in a literal brain in a vat project and is followed by the statement "termination of specimen advised."

This vocal sample has been also included in the Prometheus track "O.K. Computer". Benjamin Vaughan has released music under many names of which most known would be his solo project Prometheus and his collobration with Simon Posford as Younger Brother. ...


In the film Dark Star by John Carpenter, a planet-destroyer bomb has repeatedly been activated and deactivated due to various malfunctions. Dolittle reasons with the bomb's computer, inducing it to question whether its activation signal was real, and Bomb #20 takes up the philosophy of Descartes (I think, therefore I am) and returns to the bomb bay "I must think on this further." Later, Pinback attempts to command the bomb to drop from the bomb bay and destroy the nearby planet (as per the mission) but Bomb #20 responds "You are false data." Reasoning that all stimuli Bomb #20 is experiencing is not true, the bomb assumes itself to be God, declares, "Let there be light", and explodes. This article or section contains a plot summary that is overly long. ... John Howard Carpenter (born January 16, 1948) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, film score composer and occasional actor. ... René Descartes (French IPA: ) (March 31, 1596 – February 11, 1650), also known as Renatus Cartesius (latinized form), was a highly influential French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and writer. ...


In a short story by Julio Cortazar titled "La noche boca arriba" ("The night, face-up"), the reader follows the story of a motorcyclist who has just been involved in an accident and a young native "Moteca" man who is fleeing his own sacrifice. The imagery parallels in the story lead us to question who is dreaming of whom. The reader initially believes that the motorcyclist is dreaming of an aztec boy following his traffic accident. In the end, it is revealed that the aztec boy has been dreaming of the motorcyclist in his state of fear and delusion. Julio Cortázar (August 26, 1914 - February 12, 1984) was an Argentine intellectual and author of several experimental novels and many short stories. ...


The computer game The Infinite Ocean by Jonas Kyratzes deals with a sentient computer that ponders the same issue. Here the question is rephrased to "how can you know whether you are a human being or just a sentient computer dreaming it is one?" The game A Mind Forever Voyaging by Steve Meretzky of Infocom involves a similar theme, but the sentient computer is informed of his/its nature a short time before the start of play. Jonas Kyratzes is a videogame designer, known for his two only videogames and many articles. ... A Mind Forever Voyaging (AMFV) is an interactive fiction game designed and implemented by Steve Meretzky and published by Infocom in 1985. ... Steve Meretzky Steven Eric Meretzky (born May 1, 1957) is an American computer game designer, with dozens of titles to his credit. ... Zork universe Zork games Zork Anthology Zork trilogy Zork I   Zork II   Zork III Beyond Zork   Zork Zero Enchanter trilogy Enchanter   Sorcerer   Spellbreaker Other games Wishbringer   Return to Zork Zork: Nemesis   Zork Grand Inquisitor Zork: The Undiscovered Underground Topics in Zork Encyclopedia Frobozzica Characters   Kings   Creatures Timeline   Magic   Calendar Zorkmid...


The idea of a person's brain or even more abstractly, consciousness, being removed from the body appears in some of Stanisław Lem's novels. A related topic, an artificial mind being fed artificial stimuli by its mad-scientist creator, also appears there. Stanisław Lem (1966). ...


The cartoon show Batman: The Animated Series featured an episode, Perchance to Dream, where Batman was incapacitated by the Mad Hatter, and connected to a machine that simulated reality based on existing brain functions (dreams). He realizes the situation, and to escape, throws himself out of a bell tower; the logic being that when dreaming of falling, one always wakes up before hitting the ground. The animated Batman shoots his grappling gun from a rooftop in a scene from the episode, On Leather Wings. ... Batman (originally referred to as the Bat-Man and still referred to at times as the Batman) is a DC Comics fictional superhero who first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. ...


The comic Green Lantern's Infinite Crisis crossover featured Green Lantern and Green Arrow being attached to the 'Black Mercy', a fictional symbiotic plant that creates an artificial 'perfect world' for the host, who will have no memory of his previous life. The 'Black Mercy' first appeared in Alan Moore's Superman story, For the Man Who Has Everything. For the DJ, see DJ Green Lantern. ... Infinite Crisis was a seven-issue limited series of comic books published by DC Comics, beginning in October of 2005. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this comics-related article or section may require cleanup. ... Alan Moore (born November 18, 1953, in Northampton) is an English writer most famous for his influential work in comics, including the acclaimed graphic novels Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell. ... Superman is a fictional character and comic book superhero , originally created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Canadian artist Joe Shuster and published by DC Comics. ... For the Man Who Has Everything is both a comic book story and an animated television episode. ...


See also

Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, a textbook example of an evil genius. ... ... A Neurally Controlled Animat is the conjunction of (1) a neural network cultivated on a multiple electrode array and (2) a virtual body, the Animat, living in a virtual computer generated environment, connected to this array. ... This article or section needs copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone and/or spelling. ... A skeptical hypothesis is a hypothetical situation that raises doubts about knowledge. ... Solipsism is the philosophical idea that My mind is the only thing that exists. Solipsism (Latin: solus, alone + ipse, self) is an epistemological or metaphysical position that knowledge of anything outside the mind is unjustified. ...

External links

Skeptical hypotheses
evil genius | Brain in a vat | Dream argument | 5 minute earth
Responses
Here is a hand | Semantic externalism | Process reliabilism | Closure | Contextualism | Relativism

 
 

COMMENTARY     


Share your thoughts, questions and commentary here
Your name
Your comments

Want to know more?
Search encyclopedia, statistics and forums:

 


Press Releases |  Feeds | Contact
The Wikipedia article included on this page is licensed under the GFDL.
Images may be subject to relevant owners' copyright.
All other elements are (c) copyright NationMaster.com 2003-5. All Rights Reserved.
Usage implies agreement with terms, 1022, m