David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Journal of Philosophy 83 (3):148-167 (1986)
In chapter 1 of Reason, Truth, and History, Hilary Putnam argues from some plausible assumptions about the nature of reference to the conclusion that it is not possible that all sentient creatures are brains in a vat. If this argument is successful, it seemingly refutes an updated form of Cartesian skepticism concerning knowledge of physical objects. In this paper, I will state what I take to be the most promising interpretation of Putnam's argument. My reconstructed argument differs from an argument strongly suggested by Putnam's text. I will show that the latter argument obviously does not work. The more promising argument which I reconstruct on behalf of Putnam raises some interesting questions about the relation between the contents of one's beliefs and one's environment and about how this relation affects the evaluation of anti-skeptical arguments. I conclude that my reconstructed argument ultimately fails as a response to Cartesian skepticism: the argument engenders a skepticism about knowledge of meaning, or propositional content, which undercuts its anti-skeptical force.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Andy Clark (2009). Spreading the Joy? Why the Machinery of Consciousness is (Probably) Still in the Head. Mind 118 (472):963-993.
Rory Madden (2013). Could a Brain in a Vat Self‐Refer? European Journal of Philosophy 21 (1):74-93.
Kevin Warwick (2010). Implications and Consequences of Robots with Biological Brains. Ethics and Information Technology 12 (3):223-234.
Anthony Brueckner (1992). Conceiving One's Envatment While Denying Metaphysical Realism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70 (4):469 – 474.
Thomas Tymoczko (1989). In Defense of Putnam's Brains. Philosophical Studies 57 (3):281--97.
Similar books and articles
John Greco (2007). External World Skepticism. Philosophy Compass 2 (4):625–649.
Olaf Müller (2001). Does Putnam's Argument Beg the Question Against the Skeptic? Bad News for Radical Skepticism. Erkenntnis 54 (3):299-320.
Xiaoqiang Han (2010). A Butterfly Dream in a Brain in a Vat. Philosophia 38 (1):157-167.
Henry Jackman (2001). Semantic Pragmatism and A Priori Knowledge. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (4):455 - 480.
Anthony Brueckner (1992). If I Am a Brain in a Vat, Then I Am Not a Brain in a Vat. Mind 101 (401):123-128.
Kirk Ludwig (1992). Brains in a Vat, Subjectivity, and the Causal Theory of Reference. Journal of Philosophical Research 17:313-345.
Mark Sprevak & Christina McLeish (2004). Magic, Semantics, and Putnam's Vat Brains. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 35 (2):227-236.
Marian David (1991). Neither Mentioning 'Brains in a Vat' nor Mentioning Brains in a Vat Will Prove That We Are Not Brains in a Vat. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 51 (4):891-896.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads272 ( #2,354 of 1,696,258 )
Recent downloads (6 months)53 ( #3,183 of 1,696,258 )
How can I increase my downloads?