The brain in the vat and the question of metaphysical realism

This article indicates some ways in which the fantasy of the brain in the vat has been used in thought experiments to discuss important philosophical problems. The first has to do with scepticism about the external world. The second has to do with Hilary Putnam’s arguments for the indeterminacy of reference and his rejection of metaphysical realism. The third issue to which the brain in the vat is relevant has to do with the difference between broad and narrow content of beliefs and Putnam’s challenging assertion that reference is not ‘in the head’. Though there are brief suggestions for dealing with these problems and saving metaphysical realism, the main purpose is to indicate the relevance of the fantasy of the brain in the vat to discussion of these issues
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