Virtual Reality (VR) is a relatively recent topic in philosophy, with most work emerging from the 1990s onwards. Though there is no single accepted definition of VR, plausibly whatever definition we accept must include what we experience when using modern virtual reality devices - like the HTC Vive, Meta Quest, or Playstation VR - as paradigmatic instances.
Currently there are at least two major philosophical accounts of VR. The first, provided by David Chalmers (2017, 2019, 2022), maintains that VR is computer-generated, interactive, and immersive. The second, provided by Grant Tavinor (2021), construes virtualization as the process of instantiating an item’s structure and function in a novel or unfamiliar medium, and VR technology as a new medium that seeks to virtualize experience.
While VR is new, it is related to a number of traditional and recent philosophical topics. Traditional topics include skepticism, envattment, illusions and hallucinations, and what we value. More recent topics includes video games, digital artifacts, computer simulations, and the simulation hypothesis. This is reflected in the wide range of philosophical debates around VR. These include issues about the nature of VR and VR technology; knowledge, ethics, and politics in VR; perception, memory, and other psychological states in VR; the aesthetics of VR; and VR’s relation to other technologies, in particular video games, augmented reality, and the Metaverse.
For a central account of virtual reality with a comprehensive look at the topic’s connection to different issues in philosophy, see Chalmers 2022 . For another central account, focusing on the connection between VR, media, perception, and aesthetics, see Tavinor 2021.
For an overview of VR from different perspectives, see The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality edited by Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard. For some of the recent issues around VR, see Disputatio 11 (55).
For another central debate on the value of VR, see Cogburn & Silcox 2014 who respond to Nozick’s claims about value in the experience machine. For discussions that further develop this issue, see Brey 1999 and Ali 2023.
|Introductions||While not articles, both these books contain excellent introductory chapters and sections:
Chalmers, David John (2022). Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy. New York: W. W. Norton. (see
Tavinor, Grant (2021). The Aesthetics of Virtual Reality. New York: Routledge.For some helpful early papers that have been influential on current debates, see:
Brey, Philip (1999). The ethics of representation and action in virtual reality. Ethics and Information Technology 1 (1):5-14.Chalmers, David J. (2017). The Virtual and the Real. Disputatio 9 (46):309-352.
McDonnell, Neil&Wildman, Nathan (2019). Virtual Reality: Digital or Fictional? Disputatio 11 (55):371-397.
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