Magic, semantics, and Putnam's vat brains

Mark Sprevak
University of Edinburgh
In this paper we offer an exegesis of Hilary Putnam’s classic argument against the brain-in-avat hypothesis offered in his Reason, truth and history (1981). In it, Putnam argues that we cannot be brains in a vat because the semantics of the situation make it incoherent for anyone to wonder whether they are a brain a vat. Putnam’s argument is that in order for ‘I am a brain in a vat’ to be true, the person uttering it would have to be able to refer successfully to those things: the vat, and the envatted brain. Putnam thinks that reference can’t be secured without relevant kinds of causal relations, which, if envatted, the brain would lack, and so, it fails to be able to meaningfully utter ‘I am a brain in a vat’. We consider the implications of Putnam’s arguments for the traditional sceptic. In conclusion, we discuss the role of Putnam’s arguments against the brain in a vat hypothesis in his larger defense of his own internal realism against metaphysical realism.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2004.03.007
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 35,475
External links

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.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Could a Brain in a Vat Self‐Refer?Rory Madden - 2013 - European Journal of Philosophy 21 (1):74-93.
Brains in a Vat.Anthony L. Brueckner - 1986 - Journal of Philosophy 83 (3):148-167.
Brains in a Vat, Subjectivity, and the Causal Theory of Reference.Kirk Ludwig - 1992 - Journal of Philosophical Research 17:313-345.


Added to PP index

Total downloads
139 ( #43,188 of 2,286,074 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #164,072 of 2,286,074 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature