What Brains-in-Vats Can Know
Chaired by Mike Martin
How Both You and the Brain in a Vat Can Know Whether or Not You Are Envatted
Epistemic externalism offers one of the most prominent responses to the sceptical challenge. Externalism has commonly been interpreted (not least by externalists themselves) as postulating a crucial asymmetry between the actual-world agent and their brain-in-a-vat (BIV) counterpart: while the actual agent is in a position to know she is not envatted, her BIV counter-part is not in a position to know that she is envatted, or in other words, only the former is in a position to know whether or not she is envatted. In this paper, I argue that there is in fact no such asymmetry: assuming epistemic externalism, both the actual world agent and their BIV counterpart are in a position to know whether or not they are envatted.
Ofra Magidor is Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at the University of Oxford. She completed a BSc in Mathematics, Philosophy, and Computer Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BPhil and DPhil in Philosophy at the University of Oxford. Prior to her current appointment she was Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow at Balliol College and the University of Oxford, and a Junior Research Fellow at Queen’s College, Oxford. Her research focuses on Metaphysics, Epistemology, Philosophy of Language, and Philosophical Logic.
‘This Is the Bad Case’: What Brains in Vats Can Know
This paper explores certain facets of Christine Korsgaard’s paper, ‘Prospects for a Naturalistic Explanation of the Good’ (2018). Korsgaard’s account requires that an animal be able to experience ‘herself trying to get or avoid something’. The claim that animals possess such self-awareness is regarded by many as problematic and, if this is correct, it would jeopardize Korsgaard’s account. This paper argues that animals can, in fact, be aware of themselves in the way required by Korsgaard’s account.
Aidan McGlynn is a lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, having previously worked at the Northern Institute of Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, and having studied at the University of St Andrews and the University of Texas at Austin. He recently completed a series of papers and a monograph on knowledge first approaches to epistemology and the philosophies of language and mind. Since then, he has been working on evidence, first-person thought and self-knowledge, epistemic entitlement, pornography, epistemic injustice, silencing, and objectification.
6–8 July 2018
Faculty of Philosophy
Radcliffe Observatory Quarter 555
Oxford OX2 6GG
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