Are You a Brain-In-a-Vat? (Level of Logic: Level 1)



I begin my presentation of Hilary Putnam’s paper “Brains in a Vat” by sketching Putnam’s strategy in large, cartoonlike strokes. Like Bostrom’s paper, Putnam’s engages in a form of radical speculation, albeit in a different and more sophisticated way. The best way to bring out what is radical in Putnam’s program is to caricature it in a way that puts its radicalism into relief. Fundamentally, the radicalism of Putnam’s program is associated with his claim that philosophy can do a sort of work of that physics, or more generally any natural science, is incapable of doing. To insist on this point, Putnam has to uphold a distinction between logical and practical possibility—or something like that. I begin by emphasizing the way he does this.


Virtual Machine Counting Number Logical Possibility Afferent Nerve Ending Monkey Typing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Auerbach, Erich. Dante: Poet of the Secular World, trans. Ralph Manheim (Chicago: Chicago, 1961).Google Scholar
  2. Baird, Bryan Neal. Transcendental Arguments and the Call of Metaphysics, University of Georgia Dissertation (2003).Google Scholar
  3. Borel, Émile. Les Nombres Inaccessibles (Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1952).Google Scholar
  4. Borel, Émile. Valeurs pratique et philosophie des probabilités (Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1937).Google Scholar
  5. Bostrom, Nick. “The Simulation Argument: Some Explanations”, Analysis 69 (2009): 458–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brueckner, Anthony. “The Simulation Argument Again”, Analysis 68 (2008): 224–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Jones, David. The Anathemata: fragments of an attempted writing (New York: Viking, 1965).Google Scholar
  8. Nelson, Edward. “Warning Signs of a Possible Collapse of Contemporary Mathematics,” in Michael Heller and W. Hugh Woodin, eds., Infinity: New Research Frontiers (Cambridge: Cambridge, 2011), 76–85.Google Scholar
  9. Omnès, Roland. Understanding Quantum Mechanics (Princeton: Princeton, 1999).Google Scholar
  10. Putnam, Hilary. “Brains in a vat,” in Hilary Putnam, Reason, Truth and History (Cambridge: Cambridge, 1981), 1–21.Google Scholar
  11. Putnam, Hilary. “Models and Reality,” in Hilary Putnam, Realism and Reason: Philosophical Papers, Volume 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge, 1983), 1–25.Google Scholar
  12. Rubin, William, ed. Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1996).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AthensUSA

Personalised recommendations