On some recent attempts to deliver us from scepticism
Tim Oakley (La Trobe University)

May 24, 2017, 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Philosophy program, La Trobe University

GS-212 (George Singer Building, Level 2, Room GS-212)
La Trobe University Plenty Road & Kingsbury Drive
Melbourne 3086
Australia

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Abstract:  

How does one know one is not a brain in a vat, with all one's experiences being induced in one by stimulation from a powerful computer?  And if one does not know this is not one's situation, presumably one does not know any of the things we normally take ourselves to know, like "there is a computer in front of me now".  So, in crude form, runs the BIV (brain-in-vat) argument for scepticism about our knowledge of the external world.  

In this talk, I discuss and respond to some of the recent objections that have been made to the BIV argument, including (1) doubts about the metaphysical possibility of the situation described by a sceptical hypothesis; (2) the supposed inadmissibility of empirical evidence in connection with settling (1) above; and (3) The claim that one’s sensory experience (e.g. that one has one’s hand before one’s face) is sufficient to (defeasibly) justify a corresponding belief (one’s belief that one’s hand is before one’s face).  I will also review recent discussion of the contention that as an explanatory hypothesis, the BIV hypothesis is a less good explanation of our sensory experiences than the "real world" hypothesis. 

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