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The Brain in a Vat


Part of Classic Philosophical Arguments

Sanford C. Goldberg, Tony Brueckner, Gary Ebbs, Sven Bernecker, Jesper Kallestrup, Duncan Pritchard, Chris Ranalli, Kelly Becker, Thomas Grundmann, Tim Button, Janet Folina, Igor Douven, Patricia Marino, Gila Sher, Tim Sundell
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  • Date Published: June 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107069671

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About the Authors
  • The scenario of the brain in a vat, first aired thirty-five years ago in Hilary Putnam's classic paper, has been deeply influential in philosophy of mind and language, epistemology, and metaphysics. This collection of new essays examines the scenario and its philosophical ramifications and applications, as well as the challenges which it has faced. The essays review historical applications of the brain-in-a-vat scenario and consider its impact on contemporary debates. They explore a diverse range of philosophical issues, from intentionality, external-world scepticism, and the nature of truth, to the extended mind hypothesis, reference magnetism, and new versions of realism. The volume will be a rich and valuable resource for advanced students in metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind and language, as well as anyone interested in the relations between language, thought and the world.

    • Explores the impact of recent developments in epistemology, metaphysics and philosophy of mind and language on the brain-in-a-vat debate
    • Relevant to students of a broad range of philosophical disciplines
    • Structured in three parts according to philosophical discipline: philosophy of mind and language, epistemology and metaphysics
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This important new book brings Putnam's famous brain-in-a-vat argument bang up to date. Cutting edge papers by some of today's leading philosophers show how the argument provides a powerful lens through which to examine central topics such as semantic externalism, self-knowledge, the nature of justification, and metaphysical realism.' Åsa Wikforss, Stockholms Universitet

    'Hilary Putnam's thought experiments from the early '70s to the mid '80s provoked a flood of fascinating and first-rate philosophical discussions about the nature [of] meaning, thought, reference, truth, reality, skepticism, knowledge and relativism. With an impressive line-up of outstanding authors, Goldberg's The Brain in a Vat compiles, updates and significantly advances all of the central issues sparked by Putnam's brilliant thought experiments.' Peter J. Graham, University of California, Riverside

    'In sum, while its title may suggest a narrow focus, this book contains a remarkable amount of up-to-date material on a variety of live philosophical issues. And yet its starting point in Putnam's reflections on the [brain in a vat] scenario provides a unifying thread. The volume will be of interest to students getting familiarized with metaphysical realism, philosophical naturalism, semantic externalism, and radical scepticism, as well as experts in these respective fields.' Cameron Boult, International Journal for the Study of Skepticism

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2016
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107069671
    • length: 280 pages
    • dimensions: 244 x 170 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.65kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: Putnam's reflections on the brain in a vat Sanford C. Goldberg
    Part I. Intentionality and the Philosophy of Mind and Language:
    2. Putnam on brains in a vat Tony Brueckner
    3. How to think about whether we are brains in vats Gary Ebbs
    4. Extended minds in vats Sven Bernecker
    5. Brains in vats, causal constraints on reference and semantic externalism Jesper Kallestrup
    Part II. Epistemology:
    6. Putnam on BIVs and radical skepticism Duncan Pritchard and Chris Ranalli
    7. BIVs, sensitivity, discrimination, and relevant alternatives Kelly Becker
    8. New lessons from old demons: the case for reliabilism Thomas Grundmann
    Part III. Metaphysics:
    9. Brains in vats and model theory Tim Button
    10. Realism, skepticism, and the brain in a vat Janet Folina
    11. Rethinking semantic naturalism Igor Douven
    12. Internal to what? Contemporary naturalism and Putnam's model-theoretic argument Patricia Marino
    13. The model-theoretic argument: from skepticism to a new understanding Gila Sher
    14. Eligibility and ideology in the vat Tim Sundell

  • Editor

    Sanford C. Goldberg, Northwestern University, Illinois
    Sanford C. Goldberg is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Northwestern University, Illinois, and Professorial Fellow in the Department of Philosophy and Eidyn Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the author of Anti-Individualism: Mind and Language, Knowledge and Justification (Cambridge, 2007), Relying on Others: An Essay in Epistemology (2010) and Assertion: A Philosophical Essay on Assertoric Speech (2015). He is also the editor of Internalism and Externalism in Semantics and Epistemology (2007) and Externalism, Self-Knowledge, and Skepticism: New Essays (Cambridge, forthcoming, 2015).


    Sanford C. Goldberg, Tony Brueckner, Gary Ebbs, Sven Bernecker, Jesper Kallestrup, Duncan Pritchard, Chris Ranalli, Kelly Becker, Thomas Grundmann, Tim Button, Janet Folina, Igor Douven, Patricia Marino, Gila Sher, Tim Sundell

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