Skip to main content
The Brain in a Vat
  • Export citation
  • Recommend to librarian
  • Recommend this book

    Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

    The Brain in a Vat
    • Online ISBN: 9781107706965
    • Book DOI:
    Please enter your name
    Please enter a valid email address
    Who would you like to send this to? *
  • Buy the print book

Book description

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.


'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

    • Aa
    • Aa
Refine List
Actions for selected content:
Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Send to Kindle
  • Send to Dropbox
  • Send to Google Drive
  • Send content to

    To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to .

    To send content to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

    Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

    Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

    Please be advised that item(s) you selected are not available.
    You are about to send:

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Theodora Achourioti , Henry Galinon , José Martinez-Fernández , and Kentaro Fujimoto (eds.) 2015. Unifying the Philosophy of Truth. Dordrecht: Springer.

D. Anderson 1993. “What is the Model-Theoretic Argument?Journal of Philosophy 90: 311–22.

Kent Bach 1985. “A Rationale for Reliabilism,” Monist 68: 246–63.

Kent Bach 1997. “Do Belief Reports report Beliefs?Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 78: 215–41.

D. Ball 2007. “Twin-Earth Externalism and Concept Possession,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85: 457–72.

Timothy Bays 2001. “On Putnam and His Models,” Journal of Philosophy 98:. 331–50.

Timothy Bays 2007. “More on Putnam's Models: A Reply to Bellotti,” Erkenntnis 67: 119–35.

Kelly Becker 2006. “Is Counterfactual Reliabilism Compatible with Higher-Level Knowledge?Dialectica 60: 79–84.

Kelly Becker and Tim Black (eds.) 2012: The Sensitivity Principle in Epistemology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Paul Benacerraf 1965. “What Numbers Could Not Be,” Philosophical Review 74: 47–73.

Paul Benacerraf 1973. “Mathematical Truth,” Journal of Philosophy 70: 661–79.

Sven Bernecker 1996. “Externalism and the Attitudinal Component of Self-Knowledge,” Noûs 30: 262–75.

Sven Bernecker 2000. “Knowing the World by Knowing One's Mind,” Synthese 123: 1–34.

Paul Boghossian 1989. “Content and Self-Knowledge,” Philosophical Topics 17: 5–26.

Paul Boghossian 1997. “What the Externalist Can Know A Priori,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 97: 161–75.

David Bourget and David Chalmers 2014. “What Do Philosophers Believe?Philosophical Studies, 170(3): 465–500.

Jessica Brown 1995. “The Incompatibility of Anti-Individualism and Privileged Access,” Analysis 55: 149–56.

Jessica Brown 2001. “Anti‐Individualism and Agnosticism,” Analysis 61: 213–24.

Anthony Brueckner 1986. “Brains in a Vat,” Journal of Philosophy 83: 148–67.

Anthony Brueckner 1992a. “If I Am a Brain in a Vat, Then I Am Not a Brain in a Vat,” Mind 101: 123–8.

Anthony Brueckner 1995. “Scepticism and the Causal Theory of Reference,” Philosophical Quarterly 45: 199–201.

Anthony Brueckner 2010. Essays on Skepticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Anthony Brueckner and Jon Altschul 2010. “Terms of Envatment,” in Anthony Brueckner , Essays on Skepticism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 174–6.

Tyler Burge 1979: “Individualism and the Mental,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4: 73–121.

Tyler Burge 1988. “Individualism and Self-Knowledge,” Journal of Philosophy 85: 649–63.

Tyler Burge 2010. Origins of Objectivity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Alexis Burgess and David Plunkett 2013. “Conceptual Ethics I,” Philosophy Compass 8: 1091–101.

Alexis Burgess and David Plunkett 2013. “Conceptual Ethics II,” Philosophy Compass 8: 1102–10.

John Burgess 2004. “Mathematics and Bleak House,” Philosophia Mathematica 12: 18–36.

Tim Button 2011. “The Metamathematics of Putnam's Model-Theoretic Arguments,” Erkenntnis 74: 321–49.

Tim Button 2013. The Limits of Realism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Andy Clark 2008. Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action and Cognitive Extension. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Andy Clark 2009. “Spreading the Joy? Why the Machinery of Consciousness is (Probably) Still in the Head,” Mind 118: 963–93.

Andy Clark and David Chalmers 1998. “The Extended Mind,” Analysis 58: 7–19.

Stewart Cohen 1984: “Justification and Truth,” Philosophical Studies 46: 279–95.

Marian David 1991. “Neither Mentioning ‘Brains in a Vat’ nor Mentioning Brains in a Vat Will Prove that We Are Not Brains in a Vat,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 51: 891–6.

Donald Davidson 1996. “The Folly of Trying to Define Truth,” Journal of Philosophy 93: 263–78.

Donald Davidson 2001. “Knowing One's Own Mind,” in Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 15–38.

David Davies 1995. “Putnam's Brain Teaser,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 25: 203–28.

David Davies 1997. “Why One Shouldn't Make an Example of a Brain in a Vat,” Analysis 57: 51–9.

Keith DeRose 2000. “How Can We Know That We're Not Brains in Vats?Southern Journal of Philosophy 38: 121–48.

Michael Devitt 1983. “Realism and the Renegade Putnam,” Noûs 17: 291–301.

Igor Douven 1999a. “Putnam's Model-Theoretic Argument Reconstructed,” Journal of Philosophy 96: 479–90.

Igor Douven 1999b. “A Note on Global Descriptivism and Putnam's Model-Theoretic Argument,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 77: 342–8.

Igor Douven , Leon Horsten , and Jan-Willem Romeijn 2010. “Probabilist Antirealism,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91: 38–63.

Fred Dretske 1970. “Epistemic Operators,” Journal of Philosophy 67: 1007–23.

Fred Dretske 1971. “Conclusive Reasons,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 49(1): 1–22.

Gary Ebbs 1992a. “Realism and Rational Inquiry,” Philosophical Topics 20: 1–34.

Gary Ebbs 1996. “Can We Take Our Words at Face Value?Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 56: 499–530.

Iris Einheuser 2010. “The Model-Theoretic Argument against Quantifying over Everything,” Dialectica 64: 237–46.

Mylan Engel 1992. “Personal and Doxastic Justification in Epistemology,” Philosophical Studies 67: 133–50.

Kevin Falvey and John Owens 1994. “Externalism, Self-Knowledge, and Skepticism,” Philosophical Review 103: 107–37.

Richard Feldman and Earl Conee 2004. Evidentialism: Essays in Epistemology. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hartry Field 1994a. “Deflationist Views of Meaning and Content,” Mind 103: 249–85.

Hartry Field 1994b. “Are Our Logical and Mathematical Concepts Highly Indeterminate?Midwest Studies in Philosophy 19: 391–429.

Hartry Field 2008. Saving Truth from Paradox. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Martin Fischer 2008. Davidsons semantisches Programm und deflationäre Wahrheitskonzeptionen. Frankfurt am Main: Ontos Verlag.

Richard Foley 1985: “What's Wrong with Reliabilism,” The Monist 68: 188–201.

Graeme Forbes 1995. “Realism and Skepticism: Brains in a Vat Revisited,” Journal of Philosophy 92: 205–22.

Ronald Giere 1988. Explaining Science. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Clark Glymour 1982. “Conceptual Scheming, or Confessions of a Metaphysical Realist,” Synthese 51: 169–80.

Sanford Goldberg 2006a. “Brown on Self-Knowledge and Discriminability,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87: 301–14.

Alvin Goldman 1976. “Discrimination and Perceptual Knowledge,” Journal of Philosophy 73: 771–91.

Thomas Grundmann 2010. “Some Hope for Intuitions: A Reply to Weinberg,” Philosophical Psychology 23: 481–509.

Adrian Haddock and Fiona Macpherson (eds.) 2008. Disjunctivism: Perception, Action, Knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Voker Halbach 2011. Axiomatic Theories of Truth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Robert Hanna 2011. “Minding the Body,” Philosophical Topics 39: 15–40.

Terry Horgan and Uriah Kriegel 2008. “Phenomenal Intentionality Meets the Extended Mind,” Monist 91: 347–73.

Leon Horsten 2011. The Tarskian Turn. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Frank Jackson 2003. “Narrow Content and Representation – Or Twin Earth Revisited,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 77: 55–70.

Joseph Keim-Campbell , Michael O'Rourke , and Harry Silverstein (eds.) 2010. Knowledge and Skepticism. Topics in Contemporary Philosophy 5. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Virginia Klenk 1976. “Intended Models and the Löwenheim–Skolem Theorem,” Journal of Philosophical Logic 5: 475–89.

Dan Korman 2006. “What Externalists Should Say About Dry Earth,” Journal of Philosophy 103: 503–20.

Hilary Kornblith 2002. Knowledge and Its Place in Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Saul Kripke 2011. “Nozick on Knowledge,” Philosophical Troubles: Collected Papers I. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 162–224.

Frederick Kroon 1987. “Causal Descriptivism,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 65: 1–17.

Ronald Langacker 2008. Cognitive Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stephen Leeds 2007. “Correspondence Truth and Scientific Realism,” Synthese 159: 1–21.

David Lewis 1979. “Attitudes De Dicto and De Se,” Philosophical Review 88: 513–43.

David Lewis 1983a. Philosophical Papers, Vol. I. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

David Lewis 1983b. “New Work for a Theory of Universals,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61: 343–77.

David Lewis 1984. “Putnam's Paradox,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62: 221–36.

Peter Ludlow 1995. “Externalism, Self-Knowledge, and the Prevalence of Slow-Switching,” Analysis 55 (1): 45–9.

Kirk Ludwig 1992. “Brains in a Vat, Subjectivity, and the Causal Theory of Reference,” Journal of Philosophical Research 17: 313–45.

Jack Lyons 2013. “Should Reliabilists be Worried about Demon Worlds?Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 86: 1–40.

Penelope Maddy 2005. “Mathematical Existence,” The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 11: 351–76.

Penelope Maddy 2007. Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Penelope Maddy 2011a. Defending the Axioms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Avishai Margalit (ed.) 1979. Meaning and Use. Dordrecht: Springer.

Patricia Marino 2006. “What Should a Correspondence Theory Be and Do?Philosophical Studies 127: 415–57.

Michael McKinsey 1991. “Anti-Individualism and Privileged Access,” Analysis 51: 9–16.

Brian McLaughlin and Michael Tye 1998b. “Is Content-Externalism Compatible with Privileged Access?Philosophical Review 107: 349–80.

Richard Menary 2007. Cognitive Integration: Mind and Cognition Unbounded. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Richard Menary (ed.) 2010. The Extended Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Nikolaj Pedersen and Cory Wright (eds.) 2013. Truth and Pluralism: Current Debates. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Niki Pfeifer and Igor Douven 2014. “Formal Epistemology and the New Paradigm Psychology of Reasoning,” Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5: 199–221.

Duncan Pritchard 2002a. “McKinsey Paradoxes, Radical Scepticism, and the Transmission of Knowledge across Known Entailments,” Synthese 130: 279–302.

Duncan Pritchard 2002c. “Resurrecting the Moorean Response to the Sceptic,” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 10: 283–307.

Duncan Pritchard 2005. Epistemic Luck. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Duncan Pritchard 2012. Epistemological Disjunctivism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Duncan Pritchard and Chris Ranalli 2013. “Rorty, Williams and Davidson: Skepticism and Metaepistemology,” Humanities 2: 351–68.

Jim Pryor 2000. “The Sceptic and the Dogmatist,” Nous 34: 517–49.

Hilary Putnam 1975. “The Meaning of ‘Meaning,’” in Hilary Putnam (1979), Mind, Language, and Reality: Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 215–71.

Hilary Putnam 1977. “Realism and Reason,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 50: 483–98.

Hilary Putnam 1980. “Models and Reality,” Journal of Symbolic Logic 45: 464–82.

Hilary Putnam 1981a. Reason, Truth, and History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hilary Putnam 1982. “Reply to Two Realists,” Journal of Philosophy 79: 575–7.

Hilary Putnam 1983a. Realism and Reason: Philosophical Papers, Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hilary Putnam 1992. “Replies,” Philosophical Topics 20: 347–408.

Hilary Putnam 1993. “Realism Without Absolutes,” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 1: 179–92.

Nathan Salmon 1979. “How Not to Derive Essentialism from the Theory of Reference,” Journal of Philosophy 76: 703–25.

Sarah Sawyer 1999. “An Externalist Account of Introspective Knowledge,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 80: 358–78.

Sarah Sawyer 2001. “The Epistemic Divide,” Southern Journal of Philosophy 39: 385–401.

Richard Schantz (ed.) 2004. The Externalist Challenge. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Gila Sher 2004. “In Search of a Substantive Theory of Truth,” Journal of Philosophy 101: 5–36.

Gila Sher 2010. “Epistemic Friction: Reflections on Knowledge, Truth, and Logic,” Erkenntnis 72: 151–76.

Gila Sher 2013a. “The Foundational Problem of Logic,” The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 19: 145–98.

Gila Sher and Richard Tieszen (eds.) 2000. Between Logic and Intuition: Essays in Honor of Charles Parsons. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Theodore Sider 2011. Writing the Book of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

J. J. C. Smart 1995. “A Form of Metaphysical Realism,” Philosophical Quarterly 45: 301–15.

Joel Smith and Peter Sullivan (eds.) 2011. Transcendental Philosophy and Naturalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Peter Smith 1984. “Could We Be Brains in a Vat?Canadian Journal of Philosophy 14: 115–23.

Ernest Sosa 1993. “Putnam's Pragmatic Realism,” Journal of Philosophy 90: 605–26.

Ernest Sosa 2007a. A Virtue Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Robert Stalnaker 1989. “On What's in the Head,” Philosophical Perspectives 3: 287–319.

Yuval Steinitz 1994. “Brains in a Vat: Different Perspectives,” Philosophical Quarterly 44: 213–22.

John Stewart , Oliver Gapenne , and Ezikiel Di Paolo (eds.) 2010. Enaction: Towards a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Barry Stroud 1968. “Transcendental Arguments,” Journal of Philosophy 65: 241–56.

Barry Stroud 1984. The Significance of Philosophical Skepticism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Evan Thompson and Mog Stapleton 2009. “Making Sense of Sense-Making: Reflections on Enactive and Extended Mind Theories,” Topoi 28: 23–30.

Pavel Tichý 1986. “Putnam on Brains in a Vat,” Philosophia 16: 137–46.

Deborah Tollefsen 2006. “From Extended Mind to Collective Mind,” Cognitive Systems Research 7: 140–50.

Tom Tymoczko 1989a. “In Defense of Putnam's Brains,” Philosophical Studies 57: 281–97.

Bas van Fraassen . 1989. Laws and Symmetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jonathan Vogel 2000. “Reliabilism Leveled,” Journal of Philosophy 97: 602–23.

Ted Warfield 1992. “Privileged Self-Knowledge and Externalism are Compatible,” Analysis, 52: 232–7.

Ted Warfield 1995. “Knowing the World and Knowing Our Own Minds,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 55: 525–45.

Brian Weatherson 2003. “What Good Are Counterexamples?Philosophical Studies 115: 1–31.

Brian Weatherson 2008. “Deontology and Descartes’ Demon,” Journal of Philosophy 105: 540–69.

Jonathan Weinberg , Shaun Nichols , and Stephen Stich 2001. “Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions,” Philosophical Topics 29: 429–60.

J. Robert Williams 2007. “Eligibility and Inscrutability,” Philosophical Review 116: 361–99.

Mark Wilson 2006. Wandering Significance: An Essay on Conceptual Behavior. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cory Wright and Nikolaj Pedersen (eds.) 2010. New Waves in Philosophy: Truth. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Crispin Wright 1992. “On Putnam's Proof that We Are Not Brains in a Vat,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 92: 67–94.

José Zalabardo 2009. “How I Know I'm Not a Brain in a Vat,” Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 64: 65–88.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 304 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 142 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 30th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.