The term “virtual reality” was first coined by Antonin Artaud to describe a value-adding characteristic of certain types of theatrical performances. The expression has more recently come to refer to a broad range of incipient digital technologies that many current philosophers regard as a serious threat to human autonomy and well-being. Their concerns, which are formulated most succinctly in “brain in a vat”-type thought experiments and in Robert Nozick's famous “experience machine” argument, reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the way that (...) such technologies would probably have to work. They also considerably underestimate the positive contributions that virtual reality technologies could make to the growth of human knowledge. Here, we examine and critique Nozick's claim that no reasonable person would want to plug into his hypothetical experience machine in light of a broadly enactivist understanding of how future VR technologies might be expected to function. We then sketch out a tentative theory of the phenomenon of truth in fiction, in order to characterize some of the distinct epistemic opportunities that VR technologies promise to provide. (shrink)
How can _Wii Sports_ teach us about metaphysics? Can playing _World of Warcraft_ lead to greater self-consciousness? How can we learn about aesthetics, ethics and divine attributes from _Zork_, _Grand Theft Auto_, and _Civilization_? A variety of increasingly sophisticated video games are rapidly overtaking books, films, and television as America's most popular form of media entertainment. It is estimated that by 2011 over 30 percent of US households will own a Wii console - about the same percentage that owned a (...) television in 1953. In _Philosophy Through Video Games, _Jon Cogburn and Mark Silcox - philosophers with game industry experience - investigate the aesthetic appeal of video games, their effect on our morals, the insights they give us into our understanding of perceptual knowledge, personal identity, artificial intelligence, and the very meaning of life itself, arguing that video games are popular precisely because they engage with longstanding philosophical problems. Topics covered include: * The Problem of the External World * Dualism and Personal Identity * Artificial and Human Intelligence in the Philosophy of Mind * The Idea of Interactive Art * The Moral Effects of Video Games * Games and God's Goodness Games discussed include: _Madden Football_, _Wii Sports_, _Guitar Hero_, _World of Warcraft_, _Sims Online_, _Second Life_, _Baldur's Gate_, _Knights of the Old Republic_, _Elder Scrolls_, _Zork_, _EverQuest_ _Doom_, _Halo 2_, _Grand Theft Auto_, _Civilization_, _Mortal Kombat_, _Rome: Total War_, _Black and White_, _Aidyn Chronicles_. (shrink)
Philosophers from Plato and Augustine to Heidegger, Nozick, and Baudrillard have warned us of the dangers of living on too heavy a diet of illusion and make-believe. But contemporary cultural life provides broader, more attractive opportunities to do so than have existed at any other point in history. The gentle forms of self-deceit that such experiences require of us, and that so many have regarded as ethically unwholesome or psychologically self-destructive, can in fact serve as vital means to political reconciliation, (...) cultural enrichment, and even (a kind of) utopia. -/- The first half of the book provides a highly schematic definition of simulated experience and compares it with some claims about the nature of simulation made by other philosophers about what it is for one thing to be a simulation of another. The author then provides a critical survey of the views of some major authors about the value of certain specific types of simulated experience, mainly in order to point out the many puzzling inconsistencies and ambiguities that their thoughts upon the topic often exhibit. In the second half of the book, the author defends an account of the positive social value of simulated experience and compares his own position to the ideas of a number of utopian political thinkers, as well as to Plato's famous doctrine of the "noble lie." He then makes some tentative practical suggestions about how a proper appreciation of the value of simulated experience might influence public policy decisions about such matters as the justification of taxation, paternalistic "choice management," and governmental transparency. (shrink)
In “The Virtual and the Real,” David Chalmers argues that there is an epistemic and ontological parity between VR and ordinary reality. My argument here is that, whatever the plausibility of these claims, they provide no basis for supposing that there is a similar parity of value. Careful reflection upon certain aspects of the transition that individuals make from interacting with real-world, physical environments to interacting with VR provides a basis for thinking that, to the extent that there are good (...) reasons to deny the reality of virtual objects, there are also reasons to place a correspondingly higher value upon the experience of interacting with a VR environment. Chalmers’ assumption to the contrary arises from a subtle misrepresentation of how the phenomenon of cognitive penetration works in the perception of virtual objects, and from an unwillingness to acknowledge how our attitudes toward virtual environments are conditioned by the values we adopt when engaged in gameplay. (shrink)
Thomas Nagel has proposed that the existence of moral luck mandates a general attitude of skepticism in ethics. One popular way of arguing against Nagel’s claim is to insist that the phenomenon of moral luck itself is an illusion , in the sense that situations in which it seems to occur may be plausibly re-described so as to show that agents need not be held responsible for the unlucky outcomes of their actions. Here I argue that this strategy for explaining (...) away moral luck fails because it does not take account of the fact that agents in morally unlucky circumstances are uniformly subject to a very specific type of epistemic obligation. I then proceed to sketch out an alternative strategy for blocking the inference to skepticism, one that makes use of the distinctive explanatory resources provided by epistemic virtue theory. Key Words: moral luck • moral skepticism • Thomas Nagel • virtue epistemology • Linda Zagzebski. (shrink)
In his classic work Anarchy, State and Utopia, Robert Nozick asked his readers to imagine being permanently plugged into a 'machine that would give you any experience you desired'. The authors in this volume re-evaluate the merits of Nozick’s argument, and use it to examine subsequent developments in culture and technology.
We build on some of Daniel Dennett’s ideas about predictive indispensability to characterize properties of video games discernable by people as computationally emergent if, and only if: (1) they can be instantiated by a computing machine, and (2) there is no algorithm for detecting instantiations of them. We then use this conception of emergence to provide support to the aesthetic ideas of Stanley Fish and to illuminate some aspects of the Chomskyan program in cognitive science.
In Anarchy, State and Utopia Robert Nozick criticizes a broad range of theories of distributive justice using a thought experiment that involves the financial incentives for playing basketball. In this paper, I defend the so-called “patterning” conceptions of justice that are the targets of Nozick’s “Wilt Chamberlain” argument, via the development of an extended analogy between the distribution of politically relevant resources and the playing of games, as this latter activity is characterized by Bernard Suits in his influential book on (...) the subject, The Grasshopper. I argue that the plausibility of this analogy makes possible a more decisive refutation of Nozick’s argument than those suggested by Thomas Nagel and G.A. Cohen. I also briefly speculate about the implications of my game analogy for how philosophers should think about particular types of economic utopianism, especially those that involve conjectures about what human life would be like in a post-scarcity environment. (shrink)
Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy presents twenty-one chapters by different writers, all D&D aficionados but with starkly different insights and points of view. The book is divided into three parts. The first, "Heroic Tier: The Ethical Dungeon-Crawler," explores what D&D has to teach us about ethics. Part II, "Paragon Tier: Planes of Existence," arouses a new sense of wonder about both the real world and the collaborative world game players create. The third part, "Epic Tier: Leveling Up," is at the (...) crossroads of philosophy and the exciting new field of Game Studies. (shrink)
In the 1980s, there was a significant upsurge in diagnoses of Dissociative Identity Disorder. Ian Hacking suggests that the roots of this tendency lie in the excessive willingness of psychologists past and present to engage in the “psychologization of trauma.” I argue that Hacking makes some philosophically problematic assumptions about the putative threat to human autonomy that is posed by the increasing availability, attractiveness, and plausibility of various forms of simulated experience. I also suggest how a different set of axiological (...) and historical assumptions might have led to a less dismissive and possibly more plausible account of this diagnostic trend. (shrink)
Anomalous Monism is a type of property dualism in the philosophy of mind. Property dualism combines the thesis that mental phenomena are strictly irreducible to physical phenomena with the denial that mind and body are discrete substances. For the anomalous monist, the plausibility of property dualism derives from the fact that although mental states, events and processes have genuine causal powers, the causal relationships that they enter into with physical entities cannot be explained by appeal to fundamental laws of nature. (...) This doctrine about the relationship between mind and body was first explicitly defended by Donald Davidson in his paper “Mental Events,” though its root in the Western philosophical tradition go back at least as far as Spinoza. It was a topic of energetic debate and disagreement among English-speaking philosophers for the last thirty years of the twentieth century. (shrink)
It is often helpful in metaphysics to reflect upon the principles that govern how existence claims are made in logic and mathematics. Consider, for example, the different ways in which mathematicians construct inductive definitions. In order to provide an inductive definition of a class of mathematical entities, one must first define a base class and then stipulate further conditions for inclusion by reference to the properties of members of the base class. These conditions can be deflationary, so that the target (...) class is a subclass of the base class, or inflationary, so that the base class is an important subclass of the target class. For example, in defining the set of well-formed sentences of first order logic, one can begin with the set of all possible strings and, in a deflationary manner, exclude the nonsentences. Or one can begin with the set of atomic formulae, and in an inflationary manner, build more complicated sentences out of the atomic formulae. (shrink)
About halfway through the twentieth century, it became a fairly common practice amongst philosophers and psychologists to speculate about the procedures whereby human beings might come to understand one another's speech in what have come to be known as the circumstances of "radical interpretation." Writers belonging to this tradition shared a common curiosity about how understanding of a human language might be achieved by an investigator to whom that language was more or less totally unfamiliar. Philosophers such as W. V. (...) O. Quine, Donald Davidson, John McDowell and Christopher Peacocke have made use of speculations about this sort of situation to argue for the existence of a general "rationality constraint" upon the methods of linguistic interpretation. According to these authors, an agent is not to be counted as the speaker of a genuinely meaningful, interpretable human language unless that agent may also be taken to be capable of exhibiting at least some minimal level of rationality in his thought and in his actions. ;Over the course of the dissertation I provide a detailed investigation of the notion of "rationality" as it is used by philosophers in this tradition. I divide philosophers who have written on the epistemology of radical interpretation into two schools of thought, distinguishable on the basis of their reliance upon either empiricist or rationalistic presuppositions about how knowledge is acquired in the human sciences. I then proceed to catalogue the shortcomings of each of these two quite different approaches to interpretational methodology, in something like the spirit of Kant's Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphysics. The principal positive conclusion that I arrive at as the result of these inquiries is that the only way of avoiding outright skepticism in our understanding of the methods whereby linguistic understanding is achieved by the so-called 'radical' interpreter is to adopt a distinctively Peircean notion of rationality. According to this notion, the truly rational agent is one whose methods of inquiry approximate those of an individual who is in possession of complete information about the natural world. (shrink)
Many writers who have discussed the Singularity have treated it not only as the inevitable outcome of advancements in cybernetic technology, but also as natural consequence of broader patterns in the development of human knowledge, or of human history itself. In this paper I examine these claims in light of Karl Popper’s famous philosophical critique of historicism. I argue that, because the Singularity is regarded as both a product of human ingenuity and a reflection of the permanent limitations of our (...) rational capacities, speculation about its likelihood occupies an interesting border zone between what Popper referred to as “technological prediction” and what he lambasted as “prophecy.” I go on to examine representations of a post-singularity world in the novels of Iain M. Banks, as well as in Bruce Sterling’s short story “The Beautiful and the Sublime.” These narratives demonstrate how trying to imagine what human life might be like in the presence of intellectually superior AIs requires a more aggressively skeptical attitude toward the human capacity to understand our own history than even Popper was prepared to allow for. (shrink)
Around the middle of the twentieth century, psychologists rediscovered the value of make-believe. Beginning in the 1940s and 1950s, there was a sudden and considerable outpouring of books that explored the pedagogical and therapeutic significance of imaginative play. Numerous experimental studies published since then have emphasized the importance of games of make-believe in the cognitive development and successful socialization of the very young.1 And increased attention to the use of mental imagery and fantasy in various forms of psychotherapy over the (...) past half century has led many students of human nature to an increased awareness of what Dorothy and Jerome Singer refer to (in their monumental study The House .. (shrink)
I examine the “omniscient interpreter” (OI) argument against scepticism that Donald Davidson published in 1977 only to retract it twenty-two years later. I argue that the argument's persuasiveness has been underestimated. I defend it against the charges that Davidson assumes the actual existence of an OI and that Davidson's other philosophical commitments are incompatible with the very conceivability of an OI. The argument's surface implausibility derives from Davidson's suggestion that an OI would attribute beliefs using the same methods as a (...) fallible human interpreter. But this problem can be remedied via the adoption of an ambiguity theory of belief. (shrink)
Certain sorts of disputes about principles of distributive justice that have occupied a great deal of attention in recent political philosophy turn out to be fundamentally unresolvable, when they are conducted in ignorance of whether an important subclass of basic social goods exists within any particular society. I employ the folktale ‘Stone Soup’ to illustrate how such distributional goods might come into existence. Using the debate about John Rawls’s Difference Principle as an example, I argue that a proper appreciation for (...) the axiological status of these goods shows that disputes about principles (at least as these have been conducted within the Rawlsian tradition) should be relegated to a subsidiary status relative to other, more fundamental concerns about the ethics of economic distribution. (shrink)
For the properly “cultivated,” proclaimed Oscar Wilde in 1890, “beautiful things mean only Beauty.”1 The idea that artworks possess a discrete and autonomous type of value, by virtue of their capacity to provoke a distinctively aesthetic type of response, is most often associated with artists and critics belonging to the modernist tradition of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Certainly, many influential writers of the period who expressed more instrumentalist attitudes toward the value of their own work, such as (...) Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, have also without manifest perversity been classified as modernists. But latter-day, self-described defenders of modernism (e.g., Susan Sontag, Gabriel... (shrink)
“News! Oh! Yes, I always like news.” Throughout Emma, Jane Austen’s eponymous heroine repeatedly betrays her intense love of gossip. Other characters (notably, Miss Bates and Mr. Knightley) also indulge and rejoice in this style of conversation, as does the novel’s own narrator. In this chapter, the authors propose to examine the multifaceted and ambiguous role played by gossip in Emma, in light of the diverse opinions expressed by a number of critics and philosophers about the ethical and psychological significance (...) of this form of human discourse. They argue that Austen exhibits a fascinating, consistently ambivalent evaluative attitude toward the information-rich chitchat of her characters. She reveals a sensitivity to the moral dangers of gossip, as well as to what evolutionary psychologists have identified as its fundamental role in the regulation of human societies, and in the development of more indispensable forms of linguistic communication. (shrink)
criticism defend the idea that an individual reader's understanding of a text can be a factor in determining the meaning of what is written in that text, and hence must play a part in determining the very identity conditions of works of literary art. We examine some accounts that have been given of the type of readerly ‘competence’ that a reader must have in order for her responses to a text to play this sort of constitutive role. We argue that (...) the analogy drawn by Stanley Fish and Jonathan Culler between literary and linguistic competence is philosophically flawed and explanatorily unfruitful, and that a better way of understanding the notion of literary competence can be constructed by appeal to some limitation results in formal logic and computability theory. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “The World of Screen Creatures” by Bin Liu. Abstract: Bin Liu’s defense of phenomenalism via an elaborate and inventive thought experiment is contrasted with more traditional ways of defending that doctrine. A similar distinction in strategies can be drawn between different ways of arguing that we live in a virtual world. The comparison leads to a more general, metaphilosophical conclusion about how to argue for constructivist positions in metaphysics.
In his paper 'Moral Responsibility and Moral Luck,' Brian Rosebury argues that believers in moral luck ignore the fact that an agent's moral responsibilities often encompass certain epistemic obligations not usually recognized by commonsense morality. I have suggested in my article 'Virtue Epistemology and Moral Luck' that the plausibility of Rosebury's position depends upon a philosophically dubious account of the relation between first- and third-person perspectives on ethically significant events. Rosebury has defended himself against this charge in the present issue (...) of this Journal; here, I develop my criticism at greater length. (shrink)