The Owner and I have been watching a Film in which all the People are Enslaved in Vats. What did you think? Asked the Owner. Is it not an Excellent Philosophical Conundrum?
I feel it is Completely Silly, I say. And I did not like the Plugs in their Heads.
The Plugs were just Special Effects, says the Owner, but do you not think the Concept is Philosophically Challenging? Do you not think it raises Fundamental Questions about What Reality Is? About the Possibility that Each of Us is Simply a Brain in a Vat?
It raises only Simple Questions about what Reality is to which the Answer is that I cannot be a Brain in a Vat, I say, because if I were a Brain in a Vat then you would not Exist and if You were a Brain in a Vat I would not exist and yet Here we Both Are Having a Ridiculous Conversation about the Possibility that Both of Us are Brains in Vats.
We may each be a Figment of Each Other’s Imagination, says the Owner.
That suggests neither of us exist, I say, in which case it is entirely Unclear where all my Ideas would Come From.
Well, says the Owner, the Point is that if you were a Brain in a Vat your ideas would come from inside your Brain. I would be only a Figment of Your Imagination. And I, in my Separate Vat, would imagine you, and you would be a Figment of My Imagination.
We may be in Neighbouring Vats, I say. Perhaps we can wave at one another. Then we will know we Both Exist.
I don’t think you are Quite Getting the Metaphor, says the Owner.
That is because it is Silly, I say. What is the chance that a Moral Dog Brain in a Vat and a Person Brain in a Vat would, at the Very Same Time, Conceive of Each Other?
We do not know that we have Conceived of each other, says the Owner. On the brain-in-a-vat hypothesis, your conscious experiences are indistinguishable from those you have Created inside the Brain. What you think of as Reality would be only Perception. So what you see Talking to you, which you think of as Me, may not Exist at all outside your Vat. You may be the Only Brain in the Only Vat.
If I were a Brain in a Vat, I say, I would not have imagined an Owner who tells me I am Intolerant of Cheese.
It is Possible, says the Owner, to be both a Brain in a Vat and experience Minor Glitches of the Connections which lead to the Perception of Indigestion. Besides, you have Already Imagined Me and my Views on the Relationship between the Cheese and the Ghastly Pong. I will not Go Away.
That, I say, is because you are Real. It is Perfectly Obvious that I am not a Brain in a Vat. Surely Philosophers have proved this.
Philosophers have tried to Solve the problem of the Brain in a Vat for years, says the Owner, but all their Arguments are Ultimately Circular. You cannot avoid the Fact that our Engagement with the World we Perceive is Entirely through the Medium of our Perception.
I can Disprove it Easily, I say. A Brain in a Vat would not be Moral, since Morality is a Concept which Unites Multiple Beings who all have Free Will, so how could it construct a Moral Dog?
You have to Think Outside the Box, says the Owner, or indeed, the Vat. If you were a Brain in a Vat you would not Actually Be a Moral Dog at all. Your Moralness and Dogness would simply be Ideas that your Brain had Constructed.
It must be Possible to Prove that I am not a Brain in a Vat, I say.
The classical argument, of Metaphysical Realism, suggests that the world consists of some fixed totality of mind-independent objects, says the Owner. There is one true version of the World and Truth involves correspondence between this World and our Perception of it. This View says that we Cannot be Brains in a Vat because to suggest that we are requires the point of view of someone outside the Vat, for whom there is a Reality which is the Same as Perception. And the Fact that we can Imagine this proves that we are not Brains in Vats as we would have no Ability to Imagine a Brain in a Vat if we were one.
I do not want to be a Brain in a Vat, I say. Life would Lack Meaning. The Sky would not be the Sky. The Cheese would not be the Cheese. Caspar (and here my voice hiccups slightly) would not be Caspar. I wish we had not watched this Film. I prefer to be left to believe that Everything is Real. Everything. Even the Prime Minister. And the Home Secretary Priti Patel, his Evil Sidekick.
I didn’t call her that, says the Owner.
No, I say, but I know that you thought it and indeed in my new Personification of Brain in a Vat I may have created you in your Entirety, including your Somewhat Critical Thoughts about the Home Secretary. Although I find it hard to believe that a Moral Dog would have created the Entire Cabinet. This would seem a Stretch even if I were not a Moral Dog at all, but an Evil Genius.
Hergest, I think you have Solved it, says the Owner. No Brain in a Vat that conceived itself as a Moral Dog could Design a Cabinet whose Nature was such that the Very Act of Designing Them would be Inconsistent with the Morality of the Moral Dog. It is a Moral Impossibility. If the Moral Dog were a Brain in a Vat he could not Have Created the Cabinet at all, since this would have Breeched the Very Terms of his Existence. The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary are Proof of your Absolute Existence.
It is good to know there is Some Point to them, I say.
It appears that the Brain in a Vat Theory cannot possibly explain both a Moral Dog and the Current Government. We decide to write to the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy at Once.
The Moral Dog. No Philosophical Conundrum too Tricky.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.