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The Limits of Realism$
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Tim Button

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199672172

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199672172.001.0001

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Putnam’s brain-in-vat argument

Putnam’s brain-in-vat argument

(p.115) 12 Putnam’s brain-in-vat argument
The Limits of Realism

Tim Button

Oxford University Press

This chapter defines internal realism as a position which accepts the Independence Principle and the Correspondence Principle, but which rejects all forms of Cartesian angst. In order to reject all forms of Cartesian angst, the internal realist will look to Putnam’s celebrated brain-in-vat argument, which this chapter explores. The brain-in-vat argument uses semantic reasoning to refute the thought that everyone, everywhere and everywhen, might really be a brain in a vat. The argument depends upon disquotation in one’s home language, and on the rejection of all magical theories of reference. It transpires that the brain-in-vat sceptic can only defend her scepticism by appealing to the bare formal possibility of magic. Consequently, brain-in-vat scepticism cannot be presented as a form of ‘internal’ scepticism. It can, at last, be brushed aside.

Keywords:   putnam’s brain-in-vat argument, putnam’s internal realism, disquotation, semantic externalism, semantic anti-sceptical arguments, magical theories of reference, cartesian scepticism

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