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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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Vat variations

Vat variations

(p.149) 15 Vat variations
The Limits of Realism

Tim Button

Oxford University Press

The brain-in-vat argument shows that there is nothing to fear from radical, nightmarish scepticism. However, the argument has its limits. To explore them, this chapter investigates several putative sceptical scenarios. Each scenario presents a way in which a theory could be undetectably false, but less than nightmarishly so. A brain-in-vat-style reply can be given to each. The aim of this chapter is to demonstrate that whether brain-in-vat-style arguments succeed or fail is often vague. In the first instance, this shows that internal realism—the position which holds that every Cartesian sceptical scenario can be defeated—is untenable. This means that we shall need to locate ourselves somewhere between internal and external realism.

Keywords:   putnam’s brain-in-vat argument, cartesian scepticism, scepticism about space, scepticism about time, vat earth, vat variations

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