Brain in a jar
Here is a scenario that has been troubling me deeply over the passed few days. I seriously need help.
Let's say you have a brain in a jar, container, room, whatever. It's hooked up to a device that feeds it information the same way a body does: feelings, sights, smells, sounds, etc. So to the brain, it is living in a fully functional world with friends, trees, a sky, the ocean, everything. It thinks it has a body, and that everything around it isn't fake. But really, in the real world, it is simply being fed information by some wires or something of the sort.
What if I told you that you are the brain floating around in the jar?
Can ANYONE out there think of an argument to counter this?
Are you asking if there is any way that the brain in the jar could detect that it is not in the real world? If so, watch The Matrix again.
Unless the brain has existed in a body, that interacted with the real world in some form or fashion before, then I highly doubt there would be any way for the brain to realize that its current reality isn't "real."
Counter-argument: It is existentially useless for the brain in the jar to imagine itself as such. "Real" or "Imaginary" are irrelevant to the brain. "Real" in the sense that you might mean the word, is beyond the brain's reach and comprehension. The brain is simply a brain, and has no other external qualities or potential. Its search for meaning and knowledge within its limited confines is amusing, and therefore worthwhile, but aspirations beyond the jar are futile. And that's okay. The brain will be just fine as a brain, that's why it's a brain.
As one of many philosophical theories, it is effectively impossible to disprove. Not that we need to disprove it, really. I would be just as happy living in a "fake" world as a "real" world, so long as its artificiality was not so large as to make it stagnate.
Oh shit this is so fucking deep man, it hurts... that sounded kinda wrong XD But for real, there is no way the brain would be able to figure out that the world it thinks it's living in is not real, because the brain has NEVER seen the real world, so how can it deduce that the information it's currently being fed is real or not? So, in agreement with mdk...somewhat, there is no way it can think that the world it is currently in is fake, unless the information is sent to it through the wires.
If the brain is only being fed information, then what happens to the brain's "actions", so to speak? If the consciousness that is that brain thinks it has a body, then it thinks it is doing things with its body - it can perform actions of its own will. And those actions have consequences. And since those actions can be anything from touching something hot enough to burn you or typing something and posting it on the internet, the range of consequences is the same, if not greater, due to the possibility of multiple outcomes, depending on the action.
Therefore, in order for the computer (or whatever the brain is synced up with) to provide whatever data is needed for that brain to perceive the consequences of their actions, then it must be possible for the computer to track the brain's own thoughts and perceived actions, rather than it just being a one-way street. If that isn't the case, then the hypothetical is already disproven.
But even if that is what's going on, the thought that some computer database is able to compile and correctly use the absolute vast number of possible consequences to an almost as vast number of possible actions in order to create a seamless imagined reality is... hard to imagine, at the very least, and thus rather unrealistic. Not impossible - I can't go that far - but improbable, at least.
To me, this is an argument along the same lines of 'The universe was created five seconds ago as is, complete with false memories of a false past'.
There is no way to disprove or prove either statement. It's possible, unlikely, but possible. Thing is neither of them have any impact on reality as it is perceived, and thus it doesn't matter if they are true or not. Said truth does not affect us. At all.
The Matrix paradox? This is an old one to be sure. :p
The brain is merely an organ for processing and storing information. To make an albeit crude comparison: It's your hard drive (memory), random access memory (subconscious/muscle memory/etc), and central processing unit (consciousness) all in one fleshy form. Does a CPU, hard drive, or RAM, know it's inside of a computer? Well, it believes so, based on the information inputted into it and services its function all the same... Yet the CPU/HD/RAM doesn't have a set of eyes, it isn't capable of producing sensory input (graphics), the best it can do is produce sensory output based on what's coming in or its own vain attempts at understanding what the fuck a monitor is. If you deleted that hard drive's contents and then installed a new operating system on it, or changed out some of the sensory devices (graphics card, sound card, network card) with other sensory devices, would it even notice? It has no memory to remember what things were like before. Even if it did, a more powerful graphics card still services the same purpose as before.
Computers don't even recognize when they're put into rudimentary emulated environments; they just chug along happy as can be until some part malfunctions and the whole beast comes tumbling down.
Essentially speaking, what I'm trying to say is... Our brains are just organs that process and store information, and organize the rest of the body to a limited degree, based upon the information it has received from the body's various organs such as the eyes. You can keep someone alive on life support without a functional brain; so long as the rest of the organs receive the sensory inputs they need they will keep running until the aging process or a disease causes them to fail. We can already emulate the human mind for simple organs. We have the capability, and they chug along quite happily entirely unaware of their circumstances until they fail.
Everything is an illusion anyway, depending on how far down the rabbit hole you go. I mean, after all, our brains are simply processing sensory information obtained by organs like the eyes, which is just parts of the light spectrum they can happen to pick up. In reality you can't be sure that a coke cola can is red and white, or that the can's metallic substance has a sheen to it; that's simply how we've come to understand what it is by our primitive minds attempting to comprehend things.
We're just shadows and dust, in the beginning, and in the end. Whether we're connected to sensory inputs as brains in a jar, created by some trickster god wanting to get a laugh at the primitives trying to comprehend reality, created by a loving god who watches us grow and mature and make mistakes, that we evolved to sentience, or even that we're simply some real person's computer simulation about human behaviour or an alternate reality... It's all the same, in the end. We die, in the end. The illusion we create for ourselves to better understand and rationalize our lives, dies, in the end. After all, how can you be sure that the world goes on when you're dead? You can't know that; you're bloody dead. :ezlol:
If we're in some kind of illusion, if it is just a brain in a jar fed sensory inputs and outputs... Enjoy the illusion. Someone went to the great extent of fooling every single biochemical response in your brain to give you the illusion of a living, breathing world with over seven billion other people to interact with, all coded or created with their own personal characteristics and beliefs, with a plethora of creatures and imaginative film and cartoons and comic books and the internet and role playing and...
Don't let this trouble you. Just smile and march on and give whoever might be watching a damned good show of human character. Then when you die, know that even if nobody was watching, if there was nobody out there, if it wasn't a brain in a jar or a god's melancholy dream... You lived a good life. Be it fake or real, whatever those words are supposed to mean anymore, you lived a good one.
2 much logik is malfunctionin' shuttin off bb hav nice day
I actually feel Hilary Putnam effectively dismantles the Brain in a Vat theory or Brain in a Jar, whatever you want to call it. Look into it yourself, it is really interesting.