Publication 7921

Westerhoff J. (2016) What it means to live in a virtual world generated by our brain. Erkenntnis 81(3): 507–528. Fulltext at
Recent discussions in cognitive science and the philosophy of mind have defended a theory according to which we live in a virtual world akin to a computer simulation, generated by our brain. It is argued that our brain creates a model world from a variety of stimuli; this model is perceived as if it was external and perception-independent, even though it is neither of the two. The view of the mind, brain, and world, entailed by this theory (here called “virtual world theory”) has some peculiar consequences which have rarely been explored in detail. This paper sets out virtual world theory (1. 1) and relates it to various central philosophical problems (indirect realism (1. 2), the role of the perceiver (1. 3) and the problem of the existence of the external world (1. 4)). The second part suggests three interpretations of virtual world theory, two familiar ones (a strong and a weak one, 2. 1) and a somewhat less familiar one (the irrealist interpretation, 2. 2). The remainder of the paper argues that the irrealist interpretation is the one we should adopt (2. 3–2. 6).

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