The image is incomplete | Commonwell Magazine

How can this be? Is a simulated or “virtual” world not necessarily a world of illusion, would we not be deceived if we took its inhabitants to be real? Chalmers answers in the negative, arguing that the designations “virtual” and “real” should not be opposed in the way this objection supposes. It is true that computer simulation products are not part of physical Reality, but there are other ways something can be real. For example, consider the probability of me throwing a no hitter at the World Championships, and then compare it with each of the following: Just a dream that I threw a no hitter. There is a perfectly natural feeling that the average probability, playing in a simulated season without leaving my living room, is who I am truly Throw not hitter. (For example, if my friends brag about exploitation and ask me if I truly I did it, I wouldn’t lie or mislead them if I said yes, as long as it is understood we are talking about a video game.) The world is a huge simulation. Having rejected the mistake of confusing the real with the physical, we can see that there is nothing unreal about what happens within the virtual world.

But wait. In order to throw a no-hitter in a world championship game, many things must be true for me which are not – for example, that I have the ability to effectively bid to professional hitters, and that at one point I stood on a hill in a league . None of these things have to be true for me to not just throw a beating in a video game or just in a dream. And those things wouldn’t, of course, need to be true for me to throw the hitter into a massive computer simulation – in which case I wouldn’t be a human on a jug pile (or in my living room or in the bed), but a brain in a bowl or a virtual self-aware image made. of digital parts. Does this not show that there is an important difference in how things are with me, and in the nature of the activities in which I participate, depending on whether I am a living being operating in the physical world by means of bodily movements? Does it not reveal an important difference between, on the one hand, what we are and what we do in a physical world, and on the other hand, what we are and what we do only in a virtual world?

This is the point at which Chalmers’ argument rests on his commitment to an essentially Cartesian anthropology, and reveals his failure to recognize that Descartes’ image runs in the background. Consider the following passage, in which Chalmers discusses what makes a particular object “mine”:

I may lose pain or hunger and be unable to eat or drink, but this body will still be my body. My thinking can occur in a Cartesian mind, but this body will still be mine. It is not clear that the physical body is an existential locus. I can move my mind to a new body, or upload myself to the cloud, and live without the old body. So it’s arguable, like my avatar [in a computer simulation]My physical body is not quite the same I.

This line of argument is supposed to show that if you roll the field in a hypothetical baseball game, I myself On the pitcher’s hill no less and no more than if I did it in a physical match. According to Thalmers, what is true in both cases is that my “body”, whether it is a physical object or a digital avatar, will stand on a physical or virtual hill, and that my body will not be like I. This, of course, is precisely the conclusion of Descartes’ second meditation, which is discussed in much the same way.

Besides the similarities to Descartes’ arguments, it is surprising how every description Chalmers gives of what “can” happen is indisputable and unsupported. It is an observable fact that humans can go into permanent vegetative states in which they lack consciousness and cannot eat or drink voluntarily. By contrast, the supposed possibility that human-like thinking could occur in immaterial minds, be implanted through our brains into new bodies, or loaded into computer systems is so far only a philosopher’s imagination. And beyond the confines of this fantasy, we have no way of saying what would happen if any of these “cans” became a reality. Imagine my mind being transplanted into a different body, which then starts to think as I do. What is the reason to believe that the resulting person will be in reality be me, instead of being a mental duplicate of me into existence? The problem is made more serious in the case where the ‘me’ is supposed to be uploaded to a digital cloud. Given that multiple copies of “I” can be created simultaneously in this way, why would any one of them claim identity with the original? The answer, in each case, is that the only reason to say what Chalmers does is because we simply take Descartes’ picture of the mind for granted.

reality + It is in many respects an amazing success. It is well written, intelligently illustrated, and filled with useful nuances and powerful arguments. It makes excellent use of both history and contemporary culture to help the general reader understand its basic concepts. And it does all this without sacrificing any of the subtlety one would expect in an analytic philosopher’s treatment of these matters in an academic journal.

However, I also find the book to be a clear illustration of how one of the dominant contemporary approaches to philosophy can fall short of the requirements of the system. So long as our philosophical reasoning relates only to imagination or the farthest reaches of scientific speculation, its conclusions will tend to reflect our accidental and culturally racial presuppositions. As long as this work continues without awareness of the philosophical images on which our thinking depends, we will not be able to challenge the accuracy of those images, or search for potential alternatives to them.

reality +
Virtual worlds and problems of philosophy

David J. Chalmers
WW Norton
$32.50 | 544 p.

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