Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2010
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 1A


Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber


Matrix 1

SO what do you think? How can you know you are not dreaming now; how can you know you are not always dreaming?

And if you can't know that you're not always dreaming, then you can't know that any one of your beliefs about the external world is true?

What do you think? How can you know your experience of the world as well as everything that you think you know, isn't controlled by some Evil Demon, if everything you perceive and think isn't under the control of some mad scientist?

How can you know anything beyond your own impressions and experiences or whether the world is other than way it appears to you? Indeed, how can you be certain that you know anything, anything at all?

How can you know you are not a brain-in-a-vat?

"I am not a brain-in-a-vat.
I'm on the East Coast at Brandeis.

Or in a matrix?

"I am not in a matrix.
I'm in school at Brandeis.
I mentioned that, no?"

Yes, but how do you know?

"I know."

If you can't know that you're not a brain in a vat or in a matrix, then you can't know that any of your beliefs about the external world are true.

"Do I look like a brain in a vat
or if I am in a matrix? "

AND if that's the case, there is "no way out of the cage of your own mind."

"That's ridiculous."

Is it?


Well, make a case then, go on, make a case for your knowing (or not knowing) you are not a brain in a vat or in a matrix, think of several powerful objections to your argument, and respond to them.

"How much time do I have?"

November 16th. You have until Noon on the 16th.

"That's not a lot of time.
Is there any reading I might do?"

Yes, you are likely to benefit from the readings in the Perry, Bratman and Fischer text:


So, too, you may wish to take a quick peek at several of the essays written by philosophers on The Matrix:

  • "The Matrix as Metaphysics" by David J. Chalmers
  • "The Brave New World of the Matrix" by Dreyfus
  • "Brians-in-a-Vat Skepticism" by Christopher Grau
  • "Dream Skepticism" by Christopher Grau
  • "The Experience Machine" by Christopher Grau
  • "Reflections on the First Matrix" by Richard Hanley
  • "The Matrix of Dreams" by Colin McGinn
  • "Reflections on Matrix I" by Richard Hanley
  • "Reality, What Matters, and the Matrix " by Iakdvos Vasilou
  • "The Matrix - Our Future?" by Kevin Warwick
  • "Gnosticism, Buddhism and The Matrix" by FF-D and RW

    You may (also) find a glance back at the Russell on "Appearance and Being", the first chapter of Problems of Philosophy to be helpful.

    But again, to paraphrase what one, very good contemporary philosopher, J. R. Lucas, has said:

    "Philosophy has to be self-thought, if it is to be thought at all. It is an activity rather than a set of positions. You need to think out the problems and solutions for yourself, and although another person's philosophizing may help you in your own, you cannot accept their conclusions, or even understand their arguments, until you have already argued a lot with yourself."

    As with the other topics you should feel free to talk to others in the class as well as to talk to family and friends, to show your parents brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and friends the paper topic, to brainstorm and consult with them. If you feel confident about your answer, it may help to ask others what they think is wrong with your answer as well as to ask if they think you may have overlooked something and if so, what?

    And in making your case, please do not feel shy about drawing on the readings from the Perry, Bratman and Fischer Introduction to Philosophy text for support or objection to one or more of your arguments


    "Thanks. I think I need it."


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