Semantic self-knowledge and the vat argument
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Putnam’s vat argument is intended to show that I am not a permanently envatted brain. The argument holds promise as a response to vat scepticism, which depends on the claim that I do not know that I am not a permanently envatted brain. However, there is a widespread idea that the vat argument cannot fulfil this promise, because to employ the argument as a response to vat scepticism I would have to make assumptions about the content of the premises and/or conclusion of the argument that beg the question against the sceptic. In this paper, I show that this idea is mistaken.
KeywordsEpistemology Philosophy of mind Scepticism Hilary Putnam Brains in vats
Thanks to Crispin Wright, Peter Sullivan, Adrian Haddock, David Horst and Bernhard Salow for helpful discussion. This paper benefited greatly from being presented at a Philosophy Work in Progress Seminar at the University of Campinas, a Knowledge Beyond Natural Science Project Seminar at Stirling University, and a Philosophy of Language Group Seminar at Edinburgh University. I would like to thank all three audiences for their comments. An anonymous referee at Philosophical Studies also provided comments which have greatly improved the paper. I am grateful for a research grant from the São Paulo Research Foundation (Grant ID No. 2016/03277-1) that allowed me to complete this paper.
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