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Neil McDonnell and Nathan Wildman

Abstract

Are the objects and events that take place in Virtual Reality genuinely real? Those who answer this question in the affirmative are realists, and those who answer in the negative are irrealists. In this paper we argue against the realist position, as given by Chalmers (2017), and present our own preferred irrealist account of the virtual. We start by disambiguat- ing two potential versions of the realist position—weak and strong— and then go on to argue that neither is plausible. We then introduce a Waltonian variety of fictionalism about the virtual, arguing that this sort of irrealist approach avoids the problems of the realist positions, fits with a unifying theory of representational works, and offers a better ac- count of the phenomenology of engaging in virtual experiences.

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Mark Silcox

Abstract

In “The Virtual and the Real,” David Chalmers argues that there is an epistemic and ontological parity between VR and ordinary reality. My argument here is that, whatever the plausibility of these claims, they provide no basis for supposing that there is a similar parity of value. Careful reflection upon certain aspects of the transition that individu- als make from interacting with real-world, physical environments to interacting with VR provides a basis for thinking that, to the extent that there are good reasons to deny the reality of virtual objects, there are also reasons to place a correspondingly higher value upon the ex- perience of interacting with a VR environment. Chalmers’ assump- tion to the contrary arises from a subtle misrepresentation of how the phenomenon of cognitive penetration works in the perception of virtual objects, and from an unwillingness to acknowledge how our attitudes toward virtual environments are conditioned by the values we adopt when engaged in gameplay.

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Alyssa Ney

Abstract

According to phenomenal functionalism, whether some object or event has a given property is determined by the kinds of sensory expe- riences such objects or events typically cause in normal perceivers in normal viewing conditions. This paper challenges this position and, more specifically, David Chalmers’s use of it in arguing for what he calls virtual realism.

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Eric Schwitzgebel

Abstract

I defend a how-possibly argument for Kantian (or Kant*-ian) transcen- dental idealism, drawing on concepts from David Chalmers, Nick Bostrom, and the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. If we are ar- tificial intelligences living in a virtual reality instantiated on a giant computer, then the fundamental structure of reality might be very dif- ferent than we suppose. Indeed, since computation does not require spatial properties, spatiality might not be a feature of things as they are in themselves but instead only the way that things necessarily ap- pear to us. It might seem unlikely that we are living in a virtual reality instantiated on a non-spatial computer. However, understanding this possibility can help us appreciate the merits of transcendental ideal- ism in general, as well as transcendental idealism’s underappreciated skeptical consequences.

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Harold Noonan

Abstract

Eric Olson has argued, startlingly, that no coherent account can be giv- en of the distinction made in the personal identity literature between ‘complex views’ and ‘simple views’. ‘We tell our students,’ he writes, ‘that accounts of personal identity over time fall into [these] two broad categories’. But ‘it is impossible to characterize this distinction in any satisfactory way. The debate has been systematically misdescribed’. I argue, first, that, for all Olson has said, a recent account by Noonan provides the coherent characterization he claims impossible. If so we have not been wrong all along in the way he says in what we have been telling our students. I then give an account of the distinction between the reductionist and non-reductionist positions which makes it differ- ent from the complex/simple distinction. The aim is to make clear sense of the notion of a not simple but non-reductionist position — which seems an eminently reasonable possibility and something it may also be useful to tell our students about.

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Dmytro Sepetyi

Abstract

The article discusses the relationship between John Searle’s doctrine of naturalism and various forms of materialism and dualism. It is argued that despite Searle’s protestations, his doctrine is not substantially differ- ent from the epiphenomenalistic property dualism, except for the admis- sion, in his later works, of the existence of an irreducible non-Humean self. In particular, his recognition that consciousness is unique in having an irreducible first-person ontology makes his disavowal of property du- alism purely verbalistic. As for epiphenomenalism, Searle’s explanation of how consciousness can be efficacious without violating the causal clo- sure of the physical, by analogy with the causal efficacy of the higher level properties of physical objects that are supervenient on the microphysical, confuses causality and constitution (causal and constitutive superve- nience). It is also argued that Searle’s recognition of the existence of an irreducible non-Humean self that is responsible for decision-making sits badly both with his (property dualistic) view that conscious mental states are irreducibly first-personal states of the brain (rather than of the self) and with his (epiphenomenalistic) view that consciousness has no causal power in addition to that of the underlying neurobiology.

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Gordon Barnes

Abstract

Trenton Merricks argues that we need propositions to serve as the premises and conclusions of modally valid arguments (Merricks 2015). A modally valid argument is an argument in which, necessarily, if the premises are true, then the conclusion is also true. According to Mer- ricks, the premises and conclusions of modally valid arguments have their truth conditions essentially, and they exist necessarily. Sentences do not satisfy these conditions. Thus, we need propositions. Merricks’ argument adds a new chapter to the longstanding debate over the exis- tence of propositions. However, I argue that Merricks’ argument does not quite succeed. Merricks has overlooked one viable alternative to pos- tulating propositions. However, this alternative employs the relation of being true-at-a-world, which is difficult to analyze. Thus, the soundness of Merricks’ argument ultimately depends on the comparative merits of accepting propositions as abstract entities, versus accepting truth-at-a- world as an unanalyzed relation between sentences and possible worlds.

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Rachel Katharine Sterken

Abstract

In a recent paper (Haslanger 2016), Sally Haslanger argues for the importance of structural explanation. Roughly, a structural explana- tion of the behaviour of a given object appeals to features of the struc- tures—physical, social, or otherwise—the object is embedded in. It is opposed to individualistic explanations, where what is appealed to is just the object and its properties. For example, an individualistic explanation of why someone got the grade they did might appeal to features of the essay they wrote—its being well-written, answering the set question, etc. But if the class is graded on a curve, then a better explanation will appeal to features of the class—of the social structure in which the student is embedded. That she wrote a better paper than 90% of the class explains better than that she wrote a well-argued paper. In this paper, I get clear as to various candidate concepts of structure that we might appeal to in structural explanations, argue that Haslanger’s preferred account is lacking, and present an alterna- tive that is more conducive to social structural explanation.

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Sally Haslanger

Abstract

In response to commentaries by Esa Díaz León, Jennifer Saul, and Ra- chel Sterken, I develop more fully my views on the role of structure in social and metaphysical explanation. Although I believe that social agency, quite generally, occurs within practices and structures, the relevance of structure depends on the sort of questions we are asking and what interventions we are considering. The emphasis on questions is also relevant in considering metaphysical and meta-metaphysical is- sues about realism with respect to gender and race. I aim to demon- strate that tools we develop in the context of critical social theory can change the questions we ask, what forms of explanation are called for, and how we do philosophy.

Open access

E. Díaz-León

Abstract

The metaphysics of gender and race is a growing area of concern in contemporary analytic metaphysics, with many different views about the nature of gender and race being submitted and discussed. But what are these debates about? What questions are these accounts trying to answer? And is there real disagreement between advocates of differ- ent views about race or gender? If so, what are they really disagreeing about? In this paper I want to develop a view about what the debates in the metaphysics of gender and race are about, namely, a version of metaphysical deflationism, according to which these debates are about how we actually use or should use the terms ‘gender’ and ‘race’ (and other related terms), where moral and political considerations play a central role. I will also argue that my version of the view can overcome some recent and powerful objections to metaphysical deflationism of- fered by Elizabeth Barnes (2014, 2017).